Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time - We Are The Mighty
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Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time


Jon Boggiano had a brilliant idea. He and his brother Chris, both West Point graduates, would go back to graduate school at Stanford University. The duo had just sold their successful job training business, and Jon thought they needed a new adventure.

Chris was adamantly opposed to the idea at first, but as with many things between the two brothers just a year apart in age, eventually he relented. And with just 12 days to spare before the Stanford business school application period closed, the two pounded out extensive essays, sourced letters of recommendation from former CO’s, calculated costs, took the GMAT, told their wives their plan, and prepped for an interview with the admission folks. They got in.

That June, both families including three kids (one on the way) and one large dog packed up and headed west from Charlotte, North Carolina to campus housing in Stanford, California.

“The biggest transition was going from a 2,400 square foot house to an 850 square foot campus apartment with one bathroom,” Jon said. “It was more like a cabin.”

Almost immediately the two met Nicki Boyd, a British educated triathalete and fellow entrepreneur. The three would embark on the year-long Stanford MBA program together with a very clear goal in mind.

“The north star was to revolutionize education,” said Chris. That was the summer of 2013. Today, the Boggiano brothers and Boyd have 11 employees on the rolls of their company, VersaMe. And they’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to manufacture their inaugural product, the Starling, the first educational wearable for babies and toddlers.

The wearable, a plastic orange star, tracks the number of words said to a child—the idea being that the more words said, the higher the child’s IQ potential. The research is there and parents will no doubt embrace the concept that, by simply verbally engaging with a child, they can truly affect his or her vocabulary.

But the story of how these two former Army guys wound up creating a little orange wearable for babies goes back both to their days growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey with a police officer (and former Marine) for a father and their time in the military.

“Service to our country was definitely part of our upbringing,” said Chris, who graduated from West Point in 2002 and later served in Kosovo. Then came a tough deployment to Iraq where he was a tank platoon leader with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry. “The Army got its money out of me during my time in Fallujah,” said Chris.

Similarly, Jon deployed to Kosovo and Iraq. After witnessing firsthand the unintended consequences of the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, the brothers returned home and transferred to the reserves to start a company that trained workers for careers in the green jobs sector.

During that time, it also became clear to both Jon and Chris that the education system was broken. Folks they were training had, for example, been employed for decades by a steel mill that then suddenly closed down.

“Some of them didn’t have email addresses,” Jon said. “Every academic opportunity had passed them by or failed them.”

“We started looking into trying to fix this economic problem and it always came back to education,” added Chris, who’s also a father to two girls. “We realized that fixing the system meant having a massive impact much earlier in life.”

And off to Stanford they went with an ambitious plan to “swing for the fences,” as Jon put it. By March of 2014, the idea for a wearable was born and the three entrepreneurs decided to solicit funding, hire ambitious employees and scale up. And thanks to far too much time spent in unsavory parts of the world, the team had much-needed perspective about launching a startup.

“Having been to places like Iraq and Kosovo where people have literally nothing I quickly realized that the risk of failing at a startup isn’t nearly as bad as what life could be like in a lot of places in this world,” Chris said.

“It’s really a great way to transition from military,” Jon said. “You can change careers, change geography and have an adventure.”

But the brothers also feel their company is much more than an adventure. “I really do think we are making the world a better place by doing what we are doing,” Jon said.

Now: How an Army vet podcaster pulls in over $2 million by chatting with ‘vetpreneurs’

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The Air Force spends a lot of time and effort destroying rape-preventing lip balm

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
(Photo: Air Force Times)


On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.

They had to be destroyed.

“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”

Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.

On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.

The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.

Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.

“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”

While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.

After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.

The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.

What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.

“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”

Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.

The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.

Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.

“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.

Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”

Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.

But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.

To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.

Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.

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7 photos of Mattis’s first day as SecDef

“Secretary of Defense James Mattis” is going to be hard to type after he spent so many years as “Marine Corps Gen. and Angel of Death James ‘Chaos’ Mattis,” but we’re going to have to type it because he is now, officially, in place as the Secretary of Defense.


His public affairs staff recently saw fit to share images from Mattis’s first day with the rest of a grateful nation. Here are seven of the best:

1. Mattis emerges from his vehicle for his first full day and is met by his old peer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

2. Mattis and Dunford enter the Pentagon. Reports of them growling “urrr” to let everyone know that the Devil Dogs had arrived have not been confirmed.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

3. Mattis was met by senior leaders of the military branches on his way to his office. At least two are rumored to have sworn fealty.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

4. A bunch of senior staff lined the halls and were all, “Dude, it’s real. Mattis is back, and he’s in charge this time.”

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, arrives at the Pentagon on his first full day in the position in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

5. They followed him towards his office, possibly worried that he would disappear in a poof of smoke if they looked away.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives at the Pentagon on his first full day of office in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

6. Mattis spoke with his undersecretary and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva, neither of whom were bitten during the encounter.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon on his first full day of office in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

7. The Pentagon’s “Top 4” then met to discuss how totally sweet it will be to have Mattis in charge.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time

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North Korea threatens pre-emptive strikes after ‘madcap joint military drills’

North Korea has threatened its own pre-emptive strikes in response to recent drills for “decapitation” strikes by U.S. and South Korean special operations forces aimed at taking out the leadership in Pyongyang.


The simulated strikes reportedly targeted the upper echelons of the North Korean regime, including leader Kim Jong Un, as well as key nuclear sites.

They also involved the participation of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6 — the outfit famed for killing al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier this month. Media reports said a number of U.S. special operations forces also participated, including U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
North Korea recently launched satellite-carrying Unha rockets, which is the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

In a statement released March 26 by the Korean People’s Army (KPA), a spokesman said the “madcap joint military drills” would be met with the North’s “own style of special operation and pre-emptive attack,” which it said could come “without prior warning any time.”

The statement, published by the official Korean Central News Agency, said the U.S. and South Korea “should think twice about the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by their outrageous military actions.

“The KPA’s warning is not hot air,” the statement added.

In mid-March, several U.S. Marine F-35B stealth fighter jets conducted bombing practice runs over the Korean Peninsula as a part of the joint exercises, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.

The dispatch of the fighters, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, was the first time they had been sent to the Korean Peninsula. The fighters returned to Japan after the drills wrapped up.

Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile over the last year and a half, conducting two atomic explosions and more than 25 missile launches — including an apparent simulated nuclear strike on the U.S. base at Iwakuni.

In the event of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. troops and equipment from Iwakuni would likely be among the first deployed.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is in the midst of a policy review on North Korea, and has said all options, including military action, remain on the table.

But this review could be bumped up Trump’s list of priorities in the near future.

U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources, as well as recent satellite imagery, has shown that the North is apparently ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, media reports have said.

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Today in military history: Storming of the Bastille

On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison in Paris.

The hungry and heavily-taxed people of France were furious with King Louis XVI. Tensions came to a head when 300 revolutionaries and mutinous troops attacked the Bastille, a royal fortress and political prison that symbolized the tyranny of the French king.

The military governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, tried to defend the fortress, but was forced to surrender when a group of military deserters seized cannons and aimed them at the Bastille’s heart. He was then murdered by the angry mob before he could be arrested. 

The fall of the Bastille marked the beginning of the decade-long French Revolution, which would kill tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife, Marie Antoinette. 

The Bastille was torn down and, in 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Today, Bastille Day is celebrated as a national holiday for the people of France.

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This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., waves at the boom operator after a mid-air refueling during Red Flag 16-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., July 27, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving multiple military branches conducting training operations on the 15,000-square-mile test and training range.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

ARMY:

A C-130H Hercules, from the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, Ohio, takes off to perform an airdrop during exercise Slovak Warthog, July 27, 2016, at Sliač Air Base, Slovakia. Members of the U.S. and Slovak armed forces joined together for the exercise to demonstrate joint operations with a variety of aircraft.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. William Hopper

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 101st Airborne Brigade, fire a Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system during a large-scale platoon live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., July 29, 2016.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Army photo

Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide cover during a combined arms live fire exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 8, 2016.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Burkhart

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 8, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Dakotah Emmerth, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), guides an E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 onto the catapult. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (Aug. 9, 2016) Lt. Erik Dippold, a Navy pilot assigned to EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 is welcomed home by his wife and daughter at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. VAQ-133 conducted an eight-month, regularly scheduled, 7th Fleet deployment aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) supporting stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Montemarano

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Ryley Sweet drives an assault amphibious vehicle onto amphibious assault ship USS San Diego, off the coast of Hawaii. The Marines are participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2016, a multinational military exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 8 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti

A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provides cover fire for his squad during the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integrated Experiment (MIX-16) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., August 5, 2016. The experiment was conducted to test new gear and assess its capabilities for potential future use. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) identifies possible challenges of the future, develops new warfighting concepts, and tests new ideas to help develop equipment that meets the challenges of the future operating environment.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Julien Rodarte

COAST GUARD:

Justin Daulman, a parking assistant, took this photo of CG-2301 painted in retro colors in celebration of 100 years in Coast Guard aviation. Photo taken at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on July 30, 2016.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Coast Guard’s first production MH-60T “Jayhawk” helicopter (tail number CG 6028) completed its first search and rescue operation off the North Carolina coast OTD in 2009.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

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Here are the best military photos for the week of July 15th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Chief Master Sgt. Alan Boling, Eighth Air Force command chief, visited Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 10-11, 2017. During his visit, Boling spoke with 5th Bomb Wing Airmen and visited facilities including the fire department, phase maintenance dock, bomb building facility, dining facility and parachute shop.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

French Alphajets, followed by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and two F-22 Raptors, conduct a flyover while displaying blue, white and red contrails during the Military Parade on Bastille Day. An historic first, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor this year in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I and the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb

Army:

A U.S. Army airborne paratrooper from the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry division prepares to jump out of the open troop door on a U.S. Air Force C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., July 12, 2017 in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. The purpose of TS17 is to improve U.S.-Australian combat readiness, increase interoperability, maximize combined training opportunities and conduct maritime prepositioning and logistics operations in the Pacific. TS17 also demonstrates U.S. commitment to its key ally and the overarching security framework in the Indo Asian Pacific region.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski, deputy commanding general for Army National Guard, U.S. Army Europe, talks with Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, North Carolina National Guard during Getica Saber 17 on July 7, 2017 in Cincu, Romainia. Getica Saber 17 is a U.S-led fire support coordination exercise and combined arms live fire exercise that incorporates six Allied and partner nations with more than 4,000 Soldiers. Getica Saber 17 runs concurrent with Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise that spans across Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania with over 25,000 service members from 22 Allied and partner nations.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Antonio Lewis

Navy:

Sailors refuel an F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zhiwei Tan

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. FLEACT Yokosuka provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands and 26,000 military and civilian personnel.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Daniel A. Taylor

Marine Corps:

Landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, offloads Marine equipment on a beach as a part of a large-scale amphibious assault training exercise during Talisman Saber 17. The landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, launched from USS Green Bay (LPD 20) that enabled movement of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) forces and equipment ashore in order for the MEU to complete mission objectives in tandem with Australia counterparts.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Myers

A Marine, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), departs the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of a large-scale amphibious assault during Talisman Saber 17. The 31st MEU are working in tandem with Australian counterparts to train together in the framework of stability operations.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields

Coast Guard:

Four people are transferred from a sinking 30-foot recreational boat to Coast Guard Station Menemsha’s 47-foot Motor Life Boat off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard Thursday, July 17, 2017. The vessel was dewatered and returned to Menemsha Harbor under its own power.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Photo by Lt. John Doherty, Barnstable County Sheriff

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Keola Marfil, honorary Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Bishop and Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Dickey walk to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a search and rescue drill at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, July 8 2017. Fulfilling Bishop’s wish to be a rescue swimmer, they hoisted a hiker and simulated CPR while transporting him to the air station.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Benson

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Navy investigating SEALs over Trump flag

The United States Navy is investigating how a Trump flag ended up being flown while a SEAL unit was convoying between training locations.


Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (Video screenshot)

According to reports by the Daily Caller and ABCNews.com, the convoy was spotted outside Louisville, Kentucky this past Sunday. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that the lead vehicle of the convoy flew a blue Trump flag. A Navy spokeswoman told ABC that the flying of the flag was not authorized.

A Department of Defense document titled “Guidance on Political Activity and DoD Support” and dated July 6, 2016, states, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
First Navy Jack of the United States (U.S. Navy image)

This is not the first time that SEALs have run afoul of potential political minefields. In November of 2013, the Daily Caller reported that SEALs were ordered to remove patches based on the First Navy Jack, which featured a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” due to the fact that the very similar Gadsden Flag was used by the Tea Party. The major difference is that the First Navy Jack has red and white stripes as a background, while that of the Gadsden Flag is solid yellow. The rattlesnakes are also posed differently.

A 2002 U.S. Navy release noted that President George W. Bush ordered that all ships would fly the First Navy Jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism. The Naval History and Heritage Command website notes that the use of a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” dated back to the Revolutionary War.

Army vet brothers create business to change the world one baby at a time
Gadsden Flag (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A June 2014 report from the Washington Post noted that the orders came about due to a misinterpretation — and that the patches were okay. It also noted the military was ordering more of the patches based on the First Navy Jack.

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The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)


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Dictators at the Syrian Arab Summit, arguing about the most efficient ways to kill their own people. The winner was Hafez al-Asad, who decided to bulldoze the city of Hama, killing people and burying them at the same time.

Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.

Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:

Ho Chi Minh – Baker

The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”

Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo) Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)

Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.

Pol Pot – Teacher

Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.

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Pol Pot’s students of life. (via Flickr User totalitarism)

In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.

Adolf Hitler – Artist

The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.

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Hitler’s German Service Photo (Wikimedia Commons)

He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.

François Duvalier – Doctor

Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”

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Papa Doc with Nelson Rockefeller (Center for Latin American Studies)

The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.

Benito Mussolini – Author

Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.

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Mussolini at the March on Rome (Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”

Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist

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(Kremlin Photo)

A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.

Than Shwe – Mailman

The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.

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Shwe is rumored to have colon cancer that can’t metastasize fast enough. (Government of Thailand photo)

As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.

Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder

No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.

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Obviously no longer a goat herder.

Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.

Stalin – Weatherman

Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.

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Also he was apparently a god-damned hipster 70 years before it was a thing.

The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.

 

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A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The future flyoff between the Cold War-era A-10 ground attack aircraft and the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter will be “very interesting,” a general said.


The A-10 Thunderbolt II is set to go up against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a series of weapons tests as early as next year under a stipulation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy and spending bill.

The legislation also prohibits retirement of the lumbering, low-flying, snub-nosed aircraft popularly known as the Warthog until the Air Force can prove the F-35’s ability to conduct close air support missions on the battlefield.

“It’ll be a very interesting test,” said Pleus, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program’s integration office for the service.

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F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. | Lockheed Martin photo

“The A-10 was built to deal with tanks in Europe,” he said. “A low, slow, big cannon on the front of it meant to destroy tanks and assist troops in contacts and do [close-air support]” a mission the aircraft has flown more recently in the Middle East against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Pleus added, “CAS is a mission, not an airplane.”

Related: Here’s how Boeing’s updated F/A-18 may compare to the F-35

The cannon the general referred to is the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger in the nose of the Warthog. The weapon can hold as many as 1,174 rounds and is configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute.

The F-35 also features a gatling gun, albeit a smaller and lighter one.

The GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F-35A version of the aircraft and hold 182 rounds. It’s slated to be externally mounted on the Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier version and hold 220 rounds.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“The A-10 is a great CAS platform in a no-threat environment,” Pleus said, adding it was never meant to be a fast, high-flying aircraft that could maneuver in a contested environment — like in current parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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US Air Force / WATM

The test between the A-10 and F-35 will be structured and certified by the Defense Department’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, Pleus said. “That plan is something they are still developing” for the comparison testing “to start undergoing in 2018,” he said.

Citing his F-16 experience, Pleus said he would bet the A-10 comes out “as the better CAS platform” in a no-threat environment against the F-35, which performs similarly to the Fighting Falcon. But “as you now start to built the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles within the target.”

In that case, the F-35 would be the only aircraft left flying — even against more current versions of fighters.

Pleus said the argument isn’t over whether the A-10 has and can still perform close air support missions. The decision for Air Force leadership and lawmakers going forward, however, is how to distribute the resources to platforms that can do the mission, he said.

“Where are you getting your bang for your buck?” he said. “A single-platform A-10 that only does CAS and can’t do anything else and it has to be in an uncontested environment is probably not a realistic place for us to be continuing funding…for the future.”

The general continued, “If I were to develop that plan you have to show that the close air support is not just in a no-threat environment, because CAS is not always in a no-threat environment.

Pleus said, “When we get to the actual testing I think that’s where you’re going to see the differences.”

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Meet another plane in the next generation of Eagles from Boeing

The F-15 Eagle has been around in one form or another since entering service with the United States Air Force in 1973. It has an excellent combat record of over 100 air-to-air kills with very few combat losses.


But at the same time, the world’s not been standing still. Russia has developed the Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-35 family of Flankers, and they are proving very deadly. China has the J-11/J-15/J-16 family of Flankers as well.

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An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. This plane is the basis for the F-15SE Silent Eagle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

Boeing, though, hasn’t thrown in the towel. The F-15SE, or F-15 Silent Eagle, is a stealthier version of the legendary Eagle. This is accomplished by putting the many weapons that the F-15E Strike Eagle can carry into conformal bays, thus eliminating their radar signatures.

With reports that the Air Force is planning to retire the F-15C/D Eagles, the air superiority mission could now fall almost entirely on the F-22 Raptors — and with the production line stopped at 187 of those planes, the Silent Eagle could help fill the gap. In any case, the F-15SE could be an option for folks who can’t afford — or don’t want to wait for — the F-35.

Take a look at this video from FlightGlobal on the F-15SE, an Eagle that could be around for a long time.

You can also see the Eagle 2040 video that should have been a Super Bowl commercial.

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ISIS militants are now using civilians as bait

The Pentagon says Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul are holding civilians in buildings by force and then deliberately attracting coalition strikes.


A Pentagon spokesman on March 30 said the U.S. military will soon release a video showing IS fighters herding people into a building, then firing from the structure to bait coalition forces.

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A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The comments come as the U.S. military responds to criticism from within Iraq and internationally over a separate incident in which as many as 240 civilians are believed to have been killed.

“What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields,” said Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the coalition. “Now it’s something much more sinister.”

He said militants are “smuggling civilians so we won’t see them” into buildings and then attempting to draw an attack.

He said he was working on declassifying a video showing militants conducting such an operation.

Human rights group Amnesty International, Pope Francis, and others have urged for better protection for civilians caught in the war, with calls intensifying after a separate March 17 explosion in the Mosul al-Jadida district, killing scores of people.

The U.S. military previously acknowledged that coalition planes probably had a role in the explosion and subsequent building collapse, but it said the ammunition used was insufficient to explain the amount of destruction observed.

Officials said they suspect the building may have been booby-trapped or that the damage may have been caused by the detonation of a truck bomb.

U.S.-backed forces are attempting to push IS fighters out of west Mosul after having liberated the less-populated eastern part of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Scrocca estimated that some 1,000 militants remain in west Mosul, their last stronghold in Iraq, down from 2,000 when the assault was launched on February 19.

They are facing about 100,000 Iraqi government forces, he added.

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