Air and land are valuable training tools when it comes to Air Force ranges. Both are finite resources that are also utilized by the rest of society. Unfortunately, the demand for air and land in civilian pursuits can have an impact on the Air Force and Total Force training and testing missions.
Wind farms, oil exploration, urban expansion, and commercial air traffic can encroach on range safety buffer zones or create hazards in the limited airspace utilized for testing and training.
(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)
A 500-foot windmill becomes a dangerous obstacle for an aircraft that may be flying as low as 100 feet off of the ground.
(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)
Oil and gas infrastructure in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico continue to expand and if the growth were to spread close to the military mission area, it would interfere with new and experimental missile testing, as well as vital operational training, causing an irreplaceable loss of capability for the Department of Defense.
(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)
With more than 50,000 flights per day, commercial air traffic uses a vast amount of the nation’s airspace. The Air Force, with a little more than 3,500 flights per day in the continental U.S., relies on airspace restrictions and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration for air corridors and other compatible use allowances to conduct training.
Another issue arises in the realm of the radio and electromagnetic spectrum. With rapidly expanding commercial enterprise developing new technologies that occupy an ever-increasing part of the spectrum, Air Force assets can experience diminished mission capabilities which hamper full-spectrum training opportunities.
The Air Force, recognizing the balance that needs to take place outside of its range perimeters, is proactively engaging with local communities, energy providers, and other government agencies to work on compatible land-use initiatives that benefit all parties involved.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Samurai are some of the most popular and enduring figures of Japanese culture. They are the heroes of poems, stories and movies in Japan and Western countries alike. The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, is perhaps the best-known example of that fascination. Samurai were part of the military noble class in feudal Japan, an era that stretched from the 12th century until 1876. Their role was mostly that of military officers, although they have also taken on the role of administrators when the need arose. Administrator-like samurai were mostly seen during the Edo-era, which spanned from 1603 to 1868.
The Warrior Class
This class of highly-trained warriors adhered to a very strict moral code that placed loyalty and honor above everything else. They had to be fearless, disciplined and stoic in the face of pain or danger. To give their lives on the battlefield for the sake of their master was not only a matter of course, it was a great honor. They obeyed the orders of their lord without question or hesitation. To fail in a task, to be cowardly or to disobey led to shame, disgrace and dishonor. In order to regain this honor, they could commit seppuku, a ritual suicide. However, there could be a conflict of interest when a higher lord was in disagreement with a samurai’s master. There have been records of samurai betraying their lord to follow the Emperor’s command.
Symbols of the Samurai
The mark of the samurai was the right to bear two swords. Katana, tachi, wakizashi or tantō, the distinctive curved shape of these swords have made them memorable in war history. The smiths who forged these weapons were often considered both artisans and artists. As the weapon was considered an extension of the warrior’s soul, there was a spiritual dimension to the making of a samurai sword, and often, the smith was blessed by a priest before the beginning of his work.
A samurai sword was made from high-quality steel called tamahagane, which was obtained by smelting iron sand and charcoal in a clay furnace for 72 hours without interruption. The obtained steel was then broken to bits and sorted through by carbon content. The combination of high and low carbon-content steel forged a sword both sharp and strong. The pieces of steel were then heated, hammered and folded repeatedly by the smith (up to 16 times). It helped to distribute carbon more evenly, eliminating impurities and air bubble which could have weakened the sword, as well as creating layers that reinforced the blade.
Once the steel was ready, it was time to properly forge the blade. The core of the blade was made of low-carbon content steel for toughness, while the outer shell was made with high-carbon content steel, providing sharpness. The signature curved shaped was obtained through the cooling process. The blunt side of the blade was covered with a thick coat of clay while the sharp side was only lightly dusted. The blade was then taken out of the fire and plunged into water. The difference in cooling speed caused the blade to contract on one side, thus giving it a curved shape. The slower cooling process of the upper side of the blade also added a lot of flexibility to the weapon. The finished sword was thus meant to ally sharpness, toughness, and flexibility. It was a weapon designed for slashing and was very difficult to break.
Before being handed to a samurai, the blade was then polished, mounted and tested. The polishing process could take weeks to obtain a razor-sharp edge. As the samurai’s sword was such a powerful symbol, the creation of the hilt, guard, and scabbard was an art in itself. They were often made with precious materials (ivory, gold, silver, and rare woods) and depicted incredibly detailed carved or hand-painted scenes of Japanese mythology. The final step was to test the quality of the blade, as a samurai had to rely on his sword to survive on the battlefield. It was done by cutting through bamboo or corpses, to verify that it could easily cut through flesh and bone. It’s even speculated that new swords were tested by executing prisoners, as it was considered an honorable way to die.
The samurai’s final sword was as much a work of art as it was a lethal weapon. The quality of their swords, the rigidity of their moral code, their martial talents, and their fearlessness in the face of death all turned the samurai into warriors of legend–legends that still inspire fascination to this day, over 150 years after their disbanding.
Sometimes, all it takes is a whiteboard and a marker to jump-start a dream into reality. This week’s Borne the Battle features guest Jesse Iwuji, whose creative and hardworking mindset led him to overcome great challenges and become a NASCAR driver.
Growing up, Iwuji excelled at both track and football. His high school accomplishments led him to the Naval Academy’s football team where he played safety. He graduated from the academy in 2010. After seven years active duty, Jesse transitioned to the Navy Reserve.
After his football career ended, Iwuji found competitiveness in racing. However, he was at a disadvantage compared to his peers who started racing at a very early age: Iwuji started in his mid 20s. He lacked sponsorship and he wasn’t born into a racing family. Despite this, his determination and led him to a variety of open doors. He funded the first part of his NASCAR KN racing career through a variety of ways to include starting his own business. Currently he is racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
Today, Iwuji represents sponsors from several different organizations, which many help veterans. He uses racing as a platform to advocate for veterans’ rights and he shares his passion in Veteran communities and schools. To Jesse, nothing is impossible if you have vision and hard work behind it.
What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.
Last year, the British Army made headlines when it said it wanted “snowflakes” in its ranks. This year, the Army is calling on social media addicts, binge-drinkers, and anyone else who spends their time desperately searching for a confidence boost, no matter how short-lived it may be.
The British Army, as of last fall, was still thousands of troops shy of its target of 82,000 fully-trained troops, with numbers still falling as more troops leave the service among an upswing in recruitment.
In an effort to boost its numbers, the British army is pushing forward with its “belonging” recruitment drive. The latest recruiting campaign, which came out Thursday, has a simple message: “Army confidence lasts a lifetime.”
British Army unveils latest recruiting campaign: ‘Army confidence lasts a lifetime’
The video targets people addicted to the gym, bar hopping, social media, and fashion, telling viewers that “lots of things will give you confidence … for a little while, but confidence that lasts a lifetime, there’s one place you’ll find that.”
The British Army is also putting out advertisements with collage images of muscles, emoji, applied cosmetics, and so on with captions like: “Confidence can be built for a summertime or it can last a lifetime” and “Confidence can last as long as a like or it can last a lifetime.”
The latest campaign is based, at least in part, on research done by The Prince’s Trust charity in 2018 that found that roughly 54% of 16-9 to 25-year-olds struggle with self-confidence and believe that this problem keeps them from reaching their true potential.
The British Ministry of Defense, according to The Independent, says that the ongoing recruitment campaign, which began in 2017 amid a steady drop in the size of the British armed forces, has been successful.
(Photo by U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Brett Miller, 116 Public Affairs Detachment)
Last year’s British Army recruitment drive, which controversially targeted “snowflakes,” “class clowns,” “selfie addicts,” “phone zombies,” and “me me me millenials,” reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people signing up to join. While the force fell short of its annual recruiting goals, it saw the highest number of recruits in a decade start basic training last fall.
“With the 2020 campaign we want to highlight that a career in the Army not only provides exciting opportunities, challenges and adventure but it also gives you a lasting confidence that is hard to find in any other profession,” Col. Nick MacKenzie, the head of the British Army recruitment, said, according to the BBC.
Despite increases in recruitment, a positive change for the British Army, the force continues to face retention challenges that keep it from meeting its ambitions. The British armed forces shrank for the ninth year in a row last year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.
So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.
America didn’t just call on the troops to wage war, she called upon all her people to fight food shortage and a depression with gardens — “Victory gardens” — to be specific. In the early 1940s, when food rationing came into place, everyday Americans were turning up their yards to produce not just enough food for their families, but for their neighbors as well.
It’s safe to say a worldwide pandemic has given us cause to unearth the history of Victory Gardens and take the matter of a potential food shortage into our own, capable hands.
Here’s a thing or two you need to know about how to raise your shovels as your grandparents or great grandparents did long ago.
Canned food was limited
Canned food was rationed both to preserve tin for military use but also to decrease the strain on food transportation. Reducing “food miles” with sustainable urban agriculture was exactly how families and friends stayed supplied with fresh produce. Put down the can of lima beans you’re never going to eat and pick up some seeds instead.
Victory gardens were pushed at a national level, and informational pamphlets (pre-internet) were distributed. Community committees were organized to both assist newcomers and inform neighbors of what was being grown and where. Luckily for us, there’s a whole internet full of information, and local agricultural extensions to call, ensuring social distancing is still met.
So easy a child could do it
Children participated in gardening both out of necessity and to ensure all that good food knowledge didn’t go to waste. Need something for your kids to do? Let them tend to your budding garden at home; it’s a delicious form of education.
It doesn’t take a farm
The average American lawn has more than enough space to grow everything your family needs and more. Learning what plants like to cohabitate in the soil will maximize your growing potential.
How to rely on ourselves has been a skill lost to the “lazy” days of supermarkets stocked to the brim with internationally-grown produce. It may have taken a pandemic, but re-educating America on how to fend for themselves needs to be a skillset we value once again. We need to pass down precious knowledge of food and to become aware once again of the immense value food has in our lives.
Great things have happened throughout history during times of struggle. Every single one of us has the opportunity to make this world better, stronger and more resilient than ever before.
This holiday season is looking a little different than all the others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to make it just as special. In fact, we might want to make even more special because of the circumstances. But don’t worry — this year we won’t leave you to think about what to get yourself all on your own. We have the perfect gifts for service members so that everyone in your spend-every-waking-minute-together-since-March family has something they will totally love under the tree or for Hannukah.
5.11 Tactical is a tactical clothing brand that offers clothing, footwear and accessories for those with the military and law enforcement mindset. This Pathfinder Watch is perfect for your military guy while the Ammo Queen t-shirt will quickly become your military girl’s favorite tee.
Who doesn’t love a pair of sunglasses for the holidays? These floating sunglasses from Rheos are perfect for a military guy or girl. They are scratch-proof, smudge-proof and won’t get lost in the pool during their liberty weekends. They have a variety of styles and colors for everyone.
Created by a Marine Corps veteran, Strong Women Supply was started with a simple idea of adding a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to a back of a olive drab t-shirt to be worn by female veterans under their uniform. Now Strong Women Supply offers a variety of products including t-shirts, water bottles and mugs.
You can’t go wrong with a new knife or multi-tool for your service member, and Gerber Gear makes the highest quality ones for military, first responders, and law enforcement. This multi-plier tool is a perfect addition to their pack for field exercises.
Is your service member coming back from deployment, or do they work in a bunker or on a submarine? A light therapy lamp is a great tool to help regulate sleep patterns or get the necessary daylight needed to help with sleep and mood.
Nothing says “America” more than an American flag. But these aren’t any old American flags. The flags by Allegiance Flag Supply won’t get worn out or wrapped around your flag pole with every gust of wind. Each flag is hand-sewn with the highest quality fabrics to ensure that America is displayed proudly.
After a long training session in the field, a hard day of PT, or a ruck hike with their platoon, your service member needs to take the time to recover their muscles. A portable percussion massager like this one is a great gift this holiday season.
Your service member goes out in the field for days at a time, but their love for the great outdoors remains. This Chuck Box Camp Kitchen is a great addition for family camping trips, days spent by the lake or for your RV.
No matter if they are in the field, out for a run or you are getting ready to PCS- space is sacred when it comes to military life. The Nomader Collapsible water bottle is perfect for when you need it, and even easier to store when you don’t.
A nine-line is a medevac for an injured service member, and Nine Line Apparel is the place to go for all military-inspired clothing and accessories. Super patriotic doesn’t even cut it as a description of their stylings for men, women, and even kids.
Looking for some new PT gear for your service member? Grunt Style has some of the coolest and most comfortable lines of fitness wear (and other clothing and accessories). How can you go wrong with American flag Ranger panties for the holidays?
Veteran-owned Black Rifle Coffee is a great gift for your service member this year. You can get them a bag of their favorite roast to send to them while they are forward deployed, or get a monthly subscription box for them to enjoy while they are home.
Daily shaving. Hard days of PT. Weeks-long exercises with no showers. BRAVO SIERRA is a veteran-owned business that makes hygiene products that work with a service member’s needs in mind. Each product is tested by a member of the U.S. military so you know they work.
If you are looking for a unique jewelry gift for your service member, look no further than The Jewelry Republic. They have cufflinks and customizable rings for men, and branch-specific bracelets like these for women. It is a great option for an end-of-service holiday gift.
Dignity, Loyalty, Disciple, Integrity, and Perseverance.
These are just a few of the values that are placed upon the hillside of Trophy Point, at the United States Military Academy. Seen engraved in the history going back to 1845 at the United States Naval Academy and memorialized in granite at the United States Air Force Academy. Internalized forever in the minds of all of the cadets that walk the long line set before them across the country at each one of these distinguished military academies!
These values bring to light the type of person each cadet strives to be as they embark on the journey that has been walked time and time again by some of the most prestigious members in American History.
As a military child, you are often thought to have these same values instilled in you from the time you are able to talk. You already have a great understanding of sacrifice and resilience by the time you are a teenager. Seeing your parents hold themselves at a particular military standard gives you a glimpse of the person you could very well become. Growing up in this lifestyle could be extremely beneficial in setting you up for success in your journey to gaining an appointment at a military academy.
Each of the academies has the same basic requirements.
You must be a United States Citizen at least 17 years of age, but no older than 23 on July 1st of entry. You cannot be married nor pregnant and all around you must be of Good Moral Character.
But this is just the beginning of what can seem like an endless checklist to prove that you could be one of the few who receive an appointment to attend. All of these schools listed as well as a few other academies have several steps that must be taken in order to apply.
Filling out an application page is just the beginning.
You will need everything from a physical fitness assessment, and medical exam, to a written nomination from your Congressional Representative or Senator. The best way to make sure you are navigating the entire process correctly is to reach out to the Academy Admission Representative for that particular school of choice. This staff member will have a wealth of valuable information for you in completing the process. Not only are there summer programs that are offered at these academies, you can also schedule a visit during the academic year to help you determine if this is the right path for you.
As we all know the college path is something thought about early on in our childhood education. The good thing is that it is never too early to start working on your application.
Gaining knowledge and leadership through joining the scouts, or a sports team, will only show the dedication and discipline you have had through your youth. Volunteering with a nonprofit and making sure you have a strong GPA will only help you as you navigate your way through your future.
There are so many different ways your military child can set themselves up for success now and it is beneficial to them in their future choice of attending a Military Academy.
For more detailed information on the Military Academy’s mentioned above check out the admission tabs below.
I love American Christmas traditions as much as the next guy, but stockings, honey-baked hams and pictures with Santa aren’t the only traditions out there. Countries around the globe have fun, festive and occasionally creepy traditions of their own. Keep reading for some of the most unique ways of celebrating Christmas on almost every continent. We didn’t find any traditions in Antarctica, but maybe the penguins just like to keep their parties on the DL.
In the US, it’s hard to imagine a sunny, tropical Christmas, but that’s the norm for Australians. There, Christmas takes place in summer. Instead of celebrating around a fire, Kiwis usually share casual barbecues with friends and family. The New Zealand version of a Christmas tree is called the Pohutukawa, which turns bright red in December. Don’t worry, they still sing carols, but they’re sung in both English and Maori!
Several countries, Austria included, have a more sinister undertone to their holiday festivities. In addition to St. Nicholas coming to visit, a demon named Krampus joins the party. The children still get treats from St. Nick, and the looming threat of Krampus bringing a nasty gift on Christmas morning keeps them on their best behavior. bad children worry what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.
Oatmeal fans should fly to Finland for Christmas. There, families often eat rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and butter. An almond is hidden in one of the puddings, and who ever discovers it is declared the winner. Parents have eased up in recent years, putting almonds in everyone’s porridge to avoid a fight.
In Holland, Santa maintains a more traditional, saintly appearance. There, he’s known as Sinterklaas, donning a long white beard, red cape, and red miter. Instead of a stocking, kids put a shoe out by the chimney for Sinterklaas to fill with gingerbread and other treats.
Holland’s more questionable traditions have caused controversy in recent years. Instead of elves, Santa has helpers called Zwarte Piet, drawn from traditional folklore. It doesn’t sound strange until you know what it stands for; Zwarte Piet translates to Black Pete. For decades, Sinterklaas has been joined by helpers in curly, black wigs with their faces painted black. Though some still believe it’s harmless, protests have brought the tradition’s racist ties to light. Hopefully, more respectful traditions will take its place.
Here, lots of people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. In Iceland, there are 13. On the nights leading up to Christmas, 13 “Yule Lads” visit the homes of little children. Good children wake up to discover candy in their shoops. Those who misbehave discover rotten potatoes instead! I think I’d rather have coal.
Irish traditions are simple and sweet. They leave a red candle on the windowsill to symbolize warmth and welcoming over the chilly winter. Their traditional Christmas meal is similar to ours, with vegetables, cranberries and potatoes, but instead of turkey or ham, they have roast goose.
Here, witches are scary. In Italy, witches bring gifts! Well one of them does, anyway. An old witch named La Befana sweeps the floors of dirty homes and brings gifts instead of St. Nicholas. It’s believed that the tradition was a reinvention of an ancient Roman goddess named Strenia, who gave out gifts for the New Year.
In Japan, Christmas isn’t such a big thing. Only about 1% of the population is Christian, so the trees and carols never really caught on. Instead, they celebrate the season with…fried…chicken? It started in 1974, when KFC started a marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” It took off like wildfire, and nearly 50 years later, Japanese families are still putting in their order for fried chicken early to make sure they don’t miss out.
On an island in the French Caribbean called Martinique, Christmas time centers around community. Their biggest tradition is called la ribote. During Advent and on New Year’s Day, the people of Martinique deliver holiday delicacies to their friends and neighbors, offering up regional treats like pork stew, yams, and boudin créole, aka blood sausage. Often, groups gather to sing their favorite carols into the wee hours of the morning, embellishing them with lyrics of their own.
In Mexico, Christian tradition is strong. The festivities begin in early December with a march called Las Posadas, representing the long walk of Mary and Joseph. Then, members of the church collaborate to put on nativity plays retelling the story of Christmas. Mexico is also famous for its love of poinsettias, which light up homes and shops with their bright, red blooms every year.
The Philippines is definitely extra when it comes to Christmas displays. Their tradition of Ligligan Parul, the Giant Lantern Festival, is hosted every Christmas in San Fernando. Giant is no exaggeration. Each parol is made of not hundreds, but thousands, of colorful lights. People travel from across the country to see it, naming the city “the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” As you can see, the parols are more like works of art than ordinary decorations!
Poland is another traditionally Christian country, so many of their people’s Christmas customs are religious. Families typically share a religious wafer, or oplatek, on Christmas Eve, each one by one breaking off a piece. Dinner doesn’t start until the first star shines out. If you could take a peek into a Polish dining room on Christmas Eve, you might notice an empty place set at the table. The empty chair is there for a reason; to welcome any unexpected guests to share their meal. How kind!
Consoada is a Portuguese tradition that takes place on Christmas Eve. The traditional dinner honors friends and family who have passed away, inviting them to share in the feast symbolically. An empty chair is left to host any wandering souls, or alminhas a penar, who stop by to visit, and any extra food is left on the table for the night in case one of the spirits gets hungry. Ghosts need midnight snacks, too, you know?
In the US, spiderweb decorations are firmly a Halloween thing. I doubt even Tim Burton decorates his trees with spider webs. In Ukraine, however, it’s totally normal. The tradition started with an old fairy tale. As the story goes, a family couldn’t afford Christmas decorations, so some friendly spiders decorated the tree for them. Luckily, Ukrainian families don’t ask real spiders to take care of the decorating. Instead, they use webs made out of paper, glass, or metal. It’s much more sparkly than spooky.
In Wales, it’s not Christmas without a horse. Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is an age old tradition there. It starts out with a life-sized horse skull decoration or a person in a horse costume. People join the macabre horse to walk door-to-door, singing carols and dancing. Most likely, the tradition has pagan roots from before Christianity was brought to Wales. Sometimes, the singing turns into a battle of wit between the merrimakers and whoever opens the door.
If you know one thing about U.S. Army veteran Clint Romesha, it’s that he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009 during the Battle of Kamdesh. If you know another, it’s that he wrote a book, “Red Platoon,” about that battle. What most people don’t know — or at least what’s not obvious to the casual observer — is that Romesha doesn’t particularly like the spotlight that being a Medal of Honor recipient has put him in.
“I’ve always been a very quiet personality,” Romesha said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “I like to have one-on-one conversations with people and not be the center of attention in the middle of a crowd. It’s just not my personality. So that was very much a shock, something I’m still trying to get used to.”
Romesha grew up in a small town in Northern California, and his family has a history of military service. His grandfather served in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and two of his older brothers joined the service when they turned 18. “It wasn’t one of those ‘to be a Romesha, you had to do it,’ but it was just always encouraged,” he said.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)
In 1999, Romesha enlisted in the Army, expecting to “just do three years, check the box, get the GI bill, grow up a little bit, come back home, have some silly stories of being too drunk in Germany and escaping the polizei or something like that.” He wasn’t going to make a career out of it — nor did he think his service would define his future.
The first sign that things wouldn’t be as cut and dry as he expected was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Romesha was doing maneuvers in Germany when his unit was called into formation in the early afternoon and briefed on the situation. No one had been watching television or knew what was happening.
“We got there and formed up, and our colonel came out,” Romesha recalled. “He gave us a little pep talk like, ‘Hey, they flew planes into the towers there in New York, and everything from this day forward is going to change.'”
Romesha deployed four times during his nearly 12-year career as an armor crewman and cavalry scout. His final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2009, which would be his second sign that his military service would have a bigger impact on his life than he planned. That deployment is where he would earn the highest U.S. military award for valor. However, when asked about the most significant part of his military service, he doesn’t mention the Battle of Kamdesh — he talks about leadership.
Romesha with his unit.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“It was always pursuing that mentality to just be a good leader,” Romesha said, “to have those young kids look up to you just like when I was a brand-new private coming in, looking up to guys like Sergeant [Joseph] Garyantes, those NCOs. I was like, ‘Man, if I could be half the man those guys were, I’d be a fairly decent leader.’ And that really was the significance of staying in and really building my career throughout 10 years leading into Afghanistan.”
That leadership mentality is also part of what made it difficult for Romesha to accept that he was being awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I’ll be honest — part of it was embarrassment,” he said of his initial feelings about the award. “The fact that you sit there, and you’re about to get nationally recognized for ultimately what’s a really shitty day. And part of that embarrassment came from — I know I did a decent job that day, but we also lost eight guys. They never get to come home anymore. They never get to spend time with their families. They never get to have any more birthdays or Christmases or Thanksgivings. I’m still here. That just weighs on you — why am I getting all this attention when I got to come home and those guys didn’t?
“So, initially, it was, like I said, just a deep down sense of embarrassment because as a leader, as good as you think you are or you feel you are,” he continued, trailing off. “They say I saved a lot of guys that day, which I don’t doubt I did. But I feel as a leader, you almost feel like a failure any time you lose anybody, no matter how hard you try and how good the plan was.”
Romesha wrote about his experiences in ‘Red Platoon’.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha/Facebook.)
When he got the call about the award, Romesha had been out of the Army for almost two years and was working in the oil fields in North Dakota. He managed a smooth transition from military to civilian life by keeping in touch with his Army buddies and throwing himself into a demanding job.
“I think a lot of things are about timing,” he said. “And the [oil] boom [in North Dakota] was going on, and I fell into a job where I worked 42 days straight before my first day off. We were working 12- to 16-hour days, and I never had that low time of, ‘Oh, man. I’ve just left my entire known adult life behind and all those guys behind.’ I just rolled right into work that gave me a sense of purpose, a direction, and kept me super busy enough not to get caught in that reflection.”
Romesha also took advantage of his 76-mile commutes to and from work to call his battle buddies and catch up.
“Even though I didn’t get to see them every day […] I got to talk to at least one of them,” Romesha said. “And still having that connection was just powerful — to still feel part of that group, even though we were hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.”
He was told his life would change after receiving the Medal of Honor, but he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Romesha worked through his unease and natural quietness by continuing to shift the focus away from himself and onto the men who lost their lives during the battle.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“For me, Oct. 3, 2009, was just a date that I knew when I talked to my buddies I was there with, and we’d reminisce about it. But the rest of the world never really knew about October 3 until Feb. 12, 2013, the day I received the medal. And then almost overnight, on a national level, everybody knew what happened that day. And now you’re sharing that day with everybody,” Romesha said.
“And because sitting there talking to the guys and talking to the Gold Star families, it was also an opportunity to make sure, ‘Look, if I’m getting this attention, well, I can use it for good. I can make sure those guys — Gallegos, Scusa, Kirk, Mace, Hardt, Martin, Griffin, Thomson — those guys will never be forgotten. I can talk about them again. And even though they’re not here, they’re going to always be with us. And that’s what really got me over the embarrassment.”
Romesha applied that same reasoning when he decided to write “Red Platoon.” He didn’t want it to be the Clint Romesha story. So he talked to his platoonmates and the Gold Star families, making sure that they were on board to share their stories, too. For two years, he travelled the country, reconnecting with and interviewing those he served with.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“A lot of these guys hadn’t even talked about that day before with anybody,” Romesha said. “And it was capturing their perspective, and it was, at first, a very scary thing — how is this going to be received? I don’t even know what to expect from going out and doing this — and how are these guys going to react? At the end of the process, though, it was almost therapeutic.”
“Red Platoon” was optioned for a film the year it was released in 2016; however, there hasn’t been any significant momentum on that project. While he’s waiting for that call, Romesha currently spends his time “totally underemployed or overemployed, depending” on the day, with speaking engagements.
“I don’t want to be a career speaker my entire life, but it’s what pays the bills and gives me the flexibility right now to do a lot with veteran outreach and nonprofits,” he said. “Someday I’m going to have to grow up and figure out what my new occupational life’s going to be — but for right now, that’s what’s filling that spot.”
Whatever that next step is for Romesha, he credits the Army for instilling in him the work ethic and value system to get there. From a “check the box” enlistment to Medal of Honor recipient, Romesha has stepped outside of his comfort zone to be a voice not only for the soldiers he lost in Afghanistan, but for the veteran community as a whole.
“We can never forget about our service,” he said. “We can’t let it control us or dictate the rest of our lives, but we can never forget what we’ve been through and what we’ve experienced. It’s all about that follow-on mission and what we can do next and what we can accomplish going forward.”
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
If you’ve ever watched a video or seen an ad from Black Rifle Coffee Company, you’ve seen the work and style of co-founder Jarred Taylor. “Everything is devoted to creation,” Taylor said, describing his overall philosophy. “So every piece of time, it might seem like I’m having fun, but everything is devoted to creating stuff for the audience base, on my part.”
Taylor grew up in Novato, California, north of San Francisco. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and they lived on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force base, Hamilton Army Airfield. In 1994, he and his family moved to Bangor, Washington.
“I was always fascinated with the military,” Taylor said. “I loved jets specifically.” But his other passion, from an early age, was film. “I would tell people when I was super young, ‘I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies.'”
At age 13, Taylor started making short skateboarding films using his parents’ 8mm camera and a VCR. When he was in high school, technology improved and he began using iMovie to edit. He took all the classes he could about digital media.
Taylor completed high school a year early and joined the Air Force in 2002. As the war in Iraq started, he was eager to get in on the action. “I was kicking and screaming during basic training, trying to find any way to get to that,” he said. When he had the chance to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) — the person responsible for coordinating air strikes on the ground for the Army — he passed selection on his first try.
His role as a TACP meshed nicely with his continuing desire to create movies. “I was in this cool job now where we drop bombs right in front of our face. And I was like, ‘Well shit, no one’s ever really recorded this so I’m gonna do that,'” Taylor said. During two deployments to Iraq, he made films that were eventually used to help with military recruiting.
Jarred Taylor while in the U.S. Air Force.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor re-enlisted — with a hefty ,000 bonus — and became an instructor at the TACP schoolhouse. “It was one of the biggest signing bonuses they ever had,” Taylor said. “I got it and spent pretty much all of it on camera gear and editing stuff. I was gonna go full force on this.”
He began moonlighting in marketing and design work for a variety of companies in the tactical industry as early as 2005. “I had only been in the military for two years before I was searching for something more, wanting to come home from work and continue to work,” Taylor said. “I went to my first trade show with a shitty photo album from Walgreens with a bunch of 4×6 pictures. Everything was always a stepping stone.”
At the same time, Taylor began studying social media, especially YouTube and Facebook. “I’m face deep in how do you get traffic, how do you get the maximum number of people to see this stuff?”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
That was when he saw a YouTube video made by a former U.S. Army Ranger named Mat Best. “I took one look at him and his videos he was making and said, ‘You’re it, man. You’re gonna be it,'” Taylor recalled. “This is what the tactical industry was looking for, this is what I’ve been looking for as a partner, somebody who’s perfect for in front of the camera while I’m doing all the things behind it.”
While Taylor was still active duty in the Air Force and Best was deploying as a CIA contractor, they formed Article 15 Clothing and began posting video content on Best’s YouTube channel. By the time they teamed up with another veteran-owned apparel company, Ranger Up, to crowdfund and produce the feature film “Range 15,” they had already created a wide-reaching community that was passionate about their work.
“The script was so ridiculous that no agents could understand how this movie got funded,” Taylor said with a laugh. They managed to pull in well-known actors Keith David, William Shatner, and Danny Trejo to participate in the film, which brought Article 15 even more notoriety within the veteran community.
Through the Article 15 Facebook page, Taylor met Evan Hafer, a former CIA contractor and entrepreneur. The first time they spoke, “We ended up staying on the phone pretty much from 11 to 1 o’clock — two hours,” Taylor said. “We just went down this rabbit hole.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor, Best, and Hafer began collaborating on multiple projects, and when Hafer suggested starting a coffee company, Taylor and Best were very interested. “Mat and I went chips in on Black Rifle with Evan,” Taylor recalled, “and said, ‘Okay, this is the future. This is going to be the big one that we’re always talking about, so let’s roll with it.'”
“I’m our business development guy,” said Taylor, who’s official BRCC title is Executive Vice President, Partnerships. “Evan points at things that he wants in different markets, anything that’s out there in the realm of where coffee drinkers that generally think like us, and then I go out and find the people and the influencers and the partnerships that can benefit us. I get them to jump on the Black Rifle train.”
But things weren’t always that clear cut. Taylor said he, Best, and Hafer started by running the entire operation by themselves — including “standing there with Evan while he’s roasting coffee, grinding it, and putting it in a bag, putting it in a box, putting a label on it, shipping it.”
Taylor credits much of the company’s success to the relationship he has with Hafer and Best. “We’ve spent more time with the three of us than any of us have spent with anybody else in our entire lives,” he said. “And we still are the focal point of all the big ideas for the company. It’s still coming from the three of us, in a room together making fun of each other until we find something that’s the next thing.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Fiffie, a reconnaissance Marine from Edgard, La. assigned to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, drinks cobra blood during jungle survival training Feb. 19, 2018, in Sattahip, Chonburi province, Thailand. The training was conducted as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2018. In a survival scenario snake blood can be consumed to keep an individual hydrated while the meat can be used as a source of nutrition. The annual exercise is conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony).
This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.
Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.
The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house.
Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking.
PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries.
The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games.
It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016.
But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”
PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues.
Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.
“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”
On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony