In his new book, “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf), Kael Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.
Among the details of military life that “The Mirror Test” highlights are military working dogs and their handlers. As these 17 photos illustrate, these loyal animals have served with valor and distinction alongside their human counterparts.
“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said May 9 that American forces in Afghanistan face “a determined enemy” but are dealing significant blows to the enemy.
Speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen alongside his Danish counterpart, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Mattis said both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the government, under President Ashraf Ghani, “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of the people.
“In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength and this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the emir of IS Khorasan — this is the IS group in Nangarhar…” Mattis said. “In our anti-IS campaign, we’re dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump has asked military advisers “to relook at the entire strategy” in Afghanistan.
News accounts say the prospective plan would give the Pentagon, not the White House, the final say on the number of troops in Afghanistan, while the U.S. military would have greater range in using airstrikes to target Taliban fighters and remove Obama-era policies limiting the movements of military advisers in the country.
Trump will reportedly make a decision on the Afghanistan policy prior to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.
U.S. helicopters airlifted soldiers to a central Yemeni province where they targeted an al Qaeda compound, clashing with suspected militants and killing at least seven of them early on May 23, according to the American military, Yemeni security officials, and tribal leaders.
The Central Command said the U.S. forces killed the militants using “a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes” to attack the compound. The Defense Department said the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen’s government.
According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in the province of Marib in the early morning hours. Tribal members said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.
According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province. The officials and the tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters. They also did not have any specifics on casualties.
The Marib raid is the second publicly-known U.S. ground deployment in Yemen in 2017 against al Qaeda militants. The United States has stepped up airstrikes as part of a sustained assault on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in areas of Yemen where it is most active, after a late January special operations raid that resulted in the death of aNavy SEAL.
Washington considers AQAP as one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.
The January raid also killed 25 civilians, including women and children, and sparked outrage in Yemen. The U.S. military said 14 militants from al Qaeda were killed in the assault and that U.S. service members captured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”
Over 75 U.S. airstrikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.
But al Qaeda has used the chaos of Yemen’s civil war following the 2015 launch of the Saudi-led campaign targeting the Shiite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, and other areas in the country, to expand its footprint and recruitment efforts.
The militant group has also effectively emerged as a de facto ally of the U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the battle against the Shiite rebels.
Nick Palmisciano commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery as the Founder and President of Ranger Up. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.
Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. Now nine years later, it’s a business that continues to grow.
WATM spoke in depth with Palmisciano about his business challenges, how he overcame them, his future plans, his heroes, and much more.
We Are The Mighty: When you refused a promotion and went all-in with RangerUp, it was a huge risk. Do you remember what you were you thinking at that moment?
Nick Palmisciano: I was scared, to be honest. I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, you know, because I just — I controlled my destiny, you know, and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate.
Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more, and I’m sure you realize that … but you know you feel alive because you kill what you eat, the company grows, you get a paycheck, the company grows, you get to continue paying employees. [If] the company doesn’t grow, it dies, and you fail. So it’s a lot more exciting and a lot more rewarding when you do well and hits a lot more than a normal job when you do poorly.
WATM: Do veterans have an advantage or disadvantage in starting their own businesses?
NP: We have both. So the statistics show that veterans do better than any other population in the country at starting their own businesses and maintaining their own businesses. I think that’s true for a couple of reasons: One, we have endured a lot, and we are used to a situation where at first we are not the best at something, [and] we have to work really hard at it and, over time we get a skill set. Those are incredibly helpful attributes. When you’ve actually done hard things several times, it makes the next hard thing easier to accomplish.
The other thing is that we genuinely like to work in teams and we are happy when other people succeed, but the military is built around [the idea that] you learn something, and then you achieve a level and then you teach other people how to achieve that level and your success is married to their success. That’s not true in the civilian world. People are a lot more self-centered — whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, they are focused on their own promotion, their own skill sets, their own growth, and they don’t think about the team as much as military people do.
So that’s the upside. The downside is that the military makes things very easy for us, and that’s probably counterintuitive because nobody looks back at their military experience and says “Man that was so easy” but they tell you “If you want to go to this next job, you go to this school. If you want to go to this next job, you need to do these things in the unit. You need to have these jobs.”
There’s a structure to the whole thing. There is no structure in entrepreneurship and when I see people [who] are trying to start business that are really sputtering, a lot of times they’re coming to me, they’re coming to other entrepreneurs and they’re saying that they’re looking for advice, but they’re really looking for me or others to do all of the work for them and they just want to knock down these easily set up targets. And that’s just not the way that entrepreneurship is. You have to go into nebulous situations and figure out a way through and there’s a lot of suffering in there and you might be great for two years and then something else comes in and changes the whole game, and you have to rethink everything that you’re doing.
So there’s good and bad. You know on the whole, I think you’re better off being a veteran, and the statistics show that, than not, but there are things that kind of bite us in the ass too.
WATM: How about in the corporate world?
NP: Um, again, it’s kind of — it’s a two-pronged answer — thinking that you are better than people, or that you are owed something, or that they all suck because they’re civilians, you are setting yourself up for failure. So if you go in with that approach, which a lot of people do, and then complain that no one wants to hire vets, you’re not going to do well, because frankly, nobody wants to be treated like sh-t. No one want to be looked down upon, so if you go in with a negative attitude, then people aren’t going to like you and you’re not going to get hired. If you go in with the same attitude that you had when you went into a new job in the military — “I don’t really know what I’m doing and I have to rely on the people around me to teach me everything I need to know, but be proactive in learning everything that you can,” — you’re going to do extremely well.
Every time I had a new corporate job, I spent most of my time for the first few weeks basically talking to everybody that was in the group — no different than somebody coming into a new unit [and] figuring out how the unit works what the SOP’s were — and then after that after I felt like I had a handle on it. Then I was going to best practices and other organizations, the internet, etc. to figure out how I could improve my job, the organization, and take it to the next level in any number of areas.
That’s the approach that you need to take to figure out what’s going on and then figure out how you can be most valuable and see what you can bring to the table, as opposed to “let me tell everybody here how things should really work, I was in the military.”
So just like anything else, going in humble with the intention of truly being helpful as opposed to trying to rise above other people is going to make you successful.
WATM: How do we get over that “I’m better than you” military mindset?
NP: I try to flip it around for people. You know, when people get out [of the military] and go to college and college students are making gross assumptions about them, you know about how having post-traumatic stress is going to result in them doing something insane, or about killing people or about this, that, or the other thing … all the stereotypes that you hear about college students.
How much does that infuriate them? How much does that make them want to have nothing to do with these people, does that make them feel like they’re a fish out of water in this organization?
Flip it around and treat somebody like that because they don’t have the same experiences that you had, and guess what? You’re the a–hole. You know, so stop being an a–hole.
You go in and you’re walking into their organization. You wouldn’t walk in from basic training, or for that matter, walk in off the street to basic training and [say] “alright check it out drill sergeant, let me tell you how it really is.” Because they’re gonna be like who the f–k do you think you are?
It’s no different. It’s no different walking into a company. You can’t walk in one day and tell everybody how it is or how it should be or, the way that it should work or that they’re all wrong, because you don’t know what you’re doing — no matter what experience you have — you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how that organization [operates], what they do on a daily basis, and you don’t know the constraints and you don’t know the personalities involved.
You know if you flip it around, it suddenly sounds ludicrous, right? It’s the same thing.
WATM: What do you think was your biggest challenge with RangerUp, and how did you get through it?
NP: [Sighs] There’s a new one every year, man. Honest to God. There’s a new one every year. You know, the most dramatic challenge I went through [was that] I went through leaving corporate America and literally a month and a half later I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, mutual funds and all that stuff, and I was down to $1,300.
And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve. You know, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s inventory management, whatever, because if you take a step back and you look at all of it, all the problems and all the challenges, it’s overwhelming.
So, you know, putting it in military terms, right, if you can sit back and say I want to conquer the country of Iraq, that’s an insane task that requires many people thinking and assessing and even then it’s challenging but when you break it down: The first thing I need to do is, I need to take this city, I need to take this block, I need to take this street, [and] it becomes manageable.
So sometimes, especially when everything is sh-tty, and when cash flow’s tight and when you don’t have enough inventory … when sales are down for the month and there’s a new predator or whatever it is. When things are very challenging, you’ve got to narrow them into a list, because otherwise it’s overwhelming.
You put one thing on the list at a time, you do it until it’s done, and you do it so that it’s high quality, and then you do the second thing on the list and when you knock things out like that and you go through the formula of A, B, C, you find yourself in a better position after several miserable weeks.
If you just try to solve it all at once, you get nothing done, you can’t sleep at night, and it doesn’t improve. And so, I went from being a dude that had a lot of money to a dude that had $1,300 to his name and had maxed out credit cards.
But by knocking out one thing at a time, the next month I had $1,350, and the next month I had $1,500, and you know, I’ve taken that approach with everything. So every time something goes wrong, you have to assess, what is it?
Well, this time I have too much inventory in styles that weren’t really selling, how did that happen? So you figure all that out, and what I know is that I need money right now to make a sale on this inventory that isn’t showing, even if I take a loss on it because I need to get cash into the system, then how do I figure out how to do that next time? What led me to this?
So you need to go through the steps and at some point, like right now we have a very fancy inventory management system, we use algorithms to determine that we built based on our analysis and how many of something we should order. But that didn’t happen in a day because we f–ked up, and then we fixed it, and then we f–ked up again and then we fixed it, and as long as you don’t make the same mistakes, over time you start building a business that is very efficient and very sophisticated.
But at the beginning it’s like “hey, how many of these should we order? I don’t know, 100? 150?” And now it’s… I don’t want people rounding because we found two years ago that by rounding up to the nearest 12 shirts, we added $80,000 of inventory, 3 or 4 shirts at a time, and that money needs to be working, not sitting on the shelves.
You see what I’m saying? It all kind of builds.
WATM: I’ll follow up by asking, specifically, because you brought up the thing with $1300, how did you break that up, what was your priority there? It’s daunting, you’re looking at your account and seeing that you only have $1300, and you’ve gotta make money. What were the manageable tasks that you found got you to $1350 in the next month?
NP: The first thing was figuring out where the money was going, [and] where are we spending. One of the the big things back then was we really valued things. We were a smaller company, doing what the other people were doing, and we really valued things like athlete sponsorship and trade shows, and you know all the things that all the other companies are doing that everybody tells you are critical.
[We] just kind of walked through that and asked, is this critical? What does it really cost to do a trade show? What does it really cost to have an athlete? And then you figure out what the value of having these things really is. We almost don’t do any trade shows anymore because the average trade show ended up costing around $27,000 when all is said and done, and you just don’t get that kind of return. It’s just a thing that somebody created that people do, and everyone goes, “oh you’ve gotta be involved in this or else you’re not really in the industry.”
Well that’s not true at all, but that’s what everybody says. And you know, we do sponsor athletes, but we only sponsor our kind of athlete, and we figured out what that meant.
Inventory. It was a big issue back then and I was trying to figure out why sales weren’t growing — why we were very profitable, but we had no cash on hand. So it was a simple Excel spreadsheet where I rank-ordered all of the styles by sales and then to the right I put their inventory value and then I realized that I was getting 80 percent of our sales on about 20 percent of our inventory, and the other 80 percent of our inventory accounted for 20 percent of our sales.
It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day, and you think about things like if I only print this smaller number, it’s gonna cost a dollar something more per shirt and that’s gonna be a ton of money — and it is a ton of money — and it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars in useless inventory, and there’s no science to that.
It’s hard to balance what’s appropriate. Is it profitability or is it cash flow? You’ve gotta strike a balance, like you’ve gotta hold some inventory or you can’t sell but if you have too much inventory you have nothing available for investment.
So we did a fire sale on that 80 percent of the inventory and much of it we took a loss or did breakeven on, and then all of a sudden we had some cash and we invested that cash into styles that sold, and we were able to then create more styles and started developing styles more routinely.
All of these things were things I was working on over several months and the low point just happened to be at that $1,300 and so I had already been working to solve the problem. And it finally started clicking that following month, like all of a sudden these new styles were coming in, we were selling more, we had a little more cash on hand. I was able to pay myself a little more, and it wasn’t a ton more — like another $100 or $150 a month — but that little amount made all the difference. So you kind of chip away at these small things and they add up to be big things very quickly.
WATM: What are the tools you use on a daily basis to be more productive and get things done?
NP: I’m not a really fancy guy even though I have an appreciation for a lot of these crazy apps out there but really at the end of the day there are three tools that I use all the time.
Excel is the lifeblood of everything I do and I am an Excel ninja. People say that they are an Excel ninja because they can do a couple of basic formulas but there is nothing I cannot do in Excel. Spreadsheets are very complicated you know, drop down menus and like it’s just … [being] able to very quickly look at data and convert that into a few possible directions that you should go and that you should look at, is invaluable. If you’re gonna start your own business and you’re one of those people that’s like “Oh I’m not good at that, or I really don’t know that much about Excel,” take courses, start figuring out how to do analysis, [because] it’s really important.
The second thing is Quickbooks; I don’t care if you’re a brand new business and you only have $400 in sales, start using Quickbooks, start figuring out how all the different sheets work and fit together and constantly be looking at your business to see what’s going on. If you don’t know, then your success is just dumb luck.
You have to know what’s going on in the company. And then the last thing is just that I use the notepad on my iPhone and Tom [Amenta, COO of RangerUp] has Evernote or whatever the hell it’s called, and a few other fancy things but I just use the notepad every day and write down what I have to do on this day, and if I don’t get these things done then I have failed.
Or, at the very least I take it and I move it on to the notes for the next day. But every single day I am trying to knock out certain things. So those are the three very simple tools that I use constantly. You open up my computer and there’s always six or seven Excel sheets open and I get a daily Quickbooks report with a list of various things that are important to me along with a scorecard that the various managers inside the business provide me on a weekly basis and I hold myself accountable with my phone which is always with me.
WATM: I’d be really fascinated to learn what your creative process is like. You guys are churning out videos, blog posts, social media, memes, all kinds of stuff. How do you decide what’s good, who’s coming up with this stuff? Can you take me through what that’s like?
NP: We have a really good creative team and that’s me, Tom Amenta, Jack Mandaville, Patrick Thomas Baker, and all of our designers. It’s just a really good group of people, but it also extends to anybody [who] wants to be involved.
So sometimes we have, I don’t know, three organized meetings about various topics in terms of creativity every week so one is the design process, one is videos, and one might just be general ideas about projects you take on.
But then also there are people like Jack, Pat and I that are literally always thinking about this kind of stuff. Like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and jot down some stupid video idea or an article I want to write or whatever, and it hits me and I put it down.
And you know, our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business. How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends? If we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.
NP: Range 15 is a post-apocalyptic comedy. Think of it as “The Hangover” after the apocalypse with veterans leading the charge to save the world. And in terms of the plot that’s kind of what I can give up right now.
The main character in this movie is going to be Mat Best. He’s got the high cheek bones and the steely blue eyes so we thought it was a no-brainer, and then the rest of the Ranger Up and Article 15 crew who I’m with, Dakota Meyer, Leroy Petry, Tim Kennedy and we just got a really interesting call that I did not expect from another well-known military celebrity that is interested in being involved.
And he has already had a very popular movie done about him, but he has never done a comedy before, and I think we’re going to be adding his seal to the mix here. But the concept here is that veterans are always portrayed in a certain way in movies, even positive movies. It’s always about sacrifice and suffering and they always end up worse off from their experiences. And that’s really just not the case. I mean it’s the case with some people, sure, but on the whole veterans are the most industrious, fun, can-do people that I’ve ever met and that I think most people will ever meet and so we just wanted to have fun with it.
So for example, we’ve got two Medal of Honor recipients in this thing and they’re poking fun at each other and the service. And they’re in a movie that could be described as one of the most ridiculous movies that you’re ever gonna see anywhere, and they’re doing it because they should be able to do it. Nobody should be able to tell these guys, “you can only do this type of film” or this kind of documentary.
No, because they want to do the same kind of thing that we want to do. They want to amuse our friends, they want to show them that you can do anything. I mean for all, for any negative threads that are on us doing this silly movie, at the end of the day, in 24 hours we’ve raised almost $200,000 [Editor’s note: Now it’s almost $500,000] to do a movie for our community.
I’ll be honest, the folks at IndieGoGo spoke to a mutual friend and had told them that we were going to launch and they kind of ignored it. And the president of IndieGoGo called and his question to them was “Who the f–k are you guys?” Because he didn’t understand, he did not understand how we were doing it, and it’s because people don’t understand the community and understand what these kinds of things mean to the community.
It’s gonna be a good movie. It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. We don’t care if someone’s offended by it. We don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate, and if this isn’t gonna do well in the Asian market. We don’t care about any of that stuff.
Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do. And it basically breaks all the rules. Our IndieGoGo campaign wasn’t set up the way IndieGoGo says you should set up a campaign, our marketing strategy isn’t what they say you’re supposed to employ, we’re not relying on Hollywood interviews, we’re not relying on press and we’re not relying on any of this stuff and we’re doing it hardcore, direct and social.
And we’re on pace right now to be one of the largest funded movies ever on IndieGoGo, and I think that speaks less about us and more about the community.
WATM: What about the decline of the military comedy in a post 9/11 environment? Why has that happened and were you actively trying to combat that?
NP: You should be able to have fun with it. And we saw the same kind of thing with some people with “Enlisted.”
Military veterans are not saints. And I don’t mean that in like we aren’t good people, but you do not need to bow down to the altar of the veteran. We’re regular people, and we should be able to make fun of ourselves. And if you think that veterans can’t because they have to live up to some standard or stereotype, that’s your problem, not ours.
I think most veterans have a lot of fun, are funny people, enjoy life and don’t want to be stuck with this view that they are droids that are serious and boring people. I think it’s unfair and we want to shatter that.
WATM: It seems counterintuitive to work with Article 15 Clothing, which outsiders would view as a competitor. How do you explain that relationship? It seems antithetical to the norms of business to be friends with companies creating such similar products.
NP: With Article 15, we have a very similar ethos. Those guys genuinely care about the veteran community; it’s not just window dressing. So they’re genuine guys and I like them personally, but the second part of it is that I don’t think it’s a zero sum game. I don’t wish failure on anybody.
We grow, they grow. Grunt Style [another military apparel company] grows and it’s not a bad thing [because] these people are employing veterans and doing good things. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t had a single year where we haven’t had triple or double digit growth, so I’ve got no reason to complain.
When you sit around and look at competitors and worry about what they’re doing, and worry about other people, you are stagnant, you’re not improving, you’re not creating new products. You’re just worrying and you’re trying to go backwards. When you [should] look forward you grow.
That’s what we do, so I worked with Article 15, and we became friends, I gave them some advice here and there, and as a result of that mutual trust we kind of hung out and came up with the concept of doing this together and it’s been a really good partnership.
You can ask them the same questions and I’m relentless — that’s my personality — so from the moment that we decided to do this, I’m the guy who is annoying the sh-t out of everybody like “hey, we gotta do this, here’s our timetable, hey, we’ve got to get the lawyers to do this, we’ve gotta fill out this form and here’s the script notes. I need this and I need that.”
And Jarred [Taylor] is a promotional genius, Mat is a very creative dude, he’s hilarious, Jack [Mandaville] is hilarious, and everyone is kind of bringing something to the table. Individually I’m not gonna say, “could Article 15 have not done this without us?” No, I would never say that. They’re motivated guys, and they could have done it, same with us, like we could have done the same thing.
But together, we’re unstoppable. And I truly feel that way. Working together on this, we’re unstoppable. We’re putting up numbers that are shocking on IndieGoGo because the general population has no f–king idea who any of us are. But we’re still putting up numbers that are a quarter of what Broken Lizard just did with “Super Troopers” and that’s a movie that probably 20 percent of America has seen and loves, because we work great together, and have been able to kind of check egos and just work really hard.
So, for me it’s just been a win for everybody and it’s been an awesome experience.
WATM: You were an Army officer, so I’m curious as to what terrifies you more: leading a unit of soldiers, or leading your own company? Or is it similar?
NP: It’s really different. And I also think it’s different because as you get older you think about things differently too. Like to think if I was this age, and if I were to take a platoon now, I would have been a lot more afraid than I was then, because when you’re 21 or 22 and just out of Ranger School, you feel like you’re unstoppable and you’re surrounded by guys who feel like they’re unstoppable.
Deploying was definitely nerve wracking because, a lot of people say this, but I was one of the guys that really loved everybody in my platoon even if they were a pain in the ass, and I really looked at them as my family. And it was terrifying to think of losing somebody. But I was fortunate that I wasn’t in a position where that happened. So, I was a young guy and felt invincible and never was faced with some of the bad things that happened to other people.
The stress is different though. The stress of a business is constant, and it’s not something where there is a clear, there’s no clear enemy right? It’s just this constant stress. Do we have the right inventory? Do we have the right ideas? Do we have the right advertising strategy? Oh crap, this thing went wrong. We need to fix this. The shirts came in wrong, the movie title headline is off because of X,Y, and Z, the lawyers didn’t get us the paperwork in time.
So now, my brain works 24/7, and it’s never over. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, I’ve basically had this constant stress in the back of my head, whereas the military, the stress has much higher peaks but shorter duration.
You get back from deployment and that stress drops significantly, then you deploy and the stress peaks. Within an entrepreneurial endeavor, the stress never goes away. It’s just always there. There’s always something you could be doing. That was a convoluted answer, but in the worst situation, [there’s] no question about it that the military is more stressful. On a day to day basis it’s more stressful to be an entrepreneur.
WATM: Living or dead, who are your top 3 heroes?
NP: George Washington is the best president we will ever have. I’ve read just about everything written on the man and people have no idea how much that dude did for the country and for our way of life.
Cheesy I know, but my father came over from Italy when he was eight years old, volunteered for Vietnam, served for six years, got out and used the GI Bill to be the first person to go to college in our family on either side, graduated valedictorian, and sacrificed significantly so that my mom and my brother and I grew up thinking anything was possible, and essentially made it so that we did make anything possible that we wanted to do.
And then third, gosh, you know the third one is a tough one, I’m not really a big hero worship kind of guy but I’m gonna go with Captain America. I’m serious. I’m going with Captain America because no matter how bad it gets, he sticks to doing what the right thing is and he never allows his principles to be shaken.
WATM: You want to start a new business instead of RU. What is it?
NP: That’s a tough one for me to answer because I have so many offers on the table right now. If I wanted to do something completely different I would do something that involved absolutely zero inventory.
So we’re kind of doing something that’s been a dream of mine for a long time, and that’s to get into the movie business. I mean, we might get into doing this movie and realize that we all hate movies. You know I enjoy doing advertising work, I could also see myself at some point disengaging from business and spending some time doing some nonprofit work.
It’s tough for me, because literally every day someone is trying to buy us, get us involved in a new business or hire me or Tom or somebody away from here. So I almost can’t even answer that.
At the end of the day, I want to work with really good people because the business almost doesn’t matter. I don’t even really like T-shirts. I tell people that all the time. But I really like my customers. And that’s what keeps me in the game with RangerUp.
If I had the opportunity to take over a $200 million business, but the focus was on football players or something, I don’t think my heart would be in it and I don’t think that I would be as good at it. Working with good people, and customers that I believe in, that’s kind of what motivates me. I need to care about what I’m doing.
I was in a position in corporate America where I was making a lot of money, I was on pace to make a bunch more money, and that taught me that I really don’t care about money. I mean obviously, I need to eat and I need to take care of my family, but I don’t need to be Kanye or Mayweather blowing 100K at a strip club. That’s not gonna make me happy. So whatever I do, the work has to be worthwhile.
WATM: What’s the #1 business book you find yourself recommending to people?
NP: I don’t really believe in business books. They’re just cheesy, they’re narcissistic, they’re people telling you how great they are, for the most part.
I would tell you that Ryan Holiday wrote a really cool book called The Obstacle Is The Way. It’s not really a business book but it is a great read and it’s founded on the principles of stoicism. And if you want to go back even further, read Marcus Aurelius. One of the great things that I learned from Ryan, and this is just from personal interaction with him, is that if you want to know something about a topic, any topic, walk into the bookstore and find the oldest book on that topic that’s still in print, because if it’s still in print, it’s because it’s a good book.
If it’s a new thing that someone famous just wrote, it’s probably a piece of sh-t, and I’ve found that to be true. And I’ve started reading older and older books, and the classics, and philosophy, because I find that to be a lot more valuable than reading about some dude that just launched an app and is 25 and trying to tell people how to run their life and run their business.
Sometimes people are really good, sometimes people are really lucky, [and] sometimes people are really good and can’t tell a story. Read old books.
WATM: What about a military-related book?
NP: That’s tough. I really like Gates of Fire, I really like Starship Troopers, the book, not the movie although the movie’s fun. The Long Grey Line, that’s a great book. Black Hawk Down. There [are] so many great books out there it’s hard to pick just one. Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon, that’s a new one. I really enjoyed that book and Sean is a great guy. That probably makes that book even better for me, but to say that I have a favorite is pretty challenging.
WATM: Last thing: Where do people go to learn more about you? Besides RangerUp.com, do you have a personal website, Twitter account, Instagram, or smoke signal that you would recommend? Video you would want people to watch?
NP:@Ranger_Up is my Twitter, and that’s me tweeting 90 percent of the time. I don’t have a personal account yet but I’ve been getting kicked in the ass to start one so that’s coming soon [laughs].
Watch the “How to Get a Job” series. That’s what I care about. Just figuring out how to get people set up for success, so if the question is what am I about, that’s gonna be the best video for that.
The Taliban captured a key district center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday while in the country’s north, an officer turned his rifle on sleeping colleagues, killing nine policemen, officials said.
The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.
The British who took over southern Helmand in 2006 were headquartered at Camp Sebastian, which at its peak was the center for 137 bases in Helmand. Most of Britain’s more than 400 military deaths occurred in Helmand province — in Sangin alone, Britain lost 104 soldiers.
Since the withdrawal of foreign NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and with only a smaller, U.S.-led advise and training mission left behind, Sangin has been seen as a major tests of whether Afghan security forces can hold off advancing Taliban fighters.
The district’s police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.
Speaking to The Associated Press over the phone from several kilometers (miles) away from the district center, Rasoul said the district headquarters had been poorly protected and that at the time of the Taliban siege, only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty.
Afghan security forces were now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many forces would be involved.
“We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district,” Rasoul said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Afghan military would seek the help of international coalition forces in the area.
NATO spokesman William Salvin said in a statement that Afghan troops remained in Sangin district but had relocated several kilometers (miles) outside the district center. He said the relocation was necessitated because of the extensive damage to the district center by the Taliban.
In Kabul, a lawmaker from Sangin, Mohammad Hashim Alokzai, urged the military to move quickly to retake the district, saying its fall could have devastating consequences for Helmand, where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has in the past months also come under constant and heavy attack by the Taliban.
“The seizure of Sangin is a major tactical triumph for the Taliban,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Thursday. The insurgent group “has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan nearly 16 years after it was removed from power.”
Sangin is also one of the biggest opium markets in Afghanistan, which saw over 4,800 metric tons produced countrywide in 2016 — more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Efforts at poppy eradication in Afghanistan have been severely restricted because of the insecurity in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where the bulk of the crop is grown.
Opium, which is used to make heroin, is a major source of income for the insurgents and the Taliban levy taxes on opium that moves through its territory.
“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Helmand — it’s strategically located near Pakistan, it’s a bastion of the opium trade,” said Kugelman. “Perhaps the biggest reason why the British focused so much on Sangin is that they had invested so much over the years in trying to stabilize the place — and had suffered many combat deaths in the process.”
In northern Kunduz province, police spokesman Mafuz Akbari said the insider attack on Thursday that claimed the lives on nine policemen took place at a security post and that the assailant escaped under the cover of darkness.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks. In such incidents, attackers who turn their rifles and kill colleagues usually end up stealing their weapons and fleeing the scene to join insurgents.
Akbari said the assailant had gone over to the Taliban. He also claimed that the attacker and the Taliban gathered the bodies of the dead policemen and set them on fire.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied that a policeman had been involved or that the Taliban had burned the bodies of the policemen.
The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. The region is remote and not accessible to reporters.
Afghan forces have come under intensified pressure by insurgents in both Helmand and Kunduz.
On Aug. 2 1990, Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, gaining control of 20% of the world’s oil reserves and a significant portion of the Persian Gulf coastline.
In response, the UN Security Council imposed a global ban on trade with Iraq and on Aug. 9, the United States launched Operation Desert Shield to defend Saudi Arabia.
By January, Hussein’s occupying army was 300,000 strong, prompting the UN Security Council to authorize force against Iraq if it refused to withdraw.
On Jan. 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began and would become one of the most one-sided conflicts in history as U.S. and coalition forces rapidly overwhelmed the Iraqi army and liberated Kuwait within weeks.
Nearly 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians died or were wounded as a result of the Persian Gulf War, with fewer than 800 American and allied casualties.
In the post-9/11 world, the events leading up to and after the conflict came to lasting importance. Today, U.S. troops have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone from Iraq. The country has become America’s enduring sidepiece. Then Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch gave way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and with it Bayonet Lightning, Red Dawn, and countless others who themselves gave way to Operation Inherent Resolve. There are troops in Iraq today who weren’t yet born when Saddam first captured the Kuwaiti oil fields, and Saddam himself didn’t live to see this day.
The invasion of Kuwait probably seemed like a quick victory, one unlikely to have lasting effects in the annals of history, but little did we know it was just setting the stage for the region’s next 30 years.
Featured Image: Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)
The U.S. Army issued a blistering denial late Friday that the recent Ranger school course was “fixed” to allow women to pass and earn the coveted Ranger tab.
In a statement, Brig. Gen. Malcom B. Frost, the Army’s chief of public affairs, said that a People Magazine article charging that Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were given special treatment was “flat-out wrong” and “pure fiction.”
The article by Susan Katz Keating was headlined: “Was It Fixed? Army General Told Subordinates: ‘A Woman Will Graduate Ranger School,’ Sources Say.”
The magazine’s report went on to cite the repercussions of the unnamed general’s influence on subordinates at Fort Benning, Ga., involved in conducting the first Ranger school course open to women that began earlier this year.
‘”It had a ripple effect'” at Fort Benning, where Ranger School is based, says a source with knowledge of events at the sprawling Georgia Army post,” the magazine article said.
“Even though this was supposed to be just an assessment, everyone knew. The results were planned in advance,” the article quoted the source as saying.
In his statement for the Army, Frost ran through a list of allegations in the article that he said were untrue.
“The latest attack on the integrity of the United States Army by People magazine’s Susan Keating is more than inaccurate, it is pure fiction,” Frost said. “She claimed that women were allowed to repeat a Ranger training class until they passed, while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard. That is false.”
Traditionally, only 25 percent make it through Ranger School without having to recycle, or repeat, one or more phases, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
“She charged that women regularly practiced on Ranger School’s land navigation course while men saw it for the first time when they went to the school. Again, false.”
“She accused an Army general of calling female candidates together to tell them they could not quit the course. Yet again, false.”
In Twitter responses, Keating defended her article and said that “Both Big Army and Benning refused repeated requests to speak to Gen. Miller (Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.)”
“More importantly, they refused my requests to speak to Ranger Instructors, cadre, and medics alone and without fear of retribution,” Keating said.
Last week, Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Ranger qualified veteran of Iraq, requested documentation from Army Secretary John McHugh on whether the two women who passed Ranger school “got special treatment and played by different rules.”
Sue Fulton, one of the first women to graduate from West Point, quickly filed a Freedom of Information request on behalf of a group of women West Point graduates asking to view Russell’s own Ranger school records.
The debate on the Ranger school standards came as the services were to report to the Pentagon by Sept. 30 on whether they would seek “exceptions” for certain billets to the 2013 directive issued by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open up all Military Occupational Specialties to women who can qualify.
In an op-ed Saturday for the Washington Post under the headline: “Combat-Ready Is Not About Gender,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that MOSs should be open to anyone who can meet the standards, regardless of gender.
He questioned the methodology of Marine Corps studies and tests showing that women were more prone to be injured, and that mixed units failed to perform as well as all-male units.
“Through the extensive work the Corps has done, it is clear that there are justifications for excluding someone who does not meet the standards for a position,” Mabus said. “There are none that justify excluding someone who meets all of the standards because that person is a woman,” he said.
Early Tuesday morning, Obama announced a four-part plan to ensure the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a goal that has eluded the president since he promised to shutter the facility during his 2008 campaign.
The plan would bring some of the 91 remaining detainees to maximum security prisons in the United States, while others would be transferred to foreigns countries. Although Obama called on Congress to lift a ban barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., the White House has also left open the possibility of unilateral action should Republican lawmakers refuse to cooperate.
“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo,” Obama said to the nation from the Roosevelt Room. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”
With history in mind, it seems significant that the speech was given on this day, in this venue. Exactly 113 years ago, following the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt signed an agreement with Cuba to lease parts of Guantanamo Bay to the United States for use as a naval station.
This agreement was actually a follow-up to the Platt Amendment, a 1901 resolution that dictated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops from Cuba, along with an eighth condition stipulating that Cuba include these terms in their new constitution. The amendment gave the United States full control over a 45 square-mile portion of Guantanamo Bay, in order to “enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba.” The deal was officiated on behalf of the Cubans by Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen who would become the first president of Cuba.
A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia
Three decades later, the 1934 Cuban–American Treaty of Relations repealed most provisions of the Platt Amendment as part of FDR’s “good neighbor policy.” The effort, ostensibly intended to give the Cuban government greater sovereignty, made the lease on Guantanamo permanent unless the United States abandoned the base or both countries agreed to terminate the agreement. The new treaty also updated the yearly lease payment from $2000 in U.S. gold coins to $4035 in U.S. dollars. This amount has remained unchanged in the 82 years since.
Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Castro government has cashed only one of these checks (this one supposedly by accident), keeping the rest untouched as a means of protest against what they consider an “illegal” occupation. According to the U.S., cashing even one check renders the treaty valid.
The use of Guantanamo as a prison began in 1991, following the overthrow of Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the CIA secretly leant support to death squads killing Aristide’s supporters, the White House announced that it would be using Guantanamo as a “tent shelter” for those fleeing violence in Haiti. Of the 30,000 refugees interned at Guantanamo, those who presented discipline problems were held on a site that would later become Camp Xray, also known as the Guantanamo detention camp.
Following Bush Sr.’s disputed decision to send the exiles back to war-torn Haiti, the Supreme Court ruled that the Haitians were not entitled to U.S. rights because Guantanamo Bay fell under the sovereignty of Cuba. Interestingly, this rationale for the United States not technically having sovereignty over the land would come up again, twelve years later, as George W. Bush’s administration argued that Guantanamo prisoners should not be constitutionally entitled to habeas review.
This is all to say that, even before it became an international symbol for the War on Terror, the policies leading to and enforcing the U.S. ownership of Guantanamo Bay have been extremely controversial. As renewed attention is focused on the use of Guantanamo as a terrorist detention center, it’s well worth considering how this small Cuban harbor became a U.S.-run prison in the first place.
So check out these awesome (and maybe even surprising) movie moments that make us want to rewind over and over:
1. The sniper duel (Saving Private Ryan)
Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed war epic.
After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, Spielberg successfully captured the moment Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.
A perfect shot. (Image via Giphy)We could have used every movie clip this film has to offer (it’s that good), but that wouldn’t be fair.
2. The nose breaker (Dead Presidents)
This 1996 drama doesn’t necessarily fit under the war genre category, but the main character Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) goes through a few tours in Vietnam with the Recon Marines, and we got to see his journey.
Bam! (Image via Giphy)
3. Meet Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)
This opening scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film left audiences afraid to sign up for the Marines Corps. But iconic character introduction of Gunny Hartman had many pressing the rewind button (or the back chapter button) to rewatch the intense and perfectly executed scene over and over again.
(FrostForUs, YouTube)Damn, the first act was totally badass.
4. “You can’t handle the truth” (A Few Good Men)
Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.
In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,” Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climactic third act to discover the truth of who ordered the “code red.”
The 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm when it showcased Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality.
In Gunny’s own words, “Be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters.”
You tell them, Gunny. (images via Giphy)That is all.
8. The Bear Jew
Quentin Tarantino helped these war-hungry Jews score a little payback against their Nazi counter parts. No one saw this mighty swing coming, but once we witnessed its crushing strength — it was freaking awesome!
(Movieclips, YouTube)What war movie moments did you rewatch? Comment below.
On May 24, 1941, the United Kingdom’s flagship, the HMS Hood, was sunk by Germany’s most powerful warship during the Battle of Denmark Strait.
When the HMS Hood was christened in 1920, she was one of the largest and most powerful warships in the world. Two decades later, she was sunk to the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker during the second World War.
From the outset of World War II, ships like the Hood were charged with hunting German ships that hunted British convoys. These convoys were essential to delivering the supplies and materials to keep the United Kingdom in the fight, so they were valuable targets for the Germans.
When a reconnaissance plane spotted the 50,000-ton Bismarck — a powerhouse of the German Navy — steaming towards a convoy, the Hood was sent to intercept, along with several other British ships.
After a brief exchange of gunfire, the Hood took a hit from a 380-mm shell in her main magazine, exploded, and sank. Only three crewmen survived the maritime disaster.
The British vowed to hunt down and sink the Bismarck, no matter the cost. The Bismarck’s last battle took place in the Atlantic on May 26-27,1941, after several phases of action that included air strikes from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal, shadowing and harassment of Bismarck by British destroyers, an attack by the British battleships King George V and Rodney, and finally 100 minutes of fighting.
In the end, Bismarck was sunk from damage and deliberate scuttling. Her crew of 111 survivors returned to the United Kingdom, prisoners of a long war.
Featured Image: German battleship Bismarck fires on British battleship HMS Prince of Wales in the Denmark Strait, May 24, 1941.
42-year-old Isao Machii is a Japanese Iaidoka, master of Iaido. Iaido is martial art focused on controlled movements in drawing a sword, striking an opponent, cleaning the blood from the blade, and then re-sheathing the sword. Iaido started during the Japanese feudal system and is the foundation of modern Japanese swordsmanship.
Machii holds Guinness World Records for the most martial arts sword cuts to one mat (suegiri), the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts, the most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes, and the fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword.
“This is about processing it at an entirely different sensory level because he is not visually processing it,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was on hand for the BB pellet event. “This is a different level of anticipatory processing. Something so procedural, something so fluid for him.” Machii agreed, saying he doesn’t use his eyes, but can instantly visualize the trajectory of the object in his mind.
He is now headmaster of his own samurai school. See more of his swordsmanship, and enjoy the reactions of people watching him:
Effective operations are the center of gravity to successful troop missions. If things go wrong, having the proper means to signal potential EVAC might define the fine line between death and survival. At times, contingency should be a priority for troop survival, and signaling becomes a necessity.
Chem lights have long been used as a signaling device, mainly because typical alternatives like cellphones breach military protocol. As a critical player in tactical military use, chem lights guarantee no heat, open flames, or sparks before and after service. What’s more is that the sticks are waterproof, have a longer shelf life and can be used with different distinctions.
There is a significant disparity between chem lights and glow sticks. Aside from being more powerful than a battery-powered flashlight, they outlast solar-powered lamps. Perhaps the top identifying factor (once you turn it on): you can’t extinguish the light unless you hide it.
At a glance, chem lights are powered by chemical reactions that emit light not caused by heating. Chem lights come with bespoke illumination for general and military applications with red, white, blue and yellow colors.
Aside from offering value to preppers, chem lights are used to mark perimeters, protection, hazard warnings, helicopter landing zones, marking land mines removal, safety markings and naval indications of “man overboard.” There are different colors, each carrying its usage distinction. Here, we explain how troops use chem lights for different battlefield illumination needs.
Red and Orange
Red glows are often less conspicuous when it comes to position identification. Twelve hour illumination capabilities by red chem lights are ideal if you want to conceal yourself from human targets. Although it’s not ideal to scare off animal predators, red is perfect for troops who want to hide and maintain their natural night vision. At the same time, red chem lights are not suitable for reading topographical maps as the intense light will probably wash them away.
Orange is a high-intensity illumination that lasts approximately five minutes. Despite its close resemblance to the red color, one noticeable thing about orange lights is high intensity along with eye-dimming brightness. They are used for emergencies such as trip flares and helicopter signaling requiring high-intensity but short illumination.
Since orange chem lights are intended to provide a short target range, they fade off slowly after five minutes but take additional time to die completely.
Blue and Green
Green chem lights last up to 12 hours and can be seen up to a mile away. As an indicator for troops to “go,” green gives more visible light and is ideal for interpreting topographical maps. While it may not be suitable for roadside emergencies, green will generally last longer than all color choices.
Blue chem lights, on the other hand, are not suitable for map reading. Their illumination can be seen over a mile away and last between 8 – 12 hours. Similar to green chem lights, blue is not ideal for roadway emergencies.
Yellow Chem Lights
When troops want to illuminate an area without autonomy, yellow becomes an ideal option. Generally, yellow signifies “caution” and can last up to 12 hours. Given that civilians can use yellow for roadway emergencies, military helicopters use yellow to identify markings within landing pads. Perhaps the top reason yellow is utilized explicitly for landing is because this chem light provides sufficient illumination within the dedicated area.
White Chem Lights
Military-grade white chem lights provide light outputs for up to eight hours in areas when electric power isn’t an option. White provides intense light and is perfect when troops want to illuminate colossal spaces. However, white lights have a shorter duration and can last only up to eight hours, and not 12 hours as most chem lights.
Feature photo: U.S. Army Photo by Spc. David Sharp