In the gym at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Joe Curran encourages R.J. Garcia with the intensity of a football coach. “C’mon, you’ve got this!” Curran barks as Garcia struggles to finish his last rep on the leg press machine. Garcia pushes through gritted teeth as he lowers the weight, balancing it between his good leg and his prosthetic. “There you go!” says Curran.
The two Army veterans are members of the Ass Kickers, an amputee exercise and support group that meets every Friday.
“They took on the name because they are known for making a lot of noise,” says Jessica Blackwell, a VA kinesiotherapist who founded the group in 2017 as a way for amputee veterans to stay active and meet others in the same situation. “They’re a great group of guys, but we mean business. They’ve come to work hard, and that’s how they got the name.”
Kinesiotherapy is therapeutic exercise to help rehabilitate people with functional limitations, including amputations.
“Joe is our ringleader,” Blackwell says. “He’s our loudest one, but he takes care of the other guys, making sure that they have the resources they need. He’s actually helping himself in the process.”
Veteran R.J. Garcia and kinesiotherapist Jessica Blackwell at the gym.
Pushing veterans “out of respect”
Curran relishes his role. “What I do is put a little fire under their butts. These guys in wheelchairs, they won’t get out unless I start pushing them. And I only do it to motivate them, out of respect.”
The motivation works, says Blackwell. “I’ve really seen a great turnaround with my guys since we started this group. Their health, their psyche, their mood—I’ve seen a lot of improvements.”
One reason Curran is so successful is that he literally walks the walk. After he lost both legs to complications he attributes to Agent Orange exposure, VA specialists helped him get going again. “First they taught me how to walk on one foot with a walker, how to hobble along. Now I can just walk with a cane. I try to stay out of the chair as much as possible.”
Curran’s grit is contagious. The group has expanded from two veterans at the start to more than 25. Besides their Friday gym session, they often meet for bowling, golf and other events.
Joe Curran lights a fire under his fellow Veterans.
A sense of community
“Before this was created, our guys didn’t really have a reason to put their leg on and go outside,” says Blackwell. “They told me that they would stay at home and sit in their wheelchairs. This has really given them motivation and a sense of community.”
“I’ve got a theory,” Curran adds. “The average American veteran in a wheelchair is 200 pounds overweight. They’re homebound and often depressed. They’ll live longer if I can get them out of that chair. So that’s my plan: get the veteran off his butt and move!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
One of the most common types of attacks troops will experience while deployed is a mortar attack, otherwise known as indirect fire. When this happens, protocol states that all troops must seek cover inside the nearest bunker.
Depending on where a troop is stationed, they’ll run into a wide variety of troops from different units on their way to that bunker — all of whom react to IDF very differently.
How a troop reacts says a lot about them as a warfighter and the kind of unit they’re in. You’re likely to see these troops — who span the gamut from POG to grunt — when you hear the IDF siren go off:
Sorry if fighting this nation’s wars is “inconvenient” for you.
1. Scared little “fobbit” troops
This person is either newly in theatre or enlisted with zero intentions of fighting. Not to discredit entire branches, but based on personal experience, they’re typically Airmen or Sailors on shore duty. Not the corpsman, though — corpsmen aren’t POGs.
Now, you might not see them cry, but they’re definitely going to jump when someone else enters the bunker. Be warned, when you’re in the bunker with them, you’re probably going to have to talk them down from a panic attack.
They will also unironically think they’re not actually a POG. But, you know… they still are.
2. The overzealous hero troops
This dude is ready for war! This guy managed to get in full-battle before making his way to the bunker. He’s just waiting on the word to go from Amber to Red at any moment, despite never being given the order to get out of Green.
Nobody wants to tell the guy that after you hear the boom, things get boring again. This is probably the closest this person will get to real combat and they want to take full advantage of the moment. Ten years from now, they’ll probably share this “war story” to people at the bar while trying to score some free drinks.
Or they’re the type of person that slowly walks to the bunker just to catch someone else walking slowly to the bunker.
(Via Decelerate Your Life)
3. The calm rule-follower
This is the category a large majority of the NCOs and senior officers fall into. The siren goes off and they help usher others into the bunker with them. They know they have to keep a calm demeanor or else it’ll freak out the fobbits and agitate the eager hero.
The only downside to this person is that they’ll always start arguing with the next two guys on this list.
And 9 times out of 10, they’re a Specialist or a Lance Corporal.
4. The reluctant slacker troops
This person really doesn’t want to go to bunker — but the rule-follower is looking, so they have to. They’ve been in-country for a while and they know that things are going to be okay… Probably. The only thing that’s going through their mind is a weighing of options. They’ll be busy thinking about if they want to risk an asschewing, the odds of that mortar hitting where they’re at, and if they want to pretend they “didn’t hear” the siren go off.
7 times out of 10, they’ll just go to the bunker for an accountability formation and dip before the all-clear siren goes off. They’re probably out for a smoke, which they’ll either jokingly offer to the fobbit or blow in the direction of the rule-follower who made them leave their hut.
Truly, they’re the best of us.
5. The sleeping grunt
It’s been months since this grunt gave their last f*ck. These guys have truly reached the max level of gruntness; ass-chewings and the threat of death don’t give this troop pause.
It was probably funny going to the bunker to laugh at everyone the first eighty-seven times, but now they’d rather get a little bit more sleep.
The veteran, military, and the special operations communities have been set ablaze after the leaked heraldry of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade surfaced, bearing the adopted moniker “The Legion.”
The newly developed Brigade was rumored to sport a dark green beret, a unit patch with an upward sword, and the acronym starting with ‘SF’ — but for the special forces community, it was far too similar a resemblance to the green beret and upward fighting knife unit patch worn by the Green Berets.
Even the nickname, “The Legion,” is already in use by the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Make no mistake. Their missions are drastically different.
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s mission is to advise allied nations and combatants. The United States has a history of sending advisors to assist in training allies all the way back to the Philippine Insurrection and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an important mission, but the proud history of the Green Berets has earned its distinction and recognition.
The backlash over the choice of beret can be pointed back to the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who told the Army Times that he’ll take responsibility. “If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the Brigade],” he said.
Milley clarified that the proposed beret is not a “green,” but more of an dark brown based off the British infantry beret.
He defends the tab as a unit tab similar to 10th Mountain or the Old Guard. Patches can often be unintentionally similar. Arrowheads are a common symbol for leadership and they made it distinct enough by straightening the edges.
There is no defending the nickname though. Gen. Milley himself is a Green Beret and served in 5th Group. He says they “have proprietary rights” to the term.
Because of the backlash and online petitions, the 1st SFAB is taking measures to ensure the newly formed unit becomes distinct and its own entity.
Nothing confirmed, of course, but logically they might want to consider rearranging the name so the acronym flows more inline with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) than Special Forces. It’s also humbly recommended that they pick a beret color that couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted as rifle green. Hey, the once-proposed and forgotten silver Air Assault beret or 101st Airborne’s old blue beret are both still available.
Or make it out of PT belts — because the Army always has a way to snap to extremes.
Representative Martha McSally, R-Az., an Air Force veteran, launched into the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in the Capitol after they testified that manning levels were too low and budget cuts were too high. According to a story posted at Air Force Times, McSally called their logic the “newest excuse” for prematurely retiring the venerable A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, and she questioned if it wouldn’t be wiser to cut non-essential personnel like “the hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet.”
“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said during the hearing. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”
“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally said.
“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, CJCS, replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”
“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.
McSally knows a thing or two about the topic of military aviation. She graduated from the Air Force Academy and then spent 22 years serving as an attack pilot, including commanding an A-10 squadron. In 2001 she famously sued DoD over the policy of making female service members wear veils while stationed in Saudi Arabia. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and spent a year as a college professor in Germany before running for Congress. She lost a close race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and then won a close race two years later.
And, for the record, the Air Force says it currently has about 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers assigned to band billets.
Two Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Dec. 10, 2018, and their presence has already prompted dueling statements from Washington and Moscow.
The bombers landed at Maiquetia Airport outside Caracas after a 6,200-mile flight, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were accompanied by an An-124 military transport plane and an Il-62 long-range aircraft.
The Defense Ministry said the journey took the bombers through the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, but the flight was “in strict compliance with international rules of the use of airspace.”
Moscow didn’t say if the bombers carried weapons, but they are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear-armed missiles with a range of 3,400 miles.
A Russian Tu-160 in flight.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez has said the Russian aircraft would conduct joint flights with Venezuelan planes. Moscow hasn’t said how long this trip would last, but it has already drawn a response from the US, which views Venezuela as its most significant foe in the region.
“Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
The Pentagon also criticized the deployment, contrasting it with the US dispatching the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which treated tens of thousands of patients, many of them Venezuelans, on a tour of South America in 2018.
“As the Venezuelan government seeks Russian warplanes, the United States works alongside regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said Dec. 10, 2018. “We maintain our unwavering commitment to humanity.”
The Kremlin rebuked Pompeo, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Pompeo’s comments were “rather undiplomatic” and that Moscow “consider[s] this statement to be totally inappropriate.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
He also chided the US for labeling the deployment as a waste of money. “It is not appropriate for a country half of whose defense expenditure would be enough to feed all of Africa’s people to make such statements,” Peskov said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also joined the fray. In a statement released Dec. 11, 2018, the ministry said it acknowledged that “tweets” did not “bind anyone to anything in the US in general.”
“However in this situation an official is involved, so this disregard of the rules of diplomatic ethics cannot be seen as a statement ‘to dismiss,'” the ministry added. “What the secretary of state said is inadmissible, not to mention that it is absolutely unprofessional.”
Good friends, but not best friends
Tu-160 bombers last visited Venezuela in 2013 and 2008, the latter trip coming during heightened tensions over Russia’s war with Georgia. Tensions between Washington and Moscow are again heightened, amid Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, but Moscow’s ties to Caracas are longstanding.
“In the Chávez era, Russia was a major arms supplier to Venezuela, and Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, remains a major player in Venezuela’s collapsing oil sector,” Benjamin Gedan, former South America director on the National Security Council and a fellow at the Wilson Center, said in an email.
“In recent years, as once prosperous Venezuela became an international panhandler, Russia renegotiated loans to postpone sovereign default,” Gedan added.
Russia remains one of the most important international allies for the increasingly isolated regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Gedan said, but that support is not as robust as it may appear.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Russia’s own oil industry has faced headwinds, and its economy has been strained by sanctions imposed by the US and European Union after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. While Russian President Vladimir Putin remains broadly popular, backlash to a government plan to raise pension ages has dented his standing.
“Russia’s generosity is motivated in part by its desire to prop up a Latin American regime that is hostile to US interests,” Gedan said. “That said, Moscow does not have the wherewithal to bail out Venezuela. Given the impacts of sanctions and relatively low oil prices, Russian support for Venezuela these days mostly involves purchases of oil assets priced to sell by the desperate Venezuelan government.”
Maduro returned from a three-day visit to Russia last week touting billion in investments, including a billion pledge for joint oil ventures and a Russian agreement to send 600,000 metric tons of wheat to Venezuela in 2019.
But officials in Russia questioned those deals, with one Rosneft official telling the Financial Times that the amount of new oil investments mentioned by Maduro sounded “suspiciously close” to the amount of the existing agreement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ed Tipper, a member of the famous D-Day-era “Easy Company,” died at his home in Lakewood, Colorado, Feb. 1.
He was 95.
According to a report by the Denver Post, the former paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, spent over 30 years as a teacher before retiring in 1979. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations, for his service in World War II.
The Daily Caller noted that Tipper suffered severe wounds during the Battle of Carentan, including the loss of his right eye, when a German mortar shell hit while he was clearing a house. The opening credits of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” shows Tipper, played by Bart Raspoli, being comforted by Joe Liebgott, played by Ross McCall, in the aftermath of that hit.
“So much of what people talk about with him is what he did in the war. That was two years and really six days starting on D-Day,” his daughter, Kerry Tipper, told the newspaper. “Teaching was 30 years.”
Most notable, though, is that despite the wounds, which included two broken legs, Tipper managed to carry on a very active life.
“He just refused to accept people’s limitations,” his daughter Kerry told the Denver Post. The newspaper reported that Tipper took a list of things doctors said he couldn’t do and made it a checklist. He was known to be an avid skier well into his 80s.
His daughter also added that Tipper, like many in Easy Company, felt, “a little embarrassed that their group got attention, that theirs was spotlighted when there were so many other groups that did incredible things and made sacrifices.”
According to the Denver Post, Tipper is survived by a wife who he married in 1982, a daughter and a son-in-law. A public memorial service is scheduled for June 1.
Below, see the Battle of Carentan as portrayed in “Band of Brothers.” Ed Tipper is wounded at around 7:14 into the video:
A government official says a Jordanian soldier faces murder charges in the shooting deaths of three US military trainers at a Jordanian air base.
He says the soldier will be tried by a military court, starting June 7th. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
The US Army Green Berets were killed November 4 at the Al-Jafr air base in southern Jordan. They came under fire as their convoy entered the base.
Jordanian officials initially said the trainers sparked the shooting by disobeying orders from Jordanian soldiers.
The slain Americans were 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, of Kirksville, Missouri; 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe of Tucson, Arizona; and 27-year-old Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas.
We have all been there before. We spend money on the latest and greatest technological marvel only to realize that maybe the latest doesn’t necessarily mean greatest.
Look at your smartphone. Yeah, you can watch non-stop cat videos and get swiped left on by all the loves of your life, but the battery drops to 50 percent by 10 a.m., and a slight fall will result in a shattered screen. It makes you think back to that trusty Nokia phone that you could literally talk on for three days straight and throw full force at your idiot friend’s head without worrying about it breaking.
Well, the same thing can be said about helmets.
As we learn more about traumatic brain injuries and the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on the human brain and behavior, scientists started to look at if the helmets used by the American military actually gave the protection that they should be giving. There is no doubt that helmets (regardless of which era) provide protection. While initially designed to protect from bullets and shrapnel, there is an increasing need to protect military members from shockwaves and concussions.
Biomedical researchers at Duke University decided to test out the modern military helmet to see how it held up. They also decided to use older helmets as well to see how they stacked up.
The results, as they say in clickbait headlines, were shocking.
The older helmets performed just as well as modern counterparts when it came to shockwave protection.
One though, the French Adrian helmet, actually did a better job of protection.
Before we go into why, we need to understand the evolution of the modern combat helmet.
In ancient times all the way to the Middle Ages, metallic helmets were a necessity. The Romans had their Gallic helmet, the Greeks the Corinthian helmet, the knights of the Middle ages had jousting helmets and the Samurai of Japan had their kabuto headgear (Darth Vader’s helmet was based on the samurai style).
These helmets protected from swords, javelins, lances and clubs. But a new invention made them rapidly obsolete: Gunpowder. Bullets could penetrate helmets with ease, and headgear became mostly stylish and ceremonial. The Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire had a long flowing bork, Americans in the Revolution had the trifold, and the British wore bearskins and busbys. Military headgear was tall, decorative, and not really practical.
This all changed with World War I. While artillery and mortars were not new to the battlefield, advances in the types of shells used were. The military brass on both sides rapidly saw that artillery that exploded in the air (airburst) was causing horrific injuries that had not been seen before. It became quite clear that the headgear of the time (like the famous German pickelhaube) was not suited at all for trench warfare. Almost immediately, a call went out for helmets that would deflect shrapnel.
The British had the Brodie, the French produced the Adrian and the Germans came out with the Stahlhelm. While the carnage of World War I was still horrific, helmets did provide protection and were here to stay.
Their future designs were based on protecting the wearer from shrapnel and projectiles. Every helmet designed since, including the Kevlar helmets worn in Iraq and Afghanistan have had that purpose.
While they might have become lighter and sturdier, the intent was the same.
However, scientists have recently discovered that it’s not just projectiles that cause damage. The shockwave that comes from an explosion is just as harmful. Back in World War I, troops would come off the lines in a state of confusion and in a stupor. Doctors would examine the soldier to find no physical damage. The term shell shock was coined to describe men that were rendered combat ineffective while not sustaining wounds. In some circles, this was not considered a medical issue, but a sign of weakness.
Nowadays, we know that the shockwaves from a blast can cause brain damage and trauma, which can cause a soldier to be rendered out of action.
During the Global War on Terror, medical officers noticed a dramatic drop in pulmonary trauma. The body armor worn by troops clearly did protect not just from shrapnel, but shockwaves as well.
Now, scientists are looking to see if there is a way to design a helmet that can protect the brain from those shockwaves.
The researchers at Duke wanted to see how the American Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) protected servicemembers from those shockwaves. They decided to test out World War I helmets too to see how much better the helmet did when compared to those primitive models.
The ACH pretty much offered the same protection from shockwaves as a World War I helmet worn by a British or German soldier. The French Adrian helmet, on the other hand, performed better as far as protection. Why is that? The researchers say it is simple geometry.
The French Adrian helmet has a crest on top and a brim that reflects more outward than the other helmets. The design was to deflect shrapnel, but researchers now know that it does a better job of dissipating shockwaves than other helmets, including the ACH.
Now before you ditch your Kevlar or think it’s worthless, know this. Every helmet offers five to tenfold protection than not wearing one.
Now there will be a rush to design a new helmet that not only deflects shrapnel but also shockwaves.
Who knows, maybe someone reading this will be the one to do so.
New technology from engineers at the University of Utah is changing the lives of amputees. The robotic arm, which is being called Luke in honor of Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand in The Empire Strikes Back. The robotic arm enables recipients to touch and feel again. The device consists of a prosthetic hand and fingers that are controlled by electrodes implanted in the muscles.
A prototype has been given to Keven Walgamott, an estate agent from Utah who is one of seven test subjects. He lost his hand and part of his left arm in 2002 after an electrical accident. With the arm, Walgamott has been able to complete tasks that were previously very difficult, such as put a pillowcase on a pillow, peel a banana, and even send text messages. Study leader and University of Utah biomedical engineer Professor Gregory Clark told the Independentthat one of the first things Walgamott wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. “That’s hard to do with one hand,” Clark said. “It was very moving.”
Walgamott can even feel sensations like touching his wife’s hand, as well as distinguish between different surfaces. This is not only a major scientific breakthrough, but an emotional moment for Walgamott, who’s been without his left hand for nearly 20 years. “It almost put me to tears,” he said of using Luke for the first time. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”
Now the next step is if this technology can incorporate what this real-life amputee did with her own lightsaber!
Real amputee Jedi?! YES! #cosplay LOVING my lightsaber attachment for my bionic arm while trying to safely keep my fingers crossed for an audition for @starwars one day. #BionicActress Spent my whole life wanting to be Luke AND Leia @HamillHimself #RepresentationMatterspic.twitter.com/eB0mZ3Xuyr
About one in five Navy sailors are obese, making it the US military’s fattest service branch, a new Pentagon report found.
The obesity rate for the Navy was 22% — higher than the average for the four main service branches — the “Medical Surveillance Monthly Report” said, adding that obesity is a “growing health concern among Sailors.”
The report stressed that obesity affected Navy readiness — but this branch of the military wasn’t the only one facing higher obesity rates. The Army came in at 17.4%, the Department of Defense average, while the Air Force had a slightly higher rate, at 18.1%. The Marines were by far the leanest, with an obesity rate of only 8.3%.
These calculations were based on body mass index, “calculated utilizing the latest height and weight record in a given year,” the report said. “BMI measurements less than 12 and greater than 45 were considered erroneous and excluded.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Nelson Doromal)
The report did explain some limits to using BMI: that “Service members with higher lean body mass may be misclassified as obese based on their BMI,” that “not all Service members had a height or weight measurement available in the Vitals data each year,” and that “BMI measures should be interpreted with caution, as some of them can be based on self-reported height and weight.”
Among the services, the report found, obesity rates were higher among men than women, as well as among people 35 and over as opposed to those in their 20s.
“The overall prevalence of obesity has increased steadily since 2014,” it said.
Obesity is on the rise across the services, The New York Times reported. It said the Navy’s obesity rate had increased sixfold since 2011, while the rates for the other services had more than doubled.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee)
Roughly 30% of Americans between the 17 and 24 are ineligible for Army recruitment, and about a third of prospective recruits are disqualified based on their weight, Army Times reported in October 2019.
“Out of all the reasons that we have future soldiers disqualify, the largest — 31 percent — is obesity,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the head of the Army Recruiting Command, told Army Times.
The Army’s 2018 “Health of the Force” report said that “the high prevalence of obesity in the U.S. poses a serious challenge to recruiting and retaining healthy Soldiers.”
The new Pentagon report further explained that “obesity negatively impacts physical performance and military readiness and is associated with long-term health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and risk for all-cause mortality.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.
The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.
After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”
The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.
“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.
“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”
“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.
The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.
“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.
Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.
Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”
Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.
He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.
It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.
In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.
Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.
There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.
Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.
Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.
Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?
There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.
That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.
The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”
Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.
Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.
With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.
You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.
There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.
By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.