Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth - We Are The Mighty
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Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

“It’s really hard for me to quit anything … I expect to have bad days. I expect to make mistakes and have setbacks. It’s just second nature for me to keep moving.”

Writer, producer and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke doesn’t fit into molds. His life has been filled with a gamut of opportunities for which he didn’t qualify. But with help from a recruiter and the voice of his mom in his mind reminding him of excellence, he proved that he would overcome the bad choices he’d made as an at-risk youth to master his future.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Now, he’s passionate about motivating young people of the same background to know what they can accomplish beyond the limitations society has put on them based on their race or what area they’re from.

Adeleke didn’t grow up with hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He’d never seen one in person or thought about becoming a member of the highly-trained elite team of special operations forces. They were just the intriguing cool guys in the movies.

His father died when he was a young boy, and his mom was left alone to care for him and his brother Bayo. So, she moved her family from Africa to the Bronx in New York City. Unfortunately, inner-city communities like the Bronx are plagued with crime, high unemployment, inadequate educational opportunities, and extreme poverty, and Adeleke became a product of his surroundings. He was selling drugs and getting into other illegal activities. By the time he tried to join the military, he had two warrants out for his arrest. But Adeleke had an unexpected supporter that changed his life. His recruiter, Tianna Reyes, was a fellow Bronx native who understood his environment and went to bat for him because she knew no one else would give him a chance.

“She really believed in me,” he said. As a result, his record was expunged, and on July 2, 2002, he was sworn into the U.S. Navy.

Adeleke’s first time learning about special operations forces was in boot camp, and he was hooked.

“My mom always preached excellence to me … and to me, being a SEAL was excellence personified,” he said.

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But once again, he didn’t fit the bill.

“I was totally unqualified to go to BUD/S (basic underwater demolition SEAL training) because I didn’t have the academic scores. My ASVAB scores weren’t high enough. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t run. I was super skinny, and I was not in shape for the program,” Adeleke explained.

But during his first command at Camp Pendleton, he took matters into his own hands.

“I created a regimen and started training. I would run three miles to the pool, jump in the shallow end, and try to figure it out. Over time I began to get better, and I would run three miles back to my barracks,” he said.

He also purchased the book “ASVAB for Dummies” and eventually retook the test.

Adeleke then went even further and asked his leading petty officer to give him a split shift schedule so he could train harder. He qualified for SEAL training within six months, but this still didn’t seal the deal for him. After a year of being in SEAL training, he had failed his aquatic test so many times that he was kicked out.

“I failed a dive test four times and ultimately got kicked out of school,” he added.

Still, he refused to quit after being sent back to the fleet. Adeleke trained for a-year-and-half with the Marines and went back to SEAL training and became a SEAL.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

In his book “Transformed,” he documents his life, the challenges he’s faced, and the lessons he’s learned. His driving force now is giving back to communities like the one he grew up in. Acting in a major film — “Transformers: The Last Knight” — and now working as a screenwriter and director aren’t enough if he can’t share the lessons. He attributes this to one thing — his faith.

“This is not about me. It’s about people. How can I serve people? How can I bless people?” he said.

Adeleke emphasizes a desire to expose Black youths to the Navy SEALs, as he was the only Black graduate in his class of SEALs. Since 2012, the U.S. Navy has stated it is actively looking for minority SEALs, yet less than 1% of them are Black. Adeleke says part of the blame goes to Hollywood for the lack of positive Black images they put in the world.

“You don’t see a Black James Bond … A lot of white kids see themselves every time they turn on a TV or every time they watch a movie.”

The idea that white people can do anything is normalized and reinforced by Hollywood, while Black children rarely see themselves in strong, affluent roles.

Exposure to proper education is another mission. Not only are the kids not exposed to SEALs, but urban schools also lack essential tools required to join, like access to pools to learn to swim.

“You don’t see educators allowing top tier military professionals such as special operators, pilots, or doctors into their inner-city schools to say you can do this too,” he explained.

To add to the lack of representation, Adeleke has received layers of pushback from inner-city schools and prisons when his team asks if he can speak to the inmates or students.

“The schools that give me the hardest time to get into [to speak] are inner-city, predominantly African American schools,” he said.

His frustration is palpable. The root of the problem is that predominantly white schools are financially backed with an outpouring of community support to expand and better their students’ opportunities. In contrast, minority community schools, which mostly receive funding from property taxes, still fall victim to the American system’s discrimination.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Read Remi’s story on page 10 of the February issue of the Military Influencer Magazine.

“You’ve got to go through all this red tape. But when you go to these schools in suburbia, it’s, ‘Hey, you want to come speak? Come!’ I’ve got an open-door policy to so many schools in suburban areas, but I don’t in urban areas,” Adeleke shared.

And when asking the reason, he is told it’s the city officials and their rules. But Adeleke has a knack for breaking down barriers.

“Overcoming adversity has become second nature to me,” he said. “I kind of learned that through osmosis by living with my mother.”

During 2020, as big brands claimed they would actively diversify and seek out Black creators, one major studio stuck to their word and sought Adeleke out to produce a show.

“In the Hollywood side, I have seen some things change,” he said.

As his weight in Hollywood grows, Adeleke hopes to help give minority youth more exposure and experiences through the imprint of his future television and film work.

To purchase a copy of “Transformed: A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa, to the Streets of the Bronx, to Defying All Odds,” visit any major book retailer including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
MIGHTY CULTURE

Space Force’s most dire job just got a little harder

The U.S. Space Force, if fully formed, will eventually be in charge of all U.S. space operations, doctrine, training, and leadership. It’s least common mission is also one of the most threatening if they fail: stopping space threats like asteroids. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that asteroids are more resilient than scientists thought.


Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

NASA currently tracks near-Earth objects but, unfortunately, even these maps fail to track all the potential threats to the planet since we haven’t found many of them.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University applied a new computer model to asteroid collisions, specifically one where an asteroid with a 25-kilometer diameter slams into an asteroid with a 1-kilometer diameter. Older models expected that the larger asteroid would break apart on impact, but the new models—which take many more factors into account—show that asteroids are stronger than previously thought and would likely survive.

Both models agree that cracks would form in the target asteroid, and earlier models thought this would result in a large cluster of rocks loosely held together by gravity. But the newer models expect that the smaller asteroid would deposit too little energy for the cracks to completely break apart the larger asteroid.

So, if the Space Force needed to destroy an asteroid that threatened the Earth, they would need much more explosive or kinetic power.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

A composite image of a comet. Space objects can contain large amounts of valuable minerals, but they also threaten to strike the Earth and destroy all life on the planet.

(European Space Agency)

“We used to believe that the larger the object, the more easily it would break, because bigger objects are more likely to have flaws. Our findings, however, show that asteroids are stronger than we used to think and require more energy to be completely shattered,” said Charles El Mir, a Ph.D. graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

So, if it’s time to live out the plot of Armageddon, Spacemen need a few more nukes and at least one more Steve Buscemi. Luckily, Space Force will likely fall in on NASA’s plans for asteroids, and those include deflection, where explosives, rockets, or even reflective paint can be used to change the course of an asteroid.

So, no need to destroy it, just make it hit Venus instead of Earth. The Venusians have it coming, anyway.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Asteroids: good for future miners, bad for current planets if we don’t keep our eyes on the ball.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The study is good news for one group, though. Space miners could use explosives to send cracks through asteroids without completely destroying the object. Then they could mine along the faults they had created, allowing them to more quickly remove minerals from the surfaces and cores of the asteroids.

And getting space miners done with work and back to terra firma is good for everyone, since it’s quite possible that Space Force will be in charge of rescues if things go wrong in a space mining operation.

Probably a good idea to be careful with the explosives, though. Maybe use space drones to blow the asteroid long before the miners arrive. No sequences where Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck fight over who will stand on the surface of the asteroid as it blows up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Supreme Court’s ruling on burn pits will have catastrophic effects

Burn pits are, without a shadow of a doubt, the post-9/11 veteran’s Agent Orange. Countless troops have been exposed to the toxic gases given off by the mishandling of dangerous substances, and twelve veterans have died as a direct result of this negligence. Everything from heart disease to lung cancer has been found in veterans who have been exposed to the fumes.

There were over sixty different lawsuits raised against KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton that oversees the waste “management,” and each was struck down in court. A final nail was added to the proverbial coffin recently when the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the decision of the Court of Appeals, stating KBR wasn’t liable for their actions because they were under military direction.


Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

The ruling also goes for the Open Air Sewage pits that were constructed by KBR. In the simplest of terms, there were giant ponds of literal human sh*t next to troop housing and no one thought that it was a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

This means that the mishandling of waste, as conducted by KBR, that put the lives of troops and veterans at risk has been permitted by the highest court in the land. Any attempt to seek compensation by those affected will now be struck down using this ruling and Halliburton will remain protected.

Not only is this horrible news for the troops and veterans who’ve been affected by burn pits, but it sets a precedent that protects civilian negligence if done for the U.S. military in a war zone. According to MilitaryTimes, KBR argued that they cannot be sued because they, essentially, were operating as an extension of the military. They also claimed that the only way to control contractors’ actions was through military oversight.

While the burn pits are the subject of the majority of the lawsuits, there are more claims against KBR. One such claim revolves around the wrongful death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Iraq. In January, 2008, he was electrocuted to death while trying to take a shower in a facility constructed by KBR. The plaintiffs argue that KBR was well aware of the shoddy work, but it wasn’t fixed and the troops were not warned.

This case was also dismissed.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it…

It is true that, in the past, the U.S. military has instructed personnel to burn waste in the absence of an alternate method of disposal, but it’s never been done at the scale for which KBR is responsible. There is a massive difference between troops in an outlaying FOB burning an oil drum filled with human waste and the 147 tons of waste burned daily at Balad in 2008.

The U.S. military is by no means blameless in this situation. It did put a “stop” to burn pits in Iraq in 2009, but the Government Accountability Office found 251 such pits in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq in August, 2010. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking proper steps to right this wrong with the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. If enough people register, our military will be forced to look at the true scope of this problem and act accordingly.

The truth is, there was a better solution to handling the waste, but that was skipped in favor of the most expedient route. Now, countless veterans have terminal illnesses for their actions and the Supreme Court has just given future contractors in the ability to take shortcuts — even if it’s certain to put troops in harm’s way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What Snowden has to say about theory that the government is hiding aliens

Edward Snowden shut down the conspiracy theory that the US government is secretly harboring aliens at its top secret facilities during an episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, which aired on Oct. 23, 2019.

Snowden, an American whistleblower who revealed details of classified US government surveillance programs in 2013, addressed rumors about secret extraterrestrial lifeforms in his recently released memoir “Permanent Record.”

“I know, Joe, I know you want there to be aliens,” he said. “I know Neil deGrasse Tyson badly wants there to be aliens. And there probably are, right?”

“I do,” Rogan responded.


Speaking to Rogan from Russia, where he has been granted asylum, Snowden said as far as he knew the US government has not made contact with aliens and is not housing them at their facilities, like that of Area 51 in Nevada.

“But the idea that we’re hiding them — if we are hiding them — I had ridiculous access to the networks of the NSA, the CIA, the military, all these groups. I couldn’t find anything,” he asserted.

He said, he found no evidence of extraterrestrial life during his time spent snooping through government databases when he worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Joe Rogan Experience #1368 – Edward Snowden

www.youtube.com

He admitted that it was entirely possible that knowledge of alien contact were “hidden really damn well” from people with direct access to classified information.

“Everybody wants to believe in conspiracy theories because it helps life make sense,” he told Rogan. “It helps us believe that somebody is in control, that somebody is calling the shots.”

In his book, which came out September 2019, Snowden shut down other popular conspiracy theories, like the idea that the US faked the moon landing, or that climate science is a hoax.

“For the record, as far as I could tell, aliens have never contacted Earth, or at least they haven’t contacted US intelligence,” he wrote.

“Yes, man really did land on the moon. Climate change is real. Chemtrails are not a thing,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, playing a pivotal role in the first women’s hair policy change in 70 years. On February 19, 2021, U.S. Air Force senior leaders directed a second racial, gender and ethnic disparity review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Empowered Airmen Can Solve Any Problem

In August of 2020, General C.Q. Brown, Jr. released a series of action orders to “Accelerate Change or Lose.” The guidance states that in order to compete with near-peer adversaries, the U.S. Air Force must re-examine which attributes the service requires to fight and win in a high-end fight. Gen. Brown’s strategic approach describes a ‘people-first’ approach that enhances the quality of life of Airmen and their families and improves the U.S. Air Force’s ability to be an attractive service for future prospects.

General Brown’s guidance reads, “We must develop leaders with the appropriate tools to create and sustain an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, valuing the many aspects of diversity within our Air Force. These efforts must also enhance the quality of service and quality of life for our Airmen and their families, making the U.S. Air Force an attractive career choice for all Americans.”

Women’s Initiative Team

Maj. Alea Nadeem, a Reserve Airman who serves as the leader of the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team, has played a key role in bringing about positive changes for women across the Air Force. Major Nadeem teamed up with Master Sgt. Jonathon Lind, a fellow leader who was made aware of the issues with the female hair policy when one of his young Airmen experienced complications first-hand. Master Sgt. Lind’s wife, a fellow Airman, also remarked that she was considering leaving the Air Force due to the same issues.

Together, the Airmen were able to collect input and data from thousands of women Airmen across the force and present their findings to decision makers. With the backing of dozens of commanders and years of research and data in hand, they went on to deliver their findings to the 101st Air Force Uniform Board. Their report stated that constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss. Additionally, the feedback revealed that the existing hair policy had failed to support a culture of inclusion for almost a quarter of Total Force Airmen.

On January 21, 2021, the Air Force announced that women would be permitted to wear their hair in two new styles – two braids or a single ponytail. The 101st Air Force Uniform Board sourced ideas from Airmen across the Air Force, including the thousands of Air Force women who provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team. The Air Force chief of staff approved the new policy after considering feedback from the force, the uniform board recommendation, and the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.

The hard work, dedication and thoughtful risk-taking displayed by Maj. Alea Nadeem and Master Sgt. Jonathan Lind has garnered attention across the service, including top Air Force leadership. In a news release dated Jan 21, 2021, the 101st Uniform Board recognized the Women’s Initiative Team for their research and support.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass also voiced her support saying, “In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force. I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kiah C. Cook, 377th Security Forces Group defender, poses in the new female body armor on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Feb. 4, 2021. Airmen from the 377th Security Forces Group were among the first Air Force defenders to receive the new issue of female body armor starting January 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Disparity Reviews

In December of 2020, the Air Force released its first report on the findings of an Air Force Inspector General independent review into racial disparity. The IG report defines racial disparity as “existing when the proportion of a racial/ethnic group within the subset of the population is different from the proportion of such groups in the general population.”

The review goes on to state that while the presence of a disparity alone is not evidence of racism, discrimination, or disparate treatment, it presents a concern that requires more in-depth analysis. Key stakeholders within the Air Force and Space Force have now been tasked to identify the root causes of these disparities.

The report also states that the data does not address why racial disparities exist in these areas, and that while the data shows race is a correlating factor, it does not necessarily indicate causality. While the first investigation was focused on Black/African American Airmen and space professionals, future efforts of the review will not be exclusive to a single minority group.

On February 19, 2021, Air Force senior leaders directed the Department of the Air Force Inspector General to conduct an additional independent review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Senior leaders stated that “Ensuring fair and equitable discipline and development for all our Airmen and Guardians is critical. We are committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social and institutional barriers that might prevent our members from rising to their highest potential. Diversity makes us a stronger and more capable force.”

Additionally, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team (LIT) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams (INET) were formally established by the Department of the Air Force in early 2021 under the umbrella of its Barrier Analysis Working Group.

Originally created in 2008, the Barrier Analysis Working Group was dedicated to analyzing data, trends and barriers to service for the civilian workforce. Since then, the group’s focus has broadened to include Airmen as well. As of March 2021, the Department of the Air Force has established the following initiative teams:

Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, Indigenous Nations Equality Team, LGBTQ Initiative Team, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and Women’s Initiatives Team.

Airmen or Guardians interested in getting involved with the Barrier Analysis Working Group should contact SAF/ODI at SAF.ODI.Workflow@us.af.mil.

Hair Regulations / AFI 36-2903: https://go.usa.gov/xsrra


This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Jaimee Freeman

MIGHTY CULTURE

Taco Bell is opening a Taco Bell-themed hotel

Taco Bell is opening a hotel.

On May 16, 2019, the fast-food chain announced it would open The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs, California, on Aug. 9, 2019.

Taco Bell said the hotel would be fully Taco Bell-themed, with new menu items, a gift shop, and a nail-art, fades, and braid bar inspired by the chain.

And executives want to be clear: This isn’t a stunt, but part of Taco Bell’s wider strategy of moving the brand beyond the traditional fast-food experience.


“This idea of allowing people to kind of fully experience and embrace and immerse themselves in every aspect of the Taco Bell lifestyle led us to the idea of doing a hotel,” Taco Bell’s chief global brand officer, Marisa Thalberg, told Business Insider.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort.

(Taco Bell)

Thalberg said Taco Bell’s experience with hosting weddings in Taco Bell’s Las Vegas Cantina instructed the chain’s thinking around the hotel. Since Taco Bell began hosting weddings there in 2017, more than 165 couples have gotten married at the festive location.

“We’re really just creating experiences that feel like a reflection and extension of the essence of Taco Bell at its very best,” Thalberg said. “Oftentimes they’re born out of real consumer insights or behaviors. And I think that’s what makes them very valid and very legitimate.”

Taco Bell fans can book reservations at the hotel starting in June 2019. Reservations are first come, first served, so be ready to book if you’re looking for a Taco Bell-inspired vacation this August.

While The Bell is set to be open only for a limited time, Thalberg said she would “never say never” to a full-time Taco Bell-themed hotel.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

ISIS has made alarming gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.


On May 17, ISIS fighters took Ramadi, a city just 70 west of Baghdad, after a battle in which the jihadist group advanced into the city behind a wave of suicide bombers. Capturing Palmyra, a former Assad regime bastion in Syria, proved easier, as a collapsing Syrian military essentially vacated the city in the face of the ISIS advance.

And an 11-month US-led bombing campaign hasn’t prevented ISIS from taking and holding additional territory. This week, ISIS has looked formidable, while the US’s strategy has seemed particularly ineffective and aimless. On May 21st, reports began circulating that ISIS controlled half of Syrian territory.

But such claims about ISIS’s degree of territorial control obscures how and why the group has been successful so far — and how it might eventually be defeated. ISIS doesn’t really “control” half of Syria.

As these maps from the Institute for the Study of War demonstrates, ISIS has a sliver-shaped core of direct administrative control, insulated by hundreds of square miles of desert where the jihadist group and other militant forces maintain a degree of operational capability.

There are gradients of ISIS control in Syria, and understanding them hints at how the group can be successfully countered.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

“ISIS’s fighters are likely clustered in key defensible terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria conflict analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. Cafarella explained that ISIS focuses its efforts and manpower around the populated and strategic areas along the Euphrates river.

“There’s little actual human terrain in close proximity to ISIS in eastern Syria that ISIS does not already control,” she said. “Beyond that is the vast Homs Desert, where ISIS has been able to operate with impunity.

“But it’s too inhospitable for any military to decisively hold and of low enough strategic value that is can’t be considered an exclusively ISIS-governed area.”

As Cafarella says, the desert in the east of the country is at least “maneuverable terrain by really all military forces.”

The issue is that ISIS currently has free reign there — the Assad regime, for instance, doesn’t have on the ground intelligence, the capacity, of perhaps the willingness to discover and then bomb ISIS convoys traveling across Syria’s desert east.

“We still don’t have the ground partner necessary to contest ISIS-held terrain inside of Syria in any meaningful sense,” says Cafarella.

In Syria, ISIS has a small core area of control, a wider area of operational freedom, and no real ground-level counter-force pressuring the group.

What it doesn’t have is an administrative entity that actually comprises half of the country’s territory.

In other areas, over-emphasis on ISIS’s territorial control can have an even more distorting impact on the group’s actual reach. In Libya, it’s been frequently reported that ISIS rules over territory, with The New York Times reporting in March that ISIS had a foothold in Sirte, along the Mediterranean coast. On May 21st, Reuters reported that ISIS had captured the city.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

In reality, ISIS doesn’t really control any territory in Libya, or at least not in the same sense as in Iraq and Syria.

“The places they’re said to be in control of are heavily contested,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “It hasn’t captured cities and imposed an administrative structure.”

The idea that ISIS has territorial control in Libya “directly feeds into ISIS propaganda,” says Gartenstein-Ross. It shows that the “caliphate” has spread beyond Iraq and Syria, and that he group can fight and hold territory far beyond its center of power. An exaggerated sense of ISIS’s Libya capabilities may have been part of what convinced the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to ISIS in March.

Understanding the nature and extent of ISIS’s territorial control is especially important amidst growing criticism of the US’s strategy against the group. Gartentstein-Ross explained that ISIS has adjusted its own battlefield approach, opting for small-scale attacks over vulnerable large-scale mobilizations. Furthermore, the group is only opening fronts against forces they are relatively certain they can defeat, like the Iraqi military.

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Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

“They’re using smaller and more mobile units that are better at evading the air campaign,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

ISIS’s tactics are adjusting to the US’s now 11-month-old air campaign, but this doesn’t mean the group is invincible. ISIS took Palmyra because the Syrian regime fled, and it took Ramadi because the Iraqi Security Forces aren’t a viable or a competent fighting force.

On the other hand, ISIS has an apparent unwillingness to contest areas held by battle-hardened Iranian-supported Shi’ite militia groups in both Iraq and Syria, and has made little progress against Kurdish forces in either country.

So even as the group expands, it’s clear that it isn’t on an inevitable victory march across Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t think their capability should be overstated vis a vis the full range of their opponents,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Iran claims it has an air defense that can defeat some of America’s best fighters

Iran has tested its home-grown air defense system, designed to match the Russian S-300, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ air defense has said, Yahoo reported.


“In parallel with the deployment of the S-300, work on Bavar-373 system is underway,” Farzad Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB late Sept. 2.

“The system is made completely in Iran and some of its parts are different from the S-300. All of its sub-systems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted.”

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers. Photo under Creative Commons.

Bavar (which means “belief”) is Tehran’s first long-range missile defense system, and is set to be operational by March 2018, he added.

In 2010, Iran began manufacturing Bavar-373 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to international sanctions.

Russia resumed the sale following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which lifted sanctions, and Iran’s S-300 defense system became operational in March.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Iran’s Bavar-373. Photo from Iran Military Warfareknow Facebook

On Sept. 2, the new defense minister Amir Hatami said Iran has “a specific plan to boost missile power”.

He said he hoped “the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles” would increase in the next four years.

The comments came amid increasing tensions with Washington, which has passed new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

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Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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9 ways to give Vietnam vets the welcome home they never received

The non-profit Vietnam Veterans of America was founded on the motto: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


The group is passionate about supporting their own because after they came home from fighting a war their country sent them to fight, they were largely unsupported and even treated with hostility.

Vietnam vets don’t need to hear “thank you for your service” as much as, “welcome home.” So whether you know someone who served in southeast Asia or happen to pass one on your way to work, here are 9 actions you can take to give them the welcome home they never received:

1. Listen to them and learn their stories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp1AKwf1YB8

Taking the time to learn and understand the experiences a veteran goes through helps you to understand them and appreciate their sacrifices on much more personal level.

2. Write them a letter

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Photo: Guudmorning!/flickr

Giving a letter to a Vietnam veteran expressing your appreciation and support of what they sacrificed is something they can read on their own time and keep as a reminder that America ultimately cares about their era of service.

3. Give them a surprise welcome back

For extra effect,  do this on the anniversary of the day they returned home from the war. Check around at local veteran organizations; you may be able to be part of a larger homecoming celebration, like the one in this video.

4. Perform community service together

Having an experience of serving together, no matter how small, is a shared experience you will both appreciate.

5. Organize a reunion for them

This may take a lot of planning, but coordinating an event that brings together Vietnam veterans who served together is going above and beyond showing how much you appreciate their service.

6. Organize their photos / records / awards into a scrapbook or shadowbox

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Photo: Evert Barnes/flickr

Many vets have their memories in boxes or in storage somewhere. Ask to take them and display them so they will not be damaged but also displayed in an honorable way.

7. Give thanks by really helping them out

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/InSapphoWeTrust

Ask if there is are any errands and chores you can do or to get to know them more, or see if there is anywhere you can go (museum, hike, etc.).

8. Have a memorial for the fallen

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Photo: TimothyJ / flickr

By visiting a memorial with them or having one of your own together, show them you honor the fallen and will never forget them.

9. Invite them to speak at a school class or social function

Having a veteran speak in a history class or at a social community event is a great way to educate the younger generation and your community about the services and sacrifices service members make.

To all Vietnam veterans, welcome home from WATM.

SEE ALSO: Here’s how Hollywood legend Dale Dye earned the Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam

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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

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US Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth
Artist’s rendering from Air Force Research Lab


The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.

Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.

“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.

Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.

Drones Fire Lasers

Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.

When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.

Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.

Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.

For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.

ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.

Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.

“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.

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Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.

Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

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