At the entrance to Camp Darby at Ft. Benning, Georgia, there's a black and gold sign that reads "Not for the weak or fainthearted."

Inside, volunteers for Ranger School face a harrowing nine-week boot camp before they can earn the coveted Army Ranger tab and join one of America's elite special operations teams. Early training includes long runs, swims in full combat uniform, and battles with the towering, infamous Darby Queen obstacle course.

And if that doesn't seem so bad to you, it gets tougher. From there, it's weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation, high-octane simulated missions, memory drills, and even more tests of strength and endurance.


Looks like fun. Photo by DVIDSHUB/Flickr.

Oh, and if you screw something up, you "get smoked," which means you stop what you're doing and start cranking out push-ups, flutter kicks, and other calisthenics until the drill sergeant says to stop, which could be a really, really long time.

Only the toughest men on the planet can make it through all this.

Oh sorry, did we say men? About that...

The first women ever — two of them, in fact — are set to graduate from Ranger School this week.

Earlier this summer, a class of 400 recruits entered Ranger School at Ft. Benning, including, for the first time ever (ever!), 20 women. It's all part of an assessment to determine how and if certain types of combat jobs should be open to women starting in 2016.

96 of the 400 recruits made it through the ordeal, and of the 20 women who set out to conquer Camp Darby, two made it through: Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. And, no, they didn't get some kind of watered down, "Ranger School-Lite" experience designed just for the delicate sensibilities of ladies or whatever.

They came right into the boot camp and kicked some butt. As ladies do.

A female volunteer tackles the Darby Queen obstacle course. GIF from LedgerEnquirer/YouTube.

"The key is maintaining standards," retired Ranger Roger Carstens told NBC News. "To lower those standards to fit a quota is a disservice to comrades and country and could result in mission failure."

To pass, the volunteers not only need to demonstrate great leadership, an ability to follow orders, and exceptional mental toughness, they have to complete a grueling series of physical feats: including 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, and a five-mile run ... all in under 40 minutes, while starving, sleep-deprived, and being screamed at by instructors.

And having endured all of that alongside their male counterparts, these women are certified battle-ready, according to the U.S. Army.

Still, the female Ranger School grads won't be able to officially join the 75th Ranger Regiment — at least, not yet.

Women in the U.S. are just starting to get their foot in the door when it comes to combat positions. Photo by The National Guard/Flickr.

Time and time again, we've seen that when given a fair chance, women can do anything men can do (and vice versa). And it's looking like the military is finally ready to get with the times and give women a bigger role in high-stakes missions.

In January 2015, the Defense Department said that all military occupations, even combat positions, had to be open to women starting in 2016, though there may be some exceptions. The military is still trying to figure out whether women should be able to join teams like the Rangers or the Navy SEALs, for example.

But according to a U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command study, there aren't any major barriers to integrating women into an all-male SEAL team (meaning, the men they polled on said teams were like, "Yeah, bring it on!") — as long as the women can handle the physical rigors, of course. Which, you know, sort of goes without saying ... because (surprise!) men who can't handle the physical rigors aren't allowed on those teams, either.

If the success of this latest Ranger School class is any indication, we could be seeing women on these elite operations teams some day real soon.

It's about time they were given the chance to prove they belong there.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

Keep Reading Show less