This Olympic athlete's simple brain tricks builds mental strength - We Are The Mighty
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This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Fabian Hambüchen knew from childhood that he was going to compete in the Olympic Games — and he knew that he was going to get gold.

In 2016, his dream came true at the Olympic Games in Rio where he won gold on the high bar. But the path to gold was anything but easy: the life of a gymnast is characterized by the pressure to perform, setbacks and injuries, and experiences that demand a lot of mental strength.


At the Fibo 2018 sports fair in Cologne, Fabian Hambüchen told Business Insider about his most excruciating defeat and how he fought his way back to the top mentally.

How your brain can scupper your plans

As reigning World Champion, Fabian Hambüchen travelled to Beijing in 2008 to go for gold.

“I was the favourite. I had the opportunity to win several medals and it was expected that I’d get gold on the high bar,” he said.

His chances were good — but his thought process sabotaged him and he ended up with a bronze medal.

“When I qualified, it went great. I was in the best starting position possible. But then these thoughts went through my mind: I really want to become an Olympic champion. This is my big dream. I want this, I want this, I want this.” These thoughts “set him on a completely wrong track” and led him to slip up.

The disappointment was immense. “I compensated by training harder and harder until my body told me its limits,” he describes the time after the games. “I hurt myself, yet I carried on. In the end, I injured myself even more severely: I tore my Achilles tendon.”

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength
Fabian Hambu00fcchen

That was when Fabian Hambüchen realised he had to change something: his way of thinking. He had to get stronger not physically but mentally.

“I didn’t respond sensibly. I trained too much, I was too ambitious, and my injury stopped me in my tracks — but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was then that I began to realise that there are other ways of moving forward.”

Hambüchen’s tips for mental strength

Gymnastics is a tough scene, in which Hambüchen started training very early. He received mental support from his uncle, a qualified teacher who had specialised in mental coaching.

Hambüchen now has some of his own tips for mental strength. One thing he learned after winning bronze in Beijing was to focus only on what was essential. Question why it actually is that you’re doing what you’re doing.

“I remind myself that the reason I’m doing this sport is that I love gymnastics and I enjoy doing it. When we do sport as kids, we all do it because we enjoy it; not because we’re training to become world champion or to get rich off it,” he said.

Hambüchen said that if you keep reminding yourself of this and keep looking within yourself, searching yourself and asking yourself about why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, it can quickly ground you again, renew your energy, gratitude and motivation. And there’s a positive side-effect with gratitude: studies have shown that gratitude increases well-being and reduces the risk of depression.

“We tend to try and change situations we can’t,” said Hambüchen. Another trick for mental strength is to remember what is and isn’t in your hands.

“What’s the point in wasting energy on things you can’t control? I’m not walking up to the high bar wondering what kind of referees are sat there. They’re all just people, the rating is subjective and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

This applies not only to sport but, studies show, to work or to one’s personal life. Don’t allow others to take control of you — it’s up to you to give others the power to ruin your day.

“It’s important to focus on the self and to try to be the best version of yourself,” advised Hambüchen.

Of course, this is all a lot easier said than done. Hambüchen stresses that it took him years to mentally train himself into mastering this technique. But it paid off.

“Understanding what needs doing and then applying it to the situation with the right approach is a huge challenge. But if you internalise this message and are completely in touch with yourself, you can call on your maximum performance. None of this guarantees success but, rather, it serves as a technique to fall back on when your mind is getting in your way. And it works.”

Recovering from physical injury

“I’ve learned to learn from defeats, to analyze them and to think about what I can change to do better,” said Hambüchen. Even after that, not everything went well. “But I still thought differently, I wasn’t so dogged in how I went at things.”

It was this new way of thinking and mental strength that helped him win silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then gold in Rio in 2016, despite having a torn supraspinatus muscle.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength
Tower Bridge : 2012 Olympic Rings

These victories are largely due to his mental strength. With the help of his doctor he suppressed the pain and his health wasn’t constantly in the fore of his mind.

“The shoulder is a joint that’s very well supported by muscles. So you can do it without that one string. Everything beyond that was a matter of the mind.”

He was unable to train for three months due to the injury. Normally, after such a long break, it takes weeks and months to get fit again — but Hambüchen only had three weeks remaining before the national championships to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.

“During this time I gave my training my all, adjusted mentally and paid close attention to my diet. “I lost five to six kilos in two to three weeks and was really fit.” And he won the gold medal on high bar.

After winning gold, Fabian Hambüchen ended his international career. He’s learned an important lesson in life: there’s no point in allowing others to negatively influence you and in constantly worrying about things that aren’t in your hands.

With this newly acquired mental strength, he was able to call on his abilities precisely when he needed them and, as a result, was able to celebrate the greatest victory of his career.

“Another four years of giving it my all and to then be rewarded with gold is such an accomplishment … it was mad, and just awesome.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The world wants China to own up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”


To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.

In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.

In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”

Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength
Liu Xiaobo

At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.

“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.

In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”

In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”

Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.

Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength
Wu’Er Kaixi

However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.

“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”

Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.

In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.

On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.

“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.

“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Rudy Reyes’ new mission might be his coolest yet — which is saying something

If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.

Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.

Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.

And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.

It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.

According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”

Check out the rest of the trailer right here:


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”

www.instagram.com

Watch the trailer:

On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.

“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.

Also read: You don’t know the real Rudy Reyes

That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.

“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.

Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”

That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Check out Resilience on Facebook, premiering Aug. 15 at 8:00pm EDT and be sure to follow FORCE BLUE’s efforts and deployments on social media.

Anyone who wants to get involved can spread the word, check out cool gear straight from the FORCE BLUE Special Operations dive locker, or sponsor veteran training recruitment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The word ‘deadline’ has a horrible origin in Civil War prisons

Have you got a project due that you should be working on? A paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a briefing to the commander? If so, you are probably on a deadline. But missing a deadline in our modern world is typically just a problem of professional conduct, or maybe they’ll be some sort of financial penalty. But for Civil War prisoners, it was a matter of life and death.


This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Anderson prisoner of war tents run right up to the deadline demarked by the low fencing. Prisoners who crossed this line could be shot by prison guards.

(Library of Congress)

That’s because the original deadlines existed in Civil War prisons, most famously at Camp Sumter, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Most Civil War prisons weren’t like Alcatraz Island, where prison cells and buildings were used to keep prisoners confined. Instead, officers would build rough wooden fences 10-20 feet high to contain the prisoners.

But, of course, a healthy man can typically climb a 10-foot fence. And, working as teams, troops could fairly easily clamber over 20-foot fences as well. So prison commanders built positions for sentries to watch the prisoner population, and the sentries typically had orders to kill any man attempting to escape.

Well, to ensure that the sentry would have time to shoot a man or raise the alarm before the prisoner got away, the camps put in something called a “deadline.” This was a line, usually literally made on the ground with fencing or some type of marking, that prisoners would be killed for crossing.

In the case of Andersonville, the line was marked with low fencing and sat up to 19 feet from the tall wooden walls of the prison. If a prisoner even reached over this wall, guards were allowed to shoot him. And the guards were well positioned to do so. The prison incorporated “pigeon roosts” every 90 feet along the wall. These were guard posts that sat above the wall and gave the guards great lines of sight to fire onto the deadline.

If the prisoners ever attempted to rush the line en masse, the guards could drop back to a series of small artillery positions around the fort and blow the Union prisoners apart. These artillery positions also served to protect the prison from outside attack.

The bulk of the nation found out about this deadline in the trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, the commander of Fort Sumter. Because of overcrowding and a massive shortage of supplies at Andersonville and Fort Sumter, Union prisoner deaths there numbered approximately 13,000, and an angry Union public wanted justice.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

A reconstruction of the wall at Fort Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. The low fencing near the wall was the dead line.

(Bubba73 CC BY-SA 3.0)

During the prosecution of Wirz, the deadline around the camp was described and reported across the nation, and it helped to seal Wirz fate even though the practice occurred in other places. Wirz was sentenced to death and executed on October 31, 1865.

It was in the 1920s that the word morphed into its current usage, becoming “deadline” and describing a looming time or date by which something must be completed.

So, yeah, deadlines in the Civil War meant a lot more than they do today. The term has been watered down to mean something completely different.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 spots to keep in mind when you’re making Veterans Day plans

Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.

So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.

To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.


This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…

Restaurants

Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.

While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.

Barber shops

Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.

What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.

(National Veterans Art Museum)

Museums

Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.

If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.

What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.

(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)

Amusement parks and casinos

Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.

Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.

(National Archives)

Your favorite bar

When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.

This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This US Army soldier amputated his own leg to help save his comrades

Army Spc. Ezra Maes and two other soldiers fell asleep in their tank last year after a weeklong training exercise in Europe. When he woke up, the vehicle was speeding down a hill.

“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” the armor crewman recalled in an Army news release. But the parking brake had failed. And when the crew tried to use emergency braking procedures, the vehicle kept moving.

The 65-ton M1A2 Abrams tank had a hydraulic leak. The operational systems weren’t responding, and the tank was speeding down the hill at about 90 mph.


“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said in the release.

The tank slammed into an embankment, throwing Maes across the vehicle. His leg caught in the turret gear, and he thought it was broken.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Army Spc. Ezra Maes undergoes physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s cutting-edge rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, was bleeding badly from a cut on her thigh, and Pfc. Victor Alamo, the driver, suffered a broken back. He was pinned down, the release states.

Determined to get to the other soldiers to assist with their injuries, Maes said he began tugging his leg to free it.

“But when I moved away, my leg was completely gone,” he said.

He was losing blood fast, but said he pushed his pain and panic aside. He headed to the back of the tank to find the medical kit. Lightheaded, he knew his body was going into shock. But all he could think about was that no one knew they were down there, he said.

“Either I step up or we all die,” Maes said.

The soldier began shock procedures on himself, according to the release, forcing himself to remain calm, keep his heart rate down and elevate his lower body. He used his own belt to form a makeshift tourniquet.

Crump, the gunner with the bad cut on her thigh, did the same. Her other leg was broken.

They tried to radio for help, but the system wasn’t working. Then, Maes’ cell phone rang. It was the only phone that survived the crash, and it was picking up service.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Candace Pellock, physical therapy assistant, guides Army Spc. Ezra Maes at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

Crump was able to reach the phone and pass it to Maes, who fired off a text message. The crew had spent the week in Slovakia, which borders Poland and Ukraine, during Exercise Atlantic Resolve.

The last thing Maes remembers from the crash site was his sergeant major running up the hill with his leg on his shoulder. They tried to save it, but it was too damaged.

The specialist was flown by helicopter to a local hospital. From there, he went to Landstuhl, Germany.

He’s now undergoing physical and occupational therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. He’s awaiting surgery to receive a new type of prosthetic leg that will be directly attached to his remaining limb.

Despite the devastating injury, the 21-year-old said he and his crew “feel super lucky.”

“So many things could have gone wrong,” he said in the release. “Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”

The soldier now hopes to become a prosthetist to help other people who’ve lost their limbs.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you may not have expected from serving

When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.

Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.

It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.

You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:


This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)

Playing paintball

If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Loading ammo onto an aircraft

We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.

Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Some may use their anger more than others.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

Feeling emotional extremes of every type

Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

You might even earn their accolades.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

Hanging with another country’s troops

You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.

And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?

(U.S. Army)

Building a terrain model

Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.

You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Navajo code talkers helped win the Battle of Iwo Jima

Thomas H. Begay didn’t want to be a radio operator. In fact, up until he graduated from bootcamp, he thought he was going to become an aerial gunner for the Marine Corps during World War II.

“They sent me to a confidential area,” he said. “I walked in and there’s a whole bunch of Navajo.”

His previous MOS didn’t matter. Begay would attend code talking school.

The Navajo language had become the basis of a new code, and they were going to train to become code talkers. It was hard to see it then, but Begay and his fellow Navajo would help turn the tides of war and save countless lives.


An unbreakable code

The Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was successfully used during World War I. But the Marine Corps needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Thomas H. Begay recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

www.youtube.com

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

But just because a person understood Navajo didn’t mean they could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN

Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION

Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

Peter MacDonald Sr. recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

www.youtube.com

Begay did well in training and picked up the code quickly. A month after arriving at code talking school, he was given orders to his new unit and sent overseas.

“They told us we were going to Tokyo,” he said with a chuckle. “In February, we were told we’re supposed to land on Iwo Jima.”

On Feb. 19, 1945, at 0900 hours, Begay landed on the north side of the island with the 5th Marine Division. One code talker had already been killed during the first wave of attacks, and five more would be injured by the time the fighting stopped. In the face of machine gun fire and mortar rounds, Begay and his fellow Navajo Code Talkers continued to relay messages that were vital to the eventual victory on the island.

In all, nearly 800 coded messages were sent during the assault on Iwo Jima. There were zero mistakes.

“I was protected by the Marines,” Begay said. “They were protecting us; we were protecting them. I was lucky. But some didn’t get lucky – like those who got killed on the beach.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman completes 75 miles of Tough Mudder, comes in 2nd

An Air Force officer who only began obstacle course racing in 2016, ran right straight into her 75-mile goal, placing second place in one of the toughest obstacle course races.

“I honestly never considered placing, it didn’t seem like something that was within reach for me this year,” said Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander.

In a “bracket breaking moment,” Rost earned 2nd place out of 231 females and ranked 18 of more than 1,206 participants in her first World’s Toughest Mudder held November 2018.


The Air Force Academy graduate entered the obstacle course race noon on Nov. 10, 2018, a frigid winter day in Fairburn, Georgia. She would repeat the grueling five-mile lap with more than 20 mud-drenched obstacles until she met her goal of 75 miles.

“On lap 11, it was still dark,” she said. “My body was literally freezing and for the first time I had tears in my eyes. In that moment, a poem that helped me endure military training and other tough times in my life showed up to help me once again.”

She would repeat Invictus by William Erest Henley in her mind throughout the pitch black, sometimes lonely, night.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander, poses for a photo at the finish line of the World’s Toughest Mudder, Nov. 10-11, 2018.

Her experience and spirits were uplifted when she started hearing from others that she had a chance to place.

“Around 8:30 a.m., after completing lap 12 (60 miles), I found out I had a chance for third place but the fourth place woman was close behind,” said Rost. “This motivated me to run faster the next two laps.”

Her cheering fans, mother and boyfriend, encouraged her to move faster because no one knew how close the competitor behind her was. They reminded her of her goals, kept her fed and hydrated and pushed her forward.

“When I returned to the pit after completing 65 miles, I was informed that I had improved my lap time by nearly 30 minutes,” said Rost. “There was about three hours remaining and I was two laps away from my goal and based on my lap splits, I knew it was possible.”

Next, a reporter from a podcast seeking to interview her said that if she completed this final lap she would earn second place because the current second place female concluded her race earlier that morning with 14 laps.

“I realized at this point, as long as I finished this final lap before 1:30 p.m., I would get second place,” she said. “It was very surreal. It brings me back to military training when you are really challenged but overcome. When you push yourself and succeed, there is nothing like the reminder of that to renew your spirit.”

At this point in the race, she recalled she had been awake for 36 hours, racing nonstop for 25 of those hours and worried about being alone through the last obstacles. She witnessed others lose motivation during the course of the night, when temperatures dropped to 20 degrees. Obstacles started freezing and other competitors began feeling waterlogged.

Wingmen were essential in the final stretch more than ever. Some of the obstacles are designed to require teamwork. One of them required competitors to physically step on another person to reach the top of a wall, without another person there it was nearly impossible to get up the wall.

“You meet interesting people along the way,” Rost said. “It is great to be around such an encouraging and supportive community.”

Along the path she met an Army green beret and a financial analyst who takes time away from Hollywood-like celebrity engagements to run. These interactions kept the race interesting and passed the time.

She completed the race at 1:10 p.m. in second place, with 20 minutes to spare feeling like a true “bracket buster.”

#136 – Erin Rost – 2018 World’s Toughest Mudder 2nd Place Female

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“While I’m super proud of how I placed, I am even more proud of getting my goal mileage because it reminds me why I love OCR so much,” Rost said. “It is not about what place you get, it is about pushing yourself to and beyond your limits. It is about doing your best each race and believing that with hard work, a good attitude and a little bit of grit, anything is possible.”

Resiliency, physical strength, mental stamina, persistence, and willpower are things serious runners all have in common, according to Rost.

“This is also specifically what my military brethren do,” she said. “We encourage others that they can do it too. If you work hard and have a good attitude, you can do anything.”

Her squadron witnesses this in her performance daily.

“Capt. Rost sets the example for everyone around her,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cory Frommer, 319th RCS superintendent. “You can’t help but to be inspired by her tenacity and winning mindset. She doesn’t know how to quit. When other members of the squadron or base community work with her, they are left no choice but to push their own boundaries just to try to keep up with her. As for the recruiting mission, her incredible performance demonstrates what the Air Force is all about, and when people see airmen like her, they are inspired to be a part of that world.”

She believes her limited experience in the OCR community coupled with her recent winning of the coveted World’s Toughest Mudder silver bib, are a good role model for those who may wonder if they could do a run like that.

“I played competitive soccer growing up and for a period of time in college before getting into bodybuilding,” said Rost. “OCRs combine a little bit of everything, as opposed to being great at just one thing such as running, lifting, grip strength, etc. You have to be good at a little bit of everything.”

What she reminds her audience is that her simple daily personal goals brought her to this point.

“I knew improving my running endurance would need to be a focus area,” said Rost. “I set mileage goals every week and started finding local half, full and ultramarathons. I also started rock climbing to improve my grip strength, participated in crossfit to improve muscular endurance and boxed as a crosstraining workout. As the race got closer, I worked up to three workouts a day.”

Her goal was to do at least one race a month while slowly increasing her monthly mileage goals. After completing her first Tough Mudder in 2016, she did four more in 2017. In 2018 she expanded her OCR experience to include two Spartan races, two half marathons, a full marathon and two ultramarathons.

“I wanted to start seriously competing in OCRs and figured if I can do one of the most difficult OCR formats in the world, than I can do anything,” said Rost.

Editor’s note: Tune in to CBS at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 to watch the full coverage of the World’s Toughest Mudder Capt. Rost participated in.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The seven surprising stages of separation from active duty

Over years of watching war films, hearing grandpa’s stories, poring over documentaries, and hanging on the every word of your local veteran bullsh**ters, you built up an expectation of military service that couldn’t possibly be met.

So, by the end your enlistment comes to a close, it’s safe to say that the time spent in uniform did not go as expected. Honorable service? Yes. High standards of professionalism? Absolutely. Reaching a physical apex never before thought reasonable or possible? Check marks the box. But was it anything like the Space Marines in Aliens? Not even close. Did you single-handedly hold off an entire battalion of enemy soldiers? Probably not.

So, now you want out — but be careful what you wish for, because if you thought life on the inside wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, then you’re in for a real surprise once you get out.


These are the seven stages of separation that all veterans go through after getting that DD-214. It’s the response to the physical, mental, and emotional letdown endured when civilian life doesn’t match our high expectations. It’s the process of realizing that maybe — just maybe — leaving the finest fighting force this planet has ever known wasn’t the best idea. At least not yet.

They are as follows:

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

“You mean I can just… go? Just like that?!”

Excitement!

Terminal leave is approved, you’ve had your final physicals, so it’s time to pack up your sh*t and run! Armed with a DD-214 and a dream, you flee from the nurturing embrace of your second parental institution to pursue all the things you shoulda, woulda, coulda done if it weren’t for that pesky contract.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Growth patterns, colors, and thickness may vary.

(“You Were Never Really Here” / Amazon Studios)

Follicle growth.

When one is held to a military standard for so long, it is only natural to act out. Separation is furry-faced freedom at its finest. This is a time of discovery for any former service member. Personally, I never knew I could grow a blood-red war beard that doesn’t quite flourish in specific spots. Now, after having experienced this second stage of separation, I know much more about myself, which is what it’s really all about.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

(“Captain America” / Marvel)

Delusions of grandeur 

Time makes the heart grow fonder — and it also makes you exaggerate the impact you had during your time in. Yes, your service is appreciated and you were definitely an essential cog in the machine, but don’t worry, the military will do fine in your absence. Most of the branches have been around for well over two-hundred years.

That’ll do, warrior. Let the next generation take it from here.

Add some cargo pants/shorts, flip flops, way more tattoos and BOOM!

source

Wardrobe change

There was once a time you didn’t want to be easily identified as a service member in civilian attire, but look at you now. Say it loud, friend.

Also, we’re not sorry for the shameless plug.

“Terminal Lance”

Anger

We know, we know. Everything sucks. Civilians are all lazy and have no concept of discipline. Hollywood movies won’t stop messing up uniforms and military terms and Brad Pitt’s combat tactics are all wrong!

And don’t get us started on these crazy posts on Facebook. It’s up to you to correct the world and set things right.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

We call this one, “gettin’ back into it.”

The fattening 

There’s no way around this one: you’ll gain weight. You might lose it later, but you’ll sure as hell gain it first. You will no longer be forced to PT, but you will swallow the same trash calories you did when you were a teenage warrior. The results may upset you.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

How veterans celebrate freedom!

(Derek Weida)

Acceptance

Have some fun, my brothers and sisters. Life’s too short for your best years to be behind you. Sure, the military was an amazing experience and you earned your memories through by sharing suffering with some of the best friends you could ever have, but now is your time to make an impact on your own terms. Cultivate a strong sense of humor, try not to sweat the small stuff, and remember, it’s all small stuff.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 badass women who served

It’s Women’s History Month, and we’d be wrong if we didn’t highlight some of the most badass women to serve within the military’s ranks. Throughout American history, the stories of heroes who are women have often been told as if they were asterisks to everyday heroes. They’re not.

They have always been smart and strong leaders. Unfortunately, they weren’t always given opportunities to prove themselves worthy. But boy, have times changed.


There are women in the infantry, Ranger corps, Cav Scouts and Marine combat units. Can you believe that prior to 2013, there was a ban on women serving in direct combat roles? These old regs are revised, and women are climbing to glory!

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

1. Ollie Josephine B. Bennett

Ollie Josephine B. Bennett was one of the first female medical officers in the U.S. Army and one of the few practicing anesthetists in America. She served during World War I. As a female doctor in the early 1900s, she experienced many firsts. She designed her military uniform because there wasn’t a designated uniform for female surgeons when she served. Of course, that wasn’t her plan. Yet, she used the opportunity to be innovative and inventive. Lt. B. Bennett was a leader. She instructed many soldiers to perform anesthesia at Fort McClellan. After the service, she went on to marry, have a child and live a life of service. She died in 1957 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

2. Marcelite Jordan Harris

Marcelite Jordan Harris, another woman of many firsts, retired from the Air Force in 1997. She became the first African American female brigadier general in the Air Force in 1991, at a time when Black women in America were earning less than ,000 a year. Harris was also the first female aircraft maintenance officer. She received a Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was appointed as a member of the Board of Visitors for the Air Force by President Obama. Prior to that, Harris served as an aide during Carter’s Presidency. She embodied the definition of a true patriot. She too, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

3. Molly Pitcher

Today, female service members are continuing the tradition of firsts. The pitchers of water they were once only entrusted to carry and serve, now cools them in the heat of battle. Do you see what I did there? If you don’t know, check out the story of one of the baddest females in battle, Molly Pitcher.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

4. Ayla Chase

Ayla Chase, a Captain, currently serving as a signal officer in the U.S. Army, was one of the first females in an infantry class for the Army. She also completed training for civil affairs. Although she was not selected, she continues to train and prepare for another opportunity to prove herself. Chase is committed to strengthening the physical capabilities of America’s armed forces. She conducts routine late-night ruck marches with her troops during her off time, mentors them and helps cultivate leadership skills within the ranks of her unit. She leads from the front. This woman is so badass, she took on a 100-mile race without training. Who does that and survives on their first go-round?

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

5. Janina Simmons

Speaking of first-time go-rounds, Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons was the first African American female to complete Army Ranger school. This accomplishment is colossal not only for Simmons but for Ranger candidates as a whole. A large percentage of soldiers do not successfully complete the Ranger’s course on their first try. Even Fort Jackson’s Commander Brig. Gen. Beagle was impressed by her work, and he’s not easily impressed. He congratulated her, saying, “Outstanding work by one of the best (non-commissioned officers) on Fort Jackson, and now earning the title of U.S. Army Ranger. Always leading the way.” Simmons earned her way to the top as she put her yes on the table, and went for it all. #Goals.

These women have all faced various obstacles in their military careers. But, they chose to jump, climb, crawl and fight their way to being known as the best. Since the first woman enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1917, women have continued to break barriers and shatter ceilings at every turn. We see you ladies. Keep kicking ass and taking names.

A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink. -Gina Carey
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These Navy Tigers played the MiGs in ‘Top Gun’

If you’ve seen Top Gun, then you probably remember the enemy MiG-28s that enter the fray at the beginning and the end of the film. If you know your aircraft, however, you quickly figured out that the on-screen “MiGs” were actually Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighters from the Navy’s aggressor squadrons.

The F-5E/F has done a lot more than play a body-double for Russian aircraft, though.


The Northrop F-5E/F Tiger first saw action in 1972 in Vietnam. The early versions of this plane flew several missions and it was quickly understood that, while fully operational, the plane needed some upgrades. The result was called the “Tiger,” and it was intended to match the Soviet MiG-21 “Fishbed.”

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Three F-5E Tiger II aggressors in formation.

(USAF)

The F-5E had a top speed of 1,077 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,543 miles, and was armed with two 20mm cannon, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and could carry a number of bombs, rockets, and missiles for ground attack. The Navy and Air Force bought some as aggressors, but the real market for this jet was overseas.

Taiwan bought a lot of F-5Es to counter Communist China’s large force of J-5 and J-6 fighters, South Korea used the specs to build a number of airframes locally, and the Swiss bought a significant force of F-5E to make their presence known in Europe. Countries from Morocco to Thailand got in on the Tiger action.

This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

F-5E Tiger IIs and F-14 Tomcats prior to filming for ‘Top Gun.’

(U.S. Navy)

The Air Force retired its Tigers in 1990, allowing the F-16 to take over the aggressor role. The Navy and Marines still use the Tiger as an aggressor – and is even putting on a global search for a few good replacements to bolster the ranks.

Learn more about this long-lasting fighter that spent some time as a Hollywood villain in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohj9mSn0LrE

www.youtube.com

Articles

This flight student’s first attempt to land on an aircraft carrier ended in disaster

Navy pilots like to separate themselves from their Air Force brethren with the fact that they land their jets on the limited (and moving) real estate of an aircraft carrier instead of an 11,000-foot runway. Operating around “The Boat” is a unique skill, and over the years many student Naval Aviators have made it most of the way through flight training only to be tripped up when they tried to land on an aircraft carrier.

One extreme example of this happened on October 29, 1989 as a student pilot made his very first approach to the U.S.S. Lexington (CVT 16). The dramatic footage below — shot from cameras at various places around the flight deck — shows the T-2 Buckeye, which was attached to VT-19, a training squadron based in Meridian, Miss., rolling out of its final turn behind the carrier. The pilot “calls the ball,” telling the Landing Signal Officer standing on a platform on the port side near the stern that he sees the glideslope indicator.


The LSO “rogers” the student pilot’s ball call and says, “You were a little long in the groove; next time I want you to turn sooner,” meaning the student wound up too far behind the carrier during his final 180-degree turn. The student replies with a “roger, sir.”

The LSO then tells the student to “work it on speed,” a command for the student to push his throttles forward, adding power, followed quickly by “a little power, you’re underpowered, power” and then an emphatic “wave it off,” which is an order for the student to push the throttles all the way to full power — while maintaining a steady nose position — and go around to try it again.

The flight student doesn’t respond quickly enough, and instead of simply pushing the throttles forward and climbing out, he pulls the stick back — a bad move. As the LSO says, “come left” (as if the student pilot had any control of his jet at that point), the Buckeye rolls onto its back. Someone transmits, “Eject!”

The pilot initiates ejection well out of the seat’s envelope and is killed an instant before the T-2 hits the island and explodes, which kills four more personnel on the flight deck. As sailors immediately go for fire hoses to suppress the flames, other flight students parked adjacent to the island waiting to take off jettison their canopies before unstrapping and quickly climbing out of their jets and getting away from the fire.

There’s an old aviation saying that goes something like, “flying is not inherently dangerous but very intolerant of errors.” This footage proves that.

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