The Army is investigating a TikTok video in which an unidentified 18th Airborne Corps soldier at Fort Bragg drinks from an Ocean Spray bottle while lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” during a static line jump. The video in question was inspired by the viral TikTok video by Nathan Apodaca which caught the attention of Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes and earned Apodaca a new truck.
However, while the unidentified paratrooper has found himself in hot water due to the addition of juice and “Dreams” to his jump, another soldier has made her dreams come true under the canopy of a parachute.
Vivian C. “Mille” Bailey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1918. In 1942, she commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. During WWII, she commanded a WAC detachment and earned several awards throughout her career. Bailey was honorably discharged in 1946 as a 1st Lt. She continued her service in the government working for the Veterans and Social Security Administrations. At the height of her career, Bailey served as a division director responsible for roughly 1,100 employees. She is also a long-time community activist, having served 23 years on the Howard County General Hospital Board of Trustees in Columbia, Maryland.
Though Bailey retired in 1975, she has stayed active as a volunteer and adventure seeker. In fact, at the age of 102, she checked off the most extreme item on her bucket list: to make a parachute jump. Bailey was inspired by President George H. W. Bush who celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays with parachute jumps. With the help of Skydive Baltimore, Bailey made her dream come true.
On October 18, 2020, Bailey took on her latest adventure which she called, “The thrill of a lifetime.” Bailey had wanted to make the jump for 10 years. “At one point when we were tumbling in the air, I felt like I was by myself. I thought, ‘Where did the paratrooper go?’”
On top of her service in WWII, long career of public work and volunteering, and successful jump, Bailey has received honors from President Trump and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, had a police award named after her—the Vivian Millie Bailey Making a Difference Award, and now has a park in Howard County named for her as well. “So there are a lot of things that I can look back on,” Bailey said. “I am thoroughly happy and feel blessed that I’ve been able to do whatever I’ve been able to do.”
Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.
He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)
1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.
It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.
What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.
The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.
When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)
2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant
Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.
The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.
He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.
Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)
3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant
Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.
First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.
The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.
Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.
Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.
(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)
4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower
He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.
He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.
Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.
Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)
5. The King of Negligent Discharges
It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.
But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.
Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.
He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.
There’s no other way to put it. This week was full of horrific events and terrible news.
Yet, in the midst of all the bad that happened this week, there were some rays of goodness. Because that’s what memes are supposed to be about – making a joke and putting a smile on someone’s face after a sh*tty day.
There are many children still here today because of the quick-thinking PFC Glendon Oakley. An all-veteran A Cappella group called Voices of Service performed a breathtaking rendition of See You Again on America’s Got Talent and made it to the live rounds. Across the country, many unclaimed veterans – deceased veterans without contactable next of kin – are having their brothers and sisters-in-arms attend their funerals.
The world’s too full of fighting and bickering over mundane BS. I’ll let someone else tell you that everything is on fire, but I say we just take a breather and remember that there is still some good in the world. Anyways, here are some memes.
A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
There are many elements that make up a fighting force’s effectiveness in battle; leadership, doctrine, and equipment are most often cited as key determinants. But, as this extensive study shows, organizational culture is also an important factor. Overall, The Culture of Military Organizations convincingly shows that internal culture has an enormous influence on fighting organizations. This influence includes their approach to warfare and their performance in battle.
An institution’s culture frames what its institution values, what heroes it reveres, and what it rewards. Culture imbues an organization with a sense of mission, identity, and core competencies. Cultural influences deeply impact what members think, how they perceive problems, and how they react to them. These are reinforced by rituals and narratives, passed on to recruits and acolytes in the training and educational programs of all armed forces.
A fighting organization’s culture emerges over an extended period, sometimes deliberately and often indirectly from victory and defeat. Culture operates internally like the operating system of a computer. Some scholars contend that culture is so deeply embedded that its existence and influence is imperceptible. In fact, military members are said to sense and act without being consciously aware that their belief system is framing their orientation and actions.
Numerous authors have researched the subject in the past. Yet, it has never been comprehensively studied in a rigorous and comparative manner. This is what makes this excellent book valuable.
The editors of this anthology bring together extensive experience, from both academic and practitioner perspectives. Dr. Peter R. Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, holds the General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University. Mansoor earned his PhD at Ohio State University and served as executive officer to General David Petraeus during the 2007 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq. His memoir of his tour as a brigade commander, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq, shows his mettle as a combat leader and student of war. Mansoor teamed up with Williamson Murray, an acclaimed U.S. historian and U.S. Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era. Murray’s best work has focused on grand strategy and military innovation and adaptation. This book stands with those for relevance and historical scholarship.
The editors assembled an international cast of scholars to delve deep into their respective countries and areas of expertise through sixteen case studies. Most explore a single armed force within a particular country for a specified period of time. The book contains an introduction and framework, along with an international suite of case studies covering a range of cultures and wars, from the U.S. Civil War to the most recent conflict in Iraq. The cases examine institutional and wartime history, but stress how culture impacted its subject’s effectiveness over time.
Mansoor and Murray employ a wide definition of military culture, representing “the assumptions, ideas, norms, and beliefs, expressed or reflected in symbols, rituals, myths, and practices, that shape how an organization functions and adapts to external stimuli and that give meaning to its members.” Culture is multi-dimensional, set in a large social context, and reflected in an organization’s internal practices. “A service’s culture is a complex aggregate of its attitudes,” Harold Winton has written, “toward a variety of issues including its role in war, its promotion system, its relation to other services, and its place in the society it serves.”
The notion that a military service has a distinctive set of values that create its personality or DNA is fairly well accepted in security studies. More relevant to our current strategic context, many scholars link the limits of a rigid culture when it comes to changing military organizations and their practices. Several notable studies, including those of Elizabeth Kier and John Nagl, find organizational or military culture relevant to both peacetime innovation and wartime adaptation. In Israel, Meir Finkel explored organizational flexibility and noted how critical culture was to learning and agility in wartime. Murray’s own work on innovation recognizes policy makers or institutional leaders must work within or alter an existing culture to overcome barriers to change.
The editors wisely commissioned two well respected researchers to establish an analytical foundation for this study. Dr. Leonard Wong and Dr. Stephen Gerras, both with the U.S. Army War College, employ two different analytical models for examining organizations. They adapted a framework generated in the commercial world, drawn from 17,000 middle managers and nearly one thousand organizations. None of the organizations involved were military. This framework is more useful for societal comparisons—which the pair recognizes, while still demonstrating the model’s analytical utility—but only within the U.S. Army. More familiar to scholars in this field was their inclusion of Edgar Schein’s list of embedding and reinforcing mechanisms. Unfortunately, this useful framework is left to the respective authors to consider, and few took up the task.
The best chapter is Richard Sinnreich’s overview of the Victorian-era British Army. This case is a common interpretation, concluding that this era embraced the English gentleman ideal of an officer corps drawn from the upper tier of society. Rigorous professional development and competitive promotions were disdained and book learning frowned upon. Sinnreich details how pre-World War I tactical modernization in the British Army was stillborn, despite the introduction of breech-loading rifles and quick-firing artillery. The tribal conformity imposed by regimental life, and a social system that deferred instinctively to one’s superiors were pressures that “tended to stifle subordinate initiative and to breed a tactically rigidity ill equipped to deal with more modern and sophisticated enemies.” This all came to a head in South Africa near the end of the century, where “British regulars, including storied regiments, repeatedly were outgeneraled, outmaneuvered, and outfought by South Africa’s indifferently organized but well-armed and determined Boer militias.” Readers may want to compare this interpretation of social linkages and limited intellectual development with recent scholarship.
The Royal Navy is not slighted, Professor Corbin Williamson covers its evolution from 1900 to the end of the Second World War. Williamson deftly addresses the Navy’s struggle to balance near-term training against higher order education to develop competent officers in a period of rapid technological change. He quotes another scholar’s assessment: “The educational system, as it existed in 1914, lacked coherence and ambition.” When the test of war emerged, the Navy lacked officers who could make an impact at the cabinet level or in theater strategy debates. Andrew Gordon’s wonderful insights from Rules of the Game are leveraged to good effect to detail how rigid naval command had become. The disappointments from Jutland influenced the Royal Navy’s reconception of command, initiative, and offensive employment, and served as the basis for a series of reforms, drawn from Lambert’s Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution. “Through these reforms,” Williamson concludes, “the navy reinvigorated an offensive ethos and placed a higher priority on subordinate’s initiative based on an understanding of the admiral’s intent similar to modern ‘mission command.'”
Allan Millett, former Marine and author of the definitive history of the U.S. Marine Corps, writes about the intense nature of that institution’s internal operating system. Millett gives appropriate recognition to General Victor Krulak and his son, General Charles C. Krulak, as institutional innovators. But this chapter overlooked an excellent appreciation of Marine Corps change agents by Terry Terriff of the University of Calgary. There are other recent works that readers will want to explore. The culture of the U.S Marine Corps is going to be sorely tested in this next decade, as a generation of Marines leaves behind a half-century focus on amphibious missions, after its 15 years of counterinsurgency operations, and now attempts to redefine its identity and transition to great power competition.
The U.S. Air Force has a distinctive culture, and Robert Farley superbly draws out how that institution developed an unshakable and misguided belief that high-altitude, daylight, and precision bombing was a decisive form of warfare. He correctly notes how influential the Pacific and European campaigns of World War II were to the Air Force, conflicts in which its preferred operating paradigm was severely tested by adversary counter-responses. He argues the Air Force’s fervent desire for independence promoted an element of autonomy and assertiveness that still exists today, and with studied understatement notes, “the pursuit of technological innovation has played an unusually large role in the culture of the USAF for the course of its history….” This is a culture now beset by numerous priorities from air superiority fighters, stealth bombers, and remotely piloted aerial systems…and now to a competing Space Force. Farley suggests the combat experiences of the last generation has moved past its fixations with autonomy and technology, and moved towards closer interaction with other services, especially special operations. That may be the official line but the previous generation still contends airpower is even more precise and decisive.
One of the distinguishing aspects of this book is the inclusion of non-Western examples. Dan Marston, now with Johns Hopkins University, provides an illuminating discussion on the Indian Army, and Gil-li Vardi’s chapter on the Israeli Defense Force is balanced. Vardi depicts the evolution of the Israeli Defence Force’s psyche; including its offensive nature and penchant for initiative and improvisation over hierarchy and directive command.
The lack of Chinese and French chapters is an obvious drawback in the book’s design. Given the increasing salience of the Chinese military today, this has to be considered a shortfall. Furthermore, while the chapter on Russia was well executed, it stopped at the end of World War II, leaving readers to wonder how Russia military culture has since evolved. These weaknesses are offset by a strategic culture chapter penned by David Kilcullen, who does address Russian national culture. What he does not capture is the debate over the utility of strategic culture. Some dispute its existence and use in understanding or anticipating a rival’s moves or deriving insights on how history, geography, form of government, and civil-military relations influence a state’s strategic behavior.
The editors present a selective suite of implications. They note the social links from any military to its larger culture, the criticality of military education to sustain critical thinking, and the tensions between continuity and change. Gil-li Vardi’s point about the difficulty of leveraging culture is underscored: “organizational culture is a resilient and even sluggish creature, which operates on cumulative knowledge, organically embedded into a coherent, powerful and highly restrictive mind-set.” This is the most salient feature of the study, assisting leaders in closing the gap between today’s force and one that meets the needs of the future conception of warfare. Murray’s past works on innovation clearly show that an organizational culture inclined to test its assumptions, assess the external environment for changes routinely, and experiment with novel solutions is best suited for long-term success. The challenge for leaders today, not explored enough in the book, is learning how to successfully reprogram the internal code to improve its alignment with new missions or technologies. We can hope some enterprising scholars will jump into this field and apply the same conceptual lens to complement this product.
Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus observed that “culture, once formed, is difficult to change; it cannot always be ‘tamed’ but it can and should be understood.” Those responsible for strategic leadership and for preparing their military for the future, must understand how culture impacts the effectiveness of an armed force. This is particularly relevant since most officials today describe the strategic environment as an age of disruptive technological change.
Professors Mansoor and Murray offer a superlative foundation for reflecting on how to change the odds of gaining that transformation short of the carnage of a world war.
Fisher House recently announced partnership with TerraCycle, Gillette and CVS Pharmacy for a new razor recycling initiative. Not only will they aim to make a positive impact on the environment, but serve military families while they do it.
“How it works is that you collect all your shave products. The boxes, cartridges and the razors. Keep them until the end of August and mail them to TerraCycle,” said Michelle Baldanza, Vice President of Communications for Fisher House Foundation. CVS is providing the free shipping label for those participating. She continued, “The most weight that’s sent to them by state per capita – the winner of that – will get a playground for their Fisher House.”
In the press release for the initiative, TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said, “We are happy to align with these forward-thinking companies to give communities the opportunity to engage around a free, easy recycling solution that supports veterans and their families.” Fisher House Foundation is proud to partner with other nonprofits and organizations to continue to serve military families.
This initiative is open to anyone who wants to participate. It also creates a unique opportunity for military bases to get involved and create friendly competition with their neighboring states. Should a state win that already has a playground for their Fisher House, another project of similar value will be approved. If for some reason there is not a Fisher House in the state that wins, one within the closest geographic proximity will be chosen instead.
Most Fisher Houses are located near major medical or VA facilities and are completely free for troops and their families to stay at while a loved one is receiving treatment. Fisher House Foundation now boasts 88 comfort homes for military families. They are breaking ground on a new home in Kansas City in a few months and opening one in New Orleans at the end of the year. The comfort homes are scattered across the United States, with a few in Europe.
The Landstuhl Fisher House in Germany is a vital house as it is next to the medical facility that troops injured in combat go through for treatment. “They started it just after a bombing in the 90s and finished it just before 9/11. The timing was really incredible that it happened right before the surge,” Baldanza shared.
Each Fisher House is between 5,000 to 16,800 square feet in size. There are up to 21 suites and are all professional furnished and decorated. Each can also accommodate between 16 to 42 family members. The homes are gifted to either the DOD or VA when they are completed.
“For 16 years we’ve had four star charity ratings. Between 93 percent to 95 percent of what we bring in goes right back into the Fisher Houses. They know what we do goes to the service members, families and veterans,” Baldanza explained. Fisher House also boasts an A+ grade from Charity Watch.
According to their website, Fisher House served over 32,000 families in 2019 alone. They’ve also given million in scholarships to military children and given out over 70,000 airline tickets with their Hero Miles program. When an injured service member is receiving treatment and there is no Fisher House, they put their families in nearby hotels with their Hotels for Heroes program.
Baldanza expressed that Fisher House Foundation is only a part of the puzzle of support that cares for veterans and their families – it takes a village. This is one of the main reasons that they continually build partnerships, like the recent one with TerraCycle, CVS and Gillette. Together, they know they can accomplish so much more for military families.
“There are so many needs that are out there, it’s hard to fill them all. We [Fisher House Foundation] try to take care of those basic burdens so that family members can heal with their loved ones and help their loved ones heal too,” Baldanza explained. She continued, “We always say ‘a family’s love is the best medicine’ and that’s the goal – to keep these families together.”
To learn more about Fisher House Foundation or to join in on their latest initiative, click here.
Capt. Todd Marzano, commanding officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and his crew officially unveiled the seal of the US Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 6, 2019.
The seal is crafted to integrate elements that honor President John F. Kennedy, his service to the Navy, and his vision for space exploration.
It features 35 stars located around the outer ring that represent John F. Kennedy as our nation’s 35th president. The 35th star is positioned after his middle initial and the two gold stars placed between CVN and the number 79 symbolize the fact that this is the second aircraft carrier bearing his name and legacy.
The Roman numeral “CIX” or 109, is a tribute to President Kennedy’s heroic naval service as commander of Patrol Boat 109 in the South Pacific. Additionally, the moon backdrop represents President Kennedy’s instrumental role in the nation’s space program.
The ship’s crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).
(US Navy graphic)
“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” said President Kennedy during a Sept. 12, 1962, speech at Rice University on the nation’s space effort. “For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and space.”
Anchoring these and other elements on the seal is the ship’s motto — “Serve with Courage.”
“Our motto exemplifies President Kennedy’s life,” said Marzano. “From the first day of his presidency, he challenged every American during his inauguration speech to ‘ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’ He regarded serving one’s nation as an honor and held the utmost respect for those who did so with courage, especially when faced with adversity.”
Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy reaches another milestone in its construction as its dry dock area is flooded three months ahead of its slated production schedule, Oct. 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero)
“John F. Kennedy displayed extraordinary courage, both in combat as a naval officer, and as president of the United States,” said Marzano. “The seal design and ship’s motto are a very powerful and fitting way to honor his legacy.”
Most recently, on Oct. 29, 2019, the ship’s dry dock was flooded officially launching the aircraft carrier approximately three months early to the original schedule. PCU John F. Kennedy will be christened at Newport News Shipbuilding-Huntington Hills Industries in Newport News on Dec. 7, 2019.
In addition to the unveiling of the seal, and the flooding of the ship’s dry dock, other milestones have been completed to include laying of the ship’s keel on Aug. 22, 2015, and placement of the 588-metric ton island superstructure on May 29, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.
Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)
When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.
One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.
Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.
After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.
Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”
Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.
The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.
But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.
Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.
The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.
Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.
As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.
A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.
Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”
Let’s face it – a deployment over the holidays isn’t ideal. What’s worse? Gifting items your favorite service member cannot use for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s your spouse or your BFF, here are 10 gifts deployed military personnel actually have on their list this year and can use on deployment:
Hydro Flask Coffee Tumbler with Flex Sip Lid – Whether your soldier is on-the-move or in their room, this tumbler was built for keeping coffee hot for up to six hours using TempShield technology. A range of colors ensures a flask for every preference!
ALTRA Footwear – Built for maximum stability across any type of terrain, Altra creates running and trail shoes that allow toes to relax and spread naturally while moving. Consistently rated in the top ten for running specialty shoes, Altra is best known for “Zero Drop,” meaning consistent height between heel and toe bed.
PHOOZY Apollo Antimicrobial Phone Case – Using patented materials and NASA technology, this phone case prevents the dreaded “temperature warning” for phones and protects from other elements without disrupting wifi or Bluetooth capabilities. And, the antimicrobial lining ensures all inserted devices keep bacteria away. Perfect for a global pandemic.
UST Microfiber Towel – Skip the bulky towel! This microfiber towel features soft material that wicks away water and packs into a compact zipper pouch. Lightweight in nature, it can be a soldier’s best friend following a shower or gym session.
OluKai slippers for men and women – Make them feel like they’re at home, without actually being at home with these durable slippers. Built with OluKau’s trademark drop-in heel, they are easy to slip on and go.
Gear Snake – Forget zip ties that are useless after one use – this cut-to-length wire helps keep gear or equipment together without knots to tie or hooks to clip. The cord doesn’t rust, slip or stretch and features a foam rubber coating.
Hillsound BTR Stool – BTR stands for Better Than a Rock…and we agree. This compact tripod stool that can be used on deployment and at home (think camping or backpacking) folds into a 14-inch aluminum pole for easy stowing.
Portable All-In-One Coffee Maker – Compact and lightweight, this all-in-one pour over coffee maker means hot coffee anytime, anywhere. Featuring a fully adjustable grinder, pouring kettle, stainless filter dripper, insulated tumbler and lid, users just need to add beans for a perfect, 16-ounce ‘cup of Joe’ every single time.
Duke Cannon Cold Shower Cooling Towels – No shower? No problem. These cooling towels, infused with menthol, aloe and jojoba to provide a chilling blast as they cleanse and protect, are individually wrapped and work as the ideal pick-me-up. Inspired by soldiers, a portion of proceeds from Duke Cannon products directly benefit Honor Flight Network, Military Working Dog Team Support Association, K9S For Warriors and Folds Of Honor.
Extra Strength Tiger Balm – Muscle soreness doesn’t stand a chance with extra-strength pain relieving balm. Made with natural herbal ingredients, this tried-and-true ointment can be used by deployed service members to relieve cramps, muscle soreness, and joint pain.
Still not sure any of these are the perfect fit? A gift card is always the right size. Amazon, Audible, Green Beans Coffee and iTunes are a great place to start.
On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.
West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.
The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.
West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.
The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.
In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.
During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.
A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”
The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.
In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.
Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.
There comes a point in nearly every deployment where troops get so bored out of their minds that they try anything to stay entertained. One of the most time-honored traditions while deployed is for troops to try walking on the mustached side of life. It’s the perfect place for it, too — away from the judging eyes of friends, family, and significant others.
Back in the day, troops could rock whatever facial hair they felt comfortable in. Over time, regulations changed and, in the 20th century, the wearing of beards was banned service-wide, affecting nearly all U.S. troops. The mustache, however, has been allowed to remain as long as it falls within strict guidelines.
To be honest, most guys can’t pull it off. But for those majestic few that can — the word ‘glorious’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Here’re the top reasons why you must respect the combat ‘stache.
Every single time a troop shaves their face, the eternal debate rages anew.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. April Mota)
They’re one of the last bits of personal freedom that troops can wear
Troops seldom get a chance to sport any kind of individuality while in uniform. That’s kind of the purpose of uniformity. Most times, they can’t even decide on which of the three authorized hairstyles to sport: bald, buzzed, or high and tight.
Adding a layer of “mustache or no mustache” to that list makes you feel like you’ve got some sort of individuality left.
If they’re patient enough to have a well-groomed mustache, they’re patient enough to handle the military.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William Jenkins)
They show you take pride in your apperance
Anyone can take a razor to their face in the morning and be done with it. It takes someone who’s really invested in their ‘stache to go the extra mile and groom it to standards. As much as everyone would love to rock the Sam Elliott, Uncle Sam says no.
While each branch has slightly different mustaches regulations, in general, troops have to keep it professional and proper. Believe it or not, it takes skill to make a mustache not look like a high schooler’s poor attempt of whiskers.
I think the ghost of Colonel Olds just shed a single manly tear over this nose art.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)
They’ve been worn by many of America’s greatest warfighters
Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing, Col. Robin Olds, Col. Teddy Roosevelt, Col. Lewis Millett, Sgt. Alvin York, and probably the drill instructor who first showed you how terrifying a knifehand can be all had one thing in common: a glorious mustache.
Now, it may not have been the lip fur that made them all heroes, but it couldn’t hurt to channel them through your own.
Seeing a mustache like this means you’re 150% more likely to be dropped and have to do push-ups.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shannon Yount)
They tend to an NCO’s intimidation factor
Drill sergeants are terrifying on their own. When your drill sergeant has a mustache above his snarl, you know you’re in deep sh*t. This also works for nearly every other NCO in the military. The motor sergeant? Hell no. You’ll do your own 10-level work. Medic? You’re fine with just ibuprofen and water. Supply sergeant? Yeah, you’re going to fill everything out in triplicate.
The only way for this to not work is if their mustache starts growing in like Worf’s from Star Trek. Then it just becomes too silly to take seriously.
If you thought this was just for fun, you are dead wrong! This is not a game!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Nathan Maysonet)
They’re a fun way to prove manliness among your peers
The military runs on pissing contests. If you can objectively put a qualitative number to anything, you can be sure that troops will find a way to measure themselves against their peers.
If you can grow a full Bert Reynolds, right on! You’re manly enough to keep it. If your unworthy display of peach fuzz barely grows in after a month, you’re justifiably going to be mocked.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea.
Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes.
Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix:
Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot:
But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un’s snowy ride means.
The North Korean leader on the side of Mount Paektu.
Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime.
Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” according to KCNA, the North Korean state media.
North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it’s everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US’s evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim’s winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world.
Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it’s not just about equine aesthetics.
The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters.
Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post.
There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but “no one’s had the balls to take a horse up there,” he said.
Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather’s. Kim Jong Un’s resemblance of his grandfather allows him to “project power and gravitas,” Madsen told The Guardian in 2014.
Kim Jong Un isn’t the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country’s mythology.
Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans.
Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea.
It’s said to be the “location of Kim Il Sung’s mythical guerrilla base,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country’s mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, “The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder’s legacy.”
And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it’s more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It’s also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC.
There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the “North Korean panic room,” where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 16, 2019.
While the photos may look absurd, they’re intended to have a very serious message.
“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Pollack told The Washington Post. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”
North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure.
According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.
Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. “A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well,” he told Insider.
Madden told Insider that “North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests,” and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement.
Whatever the announcement is, it’s almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said.
“North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months,” in terms of foreign policy “and I have no idea why,” Madden noted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(The featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.
Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of “explosive” spray adhesive. “Lid’s off!” replaces the usual “Pin’s out!” referring to the flash-bang’s safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.
In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of “spooge” rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)
(A typical Flash-Bang grenade used by Law Enforcement; no fragmentation, just loud extreme loud noise and flash. Flash-Bangs are categorized as non-lethal riot control devices.)
“Spooge” somehow became the nickname for the cans of spray adhesive we used to stick paper targets, bull’s eyes, and the like to a target stake downrange. It simply was the quickest and most convenient way to stick paper to cardboard and get on to the business of sending maximum rounds down range on a near-daily basis.
(In all its glory, the 3M Super 77CA Multipurpose spray adhesive can)
Spray adhesive was for paper on cardboard. For attaching cardboard to a wooden target, slat roofing tacks were used. Roofing tacks are a short nail with a very wide and flat head. It happened that when our Delta brother, Cuz, was hurriedly attaching a fresh target paper he noted his target backing was pulling apart from the wooden target slat.
Not wanting to lose the time to run the 150 meters back to the target shed to retrieve a proper hammer, Cuz decided that the spooge can already in his hand possessed sufficient merit to serve to pound in the tack. Within a few smacks on the roof tack with the bottom edge of the can it burst, completely engulfing his head and face.
Cuz’s ballistic eye protection was glued to his face, and his hair was covered. He staggered around blindly and calling out:
“Little help… a little help over here — we have a situation!”
We quickly engage in the attempt to pull his eye protection away from his face so he could see again, a ponderous and painful process.
“Well guys… that’s why we wear this safety equipment, you know?” he recited flatly, mimicking a certain redundant preaching that was certain to result from the incident.
“Cuz, I think you better just head on straight home from here and see about getting that spooge out of your hair; there’s not much else you can accomplish here… unless you want to finish hammering that nail with a fresh can…” our Troop Sergeant joked.
As fortune would have it, Cuz’s Mrs. was a hairdresser and knew just how to work the glue from out of Cuz’s hair and off his face. She did a remarkable job; when Cuz returned to work the next day, there was not so much of a hint of the adhesive in his hair, a vision that I found truly extraordinary.
For sure I endured the nagging and pining need for a cartoon to portray the event. As bizarre as it was, it was sure to be a cinch to find the humor…the humor in a can of target spooge that blew up in Cuz’s face like a… a flash-bang grenade. There it was; the vision in my head of spooge cans replacing bangers in a tactical building entry, the bad guys glued to the walls, floors, and fixtures. I stuck a fork in it *cuz* it was done.
Soon enough, I felt Cuz’s eye on me for a time, then he finally approached me when I was alone; I felt I already knew what was coming and was right:
“Yo Geo… this isn’t going to find its way into the cartoon book, is it?”
Oh, the shame! Yet again a man was missing the glory of being immortalized in the Unit cartoon book. I had to remind him; I had to remind them all that they WANTED to be in the cartoon book for the balance of time, though it might not be a thing they recognized immediately. I had to explain to Cuz the same way I had to explain it to every candidate:
Just because you got hurt or injured or humiliated due to an unfortunate blunder committed while on the job… do NOT think you should get a pass for that from the unit Cartoonist. That will not happen — if you dance you’re going to have to pay the band, and if you have to pay the band you might as well make sure it plays your favorite tune!
“Recall if you will that the cartoonist has a measure of reputation to maintain with his public. The fact that you make the cartoon book is purely a business decision, one entirely devoid of any emotion or sympathy… a cold, impersonal, heartless business decision. I am the cartoonist; I AM THE BAND!