The name Giora Epstein might not ring a bell at first, but it is one you should know.
After all, he is the top-scoring jet ace of all time.
According to the Israeli Defense Forces web site, Epstein has 17 confirmed kills. The Jewish Virtual Library breaks them down as follows: two were MiG-17 “Fresco” fighters; one was a Mi-8 “Hip” helicopter; three were Su-7 “Fitter” ground attack planes; two were Su-20 “Fitter” attack planes; and nine were MiG-21 “Fishbed” fighters.
The site notes that Epstein’s first five kills were in the Mirage III, the rest in the Nesher (a “pirated” Mirage 5).
Eight of those kills came over two days during the Yom Kippur War.
It is an impressive total. To make it even more impressive, Epstein, who flew until 1997, was skunked in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot of June, 1982.
Perhaps his most impressive aerial feat was when he ended up on the wrong end of a 1-v-11 dogfight against Egyptian MiG-21s. According to the “Desert Aces” episode of the series “Dogfights,” Epstein’s flight of four Nesher fighters was jumped by over a dozen MiG-21s, just after Epstein shot down one of two Fishbeds that had drawn the assignment of being the decoy pair.
Epstein’s wingman shot down one MiG, but his engine was damaged by the exhaust from his Shafrir-2 air-to-air missile. Another of Epstein’s flight ran low on fuel, and headed back to base, while another of the Nesher pilots chased a MiG out of the main dogfight.
That left Epstein alone against 11 Fishbeds. It was not a fair fight… for the MiGs.
Epstein shot down the lead MiG of the decoy pair, then managed to outduel the other five pairs of MiG-21s shooting two of the Fishbeds down. When he returned to base, having scored four kills that day, ground crew had to lift him from the plane. Four days later, Epstein bagged three more Fishbeds, giving him 11 kills in less than a week.
An F/A-18 Super Hornet landed on the ship at 3:10 p.m. July 28, catching the No. 2 arresting wire of the Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear system, and took off at 4:37 p.m., launched from catapult one of the Ford’s Electromagnetic Launch System.
“Today, USS Gerald R. Ford made history with the successful landing and launching of aircraft from VX-23 using the AAG and EMALS,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces, referring to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23. “Great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone.”
The July 28 tests appear to show the AAG and EMALS have overcome issues that cropped up during their development — issues with the EMALS prompted President Donald Trump earlier this year to admonish the Navy to return to steam-powered catapults.
The tests were the Ford’s first shipboard recovery and launch of fixed-wing aircraft, said Capt. Rick McCormack, the Ford’s commanding officer. By the end of the day, the Ford had completed four arrested landings and catapult launches.
The Navy says the AAG, a software-controlled system, will offer greater reliability and more safety and interoperability with more aircraft. It also has built-in testing and diagnostic features, meant to reduce maintenance and lower manpower needs.
Navy officials have said the EMALS is designed to provide more energy, reliability, and efficiency while moving away from the traditional steam-powered launching system. In addition to more accurate speed control and better acceleration, the EMALS is designed to work with all current and future carrier aircraft.
Those systems are two of 23 new or modified technologies installed on the Ford, which is the first Ford-class carrier. Two more in-class carriers are planned: the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Enterprise.
While much of the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s push for a fifth-generation fighter, the PAK-FA or Sukhoi Su-57, much less attention is being paid to another design bureau – Mikoyan-Gurevich, better known as MiG (as in the plane whose parts get distributed forcefully by the Air Force or Navy). What have they been up to, besides developing the MiG-29K?
Well, according to The National Interest, to meet Russia’s PAK-DA requirement, MiG is trying to develop a for-real version of the X-wing fighter from Star Wars or the Colonial Viper from either iteration of Battlestar Galactica. The plane is called the MiG-41, and it is a successor to the MiG-31 Foxhound, which succeeded the MiG-25 Foxbat.
The MiG-25 and MiG-31 were both known for their speed. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the MiG-25 was capable of hitting Mach 3.2, almost as fast as the SR-71 Blackbird. Its primary armament was the AA-6 Acrid, which came in radar-guided and heat-seeking versions. The Foxbat was exported to a number of counties, including Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Some claim that it scored an air-to-air kill against a Navy F/A-18 Hornet in Desert Storm.
The MiG-31 was an upgraded version. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it was about 300 miles per hour slower than the MiG-25, but it featured a much more powerful radar and the AA-9 Amos missile. The Foxhound is still in service, and Russia relies on it to counter the threat of America’s bombers.
The MiG-41, though, will be a huge leap upwards and forwards. Russian media claims that this new interceptor will be “hypersonic” (with a top speed of 4,500 kilometers per hour), and will carry hypersonic missiles.
You can see a video discussing this new plane below. Do you think this plane will live up to the hype, or will it prove to be very beatable, as past Soviet/Russian systems have?
He is widely known as a Hollywood animation legend who worked at the studios that created Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But Hal Geer also flew 86 combat missions as a combat cameraman in World War II.
According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Geer died Jan. 26 at the age of 100. According to IMDB, his credits included the movies “Daffy Duck: Fantastic Island,” “Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero,” and “The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special” as well as over twenty short cartoons.
Geer’s World War II service took him over the China-Burma-India Theater, flying in Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and North American B-25 medium bombers assigned to the 14th Air Force under Major General Claire Chennault, who founded the legendary Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group.
According to a 2007 report in the Ventura County Recorder, Geer made the documentary film “China Crisis” while serving. Geer told the Recorder that this World War II film was the one he was the most proud of.
In a 2005 interview with China Youth Daily, Geer discussed more about his time with the 14th Air Force. “China Crisis” discussed how the United States supported the 14th Air Force, getting supplies over what was called “The Hump.”
Today, it’s better known as the Himalaya Mountains. The film also covered the Japanese Army’s 1944 offensive in China (which doesn’t get as much press when compared to how America advanced in the Pacific that year). Thirteen combat cameramen shot over 300 hours of footage to make a film that was less than an hour long. Five cameramen were killed in action.
“China Crisis” had been slated to be shown along as part of a 1946 War Bonds drive. That drive would not take place, as Japan surrendered in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Perhaps, someday, DOD will find a way to make that film, and many others, available online for Americans to view.
By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.
So yeah, they were invested.
But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.
Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”
In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.
In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”
Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.
The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.
“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”
The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.
Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.
”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”
The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.
According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”
The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1
The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.
(Pin Up for Vets)
Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.
She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.
In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.
The result is exceptional.
U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”
Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”
While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act was recently signed, which included a measure that will allow fully-disabled veterans the ability to utilize Space-Available travel.
Under the Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100 percent will be able to travel in the Continental United States or directly between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa (Guam and American Samoa travelers may transit Hawaii or Alaska); or traveling within Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands on flights operated by Air Mobility Command.
Prior to this authorization, only military retirees, meaning those with a blue DD Form 2, and current service members were entitled to this benefit. This particular piece of legislations was originally introduced by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2016.
According to lawmakers, this proposal will allow travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense and without aircraft modifications. Additionally, data from the Government Accountability Office noted that roughly 77 percent of space-available seats in 2011 were occupied by only 2.3 percent of the 8.4 million eligible individuals for the program.
(Department of Defense photo)
Travelers should contact their local Passenger Terminal for further details and review travel information found on the AMC Travel Page for specific details on the Space A travel program.
Editor’s note: Passengers seeking Space-Available or Space-A travel must keep in mind that there is No Guarantee you will be selected for a seat. Be aware that Space-A travelers must be prepared to cover commercial travel expenses if flight schedules are changed or become unavailable to allow Space-A travel. Per DODI 4515.13, Section 4, Paragraph 4.1.a, Reservations: There is no guarantee of transportation, and reservations will not be accepted or made for any space-available traveler. The DOD is not obligated to continue an individual’s travel or return the individual to the point of origin or any other point. Travelers should have sufficient personal funds to pay for commercial transportation, lodging, and other expenses if space-available transportation is not available.
Remember how the Stryker was supposed to be a family of fighting vehicles? Well, now, a new member of the family has emerged… and it’s a plane killer.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, Boeing and General Dynamics have teamed up to create the Stryker Maneuver SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air-Defense) Launcher. Plain and simple, this variant will be murder for enemy planes – and it can be mounted with a wide variety of munitions that can make this new Stryker an effective distributor of surplus MiG, Sukhoi, Mil, and Kamov parts.
While one configuration displayed at a Huntsville, Alabama, expo was armed with a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders (technically MIM-9X, since they are vehicle-launched) with four Hellfire missiles, a display at the show listed numerous options. These included the FIM-92 Stinger, the Mk 44 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, multiple machine guns (bringing back the Meat Chopper?) and lasers.
How this was done was shockingly simple. A Stryker chassis was modified to operate the turret from the Avenger, a HMMWV-based air defense system. The Avenger has eight FIM-92 Stingers and a single M3P .50-caliber machine gun, and was intended to replace the Chapparal and M163/M167 Vulcan Air Defense System.
Most of the Army’s land-based surface-to-air missile systems have been focused on the missile-defense mission. The MIM-104 Patriot, for instance, was initially designed to kill aircraft and provide area air defense, but it has since become a specialist in killing shorter-range ballistic missiles like the SS-1 Scud.
The Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system has capabilities against a wider variety of missiles.
The Navy has a wider array of surface-to-air missiles for tactical purposes against aircraft. The RIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 surface-to-air missile scored kills against anti-ship missiles this fired at the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) in October 2016.
The SM-2 was also used by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49) to shoot down an Iranian airliner misidentified as a hostile fighter during a July 1988 incident in the Strait of Hormuz.
Comedy writer and performer Bill Dana, who won stardom in the 1950s and ’60s with his character Jose Jimenez, has died.
Dana died June 15th at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, according to Emerson College, his alma mater. He was 92.
Dana served as an Army infantryman during World War II and earned the Bronze Star.
Early in his career, Dana wrote jokes for Don Adams and Steve Allen, on whose show he served as head writer. It was for a sketch on “The Steve Allen Show” that Dana created Jose Jimenez, which eventually led to his own NBC sitcom, “The Bill Dana Show,” which aired from 1963-1965.
The character’s shy, Spanish-accented introduction, “My name … Jose … Jimenez,” became a national catchphrase.
Dana became a favorite of NASA’s Mercury astronauts, eventually being named as the honorary 8th member of the first team of Americans in space.
Dana recorded eight best-selling comedy albums, and made many TV appearances while continuing behind the scenes as a comedy writer.
A CIA K-9 unit left “explosive training material” on a school bus in Virginia after a routine training exercise last week, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.
In a monumental error, the bus was used to transport children on Monday, March 28th, and Tuesday, March 29th, with the explosive material still sitting under the hood, according to the statement.
The CIA and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office stressed that the children were not in any immediate danger.
“The training materials used in the exercises are incredibly stable and according to the CIA and Loudoun County explosive experts the students on the bus were not in any danger from the training material,” the Loudon County Sheriff’s office told The Washington Post.
The CIA placed the explosive material — a putty — under the hood of the school bus and in locations around a local school to test a dog’s ability to sniff it out. The dog successfully found the material, but some of it fell deeper into the engine compartment and became wedged beneath the hoses. The material was found when the bus was taken in for a routine inspection, after ferrying 26 children to school, reports The Washington Post.
The CIA said it will take “immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” and “conduct a thorough and independent review” of its procedures, according to the statement.
“We’re all very upset by what happened, but we’re going to review everything that did happen,” Wayde Byard, the Loudon County schools spokesman told The Washington Post. “Obviously we’re concerned. The CIA really expressed its deep concern and regret today, and it was sincere.”
If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.
The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.
The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.
The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”
As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.
Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.
Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.
“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.
The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.
The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.
To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.
Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.
The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.
The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.
A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.
How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”
Visitors to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., can see a collection of veteran portraits on display through Nov. 15, 2019.
The collection is Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, painted by another veteran, President George W. Bush.
The collection highlights 98 men and women out of the approximately five million post-9/11 veterans. The exhibit showcases 66 full-color oil portraits and a four-panel mural painted by the former president, himself an Air Force veteran.
Upon entering the display, visitors see a two-minute video by the 43rd president. Bush talks about the positive assets of veterans, why he continues to serve veterans, the courage involved in talking about post-traumatic stress and his painting history.
President Bush painting.
(Photo courtesy of the Bush Center)
Alongside the video is a quote from the president on why he painted these veterans.
“I painted these men and women as a way to honor their service to the country and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage.”
Nearly all the warriors featured participated in one of the two wounded warrior sporting events hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The W100K is a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride on the president’s ranch near Crawford, Texas. The Warrior Open is a competitive golf tournament in Dallas.
The portraits are on loan from the Ambassador and Mrs. George L. Argyros Collection of Presidential Art at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focused on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families.
Portraits of Courage at The Kennedy Center.
For more information
The paintings are on display until Nov. 15, 2019, at The Kennedy Center. More information is at https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/ZURRA. The exhibit then moves to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Dec. 21 through Jan. 20, 2020.
We love supporting veteran-owned businesses, especially when they give back to the community. Yesterday, Redline Steel founder and owner Colin Wayne took to Instagram with superstar Megan Fox to announce that this Memorial Day, they’ll be donating $2M worth of products to the military community. Keep reading to find how to claim yours.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAa15AQhLVr/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Colin Wayne on Instagram: “@meganfox / @redlinesteel and I partnered up to create a Memorial Piece and plan to donate over M in product for the month of May to…”
Colin Wayne on Instagram: “@meganfox / @redlinesteel and I partnered up to create a Memorial Piece and plan to donate over M in product
While this offer sounds extreme, serving the military community is embedded in who Wayne is. WATM sat down with Colin to talk about everything from his military career, his close encounter with death in Afghanistan, his pivot to creating home decor, lessons in entrepreneurship and what this community means to him.
WATM: Alright man. First question: Tell us how your military career started. Like the early stuff.
Wayne: It started with JROTC. And you know, most people would say it’s kind of nerdy, my brother — even he was a nerdy guy — but I loved, I did the Raider team because it was the Army side and I genuinely enjoyed it. I gave up sports to do all of that and a lot of my friends. I was criticized to a degree on that, but it was a tight knit bond. It was a good culture. We had a solid program. We had Colonel Walker, he was the O6 and then we had a first Sergeant Jones. Great examples, great leadership and that was kind of the early adaptive days of joining the military was through that.
I actually dropped out of high school and got my GED. I got held back in first grade, so I did first grade twice. I was already kind of older in my class. And then I got kicked out of my mom’s house. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I didn’t listen. I was stubborn by nature. And so she’d ground me and I’d just walk out the front door and be like, ‘Okay, mom,’ and just do whatever I wanted. The first thing that I ever had as a kid was, “I’ll do it myself.” And that’s was literally my first sentence ever that I put together is what my mom says was, “I’ll do it myself.” And so I’ve always had that mentality of that exact statement.
WATM: You dropped out of high school?
Wayne: I got kicked out of my mom’s, moved in with my dad. I was mid-junior year and I ended up going from block schedule to seven periods and it was going to hold me back an entire year. We didn’t find that out until midway through the semester. And at this point, I was just about to be 17. I didn’t want to be 19 years old and graduate high school. That sounds horrible. I didn’t like school as it was. And so I convinced my parents to emancipate me and ended up getting my GED and joining the military a few days after my 17th birthday.
Wayne: I enlisted as Military Police in 2006. When I graduated from AIT, for the military police school, OSUT training, I came back to my unit and I remember the first thing, me and my brother were both in the same unit. It was 128 Military Police Company. And we had a unit that was deployed to Iraq at that time. And this was in ’07 and there they were there from ’07 to ’08, but they needed a backfill — they had to backfill 10 slots. They needed 10 MPs and five medics. He was a medic. I was an MP. We both volunteered to go backfill, basically people that were severely wounded and injured.
That’s one of the first things that I remember as kind of an early private, volunteering to go to that. They ended up, I don’t know, maybe they pulled from another battalion to make up that info strength, but we ended up not going. And I ended up transitioning to another battalion and going to Egypt for Operation Brightstar about six months later.
That was an incredible deployment to Cairo, West Egypt. Civilian clothes the whole time. And I did a cruise on the Nile River, got to see the Sphinx, got to see the pyramids. We went shopping in some of the plazas there. We had to have Egyptian police escorts. And there’s a platoon of those guys, but we definitely stood out like a sore thumb. We still had to wear high and tights and shades. We definitely looked like we did not belong there.
WATM: Hilarious. Not to jump ahead here, but I do want to get to the Redline stuff. Was Afghanistan your next deployment?
Wayne: No, Iraq. Iraq in ’09 and ’10. And then Afghanistan 2012.
WATM: And you were wounded in Combat? Can you tell us a a little bit more about your injury, recovery, some of the struggles that you had and how that changed you.
Wayne: Yes. It was May 3, 2012 and I was in the Paktika province, which is right near Pakistan. And it was, I would say it’s another traditional day. Spring fighting had just started a couple of months before that March. At that point, I was at a base called FOB Boris, which has been shut down. Our base got overran twice, to kind of paint a picture, with Taliban, literally on the inside of our base. We got rocketed. May 3 in particular, we had at least three or four IDF attacks prior to this point, so it was kind of just happening throughout the entire day.
I was in the gym and I heard the IDF alarm siren going off. And my thinking was, ‘I’m in a concrete structure,’ and you don’t have long — you’ve got seconds to make a decision. ‘Okay. I’m not outside. I’m in somewhat of a secured location.’ It’s a small gym. It’s literally the size of half of a single wide trailer, to kind of give you perspective. You could easily throw a tennis ball and hit the other wall with very little effort. And so I started running to the middle of the gym because there was two big open wood doors and so I just went to the middle. There was concrete on all sides, except the roof. The roof was just a normal structured roof, no concrete. My thinking really, really quick was, ‘Hey, if this explodes, shrapnel is going to come, I’ve got to get away from the weakest points, which are the doors.’ And so I ran and it was essentially a direct impact on me. I ran right where the rocket exploded and it was like three and a half feet from me.
WATM: Oh %*#.
Wayne: Right. So you know how big the concrete cylinders that they have, those concrete blocks, like a traditional one. They’re not wide, but it was a direct impact on the corner of that building, right in the middle, dead center. And it was right under that corner structure. It took out a quarter of the wall, right at the very top corner and you can see shrapnel and the roof was caved in. And if it would have been a couple of inches lower, because you’ve got to think, the concrete barrier’s only like 15 inches.
If it wouldn’t have hit that, it would have been literally a direct impact right where I was running to. And so I just say it’s through the grace of God I survived and was shielded. And I sustained nerve damage at L1 through L3. And my back had to have lumbar block fusion surgery for it. I had shrapnel that went all the way through my leg and had to have six months of physical therapy for it. I have permanent tinnitus in my left ear and then treated for TBI. And then I was medevaced twice. The first time we were still under fire. And then we were also a fire support team as well. There’s about 85 people on the entire base. It’s pretty small. And we were returning fire as incoming rounds were coming in and two Black Hawks, just like you’d see on a movie, flew in while rounds are coming in, we’re shooting back at them.
And you know, obviously, I don’t know what the hell is going on. They ended up flying me through a Black Hawk, with priority to Bagram and then they did full CT scans and x-rays and all kinds of different testing there, to figure out what was going on. Come to find out the, I guess the, whoever the, what do they call them? Crew chiefs? Or the medics on the helicopter? They gave me too much morphine. And obviously I don’t remember any of that, but it depletes your white blood cell count and restricts your oxygen flow. And that’s what ended up happening. It took three days for that to recover back to normal rates without oxygen. And I had to do breathing treatments from all the dust and debris. To kind of paint a more vivid picture of the incident, I remember that I blacked out — I remember regaining consciousness. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I knew I was hit, but I didn’t know the impact. I could feel something dripping from my leg, but I couldn’t see it. It’s pitch black; we’re a blackout FOB. And I was yelling for a medic, but nobody would come.
And I think mentally what hurt the most is I was working out with a couple of battle buddies and they left. I was there by myself and it felt like, I would say realistically, like 20, 30 minutes, it definitely was not that long. But you know, when you’re going through that, it felt like eternity. I’m sitting in pain. I don’t know what’s going on. My ears are ringing. It’s just a crazy scenario. And you know, I remember yelling for a medic and ‘I’m hit,’ and I just kept saying it, ‘Medic, medic!’
And I couldn’t — I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t see anything. I literally couldn’t see anything. And then they came in, they had flashlights and I actually have the raid tower footage. One of those Raytheon towers that go up 107 feet, we have the actual footage of them carrying me out of the gym, so it’s kind of cool. They sent me the CD. They mailed it to me when I got home.
WATM: That’s kind of hilarious.
Wayne: And it says ‘Superman returns.’
WATM: It’s good that you can watch it.
Wayne: Yeah, I love it.
WATM:You pull that out at the parties?
Wayne: I think that helps mental fortitude to get past something like that. It’s one of those pivoting moments that you can either adapt and overcome it, or you’re going to let that absorb you. And that really defines you as a person, is how you adapt to that comfortability. Even openly talking about it. It doesn’t bother me. It’s just a chapter and we’re past it and I can block it off and keep going.
WATM: Did that end your Army career, at that moment?
Wayne: No, I came back and transitioned into recruiting and I really enjoyed my time in recruiting. I did a photoshoot with a local photographer, right when I got done doing my physical therapy. Started a Facebook page and it started to go viral, so I had over a hundred thousand followers in the first 30 days of having the page. And you know, I’m just a guy from Alabama. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I got a change of lifestyle discharge.
WATM: And at that point, had you considered bodybuilding and modeling?
Wayne: I didn’t know what to expect. I’ll be honest, but I was making about three times more than the Army was paying me. And I was just like, ‘Man.’ I didn’t know if it was going to be a career, but it was working and I was like, ‘Why not focus on this? This is really cool.’ Within the first six months, I had over a million followers across social media and I just kept leveraging that and growing it and then what a lot of people don’t know is I actually own five other pages within the fitness space on Facebook and have over 4.2 million followers on it.
And so I leveraged it to grow my personal brand. And so I started to understand the power of social media. If I could go back, I would have done things a little bit different. I would have put more of a focus into YouTube. But you know, it is what it is. Grew those pages and that helped leverage pretty much everything that I wanted from landing over 50 plus magazine covers. Covers with Iron Man, Muscle Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Muscle Health. I mean, even fashion magazines, like Vanity. Hype, in Europe. And for that, I did kind of a Gary Vaynerchuk approach of give, give, give, take.
WATM: I’m just curious. What’d your Army buddies say about all this? Were they like, ‘Bro, what are you doing?’
Wayne: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what it was at the beginning until they saw, you get half a million followers within a few months and then a million, and then you start working with Under Armor and Nike and they’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ Everybody questioned it. Everybody questioned, ‘What the hell are you doing? How are you going to model in Alabama? That’s not a thing.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t really know, but it’s working, I’m doing the social media thing and I’m able to reach out, I can kind of cold call. I can establish a rapport.’ And I just kind of instinctively knew the inner workings of how to market and brand myself. And that’s without a coach and the highest level of education a GED. Just kind of started to understand the power of value and leveraged my value to get whatever it is that I wanted.
WATM: How was your physical journey into bodybuilding and modeling? Did you have issues with that? How did your combat injuries help you in that regard or make it even more challenging to find success?
Wayne: I would say 100% made it more challenging. I can’t do compression style training. And so a lot of it is adaptive, just HIIT style, high intensity interval, they call it, it’s like an 80s style. It’s like cut training, time under tension. I wanted to get lean, but also gain lean muscle at the same time. And so I just had to adapt and pivot my work training to kind of sustain the injuries and I didn’t want to make it worse than what it was. And so I’ve kind of just found my own routine and adapted and not put limitations with what I can and can’t do. There’s always a workaround.
WATM: Awesome. So how did you get into the steel business? And when did it occur to you that you thought I can add value to Red Line and start working on that front?
Wayne: I started Red Line in January of 2016, that’s officially when we started the LLC. Initially I just wanted to be a customer. I have a son, his name’s Carsyn. At the time, he was about four years old, loved baseball. He’s in T-ball, but absolutely loved baseball. And I reached out to a local shop and wanted to have a piece made and he reached back out and said ‘I’m backlogged about 10 to 12 weeks, but when we get caught up, I’ll let you know.’ And I said, ‘Okay, no worries.’ Ten minutes later, swear to God, 10 minutes later, he reached back out and says, ‘Holy shit, it’s Colin Wayne. I can’t believe it’s you!’ He said, ‘I can do this for you and have it done this week. And just let me know anything you want. I got you.’
And I pivoted the entire thing from, I said, without hesitation, ‘Maybe I can help you. And I do consulting, would love to kind of look at your business plan.’ And I spit out some information that kind of was like, ‘Look, man, I wanted to be a consumer. You didn’t have a followup sequence. You’re missing the mark. This is obviously an incredible product. I was willing to pay a premium for it for myself. You’re backlogged 10 to 12 weeks. There’s no way for very next day, and so that shifted the entire paradigm of my business plan. The plan for me was he already has the product, he has a preexisting business. He knows how to manufacture. He knows how to do CAD work. He already has the basics. I just need to come in here, create an infrastructure and help on the marketing backend. And so now, I had to figure out how in the hell to even run this machine. I didn’t have a clue and I still don’t really know, which is ironic because we have the largest customized steel manufacturing plant in the United States. And that was within three and a half years of an E-com business.
June 15th will be our four year anniversary of the website. We’ve shipped over four million products. We just hit our one millionth order about three weeks ago. And we’re about to hit 1.1 million projected probably Friday of this week. We have over 215,000 verified customer reviews on our website. And we’ve got over a billion, with a B, impressions for our business Redline Steel through paid ads.
WATM: That’s impressive. And you met the President?
Wayne: We attended the White House for Made in America week, which was really cool. Got a selfie with the president, which you probably saw on Fox News. And what was awesome, what I really, really appreciated a lot and it was kind of like an overwhelming feeling, just like when we hit our one millionth order, that was an overwhelming feeling, was President Trump, I tried to give him a flag and he wouldn’t take it. He wanted to buy one. And so that to me, yeah, that to me meant a lot because this was exactly what he said was, ‘If you donate the flag, it stays within the White House. But if I buy one, I can actually bring it with me.’ And so I don’t know, a month or two after the event, his administration reached out and said, ‘President Trump wanted to purchase a flag.’ And so we invoiced him, he paid it and we mailed him a flag. Then he actually wrote a letter. I asked him for a photo; he wrote us a letter that’s hanging up on my wall and he’s thanking me for the flag that he bought. That was a few months after the event. That was really cool. And what’s weird is as an entrepreneur, I’m always looking ahead. So it’s hard to reflect on what we’ve done and accomplished. Especially given the amount of time. Time is very valuable, but it almost becomes irrelevant because I’m so forward thinking that when I hit a hundred thousand orders, it was an overwhelming feeling. And that never took place again until three weeks ago, when we hit our one millionth. Even at 999,000, it didn’t sink in.
I’m a pretty, I would say a pretty dominant, strong-willed character, kind of an alpha, but I teared up, bro. I’m not going to lie. It was such an overwhelming, like, ‘Oh my God.’ Because I wanted this so bad. So I set, I’m really, really big on goal orientation and like setting something and you follow through with it. And so last year my goal was to hit that one million benchmark and I didn’t. Mentally, it really messed with me, man. I was upset at myself. I felt like a let down. I told my customers, I was kind of prophesying it. I was telling employees, man, we’re going to hit this and we didn’t hit it. I think that I have to kind of what I call being from Alabama, that fixated mentality of I don’t care if we’re up a hundred to zero, we missed the field goal. We missed this tackle. We missed these core principles, this KPI, what can we do to improve and sustain that growth? If we mess up, what can we do to not have that again? It’s kind of that AAR that goes into effect on a mass scale.
When you think about it, a million orders within that three year benchmark as an online business is very, very, very rare. You’re at that one of one tenth of a percent, but to me, it’s so realistic that it should have happened a while back. And so I lose track of that time and you don’t really appreciate what it is until you finally hit it.
WATM: How did you move past that? Improved comms? Leadership? Something different?
Wayne: We hired a recruiting firm, and I know that that was a pivoting moment for us when we actually invested into very, very solid leadership. My goal is to step down as the CEO within the next 18 to 24 months. I’ve never really publicly talked about it, but I’m big on passion and what’s in the best interest of the business. And so I would rather be the dumbest guy in the room and have other people very strong at what they do in those positions. And so hiring a recruiting firm to bring on talent that are very, very vetted has definitely played a significant role.
The challenge for me, most of the time has been, I can oversell and we can’t manufacture and produce product fast enough. I guess you could call it a rich man’s problem.
It’s been a challenge because I don’t want a bad customer journey experience, but at the same time, you want cashflow to keep up with the fixed and variable expenses. And so it’s a very thin line of balance between the two and running a lot of different departments at a business that’s scaling 30, 40 times year over year. We have an incredible team that’s been able to implement what is actually needed and applying an ERP system and looking at ways to advance our business so much further than what it currently is. So that the next four to five years we transition to that billion dollar valuation at that three, 400 million EBITDA. I think investing in the right leadership and then from the military stance, I would say, I was a Staff Sergeant, so I was kind of rounded for leaders. I liked the leaders that led from the front. I was fortunate enough to have compadre leaders that you can learn from and some great leaders, ones that you would genuinely walk into battle with and feel very comfortable that they have your sticks.
Applying that to my business in the sense that I’m not going to step on their toes, I trust their judgment calls. So I’ve allowed them to run those departments and essentially there’s a chain of command and they work through that. And that’s how we operate here. I’m not here to tell your department how you do it, go to your department head. And from there, you’ll follow the chain.
With COVID, we had to pivot our business model. So mid-March, I think it was actually exactly March 15. It was on a Sunday, somewhere right around there. I was driving to work. I had something on my heart to give back to the medical staff. My step-mom passed away earlier in the year and she did 35 years as a registered nurse. And we had a nurse piece, a stethoscope with the shape of a heart and it said, ‘Nurse life,’ in it. And so that was our first product and it kind of evolved from there. I did a live stream on Redline’s page and I said, ‘I want to give a thousand of these away for free.’ The response was incredible. Within about 30 to 45 minutes, we were completely sold out and started to see a massive demand and just requests for other items. So we pivoted to an entire give back collection.
That was on Sunday. I came in Monday when my team was here and I said, ‘Look, every day this week, we’re going to create a product category and we’re going to launch it.’ The first day, we launched, we ended up launching 19 products in total from military and all first responders to even mail carriers, even airline. And then we went into more recently with teacher appreciation day. We launched a teacher apple and now with Memorial Day, we have a fallen soldier Memorial piece that we’re going to release.
WATM: What’s the why behind that?
Wayne: One, I’m a humanitarian. I love to give back. I really do. I genuinely do. But from a business side that allowed free cashflow to sustain the business so that I didn’t have to furlough any of my employees. And then to take it a step further, we ended up putting in a purchase order of over 250,000 units through a local company and source them to cut the pieces for us. And that ended up giving them over 1400 working hours for their employees that would have gotten furloughed. So it’s not just the impact within Redline. We also helped hundreds of families across North Alabama sustain a job and working hours.
WATM: You’re doing amazing things, Colin. Thanks for your time.
Wayne: It’s been an incredible journey, man. I’m excited for what happens next. Thank you.