The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.
In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?
Ke$ha – Tik Tok
Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?
Pinkfong – Baby Shark
If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.
Katy Perry – Firework
For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.
Britney Spears – Baby one more time
A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.
Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle
Same as above.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.
The Navy’s theme song
As is tradition.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!
U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.
The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.
It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House.
In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch.
The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes.
But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012.
Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.
It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true.
One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud.
There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union.
After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed.
Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed.
These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.
North Korea hasn’t always been a nuclear pariah. For most of its history, it was just a regular pariah. Even the Soviet Union wasn’t thrilled with Kim Il-Sung’s special brand of communism, but as time went on other communists became hard to come by, so they cut the North Koreans a break.
Time definitely took its toll on communist countries. These days, there are very few communist countries left; Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and China all stand with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). But North Korea is the only one that still goes around threatening its neighbors. For most of the post-Cold War era, no one really cared much. Then they got nukes.
But it wasn’t always that way. In 1985, the DPRK actually signed the worldwide Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), committing it to halting the spread of nuclear weapons and associated technologies. It also promoted the peaceful use of nuclear energy. North Korea even had a nuclear power plant. This might have been at the behest of its Soviet benefactors, but it was still a good step forward.
Just before the fall of the Soviet Union, the USSR and the United States signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which limited the deployment of nuclear weapons around the world. As part of this 1991 treaty, the United States removed its nuclear arsenal from the Korean Peninsula. The decision was celebrated in North Korea, where the two Koreas agreed not to produce or receive nuclear weapons or process uranium the very next year.
But like most things in North Korea, it was short-lived. In 1993, the country was suspected of having an underground nuclear enrichment program and refused inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As tensions mounted, the DPRK threatened to withdraw from the NPT. Cooler heads prevailed after the U.S. intervened and talked it out.
Tensions soon mounted yet again and it looked like North Korea and South Korea were on a collision course for war. In 1994, former President Jimmy Carter met with Korean leader Kim Il-Sung and defused the situation, paving the way for a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK.
During this time, the founder and President of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung died and his son, Kim Jong-Il took over amid a worsening famine there. That same year, the two countries agreed on a framework to halt North Korea’s illegal nuclear program in exchange for food aid, oil, food and two light-water reactors for energy.
Within five years, construction on the light-water reactors had begun and North Korea issued a moratorium on nuclear-capable missile testing. Its willingness to put its arsenal on hold led to the first Inter-Korean Summit in 2000. South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung visited Pyongyang after five decades of constant threats and conflict. The two left the summit with an agreement to begin multiple joint business ventures and cultural cooperation projects. Families separated by the Korean War were reunified and the U.S. eased economic sanctions on the DPRK.
The warming relations between the two countries lead to a state visit in Pyongyang from U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The two countries talked about an end to North Korea’s missile program but were unable to seal a deal before the end of President Bill Clinton’s time in office.
Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, listed North Korea as part of an “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address and his administration refused to certify North Korea’s compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and disregarding all agreements with South Korea. It expelled all IAEA inspectors and reactivated its nuclear plant in Yongbyon.
To ease tensions, leaders from North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States and China agreed to meet in Beijing in 2003. The Six-Party Talks (as they became known) succeeded in getting everyone together but no agreements were made. Two years later, the Six-Party Talks bore fruit, resulting in a North Korean agreement to end its nuclear program. It didn’t rejoin the NPT, but agreed to its terms.
Until 2006, that is, when North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test, along with seven ballistic missile tests. North Korea had officially joined the nuclear club. Since then, the effort to get North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs has been a mess of quick starts and stops. Every time progress is made in negotiations, the DPRK finds a way to destroy it and advance the programs.
Kim Jong-Il died in 2011, and his successor (and son) Kim Jong-Un briefly halted the nuclear program. The new leader briefly raised hopes of a nuclear-free Korea, but even those were soon dashed. Today, no one knows how many nuclear weapons the North has, or even how many missiles, but it is known that it is capable of striking the west coast of the United States – and everywhere in between.
Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.
It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.
And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.
It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.
Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.
The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.
“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”
Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”
Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.
All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.
On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.
“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”
Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.
In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.
According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.
About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.
There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.
Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.
Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.
Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”
“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
While the selection of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense drew a lot of attention, there are some other nominations at the Pentagon that are waiting in the wings — the service secretaries.
There is a Secretary of the Army, a Secretary of the Navy (who also is responsible for the Marine Corps, and depending on the situation, the Coast Guard), and a Secretary of the Air Force.
According to a report by the Washington Post, retired Army Col. James Hickey, is the front-runner to be Secretary of the Army. Hickey is best known as the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which executed Operation “Red Dawn,” the mission that lead to the capture of Saddam Hussein.
For the last two years, Hickey, who served multiple tours in Iraq, has been the senior advisor to the Senate Armed Services Committee. His awards include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Hickey’s main competition for Army secretary is Van Hipp, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party who has served in a number of positions in the Pentagon.
According to his LinkedIn.com profile, Hipp has been chairman of American Defense International, Inc. since 1995.
There are two U.S. congressmen being considered for SECNAV, including Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, the current chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
Forbes, who was defeated for a ninth term in the House of Representatives in the 2016 Republican primary by Scott Taylor, a retired Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and who founded the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc., faces competition from Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer, according to his House web page.
Hunter, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, succeeded his father, Duncan L. Hunter, a Vietnam veteran who served 14 terms in the House of Representatives.
Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine is considered a likely possibility to serve as Secretary of the Air Force.
According to his campaign website, Bridenstine is a former naval aviator who flew the F/A-18 Hornet and E-2 Hawkeye in his naval service, then transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, where he flies the MC-12, an aircraft that specializes in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
Bridenstine was first elected to the House in 2012.
There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.
The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?
During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.
More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.
In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.
Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.
The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.
The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.
The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.
After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?
I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.
We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.
Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is trying to maximize the entrepreneurial potential of America’s veterans, and after a successful pilot program in 2014, the school is again opening its doors to another 25 current and former military for their Post-9/11 Ignite Program.
“No veteran wants a handout and just say ‘hey come to this program [and] learn some things because you’re a veteran.’ No,” said Alex Martin, a Marine veteran, in a video about the program. “What they do want is: ‘hey, do you want to work hard for something? Do you want to learn the language of this business or this industry? If you do, and if you’re qualified, and if you’re the right person for the job and if you’re a man or woman of character, then you have shot to get interviewed.”
The four-week program is meant for veterans and transitioning service-members who have a demonstrated record of excellence in and out of uniform, and who are passionate about starting or scaling up a business. The Ignite Program accelerates their development from idea to profitable venture.
Those who are selected after the application period closes on March 3rd will live on campus with the other participants, learning about business fundamentals from some of the world’s best professors. Topics include innovation, leadership, operations, marketing, strategy, negotiations, and finance accounting.
The program also includes practical application along with classroom instruction. The participants split themselves into small groups, who then develop and finally pitch their business to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley.
Alongside The Commit Foundation, a veteran service organization focused on helping transitioning service members, Stanford is subsidizing this immersive environment for anyone interested in building a successful business. Beyond the rigorous training, the veterans form new connections across branches of service.
To learn more about the Stanford Graduate School of Business Post-9/11 Ignite program, click here. To register for the February 11th informational webinar, click here.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
Jose Luis Sanchez was a Marine sergeant serving in Helmand province in 2011 when he stepped on an IED and lost his leg in the blast. On Apr. 18, 2016, he ran the Boston Marathon to show support for the victims of the bombings there three years ago.
His Apr. 18 race in Boston as part of Team Semper Fi was his second marathon. He ran his first in the Oct. 2015 Marine Corps Marathon where, with the help of others, he finished despite fracturing his leg and busting his knee.
“It was my first marathon ever,” Sanchez told UPROXX. “I was just so motivated by everyone else’s love and support. My mind was like, ‘Yeah, man. You can f-cking do it!”
Sanchez wanted to run the Boston Marathon as a show of solidarity with the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Sanchez’s history as an IED survivor put him in a unique place to understand their pain and to show support.
“It hit me in January or February,” he said, “and I just felt that I had to run the Boston Marathon. I wanted to run the race and support the bombing survivors, to show them that life goes on and all you have to do is just push through it.”
The urge to drive others and to prove himself physically was what powered Sanchez during his time as a Marine.
“I always tried to motivate others, like my Marines,” Sanchez said. “I’d push them as much as I could, encouraging them to always go after it. Even after a long patrol in Afghanistan, I was the guy who’d say, ‘Let’s go workout. Let’s do push-ups. Let’s do squats.’ I was always that type of guy. Going to the gym, taking groups on long runs, doing PT.”
U.S. Army doctor Col. William Gorgas paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal by destroying the mosquitoes that spread disease and doomed an earlier French effort.
When the Panama Canal Commission began construction in 1904, they began with the remains of a failed French canal. The French effort ended in bankruptcy in part because too many workers were hospitalized or died due to infections of malaria and yellow fever. Some estimates put it as high as one-third of all workers.
When the U.S. bought out the French company and began work, Gorgas was named the chief medical officer of the project. He immediately set his sights on controlling malaria. Gorgas had previously controlled yellow fever and malaria in Havana, Cuba by applying the research of U.S. Army Maj. Walter Reed and British Army Dr. Ronald Ross.
Gorgas drew up a $1 million plan with engineers and other doctors to reduce or eliminate the mosquitoes along the route of construction. Unfortunately, many other decision makers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, supported the “bad air” theory that said the diseases came from the soil and vapors in the air.
Roosevelt was eventually persuaded by his personal physician to back Gorgas’ plan.
Workers cut all grass to less than 12 inches high, drained open water where possible or sprayed a film of oil on it where it wasn’t. Custom poisons were spread across areas where larvae grew. Workers cleaned homes regularly and placed screens over windows and doors.
Progress was slow, but success did come. The campaign launched in the summer of 1905. In Aug. 1906, new yellow fever cases were at less than half of their historical norm. After Nov. 1906, no more canal workers would die of yellow fever. Malaria never went away completely, but in Jan. 1910 the death rate fell to 1 percent of the historical norm.
Gorgas went on to fight disease in South African gold mines before becoming the Army’s 22nd Surgeon General.
The United States has increased its military posture in the region to back up the threat of force. A U.S. submarine designed to carry 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles entered a South Korean port on April 25. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group is also heading to the region and conducting naval exercises with Japan and South Korea. And the United States this week began to move part of the THAAD missile defense system to its deployment site 250 kilometers south of Seoul.
Rain of fire
However, analysts say an actual U.S. strike is a risky proposition. A surgical U.S. missile strike to take out one or multiple nuclear or missile sites would likely not be sufficient to destroy or degrade North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals, which are reportedly in numerous fortified underground sites across the country.
“It might involve artillery attacks on Seoul or elsewhere along the demilitarized zone (DMZ.) It might involve covert operations, but they have several levels of escalation to go before they get to nuclear or even chemical weapons,” said John Schilling, a missile technology specialist with 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.
North Korea has more than 21,000 artillery weapons, positioned mostly along the inter-Korean border, that could put in jeopardy the lives of 25 million people that live in and around Seoul, the South Korean capital located 56 kilometers south of the border.
An assessment of North Korean military capabilities by Strafor, an intelligence analysis organization in Texas, notes the North’s artillery arsenal includes 300mm multiple rocket launcher systems that can “rain fire across” Seoul and beyond. “A single volley,” a Strafor report said, “could deliver more than 350 metric tons of explosives across the South Korean capital, roughly the same amount of ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers.”
While the North has not yet demonstrated it can successfully mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, U.S. and South Korean officials have said they believe Pyongyang has a nuclear Nodong missile that can fire a one ton warhead a distance of up to two thousand kilometers, which would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.
“I think the majority of people now believe they can put a warhead on top of a missile that can hit targets in Northeast Asia. But when you get to the much longer range they need, such as hitting the United States, I think, we don’t know for sure. But most people would believe that it is a work in progress,” said Joel Wit, the co-founder of 38 North and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS.
In addition to the 10 to 20 nuclear warheads North Korea is believed to have, its missiles could also be armed with deadly chemical weapons from suspected stockpiles of sarin nerve gas.
A Nodong is a single stage liquid fuel rocket based on scud missiles developed by the former Soviet Union. Some of North Korea’s most recent tests were solid fuel Musudan missiles that have an estimated maximum range of three thousand kilometers, which could potentially reach targets in Japan and as far away as U.S. military bases in Guam.
The more than 28,000 U.S. forces in Korea and 50,000 troops in Japan would also be possible targets for any North Korea retaliatory strikes.
Analysts say any North Korean counter strike would draw a quick response from the United States, South Korea, and Japan that could further escalate the conflict, draw in China, and lead to a second Korean war.
By the power of the Constitution, American presidents are the ultimate link between the people and the military. As commanders-in-chief, presidents are responsible for committing the nation to war — a very tall order.
Here are 4 presidents that navigated the vagaries of public sentiment better than most:
1. Polk told Americans that Mexico “shed American blood on American soil!”
President James K. Polk was an expansionist and wanted land from Mexico so that the U.S. would stretch from sea to shining sea. There is a dispute among historians on whether Polk wanted a war or was just willing to accept one, but he sent 4,000 troops under general and future president Zachary Taylor to a portion of land claimed by both Texas and Mexico.
Ten months later on May 8, 1846, Mexican troops attacked what they perceived to be American troops on Mexican land.
Polk acted quickly when he got word of the fighting. On May 11 he asked Congress for a declaration of war with the cry that Mexico had “shed American blood on American soil!” While a very few anti-expansionist Whigs – including then-Senator Abraham Lincoln – protested the fact that it was technically not “American soil,” the rest of the Whigs and the majority of Congress voted for war.
2. Lincoln rode on the coattails of his generals
President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most popular and well-respected leaders in American history, was not always popular in his time. Indeed, during the road to the 1864 election with the war going badly. Even Lincoln expected a crushing defeat in his re-election bid. When the Democrats nominated Gen. George B. McClellan on a platform of peace with the breakaway Confederacy, all seemed lost.
But Lincoln had pushed hard for aggressive generals during the war, and two of them saved him in the final months before the election. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had been handpicked by Lincoln for the top job, and Grant’s favored subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, delivered Atlanta to the president on Sep. 3, 1864.
The victory in Atlanta was soon followed by Grant’s wins in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. With the war suddenly going well, Lincoln was able to rally the North to keep going and win the war.
3. Wilson leaked the “Zimmerman Telegram” to the press
President Woodrow Wilson was notoriously reluctant to join World War I despite Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare which killed hundreds of Americans and sank prized ships. One of the tipping points for Wilson was when Britain revealed the “Zimmerman Telegram” to him.
The Zimmerman Telegram was a secret proposal from Germany to Mexico. Germany promised Mexico Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico if Mexico entered World War I as a German ally against the U.S. Wilson authorized the Navy to begin arming civilian vessels and leaked the telegram to the public. Once the American public was in a fury, he went to Congress and asked for a declaration of war.
4. Roosevelt hid his disability, befriended journalists, and held fireside chats
When he wasn’t glad-handing journalists, he spoke directly to the American public over the radio during his iconic “Fireside Chats” that actually started in the early days of his presidency when the U.S. was more worried about the Great Depression than the wars in Europe and Asia.
One of the best attributes a service member leaves the military with is the ability to perform exceptionally well in teams. Chances are, if you’re willing to put your life in the hands of the person on your left and your right, you tend to trust them.
Teamwork comes down to trust and we know there’s nothing more difficult than leaving the service and trying to figure out what really makes Tom in accounting tick or why Karen at the front desk always puts you on hold. We know you’re skeptical of those “civilians,” but with these 7 tips, your team will work through that whole “forming, storming, norming, performing” team dynamics cycle in no time.
Do things together after hours
No better camaraderie is formed than over a pool table, a dart board, appetizers, or a get together after work. Organize a monthly outing and put it on the office calendar. The first one might be a little awkward, so you really only need to book that babysitter until 9. But after that first layer of ice is broken, the “We should do this more!” emails will start rolling in.
Getting to know people outside of work helps break down their professional role into more of a, “Wow, these people are humans, too!” Turns out Karen has been through a lot — no wonder she is the way she is. Or how about when you finally find out that Tom has an unbelievable karaoke voice?
Recognize hard work
The military is known for promotions, ceremonies, and public displays of affirmation. Civilian life? Not so much. Anything you can do to get your office on board with recognizing one another’s efforts is a great way to boost morale. Maybe it’s informal, like sending out a quick email to the team every Friday. Maybe it’s a quick, monthly gathering where each member highlights something someone else did to help them professionally or personally. The more you can do to find out how people like to be recognized, the more motivated they’ll be to come to work with a good attitude.
Support one another
You’ve literally carried some of your battle buddies. Working in the civilian world isn’t all that different. Yeah, you might not have to fireman carry someone during training, but could you offer to stay late on Tuesdays so Jeff in HR can make it to his son’s baseball games? Little things like that go a long way. The new mom who might need an hour to run home for a nap, the project lead who you can send home for a few hours just to do one night of dinner and bedtime with the kids — anything you can do to help your team feel more like a family than a disparate unit will help.
Work through high-pressure situations together
You know adrenaline brings people together. Working in high-pressure situations should make a team stronger, not break. Find out what you can do to dissolve tension. What would you do with your unit? Crack a well-placed joke, offer support where you can, and look for the good while offering constructive feedback. Sure, we know it’s hard not to roll your eyes and start yelling about IEDs and ambushes when Eric from logistics tells you that, “You don’t understand the pressure!” but in the history of the world, one-upping someone has never worked in making them feel better. Dig deep for your empathy and find a solution together.
Do team-building activities
You’ve done 1000 leadership simulations in everything from the woods to abandoned buildings. The reason the military stresses team building and trust is because, spoiler alert: it actually works! When you’re able to develop your own leadership skills and philosophy alongside your teammates, you understand one another better. These experiential activities also help you all recognize one another’s strengths and areas for growth. The more you understand one another, the better your team will perform.
Come up with callsigns
Inside jokes (when everyone is in on it) give your team a sense of unity. Lay the groundwork for how someone gets a callsign and then do an officially unofficial ceremony once someone has earned one. Building camaraderie through humor is one of the reasons military culture runs so deep.
Learn from the experts
Finally, whether you’re an expert in managing teams or need some help, Purdue Global can help develop your leadership style with their Associate of Applied Science in Small Group Management as well as a host of other programs. The Small Group Management program provides a focus on small group management skills including: communication skills within small groups, managing conflict, risk management, ethical decision-making and problem solving, subordinate development, team synergy, and effective goal setting.
Learn more about this offering and their other programs.
This article was sponsored by Purdue Global. The appearance of Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.