For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

One mistake that people outside the military make is thinking of our service members as being a homogeneous group. This is understandable. It’s easy to look at a platoon of soldiers in formation and see uniformity — the same haircut and uniform — and register it as sameness. 

In fact, the military is an incredibly diverse collection of people. Not only does it draw people from all across our country with many different backgrounds, languages, and regionalisms, but the military is chockfull of different jobs and specializations which appeal to different kinds of people. But for all the jobs the military offers, you probably wouldn’t guess that it would attract an artist.  

TSgt Corban Lundborg, 29, has been in the service for 11 years and isn’t planning on going anywhere. For him, being an artist and an Airman are not mutually exclusive. If anything, he’s found his calling as a Combat Cameraman.

The world of the Air Forces Combat Camera is more hardcore than you might think. The Air Force has two Combat Camera Squadrons, and while both are aligned under the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, they are responsible for much more than taking pictures at change-of-command ceremonies and training facilities.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
TSgt Lundborg while on assignment with Combat Camera.

According to the Air Force, COMCAM is responsible for “acquiring still and motion imagery in support of classified and unclassified air, sea, and ground military operations.” The imagery captured by COMCAM is “a fundamental tool of commanders and decision-makers throughout the Department of Defense [and] provides a visual record for use in operational analysis, training, public information, and as a permanent historical record.”

But on our phone call, TSgt Lundborg doesn’t tell me about “visual records” or “operational analysis.” Instead, we talk about composition, creativity, and art. He talks about his work with a kind of reverence that you’d expect from an artist, but replies with short, to-the-point answers you’d expect from a seasoned NCO. 

“My life has been a constant battle between artist and combatant,” TSgt Lundborg tells me. “We are combatants — we’re trained in all those skills — but I see the world through the eyes of the artist. I constantly have to make the decisions between the two, and know when to flip the selector switch.”Read Next: This Week on SOFREP: Iran in the Crosshairs, a CIA Officer Killed, and an Exclusive Look Inside the Boogaloo Bois

I first discovered Combat Camera and TSgt Lundborg while searching for an image for a story about SERE School. I was tabbing through the Department of Defense archive when I came upon a grainy black and white photo of an airman, head, and neck wrapped against the cold, a cigarette tipped into the corner of his mouth. 

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
An Airman applies camouflage to his face during Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, a 19-day Combat Survival Course (S-V80-A), hosted by the 22nd Training Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The course allows Airmen the opportunity to learn and practice survival techniques required to return with honor. The frame was captured on 120mm medium format film using a Holga 120N plastic camera. February 25, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Corban Lundborg)

All Airmen designated as part of an aircrew are required to attend the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State. TSgt Lundborg attended the school as part of his training. But like any artist worth their salt, TSgt Lundborg couldn’t leave his camera behind. 

In truth, a camera is an authorized item on the packing list for SERE, though trainees are only allowed to use the camera during certain parts of the course. Most use the opportunity to snap a few pics with their buddies, or record parts of their experience for personal use. 

Not TSgt Lundborg.  

Instead, he went to his leadership and the course cadre and proposed a project: He would bring with him a medium-format film camera and capture moments from SERE school through the eyes of an artist. The project was approved. So as TSgt Lundborg prepared for the training he also did photographic research. He found an inexpensive plastic camera that would be light and easy to carry and lashed it to an old dog tag chain. 

“I wanted the imagery to transcend time,” he told me on the phone. “I wanted people to look at the images and not know if it was 1950 or 2020.” (The above photograph is from 2020.)

Capturing the images wasn’t a cakewalk. Evening temperatures dipped into the single digits. The trainees slept in snowbanks. When TSgt Lundborg suffered an injury to one of his eyes, he kept shooting, using the other one to focus and compose the exposures. 

“Just like all military training,” he tells me, “you just think about all the guys who have survived before you.” Spoken like a true soldier.Read Next: Combat Medicine: Senior Military Commanders Need to Do More to Save American Lives (Pt. 1)

TSgt Lundborg is humble and down to earth. He takes his job seriously and loves what he does. But it’s not about glossy photos of the heroics and images for military marketing campaigns. 

Airmen serving with Combat Camera also work directly with special operations teams to capture images for their use. Here, TSgt Lundborg gets to practice his art while drawing on his training and experience in the military. “We work directly with the Pentagon and with all the teams. When we’re working with a team, we’re working for that team,” he says. “Unlike a Public Affairs team, we’re there to support these teams with imagery for internal use.” 

TSgt Lundborg knows that much of his work will never be viewed by the outside world. “The majority of imagery that we shoot will never see the light of day,” he says. “It will be internal imagery that will live on a hard drive somewhere. To know as a photographer that your best work may never be seen is incredibly hard.”  

But TSgt Lundborg is resolute. He’s not here for fame or to launch a personal brand. In fact, he’s planning on serving well past 20 years. For him, looking at the battlefield through the photographic lens is about creating what he referred to as a “through-line for generations.” And much like the famous military photographers who have come before, TSgt Lundborg is ready to take it on. 

“It’s difficult and beautiful at the same time,” he tells me.

“It’s an honor to be the one to write that history and capture these moments.”

Spoken like a true artist and a true patriot.

This article was originally published on November 24th, 2020.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Military Life

How a pilot in one of America’s least stealthy aircraft saved a downed pilot from one of the stealthiest

In March 1999, NATO announced that coalition forces would begin a massive air war and bombing campaign against Serbia. Within hours after the first round of strikes, an A-10 squadron received an urgent call that one of America’s stealthiest aircraft had been shot down — the F-117 Nighthawk.


It was reported the stealth pilot managed to bail out in time but was trapped deep behind enemy lines.

As rebel forces assembled to hunt down the American pilot, allied forces gathered and quickly began designing a search and rescue mission to locate their missing brother.

“One of the things I have to do as the on-scene commander is figure out if he’s ready to be picked up,” Air Force pilot John Cherrey explains.

Related: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

Since landing an A-10 in enemy territory was impractical, using Black Hawks to pick up the missing pilot was the only option. But with Serbian missiles on high alert, there was no way helicopters could outrun enemy defenses.

The rescue mission must be handled with extreme caution or risk losing more men, so developing a clever plan was in order.

The Warthog’s commanders decided to create a diversion that would prompt Serbian anti-air missile radar to look in one direction, while the slower Black Hawks swooped in through the enemies’ back door.

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Their plan worked as the two Black Hawks managed to sneak their way to the downed pilot and egresses out of the Serbian air space. Once the A-10s were notified the pilot was safe, they bugged out and went home. No additional casualties were reported.

Mission complete.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to see how Allied forces went on this daring rescue mission for yourself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

Articles

Harvard needs disabled veterans for expert research — and soon

Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.


Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:

• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation

• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)

• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent

• Under the age of 45

The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.

Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.

Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.

To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at indproject@hbs.edu.

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

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

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.

Articles

Marines hold hilarious ‘memorial service’ for their porn stash

In 2009, the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines stationed at Forward Operating Base Eagle, Iraq said goodbye to their porn stash.


“Golf co. 2/9 was replaced by a bunch of reservists from Utah.” reads the video description by MrTriptrop.

Related: This military-friendly porn star is starting a project just for veterans

With their deployment coming to an end, they decided to properly send off the women that provided temporary release from their sexual repression, according to the video. The ceremony and obituary are pure comedy, check it out:

We gather here today to honor the eternal memory of the women that have sacrificed services for the good of those that have suffered sexual repression through geographic isolation, mainly: us.

These ladies of the periodical, queens of the center fold have inspired our imaginations and other parts that should not be mentioned at this time.

Though these many months have been long and hard, they provided us with a means for us to have a temporary release.

Your undying patriotism and service to those who serve has not been in vain and though our time together may have come to an end, you will forever live on in our hearts.

We salute you oh princess of the page, you will never be forgotten.

Now we will sound off a few of the names of those who have inspired us …

MrTriptrop, YouTube

Military Life

This was the first woman in the Iraq War to earn a Silver Star

The Silver Star is currently the third-highest award for valor in combat. The decoration is given to those that exhibit exemplary courage in the face of the enemy. For reference, there are only three women in history that have garnered the honor. The first woman since WWII to earn this prestigious medal did so by directly engaging in combat with the enemy.


For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
Above, a photo of Sgt. Leigh Hester’s Silver Star (Photo by NPR)

When Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester joined the military in 2001, neither she nor anyone else would have guessed that she would be the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star. Hester was assigned to 617th Military Police Company, National Guard, Richmond, KY. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened right before Hester was shipped off to basic training. Soon after Hester completed training in 2004, she deployed to Iraq.

Hester and her team ran convoys to clear an area of IEDs and ensure safe passage. According to the Pentagon’s policy, women are not allowed to be assigned to units where their primary mission is to “engage in direct combat on the ground.” Even though women, at the time, were banned from combat positions, some engaged in and witnessed combat. Hester’s experience proves that everyone has the possibility of engaging in combat.

On one particular convoy, in Baghdad, the Humvee ahead of Hester was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Explosions and gunshots rang out while Hester followed her squad leader, Sgt. Timothy Nein, as they positioned themselves in front of a trench and fired back. After 45 minutes of taking enemy fire, the ordeal had ended.

Although three of Hester’s team members were injured, all of them survived the firefight. Hester and Nein received Silver Stars for their actions that saved their whole squad from insurgent attack.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
Sgt. Leigh Hester holds up her Silver Star.

Women are still gaining ground in the arena of combat positions, and Hester wants to be clear that her actions had nothing to do with her sex. She states, “I’m honored to even be considered, much less awarded, the medal,” Hester told the American Forces Press Service. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with being a female. It’s about the duties I performed that day as a soldier.”

Articles

8 pieces of gear grunts buy themselves before deploying

Before any service member deploys, they have to visit the supply depot on their station. Now, these supply depots issue out a bunch of items. But for the most part, they’re worn down and look like something a homeless guy would reject.


The fact is — you’re not the first guy or gal to take a nap in that sleeping bag or to load rounds into that M16 magazine. It’s been well used before you even thought about touching it.

Related: 8 things Marines like to carry other than their weapon

After seeing the state of some of this gear, service members typically think about the months of deployment time that lies ahead and remind themselves how much stuff the military doesn’t voluntarily distribute.

So check out our list of things you may want to consider buying before going wheels up.

1. Bungee Cords

Like 550 cord, these elastic straps are strong as Hell and will secure down nearly everything.

If you need to tow it, bungee cord will probably hold it. (images via Giphy)

2. Blow up sleeping pad

Traditionally, supply issues you a ratty foam mat which is like sleeping in a really cheap motel room.

Purchasing a quality air mattress can make all difference. (image via Giphy)  

3. Headlamp

Getting issued a flashlight that’s designed to clip to your uniform (which is what you’ll get) is fine if you’re okay with tripping over everything in the pitch black (because it doesn’t point to where you’re looking).

Get a red-filtered headlamp for combat zones — it could save your life. (images via Giphy)

4. Rite in the rain

Normal paper isn’t meant to repel water. You never know when you need to take notes in the field while it’s pouring down rain. “Rite in the Rain” is waterproof paper you can still jot notes on.

With a “Rite in the Rain” it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, you can still takethose unimportant notes your commanding officer thinks is critical. (images via Giphy)

5. P-Mags

The 30 round magazine that the supply guy handed out has seen better days and has a single compression spring built inside which can increase the chances of your weapon system jamming when you need it the most. The polymer version made by Magpul is much better — so good, in fact, the Marine Corps is issuing it to all Leathernecks.

P-mags are dual spring compressed, decreasing your chances of a weaponsmalfunction. (images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

6. GPS

People get lost if they spin around one too many times, and most people simply suck at land-nav. Consider purchasing a G.P.S. that fits snuggly on your wrist.

We told you about G.P.S., but you didn’t want to listen. (image via Giphy) 

7. Cooler eye-pro

The military does issue eye protection that has frag resistant lenses, but they don’t make you look cool. Everyone buys sunglasses before a deployment that make you look tough — its an unwritten rule.

Now you look badass. Your eyes won’t be a protected, but who needs them away?(images via Giphy)Note: you still need to protect your eyes.

8. Knife/multitool

This should be self-explanatory. If you want to open up just about anything and your Judo chop won’t cut it.

His worked, but yours may not. (images via Giphy)

popular

This is how a ship’s crew eats during combat

When ships are fighting, the battles can take a long time. To give one example, the battle between a German wolfpack and convoy ONS 92 lasted from May 11 to May 14 — three days of constant ASW. Combat can take a toll on a crew, but so can not eating.


Back in World War II, the usual plan was to fix the crew sandwiches they could eat at action stations, usually with some (typically strong) Navy coffee. That tends to help — but sandwiches and strong coffee aren’t exactly the most nutritious of choices.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
HDMS Iver Huitfeldt, the lead ship of the class HDMS Peter Willemoes is in. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Today, it runs a little differently, given the higher expectations that sailors have about their food. Let’s look at one of the newest warships in the Danish Navy, the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes. This frigate is powerful, carrying 32 RIM-66 SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a pair of 76mm guns, and a 35mm close-in weapon system. It also can operate a MH-60R helicopter and carry up to 165 personnel.

So, how can they quickly feed that crew, while still keeping a combat edge? Well, for one thing, the crews don’t get a lunch hour — they get six minutes to eat. That restriction means that the cooks can fix that meal and clean everything up in a grand total of 74 minutes.

 

As a result, that crew is refueled and ready to take on the enemy, whether in the air, on the surface, or underwater. The video below helps show how this is done – quickly and efficiently, so this ship can fight!

Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of January 20th

In the military, you never know what the week will bring. Thankfully, there are some very talented photographers in the ranks and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like, both in training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with Col. Joseph Kunkel, 366th Fighter Wing commander, after a town hall meeting at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Jan. 16, 2018. Mattis met with base leadership and fielded questions from Airmen during the town hall.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malissa Armstrong)

A B-52 Stratofortress navigator, assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, provides overview of different radars during a strategic bomber mission over Europe, on Jan. 16, 2018. The deployment of strategic bombers to RAF Fairford, England, helps exercise United States Air Forces in Europe’s forward operating location for bombers. Training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units help the 5th Bomb Wing contribute to ready and postured forces.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Army:

Cpl. Kevin Johnson (right), a Norfolk, Virginia native and a human resource specialist assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, shows photos from his hometown to a group of students at an elementary school in Nowa Sol, Poland on Jan. 17, 2018. The purpose of the visit was to give the students the opportunity to learn more about the U.S. military and its involvement in Atlantic Resolve.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

U.S. Army Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade engages a pop-up targets with M249 light machine gun during the marksmanship training at Cao Malnisio Range, Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 16, 2018. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa, or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Army Photos by Davide Dalla Massara)

Navy:

Belgian Commander Peter Ramboer (L), incoming Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) Commander, congratulates outgoing SNMCMG1 Commander Gvido Laudups as he receives the NATO Flag representing the conclusion of his command during the SNMCMG1 operational handover ceremony at Zeebrugges Marine Base, in Belgium.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(Photo by FRAN CPO Christian Valverde/Released.)

Capt. Robert Jacoby, right, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Raymond Bedard, from Expeditionary Resuscitative Surgical System 19, prepare medical supplies aboard Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay during exercise Azraq Serpent 18. Azraq Serpent 18 is a bilateral exercise between the U.K. Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy dedicated to developing interoperability between partners across the medical domain in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)

Marine Corps:

Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan High, a Combat Skills Training instructor, teaches Soldiers with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force how to applying gauze to a simulated wound during Exercise Iron Fist, January 16, 2018. Exercise Iron Fist is an annual bilateral training exercise where U.S. and Japanese service members train together and share technique, tactics and procedures to improve their combined operational capabilities.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert Alejandre)

A Japan Ground Self Defense Force soldier leaves a pool during a Marine Corps intermediate swim qualification as part of exercise Iron Fist Jan. 16, 2018. Iron Fist brings together U.S. Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, Western Army Infantry Regiment, to improve bilateral planning, communicating, and conduct combined amphibious operations.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew from Station Maui patrol off the coast during Operation Kohola Guardian, Jan. 16, 2018. Operation Kohola Guardian is a cooperative effort between state and federal agencies to reduce risk to mariners and whales in Hawaiian waters while supporting conservative efforts to ensure future generations have the opportunity to experience these animals in their natural habitat.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur/Released)

Members of the Hurricane Maria ESF-10 response work to dewater vessels impacted by the hurricane in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, Jan. 16, 2018. The team was comprised of members of the Coast Guard and local salvage crews, working in the ESF-10 effort to remove the boats that were stranded in the hurricane. The ESF-10 is offering no-cost options for removing these vessels; affected boat owners are asked to call the Vessel Owner Outreach Hotline at (786) 521-3900

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lara Davis)

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. 

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
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. 

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
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.

Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of February 23rd

In the military, there’s no telling what next week will bring. Thankfully, there are hundreds of talented photographers in the ranks that capture the moments that characterize life as a service member, both in training and at war.


These are the best photos of the week:

Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) member stand watch at an entry control point during exercise Cope North 18 at Tinian, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Feb. 19. Cope North enables U.S. and allied forces to train humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations from austere operating bases, enhancing our capacity and capability to respond in times of crisis

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)

Airman Victor Trevino, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, waits to marshal in a new C-130J Super Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 22, 2018. This is the eleventh C-130J delivered to Yokota as part of a fleet-wide redistribution of assets in motion by Air Mobility Command.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Army:

A U.S. Soldier assigned to 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, engages a simulated enemy tank during Decisive Action Rotation 18-04 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 17, 2018. Decisive Action Rotations at the National Training Center ensure units remain versatile, responsive, and consistently available for current and future contingencies.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Parrott, Operations Group, National Training Center)

A Soldier assigned to 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), moves trough heavily wooded terrain and snow to his objective point after being dropped off at their landing zone by CH-47 Chinooks during an air assault training exercise in the Fort Drum, New York training area, Feb. 21, 2018.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

Navy:

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, looks at a mock-up of a ship’s radar during his visit to Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS). Sawyer’s purpose was to provide an overview of 7th Fleet readiness and to provide feedback on how training ties into ensuring safe and effective operations at sea.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

Sailors clear the landing spot after attaching cargo to an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the Indians of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea. 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.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Spencer Roberts)

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine candidates participate in group stretch and rope climb before a 3 mile run at the Officer Candidates School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Feb. 19, 2018. Candidates must go through three months of intensive training to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a U.S. Marine Corps officer.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Donte Busker)

Marines attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit shoot M9 service pistols on the port-side aircraft elevator of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in Europe and the Middle East. The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Amphibious Squadron 4.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel C. Coxwest)

Coast Guard:

Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach 45-Foot Response Boat—Medium boat crew members, Fireman Thomas Kenny, Petty Officer 3rd Class Brett Weaver and Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Timm, dewater and escort a boat that was sinking approximately 13 miles off the coast of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, on Feb. 21, 2018. The boaters reportedly hit a floating piece of debris, which created a gash in the hull.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Nolan Jackson)

Articles

5 reasons why your contract marriage wasn’t the worst thing ever

“I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife.”


Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.

This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member’s lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That’s why some take the risk of a contract marriage.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
Who here married a stripper to move out of the barracks? (images via Giphy)

Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it’s a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).

Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.

1. Renter’s History  

Signing a lease with a rental company starts your “Renter’s History.” As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.

Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
“I am serious and don’t call me, Shirley.”  (Paramount Pictures)

2. Learn to Budget

Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.

A contract marriage probably didn’t make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to…

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
(Paramount/Dream Works,)

3. It Follows

Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don’t tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.

If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding “spouse” while you’re out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it’s technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.

People can often suck.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

4. Emotional Maturity

The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn’t work out, you shouldn’t be surprised.

You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

5. The Silver Lining

Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.

Take it for what it is. It’s always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art
“Beautifully put.” (New Line)                                                                                            

Military Life

7 things grunts think about on watch in fighting holes

If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It’s always miserable, it’s extremely time consuming, and there’s always a giant rock waiting for you once you’re halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it’s smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.


Defensive postures allow your unit time to “rest” and recover after launching an offensive. Basically, you take some ground from the enemy and then hold it until your unit is ready to continue pushing the enemy back. If you’re not in an urban environment, you’ll have to dig two-person fighting holes in order to hold your ground. The enemy is likely going to return (with reinforcements) to try and retake some real estate — your unit will be entrenched, waiting for them.

Keep in mind that you’ll be in that position for at least 24 hours, so you’ll have lots of time to think about your life from every angle. Here are some of the things that’ll race through your mind during that time:

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

Meanwhile, in the Air Force…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

What you should have joined instead

This is at the top of the list because digging a fighting hole and then sitting in it, deprived of sleep, will make you seriously question why you joined the infantry. You might even think about how much nicer you would’ve had it in the Air Force — or literally anything else that wouldn’t land you in that damned fighting hole.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

If digging the hole wasn’t enough, this will definitely bring you back to list item #1.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

Current weather conditions

You’re likely to spend the majority of your time in the middle of the night, which means you’ll likely experience the coldest temperatures that environment has to offer. Joy!

If you don’t it gets cold in the desert or the jungle, you’ll become acquainted real quick. Since God basically hates the infantry, chances are it’s going to rain or, if you’re on a mountain, there will be a blizzard.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

Just bring it on post with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dwight Henderson)

Where your warming layers are

If you’re somewhere cold and rainy, you’ll be struggling to remember where you put your warmest layers are and if you can get to it without giving up your security for too long in the process. Chances are, your pack will be too far away and you’re sh*t out of luck.

After this realization, you’ll spend the rest of your watch experiencing every stage of grief.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

They’ll look so peaceful when you get there, too.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Nathaniel Cray)

When, exactly, is too soon to wake up relief

You’ll convince yourself you need to wake your buddy up 20 to 45 minutes before you actually need to because they “need time to get ready.” In reality, you just want to share the misery.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

You’ll imagine this moment over and over…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Going home

Since you’ll want to keep your mind off the weather, you’ll spend some time speculating on the fun your friends are having while you suffer. This will lead to thinking about what and who you want to do when you go home next.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

Anything is better than what you’re eating out there.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye)

What you want to eat

If you didn’t bring snacks, you’ll be hungry on watch. This will lead you to thinking about all the food in the world. You’ll make deals with yourself, promising to eat it all once you get back to civilization.

For a combat cameraman, life in uniform is art

You’ll figure it out, no problem.

How to get away with smoking

This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but it applies to a lot of us. Even if you don’t smoke when you first join, after you dig a fighting hole, you might start considering it. Those that already smoke will be thinking up ways to get away with it. After all, you run a huge risk of compromising your position.

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