Much has been written about the major set piece dramas of World War 2. D-Day, El Alamein, and Stalingrad are battles that are well known. Their stories grow into legend with each recounting. But one of the things I find most fascinating about WW2 is there were thousands of smaller dramas both during and in between the major battles. Many of these episodes are barely known except for the most dedicated historian but occasionally the consequences had an effect on the course of the war. ‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ by Damien Lewis is a book about one of those important smaller dramas which had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the war.
In 1941-42, the British Bomber Command had a big problem. It’s raids across the English Channel were being intercepted and losses were becoming staggeringly high. The British began to strongly suspect and later gained evidence that the Germans had very advanced radars along the coast. This critical advantage had to be neutralized. To accomplish this goal, the British needed to get their hands on one of these systems. So, they turned to their Airborne forces.
Airborne operations were a new thing and after German successes in France, Belgium, and Norway, the British began to muster their own paratroopers. These specially trained troops were given the mission to conduct a daring nighttime raid on a coastal radar site at a point in the war where the Germans were at the height of their military power. 120 paratroopers dropped in the middle of the night and made their way to the objective: the sophisticated German Wurzburg radar. They disassembled the radar under fire and fought their way onto a beach and into a boat, where they were successfully met by the Royal Navy. The analysis of the radar was instrumental in allowing the British to devise countermeasures which allowed them to significantly reduce their losses.
Damien Lewis’s book is an excellent account of raid’s events but more important is how he tells the story. Rather than a dry recounting of the history of the Paras and the raid, Lewis recognizes tells this story as a human drama of daring and bravery. The personalities of the raiders and the challenges they faced makes this book highly readable and gives it a page-turning quality.
Lewis begins with the story of an earlier raid: Operation Colossus. This was a prior company-sized Airborne raid on an objective in Italy which was regarded as a failure at the time. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that Airborne operations were new, incredibly high-risk, and had their detractors. After Operation Colossus, it wasn’t certain Operation Biting would be approved, and if it had failed, British Airborne operations might not have recovered. But Churchill understood the value of these “ungentlemanly” raids and how pivotal they could be in neutralizing Germany’s advances. Including Operation Colossus frames them as not just operations but as justification for an entire way of fighting the enemy. It’s two amazing Airborne stories in one book.
In summary, Damien Lewis’ book was one of the most readable World War 2 history books I have read in years and it has inspired me to put some of his other titles on by reading list. I strongly suspect if you give this book a chance, you’ll end up doing the same as well.
Since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, NATO leaders have been focused on securing the alliance’s eastern flank.
But defending that boundary and deterring threats to member countries there takes more than just deploying troops. It means moving them in and out, and, if necessary, reinforcing them, and that’s something that’s always on US and European military commanders’ minds.
“I will tell you that when I go to sleep at night, it’s probably the last thought I have, that we need to continue to improve upon, and we are, from a road, rail, and air perspective, in getting large quantities of hardware and software from west to east on continent,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off ARC vessel Endurance at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
The US, which has drawn down its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, has put particular focus on both returning to Europe in force and on moving those forces around the continent.
This has included working at ports not used since the Cold War and practicing to move personnel, vehicles, and material overland throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
“We’re improving, but I will tell you, as a supreme allied commander of Europe and a commander of US EUCOM, I’m just not satisfied,” Wolters said. “It’s got to continue to get better and better and better, and we are dedicating tremendous energy to this very issue.”
“In US EUCOM, we have directors, which are flag officers that work for me, and they’re called J codes, and our J4 is our logistician, and he’s a Navy flag officer, and he’s probably one of the busiest human beings on the European continent,” Wolters added. “He gets to sleep about one hour a day, and his whole life exists from a standpoint of finding ways to improve our ability to move large quantities at speed from west to east in road, rail, and air, across the European continent.”
‘There will be some snags’
The renewed focus on moving US and NATO forces around Europe has highlighted the obstacles posed by varying customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of proper transport vehicles.
Those would be challenges for any peacetime mobilization and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
To correct that deficiency, NATO has stood up two new commands. One, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, will oversee movements across the Atlantic. The other, Joint Support Enabling Command based in Ulm in southern Germany, is responsible for movement on the ground in Europe.
US Army vehicles during a tactical road march in Germany, April 22, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
“We’ve also recognized the need in NATO to improve in this area,” Wolters said. “Through NATO command structure adaptation … we elected to standup an entire new command called Joint Support Enabling Command, JSEC, and it’s run by … a NATO flag officer, and that commander’s sole purpose in life is to nest with all the nations to find ways to improve our ability to move large resources at speed from west to east across the continent.”
That will be on display during Defender Europe 20, the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years, which will involve 37,000 troops from 18 countries — including 20,000 US troops deployed from the US — and take place in 10 countries in Europe.
Defender Europe 20’s actual drills won’t take place until next year, but, Wolters said, “it’s already started, because the benefit of a large exercise is all the planning that takes place beforehand.”
“The strategic message is we can demonstrate our flexibility and adaptability to lift and shift large forces to any place on planet Earth to effectively deter … and that’s incredibly valuable,” Wolters said.
But, he added, getting the logistics right on the ground may be the biggest obstacle.
“We want to make sure that from a border-crossing perspective and from a capability perspective in those 10 nations in particular that we’ve got it right with respect to our ability to lift and shoot and move and communicate with an exercise at speed,” Wolters said.
“There will be some snags along the way. We will find things that we’re not happy with. We will will after-action review those. We will find remedies in the future, and when we have another large-scale exercise we’ll demonstrate an ability to get through those snags … and we’ll just be that much quicker and that much faster in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As a young girl, Angie DiMattia knew softball would be her way out of an impoverished life.
Growing up, she lived with her parents and shared a room with her older sister inside a crammed 500-square-foot mobile home in Phenix City, Alabama.
“I remember stray animals coming into the house from the holes in the floor,” said Angie, now a first lieutenant. “It was rough.”
Her father worked hard delivering mail to make ends meet, she said. But, one day, her mother, who suffered complications from Type 1 diabetes, told her they’d never be able to afford to send her to college.
She saw softball as her golden ticket. It also fed her competitive side that later forged her into a chiseled bodybuilder and United States of America’s Ms. Colorado.
The strong work ethic that blossomed from her humble roots pushed her to keep practicing softball. Yet, she needed extra lessons to be a better pitcher, her favorite position. With no money to pay for them, she decided to work for her coach, who owned a batting cage.
A young Angie DiMattia poses for a photograph before a dance recital.
She picked up balls and swept the batters’ boxes in between customers. And at the end of the day, the coach helped with her form.
“That’s how I figured out how to pitch was through his lessons,” she said. “But I earned it.”
She also earned each of her wins with a used glove she had bought for 25 cents at a flea market. She pitched well with it throughout high school and got a scholarship to a nearby community college.
“That glove, and obviously my work, earned a college scholarship,” she said.
Angie shelved her lucky glove, but still used her industrious attitude in other competitions.
Now 34, Angie has raced in several marathons, Iron Man triathlons and often advises other soldiers on how to achieve their fitness goals.
Her motivation to care deeply for her own body partly stems from witnessing her mother suffer with hers.
“I just watched what life was like when your body fails you,” she said.
With her mother’s dietary restrictions, sugar was banned in the house and Angie learned how to eat healthy at a young age. She also saw sports and fitness as an outlet that taught her leadership, teamwork and camaraderie — skills that continue to resonate in her Army career.
“My life has definitely been geared toward taking care of my body, which takes care of my mind that takes care of everything else in my life,” she said.
Her efforts recently bore fruit.
Earlier this year, she competed in the Arnold Sports Festival, a massive competition with about 22,000 athletes. Out of nearly 20 contestants in her category, she finished second place.
First Lt. Angie DiMattia is seen volunteering for the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, Georgia.
The road to get there was not easy. On top of her routine physical training for the Army, she added two more hours of cardio in addition to a weightlifting session every single day for numerous weeks.
“I’d be so tired, I’d plop down,” she said of when each day ended.
While preparing for the competition, the endurance runner-bodybuilder also tried something out of the ordinary — a beauty pageant.
“I’m the complete opposite of a pageant girl,” she said, laughing.
While at a volunteering event, she met the state director of the USOA Miss Colorado pageant who convinced her to sign up. The prize that finally persuaded her — if she won, she could use her title to highlight issues she cares about on a wider platform.
“The pageant was never my goal,” she said. “To serve military families and Gold Star families, that was my goal.”
To her surprise, Angie became the first active-duty soldier to ever win the “Ms.” category for single women over 29 years old.
After being crowned, she has been able to collect more donations for Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Carson, Colorado, where she once served as a family readiness leader with 4th Infantry Division.
To her, volunteerism is her life purpose. She sees competitions as “selfish goals” because it saps a lot of her time from selfless endeavors.
“I don’t do a lot of community service because I’m really busy,” she said of when preparing for contests. “But it’s good sometimes to balance life. You have to grow individually before you’re able to help others.”
That passion was ignited a decade ago when she began to serve as a fallen hero coordinator for the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, Georgia. Proceeds from the race benefit the National Infantry Museum and other military-related nonprofit groups.
“It isn’t just me, it’s this team of people who all have the same mission,” she said. “We all love to run and we all love to serve our community and our military.”
Cecil Cheves, who is the race director, said that Angie has been an integral part of the annual event.
Then-2nd Lt. Angie DiMattia conducts a dumbbell workout Feb. 23, 2018, at Fort Carson, Colorado.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
She’ll research and produce a list of fallen soldiers from the local area and place their names on paper bibs that runners can run with in memory of them.
She also has a “vivacious personality” that she reveals as an announcer when runners cross the finish line.
“She gives off energy that draws others to her,” Cheves said.
But she is not self-focused, he noted, and is very interested in people.
“She’s the kind of person every organization, like the Army, would want,” he said. “She’s very much a team player.”
Angie also strives to use her current role as Ms. Colorado to raise awareness of fallen service members during other events, such as motorcycle rides that honor veterans.
Similar to the marathon, she hands out bibs with the names of deceased troops for riders to wear. If someone donates money for a bib, she gives it directly to Survivor Outreach Services.
“I’ve never taken a dime from it, not even to pay for my gas, not to pay for the printing materials, anything,” she said. “I pay it out of my own pocket.”
In 2012, Angie first joined the Georgia National Guard as an enlisted truck driver so she could be assigned to a unit that was close to her ailing mother.
But soon after she completed training, her mother passed away.
“I was only here so I could be next to her,” she said.
She decided to enroll in the ROTC program at Columbus State University and earned a bachelor’s degree. She became an intelligence officer, then a strategic communicator and is now preparing to switch careers to be a space operations officer in Colorado.
As a child, she was obsessed with space. She painted her ceiling black and mapped out the night sky with stars and planets that glowed in the dark.
“It isn’t something you hear about very often,” she said of the Army’s space career field. “When I realized that this was an opportunity, I was so excited.”
Being able to rise above the “rough patches” she was dealt with as a child has also made her a better leader, she said.
The strong work ethic that blossomed from her humble roots in Alabama has pushed 1st Lt. Angie DiMattia to accomplish many goals in life.
To her, she’s not embarrassed of the way she grew up. It actually shaped her desire to assist others facing their own challenges.
“I can influence beyond the chain of command with my community service and charity work,” she said. “But then I can relate to my junior soldiers through me being real. I know what it’s like to struggle a bit in life.”
When she gives advice to her soldiers, she says to seek mentorship from someone different from them and that way they can learn more.
She also likes to recite a quote on achieving goals that a Buddhist teacher once told her: “You just need to be yourself, but be all of you.”
But, perhaps, the greatest lesson she has learned is time management. If things in one’s life do not bring added value, she said, they need to be eliminated.
“My time is more important than my money,” she said. “You can invest money and get a return, but you cannot invest time and get time back.”
She suggests soldiers need to first define who they are and where they want to go before they try to conquer a goal in life.
“Let’s start mapping out these stepping stones,” she said, “that are going to be crucial to getting you to that next goal.”
It’s no secret the military is full of soup. Even an FNG could tell you that. There are even more specific alphabet soup acronyms within each branch: the Air Force has OTP, and the Marines have OSM (semi-respectively).
Here’s a couple of acronyms we made up that aren’t in use, but should be.
“Sergeant ran out of real tasks.”
This acronym is used to explain why you are: measuring the length of floor tiles, power washing a lawn chair, or cleaning an actual pile of garbage with Windex. We don’t ask why. We know.
Example: I know we’re outside in the desert, but S.R.O.O.R.T. so now we all have to sweep the dirt.
Images From The Korengal Outpost – The Far Side.
“Only dipping tobacco while on deployment.”
This acronym is the lie you tell yourself while on deployment. It soon warps into the closely related acronym “O.D.T.B.O.D.” which is “Only dipping tobacco because of deployment.”
Example: Yeah, I never used to chew Cope, but I’m O.D.T.W.O.D.
“Good piece of gear.”
This acronym is used to describe a fully functional piece of gear in the military.
Example: *N/A, no plausible use*
“Dinner” aboard the USS Green Bay.
(Sgt. Branden Colston/ USMC)
“Why did I even grab a fork?”
This acronym is used to describe the fine delicatessen cuisine service members enjoy on a ship. It’s food so sparse, so understated, so daringly simple, it begs the question: why did I even grab a fork?”
Example: Welcome aboard, today we will be serving delectable items from the W.D.I.E.G.A.F. cuisine: our first course is a handful of hard white rice, followed by two triangles of cardboard garlic bread, accented with a chalice of warm water. Served sea side. Bon Appetit.
“Not old enough for beer, only for armed combat.”
This is a much needed acronym for the millions of 18-to 21-year-olds in our military who cannot legally buy beer but can legally be trusted with billions of dollars of equipment and the lives of men who are old enough to buy beer. Granted, this one doesn’t really roll off the tongue—but neither does explaining the ancient logic behind this law.
Example: I’ll take an automatic rifle, a crate of C-4 explosives, and a Shirley Temple to drink, sorry I’m N.O.E.F.B.O.F.A.C.
“You make comm awful.”
This is for anybody who never shuts the hell up over comm. They add useless information, make bad jokes, clog up the line, and all kinds of other annoying things.
Example: You don’t have to mouth breath for 3 seconds before saying what you need to say. Y.M.C.A. Over.
“Boy, our operation’s boring, Sgt.”
Sometimes you have said all you need to say. You’ve been in a foreign place with the same 6 dudes for months. You can only talk about how bad the Cleveland Browns are, or what kind of food you wish you could eat, for so long… Sometimes, when you’ve been away for months and don’t have anything to talk about, you just talk about B.O.O.B.S.
So apparently there are talks within the Senate to give each troop who deployed under the Global War on Terrorism $2,500 as part of the AFGHAN Service Act, which would also negotiate the end of the conflict.
On one hand, sure. I’d love the money. Bills suck ass and cash is king. On the other hand, well, let’s look at the lettering of the bill. It’s a one-time payment, and it’d be sent out to every troop who’s deployed anywhere under the Global War on Terrorism. I can only imagine the impending sh*tstorm that’d come when everyone got that check in the mail.
Deploying one time to Kuwait would get you the money, deploying multiple times to Afghanistan still only gets you one check and the older vets who served before 9/11 get nothing. See where I’m going here? The veteran community will turn into the freakin’ Thunderdome. But then again… that is a rent payment…
Anyways, enjoy some memes before the ensuing sh*tstorm!
The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude and our support, but historically they’ve received a whole lot less. Many veterans in recent decades have struggled to make a smooth return to civilian life, and the programs available to them were lacking. Thousands ended up on the street- a grievous injustice and betrayal to those who deserved our support the most.
The good news is, Americans wanted to do better, and we did! According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3 percent since 2011. Those are some amazing stats, but our work still isn’t done. In 2019, over 37,000 veterans were still without roofs over their heads. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it is to fix it. Here’s how you and your family can help bring that number to zero!
We all love to think we’re openminded and understanding, but there’s still a strong stigma against people who have become homeless. Many people in shelters struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. If I give them money, one might think, they’ll just buy alcohol. Why should I fund that? Why should I help someone who won’t help themselves?
Before you go any further, imagine a day in their shoes. Imagine you don’t have a job, and you can’t afford a haircut or clean clothes, so no one will hire you. You might not have a degree, either. You spend most nights alone, cold and shunned from the society you swore to protect. Statistically, 90% of homeless veterans are men, and only 2% are part of a family. In other words, if you’re a homeless veteran, you probably came back from war to no job, no family and no support. Considering substance abuse is closely tied to low income and lack of emotional and social connections, is it any wonder these veterans are struggling? Then, factor in conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, and well…that would push ANYONE to the brink.
Understand that being homeless doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about getting back on their feet. It means they need help to do it. An easy way to show your support is by offering bottled water, nutritious food or a warm coat. These are small acts of kindness, but they help.
Reach out to your local government officials to discuss what your city is doing to help reduce the number of veterans in shelters each night. Push for plans that include affordable housing for veterans, treatment programs for substance use and employment programs. If they don’t have plans in place, ask how programs like that can be launched.
If no one’s listening, make them
If there’s a marked lack of support for homeless veterans in your area, consider starting a coalition. Gather people you know who support the cause and work together to make a difference. Start a canned goods drive, a coat drive or a meal train. Plan a peaceful march to boost awareness. The more visibility your group has, the more city officials will listen.
If you happen to be a lawyer, why not use your powers for good? Visit local shelters to help veterans apply for benefits and housing programs that they may not know are available to them. Medical professionals can also help by treating minor injuries and illnesses.
Hire a veteran
If you own a business and need more employees, consider hiring a veteran! While their individual skillsets and qualifications may not match every industry, they’re likely to be hardworking, quick learners, and a great fit for most entry-level jobs.
Not everyone has time for hands-on involvement, and we get it. If that’s the case for you, just donate! Organizations like DAV, U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America are great charities to donate to at the push of a button.
And remember, if you see a veteran, whether at a family reunion or on the street…say thank you. A little appreciation goes a long way.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, most people are setting their sights on Christmas – and all the gifts they’ll have to buy. This holiday, consider shopping for socially responsible items – things made in the USA, gifts from small businesses, and products that give back to others, like servicemembers and veterans. Here are my top gift ideas:
Note: None of these companies paid for this post or gave free items in return for being mentioned.
This awesome bag was inspired by unique aircraft insulation surplus and is wool and leather. Sword & Plough helps support veteran jobs through positions on their team, with their contract manufacturing partners (which are veteran owned or partially staffed by veterans), through their veteran-owned fulfillment center, and through their Brand Champion program. $149.
Each Junior’s Bullet Pen is handcrafted by Gold Star Father, Major (Retired) Jeff Falkel PhD. From once-fired military brass. In honor of his son SSG Chris Falkel, US Army Special Forces, K.I.A. in Afghanistan and our service men and women. $29.95.
This shirt by the Gary Sinese Foundation features the words “Grateful” and “American” printed down the arms. The Gary Sinese Foundation is a nonprofit that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military. $30.
This is the perfect gift for military kids and can be customized to each service. Comes with uniform, a full color storybook, a sleep system including door hang, Sleeptight Oath and 5 stickers, and a gift box. Every purchase helps Sandboxx donate bears monthly to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty through our partnership with TAPS.
Find other Sandboxx gifts, including stationery sets, stamp packs, newsletter subscriptions, apparel and gift cards at https://shop.sandboxx.us/
Unless you’re a Guamanian local, been stationed on Guam or have participated in the drop itself, Netflix’s new holiday movie may be the first time that you’ve of Operation Christmas Drop. In fact, the operation is the Department of Defense’s longest-running mission and the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world. Here are five incredible facts about Operation Christmas Drop.
1. It started with a random act of kindness
During the Christmas season of 1952, a WB-29 Superfortress of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Wing was flying a mission from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. While over the Micronesian atoll of Kapinga-Marangi, the crew spotted islanders waving at them from down below. In the spirit of Christmas, the airmen collected supplies that they had on board, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and circled around to drop the care package. Since then, the operation has grown and continued every year.
2. It benefits islanders and airmen
According to an Andersen Air Force Base statement, “The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.” Aircrews coordinate the drops with the islanders via ham radio. Using Low-Cost Low-Altitude air drops, containers are dropped in the water just off the shore to avoid hitting any locals. In 2011, the drop included 25 boxes of IV fluids for Fais Island to combat an outbreak of dengue fever. In 2013, the drops included critical supplies of food and water for 30 recovery workers on Kayangel Island after it was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. In 2020, though additional safety measures will be put in place due to COVID-19, Operation Christmas Drop will go on. This year’s drop targets 55 Micronesian islands across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.
3. The drops are completely legal
Unlike how it’s portrayed in the Netflix film, there is no Congressional issue with Operation Christmas Drop. The drops are conducted under the protection of the Denton Amendment. Also known as the Denton Cargo Program, it was launched in 1985. The program allows for space available on military aircraft to be used to carry humanitarian aid supplies to countries in need and for disaster relief. Aid under the Denton Program comes at minimal or no added cost to taxpayers since it utilizes excess space on scheduled military flights. Today, the program is administered jointly by USAID, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of Defense.
4. The operation involves units across the Pacific
As mentioned in the Netflix film, Operation Christmas Drop involves international partners like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. While the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and play a major part in the operation, other organizations support the drop, too. The 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, the University of Guam and the “Operation Christmas Drop” private organization all help to make the drop possible.
5. The drops are all donations
In the months leading up to the drop, volunteers set up donation boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens. A week before the drop, volunteer service members, civilians and contractors collect and sort through the donations. Afterwards, riggers at Yokota and Andersen volunteer their spare time to build boxes to hold the donations. The majority of items dropped are school supplies, clothes, rice, construction materials, fishing equipment and toys.
While many service members will be quick to point out military inaccuracies in the film, the positive effect that the drop has cannot be argued. The relief and joy that Operation Christmas Drop brings to the people of Micronesia every year is an incredible achievement and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make it possible.
Negron enlisted in the Marine Corps on December 4, 2000, and his personal decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Joint Service Commendation Medal, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and three Combat Action Ribbons.
Here is the exclusive interview.
What led you to join the Marine Corps and then later Recon and MARSOC?
Well, I have family members that have prior military service, but it all started with my grandfather who served and fought in WWII. Like most during that time he answered the call and joined the US Army who then deployed him to Africa. After the German forces were defeated, the Allied forces advanced, and my grandfather moved with his unit into Italy to continue fighting until their surrender in 1943. Not long afterwards, my grandfather met my grandmother in Italy. That’s how my whole story even became possible.
However, the biggest contributing factor to why I wanted to join the military is largely because of my father who joined the Marine Corps in ’57, fought in the Dominican Republic in ’65, and got out in ’68. Shortly after, I believe, he served in the Army National Guard from ’70-’90. During that same timeframe he was a full-time police officer in California. My father was always extremely patriotic and loved serving his country. I admired my father so much growing up that I knew my calling in life would eventually guide me down a similar path. All his police buddies had military backgrounds, predominantly from the Vietnam timeframe which resonated with me. All this ultimately directed my path to a very early preparation to join the Marine Corps Infantry, with the ambition of pursuing a more specialized background.
But early on, I didn’t know if I was good enough to go Recon or Force Recon and MARSOC didn’t exist at the time. When you aspire for something like that, you know, sometimes the people who are in those fields almost look superhuman-like, and sometimes you wonder, “do I really have what it takes, go that route?”
My first unit I joined in the Marine Corps was LAR – a light armored mechanized infantry unit. I learned some valuable things there and met some great Marines, but I also ran into some terrible Marines too. In my first platoon I had really bad leadership, which later on taught me a valuable lesson: Exactly how not to be like as a leader!
And then right before I left LAR, I had excellent leadership. 1st Sergeant Loya who retired as a SgtMaj, was a big contributing factor to the reason why I got my opportunity to go over to Recon. He was a prior Force Recon Marine. The guy was built like a spark plug, and for somebody that was probably in his early 40’s, he could still practically outperform the large majority of the battalion in PT (physical training). Beyond all that, he genuinely loved the men that he led. His leadership style was more that of a father but also someone that was highly respected and that you did not want to disappoint or piss off.
He was very inspirational and helped motivate me to seek something further for myself in life – to seek out a higher challenge. So, I reset my sites back on Recon, and after making it I realized I had found my home. Six great years and three deployments later in Recon I looked to the next progression for my career. MARSOC was already up and operating with an aggressive training cycle in preparation for the next big fight in Afghanistan. A lot of my friends from Recon had already transferred over there. It looked like the next best thing, a new challenge, and one I gladly accepted.
What, if anything, do you miss about being in the Recon community versus being in MARSOC at this point?
There was just an atmosphere in Recon that, for that time, I don’t think you can really replicate or replace. There’s a real brotherhood there, and warfare bonded us closer together. Ultimately, I just miss the camaraderie with the Recon guys. There was always just a healthy, competitive spirit that everybody had about them. You were always competing against your brother, but there wasn’t any sort of animosity. It was all in a loving way. For lack of better words, you always challenged each other, especially in training, and even in combat. Every platoon was trying to outdo the other ones but we all mutually supported one another.
Everyone worked hand-in-hand together. Our SOP’s (standard operating procedures) were practically the same, and we also worked together inside the house with (close quarters battle) tactics which was all dynamic. Even though our platoons were separated, our tactics were the same. When we operated in the house, we would often times mix teams together with other platoons just because combat could call for that very same thing.
You may have to take on a large structure or multiple structures to where one platoon isn’t enough to cover all the ground, so we would incorporate another platoon for additional support. And the more familiar you guys are with each other the better. There was just a unique, I guess, working spirit that everyone had together and really in a way embodied the term “gung-ho”, which translates to “working together in spirit” or as my father would say “working together in harmony”. Recon Marines – and Marines in general – always look after their brothers, and you always looked after their best interests.
Do you have a favorite moment from your time in uniform – something that you’re particularly proud of?
All of my deployments with Recon were great. I mean, some of the workups weren’t necessarily fun at times and the actual deployments definitely had their own suck factor, but my overall favorite experiences of being in the military were the two times that I deployed as a Recon team leader. My first team and combat deployment was great, but as a point man I didn’t grow. I just did what I was told to do, as by design. Being thrown into a leadership position really forced me to take a deeper look into myself. Having seen firsthand great and terrible leaders I wanted to ensure that I did not repeat past mistakes from others as I re-evaluated my AAR (after action report) of life experiences. At that time, it was the next door for me to walk through, and for me, this one was very personal.
One of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever received was from a father figure of mine growing up named Dave Deluca, who was a Ranger that served as a 1st Lt. with the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam. Dave was a great friend of my fathers who I went to see just before I left on my first deployment. He said three things to me: first, “never tell your men to do something that you have never done yourself or don’t have the balls to do yourself”, “if it scares you to do something as a leader, you should not send one of your men to do it for you, do it yourself and your second in command should be ready to take over should anything happen to you”, and the last was “don’t ever think at any time point in time during combat that you’re not going to make it, no matter how bad it gets, always believe that you’ll live no matter what, even if wounded, and always take care of your men and do whatever you need to survive, nothing more”.
One of the biggest things that I wanted to do as a leader other than the obvious was to ensure that I actually listened to and mentored my men. Evaluating them was vital and something that I was intimately involved in. Any opportunity that presented itself turned into a quick on the spot lesson. At the same time, I encouraged them all to be free thinkers and to partake in mission planning. Like any leader I believe that I’m tactically sound and proficient, but I’m not the smartest, nor can I think of everything. So, I made it clear to my men that at any point in time If I ever made a mistake or need correction, by all means do so regardless of rank but please do it professionally. I’m not above reproach and if I’m making decisions in combat that can affect whether or not we make it back alive, then everyone needs to have trust in me and my ability if I’m truly going to lead. If I’m messed up in anyway, or if there’s a better way to get the job done, I want to know. Their voices were equally as important as my own, as there’s always a risk when you step outside the wire and the enemy always gets to vote. In combat, life and death is weighted and measured by seconds and inches, and anything can get you killed – including doing nothing. My team needed to know that I would always look after them no matter what and they could approach me at any time about anything. I did not know how to put it into words at the time, but I was encouraging and strengthening trust within my team.
You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.
– GySgt Joshua Negron
Aside from war, I wanted my men to grow professionally and become great leaders themselves. By the time I was a team leader with my second team, it wasn’t uncommon for a Recon Marine to be promoted to Sergeant within his first two years. It happened very quickly and was normal. Afterwards though, it can take four to five years to get Staff Sergeant or more (laughs). By this time, I had eight years in as a newly promoted Staff Sergeant. My main goal was to train my men to be better by the end of that deployment, as Sergeants with three and a half years in the Marine Corps, than I was as a Sergeant when I was at my seven-year mark.
This was possible because I was giving them information willingly and freely. I wasn’t withholding anything from them, but at the same time, I’m also not fire hosing them with information. As simple as this is, it was not very common from what I previously saw in the infantry. What I saw were a lot of keepers of the badge. At the time when I was a junior Marine there wasn’t a whole lot of mentoring going on, and if there was, it was very little. It was only,” I’m going to give you just enough information to where you learn something, but I’m also going to purposely withhold information from you because I don’t want you to grow beyond and possibly outshine me.”
You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to. This rarely happens as everything in the military is performance driven. The byproduct of freely teaching and giving all information by default forces that leader to take a deeper look into themselves and identify what they’re deficient in and find ways to improve. Otherwise, if this step is missed as a leader who freely mentors their personnel without withholding, eventually their men and woman are going to grow past them – resulting in promotions above them. If I’m going to keep up with them, I’ve got to continue to look deeper into myself and see what I can make better.
This is the way of giving back to the community.
A true leader doesn’t make more subordinates, they make more leaders. They’re humble in nature and they take responsibility over things that aren’t even their fault in regard to those within their command. They’re stern when needed but also compassionate towards those they lead. Members of any command are not just numbers to do your bidding as a leader, they are family – the lifeline and heartbeat of the community. If this is lost, you lose trust, and if that’s lost, you have nothing as a leader. You will use your men and woman as tools to build and promote yourself instead of using your position and instruments to further develop, and hone those that you are blessed to lead. This is Esprit de Corps, this is Gung Ho!
What special operations skillset came most naturally to you?
The things that came most naturally to me was shooting and really just being and operating in the bush – your basic infantry concepts and tactics. And really anything related to R&S (reconnaissance and surveillance) and SR (special reconnaissance).
I kind of had a knack for it even though I have a love-hate relationship with R&S because it always involved carrying a pack that was over 100 pounds, deuce gear that was like another 50 pounds, and then my weapon. I practically carried myself in body weight every single time we stepped out (laughs). I kind of hated that aspect of it, but I loved once we got on site and we started our reporting, started collecting information on our target site. I just love that aspect of it.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to treat your training like it’s real. You never know when it will be. Plus, during training you’re always competing against your counterparts that are inserting into the bush as well – oftentimes with you – but they’re just taking another piece of the objective. And so, you have that friendly competition going, but at the same time, you’re both performing exceptionally well and doing a great job on target site. So, you’re adhering to the Recon creed of honoring those who came before.
Which skillset took the most work to master in spite of not being very good at it initially?
Things that I wasn’t that great at? Well, I was never really that fast in the water and I’m still not that fast in the water.
Diving (school) sucked for me, especially going into it with an injured ankle, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do. I just wasn’t fast in the water. Actually, one of my good buddies that I joined Recon with – he was a big dude at 6’4, 220-240lbs – he was slow on land but fast on the water, and I was slow in the water but fast on land. So, when we were getting thrashed in pre-BRC (Basic Reconnaissance Course), I was the one smiling on the runs because he was typically the last dude coming in. Then when we got to the pool, it reversed. I was like the last guy to finish while he was one of the first ones out. He just sat on the pool side and laughed at me.
In a way, it motivated us to not quit. We both suffered in silence and suffered uniquely together, and that camaraderie bonded us. We both saw each other in some of our worst moments and our best moments as we fought to solidify our place within the Recon community.
Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited?
Deployment-wise, I would have loved to have seen more of Australia, but unfortunately didn’t get to see too much during one quick stop in Darwin.
Dubai was cool and that area was really nice.
I really like anything with history, especially anything that has long history. So, when I went to Jordan, I got an opportunity to take a trip over to Petra. If you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s the city that’s carved into the rock. That’s Petra. The movie only shows one spot actually, but there are multiple places like that and it’s a massive city that’s carved into other rocks all around. It’s got a bunch of what seemed to me like hundreds or possibly thousands of little homes in between some of those larger dedicated sites.
What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?
As most men involved with self-defense, I was inspired by Bruce Lee.
My favorite film he did was “Enter the Dragon”. That was definitely one of the best ones for me, but I really enjoyed more of his documentaries and reading books on him – he is just very inspirational.
He obviously had this amazing physical ability that dazzled the world, but people who had the opportunity to meet him were oftentimes more impressed by his spoken words.
He wasn’t just a martial artist; he was poet, a father, a husband, who lived and embodied a warrior spirit that is very uncommon. At the end of it all Bruce did not embrace the illusion of fame, he wanted to be remembered as a real human being who was fully alive. In his own words, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up in what we see as the success of others, but if social media has taught us anything, it’s that perception and reality are often quite different. Air Force veteran and founder, Charlynda Scales, wants more entrepreneurs to realize this.
From Scales’ experience, when we see someone achieve what appears to be significantly more than what we’ve accomplished, it sometimes makes us think we must be doing something wrong. Or maybe we aren’t smart enough or working hard enough. But more often than not, it’s none of that. It’s simply the fact that we’re only seeing the carefully crafted picture that person wanted you to see.
She says that despite her success, the reality of her situation behind the scenes was often far different than what other people assumed. They would see her activity on social channels, speaking at events and being featured by the media, and assume that her company was larger and generating significantly more revenue than it was.
She recalls a particular situation that exemplified this when she was asked to participate in an event hosted by Hill Vets. She had just left an unhealthy relationship taking only her clothes with her, was sleeping on a cot in an unfurnished apartment, and got a free makeover at the makeup counter in the mall before the event. She even wore a dress that she bought for $700, carefully tucking the tag away so that she could later return it after the event.
Seasoned entrepreneurs can relate to this experience, but many new founders don’t yet understand that the reality of entrepreneurship is often nothing like the glossy image we see on the surface.
There’s a lot of hard work, failure, challenges and disappointment behind the scenes. In many ways, it’s a lot like the military in that you need to be there for the right reasons. You need a powerful “why” to drive you through the hard times.
“You don’t have to feel qualified to be qualified to accomplish a goal or carry out a mission.”
Scales’ path was no surprise to anyone who knew her—after ROTC at Clemson University, she commissioned in the Air Force and became the fourth generation of veterans in her family. In fact, her company was named in honor of her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell Jr., who was also an Air Force veteran and served in Vietnam and Korea.
Scales then started Mutt’s Sauce while stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, with the only remaining copy of a recipe that had been handed down by her grandfather.
Her business grew rapidly from there, but her journey also included a number of challenges along the way.
Initially, she started by working with the local Amish community to handle contract manufacturing for her products in batches of 700-1000 bottles at a time, which she would then pick up and deliver herself. She quickly outgrew their capabilities and began seeking manufacturers who could handle a larger volume. Since then, she’s had to switch manufacturers three times to handle her consistently growing volume.
She sold just 18,000 bottles in 2018, followed by 36,000 in 2019, and then like most of us, was blindsided in 2020 by COVID. While she was already working on building a stronger online presence, this global event forced her to make a massive and immediate pivot, going all-in on e-commerce. Today, her products can be found on her own website and in several retail stores.
But Scales doesn’t attribute her success only to herself—she says she had a lot of help along the way, and she’s a huge believer in collaboration and mentorship because she’s experienced the leverage they create first-hand.
Unsurprising to most veterans, upwards of 90% of her collaboration comes from fellow veterans, many of whom she met through the Military Influencer Conference. But she has also collaborated with and received mentoring from industry titans like Daymond John, who was so impressed with what she had accomplished that he made her a Rise and Grind ambassador and included her in his latest book, Powershift.
In 2017, she learned about another opportunity for collaboration—the Heroes to CEOs grant, run by Bob Evans Farms. Candidates had to submit a video telling a compelling story about their business’s veteran backstory for a chance to win a $25,000 grant.
Mike Townsley, CEO of Bob Evans Farms, explained that the program is their way to carry on the spirit of Bob Evans, the company’s late founder. “He had a soft spot for the military and veterans because he served in the Army,” Townsley said.
For the second annual Heroes to CEOs contest, in addition to the grant, three finalists won a trip to New York City where they also received mentoring from Bob Evans Farms executives and a half-day coaching session with Shark Tank judge Daymond John. “He’s equipped to teach them ways to gain momentum that are unique to an entrepreneur,” Townsley said. “It’s so much more different starting a small business wearing many hats, versus a large corporation that I run.”
Scales, who was an Air Force Reservist at the time, was one of the finalists.
“I answered a call from an unknown number,” she said, “and it was Daymond John telling me I won the contest. I just lost it. I cried.”
But she’s most passionate about collaborating with fellow veterans.
One of those veterans was Molly Mae Potter, who won Ms. Veteran America in 2016, a contest where Scales was 2nd Runner Up. Potter and Scales attended the Military Influencer Conference together and served as ambassadors for Final Salute, an organization that helps house homeless female veterans.
“My grandfather taught me humility will take you further than money,” Scales said.
With her tenacity, collaboration with fellow veterans, mentorship from entrepreneurs like Daymond John and grant money from Bob Evans Farms, Charlynda managed to scale her company from a meager $30,000 its first year to almost $80,000 in 2019.
“I do it because my grandfather sacrificed so much for his family — because I’m fourth-generation military, and that means something. Because my mother gave up everything so I could get an education. Because everything is connected and things happen for a reason. I tell people all the time they need to spend some time understanding that reason – to harness their why – so that they can walk in their purpose.”
Working from home can be both more comfortable and more stressful at the same time, so I’ve compiled a short list of work from home tips that can make your transition a smooth one.
As governments around the world encourage both employers and employees to embrace the concept of working remotely as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many find themselves buckling in for a long day’s work on their couches, in home offices, and even from bed.
Working from home can be a really rewarding experience, and there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a few days to figure out what works best for you. I started working from home around five years ago, and I can comfortably say that working from home for the long term isn’t for everyone–but since it needs to be for the next few weeks, here are a few work from home tips that just might make your remote time even more productive than your time in the office.
Make sure you know how to secure your data.
If you’re a service member that works on an official computer, you likely have a CAC card reader to connect to your laptop or home desktop to help you gain access to important data. Dependents working from home may have similar security measures in place to protect customer data while working remotely.
Make sure you discuss the security measures you’ll need to adhere to with your employer before making the switch to working from home. If there’s any special hardware (like a card reader) you’ll need for work, your employer may be able to provide it to you or help you secure one through commercial channels.
Knowing what you need before hand will really reduce the stress of setting up some office space in your home. Nothing’s worse than settling in for your first day working remote, only to find you can’t get into any of the software you need.
Give people the benefit of the doubt in written correspondence.
We all know that tone can be lost via text, but that becomes especially important to consider when working from home. I interact with dozens of people on a daily basis through written communications like Facebook messenger, Slack, Discord, and over e-mail. When you do that much talking-by-text, there are bound to be some mishaps in your delivery.
Others have that same problem–and that’s why it’s important that you adopt a mindset of giving others the benefit of the doubt when they seem aggravated, short, or disinterested in your written conversation. Chances are good that they have the same worries about you!
Remind yourself that this is challenging for everyone, and that most people mean well even when under stress, and you won’t have nearly as many high tempers around your digital workspace.
Establish some office space for yourself.
Everybody that switches to working from the office to working from home starts out with a laptop on their coffee table, and while that may seem like a comfortable choice (after all, what’s better than working from the couch?) it can actually have a few negative side effects. The first and perhaps most troublesome issue with working from the couch is what it does to your back. Even if you aren’t an old washed up Marine like me, spending eight hours haunched over your coffee table will leave you feeling stiff and uncomfortable by the end of the day.
The other big problem with working from your couch is that it can negatively effect your ability to “wind up” for work or to “wind down” after. If you’re used to having a commute to and from the office, you’re also accustomed to your work day having a distinct beginning and end. When working from home, those distinctions start to blur, and if you spend you working hours and your leisure hours on the same couch, it can be harder to get into the right mindset to work–or worse, you may start to feel like you’re at work anytime you hang out on the couch.
It’s important to have a break from work that feels like a break from work. So set aside some space for work, and save your couch for your off time.
Set a schedule and stick to it.
One of the most important work from home tips I have to share is the importance of scheduling and creating good schedule related habits. For a lot of people, working from home means you can sleep in some more, but don’t let the lack of commute sell you on the idea of sleeping right until it’s time to start your day.
A lot of people recommend showering and getting dressed before work, even when working from home–but I don’t necessarily buy into that approach. One thing I love about working from home is the ability to make my schedule fit my life–and I prefer showering after I work out at lunch. I also like being comfortable, so even when I’m wearing a shirt and tie from the waste up for video meetings, I’m often still wearing pajamas from the waist down. My best advice to those who like to work in your PJ pants is to be mindful of knee placement when you cross your legs. If you’re not careful, your Spongebob pajama pants will be visible despite your Brooks Brothers top half of a suit.
Establish a schedule for the start and end of your day that you stick to religiously. It will make it easier to get into the swing of things in the morning, and easier to unwind in the evenings.
Take a lunch break.
When working from home, you might be inclined to munch your way through the day, and as a result, taking a lunch break may not seem all that necessary. After all, if you’re quarantined in the house, it’s not like you’ll be hitting up the local restaurants for a quick mid-day meal.
But taking a lunch break has value beyond just keeping you fed–it’s also a great opportunity to destress a bit mid-way through your day. Taking a mental break can help you come back to your workspace refreshed and with new energy, whereas working straight through can often leave you feeling burned out midway through the afternoon.
Give yourself a chance to get up and walk around, go for a jog around the block (avoiding any crowds) to give your brain a chance to reset. Because you’ve cut a lot of the walking out of your day that you would have done heading into and out of your office, this bit of exercise can also help stave off some unintentional work from home weight gain.
Your location changed, not the job.
No matter how many work from home tips you may come across, what’s most important is that you already know how to do your job, you just need to find a way to keep your work output up while doing it from a new place. You’ll find some things are easier (fewer social interruptions throughout your day will help get things done) and others are harder (you don’t always know what’s going on in other departments because you’ve lost those social interruptions). Remember though that while your location has changed, the job hasn’t, and no one is better prepared to figure out how best to do your job from home than you.
Trust yourself and listen to your body. If your back hurts, switch chairs. If you’re having trouble getting yourself to work in the morning, start your day with a short walk to get the blood pumping again. Keep experimenting with things until you have an approach to working from home that you’re comfortable with and that you can sustain.
Who knows, you might even become a working from home convert like me!
The Lord of the Rings saga is a gripping tale of teamwork, magic, and the triumph of good over evil against all odds… if you’re degenerate, decadent capitalist swine. The problem with the Lord of the Rings, in Russia’s view, is that history is written by the victors, Mordor might have been misunderstood, and it could have prospered if it weren’t for the external meddling of men, elves, and dwarves.
“Look, Sauron had a lot of good ideas.”
In 1999, Russian author Kirill Eskov penned, The Last Ringbearer, a version of the Lord of the Rings written from the view of Sauron’s forces. This alternative view of the saga features a lot of common historical ideas from the real Earth’s 20th Century applied to the fictional universe created by Tolkien, a departure from the Hobbit propaganda the Deep State (aka dwarves) would have you believe.
Eskov writes his novel under the premise that history is written by the victors, and a novel written by the vanquished would present an entirely different view of Tolkien’s creation. The Last Ringbearer is meant to counter Hobbit Propaganda that wants you to think that Gandalf and elves are anything but thieves and war criminals.
The Last Ringbearer actually accuses Gandalf of “crafting the Final Solution to the Mordorian problem.”
While readers of the Lord of the Rings were led to believe Mordor is an evil place, desolate and dedicated to the destruction of the world of men, The Last Ringbearer wants you to know the glorious world of Mordor was filled with engineers and artisans on the brink of a new industrial revolution, whose beauty was cut down in its prime by the imperialist pigs led by the Elves allied with the Elvish puppet Aragorn.
After the forces of Middle Earth slaughter orc civilians during an invasion of the land of Mordor, two orcs fleeing the elvish onslaught rescue a Gondorian noble who was sentenced to die for opposing the massacres of civilians. Together, they work to free the land of men from Elvish magic.
As if I needed any more proof Cate Blanchett is the root of all evil.
The book has never been officially translated into English, although amateur translations are available on the internet. The reason for this being the Tolkien estate is very protective of his work and will sue Eskov all the way to Vladivostok if given the opportunity. All kidding aside, it would be an interesting exercise for us all to consider our favorite stories and even real-world events from the point of view of the losers – maybe we would come to understand why some people are the way they are and accept them a little more.
Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.
Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.
Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.
And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via 1st Civ Div)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?
That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.”
Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.