As a service member, there’s no telling what the week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are filled with expert photographers who have a keen eye for capturing what military life is like, both in training and at war.
These are the best photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, performs tactical critical casualty care on several simulated casualties aboard a U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook during a personnel recovery exercise at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2018. While deployed to Afghanistan, the pararescuemen primarily fly their missions on the Chinooks, making the 83rd ERQS the first joint personnel recovery team in Air Forces Central Command.
494th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen work on an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Feb. 28. Airmen are trained to operate under a variety of different conditions to maintain mission readiness.
Sergeant John Chambliss, crew chief, Alpha Company, “Task Force Voodoo”, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Louisiana National Guard preforms pre-flight inspection of a UH-60M Black Hawk, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 27, 2018. The flight featured an all-African-American crew in recognition of Black History Month and the growth that has occurred within the aviation community over time.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, detonate a flex linear charge at a range near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Feb. 28, 2018. These Soldiers are part of the 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.
The official party salute the colors during the change of command ceremony for Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. During the ceremony Capt. Forrest O. Young, from Washington D.C. relieved Capt. Michael S. Wosje, from Sioux Falls, S.D., as Commander, CVW-5.
Seaman Zimir Wilkins, assigned to the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), stands starboard-forward lookout as the ship transits the Strait of Gibraltar Feb. 28, 2018. Oak Hill, home-ported in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
A Marine low crawls through a cement tunnel during the combat endurance course aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Feb. 28.
U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct fast rope training from an MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Feb. 26, 2018. Iwo Jima and the 26th MEU are conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
Members of a an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Officer Port Angeles, Wash., and emergency medical service personnel move an injured hiker to a stretcher on the air field at the air station, Feb. 24, 2018. EMS personnel then transported the 68-year-old male, who had reportedly suffered shoulder and back injures after a fall, to the Olympic Medical Center.
Hollywood has done a great job of making writing letters to deployed troops seem glamorous and romantic, but the truth is there is nothing fun about having a loved one sent overseas. Being thousands of miles apart from the one you love with little to no communication for months is never easy. The Veterans of Foreign Wars knows about these hardships all too well, and has partnered with Sandboxx to cover the cost of the next 4,500 letters sent to deployed service members.
There are approximately 15,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen currently deployed to war zones. While access to technology is more ubiquitous than ever before, many service members can only receive physical mail and care packages from home while they are overseas.
Sandboxx makes it easier and faster to send mail to overseas service members through the Letters feature on the app. Families and friends of deployed service members can download the Sandboxx app to write a meaningful message, snap a photo, and hit send. Sandboxx will then print and mail the letter to the service member, and include a stamped, addressed return envelope to make it easy for their service member to send a handwritten reply in return.
Thanks to the support of the VFW, the next 4,500 letters sent to APO, FPO and DPO addresses via Sandboxx will be free.
“Mail call was, and still is, one of the most important morale boosters for isolated service members,” remarked Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith (USMC Ret.), Founder and Chairman of Sandboxx. “We are incredibly proud to partner with the VFW in order to get more mail written and delivered to our servicemen and women away from home. Families can easily take a photo at a family gathering or at the dinner table and send it through Sandboxx, knowing with confidence that we’ll take care of the rest.”
To ensure that your letter is sent free of charge, the city section of the address must contain APO, FPO or DPO. Be sure to update your app to the latest version in the app store, to receive the free credit.
Make sure to share this with your friends who also have a service member who is currently deployed!
Click right here to download the app. If you encounter any problems or have any questions about our services, please feel free to contact Sandboxx at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of everyone at Sandboxx and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, thank you and your service member for their service to our country. Start sending letters to deployed troops now.
Although the United States and Britain have had their share of disputes early on in American history, today the two countries are the closest of friends.
In case you were living under a rock, British troops fought alongside US in the global war on terror. That means while our service members are overseas, there’s a solid chance they will encounter members of the British army on a joint mission.
That being said, the British have some popular slang terms that we Americans don’t use but probably should know.
US forces tend to believe because a nation is poor, they don’t have any fight in them. Remember that the enemies we typically fight have home field advantage.
2. Don’t f*ck with Delta Force
Enough said — and probably the coolest line in the movie.
3. Understanding what you can’t control
It’s a common misconception that the ground troops know why they’re sent to a fight.
The truth is — there’s always a mission behind the mission. But that doesn’t matter, because it boils down in the end to surviving and taking care of your men. That’s real leadership.
4. Life doesn’t always make sense
After watching one of the hardest scenes in the film, a Ranger’s death, Sgt. Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) questions himself and over-analyzes his own leadership. Honestly, no matter how much you train, you can’t predict sh*t.
This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.
Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.
The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house.
Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking.
PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries.
The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games.
It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016.
But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”
PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues.
Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.
“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”
On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony
Chances are you’ve heard this advice at one time or another. Service members visit sick call with issues ranging from upper respiratory infections to needing to have a toenail removed. With over 130 military installations located throughout the world, every soldier, airman, sailor or Marine has medical care readily accessible.
If the troop in question needs to go to medical that day without an appointment, he or she is going to end up in an urgent care center commonly known as “Sick Call.” Here are six things you probably didn’t know about sick troops and the care they need to get back to work.
You’re sitting on a patient table when a medical technician tells you to say “AHHHHHHH” before sticking a blue-handled thermometer under your tongue. But did you ever wonder why it was color coded?
The military purchases dual-function thermometers which are typically red and blue. The blue one is assigned to take your oral temp, where the red draws the short end of the stick and gets shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine. Not to fear, rectal temperature checks are primarily used on heat causalities.
Better hope the nurse isn’t color blind because … that would suck. The photo above shows a member of the medical staff using the right color. A+.
2. The “Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated”
Believe it or not, this is a real medical diagnosis. If you were to open your medical record right now and saw this term printed one or more times, chances are you were a “sick call commando.” This isn’t the commando label you want to have.
“Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated” is a polite way to inform other medical professionals they didn’t find anything wrong with you physically. You can try and tear out the paper from your record, but unless it was hand written, it’s in the computer system. For-ev-er.
3. “One Chief Complaint Only”
For those who don’t know, a “chief complaint” is the term used for the reason you showed up to medical. “I have a headache and I think I broke my foot.” From my direct experience working alongside seasoned doctors, some stated to the patient they weren’t allowed to treat more than one medical condition at each encounter. It’s also bull.
This is regularly used as an excuse to get rid of you. You would likely have come back the next day for the second issue or visit the ER. Good thing Tricare covers both.
4. On The Job Training
Medical clinics commonly use the ideology of “show one, do one, teach one.” The doctor shows a new medic/corpsman/tech how to perform a procedure, they repeat it on another patient in front of the doctor, then go off and show someone else how to perform it. Sounds like a pretty good plan right? It was pretty darn helpful and a confidence builder for the lower enlisted.
This type of training isn’t that rare, even in the civilian sector. What is rare is how many different procedures junior enlisted were allowed to perform “under doctor supervision” – who were usually warming up their afternoon coffee.
5. Service Connections
When the VA gathers its data to process your compensation claim, it may seem hard to believe, but they don’t hire a team of private detectives and Harvard-trained doctors to conduct an extensive investigation to ensure that you get the top rating you deserve.
After submitting your claim, the VA board wants proof your condition was a result of your time on active duty. Missing sick call and other medical documents can cause a massive delay in reaching your service connection settlement. Cover your six and make copies of your copies.
You may remember the day when you walked into the Military Entrance Processing Command and signed your service contract. A proud day.
What you made not have realized is that those papers you signed included The Feres Doctrine.
The Feres Doctrine is a 1950s-era rule that protects the federal government from its employees collecting damages for personal injuries experienced in the performance of their duties. So if a military doctor screws up on you, you can’t sue the government, but they can charge you with an Article 108 (destruction of government property) for getting a new tattoo or a sunburn.
When you first enlist, there isn’t much room in the process for you to get what you want. Yeah, you can choose your MOS and you’ll probably get lucky with an enlistment bonus and some school options, but there’s only so much a recruiter can get you. Once you’re in for a few years and your reenlistment window opens, however, the retention NCO is the person you really want to sweet talk. Retention NCOs hold the real power — they’ll move heaven and earth to keep troops in the unit and the military.
Keep in mind, the retention NCO isn’t a wizard who can fix all your problems with a whisk of a pen. Whatever you do, don’t ever confuse their willingness to work with you as an invitation to make demands. If you start holding your enlistment for ransom, you will get laughed out of the office.
Think of these more as poker chips for retention to ante up in exchange for you putting up more time in the military. The more valuable you are and the more time you are willing to give to the unit, the more “chips” they’ll put down. If you’re just Joe Schmoe hiding in the back of the platoon, don’t expect more than a few of these.
6. Get into a school
An easy win you can score is the option to get into a school whenever the slot opens up. This is a pretty simple request since it doesn’t involve HRC.
When a commander is notified that there’s room in a school opening up, the retention NCO can shuffle your name up to the top of that list.
Just a tip: If you go to The Sabalauski Air Assault School, don’t wear an 82nd patch. Just throwing that out there — but it will be hilarious for every 101st guy there. (U.S. Army Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
A key goal of the retention NCO is to keep the good troops in the unit, but if you request a change of duty station, they’ll understand the bigger picture here is keeping you in the military.
A change of scenery might also give you a new perspective on the military as a whole.
4. Have fun with the ceremony
There are very few moments in anyone’s military career where they have the power to dictate what they want and have it happen. Troops can have fun with where the reenlistment takes place, invite friends and family, and, for a brief period during the ceremony, you’re technically “honorably discharged,” so the enlistment period timer is set back to zero.
Of course, you can’t do anything stupid because the ceremony isn’t done yet and the command and retention will hem your ass up if you make a fool of yourself, but briefly “discharged” troops can laugh at the fact that they can finally put their hands in the pockets of their uniform for a whole ten seconds.
3. Help with promotion
This one is especially helpful for lower enlisted troops looking for a way to prove to the commander that they’re ready to take the next step in the military.
Reenlisting indefinitely won’t make your name appear on the Sergeant First Class List, but it can help an Army Specialist or Corporal get into the Sergeant board.
2. Change of MOS
Recruiters (usually) don’t lie, but they don’t shine a light on the reality of certain MOS. If you enlisted hoping for a fun and exciting time in that obscure MOS and now you’re feeling some buyer’s remorse, you can finally reclass.
I mean, you can finally learn that everyone has to embrace the suck: just some more than others.
1. The money
Nothing sounds better than pure, hard-earned cash. The amount you can earn is dependent on a lot of factors, including available funds, time during the fiscal year, your MOS (or what MOS you want), and your time in service. But you can at least squeeze something out of Uncle Sam if you know how and when to push for a reenlistment bonus.
If you don’t want to haggle for anything else on this list, at least get yourself some zeroes on that paperwork. Just be sure to reenlist while you’re deployed in a combat zone so you can get that money tax-free.
In one of the many nonsensical attempts at micromanaging every aspect of a troop’s life, some higher-up established the “battle buddy” system. The idea is that one troop, if made accountable for their buddy’s actions, would watch over the other and, hopefully, stop dumb things from happening.
In theory, it must’ve sounded great. Troops would keep tabs on each other, quickly share information, and build stronger camaraderie. In practice, however, it often means the First Sergeant has to pick up two idiots from the MP station instead of just one. I’m convinced that they ironically keep the silly “battle buddy” name because of how irritating the cutesy moniker is to higher-ups when they watch their beautiful system go to sh*t.
1. They were there with you from the beginning
The moment a troop arrives at their first duty station, their NCO looks around the platoon for another new guy and says, “there. You two are battle buddies now. Exchange contact info.”
This off-handed selection turns into a lifelong commitment.
2. They’ve saved your ass — literally and figuratively
When grunts are out doing grunt sh*t, the saying “all you’ve got is the man to your left and right” rings true. But it doesn’t take a life-or-death situation to solidify a friendship — that happened long ago.
Mistakes are never easily forgiven and accusations are convictions. But when sh*t gets tough, if your battle buddy backs you up, you’re in the clear.
3. They want to kill Jody more than you
When you’ve gone your entire military career suppressing emotions, it’s nice to have an emotional mirror who does the expressing for you. Sure, your battle buddy might make some extreme suggestions now and again, but they’ve got the best of intentions.
For example, let’s say a troop’s spouse is being unfaithful. It’s not easy news to stomach and, chances are, the betrayed troop is going to spiral into a depression. It’s at times like these that nothing beats meeting your battle buddy in the smoke pit to imagine up some grandiose revenge plots.
4. If you want to do anything fun, you need them
Want to go off-post while you’re stationed outside the US? You need a battle buddy. Want to go to the gym after hours while deployed? You need a battle buddy. Need to use the latrine? Battle buddy.
The military’s reliance on the buddy system basically means if that a troop wants to make some trouble, they’re required to bring a friend.
5. Their best stories involve you
Every story starts out the same way: “No sh*t, there I was… Me and my buddy over here were…” You guys have forged a bond and when you’re gone, they’ll miss you and talk about you all the time to their new friends. But these new guys aren’t their bro; you are.
Do your buddy right: Call them up, get together occasionally, and tag them in a meme every now and then.
Life in the barracks blows. You’re crammed into as tight of a space as possible so your superiors can keep an eye on you. There’s always something going on so you never get sleep. And you often have to share a tiny room with someone.
But never underestimate the power of a bored private. If you can think of it, it’s probably going down in the barracks at this moment. While most of the shenanigans aren’t against any rules, they definitely make the lack of BAH worth it.
TVs as big as the wall
There are plenty of terrible purchases made by boots when they get their first paycheck. And it’s no different when the boot comes back from deployment with plenty of spending money.
The average barracks room is barely large enough to have a massive 90-inch widescreen 3D TV but that won’t stop most troops who just got back stateside.
Technically, some do allow you to have fish or lizards. All depends on the specific command.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Holzworth)
The barracks is usually a pretty disgusting place as it is. The moment the NCOs leave, it goes back to the same filthy condition that it was in the day before.
Pets are already unclean creatures that require constant maintenance…but troops don’t care!
If you’re cool with them, they’ll share.
(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
Some barracks have nearly an entire kitchen
There’s always one person in every barracks that knows how to and will cook for everyone. Sometimes they’re not even an actual chef — doesn’t matter.
Being the barracks chef takes a lot more appliances than just a hot pad and coffee pot. These guys do it all in style.
If they’re drinking in the barracks, it means they’re not driving back home. No DUIs! Everyone wins!
(Photo by Cpl. Jonah Lovy)
Enough alcohol to cause liver failure in a lesser man
There’s nothing wrong with someone over the age of 21 drinking alcohol on their time off, as long as they do it responsibly.
On average, a single barracks has more alcohol in it than any bar off-installation.
And we all know how well that usually goes.
(U.S. Army Photo)
Firearms in the barracks?
It’s your god-given right as an American to keep and bear arms. Only problem is that many units have a “no firearms in the barracks” policy.
That’s not to say that troops living in the barracks can’t own firearms. They just need to store them in the arms room.
Good luck not getting caught during a “random” inspection.
(Photo by Senior Airman Christian Thomas)
The barracks room isn’t exactly prime real estate for a single person, let alone multiple troops living in a room similar to a studio sized apartment.
And yet, troops will occasionally keep a local they got a thing for in there with them.
This July, the Army’s Marksmanship Unit skeet shooter, Sgt. Phillip Jungman, will compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s been a year’s worth of delays, however, after the event was postponed for the pandemic. Jungman qualified over a year ago.
Waiting for this opportunity is nothing new, however. He just missed the chance to compete and served as an alternate in the 2016 games.
“It was a heartbreaking moment. My parents cried, I cried,” he said.
Not that he was a sore sport about it. Bubbly and eager to get to know others, Jungman is as supportive of other shooters as it gets. He watched competitors online, cheering them on as they went.
It’s that very inclusive atmosphere that encouraged him to get into skeet shooting in the first place. At age 8, he began shooting competitively in 4-H in his native Texas. Not only did he excel in the sport, but he and his parents also enjoyed the scene — nice people, friendly events, and the ability to grow as a competitor for years to come. Then Jungman found out just how far the sport could take him, learning about sponsorships and the ability to travel across the world to shoot. He had found his calling.
He was recruited by the Army in high school, but he decided to first attend college. Then in 2017, he enlisted, calling the Marksmanship Unit his home.
“I needed that little extra push and the Army gave me that push to get over the edge,” he said on making the 2020/2021 Olympic team. “It was nice to know I’m good enough, I’m right there to be with the best of the best.”
Jungman qualified in March of 2020 after one of his best scores ever, hitting 173 out of 175 targets, and his best-ever final score, 57 out of 60.
He boasts additional shooting awards, including multiple national titles, competing on the World Championship team and Pan American team and more.
Skeet is a shotgun sport with fast-moving targets. Each round has a series of 25 targets, shot from two heights of launching machines. He said scores can vary greatly based on weather, especially wind. He looks for that to be a factor in Tokyo, but noted that everyone will be competing in the same weather.
Competitors use “basic” shotguns, with a shorter stock so it doesn’t get caught on their clothing, he said. “We don’t have much time to adjust. You’re up and down shooting both ways and into the wind. You have to get the gun to your face, acquire the target and correct, then shoot, all very quickly.”
Jungman shoots an Italian-made Perazzi over and under shotgun. He said it’s his model of choice due to the ease of repairs, with a quickly removable trigger mechanism – a replacement will fix 90% of problems.
“A backup gun will never be the same as your starting gun. Gun fit is everything.”
In preparation for the Olympics, Jungman has been shooting 150-300 shells per day. Including timing drills, gun placement, accuracy and more. He said it’s similar to a basketball player shooting free throws. There’s form, muscle memory – different drills to improve your results.
“There’s always the human error, I mean you’re human, mistakes will happen,” he said. “But you still have to hit that specific one when the game is on the line.”
He also looks to the guidance of others – there are three Olympians in the shotgun unit on base – and his personal coach who’s been with him since 2009, Todd Graves. Jungman also has the support of his entire family, including his wife, Rebecca, who he’s been with since senior prom.
“I did the thing you’re not supposed to do,” he laughed. “I married my best friend’s sister.” He added that he did in fact obtain permission before their first date and how family events are that much more fun.
For others wanting to get into the sport, Jungman said it’s important not to give up.
“As a kid there are a lot of downs and you just have to push through them. You’re going to cry a bunch of times — a lot of times. But the touching moments are there. I love winning matches, it’s a lot of fun.”
Follow Sgt. Jungman, along with Lt. Amber English, of the Army Marksmanship Unit, in their Olympic competition. Skeet events will take place starting July 25.
The Marine Corps is always training to become smarter, stronger, and more lethal than those who threaten to destroy our way of life. Marines are outside dogs who thrive on the hunt, however, when not forward deployed, they train the next generation to fight.
The fundamentals used to build up a puppy into a war-dog may seem asinine at first, but they are either proving a concept, developing a character trait, or conditioning muscle memory.
1. Break falls
A break fall is one, if not the first, thing you’ll learn in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. This exercise focuses on muscle memory: tucking the chin or looking up, not reaching out, and dispersing the energy from impact so you can get back on your feet unharmed and continue the fight.
Break falling can take years to perfect (good thing you signed that contract), but it will make you a better sparring partner and will come in handy for those “oh sh*t” moments, like getting in a fight or slipping on an icy sidewalk.
2. Grass Week
Not every Marine is an infantryman, but every Marine is a rifleman. Generally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to have all personnel achieve proficiency with the metal object they have to carry for months on end while deployed.
Grass Week is when Marines develop muscle memory of shooting positions while aiming at an object (usually a barrel) while coaches fix their posture.
Proper bone support is a fundamental of marksmanship that will help you attain that Expert Rifleman Badge (and bragging rights over your peers). Unfortunately for the Marine, this means staring at the same barrel from dawn to dusk for five days straight.
3. Fighting Holes
Offense and Defense, also known as O&D, is when Marines have to defend their position against an advancing enemy, conduct patrols, and other combat operations. This also means hours or days of digging with a tiny shovel.
There are set measurements for fighting holes, but their command may take certain liberties contingent on the environment, time, and resources. Dig, fill, relocate, repeat.
4. Speed Reloads
Speed and tactical reloads make you look and feel like the operator bad ass you imagined yourself to be when signing that contract. The concept is simple: Develop muscle memory to the point that you can reload your weapon in pitch black darkness or blind-folded.
It’s a perishable skill that must be continually honed in the infantry community and it’s a great way to look busy if your staff sergeant is on the prowl for a working party.
As we all know, one must walk before they can run, which translates to many magazines being dropped prematurely.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Aerial Port Airmen from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, load cargo on a C-17 Globemaster III during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Oct. 17, 2017. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to bases throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The aircraft can be outfitted to perform tactical airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation as missions require.
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 performs a dry contact with a C-17 Globemaster III during an aerial-refueling training exercise over Germany, Oct. 19, 2017. The training exercise was done in support of the Strategic Airlift Command operated out of Papa Air Base, Hungary. Strategic Airlift Command consists of 12 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.
The setting sun at Grafenworh, Germany, shines through the trees as Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fold the American flag as a part of the retreat ceremony.
U.S. Soldiers with the 615th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade conduct a dismounted patrol at the 7th Army Training Command’s Training Area Grafenwoehr, Oct. 18, 2017.
An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Cougars” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway on a deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departs Naval Station Norfolk to participate in Bold Alligator 2017 (BA17). Improving Navy-Marine Corps amphibious core competencies along with coalition, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Allied and partner nations is a necessary investment in the current and future readiness of our forces. BA17 will take place Oct. 18-30, 2017, ashore along the eastern seaboard.
Firefighters from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni respond to a simulated casualty during a chemical exposure drill as part of exercise Active Shield at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 17, 2017. Active Shield is an annual exercise designed to test the abilities of U.S. and Japanese forces to work alongside each other to protect and defend the air station and other U.S. assets in the region.
U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 (MWSS 371) participate in a simulated aircraft salvage exercise during Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course (WTI) 1-18 at Yuma, Ariz., on Oct. 14, 2017. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps Aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
Coast Guard responds to barge on fire approximately three miles from Port Aransas, Texas, jetties Oct. 20, 2017. A Coast Guard Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin and HC-144 Ocean Sentry are searching for two missing crewmembers.
Coast Guard field responders Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Jessup and Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Basham assess a partially-sunk vessel for pollution in Crown Bay, St. Thomas, Oct. 18, 2017. More than 200 vessels in the area were identified by the Coast Guard and partner agencies as sunk or partially sunk as a result of the recent hurricanes.
Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.
At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)
If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.
A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)
They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”
These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.
A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?
Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.
3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.
To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.
Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.
2. Balancing legacy and prevention.
Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.
While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?
These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.
1. Leaders also need the tribe.
Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.
As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.
Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.
When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.
TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.