U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. SEALs conduct these evolutions to hone their various maritime operations skills. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson
A veteran in Congress is calling on the secretary of defense to examine the current Navy SEAL combat training program, saying it’s less effective than a previous method and not conducive to SEAL operations.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, former Marine officer and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent an April 5 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter requesting that Carter provide “clarity” on Naval Special Warfare’s 2011 move to replace its Close Quarters Defense institutionalized training system with Mixed Martial Arts.
“I have concerns with the process for considering and awarding the contracts that have led to the removal of CQD from SEAL training,” Hunter wrote. “NSW operators and leadership have consistently determined CQD to be the most operationally effective training to prepare SEALs for combat, evidenced by more than 11,000 positive critiques and numerous complimentary reports.”
Hunter is raising the issue as the Senate prepares to consider the nomination of Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski to be commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees all Navy SEAL teams.
Szymanski, currently the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would replace current NSW commander Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was denied a second star last month amid complaints that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation.
An official with Hunter’s office indicated the congressman had concerns about Szymanski’s fitness for the new post.
“There have been reports that Szymanski is a central player in the selection of MMA over CQD,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told Military.com. “And it’s important before any promotion proceeds that there’s clarity on that role and assurances that it was all above board.”
The letter also notes that CQD costs just $345 per SEAL compared to $2,900 for MMA training. It also refers to a 2015 Defense Department Inspector General review of NSW contracts that found about 25 percent of contracts inspected were not awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations. While the MMA contract in question was not considered, Hunter suggested it too could contain problems.
“It is my firm belief that contracting decisions involving the transition from CQD to MMA must be thoroughly reviewed to include any personal interests and relationships that could have created conflicts of interest in the selection process,” Hunter wrote. “A review should also include all instances of open competition between CQD and alternative systems, with specific focus on NSW solicitations in 2003 and 2009. I also ask that you provide me with the full results of these competitions and any reports and documentation that were generated as a result.”
Kasper said Hunter planned to talk with members of the Senate about holding Szymanski’s nomination until the matter raised in his letter could be resolved.
WATM recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tim Neff, Vice President/Director of Museum & Education at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh to talk about the mission of the museum, what visitors can expect and how COVID has changed the museum’s offerings.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted May 11, 2021. Readers interested in visiting should check the museum website for COVID-19 related policies, as they may have changed since then.
WATM: What made you decide to become a steward of our nation’s heritage?
Right from the beginning, my family has always been interested in history, especially our family’s history. Our family has been in American history for a very long time. Our family genealogy was a big part of me growing up. I think that got me started. I think, like a lot of people, I had an impactful high school teacher, who brought history to life, who made it interesting, really got it away from dates and names and made it more about stories and inspired me to move into a career of history.
Specifically, I had a second class about military history with a different teacher. [Laughs] Maybe the second teacher wasn’t as good as the first one, it was a great combination. I really appreciated that teacher’s delivery and the content of the military history class. You kind of put that together, when I went off to school my goal was to be a high school history teacher. That’s what I wanted to do. Different circumstances pushed me in another direction after college graduation and I ended up working in a history museum for my career. I’m very happy with how it all worked out, that’s for sure.
WATM: The Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust is currently open by appointment only, what can attendees expect on their tour?
Our tour right now is a 90-minute experience. Our museum essentially covers the veteran experience from the Civil War to present day. So, our visitors are led through the museum, almost in a timeline. It starts with our Civil War collection, which is the primary reason our museum was built — it is a Civil War Memorial — and our story begins. Since then, other wars have occurred. Our museum, building and memorial have adapted and changed.
When visitors come, they start with the Civil War and then they move through the Spanish-American War, World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and even a little bit on Iraq and Afghanistan and current times. It truly is a comprehensive look at American veterans and their service to our country. Everything we have in our museum has been donated by local men and women who served. When you look at our museum, we have real artifacts donated by local veterans that we use to tell their story and honor their service to our country.
WATM: How has COVID-19 impacted the museum experience?
COVID-19 has forced us into the virtual world. To be honest, it was not something that I was too familiar with personally. I had to get used to it, [laughs] and learn as I went along. What we’re delivering is: every month we have what we call our Spotlight On Program. It’s an hour long on the second Thursday of each month. We just had one last night. It was about Memorial Day, the history of it and what it means. (The audience discussed) the different traditions that have evolved about honoring the fallen. (The museum) delivers that the second Thursday of every month. It’s about an hour-long program. We try to bring in guests from other museums, experts from different areas, but of course we always have our curator or myself on the panel as well bringing things back to Soldiers and Sailors and its mission.
Another thing we do is we work with another online organization called Varsity Tutors. My degree is in education. As I’ve said I wanted to be a teacher. I want to deliver content to young people during this time. We partnered with this group because they have a large audience all across the country. We’ve been doing classes once a month geared toward young people and educating them about topics of the military; African-Americans in the military, women in the military, the meaning behind the uniforms such as symbols, patches and ribbons. We did one about Veterans Day, We’re going to be doing one about Memorial Day. It’s kind of interactive, there are questions and games we play that are geared to get the younger audience interested about veterans and the military in general.
WATM: What other virtual content do you have available?
A big one I didn’t mention there is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a big day for Soldiers and Sailors. Normally, we have an open house, thousands of people come to our museum. We have a ceremony in the morning to respectfully honor the meaning behind Memorial Day and some outdoor fun. Of course, we can’t do that now. This year we will deliver a virtual Memorial Day event.
The ceremony will take place at 11 o’clock on May 31st where people can watch the posting of the Colors, the National Anthem, laying of the wreath by Gold Star Families and we have a slide show we play every year which honors fallen soldiers from the Post 9/11 conflict. There are about 300 or so troops that have been killed from the state of Pennsylvania and we have a solemn tribute via Livestream after the live ceremony in our auditorium.
WATM: How can someone support the museum’s mission?
The easiest way is a monetary donation. [Laughs] We’re always open to donations. That’s one way. Of course, there are other ways as well, we’re always looking for artifacts to be donated. Our museum is made up of artifacts donated by families and individuals. We do not go out and buy things or solicit things. They’re artifacts that are brought to us.
If there are folks in the Western Pennsylvania region that have items that they do not know what to do with and are looking for a home for, we’re always looking for those items and to see if they would be a good fit for our collection. So, donating artifacts is another way people can help. A third way is people can visit us. If people are in the Pittsburg area they can stop by. Hopefully, we’ll be able to open in the next month or so. Folks passing by the Pittsburg region should stop by and see our museum.
WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran audience?
First I would like to say thank you for their service to our country. I am not a veteran myself but I’ve learned about all the sacrifices they have made through the years. We’re here for them. Our mission is to make sure their stories and sacrifices are not forgotten by future generations. I take that responsibility very seriously as an educator. On a normal year, we have thousands of school students coming through the museum and they learn the importance of recognizing veterans. Western Pennsylvania is home to a lot of veterans and to people who have veterans in their families. It reinforces how significant it is what they have done for our country.
WATM: What is next for you and the museum?
The next big step is opening up to our regular hours and walk-in business. We will always offer guided tours but some people appreciate coming through on their own. We have another big project where we are redesigning and rebuilding our exhibit cases. Our building was not built as a museum. Our museum cases had to be fit in the best way they could. They were done 30 years ago and weren’t done the best way possible. We want to improve that. It is a big project and will take a lot of fundraising efforts but we’re very lucky to have been given some money related towards the Korean War by the Korean Memorial Fund in this region.
We can completely redo our Korean War section of the museum. We are going to have three new Korean War exhibits filled with our artifacts. It will be built by a local firm that does museum exhibits and we’re hoping this time next year we’ll be ready to debut these brand new, state of the art, museum-quality exhibits for the Korean War. In turn, we can use it as a model to raise funds to revamp our other exhibits throughout our museum. It’s really exciting. We can take that next step to achieving a more professional look that people expect at museums. I’m not saying we do not have that now but there is always room for improvement. This is going to be a big part of that.
WATM: I like to throw a curveball at the end of every interview. What is a piece of military history that most people do not know?
That could be a lot of things, unfortunately. That why we’re here [laughs], to make sure people know about them. I’ll tell you one of the most popular stories that people are not prepared for: we have a painting from the Civil War about a dog. His name is Dog Jack. He was a dog of a local regiment of Civil War soldiers. People somewhat affiliate dogs with the military.
Of course, today dogs are in the military. Working dogs, you know. At that time he was just a mascot. It’s an amazing story about trading a confederate prisoner to get him back. It’s something that appeals to everybody. When people come to this museum, especially students as I’ve said, sometimes they don’t want to know everything about military history. What they don’t expect is to get this story about little Dog Jack. Almost everybody identifies with. They love that story and appreciate it. At least when it comes to us, I think people aren’t ready to learn that story when coming in.
On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes Forest that caught the Allies off guard. As the Battle of the Bulge erupted, depleted American forces were rushed into the lines to shore up the defense. One of those units was the 1st Infantry Division’s 26th Infantry Regiment.
One of the veterans of the battalion, Henry Warner, was assigned to lead a 57mm anti-tank gun section in the battalion’s anti-tank company.
Warner had joined the Army at the age of 19 in January of 1943. After being assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he fought through northern Europe with the 26th Infantry Regiment and received a promotion to Corporal.
When the Germans launched their major offensive, known to them as Operation Watch on the Rhine, Warner and the rest of his outfit were regrouping in Belgium after bitter fighting.
The 26th Infantry Regiment had been engaged in the brutal fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. The second battalion had been particularly hard hit. The unit had been so depleted that nine out of every ten men in the battalion were green replacements — and they were still understrength. At the outset of the Battle of the Bulge, only seven officers in the entire unit had been with the battalion the previous month.
While the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions blunted the initial German thrust at Elsenborn Ridge, the 1st Infantry Division went south to shore up the defenses and stop any attempts of an encirclement by the Germans. Linking up with the 99th Infantry Division was the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The battalion commander dispersed his understrength unit to hold the Belgian town of Butgenbach.
The defenders at Butgenbach just happened to be right in the way of the planned German assault.
Stationed along a pivotal roadway was Warner’s anti-tank gun section. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions, Warner and his men had ample time to dig in and prepare their positions.
The first German attacks came on Dec. 19, but were beaten back by the American forces. The Germans then continued to probe American lines throughout the night.
On the morning of Dec. 20, the Germans came hard down the road manned by Warner and his men. At least ten German tanks supported by infantry fought their way into the American position. All along the line Americans and Germans engaged in close combat.
Anti-tank gunners and bazookas blasted the German tanks at point blank range as they tried to drive through the lines.
As the tanks continued to advance, Warner skillfully lined up another shot and put a second German tank out of action.
As the third tank neared his position, Warner’s gun jammed. He fought to clear the jam until the German tank was within only a few yards. Then, in a move that can only be deemed crazy, Warner jumped from his gun pit brandishing his .45 caliber 1911 pistol.
With the German tank right on top of him — and disregarding the intense fire all around from the attacking German infantry — Warner engaged the commander of the German tank in a pistol duel. Warner outgunned the German, killing him, and forcing his now leaderless tank to withdraw from the fight.
Warner and the rest of the battalion continued to resist the German onslaught, turning back numerous infantry advances. The Germans rained down mortar and artillery fire throughout the rest of the day and that night, as well.
The next morning the Germans came in force once again. And once again Warner was manning his 57mm gun. As a Panzer Mark IV emerged into Warner’s view, he engaged it with precision fire. He set the tanks engine on fire but paid for it with a blast from a German machinegun.
Not out of the fight, Warner ignored his injuries and struggled to reload his gun and finish off the German tank. A second burst from a German machine gun cut him down before he could complete his task.
For his actions in stopping the German attacks, Cpl. Warner was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The rest of the 26th Infantry Regiment, spurred on by the bravery of soldiers like Warner, held its position against repeated German attacks.
The 1st Infantry Division, along with the 2nd, 9th, and 99th Infantry Divisions, now made up the northern shoulder of “the Bulge” and the strict time table for the attack was severely behind schedule.
It’s time for our meme round up, but first a little disclaimer. This week we did things a little different. We trolled Ranger Up‘s Facebook page to bring you our favorite Ranger Up memes. But there’s more, we also pulled meme replies from their fans. Here’s what we got:
As it turns out, no one is safe on Ranger Up’s Facebook page, not even the Navy SEALs.
Whatever happen to Delta Force anyways? They need to hire a new PR firm.
Really, this is how it is.
Don’t worry Delta Force, patience is a virtue.
Or you could take a page from the E-4 Mafia and use your time like this …
The E-4 Mafia can get very creative.
For some, this is the most action they’ll get.
This is what happens when things get real.
A move like this qualifies you as the ultimate blue falcon.
No one likes a blue falcon.
How soldiers feel when they get a hooah.
Ranger Up is our reference for Air Force jokes. Here’s one of our favorites.
Sometimes, when Ranger Up starts their meme wars, they let others fire first. Sometimes.
The UK’s Special Boat Service has deployed to Libya to stop ISIS fighters and supplies from crossing over with the waves of migrants entering the European Union.
The commander of NATO, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, has said that the movement of refugees from Libya into Europe is a security concern for the alliance since ISIS fighters can infiltrate the migrant flows.
This year over 30,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean between Africa and Italy. SBS operators have been ordered to look out for suspected terrorists trying to enter Europe posing as migrants, according to the Daily Star Sunday.
Currently, migrants from Libya, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan pay nearly $1,500 to be smuggled to Europe on small boats. ISIS makes money off the smuggling operations and could conceal their fighters among the boat passengers.
The SBS is perfect for disrupting the ISIS effort.One of their skills is clandestine coastline reconnaissance of beaches and harbors. SBS operators are trained to conduct surveillance. From the coasts they can develop a list of smugglers and fighters, sink boats and ships, destroy warehouses and smugglers’ camps, and kill or capture key leaders.
The SBS was formed during World War II and is like the US Navy SEALs and has defended Britain since its founding in 1940. The SBS began as the Special Boat Section, a British Army commando unit tasked with amphibious operations. They operated in canoes launched from submarines, sabotaging infrastructure and destroying enemy ships. The modern SBS conducts both naval and ground operations and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
When soldiers, airman and sailors are injured by enemy fire, ambushed or pinned down by dangerous attacks, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters are tasked with the risky combat mission of flying in behind enemy lines — to save imperiled service members.
“We’ve made a promise to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and that promise is we will always come get you,” Brig. Gen. Eric Fick, Director of Global Reach Programs, Air Force Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview earlier this year.
However, the Pave Hawk fleet has been taxed by recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fleet has been decimated by loss, damage and the wear and tear of consistent high-risk combat missions. As a result, the Air Force is deeply immersed in a crucial effort to restore the fleet to its needed operational strength, Fick explained.
“Due to the constant operation since 9-11, we have suffered loses of those helicopters in an operational sense. The objective is to bring back the fleet to full strength,” Fick said.
Facing the regular threat of Taliban or insurgent RPG, Pave Hawks are armed with .50-cal machine guns and 7.62mm weapons. They are also built with extra armor to defend against small arms fire and various kinds of enemy attacks.
“We are outfitted to go into a hostile environment to recover people, which is why we need extra armor and guns. The mission incorporates more than just recovering the downed airman, it could also include someone who is injured by and IED. We are outfitted to go recover them bring them back and give them the aid that they need. We can do MEDEVAC but also MEDEVAC behind the forward lines,” Fick explained.
Upgrades to the “life-saving” Pave Hawk helicopters include the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“This is most likely on a daily basis saving the lives of soldiers, airmen and sailors. When they get in trouble these are the guys (HH-60G) that come get them. These are the aircraft that let them do it,” he added.
Pave Hawk Upgrades
At the moment, the Air Force operates 97 embattled Pave Hawks; the goal is to restore the fleet to 112 helicopters.
The Air Force Pave Hawk restoration and upgrade is progressing along a two-fold trajectory involving the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawks and existing HH-60Gs into new models called Operational Loss Replacement, or OLR, helicopters.
The Army Black Hawks are given new communications technology, navigational systems, radar warning receivers and hoist refueling probes allowing the aircraft to refuel mid-mission. In addition, they are engineered with an infrared jammer and flare countermeasure dispensing system. The converted helicopters are also given longer range fuel tanks and increased armor for combat rescue missions, Lt. Col. Charles Mcmullen, HH-60 program element monitor, told Scout Warrior.
In total, 21 Army Black Hawks will be converted into upgraded models. Three of them will be configured as test models and 18 will go to three different guard units and then to active duty forces, Fick said. The first UH-60 helicopter has already been converted into a Pave Hawk, he added.
The creation of OLR models from HH-60G helicopters includes the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“A new color multi-function display on the dashboard can switch between an active moving map and infrared imaging system which can be used in low light to land the helicopter and pick up injured service members,” Fick added.
The new “picture in picture” color display allows pilots to merge separate laptop and control panel screens into a single screen designed to better expedite navigation and decision making while lowering the pilot’s workload.
All existing Pave Hawks will be transformed into OLR models within the next several years. The restoration of the Air Force Pave Hawk fleet is designed to preserve operational rescue helicopters until the services’ emerging new Combat Rescue Helicopter arrives in the mid 2020s.
“The mods will start next year. The challenge is we want to get the OLR birds out first. We are working the phasing and the timing of those mods to make sure we do not reduce readiness,” Fick added.
The Sikorsky-built helicopter operates two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines, weighs 22,000 pounds and reaches speeds up to 184 miles per hour. It has an operating range of 504-miles.
Pave Hawk History
Pave Hawks combat missions began in Operation Just Cause. During Operation Desert Storm they provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition forces in western Iraq, coastal Kuwait, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Air Force statements said.
They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy SEAL teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.
During Operation Allied Force, Pave Hawks provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.
“Hail, Caesar!,” the latest movie from the Coen Brothers, hits theaters on Friday, February 5. Here’s a sneak peek at one of the military parts of the film (cause that’s how we roll at WATM), a song where Navy man Channing Tatum complains that there ain’t gonna be no dames on his upcoming deployment. The song also contains veiled sexual references using sealife (octopus and clams), which is in line with what audiences have come to expect from the Coen Brothers in terms of hilarity.
So the next time you complain about gender integration, think about this poor sailor with clams in his rack.
Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):
Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?
My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.
Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.
The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.
Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?
This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.
From the Ship of the Line to the Dreadnought battleship, the British have been advancing the art of naval warfare for hundreds of years. 2015 was no different.
This past summer, the Combat Systems Team at BMT Defence Systems unveiled Dreadnought 2050, a multifunctional stealth submersible design that, as the company puts it, “maximizes naval effectiveness while mitigating risks to British sailors.” Here are seven new ideas the BMT team is bringing to the high seas:
1. The “Moon Pool”
A floodable pool area the ship can use to deploy Marines, divers, drones, or other special operations.
2. Drone Launcher
A flight deck and hangar used to remotely launch drones, all of which could be 3D printed on board the ship.
A hovering device to give the ship a 360-degree view of the battlespace around the ship, complete with electromagnetic sensors to detect enemy ships. The quad-copter itself could be armed for fights in close quarters around the ship.
4. “Smart Windows”
An acrylic hull, coated in graphene that could turned semitransparent by applying an electric current.
5. Stealth Propulsion
Highly efficient turbines would drive electric motors on what would be the first surface ship to have parts of its structure below the water line, making it difficult to detect.
6. Holographic Command Center
A holographic command table will offer a 3D rendering of the battlespace in real time.
7. Next-Level Naval Weapons
Hypersonic missile systems, rocket-propelled torpedoes, and an electromagnetic rail gun round out a definitive “don’t mess with me” message to the enemies of Great Britain.
Political analysts are buzzing this week over rumors that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously considering a high-ranking former Army general as his running mate. And while many on the right — and even some on the left — are applauding the move, history shows former military leaders don’t necessarily make good political ones.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former top spy for the military, has been a vocal Trump supporter since he left the Army as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, and has recently taken on a role as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. But lately, his name has been floated by Trump associates as a potential vice president for the Republican real estate mogul.
“I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals. We’re thinking about — actually, there are two of them that are under consideration,” Trump told Fox News in reference to his VP vetting process.
A pick like Flynn might appeal to a broad political spectrum. He’s a registered Democrat, has leaned pro-choice on abortion, and has criticized the war in Iraq and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But he’s also been a critic of Hillary Clinton and her handling of classified information and was forced to retire after publically denouncing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
And while a no-nonsense, general officer style might work in a service environment and appeal to voters looking for something new, history shows plenty of landmines for military men who turn their focus from the battlefield to the ballot box.
While two of America’s most senior officers in history, General of the Armies George Washington and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, enjoyed successful careers as presidents after military service, their compatriot General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant led an administration marked by graft and corruption.
On the list of generals-turned-president, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes were respected in their times, but Jackson’s wife died due to illness aggravated by political attacks during his campaign.
So, why do successful general officers, tested in the fires of combat and experienced at handling large organizations, often struggle in political leadership positions?
The two jobs exist in very different atmospheres. While military organizations are filled with people trained to work together and put the unit ahead of the individual, political organizations are often filled with people all striving to advance their own career.
And while backroom deals are often seen as a failure of character in the military, they’re an accepted part of doing business in politics. One senator will scratch another’s back while they both look to protect donors and placate their constituencies.
Plus, not all military leaders enter politics with a clear view of what they want to accomplish. They have concrete ideas about how to empower the military and improve national security, but they can struggle with a lack of experience in domestic policy or diplomacy after 20 or 30 years looking out towards America’s enemies.
These factors combined to bring down President Ulysses S. Grant whose administration became known as the “Era of Good Stealings” because of all the money that his political appointees were able to steal from taxpayers and businesses. It wasn’t that Grant was dishonest, it was that he failed to predict the lack of integrity in others and corrupt men took advantage of him.
Of course, at the end of the day it’s more about the man than the resume, and Flynn and McChrystal both have traits to recommend them. McChrystal was seen as largely successful as the top commander in Afghanistan where he had to work long hours and keep track of the tangled politics of Afghanistan.
Military service members are famous for their special lingo, everything from branch-specific slang to the sometimes stilted and official language of operation orders.
That carefully selected and drafted language ensures that everyone in a complex operation knows what is expected of them and allows mission commanders to report sometimes emotional events to their superiors in a straightforward manner.
But there’s a reason that Hallmark doesn’t write its cards in military style for a reason. There’s just something wrong with describing the birth of a first-born child like it’s an amphibious operation.
Anyway, here are seven life events inappropriately described with military lingo:
1. First engagement
“Task force established a long-term partnership with local forces that is expected to result in greater intelligence and great successes resulting from partnered operations.”
2. Breaking off the first engagement
“It turns out that partnered forces are back-stabbing, conniving, liars. The task force has resumed solo operations.”
“Partnered operations with local forces have displayed promising results. The new alliance with the host nation will result in success. Hopefully.”
4. Buying a first home
“The squad has established a secure firebase. Intent is to constantly improve the position while disrupting enemy operations in the local area. Most importantly, we must interrupt Steve’s constant requests that we barbecue together. God that guy’s annoying.”
5. Birth of the first child
“Task force welcomed a new member at 0300, a most inopportune time for our partnered force. Initial reports indicate that the new member is healthy and prepared to begin training.”
6. Birth of all other children
“Timeline for Operation GREEN ACRES has been further delayed as a new member of the task force necessitates 18 years of full operations before sufficient resources are available for departure from theater.”
“Task force operators have withdrawn from the area of operations and begun enduring R and R missions in the gulf area as part of Operation GREEN ACRES. Primary targets include tuna and red snapper.”
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the U.S. Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.