Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Recently, a Combat Diver Special Forces team had the opportunity to make a special dive inside a mountain base used by the Space Force.

A 10th Special Forces Group dive team went into the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, in Colorado, and dived to access the Complex’s reservoirs.

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a Space Force base that houses several capabilities, ranging from electronic surveillance to missile defense to aerospace operations. In addition, the Complex serves as the alternate headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Air Force Space Command and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), which are headquartered nearby at Peterson Air Force Base.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex
(USAF photo)

The Complex is designed to operate independently from outside help, so the condition of its reservoirs has to be perfect.

“They originally contracted with a civilian company to get this done,” said the 10th Special Forces Group’s Dive Life Support Maintenance Facility’s officer in charge in a press release. “My brother, an Air Force Logistical Officer tasked to the Space Force, recommended they get in contact with (us) to do it for free.”

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex
Members of the 10th Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha prepare to submerge in one of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex’s reservoirs Nov 5, 2020. This opportunity provides hands on training for the 10th SFOD (A) while providing CMAFS the assessments of their reservoirs necessary to maintain operations. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Walter)

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex has three reservoirs with water for different purposes, such as cooling generators and expelling exhaust.

The Special Forces dive team accessed the structural integrity of the reservoirs to ensure that they didn’t need maintenance.

“Dive operations don’t happen very often in special forces,” added the Special Forces officer. “This was a good chance for us to go out and showcase our capabilities as a legitimate maritime force within (Special Operations Command) to actually do a real world mission. It’s not infiltrating into enemy country or territory, but it was a chance for us to show everyone that we do have this capability and it’s important to keep the capability within the Special Forces community.”

Green Berets operate in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA), 12-man teams, and specialize in Unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense, among other tasks.

There are four types of ODAs in each Special Forces Group that specialize in different insertion methods. There are dive teams, who specialize in maritime and underwater operations; there are mobility teams, who operate several different vehicle platforms; there are military freefall teams, who master high altitude high opening (HAHO) and high altitude low opening (HALO) parachuting; and there are mountain teams, who specialize in alpine and arctic warfare.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex
Students from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School push an inflatable boat from an MH-47 over Patton Water Drop Zone during helocast training as part of the Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course at Flemming Key, Trumbo Point Annex, NAS Key West. (U.S. Army photo illustration by K. Kassens)

The 10th SFG dive teams are cold-water dive teams, meaning that they specialize in cold-weather maritime special operations. Their focus on cold-weather operations stems from the 10th SFG’s area of responsibility, which is Europe.  

The last years have been hard on the Special Forces combat diver capability. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where the opportunities for underwater operations are limited, meant that the combat diver capability was somewhat shunned. Dive teams had to fight tooth and nail for basic funding, and training opportunities were few and far between. Indeed, some dive teams were hard-pressed to maintain their dive status, which requires a few dives per year.

Despite the drawdown from the wars in the Middle East, dive teams across the Special Forces Regiment are still experiencing difficulties. To be sure, the situation varies from Group to Group, but a common thread regardless of unit is the lack of understanding, and thus of appreciating, the capability’s potential.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to support the military community without leaving home

COVID-19 has left people facing new levels of stress and feelings of isolation. This may be especially true for members of the military, veterans, and their families. But as the need for support has grown so has a desire to pitch in, particularly among those finding themselves with more time available as get-togethers and social outings are curtailed. 

Enter virtual volunteering: a way to give back to the military community while following social distancing and other healthy practices.

Amy Palmer is president and CEO of Soldiers’ Angels , a national nonprofit organization that has been providing aid, comfort and resources to service members, wounded heroes, veterans of all generations, and military families since 2003. In 2019 alone, some 50,000 volunteers, or “angels,” devoted more than 170,000 hours to the cause, offering support to almost half a million members of the military community. 

“When the COVID-19 crisis began,” Palmer says, “we quickly pivoted, highlighting activities that volunteers could do in their pj’s at home.” 

Here are some of the virtual volunteering opportunities available to angel team members or on your own:

Write letters. Tired of communicating by email or tweet? Writing letters to service members deployed overseas is a low-commitment way to brighten mail call. 

Send a care package of homemade goodies. Pandemic baking, as many of us have learned, may be creatively satisfying, but it’s not all that kind to our waistline. As part of an Angel Bakers Team, you can enjoy the pleasure of whipping up a batch of your celebrated cookies, brownies or scones and then ship the sugary treats to service members who are eager for a taste of home. 

Put your sewing machine to use. There’s an ongoing need for masks at VA hospitals across the country. With just basic sewing skills you can help front-line healthcare workers protect themselves, their co-workers and their patients against the spread of COVID-19.  This video shows how to sew the preferred type of mask that has a pocket for the insertion of a filter.

Make a no-sew blanket. You don’t need a sewing machine, a needle or even thread to make a cozy blanket for injured service members, a military mom who’s snuggling with a newborn, or deployed troops who will welcome warmth from home. The video on this website demonstrates how to make the blanket with only two large pieces of fleece fabric, scissors and tape, and, ideally, a helper. 

Weave paracord bracelets. Tucked into a care package, a paracord bracelet may seem like a small token but it can be a valuable survival tool. Unraveled, the nylon line of cord can be put to use as a fishing line, boot laces, floss or even emergency sutures. Most likely, this won’t be necessary, and the homemade paracord bracelet will remain a treasured item that service members carry on them at all times. Crafting these bracelets can be a fun at-home activity for the whole family or a company-wide volunteer action. 

“The bracelets take about 15 minutes to make,” Palmer said. “Companies like Lockheed Martin have sent us thousands.” (Paracord bracelets for military service members must be made from MIL-SPEC cording in the colors black, olive green, tan, or camo only.) 

Help pamper a deployed female warrior as part of a Ladies of Liberty team. The all-female volunteers send a monthly care package to an “adopted lady” that includes personal care items, treats like body scrubs and facial masks, haircare products and leisure materials like books, magazines and adult coloring books and colored pencils. 

For the holidays

Gather Treats for Troops. Want to put all those packets of candy corn and fun-sized chocolate-peanut bars to better use than keeping your kids up at night from a sugar rush? Donate excess Halloween candy, or if you’re a small-business owner, become a candy collection site, so our heroes can enjoy a sweet reprieve.

Join the Holiday Stockings for Heroes program. Stuff holiday stockings with small gifts like beef jerky, playing cards, puzzle bucks, holiday candy, caps, travel-sized games and a handwritten note and drawings from the kids. 

Adopt a military family for the holidays. Military and veteran families often balance tight budgets, and those budgets might be stretched even more than usual with the pandemic leading to furloughs, job losses or reductions in hours. The Adopt-a-Family program is a way to spread some cheer during the winter holidays. For each family adopted, you’ll be expected to provide a minimum $50 – $100 grocery gift card for a holiday meal and gifts for each child in the family. Can’t adopt a military family on your own? Consider teaming up with another family, or with members of your church, workplace or community group.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this rendition of the West Point alma mater made to honor a lost classmate

Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.


West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.

In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.

Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.

Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.

Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.

Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”

The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for all military spouse job paths

If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?

But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.

The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.

Here are some of their best tips.


Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

(Photo by Christin Hume)

1. Show up.

Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.

But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.

“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

(Photo by Domenico Loia)

2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.

Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

(Photo by Patrick Perkins)

3. Use all the tools you can.

Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

(Photo by Harry Brewer)

4. Do things that make you happy.

Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.

“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.


Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.

“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”

That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.

“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.

“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”

After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.

“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”

With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.

“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.

“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.

“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t let height standards get in the way of becoming an Air Force pilot

Those who aspire to one day become a U.S. Air Force aviator must first meet several requirements, including height, before they are considered for pilot training. For those who fall outside of the Air Force’s height requirements, height waivers are available.

“Don’t automatically assume you don’t qualify because of your height,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “We have an incredibly thorough process for determining whether you can safely operate our assigned aircraft. Don’t let a number on a website stop you from pursuing a career with the best Air Force in the world.”


The current height requirement to become an Air Force pilot is a standing height of 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. These standard height requirements have been used for years to ensure candidates will safely fit into an operational aircraft and each of the prerequisite training aircraft. “We’re rewriting these rules to better capture the fact that no two people are the exact same, even if they are the same overall height,” Wills said.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

U.S. Air Force Maj. Nick Harris (left) and Capt. Jessica Wallander, instructor pilots with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., stand side-by-side to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.

(US Air Force photo)

“Height restrictions are an operational limitation, not a medical one, but the majority of our aircraft can accommodate pilots from across the height spectrum,” Wills said. “The bottom line is that the vast majority of the folks who are below 5 feet, 4 inches and have applied for a waiver in the past five years have been approved.”

The waiver process begins at each of the commissioning sources for pilot candidates, whether the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School or Reserve Officer Training Corps. For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“We have a great process in place to evaluate and accommodate those who fall outside our published standards,” Wills said. “If an applicant is over 5 feet, 2 inches tall, historically they have a greater than 95% chance of qualifying for service as a pilot. Applicants as short as 4 feet, 11 inches have received waivers in the past five years.”

Anthropometric measurements include sitting eye height, buttocks to knee length and arm span. The anthropometric device at Wright Patterson AFB is the only device accepted by the Air Force when determining waiver eligibility. A specialty team conducts the measurements at U.S. Air Force Academy.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, stands side-by-side with a Nineteenth Air Force pilot to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.

(US Air Force photo)

Waiver packages are then coordinated through a partnership between the Air Education Training Command surgeon general and Nineteenth Air Force officials, who are responsible for all of the Air Force’s initial flying training.

“As part of the waiver process, we have a team of experts who objectively determine if a candidate’s measurements are acceptable,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, AETC surgeon general. “Let us make the determination if your measures are truly an eliminating issue.”

The pilot waiver system is in place to determine whether pilot applicants of all sizes can safely operate assigned aircraft and applicants who are significantly taller or shorter than average may require special screening.

“Some people may still not qualify,” Wills said. “But, the Air Force is doing everything that we can to make a career in aviation an option for as many people as possible. The waiver process is another example of how we can expand the pool of eligible pilot candidates.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Army veteran and entertainment icon Lou Pitt

Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.

Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.


WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.

WATM: Were you involved in any sports?

Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.

Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.

WATM: Did you serve in the military?

Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).

While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.

At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.

WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?

Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).

While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.

Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?

Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

KMI Insignia.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.

WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?

Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”

The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.

WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.

Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.

Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.

Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.

Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.

Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora

WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?

Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.

WATM: What are words that you live by?

Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”

Character Makes The Man

Respect for all no matter the rank or position

Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Lou on stage in “Look Homeward, Angel”.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US Air Force maintains operational success

Airmen at aircraft maintenance squadrons around the service have begun innovating with new scheduling, accelerated hands-on training courses, and virtual reality simulators to get new maintainers proficient quickly; keeping more aircraft ready to fly and improving operational readiness.

We begin a continuing series of video vignettes at Travis Air Force Base, California, highlighting airmen who are successfully closing the aircraft maintainer experience gap.


Growing his replacement

Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Flynn, a 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant aircraft maintenance unit supervisor at Travis Air Force Base, California, is responsible for the approximately 300 personnel keeping 18 C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft mission-ready.

It is one of the Air Mobility Command missions that never sleep.

“Our mission never stops,” Flynn said. “We are 24/7 and 365 days a year. The demand for rapid air mobility is constant and is never going to stop.”

While the operations tempo has been fierce over the past decades of combat operations around the globe, Flynn, a 19-year veteran of the aircraft maintainer career field, plans to reenlist and shape the maintainer force of the future.

“My job is to create my replacement… There is an influx of new airmen that is putting a stress on the (noncommissioned officer) tier. They have gone from supervising two airmen to three, four or five. So, that means I am here at 0600 every day, catching the young staff and tech sergeants coming off night shift and those going on day shift and checking in with them; making sure I am approachable,” Flynn said.

He utilizes the ups and downs of his own career maintaining B-1 Lancers and C-17 Globemaster IIIs and teaching electronic warfare navigation systems to relate to and support his NCOs and junior airmen.

“With this abundance of new airmen, it’s very important to explain to them that this is not a ‘One Mistake Air Force,'” Flynn said. “It is not only my job to set standards and expectations, but to talk to them about their mistakes, help them correct it and build them back up. I try to pass on everything I have learned, mistakes and successes, through those daily encounters.”

“There was a point in my career where an NCO stuck his neck on the line for me. He said, ‘airman Flynn is an asset to the Air Force and we should retain him.’ I haven’t looked back since. Immediately following that I got my assignment at McGuire (AFB) and taught two different career fields across multiple mission data sets for C-17s and C-5s. I definitely believe failing forward is a positive thing and that NCO sticking his neck out for me has made me want to do it for others.”

Waypoints for success

“I really want to get my degree and go the officer route. If given the choice, I definitely would become an aircraft maintenance officer. I would come right back here,” said Airman 1st Class Raeqwon Brown, a 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-5M electrical and environmental specialist.

That’s a big dream for an airman that has only been on the Travis Air Force Base, California, flightline for a few months and is still working on completing the core 5-level tasks to become a journeyman maintainer.

Yet, Brown’s supervisor, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dantuma, is committed to turning that dream into an achievable goal.

“My immediate goal is to get him trained up to be a highly proficient maintainer, but the ultimate goal is to keep motivated airmen like him in the Air Force,” Dantuma said.

“That is the good part of all the new maintainers coming in from tech school; I get to train new maintainers the way I know they need to be to benefit to the mission. … If he is willing to put in hard hours and focus every day on learning the aircraft and procedures, then I will help him map out the steps he needs to take to become an officer.”

It is just the kind of support that has Brown feeling as if he has found a home.

“It is a great reassurance to know that a noncommissioned officer would even consider showing you the waypoints to getting a degree and becoming an officer. … Even in the short amount of time I have been in the maintenance realm, I feel this is what I would want to do for the rest of my career,” Brown said.

A1C makes good

Airman 1st Class Caitlin Good is a KC-10 Extender crew chief assigned to the 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California.

According to her command, since her arrival to the unit in July 2018, Good has excelled.

She’s excelled so much that, with the assistance of supervisors, other noncommissioned officers and experienced airmen, she was 100% complete with her 66 core 5-level upgrade tasks in three months.

“From day one, it was support from the supervisors on my team and the other airmen that have been here for a long time. We’re the same rank, but they have a lot more knowledge and experience. They were all a big help to me,” Good said.

“The NCOs made sure that I was there and I was seeing it, doing it hands-on and doing it frequently. Just a lot of repetition, making sure that I did something over and over again to make sure I got it.”

As a result, Good was granted a unique waiver from attending the four-month long Maintenance Qualification Training Program, which all newly-assigned crew chiefs normally go through.

In addition to her already stellar performance, she was selected to join the ranks of flying crew chiefs, which most airmen do not accomplish until two or three years into their first KC-10 assignment.

She continues to excel by helping close the aircraft maintainer experience gap; spreading her knowledge and experience to waves of new airmen filling out the career field.

“There is a lot more pressure because you are a 5-level now. You’re expected to be in a leadership role,” Good said. “We just got a fresh new group come in from our first phase of training at the Field Training Detachment.

“When we catch a jet, I’ll tell them and show what we do and some tips that I’ve learned to make the job quicker and more efficient. Basically, just passing on what I’ve learned to the new group that’s coming in, and there are three more groups coming in after them. But, I get more repetitions as I train them and try to be an example for them, trying to be kind, be patient, just like everyone has been with me.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

The holidays are right around the corner, but it’s not too late to find the perfect gift for the deployed service member in your life. Here’s a smattering of ideas to help you find that ideal gift to send to an FPO.

It sounds boring, but the best things to send in gift boxes are the most practical ideas. Now’s not the time to send a new piece of tech or some gadget that’s going to take a lot of mental concentration to figure out. The most important thing to remember is to keep the gift light. Think about what your service member is dealing with on a daily basis and try to find ideas that will lessen the load. 

Of course, don’t stress yourself out too much about what you include in your care package – the idea here isn’t so much the gift as it is the thought. No one wants to spend the holiday season deployed, so sending a care package can help bridge the distance between your home installation and a forward operating base. 

All of these gift ideas can fit right into a box for your service member, and right now, the Post Office is offering a free Military Care Kit that has everything you need to get your box to the right place, on time.

Twelve Days of Christmas in a box

This is a great gift idea for little ones to assemble, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Head to your nearest dollar store and find twelve different things that remind you of your service member – candies, chocolates, even small Christmas decorations. Have your little helpers write a number on each package and then wrap them all up. This way, your loved one will have twelve different “gifts” to open and might help the season feel a little more festive.

Hug in a box 

Speaking of little ones, a great idea is to send a hug from your kids to your deployed family member. To do this, have your child lie on a piece of paper and then trace their body with their arms in the shape of a hug. They can decorate the image and write a message, too, making it even more festive.

If you can’t find any paper that’s large enough, you could always buy a small pillow and do the same thing. Just make sure the pillow is small enough to fit in the care package box.

Get ready for Christmas in a box 

(U.S. Army Photo)

This tried-and-true gift idea is sure to help your loved one remember that they’re a home waiting for them after the deployment ends. 

To assemble this gift, gather up the following items:

  • A family picture in a festive holiday frame 
  • Personalized stocking filled with candy canes, treats, and other small gifts
  • A funny Christmas t-shirt or pair of lounge pants 
  • A mini Christmas tree 
  • Battery operated Christmas lights 
  • Mini ornaments

Wrap the small gifts and write a note asking your loved one to set up the tree with the lights and ornaments. Then package everything together and get it in the mail. You can rest easy knowing your loved one will know you’re thinking of them.

Time is of the essence!

Don’t delay on sending these packages. USPS shipping times are extended right now, so the sooner you get these gifts in the mail, the greater chance they’re get there on time. 

If you’re totally short on time or don’t feel creative, or if you just want to spread some extended holiday cheer, check out Operation Gratitude. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude has sent over three million care packages to deployed service members. Wish Lists items are always in need and always appreciated. 

What you send is definitely less important than sending something at all. Deployments are already tough for everyone; sending a gift might help the months apart suck less.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to prepare for coronavirus without freaking out your family

Almost everyone agrees that being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.


In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?

The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.

We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst

“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.

In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.

“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”

“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.

This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.

In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.

The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst

There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.

“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”

However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”

To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.

“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”

Moving Forward

While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.

A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.

“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”

So where does that leave us?

There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Truth in Fiction: A collection of must-read quotes about war

You can learn a lot about war from books.

While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:

“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”


I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.

So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien

As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.

“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:

“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”

“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”

“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.

“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.

While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:

“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”

Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

BRAVO SIERRA can help us all get back to the basics of hygiene

I’m currently waging a losing battle. It’s a fight against time and nature and after nearly two months of self-isolation, I stink. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have showered and shaved along the way but there is just something else lingering around, like the sand that still cakes my boonie cover ten years after a deployment. I just can’t shake off the stink of mediocrity that comes from doing the same thing day in and day out.

You don’t have to deploy or self-isolate during a pandemic to understand the basics of hygiene. Cleanliness is not only an amazing feeling but also a state of being. From boot camp to deployments, in the military, we learn that a clean mind, body and equipment is key to mission success in any environment. It’s that logic that drives the team at BRAVO SIERRA. The team is comprised of Special Operations veterans and a team of rockstar personal care product gurus that have led brands such as Kiehl’s and Harmless Harvest, BRAVO SIERRA is a company that believes in achieving peak human performance through hygiene and their products are held to a pretty high standard.


Field testing is the backbone of BRAVO SIERRA’s model and it’s a process that is rooted in their numerous deployments overseas. Simply, you test your equipment before you go into battle. So when BRAVO SIERRA was setting up shop to design a list of products ranging from body wash to hair gel to deodorant and even moist wipes for some of the most high performing people on earth (military, law enforcement, athletes, etc), it only makes sense that they would go back to the tribe.

In that spirit, I decided to sign up for the field testing trial but instead of testing these products on some mission overseas, I am going to test them in the comfort (not really) of social isolation. After a detailed scrub and shave, which I will not detail, I walked away not only feeling clean but also thinking clean. As I am about to exit the bathroom, my wife casually mentions, “you smell nice.” As I look in the mirror, I have something back… Confidence.

Like a well-oiled weapon before the rifle range, cleanliness really is the basis for peak performance. So I reached out to Charles Kim, Co-Founder of BRAVO SIERRA and former officer with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, to understand more about how the hygiene and military worlds really do collide in a positive way at BRAVO SIERRA.

Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)

WATM: Most people don’t normally think about high-tech hygiene/personal care products in a Special Ops kit bag, but BRAVO SIERRA has cracked the code. How did you guys come up with the idea that crosses between two worlds?

Charles: We’re a Human-Centric Company first. We think about the things you put on and in your body, and how that affects your performance. We launched our hygiene products because it’s the simplest way to demonstrate who you are.

WATM: How so?

Charles: How you present yourself is actually the best way to exemplify your values and the first building block is hygiene. Think about going to an NCO board. What’s the first thing they look at? Hygiene, the way you present yourself. Whether you’re going to a board, an interview or a first date, we want our products to highlight the respect and values you have for yourself.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)

WATM: Does that focus on values and respect come for your military service?

Charles: Military values inspire our company values, but we believe these values should go beyond to the broader population. For me, having that military DNA is a part of who we are but not all. Take my relationship with Justin and Benjamin, the founders and co-CEOs. We come from completely different worlds. They’re leaders in the consumer goods world with decades of experience in the food, beverage, and personal care industry, but they wanted to create a brand that is built off unifying values – and there’s nothing more unifying than the values of integrity, respect, and selflessness. And we believe in this mission.

WATM: Everything is in a name. Why BRAVO SIERRA?

Charles: I’ll be the first to admit I had some reservations about the name because it can be reduced to BS or bullshit, right? But that’s exactly the point…I think it’s beautiful because it’s all just tongue and cheek. If you really think about what’s in a brand’s name like Nike, Adidas, Apple and all these companies, it’s essentially just a marketing tool. So we said let’s just focus on the people and the values that we care about in the high performance community first. There’s no BS in that.

WATM: Fair enough. So my next question is all about you. How did you go from the Ranger Regiment to becoming an entrepreneur?

Charles: It’s funny, I haven’t talked about this in a really long time. I think I went through what most veterans do: you get out, look at what your peers do, find something that sounds interesting and go try it out. So I worked for two software startups prior to this. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot around how technology can help us do things better, faster, and more efficiently. At BRAVO SIERRA, we’re using the same agile development principles used in building software to rapidly engineer value-based products for our community. We validated this with our hygiene products and are leveraging that same framework to launch our food and nutrition products later this year.

WATM: Anything that you learned in the military that’s helped you?

Charles: I’ve worked for some pretty amazing people and I’ve also worked for some pretty horrible ones. We all have right? I look at leadership as a way to develop and cultivate people to find certain areas where they can thrive. For me, it was always about using data to improve the process of building something in industries that can use some change, and using this information to make decisions- smarter and faster. But as a leader I knew not everyone would have the same interests so I had to find what each of my team members were passionate about and invest time developing their skills that will ultimately make them successful. It’s really that simple. Take care of your people. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

WATM: You’ve made it your mission to test every BRAVO SIERRA product with operators both in the field and in daily life (like me at home). Why was this so important to you/your team?

Charles: We didn’t want to make products like how it’s been done before. That is, in a vacuum, where the consumer has to discover what they like. Instead, we knew the community we were trying to serve so we thought let’s send our products out to the people who will use it and they can validate whether or not the stuff makes sense. So I sent prototypes of our hygiene products to a few former colleagues across the military that I worked with and said let me know what you guys think. It snowballed from there, they shared the products with a few others and few others and we had so much feedback that we had to build a technology loop into our field testing. Now, people can sign up on our website and test our products, from new hygiene products to our flagship nutrition line.

WATM: Who are the primary testers? Are they all military?

Charles: We’ve reached out to everyone from road bikers, CrossFitters, kayakers, hunters to the first responder community, ie. EMT, police and firefighters – really anyone we think pushes themselves to be a better version of themselves every day. Our platform has helped us democratize the process so we can work faster with all this information coming in real time. We’re actually flipping the model on its head. We are committed to the mantra that the product you buy tomorrow is going to be better than the one you buy today.

WATM: Any field test success stories?

Charles: Yes! The cleansing bar that we launched in partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. It’s literally a four-in-one for your entire body – hair, beard, skin and face. When we first sent out our 4-in-1 gel to a lot of the guys deployed overseas, we got the feedback that they had limited water and a gel doesn’t really work. I reviewed this information with Benjamin, one of the founders and co-CEOs, and confirmed the data points validated the need for a solid version of the gel. And he was like, ‘all right, let’s make it right now.” Within six months, we identified that there was a market need and we launched the solid cleansing bar.

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

WATM: You offer 5% of your Revenue (Not Profit) to the MWR and Community Services. Why? What was the story here?

Charles: I’m forever indebted to the military for providing me lifelong friends. And as a company, the military field-testing program – what we call BATTALION – has been crucial to getting us to this point. For us, we always knew we needed to figure out a way to give back to an organization and picked what we believe is universal for the military – the MWR and community services on bases all across the world. My first deployment was as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division and the MWR was where everyone went to watch TV, go to the gym or to call their families. It also represents what BRAVO SIERRA is all about at the core; we want to support outlets that support the military community with resources to exercise or to go outside with their family and have fun.

WATM: Where do you see BRAVO SIERRA in 5 years?

Charles: Our motto is that the we believe the human body is our most important system, and our mission is to make products that improve performance potential. In 5 years, I hope that we are known as the de-facto leader in delivering products with purpose – better and faster- ranging from hygiene to food and nutrition, alongside our community of high-performers.

For more information or to sign up as a field tester, click here!

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ultimate list of military song playlists

For many people, music is a form of therapy. A song can help you get through tough times, great times, or just get you through the day. So we’ve put together the ultimate list of music playlists that are perfect for those in the military. Whether you’re child just left for basic training, your spouse deployed, or you’re just looking for some great patriotic music – here are some of the perfect military song playlists.


In Honor of Our Fallen Protectors – Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is often times misinterpreted as a celebratory holiday, but for many it’s a very solemn day filled with heavy hearts. While Memorial Day marks the unofficial to summer and a season of fun, this is a great military song playlist to remind us all the importance of Memorial Day and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Country Music 101: The Military

If you love country music and you love the USA, then both of these playlists are for you. Both playlists feature a mix of oldies and new songs that are sure to bring out the red, white, and blue in you.

4th of July Party

Summer is practically here which means outdoor bbqs, late night bonfires, and enjoying the outdoors. This playlist is perfect for a laid back relaxed day in the sun with a mix all of different genres from pop, country, alternative, and rock.

Tacticool

Looking for the perfect playlist to hit the gym with? Whether you’re preparing for military basic training or looking to keep up your physical fitness this playlist is sure to get you in the mindset for ultimate strength building. This playlist features rock and alternative music.

Letters From Home

Writing letters to someone at basic training? This military song playlist will give you all the feels as you write letters to your recruit.

Basic Training Graduation

Graduation ceremonies might be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to pass on celebrating your new service member’s accomplishment. This playlist is the perfect mix of songs to get you in the celebration mood.

Looking for more playlists? Spotify is a great place to browse.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.