This is Earth's best defense against an alien invasion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?

Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.


That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.

Here’s how they break it down:

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Would you believe that these expensive pieces of technology can be destroyed by an object as small as a paint chip?
(NASA)

Phase 1 — Using space debris

Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.
(U.S. Army)

Phase 2 — Attack during entry

When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.

If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.

Then, we prepare for phase three.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
This wouldn’t be our first choice if our aim is to survive.
(U.S. Department of Defense)

Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes

If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.

If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.

Take that, alien scum!

www.youtube.com

Phase 3, Option 2 — Guerrilla warfare

If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.

It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.

Want more details? Check out the video below!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Extreme weather could cause a massive surge in the price of beer

Rising global temperatures affect not only our safety but what we eat and drink as well.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered a link between climate change and our consumption of popular items like wine and coffee. Now, a coming study from the University of East Anglia has found a link between extreme weather and how much beer we drink.

Instead of attempting to predict future events, the researchers asked themselves a question: What would happen to the beer industry tomorrow if it experienced the most severe form of drought or heat anticipated by scientists in the coming years?


According to the researchers, whose findings will appear in Nature Plants, these extreme weather conditions could spur a 16% decline in global beer consumption. That’s equivalent to 29 billion liters, or the amount of beer consumed annually in the US.

The issue is one of supply, not demand. In the event of a modern climate-related disaster, farmers could have trouble producing barley — the main ingredient in beer.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

(Flickr photo by Daniel Taylor)

That’s bad news for the global beer market, which is predicted to reach 0 billion by 2022. It’s also bad news for consumers, who could see beer prices double worldwide.

The effects would be particularly acute in China, the world’s biggest beer consumer. If extreme heat or drought were to strike tomorrow, the nation could see its consumption decline by about 10%, or more than 12 billion cans of beer. By contrast, the US could see its consumption decline by up to 20%, or nearly 10 billion cans of beer.

The study predicts the largest price increases in affluent, beer-loving countries like Ireland, whose six-packs could cost an extra each.

In addition to these economic effects, a global beer shortage may have social and political consequences. According to one of the study’s authors, Dabo Guan, climate change could trigger a new kind of prohibition in which beer becomes a luxury good that’s no longer available to the working class.

“We’re not writing this piece to encourage people to drink more today than they would tomorrow,” Guan said. “What we’re saying is that … if people still want to have a pint of beer while they watch football, we have to do something about climate change.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everyone lost their minds when a Marine general relieved an Army general

If it weren’t for the Japanese, the Marine Corps’ biggest enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II might well have been the U.S. Army. On at least five occasions, Army commanders were relieved of command for what the Corps deemed was a lack of proper aggression. Those commanders were given the benefit of being relieved by their Army commander. When one brigadier was relieved by his Marine commander, it caused a grudge the branches held on to for years.


Gen. Ralph Smith began World War II with a promotion to brigadier general and a command of American soldiers in the Pacific. With Smith came his experience in previous American conflicts. He served under Gen. John J. Pershing in Mexico, during the Punitive Expedition. He also fought on the Western Front of World War I and was among the first American troops to land in France. He earned two Silver Stars in combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. His bravery and combat credentials were without question.

When he earned his second star, he also took command of the 27th Infantry Division, an Army unit that was soon folded into the 2nd Marine Division. The new mixed unit formed the V Amphibious Corps under Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and its target was the Gilbert Islands. The Marines would attack and capture Tarawa while the Army did the same on Makin. The Marine Corps’ Smith thought the Army’s 6,400-plus troops should be able to overwhelm the 400 defenders and 400 laborers who held the reinforced island.

But it didn’t happen as quickly as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith though it should. This would build tensions when it came to take Saipan.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

As if Saipan wasn’t tense enough.

On Saipan, the Marines and the Army would fight side-by-side on a dream team that would not be matched until the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1992. When the U.S. began its assault on Mt. Tapochau in the middle of the island, the Marines found themselves advancing much further, much faster than their Army counterparts. The soldiers at Mt. Tapochau were tasked with taking an area known as “Hell’s Pocket.” The Army was expected to go into a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under enemy control.

Now, if terrain is given a nickname by the Americans tasked to take it, that’s a pretty good indication of some intense fighting. But Holland Smith didn’t know that because he hadn’t inspected the terrain. The Army commander devised a plan to split his forces, using one battalion to hold the pocket while the other outflanked the Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, he would not be in command to implement it. It turns out “Howlin’ Mad” Smith was about to live up to his nickname.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

The U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division marches to the front on Saipan.

With what he saw as a lack of aggression on Makin fresh in his mind, the inability of the Army to advance on Saipan made the Marine Corps’ Maj. Gen. Smith furious. He not only relieved the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith of command of the Army on Saipan, he ordered Ralph C. Smith off the island. It would be the only time an Army commander would be relieved of command by a superior from another branch, and the Army wouldn’t forget it for years. The firing was so public that Smith could no longer command a unit in the Pacific and spent the rest of the war in Arkansas.

After the war, a panel of inquiry was convened. Known as the Buckner Board, it was staffed entirely by Army brass. When it looked into the Saipan incident, it found that Holland Smith had not looked at the terrain facing the Army on the island and was not in possession of all the facts. The plan hatched by the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith to take Hell’s Pocket worked, and the Army was able to catch up to the Marines.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic working dog conducted 210 combat missions while deployed

Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.


2012 Hero Dog Awards Tribute – Gabe

youtu.be

Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.

Most military working dogs are purchased from European breeders and raised from birth to work in military units or police agencies. But the U.S. was running short on good dogs, and it has always allowed the occasional stray into the ranks. Gabe was one of those strays.

He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.

The team trained together as a Specialized Search Dog team, a then-new program that focused on entirely detecting IED and IED-making components. Dogs in the SSD program don’t search for drugs. They don’t search for cadavers. They don’t chase.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Gabe visits with actor Betty White.

(U.S. Army)

They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.

And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.

And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.

Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Gabe visiting with children in a school.

(U.S. Army)

But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.

The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.

Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This 9-11 memorial hosts a unique survivor

On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”


Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)

Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Tempered By Memory (Author)

Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.

In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.

However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.

In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)

Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and Japanese soldiers train with military working dogs

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.

JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.


“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)

The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.

“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”

Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Air Force’s top couple

The Browns are self-proclaimed foodies who explore the DMV restaurant scene and steal time for walks together. It is during these no-tech-allowed strolls when the Air Force’s top couple catch up on their days and feed their relationship. Pun intended. 

And it takes work to maintain, Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. said of marriage and a military career. He and his wife, Sharene, met after he was already an airman but she was no stranger to the lifestyle. Her dad served in the military. 

Sharene Brown says the adventurous side of military life has long been a favorite aspect of being a dependent ID cardholder. It is likely the characteristic that kept her “all in” throughout the decades her husband has been building a career.

“First of all, I would describe military life as adventurous. I’m an adventurous person anyway; I like to travel; I like to see different things and what not. Since coming into the military as a spouse, I have found some of the same challenges a lot of our younger spouses have found,” Sharene Brown said.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Sharene Brown takes a tour of Jakarta Intercultural School, Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018. The Browns visited the country ahead of the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, seeking opportunities to enhance cooperation between the two nations. Photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux.

A 2019 survey found the rate of unemployment for military spouses to be 24%, according to Blue Star Families. It is reflective of the old adage that as much as things change, they stay the same. In fact, Sharene Brown said change is the one thing that remains constant throughout the decades for those married to service members. She can also relate to hardships in pursuing and maintaining professional aspirations. 

“There are things that I have experienced that I have grown from, but there are still some circumstances that are not much different. If I go back a few years to when I first came in, I was looking for a job and had a hard time finding one, moving from place to place. Then our family started to grow … our oldest son has some learning challenges, and so the plan was to go back to work after he got into school. It didn’t necessarily work out because of the challenges and I was determined at that point to just make sure he was going to be fine,” she said. “But what I found is when one door closes, another door usually opens.”

Read: Second lieutenant makes history in Air Force program

The connections she built over the years alleviated some of the common stressors she faced. Sharene Brown was not shy to dig in at duty stations, either. She relishes in the couple’s time overseas where they often chose to live off base to get a greater sense of the culture. Her favorite location was at Doha, Qatar, where she participated on a dragon boat team.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Brown with her dragon boat team. Courtesy photo.

Gen. Brown also grew up as a military kid. His dad, who retired from the Army as a colonel, guided Gen. Brown through the process of applying for ROTC scholarships. Ultimately, he said, the Air Force stood out for its opportunities in engineering.

In 1984, Gen. Brown was commissioned as a distinguished graduate at Texas Tech University. He has served in a variety of positions at the squadron and wing levels, including an assignment to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School as an F-16 Fighting Falcon Instructor, according to his official biography. He said it was working with the people at that school that led to a snowball effect of positive career experiences, leading him to contemplate a long-term future with the Air Force. Then, a notable staff tour as Aide-de-Camp to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force opened his world even further.

“I got to see a bigger part of the Air Force. Exciting mission, a lot of responsibility, get to see the world, and get to meet a lot of good people,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, Gen. Brown became the first Black service chief in U.S. military history — an appointment that intersected with a period of heightened racial tension after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Gen. Brown says he is keenly aware of the significance of his role, but also emphasizes that he wants to be judged on the merits of his performance rather than the color of his skin. 

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Sharene Brown presents the official Air Force Chief of Staff service cap to her husband during the CSAF transition ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo.

“I would say there’s a before and an after: before George Floyd and after George Floyd. Before, I already knew it [my appointment] was historical in the like, and you know I’ve thought about it but I haven’t really. Partly because, a lot of the times in the jobs I’ve been in, I’ve been either the first of or the only one. It’s probably in some cases — I hate to say it this way — it’s a bigger deal for some others than it is maybe for me because I’ve lived this. … I am who I am and I just want to be good at what I do, and be recognized as a good officer. And then after that, be recognized as a good African American officer. Just like any other officer or leader, you just want to be recognized as a good leader. 

“I think after George Floyd, a bit more visibility and pressure was on the fact that I’m coming into this position. I think it adds a bit of extra weight because there’s some expectation that I’m going to be able to do things, but I’m just one person and I have almost 700,000 airmen that will have to buy into whatever good idea I come up with. And so, when we start looking at diversity and inclusion, it has to be things the whole Air Force can buy into and not just happen because I’m sitting in this chair as Chief of Staff of the Air Force,” he said.

In 2020, leaders ordered an independent review focusing specifically on assessing racial disparity in military discipline processes, personnel development, and career opportunities as they pertain to Black airmen and space professionals. The examination included a look at survey findings from more than 123,000 responses, formal interviews, and listening sessions. Results found that “varying degrees of disparity were identified in apprehensions, criminal investigations, military justice, administrative separations, placement into occupational career fields, certain promotion rates, officer and civilian professional military educational development and some leadership opportunities,” according to the report.

The full report can be found at https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/ig/IRDR.pdf

Gen. Brown said small steps have been made, but his priority is to do “the deeper dive” that would include determining the root cause of the problem so recommendations can then be made of how to move forward. One example he cites is getting underrepresented demographics into aviation career fields. 

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
The Browns conduct an interview with Military Families Magazine at the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

“Do some of the tools we have, are they biased in some way? Not purposely but for whatever reason, we may have missed opportunities and that all comes down to exposure. We only aspire to be what we’ve been exposed to, so looking at how we can lay that out earlier for underrepresented groups, whether it’s race, gender, ethnic background,” he said.

At the same time, leaders are grappling with the ongoing pandemic that has placed restrictions on the normal way of doing business. Gen. Brown says an integral part of checking the morale and mental health of the force starts with building relationships. 

“The key part is knowing your people, and you can’t know they’re having a bad day if you don’t know them — because you can’t tell the difference between a good day and a bad day. And some of that has to happen before you get into a crisis. I found just a few minutes goes a long way. It’s building relationships with the people you work with; you got a professional relationship but you also got to have a little bit of a personal relationship — know about them, their family, some of the ups and downs they have, and talk to them about what they do in the evenings, what they do on the weekends. By building relationships, when they do have a problem, they may be more inclined to talk to you, to seek help,” he said.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
Gen. Brown at his office in the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

The line of communication between airman and leader is also important, especially for those junior enlisted members and officers who have certain aspirations in the Air Force. Gen. Brown tells airmen to “take your chances.”

“Always ask for what you want. The worst the Air Force can do is tell you no, but they can’t tell you yes unless you ask,” he said. “I just tell airmen to explore what it is you want to be able to do, and then share that with your leadership so they have an opportunity to help you get to where you want to go. Or, to help you understand you may not be qualified for where you want to go — but you have to have the conversation. If you keep it to yourself, you may miss an opportunity or talk yourself out of it.”

Gen. Brown is adamant that his vision for a successful tour will be the same in years to come as it is today: he wants to make a difference.

“Flying was not the reason why I came into the Air Force or even why I stuck around. I mean, I like to fly, but it’s not the end-all be-all for me. It’s making a difference and that’s the key part; if I can do something that will change the Air Force for the better, make it better for our airmen and families. I would consider myself a failure if I didn’t make a difference in some form or fashion,” he added.

Follow twitter.com/GenCQBrownJr for updates on the 22nd Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.

You can find this story and more in our February issue of Military Families Magazine. Download it here

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Air Force just brought this B-52 bomber back from the dead

A decommissioned B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bomber nicknamed “Wise Guy” was brought back from the Air Force’s “boneyard” and delivered to an operational unit, the Air Force announced May 14, 2019.

Col. Robert Burgess, the commander of the 307th Operations Group, 307th Bomb Wing, flew the aircraft back to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on May 14, 2019, The War Zone reported.


This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

The art on the side of “Wise Guy.”

(307th Bomb Wing)

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

“Wise Guy” being delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing.

(307th Bomb Wing)

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

“Wise Guy” at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

“Wise Guy” lands at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

“Wise Guy” is the second B-52 to ever return from the “boneyard.” The other, a bomber nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” was brought back and delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing in 2015.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.

It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”

The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds. 

“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.

Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”

The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.

“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.

The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.

The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.

From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.

They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next. 

“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set. 

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.

“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”

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What happens if you try to touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The United States government was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. That being said, if the U.S. could select a single holy site and have everyone in America agree that it was not to be trifled with, the frontrunner would be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — the monument to those who fought and died for the U.S. but remain unidentified.


Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the tomb sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard. And these guys do not mess around. When it comes to discipline, The Old Guard have such firm bearing that they can get stabbed in the foot with a bayonet and keep standing guard.

They will guard the tomb during hurricanes. They will stay at their post during epic snowstorms. There is nothing they won’t do to maintain a watchful eye on what might be America’s holiest of holies.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

So, it should come as no surprise that when tourists are around the tomb, these sentinels don’t tolerate anything short of solemnity and adherence to the rules that govern such hallowed ground. In the past, numerous videos have shown how the Old Guard responds to those who try to get a closer look at the tomb by crossing barrier obviously in place to keep onlookers away.

Now: Watch this Sentinel destroy a trespasser at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

And that’s just what they do when you try to cross the barrier for a photo (to fast-forward, the sentinel admonishes a woman for crossing the line at 1:00 into the video). Imagine what happens if someone suddenly tries to reach out and touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier itself.

Aside from getting manhandled (and probably tazed) by the Arlington Police, the Tomb Sentinels are carrying fully functional weapons. Whether they’re loaded weapons or if the sentinels have ammunition remains unknown (many sources say they don’t), but that’s not a reason to go testing the theory. What is known, however, is the sentinels will move much faster than we’re used to seeing them in order to stop you.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
DOD photo

Quora user Chris Leonard, who used to be a part of the Old Guard, reminds us that maintenance work is done on the aging tomb all the time, but workers are expected to show the same reverence in touching the tomb for repairs that the sentinels themselves would observe — and the sentinels are watching them every second they’re at work.

Leonard recalled a moment where a maintainer touched the tomb in a manner inconsistent with the respect called for by the monument — he was leaning on it. The sentinel yelled at the man to stop as he quickly approached. The sentinel then “cross checked” the maintenance worker.

The maintenance worker later apologized to the sentinels.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to not get sick in the kitchen this holiday season

The holidays are great occasions to build family memories and connect with loved ones. The foods served often connect us to special memories from the past. But, did you know that people over 65, children, and pregnant women are at higher risk for food borne illness? To ensure that your holidays are merry, here are some tips to help prevent food borne illness from crashing your party:


  • Wash your hands prior to starting food preparation, making sure to wash all surfaces of the hands and nails for at least 20 seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a good way to ensure you have washed long enough.
  • Rinse fresh produce under running water prior to prepping these items.
  • Use separate cutting boards for produce, meat, shellfish and eggs to prevent cross-contamination. Wash cutting boards in warm soapy water after prepping each food item.
This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

  • When baking with little kitchen helpers, teach children not to eat batter or dough with raw eggs.
  • Reused sponges and towels are a harbor for harmful bacteria. When you have multiple hands in the kitchen, paper towels can be safer.
  • Avoid leaving food out on the counter to defrost. The only safe ways to defrost foods are in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • A thermometer is a great tool to make sure you fully cook hot items. Be careful not to place cooked meat on the same plate that previously held raw meat.
  • Avoid rinsing meat or poultry, as this can spread harmful bacteria.
  • Don’t stuff your bird! Instead, cook your stuffing separately. If you choose to stuff your bird, the stuffing must meet an internal temperature of 165°.
This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

(Photo by Becca Tapert)

Enjoy–but watch out for the danger zone!

After everyone is gathered around the table, enjoy your meal safely by monitoring the time foods are in the temperature danger zone (40°-140°).

  1. Hot foods should be held at a minimum temperature of 140°. Slow cookers, warming trays, and chafing dishes can help keep foods hot enough.
  2. Keep cold dishes in the refrigerator until just before serving. When serving, placing trays on ice can help keep foods chilled.
  3. Use a fresh serving plate and utensil to replenish items that run out.
This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

(Photo by Stefan Vladimirov)

Leftovers

When sending family members home with leftovers, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Discard perishable food items that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Remember, you can’t tell if an item is bad by taste, smell, or appearance.
  2. Use shallow containers to store leftovers to allow for quick cooling.
  3. Reheat any leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165°.

For additional information check out the CDC’s information on food safety and this advice for holiday cooks. If you are interested in learning more about preparing healthy and safe holiday foods this season, contact your local VA to learn more about the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program, or to meet with a PACT dietitian to help adjust some of your family’s favorite recipes to meet your health goals.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

popular

6 reasons Marines go crazy for the M27 automatic rifle

Over the course of the past two wars, Marines learned a lot of lessons and gained a lot of new weapons and equipment to increase their effectiveness on the modern battlefield. But when we started to realize just how outdated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon became, the search for a replacement began.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle did just that for the standard Marine infantry squad, much to the disdain of many Marines until they realized its application fit a larger spectrum than the M249. Every Marine has their favorite gun and once the M27 became more widely used, it wasn’t long before it became a grunt’s best friend and greatest ally.

Once you hear an automatic weapon begin firing bursts, adrenaline and primal instinct start flowing and you get this sudden urge to break things. The M27 offers this experience to infantry Marines everywhere and that can be reason enough for a grunt to fall in love with it — but the love they have for the IAR goes beyond the feeling of automatic fire.

Here are the main reasons the M27 gets so much love:


This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

It’s just a fun weapon to shoot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

They’re fully automatic

Of course this is #1, Marines love weapons that fire on full auto or ones that cause explosions. It’s the chaos and destructive power that will get them motivated to break the enemy’s stuff.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

It’s hard to miss with an M27.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re accurate

The M27 is insanely precise and when its shooter has mastered the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, it creates a dangerous duo. An automatic weapon is only as good as the rifleman holding it. Let that Marine also be an expert in ammo conservation and they’ve become one of the most effective players on the board. 

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

The weight makes it easier to maneuver and shoulder-firing isn’t a problem, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Holly Pernell)

They’re light-weight

As opposed to the M249 SAW’s 17 pounds unloaded, the M27 comes in 8 pounds lighter when it’s loaded. Unfortunately, you’ll make up that weight with the amount of ammo you’ll have to carry but at least the weapon’s weight isn’t a problem.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

You’ll be surprised at how clean it is even after it’s fired 800 rounds.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

An automatic rifle that’s easy to clean

The M27 features a gas-operated short-stroke piston which means the carbon residue is mostly outside of the chamber which means most of the clean-up is done on the inside of the hand guards.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

They can even be fired from helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Breanna L. Weisenberger

Versatility

In the case of urban combat, size matters. The shorter barrel, the easier your life will be. Maneuverability is key and being able to fit yourself and your weapon in tight quarters helps a lot. Also considering the fact that it can fire on semi-automatic and is a closed-bolt system, this weapon can be the first through the door.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Just look at that design.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re beautiful

Let’s be honest, the Heckler Koch design just looks good in your hands and when an automatic gun is both pleasing to the eyes and functionally sound, it’s good for the soul.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

When Gen. Stanley McChrystal began working on his memoir after retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he realized that his perception of himself as a leader was different from reality. In the past eight years, he’s had time to reflect on his career and the notion of leadership itself.

During that long career, McChrystal led America and its allies in the Afghanistan War before retiring as a four-star general in 2010. He revolutionized the Joint Special Operations Command. And he’s best known for taking out the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He’s now the managing partner of the leadership-consulting firm the McChrystal Group, and he’s the lead author of “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”


In an interview for Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” he breaks down what he learned from key points in his life, including how recently revisiting the legacy of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee helped him realize it was time to redefine leadership.

Listen to the full episode here:

Subscribe to “This is Success” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. Check out previous episodes with:

Transcript edited for clarity.

Stanley McChrystal: By the time we finished this book, we really arrived at this conclusion that leadership isn’t what we think it is, and it never has been. It’s much more complex. It’s not two-dimensional. And for me, one of the representative incidents is my relationship with Robert E. Lee. I grew up, figuratively speaking, with Robert E. Lee.

Rich Feloni: You grew up in Virginia.

McChrystal: I grew up in Northern Virginia, not far from his boyhood home, and I went to Washington-Lee High School. And when I turned 17, I went to West Point, as Robert E. Lee had done, and when you go to West Point, you don’t escape Robert E. Lee. I lived in Lee Barracks. There were paintings of Robert E. Lee. And while every other leader at West Point is famous, he’s special.

And then when I got older and I was retired and I had this picture that my wife had given me 40 years before. My wife had paid for it when I was a second lieutenant, and I hung it proudly at every set of quarters we ever had, because for me it represented “This is what I believe in.” When someone came into my quarters, they’d see, “Oh, Robert E. Lee. Those are the values that he believes in.” And I was proud of that.

Then, after Charlottesville, in late spring of 2017, my wife, Annie — we’d been married 40 years at the time — she goes, “I think you ought to get rid of that picture.” And my first response was, “You gave it to me, honey. I could never get rid of that?” And she says, “No.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she says, “I think it’s communicating something you don’t think it is.” And I said, “What do you mean? He was a general officer. He just did his thing. He was a military guy, not a politician or something.” She said, “You may think that, but people in our home may not think that, and they may think you’re trying to communicate something deeper, white supremacy and all those things. So one morning, I took it down and literally threw it away. And it was a pretty emotional moment for me.

And then as we started writing this book, and we had already begun the initial work, I realized I couldn’t write a book about leadership unless I wrote about Robert E. Lee. And I knew that was dangerous, because Robert E. Lee had become a controversial character. There’s a part of American society that is just passionate in his defense, part of it that is passionate against him, and everybody’s going to weigh in. But you know, I’d grown up with Robert E. Lee, both as a person in my mind, but also as an ideal. And just recently, I walked down, just to walk the distance between his childhood home and the slave-trading house in Alexandria, Virginia, which was the second-busiest slave-trading house in the United States. And this is where northern African-Americans were bought. Some freed men were captured, but others were bought from farms that weren’t profitable and shipped to the deep South, where cotton was so profitable. And so it was right in front of him. It was 10 blocks from his home. You don’t hide from the fact that this very ugly thing is a reality. And he spent the next four years defending it. And so there’s this contradiction. Here’s a guy who in some ways, is so admirable. His soldiers loved him

Feloni: From a military perspective.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

When McChrystal attended West Point in the ’70s, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had transcended his connection to the Confederate cause, and had become a symbol of military discipline and honor.

(The Library of Congress)


McChrystal: Exactly.

Feloni: Yeah, but it would have to be removing from the context of basically a traitor to his country, ignoring that and kind of replacing it with a myth.

McChrystal: That’s right, and I couldn’t.

Feloni: And were you not aware of that link that people could make when you had that painting in your quarters?

McChrystal: Here’s the point. On one level, yes I was. On another level, what I did was I just said, “Yeah, but.” And I think a lot of people, with Robert E. Lee, go, “Yeah, but.” And the real point of the book is, everybody is a complex person like that. Every memory of every leader that we profiled and everyone we could think, may not have that clear a contradiction, but they all have them. And we as followers, we as observers, we have to make a decision on how we look at those, how we process that, because if we’re looking for the perfect person, woman or man, we can wait forever. They’re not coming.

The ‘Great Man Theory’ of leadership is a myth

Feloni: Yeah. Well, when you’re looking at that and kind of leading into your thesis here, what is the way that we define leaders and leadership, and what is wrong with that, and what were you looking to correct?

McChrystal: I wrote my memoirs starting in 2010, and I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened. And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me. And yet, when we went to do … I had a young person helping me that was brilliant. We went to do the research. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we went to things that I had been very much a part of and given credit for. We found that I would make a decision and issue some order and there would be an outcome. And I thought, “OK, my order produced that outcome.” And in reality, we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.

Feloni: So you didn’t realize this until you were writing your memoirs?

McChrystal: No, I mean, you get to this point in life because you sort of believe the Great Man Theory. You sort of believe that the leader is central to everything. And then when I get this, it’s very humbling, and I realize, leaders matter, just not like we think they do. And as we put in the book, it’s also the way we study leadership. We study biographies, which puts the person at the center. And so the spotlight tends to stay on them, and everything else tends to be a bit in shadows. You very rarely see a statue of a team. You see a few, but usually there’s a person on the pedestal. But in reality, a team, and sometimes a very large team, made it happen or didn’t make it happen. And yet, it’s hard to explain that.

Feloni: In this book, you picked a very interesting collection of profiles, and you even included the al-Qaeda leader that you defeated in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. So what can you learn about leadership from studying someone that you morally oppose, even on an extreme example. This was your enemy. What do you gain from studying that?

McChrystal: Well, we didn’t just oppose him — we killed him.

Feloni: Yeah.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

As the head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal hunted down and assassinated al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. McChrystal got inside Zarqawi’s head during the hunt.

McChrystal: I stood over his body right after we killed him. So for about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth. But then what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs, if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot other people were attracted to him. He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do. Later, when he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way; he wore all black, looked like a terrorist leader. He actually killed himself — he was the person who held the knife when they beheaded Nicholas Berg. A gruesome thing to do, but what he’s showing people is our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific. And so he would lead around the battlefield courageously. And so what he did was he was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam, when most of them really didn’t. The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to al-Qaeda, but he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.

Feloni: Yeah, and so by looking at this was, are you saying that to benefit your own leadership you had to get in the mind of him and understand that?

McChrystal: Well, the first thing you have to do is understand him. Your first desire is to demonize him, but the reality is, I had to respect him. He led very effectively, very, and if you really get down and put the lens another way, he believed and he fought for what he believed in. And who’s to say we were right and he was wrong?

Feloni: And that was something that you were thinking when you were in Iraq?

McChrystal: Not initially. Initially, you just say, “We’re just gonna get this guy.” And then after a while you watch him lead and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent — he’s making me better — but you’re also going after someone who truly believes. Who do you want to hang out with, who do you want to go to dinner with? You want somebody who believes what they’re doing. Now, his techniques I didn’t agree with. In many ways he was a psychopath. But I know a lot of people for whom I have less respect than I do for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Feloni: Interesting. When you were having the collection of people in this book, what were you looking for? Because in some ways you were saying that taking a look at profiles of individuals is the opposite of what you wanted to do. Because if you elevate someone above the context that they’re in, it’s counterproductive, but you’re proving that through elevating people so how do you navigate that?

McChrystal: Yeah, that’s an absolutely great point, and we actually didn’t realize that at the beginning of the book. We started writing and we said, “Hey, we are almost running in absolutely opposite directions of what we’re proposing.” You can write a theoretical book on leadership, and there will be a small community of people who read it. We learn through stories, all of us do, and we learn through stories of people. We picked these 13 diverse people and we had these six genres, we had founders, we had geniuses, we had power brokers, we had Coco Chanel, we had Boss Tweed, we have Martin Luther, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have Harriet Tubman. We wanted something that would be universal, give us a wide look at different kinds of leaders and context. We wanted diversity in sex, we wanted diversity in nationality, we have a Chinese admiral from the 15th century. And so we thought that if you could bring it wide like that you can draw the universal lessons out, that we couldn’t do if we just took politicians or soldiers or something.

Lessons from success and failure in war

Feloni: Yeah, now I want to talk about these lessons with the lens of your career as well. You became known for the approach that you took to join Special Operations Command, re-imaging the approach to Special Operations, particularly in Iraq, which led to the death of Zarqawi. And so when you had such transformations at JSOC, what was that like coming into a role where you had to adapt on the fly but every change, every risk that you took had lives in the balance?

McChrystal: Well, it was frightening, but it was very, very important. I had grown up essentially in joint Special Operations Command and the Rangers and then on the staff. I was very familiar with this very elite counterterrorist force. And this force was, you’ve seen it in movies, bearded guys with big knuckles and fancy weapons and these surly arrogant attitudes and that’s pretty accurate but the hearts of lions. But we very insular, we were designed to do counter-hijacking, hostage rescue, precise raids, and so we were almost in an insular part of the military and no one else interacted much with us. We would be directed to do certain missions and we loved that because we didn’t have to be affected by the big military bureaucracy. And then in Iraq what happened is, starting in 2003, really after the invasion, we ran into a problem that was bigger and more complex than we’d ever faced before, and that was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And we found that very narrow insulated way of operating before, tribal way, it didn’t work because you had to have this synergy of a real team and at first we almost were in denial because we’re so good at what we do.

We said, “Well, we’ll just do what we do and everybody else will figure everything else out.” But that wasn’t going to work. Really starting in early 2004 we came to a collective understanding that we were losing, and we were likely to lose if we didn’t change. Now we had no idea how to change, there wasn’t a road map, I wasn’t the visionary leader to provide that. And so what we said was, “Well, we will do anything but this. Now we’ll change.” And because I didn’t have this vision or clear blueprint to put in front of the organization, I essentially put it out to the team. I said, “We’re going to start changing to whatever works, so what we do that works we’ll do more of, what we do that doesn’t work we’ll stop.” And that freed the organization to constantly adapt. We’re able to modify, adapt ourselves and constantly change without the limitations of a doctrine that says, “You can’t do that.”

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal in his official portrait as head of ISAF.

Our doctrine became, “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid and we’ll push it.” And as it came it started to change the way we thought about leadership. When I took over I was approving every mission because I’m the commander and I found there’s no way you can be fast enough, so my role changed. I went from being the micro-manager, the centralized director, to being a commander who creates this ecosystem in which this group of really talented people figure it out. And my goal was to keep the ecosystem going, grow it with new participants and keep everyone supported and inspired.

Feloni: When you’re saying that when you had to take big risks with these changes, that there was a level of fear involved. Were you mitigating that fear by learning to trust the people that you were working with?

McChrystal: Yeah, and you have to — sometimes you can’t completely mitigate it. In an organization like JSOC, when you take casualties it’s deeply emotional because it’s not like new privates coming in, you get a new private. It takes about a decade to build an operator, everybody’s the godparent of other operator’s kids, you know. And so when you lose people, you lose people who’ve been around a long time, it took a long time, so it’s very emotional. T.E. Lawrence talked about the ripples in a pond.

Feloni: That’s “Lawrence of Arabia.”

McChrystal: That’s right, “Lawrence of Arabia.” He talked about when you lost one of the better ones, it was like ripples because it went out into their families and whatnot. Every casualty was much more costly and therefore you had to try to minimize them. And so as we went into this risk period there was a lot of uncertainty and I couldn’t, I don’t have the wisdom or courage or any of that to bear all that together, so we had a team and we supported each other.

Feloni: Distribute that.

McChrystal: Yeah, exactly.

Feloni: Yeah, and in terms of looking at something continuing after you leave, so you led the US-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan. That was eight years ago when you left; the war is still going. How does that look to you, because, for example, I could speak to a CEO who left a company and they can comment and be, like, “Oh, here’s what worked and what didn’t.” But as we were talking about, the stakes are just so much different in war. How do you process that?

McChrystal: You can process it in a lot of ways. You could take a strict business sense you could say, “Well, it hasn’t succeeded thus far, so it’s a bad investment.” And then I can also look and see that as of 2001 when we entered Afghanistan there were no females in school under the Taliban. There weren’t that many young males in school and now we’ve had almost 17 years of young ladies going to school, young men and so we’ve got a different young generation in Afghanistan. And 4.4 million Afghans voted this week and it wasn’t a presidential election. Is the glass half full, is it half empty, is there a hole in it? The answer is yes to all of those. There’s deep corruption, there’s huge problems inside the country, but in many ways I think that rather than say, “OK, it’s a failure,” I’d say it’s a complex problem, one of which you work on over a long period. I know I would not subscribe now to thousands of American troops or unlimited amounts of money, but I wouldn’t recommend walking away. I think our partnership with the Afghan people and the signal we send to other countries in the region is important. And if we think about the world as a completely connected place now, not just by information technology but culturally, I think the ability to have relationships, to demonstrate our willingness to be a part of things is more important than ever. It was critical really right after the Second World War, we gave both Asia through Japan and Europe enough cohesion to grow back. It doesn’t feel as easy or as good in Afghanistan but I would tell you, I look at the world through that lens is how I come at it.

Feloni: In “Leaders,” your memoir, it’s giving you a chance to be introspective of your own career. And on the nature of leaving the military when it came in this much publicized, there was a Rolling Stone article that reporter Michael Hastings portrayed you as a renegade general and that ended up leaving your position. How do you process that now, looking back at your role since it’s been eight years?

McChrystal: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of ways that maybe I could or should. The first thing is it happened, and I didn’t think that the article was truly reflective of my team. It was about me and my team and the runaway general and that is obviously not a good title. And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible and we have this negative article about a senior general shows up on the president of the United States’ desk. And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation. President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not. I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, “I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.”

Now that’s phase one, and I feel very good about that decision. I’m not happy it happened, but I feel good about that. Then you have a moment when you have a failure like that in your life and you get to make a decision. You’re either going to relitigate that for the rest of your life and I could be a retired bitter general, I could be whatever, the CEO got fired or whatever or not. And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, “She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror.” And so we made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future.” We made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future. There is no point in being bitter because nobody cares but you.” So I decided to look forward, I decided to think about, “What can I do now?” Now, that’s easier said than done. Every day there’s some hurt.

Feloni: Even now?

McChrystal: Occasionally. Not every day, but occasionally something will come up. Last week, Rolling Stone queried if I wanted to do another interview. The answer was no.

Feloni: That seems like … yeah.

McChrystal: Yeah. I kind of went, “Really?” But the reality is, it always kind of comes back up, and you have to remake that decision on a constant basis. But it gets easier over time because you start to see how healthy that is. I would argue that every one or your listeners is going to fail. They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision, “OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?” Because you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, “For God’s sakes, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.” And if you make the right decision, to lean forward, I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that.

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

McChrystal in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)

Feloni: And if you were to write a biographical profile for yourself in “Leaders,” what would the theme of your leadership style be, and what would be the reality versus the myth of it?

McChrystal: It would be evolution. One of the things we see in some of these leaders is they didn’t evolve. Walt Disney was this extraordinary animator, and with a small team he was exceptional. When the team got big, he didn’t adapt well, and his brother basically had to run it, and he focused on projects. Mine was a journey … I was a very different leader as a lieutenant colonel than I was as a company commander captain. I was very centralized when I was young. I started to loosen up, by the time I was a general officer I was, I think, completely different. I was much more decentralized. So I think the theme of a profile of me would be the evolution of that.

Now, the myth is the opposite; the myth is the counterterrorist leader who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I went out, wrestled him to the ground, buried to the waist, and that’s total B.S. At times do I like the myth because people go, “Wow, look at him!”? Yeah, it’s kind of cool, you never want to go, “No, that’s not true.” But it’s not true. The reality is that I built a team. Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team that I would be of wrestling to his death. But it still feels kind of cool when people say that. [laughs]

Feloni: So it’s the evolution of you as someone who is a very centralized commander to decentralizing.

McChrystal: Yeah, and thinking about it entirely differently.

Applying these lessons to the workplace

Feloni: And we’ve been talking about leadership on a grand scale, but you’re also the head of the McChrystal Group, which works with businesses on leadership development. So after having worked with a bunch of different industries, often on much smaller scales, what would you say are some of the most common mistakes a new leader makes?

McChrystal: I think often a new leader comes in and wants to prove themselves, because they’ve been hired, typically they’ve been given a role and a fair amount of money, and so they think they’ve got to prove themselves. There’s a reticence to say, “I don’t know.” There’s a reticence to look at the team and say “What should we do?” and to have the team do it. Because you’re worried about your own credibility. I think leaders actually, if they’re willing to, I’m not saying take a subordinate role, they’re responsible, but take a much more inclusive role, a much more role in which you ask people to help lead, actually works much better. Some of the best I’ve ever seen that have particularly been in jobs awhile have reached that, and it’s magic to see.

Feloni: And on the flip side of that, should people who are followers, should they see leadership in a new light, maybe their relationship to their boss, their boss’ boss?

McChrystal: Yeah, think about it — how many times have we sat back and you’ve got either a new leader or your leader in the auditorium, in the room, and they’re saying, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” and you’re sitting back kind of the smart-ass, going, “This is stupid, that won’t work, boom, boom, boom.” Rear up on your hind legs and bark, and maybe we’ll think about doing it. Leaders have a role, but the followers have a huge role, huge responsibility. Huge responsibility in doing their part, but also shaping the leader. You see the leader making a mistake and you don’t say something to them? You fail in your job. And then when you see them fail and you get smug and you go, “Yeah, I thought that she was never that good, he was never that good,” shame on you. Because you own part of that, and in reality when it’s firing time they had to fire all of you.

Feloni: So not only should we not put figures of the past on pedestals. We shouldn’t do that with our own bosses.

McChrystal: Absolutely, and bosses shouldn’t put themselves on pedestals either. There are a few who keep wanting to step up there, and then … I think it’s much better for the leader to stay away from the pedestal.

Feloni: And at this point, how do you personally define success?

McChrystal: It’s the team I’m part of. I’ve got this company that’s now 100 people, it’s grown, and I’m not critical to the business, except my name’s on the door. I show up occasionally, and they’re very nice to me and whatnot, but the reality is the work gets done by the team, and I take the greatest pride in the world when I sit in one of our meetings and I’m not saying much, and it’s happening. They’re just doing things, they’re pulling, they’re saying we’re going to go in this direction, and nobody looks to me to say, “Can we go in that direction or should we?” And they’re not being discourteous. They know that that’s not the best thing to do. If they turn to me or somebody else to let the old gray beard do it, it’s too slow. It’s often not the right answer. So I am really happiest when I see that, and it gives you great pride.

Feloni: So success to you, would it be having a non-integral role among your team?

McChrystal: No — I want to be integral to it, I want to feel like a part of it, but I don’t want to feel like the critical cog. I don’t want to feel like the keystone to the arch. I want the company, the organization, to be confident in themselves. If I got hit by a car, they’d say, “We’re going to miss Stan, but guess what? In his honor, we’re going to move forward and we are going to do X, X, X.” That’s when I really feel best about things. Or they don’t even tell me about things they’re doing, and suddenly we’re doing very well on a project and I hear about it, and I go, “Wow, that’s good — when did we do that?” They say so and so, I say, “Well, why didn’t I know?” They say, “Well, you didn’t need to know. It’s not important.” And they’re right.

Feloni: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? It doesn’t necessarily have to be military — it could be a sense of leadership.

McChrystal: When I think about the two things that I hope leaders have, first is empathy. Understanding that if you’re sitting on the other side of the table you have a different perspective, and they might be right. So just being able to put yourself in their shoes. Doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve, but being able to see it is really important. And then the second part is self-discipline. Because most of us know what we ought to do as leaders. We know what we shouldn’t do. It’s having the self-discipline to do those things, because you’re leading all the time. You’re leading by example all the time — it’s a good example or a bad example. It’s not just the leadership in your job; it’s an extraordinary responsibility. I had a battalion commander whose battalion I joined, and he had just left when I got there. But all the lieutenants are wearing their T-shirts backwards. And I’m going, “All right, what’s going on here? Did they get up after drinking all night or something?” And the battalion commander had done that because it showed less skin when you’re out there in the field and the enemy couldn’t see the white skin and shoot you. I didn’t think that was that smart an idea, but the fact that just because he wore his T-shirts backwards, his whole cohort of young lieutenants was doing it.

Feloni: He didn’t tell them to.

McChrystal: I don’t think he told them to. I got there right after he’d left, so it was kind of like this clinical thing. I got there ‘ “Why have they got their T-shirts backwards?” And this guy had done that. Just the power you find that if you are charismatic and whatnot, anything you do, how you treat people, how you think about things, the little things, you’ll start to see it mimicked by people through your organization, and there’s great power in that. And you’ve got to be careful with it.

Feloni: Thank you, general.

McChrystal: It’s been my honor. Thank you.

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

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