MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A ranking senator’s driver was a Chinese spy for 20 years

In July, 2017, Politico writer Zach Dorfman wrote an in-depth piece on Chinese intelligence gathering in the Silicon Valley area of California. The piece was focused on China’s acquisition of modern tech, but a small blurb in the middle of the piece noted that one of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staffers reported to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, China’s foreign intelligence agency.

The staffer was a spy, working for a Senator on the Select Committee on Intelligence (she was the Chair at the time) and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Whoops.


California State Senator Dianne Feinstein, take a group photo with Sailors and Marines from California at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Blankenship)

Politico’s sources were only referred to as “noted former intelligence officials.” The San Francisco Chronicle took the opportunity to investigate further. The newspaper’s source was an unnamed local who confirmed the FBI showed up at the Senator’s office in Washington in 2013 to address the incident. The FBI alleged the Senator’s driver was recruited by Chinese MSS and reported back to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

The Chronicle noted that the driver was only her driver in San Francisco, but he did attend functions for her at the Chinese consulate. The FBI apparently concluded that the driver didn’t have access to anything of substance and couldn’t have revealed anything to the Chinese. The newspaper says Feinstein forced the driver to retire and that was the end of it.

President Trump, joined by, from left to right, U.S. Senators John Cornyn, Dianne Feinstein, and Marco Rubio, February 28, 2018, in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, D.C.

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This all happened five years ago.

Feinstein’s communist spy story is reemerging this week due to a Twitter exchange between the Senator and President Trump, who mocked Senator Feinstein for a two-year investigation about the spy.

San Francisco’s local CBS affiliate KPIX talked to former FBI agent and security analyst Jeff Harp about the incident. Harp was running counter-espionage activities in the city, saying Chinese spies would be interested in everything from business, research, and politics to diplomatic secrets. He says politicians are trained what to say and what not to say around people who don’t have security clearances, but noted that 20 years is a long time to be around someone day in, and day out — and slip-ups are possible.

“Think about Dianne Feinstein and what she had access to,” said Harp. “One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I’m wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.”
Articles

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

It was a typical winter morning in northern Afghanistan. The sky was clear, and the blinding sun slowly climbed into it. The sun was bright, but it didn’t do much to fight the biting cold that pumped down the turret opening in our Humvee and chilled us all.


I was in a light infantry reconnaissance platoon, made up of an almost even split of snipers and recon guys. We were on our way to a large forward operating base just south of Kabul. Our specific skill set had been requested by the commander there so we crammed into our cold Humvees and headed into the unknown.

Related: 19 pictures of troops braving the cold that will make you thankful to be indoors

We pulled into the base later that morning and were shown to the tent that we’d call home for at least a day or two. After unloading all of our gear and equipment, me and the other lower enlisted guys made ourselves at home while our senior leaders went to work out the specifics of the mission we’d be supporting.

We hadn’t been there long before sudden pounding winds seemed to threaten the integrity of our tent. One soldier leapt up from his cot and ripped open the door flap of our tent. The clear sunbathed sky had faded behind a thick sheet of dark clouds and snow was collecting quickly on the ground outside.

The soldier fastened the door flap shut as we all looked at each other in amazement. “This mission has got to be scrapped” quipped one soldier. “There’s no way we’re going out in this” added another. Assuming the mission was a no-go, we settled back into our cots and pulled out our books, iPods, magazines and other essentials needed to ride out the storm.

Just as we were all getting comfortable and cozy in our sleeping bags, a red-faced and snow covered staff sergeant barreled into our tent. “Get your cold-weather gear on and get outside”. The staff sergeant stormed out of the tent just as rapidly as he’d come in.

We tossed our creature comforts to the side and began tearing through our bags for heavy jackets, pants and beanies. Questions and confusion filled the frantic tent. Once suited up, we all funneled out of the tiny tent opening into the storm and lined up in front of the two stone-faced staff sergeants.

We stood there silently as they divided us up between them. Reading our confused expressions, the staff sergeants laughed and explained what was about to happen.

“You guys go with him” he said gesturing at the other staff sergeant and his group. “And you guys come with me. We’ll have 15 minutes to build up our arsenal of snowballs and then it’s on. If you get hit, you’re out. You can be revived by a teammate once, but if you’re hit again, you’re out until the next round”.

Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar

Before our shock could fade, we were elbows deep in snow mounds, hastily and inefficiently shaping snowballs with our gloved hands. The 15 minutes were up and my group had established three separate caches of snowballs in case one were to be compromised. Our hodgepodge of recon and sniper guys made it difficult to establish a quick plan of attack. Me and the other recon guys suggested we move between tents to find a good ambush point. The snipers suggested we push to a small hill top and take advantage of the high ground. The infighting put us at a disadvantage.

When the other team started lobbing snowballs, strategy turned into self-preservation and it was every man for himself.

A number of my recon teammates had been taken out of the game so I retreated to the hill top where a few snipers were dug in. The high ground gave us the upper hand, and the continuing snowfall guaranteed we wouldn’t run out of ammo. We had the other team pinned down and just when we thought we had the game won, we were flanked and wiped out.

Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher McCullough

The snowball fight went a few more rounds and the longer we were out in the storm the more exhausted we got. Our honed military training and tactics gradually devolved into a laughter filled display of “soldiers on ice” as we slipped and fell endlessly.

When the snowball fight was over, we sluggishly made our way back to our tent, shed our cold weather gear and collapsed onto our cots.

The mission we came for had officially been scrapped, so we quietly retrieved the creature comforts we had discarded earlier and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. The next morning the bright sun rose and melted most of the snow. We gathered all of our equipment crammed ourselves back into our cold Humvees, and headed to the next outpost.

That day was rarely talked about in the months that followed. It was as if we were all safeguarding a cherished memory and if we spoke about it, the day would somehow seem less special.

I’m sure the snowball fight meant something different for everyone on the battlefield that day. For me, its meaning has evolved over the years. What was once just another story from my time in Afghanistan has grown into a meaningful narrative about the human moments soldiers often experience while deployed but are rarely reported.

For me this day was important because it helps me show that not every war story is a tale of heroism or tragedy.

When the winter months creep by here at home, I look forward to an impromptu moment where I’ll look out on a large snow covered field, and I’ll tell whoever will listen, about my snowball fight with snipers.

Articles

This is perhaps the fastest shotgun in the world

Fostech Outdoors’s Origin-12 is a beast of a weapon and may be the fastest cycling shotgun in the world.


The gas powered build of the Origin-12 allows it to unleash hell at an insane rate of fire — if your trigger finger can keep up.

“This thing can smoke an AA-12 in terms of speed,” said Eric in the IV8888 video below. “Bear in mind, an AA-12 is only about 360 rpm.”

via GIPHY

Released in 2013, the Origin-12 comes standard with a five-round 12-gauge magazine or an optional 30-round drum.

The design of the Origin-12 is made to greatly reduce recoil. The barrel is placed lower than the chamber and butt stock.

“In-line shotguns, when you shoot them, they climb. Pure physics will tell you about this firearm,” Fostech Outdoors executive Judd Foster said at SHOT Show 2016. “When you shoot it, it takes recoil out of it, and it punches you on target.”

via GIPHY

According to Fostech Outdoors, there will soon be conversion kits to allow 7.62 and 5.56mm fire coming in 2018. If you’re interested in having a forward grip, check out the Origin-12 SBV. It’s an arm braced, smooth bore, 12-gauge non-NFA Firearm.

“The Fostech Origin-12 is an awesome piece of hardware. As far as I know, its is the fastest cycling shotgun in the world, ” IV8888’s Eric said.

via GIPHY

Check out the IraqVeteran8888 video down below:

WRITER’S NOTE: I would like to personally thank you, the community, for bringing this beauty to my attention. The inspiration for this post goes to Marc Allen from this Facebook post. Thank you very much for your support. You rock!

Related: This automatic shotgun fires 360 rounds of bad intentions per minute

(Iraqveteran8888, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

This boot camp helps veterans grow tech start-ups

Basic Training — often called boot camp — introduces new service members to military life and customs. Boot camp “accelerates” a citizen’s transformation to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine.

A Colorado-based company, Techstars Accelerator, created Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) to help service members transition out of the military. More importantly, PBC helps transitioning service members and entrepreneurial veterans turn their business ideas into tech start-ups.

The 15th installment of Patriot Boot Camp was held in Lehi, Utah on Aug. 23-25, 2019. Veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses with business ideas or existing businesses gathered for three days to learn from industry leaders. The event was hosted MX Data, and sponsored by MetLife Foundation, USAA, and Jared Polis Foundation.


The PBC connected the event’s attendees to a community of over fifty mentors — many of whom traveled from across the nation to make entrepreneurship tangible. A testament to the dedication and belief in this program was that the mentors all volunteered their time, at their own expense, to provide one-on-one mentoring.

Patriot Boot Camp founder Taylor McLemore address the veteran entrepreneurs.

More than 850 veterans have gone through the program, and they have hired over 1,600 employees and raised 0 million in venture capital while generating millions in revenue.

By the numbers

  • Jobs created: 1,600+
  • Hours of mentorship: 2,500+
  • Alumni entrepreneurs: 850+
  • Entrepreneurs attending PBC Utah: Coming from 23 states, one from Austria
  • Capital raised by alumni: 0 million
  • Diversity: 50% service-connected, disabled Veteran-owned business
  • Female founders: 23%

According to an article in TechCrunch, PBC graduates show “…that startups aren’t the sort of crazy risk that they first appear. Indeed, after what many of these men and women have just been through, it may not be all that daunting of a next mission after all.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines are testing out a new ‘lethal’ grenade launcher

The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.

The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.

“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.


The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.

“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.

Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)

Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.

In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.

The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.

The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.

“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”

The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.

“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.

Analyses supports sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.

The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.

During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.

“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.

The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.

“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”

However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.

“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”

Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.

“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are some factors to military spouse depression

Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found a number of factors that increase risk of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in military spouses.

This study used information gathered from the largest longitudinal study ever conducted to assess the impact of military service and several other data sources such as electronic personnel files.

“The goal of the present study was to identify demographic, military-specific, and service member mental health correlates of spousal depression,” according to the authors of “Depression among military spouses: Demographic, military, and service member psychological health risk factors.”


Military spouses, on average, deal with many unique situations such as geographic separation, unpredictable training cycles, frequent relocation, spouse deployments, and secondary effects of the lifestyle, such as frequent job rotations.

Though from the myriad factors related to military spouses, several were found to be strong indicators of increased risk for MDD.

According to the study, “less educational attainment, unemployment, and large family size were all independently associated with greater risk for MDD among military spouses.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)

While depression may be due to a complex set of issues and factors affecting the person, researchers were able to determine that these factors played a substantial role as independent factors.

Other family or individual elements that may increase risk are gender (female), being less than 30 years of age, combat deployments, PTSD, alcoholism, and the service member’s branch.

This research provides information with real-world application for spouses to better understand the factors that may play a role in their depression.

Additionally, it provides leaders with important data on several subgroups that may be proactively identified for resourcing.

Below are resources that may help with any one of these factors contributing to depression:

Education

  • My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA): ,000 of financial assistance for spouses pursuing a license, certification or associate degree.
  • Pell Grant: Federal student aid that varies dependent on several factors.
  • G.I. Bill: This military benefit can be transferred to eligible spouses or children.
  • Grants and scholarships: Do some research, many states and private organizations offer grants, scholarships, or reduced tuition to military spouses.

Employment

  • Priority Placement Program: Spouses receive preference over other job applicants seeking federal service (USAJobs).
  • FMWR resources: Morale, Welfare and Recreation has services, personnel, and resources that are dedicated to helping spouses with career placement, including its Employment Readiness Program.
  • Job placement: Check out local staffing agencies, job posting sites, and local unemployment offices.

Family services

  • Military and Family Life Counseling: Counselors can help people who are having trouble coping with concerns and issues of daily life, the stress of the military lifestyle, parenting, etc.
  • Family Advocacy Program: Dedicated to the prevention, education, prompt reporting, investigation, intervention, and treatment of spousal and child abuse and neglect.
  • New Parent Support Program: Prenatal and postnatal education from baby massage groups to customized breastfeeding support and more.
  • Army Family Team Building: Helps you to not just cope with, but enjoy the military lifestyle. AFTB provides the knowledge and self-confidence to take responsibility for yourself and your family.
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5 things military spouses will never agree on

There are a few things military spouses will never agree on.

Some spouses are firmly in one camp while others feel exactly the opposite in these areas of military family life. Truth is, these are the things we will NEVER agree on.


1. Whether or Not to Tip the Movers.

Ask any group of military spouses and you’ll get a wide range of opinions and a lot of debate. Follow-up question of “… and do you feed them?” and the room will erupt into many opinions on how much or how little you should fill up the crew. From pizza to crockpot meals, from Gatorade to water or soda, it really varies. (Does how you feed them determine whether or not they break your stuff? The world may never know…)

2. The Power of Craft.

Love it or hate it, the crafting powers are strong with this group. “You’re so crafty,” seems to carry a lot of weight in the military spouse community but, for as many people who love to craft, there is probably an equal number who despise it. Own a Cricut? Oh, man. We know you’ll talk about it on Facebook and monogram your cat. But you’ll also make the unit ball glassware in a heartbeat or be first in line to decorate the teacher’s door. The non-crafters may secretly wish for or despise this talent but, either way, when the topic comes up, there’s always glue and glitter division.

3. Protocol. Protocol. Protocol.

You can wear this to the ball. Oh, you can’t wear that… Never say this and always do that. Are you a military protocol fan or turn your nose up at all that “old fashioned stuff?” When the discussion turns to length of dress, how to address a certain someone, or navigating the receiving line at a ball, there is sure to be someone with an opinion. Protocol certainly is a topic modern military spouses debate. Nobody wants to feel the fool but they also don’t want to feel like they’re living in the 1950s. Oh, what to do?!?! Don’t worry. Someone will tell you. Even if you don’t want them to…

4. How Much We Love/Hate X Duty Station.

Image result for sad moving truck gif

I loved living in Hawaii. I hated Alaska. What do you mean you didn’t like living in Europe? If only we could stay in Italy. We’ll never agree on the places we’ve loved to love or couldn’t stand one more minute in, but we’ll certainly try to convert you over to our side. The great Duty Station Debate is one that has been a part of Military Spouse culture for many, many years. The disagreements can get heated. Especially when someone pulls out the line “…but it’s about the people!” after you told them about the hour and a half drive to the nearest town. And all they have is a Walmart and a Burger King.

5. Living On Base Vs. Off Base.

Oh, yes. We went there… Nope. Nope. Nope. It depends which post it is for some people but others, no way, they just don’t like it. One bad Jerry Springer experience may have been the reason for some to shun living wall-to-wall with their peers, but others just love being a short drive to work or a place where their kids can easily play outside. Love it or leave it. This is one debate that is just like housing wait lists: it will NOT go away soon.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MUSIC

This is how AC/DC helped save a POW in Mogadishu

At the end of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” CWO Mike Durant is sitting in a dark room as a POW, as a helicopter flies by overhead. From the passing bird, comes a voice: “Mike Durant, we won’t leave you behind.”


This makes for an agonizing scene, with Durant suffering from a broken cheekbone, eye socket, back, femur, and nose as the sun goes down over Mogadishu. He thought he was going to die. And the Somalis did try to kill him three times.

But the Army didn’t just remind one of their soldiers that he wouldn’t be left behind, his friends in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment wanted him to know they were actively looking for him and they wouldn’t stop until they found him.

“When you’re in captivity,” Durant told documentarians filming AC/DC’s “Beyond the Thunder,” “if you hear an aircraft, it obviously gets your attention because the first thing you’re trying to determine is, ‘Do they know where I am?”’

As the Somalis started to scramble, Durant heard a telltale “BONG” of his favorite song, and then the opening lines of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.”

“It was an incredible moment,” Durant recalled. “They had loudspeakers attached to this Black Hawk, flying around the city, broadcasting this music.” That’s when the voice bellowed the words echoed in the movie:

“Mike, we won’t leave here without you.”

It was a moment Durant says he will never forget. He spent 11 days in captivity.

Durant’s helicopter, Super Six-Four, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade after dropping off his 18 Rangers into the heart of Mogadishu. His mission was finished until he was called to replace Super Six-One as fire support over the target.

The Army lost five Black Hawks that day. When the helos hit the ground, the Somalis would overrun the wreckage and kill everyone aboard. Mike Durant says he was incredibly lucky that someone recognized his value as a prisoner.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY’: See newspaper headlines from around the world 24 hours after 9/11

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks happened exactly 19 years ago Friday.

For many people, the attacks were the biggest news story of their lifetime. Almost all who experienced it can remember where they were when they heard of the attacks.

Many people who remember that day also recall the following morning, when newspapers around the world captured the horror, shock, and sadness people felt.


The Newseum, a museum in Washington, DC, that chronicled the history of media, archived more than 100 newspapers from September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks. The front pages of these newspapers, bearing headlines like “ACT OF WAR” and “AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY,” underscore the impact the attacks had on the American psyche.

Here is what newspapers looked like the day after September 11, 2001.

New York Times / Source: Newseum

New York Post / Source: Newseum

New York Daily News / Source: Newseum

The Washington Post / Source: Newseum

USA Today / Source: Newseum

The Atlanta Constitution / Source: Newseum

The Los Angeles Times / Source: Newseum

Detroit Free Press / Source: Newseum

The San Francisco Examiner / Source: Newseum

Chicago Tribune / Source: Newseum

Newsday / Source: Newseum

People / Source: Newseum

Seattle Post-Intelligencer / Source: Newseum

The Globe and Mail / Source: Newseum

The Daily Telegraph / Source: Newseum

The Times / Source: Newseum

Herald Sun / Source: Newseum

Melbourne’s Herald Sun

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy is pursuing stealthier torpedoes for submarines

Navy weapons developers are seeking a high-tech, longer range, and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.

The service has issued a solicitation to industry, asking for proposals and information related to pursuing new and upgraded Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar, and navigational technology.

“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, all-digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems, and propulsion improvements,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.


Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies more effectively and at further standoff ranges and therefore better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class and the future Columbia class, Couch added.

A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.

Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo aboard USS Louisville.

Navy efforts to pursue new torpedo technologies are happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.

For several years now, the Navy has been strengthening its developmental emphasis upon the Mk 48 as a way to address its aging arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.

An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.

Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7, which consist of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver, and amplifier components.

“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and achieved initial operational capability in 2006,” Couch said.

With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS, electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.

CBASS technology provides streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies, and an ability to operate with improved effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also, the Mod 7 decreases vulnerability to enemy countermeasures and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed and Navy developers say.

The new technology also involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry to allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.

Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo was loaded into USS California.

Modifications to the weapon have improved the acoustic receiver, replaced the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increased memory, and improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy data on the weapon.

Improved propulsion, quieting technology, targeting systems, and range enhancements naturally bring a substantial tactical advantage to Navy undersea combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to operate closer to enemy targets and coastline undetected, reaching areas typically inaccessible to deeper draft surface ships. Such an improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to better support littoral surface platforms such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo could better identify and attack enemy targets near coastal areas and shallow water enemy locations.

A Military Analysis Network report from the Federation of American Scientists further specifies that the torpedo uses a conventional, high-explosive warhead.

“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.

Submarine operators are able to initially guide the torpedo toward its target as it leaves the launch tube, using a thin wire designed to establish and electronic link between the submarine and torpedo, the information says.

“This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS writes.

In early 2018, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained.

The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.

The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Those $200 lightsabers at Disneyland might actually be worth it

The Disneyland iteration of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open. Early reviews — from those who were able to navigate a less-than-stellar ticket reservation system — are positive. An especially bright spot: the souvenir lightsabers available exclusively at the park.

As we’ve reported before, the lightsabers are customizable — guests choose their components and assemble their saber themselves — and pricey. The total price with tax comes to $215.49, exactly $215.49 more than a souvenir coaster from Olga’s Cantina. Still, the sabers themselves and the experience of designing your own are getting rave reviews from the lucky fans who’ve already had the chance to get theirs.


The Los Angeles Times has a good rundown of what the experience is like, and it seems that, in true Disney fashion, narrative is front and center. The story created around Savi’s Workshop, the exclusive home of the customizable lightsaber, is that it has to masquerade as a simple scrap metal shop.

Light-up blades come in red, blue, green, and Mace Windu purple.

(Disney Parks)

The employees who work there play along, reminding visitors who say the l-word that they don’t want any trouble from the First Order.

They will help you pick out the pieces of “salvaged” scrap metal you’ll need to build your lightsaber, with drawers full of hilts of four different themes. Pick your hilt and you’ll get a corresponding pin when you set up an appointment to build your saber as part of a group with 13 other “Builders.”

After some practice assembling lightsabers outside — which may be interrupted if Stormtroopers happen to walk by — you’re ushered inside to a room dominated by a large table. You’ll hear a spiel about Jedi history and the power of the Force before guiding you through the process of choosing the remaining parts and assembling your lightsaber.

Once assembled, everyone inserts their assembled blade into a pod for a final ceremony that ends with everyone igniting their lightsabers.

Whether or not that experience and the saber itself are worth the steep cost depends on your budget and how much time you’re willing to spend at Savi’s (line are, predictably, quite long). But if your trip won’t feel complete without bringing a lightsaber home, it looks like Disney has created an attraction that goes beyond a simple gift shop to create an immersive, narrative experience.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.