If you know a thing or two about military life, then you’ve probably heard of military working dogs. These faithful animals bring a lot to the table for American troops. That being said, they aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom who chip in to help. In fact, the Navy has used a number of marine mammals to assist in essential missions.
The United States Navy’s marine mammal program has been around for almost six decades now. These dolphins and sea lions serve under the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1. Here’s a rundown of these Marine Mammal Systems, listed by designation.
Dolphins that specialize in deep-water mine countermeasures are designated the Mk 4 Marine Mammal System. The dolphins pictured here are being deployed for the de-mining of New Caledonia, an allied base in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young)
Mk 4 Dolphins
These dolphins specialize in locating and neutralizing mines moored in deep water. When you think about it, it makes sense for dolphins to assist in this mission. Their echolocation is a form of sonar, which is the primary means of locating mines.
A Mk 5 is photographed during a retrieval exercise. Unlike a salvage company, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg – just some fish.
Mk 5 Sea Lions
These sea lions are used for the retrieval of submerged objects. Unlike human divers, sea lions can dive deep without suiting up for the mission. What’s more is that these highly-trained mammals will happily hand over whatever they find in exchange for a fishy treat.
This Mk 6 Marine Mammal System looks friendly and playful… unless you’re an enemy swimmer. Then he’ll take you down without remorse, thinking only of the extra fish he’ll get as a reward.
(U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen)
Mk 6 Dolphins and Sea Lions
We all do our best to keep intruders out of our yards. Well, the Navy does the same for their harbors. And for good reason: Enemy swimmers can do damage — just ask the crew of USNS Card (T-AKV 40). The dolphins and sea lions in this system are intended to find and help detain enemy divers. The water is their natural element; intruders stand little chance of escaping.
Mk 7 Marine Mammal Systems handle the shallow-water mine countermeasures mission.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John F. Williams)
Mk 7 Dolphins
There are some places laden with mines that drones or ships simply can’t reach. In order to best protect troops and technology, these dolphins use their sonar and agility to clear the way. After all, their natural ability is arguably superior to current mine-detecting technologies.
These dolphins find safe lanes for landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to use for delivering Marines ashore.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Elena Pence)
Mk 8 Dolphins
When storming a beach, you first need to find a safe lane for your landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to travel within. These dolphins are specially trained to use their echo-location techniques to find a safe canal.
Now, before you get up in arms, know that these dolphins and sea lions tend to live longer than their wild counterparts. They also get excellent care from veterinarians and experienced trainers throughout. While the Navy is working on underwater drones, the fact is, these Marine Mammal Systems have served well for almost six decades and will likely continue to serve alongside sailors and Marines for a long time yet.
There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.
On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.
1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.
Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.
Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.
Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”
“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”
As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.
Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)
VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.
Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.
Here are 8 more unit nicknames from terrified enemies all proudly worn by U.S. military formations:
1. Walking Dead
The nickname “the Walking Dead,” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh to describe all Marines in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam, but the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, suffered and fought through more in that valley than nearly any other, losing 747 Marines and suffering thousands wounded in the war. Their normal unit strength was only 800.
While some have tried to change the unit’s name to “Walking Death,” Marines kept going back to “Walking Dead.”
2. Roosevelt’s SS
The 30th Infantry Division was pitted against Germany’s elite 1st SS Division over and over. First at St. Lo and then Mortain in France and finally in the Battle of the Bulge. The 30th defeated the 1st SS every time, leading to the German high command dubbing them “Roosevelt’s SS Troops.”
A group of soldiers in occupied Japan were trying to talk to locals when the translator had to figure out how to describe paratroopers to the locals. He went with Rakkasans which meant, “falling down umbrella men.” The locals found the construction clumsy but funny and they made it a permanent nickname.
One of the greatest fighting forces of World War II was the First Special Service Force, an American-Canadian joint commando unit. According to legend, a German diary was found at Anzio that referred to the legendary men as “The black devils.” The name was applied to the unit as both “The Devils Brigade” and “The Devil’s Brigade.”
6. Iron Men of Metz
The city of Metz in the northeast of France had repelled invaders without a single defeat since 451 A.D. when America decided to crack its teeth on it in 1944. The 95th Infantry Division’s success against the Germans got the nickname “The Bravest of the Brave.” The division preferred a nickname from the Germans, “The Iron Men of Metz.”
The 36th Engineer Regiment was tasked with conducting and supporting amphibious assaults in World War II and hit the beaches at Morocco, Sicily, Naples, Anzio, and Southern France. Their specialty was symbolized by a seahorse on their patch and, after the regiment held 7 miles of frontline at Anzio, the Germans nicknamed them “The Little Seahorse Division.”
“Division” was dropped since the unit was a regiment and later a brigade but has never grown to a full division.
There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.
Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.
First active-duty spouse in Congress?
If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.
Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)
Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.
“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”
On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.
If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.
Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)
With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”
Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”
Serve where you want to see change
Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.
Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)
“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”
It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.
“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”
Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.
Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)
“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”
Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.
“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.
Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.
Where do I start?
Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.
“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”
Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.
All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:
Easy next steps
Register to vote.
Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
Go to school board meetings.
Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
Sign a petition for a cause you support.
Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.
But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.
A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.
(US Navy photo)
‘It’s got legs’
During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.
Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.
“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.
It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.
An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.
(US Navy photo)
“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.
The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.
Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.
Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.
‘The leadership totally turned over’
As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.
“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)
An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.
The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.
With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.
Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.
“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.
“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.
Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.
“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”
A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)
The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.
Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.
More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.
Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)
Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.
“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”
‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’
Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.
“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.
(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)
Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)
“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.
Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)
“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.
Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.
(US Navy/Boeing photo)
The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.
“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.
“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.
Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.
“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
There are so many war movies out there to choose from, yet not many come from the perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was the Vietnam War.
Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into that politically charged time in American history, where the war efforts of our service members were either overlooked or disdained upon returning home, with Platoon.
With his unique perspective, Stone filmed one of the most iconic death scenes in cinema history — the dramatic end of Sgt. Elias.
But there are a few interesting things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s onscreen death.
5. Dafoe was “self-contained” during the scene
The acclaimed actor was given a walkie-talkie and was instructed by Stone to run from point A to point B while avoiding all the explosions.
Besides that, he had no further communication with cast or crew during the scene.
4. It only took 3-4 takes
For anyone who understands the process of filmmaking, 3-4 “takes” is extremely few, especially for such a dynamic scene that turned out so strong. Oliver Stone set up several cameras to capture the drama of the moment that gives you chills.
3. Not all of the bombs exploded
As Dafoe dashed through the uneven terrain, he knew the locations of the squibs and the controlled detonations — some of which failed to explode, but the audience can’t tell.
2. Dafoe had the squib detonator in his hand — which he threw
If look closely at Dafoe’s left hand, you can see him carrying the squib detonator, which he used to set off the devices attached to his wardrobe. Since not all the squibs exploded as planned, Dafoe ended up throwing the detonator to the side during the take that made the final cut.
If you were taken aback by Tony Stark’s face during his final moments in “Avengers: Endgame,” it could have looked a lot more grisly.
“We gave the filmmakers a full range [of looks] to choose from and one of those was where the energy from the stones had acted right up into his face and popped one of his eyeballs out and it was hanging out on his cheek,” Weta digital VFX supervisor Matt Aitken told Insider of one of the most gruesome designs they did for Iron Man’s death.
“They didn’t go for that one,” Aitken chuckled.
The “Endgame” visual effects team, consisting of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Marvel, and Weta Digital, put together a full range of looks for Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo to look over.
The team needed to strike the perfect balance between a look that was believable enough that Tony could die, but that wasn’t too scary for kids and families to watch together.
This was one of many designs made for Tony’s death scene.
“With any development item, you want to be able to give the filmmakers a full gamut, from sort of a light touch all the way to horror, and this will never be in it,” said Marvel VFX producer Jen Underdahl. “But by doing that exercise and by letting them see sort of every stage, they can kind of pinpoint and circle the drain on where they think the look is going to settle.”
“We did go several rounds on that guy from grisly to not so grisly to more light of a touch, back to OK this is the spot where we think the audience is not going to get too freaked out, but also really understand that Tony has reached the point of no return,” Underdahl added.
The film helped lay out viewer’s expectations for Tony’s impending death by physically showing the damage the stones did to two other larger, powerful characters. The idea was that, hopefully, by the time Tony snapped and used the gauntlet viewers would be able to see the consequences of him wielding the stones.
“We had seeded in the film this notion of Thanos having damage. There are consequences to him snapping and pursuing this ideology. You see the damage in his face and what that did to him, and he’s built for this,” said Underdahl. “Then [you] see the consequences to Smart Hulk, who was made of gamma radiation and the damage that it did there.”
If this is what the stones did to Hulk, then you had to know it wasn’t going to go well for Tony.
(Marvel Studios, composite by Kirsten Acuna)
“You knew somewhere in the math that Tony himself, even though he’s got this suit and it’s going to fight for him, ultimately what’s going to result would be something he couldn’t recover from,” she added.
Atkins, Underdahl, and Marvel visual effects supervisor Swen Gillberg said they pushed the design past where they wanted to go so that they ultimately fell somewhere right in the middle of two extremes.
Another one of those extreme looks involved a nod to one of Batman’s most famous villains.
“We did do a Two-Face version where you got inside and you saw the sinews and you saw them in the teeth and that,” said Underdahl of another one of the more grisly Tony Stark designs.
In “The Dark Knight,” the Batman villain, Harvey Dent, is severely burned after half of his face is lit on fire.
For reference, here’s how Dent/Two-Face looks. I think it’s safe to say no one would have wanted to see this version of Tony.
“It takes you away from this really powerful moment,” said Underdahl of why that wouldn’t have been the right move for that moment. “You don’t want to be focusing on that or grossed out.”
“When he’s collapsing against the tree stump, you’ve got to know that he’s in a really bad predicament, that he has made this terrible sacrifice,” Atkins added. “But then you also didn’t want it to distract from his performance. And it’s a really subtle performance that he has in those intimate moments with Spidey and then with Pepper. So yeah we definitely worked quite hard on achieving that one, but we got there.”
“Avengers: Endgame” is one of 10 films on the shortlist for the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The five final Oscar nominees will be announced Monday morning.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
South Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and each one takes its toll on shorelines and beach communities located across the Atlantic coastal region.
After each significant storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel assess erosion impacts, work hand-in-hand with state and local partners to determine mitigation measures for erosion damage to shoreline projects and take authorized measures to rehabilitate effected areas.
According to USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, these efforts are extremely beneficial to both local communities and nationwide efforts to protect the environment and foster economic growth.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
“Our scientists venture out and measure where shoreline erosion has occurred,” said Spellmon. “At Myrtle Beach, it appears the impacts of Hurricane Florence were enough that we’re adding additional quantities of sand to an existing contract underway to address damages from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon (left), discusses beach renourishment operations with Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Work was paused because dredging craft were moved to safe harbor during the storm, but has since resumed.
“We’re deploying high-tech equipment to quantify the losses and then utilizing dredging vessels and ship-to-shore pipelines to rehabilitate the federal project, thus ensuring beaches and dunes are ready to provide their full benefits whenever the next storm may impact the area,” added Spellmon.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C. (lower left), following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Great Lakes Dredge Dock LLC, contracted to complete this project, utilizes hopper dredges to vacuum sand from the sea floor through drag arms from a location approximately three miles from the impacted shoreline.
Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, says the sand being pumped to the beach comes from an underwater area about 30 feet below the Atlantic ocean’s surface.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, points out beach renourishment operations to local government officials, USACE personnel and contractors along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
The renourished shoreline beaches and dunes serve to reduce the impacts of future hurricanes and other coastal storms to communities and infrastructure. With that in mind, USACE partners with state and municipal officials on shoreline restoration initiatives.
A hopper dredge vessel uses a ship-to-shore pipeline to transfer sand from the ocean flood to the shoreline as part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 27, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Chief of Programs and Civil Project Management for USACE, Charleston District, Brian Williams, says this project covers more than 25 miles of beach shoreline.
“Under normal conditions, we cost-share 65 percent of this work at the federal level,” said Williams. “But in emergency situations like the one following Hurricane Florence, we fully fund all rehabilitation operations, subject to Congressional appropriations, in support of our state and municipal partners.”
The Pentagon can resist all it wants, but beards have made a comeback.
The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society even conducted a study to explore how individuals with (or without) facial hair are perceived by others. Women rated men with facial hair as more attractive and appearing healthier than those who were clean-shaven — and now male service members want change.
Today’s military men, however, are just going to have to rely on the uniform to gain an edge over civilians — since the advent of the gas mask, facial hair has been strictly regulated by the military. There are certain exceptions, however, such as a new regulation that will allow service members to wear a beard for religious reasons or operations where a beard could help service members blend in better with the local population.
But until the U.S. military embraces the beard, it’ll remain a rare sight on our warriors.
All the more reason to admire the best military beards in history.
Harry served from 2005-2015, even secretly deploying on combat missions in Afghanistan before his location was publicized and he was pulled out for security reasons. He’s the epitome of cool, he fully recognizes the meaning and importance of service, and he’s proof that a military beard can still look professional.
Ulysses S. Grant
The man led the Union to victory and served two terms as president. That is the beard of victory right there.
Maj. Gen. George Crook
Crook cut his teeth fighting Native American tribes in Oregon before the Civil War. When he was called on to serve the Union, he used the same tactics in the face of the rebel enemy. His beard is exactly the kind you’d expect from a man the Apaches called “Grey Wolf.”
We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the brand used by professionals.
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.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
Naval fleets are predominantly created and organized for power projection, taking the fight to the enemy on their turf to ensure that American are safe at home. But the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps do practice defending the fleet at sea should it come under a direct attack.
Here’s how they do it:
The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) fires its Phalanx close-in weapons system during live-fire training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean on August 31, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Chen)
The Navy has a number of weapons that are custom designed for protecting ships and personnel. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System. This is the final, goal-line defense against anything above the waterline. Basically, it’s R2-D2 with a 20mm, multi-barrel gun.
The Phalanx is typically associated with cruise missiles, and that’s because it’s one of the few weapons that can destroy cruise missiles in their final attack. But it’s also perfectly capable of attacking other threats, especially slower-moving items in the air, like planes and helicopters.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) travels alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment-at-sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)
Of course, the Marines aren’t content to wait for threats to approach the Navy’s Phalanx, and so, on larger ships like LHAs and LHDs, the Marines can drive their vehicles onto the decks and fire the guns off the ship, striking attack boats or enemies on nearby shores with anything from the .50-cal. machine guns to 25mm Bushmaster cannons to rounds from a 120mm Abrams cannon.
All of that’s in extremis, the-enemy-is-at-the-gates kinda of defense. The next ring out is provided by cruisers and destroyers who try to keep all the threats away from the heart of the fleet.
The beefier of these two is the cruiser. For the U.S. Navy, that’s the Ticonderoga class. It has 122 vertical-launch cells that can fire a variety of missiles. Lately, the Navy has been upgrading the cruisers to primarily fire the Navy’s Standard Missile-3. This baby can hit objects in space, but is predominantly designed to hit targets in the short to intermediate ranges from the ship.
The guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) conducts a tomahawk missile flight test while underway in the western Pacific.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)
But the Ticonderogas, and their destroyer sisters, the Arleigh-Burkes, can also carry Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-2s, and Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles. Need to hit something below the waterline? Try out the ships’ Mk. 46 or Mk. 50 torpedoes. Both ship classes can fire the torpedoes via rockets, and the Ticonderoga can fire them directly from tubes.
The Tomahawk is the weapon that really increases the fleet’s range, hitting ships at ranges of almost 300 miles and land targets at over 1,000 miles. As attackers get closer, the fleet could start firing the shorter range weapons, like the anti-submarine rockets and SeaSparrows.
But there’s an overlap between the Tomahawks’ range and that of the fleet’s most powerful and longest-range protection: jets. The carrier groups and amphibious readiness groups have the ability to launch fighter and attack jets. As time marches on, these jets will be F-35Bs and Cs launching from carriers and Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.
A U. S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Norwegian Sea, October 25, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
For now, though, its mostly Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets taking off from carriers and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers taking off from the LHAs and LHDs. The Harriers can only reach out to 230 miles without refueling, but the Hornets have a combat radius of over 1,000 miles without refueling.
And both planes can refuel in the air, usually guzzling gas from modified Super Hornets, but the Navy is working on a new, specialized drone tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray.
The Super Hornets pack 20mm cannons as well as a variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, but their greatest ability to cripple an enemy attack comes from another plane: The E-2 Hawkeye.
An E-2C Hawkeye, assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, approaches the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
The Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control plane is unarmed and slower than most of its buddies in the sky, but it’s a key part of the Navy’s fleet defense and offense thanks to its massive radar. That radar can see out 340 miles and track over 2,000 targets. It can actively control the interception of 40 targets, helping guide friendly fighters to the enemy.
So, when the Navy’s fleets come under attack, enemies have to either catch them off guard, or fight their way through the concentric rings. Their land-based assets are susceptible to attack from over 1,000 miles from the fleet thanks to ground-attack aircraft and Tomahawks. Their ships are vulnerable at similar ranges from aircraft and 300 miles from the Tomahawks.
As they draw closer, they face SeaSparrows and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and their fighters can come under surface-to-air missile attacks from the Standard Missile-2. If they actually draw within 20 miles, they start facing the Navy’s deck guns and torpedoes. A short time later, the Marine get in on the fight with their vehicles driven up onto decks.
A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participating in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)
And all of that’s ignoring the possibility that a nuclear submarine is in the water, just waiting for a surface contact to fire their own torpedoes at.
Of course, a determined enemy could use their own large fleet to push through those defenses. Or, a crafty enemy could wait for a fleet to transit a chokepoint and then attack from the shore or with a large fleet of fast attack craft.
That’s the kind of attack the U.S. fears from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. At it’s most narrow point, the strait is only 35 miles wide. U.S. ally Oman is on one side of the strait, but that still leaves any ships passing through within relatively easy range of Iran, even if they’re hugging the Omani shore.
The expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller transits the Strait of Hormuz, Oct. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)
And so, fast attack craft from Iran would be able to target one or two ships as they pass through the Strait, sending dozens of speedboats against the ships, preferably while those ships armed with Phalanxs and missiles are out of range or blocked by other vessels.
And that’s why the Navy makes such a big deal about chokepoints, like the Straits of Hormuz, or certain points in the South China Sea. Multi-billion dollar assets with thousands of humans aboard, normally well-protected at sea, are now within range of relatively unsophisticated attacks from American adversaries.
So, while the Navy needs to protect its fleets at sea, that’s the relatively easy part of the equation. The scarier proposition is taking an attack near hostile shores or being forced to sail into range of the enemy’s shore-based aircraft, where the fleet’s overwhelming firepower finds a strong counter that could cripple it.