The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

There’s an old saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for. For Mohammad Wali Tasleem, born into the chaos of war, all he ever wanted was a safe place to call home.

Growing up in Afghanistan, finding peace and serenity wasn’t easy. Tasleem’s earliest memories involve death and tragedy, stories seemingly unfathomable to most of us, but all too common and relatable to Tasleem and his family and friends.

At an early age, he saw his relatives fight against the Soviet invasion of his homeland. He vividly remembers being on the run and exiled to Pakistan during his childhood, as if it were only yesterday. No matter where Tasleem and his family turned, they couldn’t evade the perils of war. He knew there was a hard choice he had to make, but it was one he was willing to commit his entire life to.

At the age of 17, Tasleem took up the call to arms and enlisted in the Afghan Army — embarking on the fight against tyranny and terror, just as his ancestors had done. Fighting for his loved ones, fighting for his country, and fighting for a place to call home became his calling. In over a decade’s worth of service, based on his skill, diligence, and honor, Tasleem ascended to the ranks of major and company commander. Moreover, he became one of the most trusted and reliable leaders for joint Afghan-US efforts combating the Taliban in the region.

It was during those high-profile endeavors that he crossed paths with Black Rifle Coffee Company CEO Evan Hafer and Jeff Kirkham. Little did Tasleem know that their bond of brotherhood forged in the midst of war would provide him with a life-changing opportunity down the road — but only after he had arrived in the United States in search of his own version of the American dream.

“We were together for a long time in Afghanistan,” Tasleem recently told Coffee or Die Magazine. “They are my brothers. They always had my back. They still do. That’s why me and my family are here in Utah. But things weren’t always as great as they are now.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

Unbeknownst to Hafer and Kirkham, Tasleem, his wife, and their five children arrived in the United States in February 2015. Two years after applying for a special immigration visa, they eventually settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. At long last, Tasleem and his family didn’t have to worry about being targeted by the Taliban or becoming casualties of war. But arriving in a new country completely foreign to them presented a handful of unique challenges that were hard to overcome.

“I came from a very well-to-do family in Afghanistan. We helped out a lot of people. We had a nice car and house, but when I came here we lost that,” Tasleem said. “We came here to live a safe life but didn’t have the comforts of back home. We were starting over. It was hard.”

Tasleem recalled the numerous struggles they endured upon arriving in the United States. First and foremost, a stable job was hard to come by. After working for several months as a security guard, Tasleem began working full-time at a gas station. While he was thankful for the opportunity, it wasn’t the type of job that could support his family.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

On top of that, the neighborhood they lived in was rough. Their public housing sector had a high frequency of crime; drive-by shootings were a regular occurrence. After fleeing Afghanistan, the Tasleem family now had to endure worries about their safety in their newfound home in the United States. A little over a year into their journey in America, Tasleem and his wife were beginning to have second thoughts and were considering moving back overseas.

“We were having such a hard time. My wife and I knew we couldn’t go back to Afghanistan, but I had reached out to my youngest brother in India and told him about our life here,” Tasleem said. “We had made plans to move there, but things changed when I reconnected with Jeff and Evan.”

Tasleem recalled reaching out one evening to Kirkham, whom he had serendipitously connected with on social media. When Kirkham learned about Tasleem’s situation, he promptly reached out to Hafer in order to do whatever it took to help their friend. In no time, Tasleem was headed to Utah to meet up with his friends at Black Rifle Coffee Company headquarters — men whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time. 

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

The rest, as they say, is history. Just when Tasleem was about ready to give up on his pursuit of the American dream, his long-lost friends at BRCC inspired him to do otherwise. They offered him a job and a means to move his family from Virginia to Utah.

“I called my wife and turned on the camera,” he said. “I showed her pictures of the mountains and joked with her, ‘Look, I’m in Afghanistan.’ But that’s when I told her, ‘We don’t have to move back home or to India, I found my brothers and have a job here in Utah. We are going to be so happy.’”

Over the past three years, life couldn’t have been better for Tasleem and his family. He started out in the company’s print shop, and his hard work and leadership skills earned him a big promotion after just a year with the company. Today, he is tasked with the responsibility of being the facility manager at the BRCC roasting plant in Salt Lake City. 

“Maintenance and general contracting, renovation, remodeling, things like that. Inside and outside the building, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.

But that’s not all Tasleem has strived to accomplish. He, alongside his brothers at BRCC, has helped move six other Afghans who served with him overseas to the United States — a testament to the company’s mission of giving back to those who have served and put their lives on the line for a greater purpose.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Wali Tasleem with Black Rifle Coffee vice president and co-founder Mat Best. Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

“There are six other Afghans here that BRCC has helped like me. There are seven of us now,” Tasleem said. “Their stories are similar to mine. They were soldiers and interpreters who served with us over in Afghanistan. I am happy they are here with us. They are as important here and as respected as they were back there. It’s an amazing feeling to have them here.”

While Tasleem’s commitments at BRCC keeps him busy, he and his growing family (now with seven children, six boys and a girl) have taken advantage of the beauty and majesty of mountainous Utah, which reminds them a lot of Kabul and their home in Afghanistan. In his free time Tasleem enjoys taking his family hiking and exploring the outdoors, as well as getting together often for picnics. 

Tasleem also serves as president of the local Afghan community, which has several hundred families in the greater Salt Lake City area, and has played an integral role in helping them assimilate to life in America.

After years of fighting against and enduring never-ending terror, the Tasleem family is finally living a peaceful life — which is all they ever wanted.

“My three years in Utah with Black Rifle Coffee Company have given so much positive change to my life” he said. “I’m so thankful for Evan, Jeff, Mat [Best] and everybody else here. It’s not just a great company. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a family. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish together in 2021.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans will get access to Commissary, Exchange, and MWR services

The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.

Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

This could be you.

(MWR Life)

To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.

What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.

These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

.00 haircuts for everyone!

The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.

With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.

Anthony’s Pizza, here we come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MIGHTY STORIES: Vietnam’s Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Art Jetter, Vietnam Veteran.

“I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I was the oldest of six boys, no girls, in middle class America. My dad was a great man and my mom was a wonderful mother.

My dad was a B-17 pilot in World War II. He flew 35 missions out of England. He volunteered to fly in the Pacific, but thankfully the war ended as he finished his training. My mom’s two brothers were also pilots. My grandfather joined the Signal Corp in the Army and was also in pilot training during World War I. My dad didn’t really talk about the war.

He was the youngest of 9 kids. I read some letters he sent back to his family during World War II. Whatever the Army paid him, he sent home. Here’s a guy who did all his country ever asked him, and I don’t think he had time to be scared.

The 8th Army Air Corps had a reunion in Omaha about 25 years ago. His crew all came. They fought together, they came home together, and they stayed connected. They all came over to dinner at my parents that night and invited us kids to join them. My dad was pretty hard of hearing, so imagine a long dinner table with my dad at one end. One of the guys, Marty, was at the other end. And Marty said, ‘Now boys, I just want you all to know that the reason that we all are able to have dinner here tonight – the reason that we all came home alive – was because of your dad. I asked, ‘What did my father do,’ I mean these B17s flew in formation, ‘What did he do to provide protection?’ And Marty explained that my dad always flew toward the flack.

There was some room between the bombers, and the Germans would aim their anti-aircraft at a particular aircraft and when my dad would see the flack, he would turn toward it. The Germans would adjust, trying to guess where they should have shot, and they’d always guess wrong. My dad turned to me and said, ‘What did Marty just say?’ I said, ‘He said that in order to avoid getting shot you would fly toward the flack.’ And my dad said, ‘You know I used to do that.’ We all had a pretty good chuckle about it. He expected me to do the right thing. He was a very honorable, truthful, loyal guy.

I remember in 1965, our student body was all sitting in the auditorium for some kind of program. One of my favorite friends, Charlie Lee, was sitting next to me. His dad was a major in the Army. He turned to me and said, ‘My dad says we should join the Reserves.’ And I said, ‘Why would we do that?’ And he said that as soon as we turned 18 then we could join the Reserves, and we could pick our jobs instead of just getting sent to Vietnam as an infantry guy. I didn’t really even know what Vietnam was. Charlie joined the 173rd Transportation Company in the Reserves and as soon as he joined his whole unit was called up and sent over. He’d been trained as a lifeguard at a swimming pool at the Officers Club and got to Vietnam as a convoy commander. He remains to this day one of the most organized guys I’ve ever met in my life. Charlie stayed in the Reserves and was called to most of the battles after Vietnam. He achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major before he retired.

I didn’t follow his instructions and I got drafted. I wanted to be an architect. I got accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but my grandpa was on the Board of Trustees at a small college in Iowa and he wanted me to go there. So, I went, but I shouldn’t have gone. I left and couldn’t get back into UNL. I was selling men’s and boy’s clothes at a retail store for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour. I went to Wentworth Military Academy for 12 months and soon after, I got a letter welcoming me to the United States Army.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

I went to Fort Lewis for basic training. They put us all in a line and asked anyone who had been through ROTC to take a step forward. I did, and then they asked if anyone had gone to a military academy. Since I had, I took another step forward. And so, they made me the acting drill sergeant for one of the platoons. I thought, ‘holy crap.’ I was a little guy when I graduated from high school. I was almost 5’2 and 120 pounds. I think I could do about three pushups.

I worked hard and pretty soon I was maxing the PT test. At the end of basic, they put an article in the Omaha World Herald that I was the top in my class and they promoted me to E3. I went to my senior drill sergeant and told him I was the best guy he had. He replied that I shouldn’t be bragging. I said, ‘Make no mistake, I’m not bragging. I’m saying if I’m the best you have you’re in big trouble.’ He said, ‘You don’t think the training was adequate.’ I said, ‘I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs of the airplane in Vietnam without getting shot.’ We talked about needing better training and a week later I found myself as a candidate in the Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS).

After I applied for Ranger and Airborne school (which I didn’t get), they told me I had the aptitude to be a pilot. I thought it was pretty nifty with so many pilots in my family. I did my troop duty and then went to flight school in Texas. Then I spent four months at Fort Rucker learning to fly Hueys. I graduated from flight school as one of the top guys. I tell you that not to brag, but it was because I was more afraid of what could happen to me than anybody else, so I studied harder. It was more about being able to live than grades. I was picked to fly the Cobra, which was like going from a family minivan to a full-tilt Ferrari.

I knew I was going to Vietnam. I had a month off, so I went home. Every girl I knew took me to the airport on my way to Vietnam. The whole time I was in helicopter school I knew they weren’t training me to stay home. It’s an interesting thing about getting ready to go. You know in one regard, I was scared. Another, was, with all this training, I really wanted it to be put to use.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

I’m not a fan of war. But I’d put everything into training that I could – for my own survival and for the survival of everyone I’d be associated with. I requested to be in the 1st Air Calvary Division. When I got to Vietnam I went to the 1st Air Calvary reception station. The smart thing would have been to ask which is the unit where nobody got shot at, but I had heard people talking about the legendary Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit, and I requested that. I wasn’t disappointed. Maybe a little overworked, but I was in a unit with exceptional human beings.

That experience and those guys stuck with me. Many of them are dear friends of mine. We only had 32 pilots in our unit. Just after I left, eight of them got killed. It was a weird way of thinking about those guys. And I think I had survivor’s guilt. Like I left too soon. By the time I was there about nine months, I had been the flight lead in most organized attacks. I told my commander, Major Larry McKay, I’m going to extend for six months. I felt like I belonged to this unit. Larry said great, company clerk said great, and the day after I was originally supposed to leave Vietnam – the day my year was up – the Department of the Army called up my commander and said, ‘Where is he? My commander said I was on a mission, that I’d extended for 6 months, and the Army said no. So, my commander sent out another Cobra to relieve me. He and I went to the 1st Calvary Division Headquarters and I was told I had to report to Fort Riley, Kansas. I left Vietnam and tried like crazy to go back. Those guys were that important to me.

Our mission was this: They parked us within 5 minutes’ flight time of our guys in the field. We sat with a radio operator who would have contact with the guys on the ground. If the radio operator yelled, ‘Fire Mission,’ we’d run to the aircraft and have to be off the ground in less than two minutes. As soon as we took off, the guy would give us a heading to follow and then he’d read the mission. If there was a Medevac, part of our mission was security. We’d provide security for the medevac helicopter to come in.

I flew 1,032 combat missions but there are a bunch that stand out, all for different reasons. When I first got there, I was a co-pilot. You strive to become an aircraft commander but when you start out you’re a co-pilot. It was an incursion in Cambodia. A command and control helicopter got shot down and landed on a road. Just an ocean of people came out of the treeline; enemy soldiers, running toward the Huey.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Getting that would have been a prized treasure. Parts of war are treacherous, and parts are bizarre and humorous in a dark humor kind of way. We were shooting so many people. We weren’t very high off the ground and we were looking at them shooting at us. The devastation was just insane. And I just kept thinking, ‘What is wrong with these soldiers – they just keep coming. We’re taught to disperse.’

While all this shooting is going on, a two-and-a-half-ton truck is coming down the road. The truck stops and picks these guys up and they just keep going down the road to Vietnam. I think just the memory of all those enemy soldiers in the open … that will never go away.

I had a co-pilot, Ernest Rickenbacker, who had a famous last name because of his great uncle, Eddie, the World War I flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient. I went to my commander and told him that Ernest needed his own aircraft – he was unbelievable. And my commander did it. We called Ernest “Fast Eddie” because he became an aircraft commander so quickly. He won a Silver Star for rescuing his co-pilot. But let me tell you about that mission, first.

There was a Fire Support Base called Pace, right next to the Cambodian border where the Ho Chi Minh Trail came into Vietnam. For political reasons, the Army was supposed to evacuate this Fire Support Base. Left to its own devices, the Army never would have sacrificed it because of the strategic advantage. But, some guy wouldn’t go on patrol and he wrote his senator, so they shut it down for being “too dangerous.” Not the way you should fight a war, but anyway. We were supposed to take 12 helicopters to the Tay Ninh airport for a briefing and we’re being told about all this anti-aircraft all over the place and that nobody could get into Pace – it was too deadly.

We were working out how to get these guys evacuated. The plan was that the next day, a Huey with a smoke generator would fly around and mask trucks coming up to pick up the guys and get them out of there. I don’t tell this story very often, so I might miss parts of it. But the bunch of us that were walking back were supposed to brief the other pilots. But then the airport came under a rocket attack.

First thing we had to do was get our helicopters out. So, we did, and then we’re all supposed to land. As we’re coming in for final, the guys at Pace start yelling that they’re taking incoming. I said to my wingship, ‘Let’s take care of this.’ So, we went low-level up to the treetops until we got next to Pace. We popped up to about 1500 feet and we see 6 guys and a mortar tube on the other side of the border. The border right there was marked by a creek. Everything on the west side was Cambodia and the east was Vietnam.

We always had to call to get clearance to fire, so I called. I think the guy I had to call was an Air Force guy, and I requested flying over the border to Cambodia in order to save the men at Pace who were taking mortars. He denied my request. I said, ‘We’re in hot pursuit,’ and he said, ‘Nobody’s crossing. Out.’ Just like that, and that was the last I heard from him.

I pulled the nose of my helicopter up and launched about 6 rockets in the direction of the mortar tube. I shot across the border instead of crossing it. As luck would have it, the rockets fell right by the guys. I killed three and three hobbled off. We both dove at those three guys. My wingship, who was ahead of me, shot the other three guys. We took a hard left and and I called the guy back at Pace and told him something stupid like, ‘Send the Congressional Medal of Honor to Blue Max 1-2.’ And just as I’m saying this, I’m probably at 800 feet and there’s a loud kablamo and a big flame shoots out the left side of the nose of my helicopter. And my helicopter whips about 30 degrees to the left and then snaps back. I said to my wingship, Blue Max, 1-8, 1-2, we just got hit. And my wingship says Roger that 1-2, we just got hit.

My co-pilot in the front seat is pointing down and just yelling really loud. He’s not on the intercom; he’s just pointing and yelling. And I look down and I see this big orange garbage can coming toward me and I thought, ‘The hell is that.’ It looked like a Star Wars kind of thing. It took a lot slower than you’d think a bullet would go and it went right past us. I’m thinking, ‘That’s a 23-millimeter antiaircraft cannon round tracer.’

So, I was an infantry guy – What do you do in a near ambush? You assault. I flipped the cobra over and dove on the gun. None of my weapons would work.

I pushed the rocket launch button, nothing.

I pulled the trigger for the mini-gun, nothing.

I pushed the button for the 40-millimeter grenade launcher, nothing.

I called my wingship and said, ‘See where I’m going to hit the ground? Blow that up!’ I pulled up my nose and he hit where I was trying to and there was a huge secondary explosion from where we took out munitions. But then my cockpit filled with smoke.

I thought this was really bad because the helicopter is made of magnesium and would just burn up. So, I was flying really low – a few feet off the ground – because I thought that when the thing goes up like a match, I’ll set it down and skid down the road and open the canopy and we’ll just jump out. But as we’re coming on final, the smoke cleared out and I landed. It was the weirdest thing. The 23 millimeter came up through the nose of the helicopter. It went through the heavy steel cartridge ejection shoot for the mini gun and just shredded that, and then it went through this wire loom that controlled all the weapons systems, and it was a big heavy bundle of wires. Because it was a tracer, it started the insulation on fire and that somehow got sucked into the cockpit. And that’s all that happened.

But for my wingship commander, the 23 millimeter went through his engine compartment and took out the Environmental Control Unit and turned it into shrapnel and clipped a hydraulics line. You can fly a helicopter if you can’t shoot, but you can’t fly the Cobra without hydraulics.

All this is a lead up to what happened the next day to fast Eddie Rickenbacker.

The next morning, they told me they got my rockets fixed but they haven’t fixed my mini-gun or my 40-millimeter grenade launcher. My wingship can’t go. I shouldn’t go because I don’t have all my weapons.

Somebody needs to be back up so that’s me.

Rickenbacker’s job was to provide security for the smoke generating Huey to mask the extraction. Rickenbacker is flying about 400′. In Vietnam they would always tell us to fly below 50′ or above 1500′ because between 50′ and 1500′ a guy can shoot you down with a rifle. Rickenbacker’s helicopter gets hit about 15 times by a 51-caliber machine gun. His engine quits, his helicopter starts on fire and he crashes into the woods directly east of Fire Support Base Pace, across the road.

He crashes, and the helicopter is leaning a bit to the right, sitting there on fire. Rickenbacker gets out and runs away from the helicopter. He turns around and he looks back and Mac, his co-pilot is still in there and he’s on fire, thrashing about. He’s not getting out. Understand that you don’t want to be standing in front of one of these things when it’s on fire because it’s got all these rockets on it ready to launch.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Rickenbacker runs back over there, reaches into the fire, unbuckles Mac, picks him up bodily and yanks him out of the helicopter and puts him behind a dirt mound as the ammo starts to explode. So, all this is going on and the other 11 cobras that are there can only fly for about an hour and a half and then they’re out of fuel. I get the call that they’re out of fuel and that they’re heading back, and I have to go find Rickenbacker. I said, ‘What do you mean, find him?’

Well, there was a patrol that left the support base to rescue the crew, but what they found was Mac laying there with a compound fracture of his femur and he’d broken his pelvis and he was badly burned. He had Rickenbacker’s pistol – Eddie had this really fancy revolver with a pearl handle, like a cowboy that he had brought with him. Rickenbacker had given it to Jim and told him he would go to the base to get help and have them come back for him.

The patrol walks over and finds Mac and ask him where his pilot is. He points east. East is 80 miles to the ocean through jungle, which would be the absolute wrong thing to do. I’m flying in little circles and only my rockets work. The guy in the front seat and I are trying to see where the hell Rick is.

The guy on the radio says, ‘We think our ground surveillance radar found your guy in some elephant grass across the road.’ So, my plan was to land in the Fire Support Base and my co-pilot would get out and I’d hover over there to where the elephant grass was and hopefully I’d find Rickenbacker. I’m on final to the Fire Support Base and one of the guys who flies the air ambulance, the Medevac, who’s a dear friend of ours, calls and says, ‘I’ve been listening to all this on the radio, and I’m coming up to get Rick. You just provide me with security.’ And so that’s what happened.

We get Rick out and God Bless Him. He had yanked Mac right out of there. Fast Eddie Rickenbacker had a stellar military career after that.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Eddie was a Harley guy. He drove his motorcycle to Omaha and stayed a couple days with my wife and me. This was eight years ago maybe. He drove clear across the country and back and when he got home, he checked into the hospital for problems with cancer from Agent Orange. He probably shouldn’t have made the trip and he didn’t even say anything to me about his health problems. We had a good visit.

He was dead shortly after that.

We went to his ceremony at Arlington and my wife said, ‘I don’t care if you knew who was getting buried here or not, you’d be crying just standing here.’

It was very touching. Mac showed up and that was really touching to watch him say goodbye. I’m still in touch with him. He’s a great guy. You know he says that Rick gave him the rest of his life, which he did.

That day sticks out in my memory because I’ve been reminded of it so many times over the years, having seen Mac and Fast Eddie. Even in the Arlington National Cemetery website eulogy for Ernest Rickenbacker said that I had given him the name Fast Eddie. So, if I’m proud of one thing, it’s that his son, Scott, who was also a helicopter pilot, had told the writer that.

I don’t think you ever become immune to the missions. You don’t become jaded, you become more professional with how to handle missions. And you learn when to break the rules, because sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Going from selling clothes for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour to flying around Vietnam in a million-and-a-half-dollar helicopter with all this elaborate training and going through all this craziness, I think I’m much better for it. I don’t know how I would have turned out otherwise, but it really helped me set my course and make good decisions. Between the training and the camaraderie with the guys in my unit and with my high school buddy Charlie Lee, it really prepared me for life. Not that life should be about killing, but the education experience, the leadership, well, it made me a better person.

Being around those guys was strengthening. A year ago, I was in Salado, Texas. I met up with my commander, Jerry, who was commander the first part of my tour, and my co-pilot and another aircraft commander. Jerry told us that we’d all been hand selected by our commanders. You know we had to wait 47 years to hear that but that was wonderful to hear. I don’t think he was making it up.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

It was a very special unit. Wings, the History of Aviation even did a little 10-minute thing on my unit. I don’t see the guys too often. I’m 70 now. Some of them have died.

In 1993, the Army had a new Apache helicopter company. And the new commander’s name was Timothy Solms. And I know this because he called me and said, ‘The Army gave me a new Apache unit and because I’m the charter commander, I get to name it. I looked through Army history and of all the stood down helicopter units so that I could give the members of my unit a legacy. I picked your unit. We’re calling our guys ‘Blue Max’ in your honor and we’re going to have a black-tie dinner in Fayetteville, North Carolina and we’d like you to come out for it.’

He found about 15 of us, and we went out for this dinner. The guest speaker that night was General Bill Miller, and Larry McKay who was the commander the second half I was out there. McKay was just a wonderful guy. He had decided it had been too long since we had seen each other after that night, so he started hosting a dinner the night before Veterans Day every year in Washington DC. Then on Veterans Day, we’d have a sunrise service at the wall, and then go have breakfast with the 1st Calvary Division.

Larry died in 2014. I don’t see the guys as a group like when Larry was doing those dinners, but we stay in touch and my crew chief even flew in from Alaska to see us. In 1995, I took my wife and daughter to a Vietnam helicopter pilots’ reunion and she saw that about 8 of these guys had Blue Max t-shirts on. And so, my wife went up to one of them, a guy named Jet Jackson. She asked if he knew me, and he replied, ‘No ma’am, he was just a legend when I got there.’ I pulled him aside and said, ‘Where did that come from? What do I owe you for that?’ And he said, ‘Just remember what to say to my wife when you meet her.’

Blue Max was truly a special group of guys. I think about them often. I guess I always will.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

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Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

Art Jetter, Jr. on his experience as a US Army Cobra Helicopter Gunship pilot flying in Vietnam. This interview was done for the Veterans History Project of …
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 14th

A new study was recently released by the VA that monitored the effects of drinking alcohol heavily on a daily basis. In case you weren’t yet aware, regularly binge drinking is bad for you.

So, instead of joining in with the rest of society and bashing the VA for studying the painfully obvious, I’m actually going to take their side. Tracking. Sure, it’s still a gigantic waste of time and money, but it’s clever as f*ck if you think about it. Imagine being a doctor on that study. You’ve got nothing to do for a few months but drink free booze, you’re still getting paid a doctor’s salary, and the answer is clear as day well before you’re done? F*ck yeah! Sign my ass up!


Shout-out to J.D. Simkins at the Military Times for making an actually funny, sarcastic rebuttal to this gigantic waste of time and money.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Leatherneck Lifestyle)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine’s big catch earns him $200,000+ in prizes

Days after winning the prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the excitement had not left John Cruise’s voice.

“The biggest fish I caught before this tournament was an 849-pound giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Cruise, a major in the Marines. “I’ve caught many bluefin in the 600- to 700-pound range over the years, but that marlin is a special breed. What a feat, I’ll leave it at that.”


Cruise, 47, is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot outboard. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won with a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours Friday. That catch was only two-tenths of a pound heavier than the second-place fish and earned Cruise’s boat more than $223,000 in winnings.

The Big Rock tournament began June 8 and concluded Saturday in Morehead City, North Carolina. It attracted more than 200 entrants, including Catch 23 — a yacht owned by Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame basketball player’s crew brought in a 442.3-pound marlin early in the tournament.

The Pelagic Hunter II was one of the smaller boats in the field.

“We have boats up to 85, 90, 100 feet that fish the tournament that have crews of eight or 10 people,” said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament’s executive director. “For a 35-foot boat … to bring the winning fish to the dock is just heartwarming and wonderful.”

Cruise, a major stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, has run a charter-boat company for 12 years. He followed his father, who fought in the Vietnam War, and his uncle into the Marines and has served for 22 years.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Growing up in New Jersey, his love of fishing was sealed about the time he received his first rod when he was 5 years old.

“The buzz has been beyond belief,” Cruise said of winning Big Rock.

The Pelagic Hunter II competed against boats with far wealthier owners, larger crews and access to greater technology. Because of their sheer size, bigger vessels can handle unfavorable weather or ocean conditions better.

Still, despite being a first-time entrant who said he had not fished for marlin before the tournament, Cruise did not lower his crew’s expectations. He told Adkins and Kirkpatrick that he expected to win.

“I don’t play around, man,” he said.

Shortly after the winning marlin hit the lure, Cruise said it jumped between seven and 10 times. The big fish was on the surface, about 50 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when another boat almost ran over it. Just as the crew got the marlin close to the boat, it suddenly turned and went deep underneath the water.

The fish came up and went down a few times before the Pelagic Hunter II boated her.

“It was an exciting battle,” Cruise said.

Cruise said his crew lost a much larger fish earlier in the tournament when it snapped the line. They measured the marlin they brought to the docks and knew it did not meet the tournament’s 110-inch requirement to qualify.

They were unsure whether it would exceed the 400-pound minimum until the official weight was announced.

“She looked thick,” Cruise said. “She looked big, but we weren’t sure.

“We were just in shock, and we’re still on Cloud 9. We’re stunned, and we’re enjoying the moment.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LRC develops future leaders by using hands-on practice in tackling both leader and follower roles

After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.

The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.

Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.

(Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett/Released)

According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.

The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.

Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.

“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.

The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.

AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


Smith was also named the “2019 Airman of the Year” by Air Force Times. As part of the award, the paper interviewed Smith and detailed his actions.

Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.

TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year

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En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.

The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.

Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.

The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.

Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.

Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.

(Air Force photo)

Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.

Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.

For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.

Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.

“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.

The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the scariest tasks for pilots is to land in rough seas

What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.


PBS: Carrier – Landing on a Pitching Deck Pt. 1

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PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.

But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.

Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.

“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”

“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.

But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.

(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.

(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most accurate military representations on screen

A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.

Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.

But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.

(Warner Bros.)

‘Full Metal Jacket’

Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.

(Universal Pictures)

‘Jarhead’

Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.

So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

The Marines in this series are downright authentic.

(HBO Films)

‘The Pacific’

Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

The nod of approval for this series.

‘Generation Kill’

If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.

Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

The cast of this series could not be more perfect.

(HBO Films)

‘Band of Brothers’

Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.

So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways Navy SEALs overcome sleep deprivation

Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.

Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.


To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.

“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”

Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.

These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Have a presleep game plan.

“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”

During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.

Definitely: turn off your electronics.

TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.

In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.

“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.

Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep when you can.

One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.

A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.

“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”

Just think of it as a lull in combat.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Set yourself up for nighttime right.

(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.

He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.

“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.

(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Put away that phone. Seriously.

It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.

“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep can be a team sport.

An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.

“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”

“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

We remember 9/11. Here’s why we must never forget 9/10.

When my daughter asked if she could interview me about where I was on September, 11, 2001, I didn’t hesitate with my answers. Like the rest of the country, I remember in vivid detail where I was when I heard a rogue plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

My grandfather had died just days before, and I was sleeping on an air mattress at my grandma’s house when an aunt rushed in the front door, imploring us to turn on the television. I remember exactly how I felt, watching the second plane, on live TV, careen into the South Tower. I so vividly remember the pause — the disbelief, the horror, of the news anchor, clamoring for words while the world realized we were under attack.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
File:UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg – Wikimedia …File:UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg – Wikimedia …

I can still feel the hot tears on my cheeks as the towers fell, thinking of the thousands of people trapped inside, waiting for a rescue that wouldn’t come. Nineteen years later, I can still hear the recordings of the phone calls from UA93 with messages of love and hope, sadness and resolve.

For so many of our military families, we remember with almost a painstaking detail the moments, hours, days and weeks that followed – the start of 19 years of war. Our operational tempo hasn’t slowed since, and while we may be weary, our commitment to service hasn’t faltered.

We all remember exactly where we were when we heard the news of a terrorist attack on that beautiful, clear Tuesday morning in September.

But what I can’t remember is the night before. I don’t remember September 10, 2001. Who I called. What I said. How I spoke to or treated the people I love the most. I can’t remember how I felt that night, or how I made others feel. While the rest of the world will remember 9/11 – as we all should – I seem to always spend more time reflecting about 9/10.

I’ll spend today and tonight in deep reflection — hoping that the mommies made time for one more story, the daddies had patience for one more hug. I pray that couples went to sleep holding hands instead of onto arguments or petty fights. I’ll hope that friends found words of forgiveness and that the children too busy to call their parents made time.

Today, I think of the hundreds of people who packed suitcases, briefcases, even diaper bags thinking that “tomorrow” would be just another day. Today, I’ll spend a little extra time practicing gratitude, being intentional with my children and offering more words of support, tenderness and empathy. I hope you’ll join me.

In a time of such great divisiveness of our country, let us take today to remember that we are better United. We are stronger as humans, as brothers and sisters, and as Americans, when we can find tolerance, kindness, mercy and love.

Let the heroes of 9/11 — and their unfinished stories on 9/10 — remind us that tomorrow is never “just another day.”

Tessa Robinson serves as Managing Editor for We Are The Mighty and she loves showcasing military spouse and veteran voices. Email her at tessa.robinson@wearethemighty.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Tribute In Light 9 11 Memorial Nyc – Free photo on PixabayTribute In Light 9 11 Memorial Nyc – Free photo on Pixabay
MIGHTY CULTURE

Airmen at Nellis AFB will get cargo shorts for flightline work

The Air Force has just discovered how hot it can be to work in the desert, especially if your work zone requires long periods of time in direct sunlight. This somehow managed to elude Pentagon officials for the past 18 years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention all the other Middle East locales which include Air Force flightlines. Now airmen working the line at Nellis AFB, Nev. will get to wear what is no doubt the latest in cargo short technology.


On Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the heat can get deadly, often exceeding temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the airmen who are working aircraft maintenance for long hours in what is often direct sunlight, the heat risk can be even more punishing. The wait for ways to beat the heat is now over – the Air Force will issue its maintainers new cargo shorts for wear during these duties.

The look was released on the popular Air Force Facebook Page Air Force amn/nco/snco in the early days of July 2019, and it did not take long for airmen to weigh in on the new look.

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The first response from airmen included a prayer to “Enlisted Jesus” (also known as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright), for hearing their prayers and responding once again. They also predicted new Air Force uniform instructions regarding leg tattoos and shaved legs, extending the program to USAF Security Forces bike patrols, and how hot it’s going to be when someone sits on a piece of metal equipment that has been sitting in the sun itself all day long.

They also mention how the Air Force will no longer get away with skipping “Leg Day” at the gym.