6 things you'll miss about life in the barracks - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

Most veterans lived in the barracks (or dorms for you Air Force types) at some point during their time in service. Despite the improvements to military quarters over the years, many people just can’t stand barracks life because of things like buffing hallway floors, the senior leader walkthroughs, and the early morning health and welfare inspections. Bottom line: barracks life is not everyone’s cup of tea.


 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Marines barracks party in 1967.

 

But be advised: When you finally leave to live off base or finish your term of enlistment, you may come to the realization that ‘barracks life’ wasn’t really all that bad. Here are some things you might actually miss about living in the “Bs”:

1. Free room and board

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Airman 1st Class Robert Ruiz, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, enjoys the comfort of his dorm room. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anthony Jennings)

 

Remember all the money you saved during your time there? No worries about paying a landlord or making mortgage payments. You didn’t have to concern yourself about paying a power or water bill. Although a military lifestyle is tough, this feels like a small pass on adulthood.

2. Being close to PT formation

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Soldiers conduct physical training outside new barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C. New barracks include suite-like living quarters for Soldiers, where bathrooms and kitchenettes are shared with only a few others. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

 

Getting an extra thirty minutes or even an hour of sleep is something you take for granted when living in the barracks. You don’t have to deal with the stress of driving to base and trying to beat the morning traffic to the front gate. Waking up, brushing your teeth, and walking to formation from your room is pretty awesome.

3. It’s easy to borrow things

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Inside old school U.S. Navy barracks.

 

Need some shaving cream or laundry detergent? Just ask your buddy next door or on the rack beside you. Someone in the barracks would more than likely hook you up.

4. Living with your battle buddies

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
U.S. Marines in front of barracks at U.S. Naval Base Key West, FL in 1963

 

Getting to live in the same building with your friends is fun. You can always find someone to watch the game, hang out, or play video games. Barracks life builds great camaraderie among the unit.

5. Barracks grill outs

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

There was nothing quite like those grill-outs in the courtyard on the weekends. If your courtyard had a basketball or volleyball court, it made these events that much better.

6. Barracks parties

Admit it, some of the best parties you ever attended were from the comforts of your building. They were a blast, full of shenanigans, and sometimes unpredictable. Whether you enjoyed your time living there or disliked them, some of your fondest memories in service probably happened in the barracks.

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
U.S. Soldiers hanging out in a barracks day room in 1968.

What are some of your favorite barracks stories? Tell us in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

Military Life

How certain MRE items become cash money to a service member

M&Ms, cheese spread with jalapeños, and the tasty chili mac are just a few of our favorite items that are included with the famous military meal plan known as the MRE.


At first glance, these items seem to be simple and not worth a whole lot to the average non-military person.

But after servicemen and women have been deployed to a small FOB or patrol base for months, some of the items in an MRE begin to take on a whole new value.

So why are some of the highly preserved and bland tasting snacks worth so much? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Related: This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

It doesn’t look like much now, but give it a few months — it’ll look like freakin’ gold.

We trade the more popular items for other goods or services — if we don’t scarf them down first.

Like we mentioned above, a few of the items that come in the rations are tasty and sometimes hard to find. Troops have their favorites but they don’t necessarily get to choose which meal they get at chow time.

If you happen to come across a package of M&Ms and cheese spread with jalapeños, you could negotiate with a fellow troop to take one of your assigned duties in exchange for the item — it happens all the time.

 

Also Read: This is what Mongol MREs looked like

You can sometimes use an item or two to gain information.

In last decade, we’ve been in conflict with an enemy who isn’t known for their nutritious eating habits like most Americans are. In many cases, Taliban and ISIS fighters have quit their posts due to hunger.

When allied forces leave the wire for a short amount of time, we tend to bring the tasty snacks that come in the MREs, like the almond seed poppy cake or the First Strike Bar, to enjoy during a security halt.

When we come in contact with a potential bad guy who looks like they haven’t eaten in days, handing over the sweet cake could gain trust and lead to the whereabouts of a nasty IED before it goes off.

We gamble with them

When you’re on a patrol base that barely has any electricity, you have time to come up with some original games based on your environment. One of our favorites is good-natured wagers. Betting the strawberry shake you didn’t drink at lunchtime can make the game much more exciting and kill time.

Let us know what you’d barter your favorite MRE for, and check out the very first episode of Meals Ready to Eat above to see how military cuisine is created and tested in high-tech kitchens then shipped to the troops on the front lines.

Military Life

Why troops don’t think a ‘tactical acquisition’ is stealing

Taking something that belongs to someone else is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, stealing. If an item that was personally owned goes missing and ends up in the possession of another person, they stole it. This applies to cars, televisions, and nearly everything else a troop may own. But, for some reason, few in the military bat an eye if the missing item was issued without a serial number — it happens far too often in the military.


There’re a few old sayings in the military about this very concept. “Gear adrift is a gift.” “There’s only one thief in the military — everyone else is just getting their stuff back.” And, of course, “it’s not stealing if it’s tactically acquired.” Meaning that if you see something left — you can take it. After all, standard-issued gear is so widely distributed that it’s hard to prove who the gear was issued to originally.

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
An unsecured wall locker is one thing, but if you’re busting open a connex – you’re a thief. (Photo by Amabilia Payen)

Take a medium-regular service uniform (the most average-sized service uniform that’s also the most sold-out at any Exchange) for instance. If someone takes it out of a washing machine and it doesn’t have the original owner’s name sewn onto it, it’s almost impossible to confront the person who took it. If they aren’t caught in the act, they get away with it.

Eventually, troops will have to turn in their gear to the Central Issuing Facility (CIF) before PCS/ETSing. If a troop is missing a piece of gear that must be returned, instead of taking the hit on the chin with integrity, person A jacks person B’s gear so they don’t end up with a hefty charge. Remember, “there’s only one thief in the military,” and so the cycle continues. Person B then needs to decide between eating the fine person A should have faced or pass the burden on to person C, who has conveniently left their gear unattended.

There is, however, a third option most troops don’t consider: reporting it to the MPs. If you can prove that your gear was taken and there’re signs of forced entry (broken locks, broken doors/windows, water on the ground of the washing machine), you can easily take the report to CIF and explain the situation.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
There’s paperwork for almost everything in the military if you try hard enough. (Photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)

…Or you could just sweet talk the supply NCO. That works, too.

Military Life

This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States

Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.

One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.


It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.

This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).

Related: These are the real brothers that inspired ‘Saving Private Ryan’

There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:

1. Who

Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).

The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.

A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.

2. When

Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

3. Where

Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.

Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.

4. What

Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”

The Air Force delivers a notification letter with details (included with discretion), and the Marine Corps reminds its notification officers that the next of kin may need information repeated.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.

Also read: This vet can tell you the names of 2,300 fallen heroes — by memory

The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.

5. Why

In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”

Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).

But it’s a much more sacred and human duty than that. In many ways, caring for those left behind is the truest way to honor the memory of a fallen hero.

MIGHTY MONEY

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu announces its expansion of sites within the Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Amaani Lyle)


Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.

The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.

Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Masks, decorated by service members, sit on display as part of the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (National Endowment for the Arts courtesy photo)

The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.

Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.

The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.

Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.

“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”

Articles

Why deadly wounds aren’t treated first in combat

Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.


War is hell.

Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.

So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
US Marine in Afghanistan returning fire (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

In the civilian world, there are typically more assets and resources to treat just about everyone and every ailment or injury in the book.

By contrast, fighting an enemy in a third world country, Navy Corpsmen and medics only carry a small inventory of medical gear strapped onto their persons.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
HM2 Lamonte Hammond and HM3 Simon Trujillo treat a Marine who was wounded during a firefight in the Nawa district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg)

Also Read: These simple sponges seal battle wounds in no time

During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.

After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.

So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.

For more military triage information check here.

Military Life

3 tips for picking out a ‘spouse’ right before a deployment

It’s no secret that both male and female troops tend to get married right before a long deployment to collect and save some extra cash. Although contract marriages are illegal in the military, that doesn’t stop many troops from heading down to City Hall or finding a justice of the peace to recite a few words and signing their names on a marriage license.


If you have the money and a potential spouse, you can plan a cheap wedding within an hour — depending on your location. Since most contract marriages end in divorce (go figure), it’s important to cover your own six when you’re out and about looking for that year-long husband or wife.

But, before you head out and find that special someone, read these tips — they just might save your ass later on.

Should I or shouldn’t I just marry a stripper?

Countless troops have gone out to their local boobie-bars to do exactly this. That fact is, strippers are humans, too, and they’re just trying to make ends meet like you, so that extra cash seems pretty good. However, never go after one that works near a military base, especially your military base.

Other service members are nosy and command “red flags” those types of relationship behaviors. So, if you’re going to marry a stripper, don’t go next door and do it a few months prior to deployment to give it some buffering time. It looks better on paper that way.

Use that dating app on your phone

Like they say, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Now, we’re not saying you have the right to play games with peoples’ minds and hearts, but they, too, might be in a financial bind and you can bring the marriage idea up to them when the time is right.

Get in touch with an ex back in your home town

The best way to keep your fake marriage under wraps is to keep your new spouse far, far away from anything that resembles a military base. You’re still in contact with your family back home anyway, so you might as well drop a “hey” to your single ex that isn’t yet sure what they want out of life.

We all personally know someone who’s married their ex. There’s a history there behind the happy couple, which validates the union and lowers your chances of getting caught.

Think about it.

Military Life

Families stationed in Germany get creative during lockdown

Navy veteran and spouse Courtney Suesse and her family live in Stuttgart.

Air Force spouse Jennifer Borkey has left base once this year — to travel to a nearby post for a dental appointment. Borkey, her husband, and two children, ages 10 and 13, have made the most of their time confined to a 1,630-square-foot apartment on Robinson Barracks, one of the five installations that comprise Army Garrison Stuttgart. 

Over the past year, the garrison, home to more than 20,000 U.S. military personnel, federal agencies, civilians, and family members, has maintained a variety of restrictive lockdown measures in conjunction with host-nation and Army policies. 

During this time, Borkey’s read 30 books, picked up knitting, and refined her sewing skills. Her advice to other families — “If you don’t have a hobby, find one.”

On March 10, 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuttgart closed all non-essential services, including CDCs, gyms, and playgrounds. DODEA schools in the region were closed around the same time. 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Air Force spouse Jennifer Borkey, her husband, Master Sgt. Brent Borkey, and their children, Zara and Xander, enjoyed hiking in Blautopf, Germany when restrictions were eased over the summer.

While a variety of restrictions were lifted in the summer and travel restrictions eased slightly, the situation has remained fluid. New lockdown procedures, including curfews, school closures, and travel restrictions, were put back into place in November and again in December.  

Commissaries, exchanges, and the post office have remained open, but nearly all other retail facilities, including most out in town, have remained shuttered.

As of press time, DODEA schools in the region were partially reopened and some restaurants were allowing takeout but the majority of restrictions remain, including in-person gatherings, which are currently limited to 10 people from two households. While residents are allowed to exercise outdoors with a mask, their movements are geographically limited. 

For Borkey, one of the biggest differences about being stationed overseas is that rules are not optional. “People state-side might not understand that when we are handed down regulations, we have to follow them,” she said. 

“There’s no doubt that the community has had to make a great deal of sacrifices this year, especially with things that you take for granted,” Paul Hughes, public affairs specialist at USAG Stuttgart, said during a phone interview in late February. 

With no 4th of July celebration, Halloween canceled, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays limited, and no New Year’s celebration, COVID-19 restrictions have significantly impacted the Stuttgart community, Hughes says. 

Still, he praises the dedication during this challenging chapter, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “It’s been tough and I think the second lockdown is wearing on people a little,” he said. 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Courtney Suesse, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Suesse, and their daughter, Stella, pictured in Colmar, France before the pandemic.

Navy veteran and spouse Courtney Suesse says that the lockdown has been a struggle emotionally. Having a 3-year-old at home and balancing a full-time college course load during the pandemic has taken a toll emotionally. 

“Everyone has gotten in their feelings and way more personal,” Suesse said, noting that she’s found assistance through a behavioral health licensed counselor on post. 

“If you’re struggling like I am, I highly recommend reaching out and finding resources,” Suesse said. 

Stuttgart Employee Assistance Program Coordinator Kim Roedl says that the garrison has worked hard to make sure families and service members have access to physical and mental health resources. Her office has ramped up its efforts to connect with families and ensure that they know about their free, confidential, and short-term counseling and referral services.

“We want people to know that we are here for them, and we are always here to listen,” Rodel said in an email. 

In addition to mental health services, Suesse says that technology has been a lifeline during the home-bound months. Her daughter has tea parties with her grandparents and playdates with her aunt via Facebook messenger. 

The highlight of each week has been an international virtual trivia with family. 

“It’s midnight for my sister in Saigon, 6 p.m. for our family in Germany, and noon for my in-laws in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We make it work across the globe,” she said. 

Game nights have been such a success for Suesse that she connected with other spouses to start a local virtual game night. The group, to which Borkey also belongs, has been meeting for over a year. With the restrictions in place, they’ve only met in person once during that time even though they live relatively close. 

Suesse says that the game night is a fun release and time to gather. “We commiserate about lockdown and when someone misses a question we tease them saying ‘since you’re a homeschool teacher now, shouldn’t you know the answer?’” 

Both Borkey and Suesse are looking forward to getting off post and exploring the surrounding area once restrictions are lifted. 

“We are most looking forward to travel, travel, and did I say travel?” Borkey joked.

In the meantime, Suesse is walking the base and nearby areas as permitted and exploring German life as she can. 

“There are still trails to walk, architecture to see. . . There’s still an international community you can experience while still being bundled into this military community,” she concluded. 

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

In May 1941, the United States was on the brink of war.


6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
National Archives

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed an “unlimited national emergency” and ordered American forces to prepare “to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere.”

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
National Archives

While the situation seemed grim, at least one commanding officer decided to lighten the mood. He allowed his men to grow their beards in what would be the most hirsute event in the U.S. military until Robin Olds headed to Vietnam.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
National Archives

Related: This Air Force fighter pilot is the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Your winner, ladies and gentlemen. (National Archives)

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Six months later, the Philippines fell and the American troops who survived were submitted to the harshest treatment of any POWs in the Pacific War. The Allies did not retake the Philippines until October 1944.

Military Life

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Army occupational therapist Maj. Erik Johnson will use anything that works to help wounded warriors. One of the big problems he faces is how to get his patients involved in their own therapy.


Therapists have historically used activities like working with leather and copper tooling to engage patients, but that doesn’t appeal to soldiers from the Xbox generation. Johnson, a gamer and former Army rehabilitation patient himself, found a way to incorporate games into therapy.

 

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Army Maj. Erik Johnson plays video games with patients at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo: courtesy Maj. Erik Johnson

“If I threw, you know, macrame in front of a soldier he might laugh at me,” Johnson said in an interview with WATM. “But if I threw him at a video game, he’d be like, ‘Yeah man. I love this dude. Hell, I’m gonna go like do everything I can to optimize my treatment.'”

The games used in therapy are carefully curated by Johnson who identifies what needs each could fulfill. DJ Hero and Big Brain Academy, for instance, are good for soldiers who have suffered brain traumas.

“One of the biggest things with concussions is that you have what we call executive dysfunction or basically, a big issue with cognition,” Johnson said. “So like, your memory is not as good as it was. Or you have issues with problem solving. Or maybe you have issues with delayed response with your brain thinking to your hands moving.”

So, Johnson can put soldiers recovering from a concussion or another brain injury in front of DJ Hero, which requires that the player keep to a rhythm, watch symbols on a screen, and anticipate the actions of others.

Big Brain Academy allows players to work on memory, statistics, analysis, math. And, it allows them to measure their progress.

“And the thing with Big Brain Academy is that it kept a record of everything you did,” said Johnson. “So, if you built a profile, and you’re like, ‘Okay, yesterday was the very first time I worked on this, I was terrible. Today I’m a little bit better and in a week I’m doing fantastic.’ Even if that’s not standardized, you can still see them improving.”

Big Brain Academy payed off big for Johnson and the soldiers under his care when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 to set up a brain injury program inside a deployed brigade combat team. Stuck on an austere forward operating base, a simple game that could be set up in a hooch was a good tool to help soldiers recovering from a concussion or TBI.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

When Johnson got back to the states, systems like the Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii allowed him to target physical therapies with video games as well. For amputees who lost one or both legs, cardio is an issue.

“Our lower extremity amputees have a big issue with cardio. They haven’t been able to run, and they start gaining weight and running is a lot more challenging for them. How are we going to engage them in a good cardio regimen?

“One of the things we noticed was we could put them on Wii Boxing and set them up on a therapy ball and they have to balance on the therapy ball which would strengthen their core and then also, they are doing a lot of engagement with  their upper extremities. And, anybody that has played any kind of Wii sport-type game that takes a lot of that effort knows that real quickly it gives you a good workout.”

Amputee patients also got help from Ken Jones, an engineer who runs Warfighter Engaged and builds custom controllers for amputees.

“He’ll modify game controllers or systems so that anybody could play on them,” Johnson said. “Let’s say you lose your left hand, well, he’s going to bring all those buttons on your Xbox controller over to the right side.”

Jones even made a custom controller for a quadruple amputee.

“Just by like pushing switches and big toggles and different elements like that, he basically made it to where anybody could engage in therapy. Well, I call it therapy, they call it gaming.”

Building a gaming center for wounded warriors isn’t easy. Luckily, Johnson got help from Operation Supply Drop, a charity that engages veterans and deployed service members through video games.

Glen Banton, the CEO of OSD, met Johnson and asked for his wish list, everything Johnson would need to create the perfect setup for treating wounded warriors with video games.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
In Operation Supply Drop’s largest single donation, they gave six video game consoles and plenty of other gear to Brooke Army Medical Center. Photo courtesy Operation Supply Drop

“So I started to do a lot more writing down, research on games. I would want this particular game for this application. I would want this for this application. And I started going down this list of different games that would do different things.” 

“So Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and blew me away,” Johnson said. “I mean, like way more than I had asked for, way more than anticipated. My office is full of gaming stuff right now that I’m now trying to build an entire huge gaming center within out therapy gym so that it’s actually almost a piece of medical equipment, that is its intended use. Before, we had roving televisions and we’d throw a system on it. Now it’s like, I’m going to actually have a specified space where we go and do therapeutic gaming.”

Of course, not all of Johnson’s patients are video gamers. But for the ones that are, they have a therapist who not only wants to engage them with their chosen hobby, but has an awesome suite of tools to do it with.

Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of February 10th

In the military, it’s impossible to say what the next week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are chock-full of talented photographers that are always capturing what life as a service member is like, both in training and at war.


These are the best photos of the week:

Air Force:

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, left, greets Airman 1st Class Jessica Provencal, a fire team member assigned to the 736th Security Forces Squadron during his visit to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 8, 2018. The contingency response Airmen of the 736th SFS provide first-in force protection for the 36th Contingency Response Group during airbase opening, contingency, and humanitarian assistance operations throughout the Indo-Pacific area of operations.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Stone Williford, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron real property specialist, removes dirt to level the ground at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 6, 2018. Volunteers worked together and combined their various skills to rebuild the overflow bridge at Memorial Lake.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Army:

Pfc. Hunter Wood (left), military policeman assigned to the 287th MP Company, 97th MP BN, 89th MP BDE, deployed in support of Battle Group Poland receives a 2nd Cavalry Regiment coin of excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Muhlenbeck, 2CR senior enlisted advisor, for his unwavering work ethic as a gunner and initiative on being accountable for his military vehicle’s maintenance and progress while simultaneously ensuring mission success, near Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland Feb. 8, 2018. Battle Group Poland is a unique, multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(Courtesy photo by 2nd Lt. Francine Alba, 287th MP Company)

2nd Lt. Isaac Bandfield, infantry officer, 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, qualifies on the M240B to obtain an Expert Infantry Badge Feb. 6 at Fort Bliss, Texas. The qualification includes three steps, which are disassembling the weapon, assembling the weapon, and clearing then firing the weapon.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

Navy:

Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, second from left, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, speaks with members of the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces and U.S. Army in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and its carrier strike group are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Perlman/Released)

Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Samuel Wellington helps Fire Controlman 1st Class John Willman practice aiming down the sight of an M4 rifle during a small-arms gun shoot aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71). Ross, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its sixth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of regional allies and partners and U.S. national security interests in Europe.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler/Released)

Marine Corps:

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller shakes hands with Marines during a visit to Recruiters School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., February 8, 2018. Neller addressed the Marines about his latest Message to the Force: Execute and answers questions.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

Marines with Company F, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, pause to check the scheme of maneuver before a platoon formation rehearsal during exercise Winter Break 2018 near Camp Grayling, Michigan, Feb. 8, 2018. Winter Break 18 challenges Marines of Fox Co., 4th Tank Bn. to contend with employment problems caused by extreme cold weather and snow and adapt to the operational challenges of a severe climate.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)

Coast Guard:

Leighton Tseu, Kane O Ke Kai, gives a Hawaiian blessing during the arrival of the Coast Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, Feb. 4, 2018. The Joseph Gerczak is the second of three Honolulu-based FRCs that will primarily serve the main Hawaiian Islands.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jawhawk helicopter crewmember medevacs a 42-year-old man suffering from stomach pains from the cruise ship Koningsdam Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 approximately 46 miles east of the Bahamas. Coast Guard 7th District watchstanders launched the aircrew who hoisted the patient with his nurse and transferred them to local emergency medical services at Nassau, Bahamas.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. George Menze)

Articles

The military is cracking down on hazing

A U.S. Navy officer charged with hazing and maltreatment of sailors is facing a general court martial.


The Virginian-Pilot reported April 18 that the unnamed lieutenant commander is accused of verbal abuse and retaliating against a sailor who asked to stop being called Charlie Brown. Court documents say the officer told the sailor to carry a Charlie Brown cartoon figurine at all times.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks
Don’t laugh. (Official image of Charlie Brown, created by Charles M. Schultz)

The officer also allegedly punched a chair next to a sailor and yelled at someone for more than an hour. The officer is also accused of lying about his actions.

Also read: Lawmakers visit Parris Island after recruits death highlight’s hazing

The lieutenant commander is a reservist assigned to a cargo handling battalion in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Military hazing has drawn extra scrutiny in recent years after a series of high-profile cases.

Featured

5 reasons why our military mothers are the best

Our mothers put up with so much and they never get the credit or recognition they deserve. They carried us for nine months, spent every waking moment of our first few years diligently caring for us, and tried their best to make us our best. Then, after we turn 18, we go to war and we stop calling.

We rarely ask for their advice and often jump face-first into the very potholes they told us to avoid — and still, they couldn’t be any prouder.


This one goes out to all you lovely military moms out there. This is why you’re the best.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

The “My child is an Airman/Soldier/Marine/Sailor” bumper sticker is far more impressive than any college.

(Photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)

They’re brought into the military life while stuck with civilians

More often than not, our mothers don’t really get a say on whether we join the military. Sure, she’ll be a little disappointed when it finally sets in that their kid isn’t going to be a millionaire brain surgeon who can afford to buy her a beautiful mansion (sorry, mom, but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen with my high-school grades), but they’re still proud of their baby.

Next, they’re sucked into the military lifestyle and there’s no way of backing out. They’ll try to move on as if everything is normal, but they’ll find that their patience with civilian moms will quickly wear thin.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

The pain is all worth it for the moment that plane lands, though.

(Photo by Capt. Richard Packer)

They’re heartbroken almost the entire time we’re gone

Deployments are rough on everyone. In our absence, friends we once knew change entirely and even some lovers fade away. But our mommas will always remain. They’ll never stop thinking of us as their babies.

Sure, most moms can keep their composure in front of others, but there isn’t a moment that goes by that they’re not thinking of us.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

They may not get info on the exact moment you’re landing until just hours beforehand, but you can be certain they’ll be there!

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

They go months without knowing if we’re okay

Communications blackouts are no joke. When something major happens, troops will be told to cut off all communication with the folks back home. These blackouts happen without notice.

Not to make everyone feel horribly guilty, but, uh… sometimes we tend to do this accidentally by using our few phone calls back home to check up on our significant other instead of letting our mothers know that we’re doing fine.

Sorry, ma.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

And in return, one of the few gifts we can give back is allowing them to pin rank on our uniforms. It may not seem like much but, to them, it means the world.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alana Langdon)

They’re always on-point with care packages

Without exception, care packages are loved and appreciated by deployed troops. It’s always nice when schools, churches, and other organizations send out the standard collection of socks, baby powder, and Girl Scout Cookies, but our moms know how to out-do everyone.

Our moms have read through every single article on the internet about care packages and what to put in them. They’ll toss in home-made cookies, personal photos, and things we’ll actually cherish while deployed. After all, mom knows best.

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)

They do everything in their power to keep you stress-free

If there’s one skill that every mother learns to master over 18+ years of childrearing, it’s how to handle insane and ridiculous problems. Putting out match-sized fires is nothing when they’ve learned to deal with forest fires.

You might realize it, but our moms are our best friends while we’re deployed. They’re our bakers, our financial advisers, our babysitters, our confidants, our emotional rock, and, if you’re like me and had the pleasure of enduring a deteriorating marriage while deployed, our enforcers (my mom is badass like that).

Above all, your mother is the one woman on this Earth who will love you most.

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