Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Being able to fly by the seat of your pants is still an important skill for a fighter pilot. Although modern fighters have an incredible array of sensors that feed them real-time information out to the horizon, a good pilot still listens to how the aircraft is talking to them. 

When aircraft were introduced in the early 20th century, most of them had limited–if any–instruments. Pilots flew them based on feel. Because the seat is the primary contact point between man and machine, the term seat of your pants was coined, although in actuality it encompasses all the senses a pilot experience during a flight. 

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’
Cockpit of a World War I era Fokker D.VII (U.S. Air Force photo)

The buffet approaching a stall, the increase in sound as you go faster, the G-forces on the body during a turn—these are all indicators of how the aircraft is flying. But the question remains, with millions of lines of code providing updates on every conceivable parameter, why is it still important to use this basic way of flying in a modern fighter?

As humans we read information sequentially, that is, we can only read one piece of information at a time before moving onto the next. When flying, the order in which we read this information is called our crosscheck. By understating what the aircraft is doing without looking at a dial, or Heads up Display (or even a quick glance in our augmented-reality helmet for the F-35), we can instead focus on something else. This is useful in basic flying; however, it becomes critical when flying and employing the complex weapon systems onboard our aircraft.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’
This F-15A cockpit is certainly dated, but it offers a decent representation of just how much information pilots have to track while flying combat operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

In a single-seat multi-role fighter there is always more to do than what you’re capable of. For example, during an Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) engagement—which is you and a wingman versus multiple adversaries—you’re expected to maintain deconfliction from several aircraft while maneuvering to kill the adversary, all while maintaining situational awareness of additional threats and monitoring your fuel and weapons state—no easy task with closure rates often over 1,000 knots (1200 mph). 

By freeing up your crosscheck to focus on these other tasks, you increase your lethality on the battlefield. What’s difficult is that these dozens of variables change in importance based on the phase of flight, as well as the conditions you’re flying in.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’
The streamlined cockpit display in an F-35. Even with all this data fusion, F-35 pilots still need to know how to fly by the seat of their pants. (Lockheed Martin photo)

For instance, when flying in the weather, you can no longer fly by seat of the pants, but instead must spend the extra time looking at you instruments. By not being able to see the horizon due to being in the clouds, it’s easy to get disoriented and start dive towards the ground even through your body feels like it’s flying straight-and-level.

Knowing when to trust your seat of the pants feeling versus when to focus on your instruments is one of the most important skills for a fighter pilot to master. It’s a perishable skill that needs to be constantly refined. However, when dialed in properly, it’s amazing how much data a pilot can ingest at once. 

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pin-Ups for Vets proves women can be strong AND feminine

From Military Police to Medical Corpsmen, Gina Elise’s 2020 Pin-Ups are continued proof that military veterans aren’t just men with high-and-tight haircuts.

Pin-Ups for Vets is a non-profit organization that supports hospitalized and deployed veterans and military families. Founded by Gina Elise, who describes herself (accurately) as a very patriotic citizen, the organization is comprised of volunteers — many of them veterans — who visit service members at their bedside in VA and military hospitals; attend military events; and help raise funds for hospital equipment, gold star families, and deployed vets.

They embody service after service — and they’re changing the perspective about women in the military.


Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Erikka Davis on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).

Erikka Davis, U.S. Army

Erikka Davis enlisted when she was 17 and quickly deployed to Iraq as Military Police attached to the 4th Infantry Division, where she helped conduct raids, provide convoy escorts, house inmates, and support local law and order. She survived an IED attack against her three vehicle convoy, hired and retrained local Iraqi Police, and held a leadership position in the early stages of the Iraqi conflict — not an easy position for anyone.

“As a female MP, it is difficult to be respected, so hardening my personality seemed to be an effective way to keep up with my fellow male soldiers. This has been a difficult switch to turn off. Pin-Ups for Vets is slowly reminding me that I am not only allowed to be a veteran, but a lady as well.”

Davis is not the first veteran to describe this mentality — that somehow women are expected to suppress a part of themselves in order to earn the respect of male peers. Pin-Ups for Vets allows female veterans to reclaim that part of themselves within a community — and as a bonus, they get to continue to give back to the community at large.

“If I can do anything to aid in the boosting of morale for our veterans and active duty members, I would gladly partake.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Jessica Bowling on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).

Jessica Bowling, U.S. Army

Jessica Bowling supported EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Operations in the United States Army for eight years, during which she deployed to Afghanistan in support of 10th Mountain Division. Her company was formally recognized for its live-saving efforts by General David Petraeus, the four-star general who served as Commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

“We had a code in the Army: ‘leave no one behind.’ I love that Pin-Ups for Vets is taking care of vets and is doing so much to honor and celebrate women veterans. My passion is women veterans and ending homelessness in our veteran community,” proclaimed Bowling.

She’s in the right place; Pin-Ups for Vets has supported homeless female veterans with makeovers and gifts of clothing to help them get back on the right track.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Erika Velasquez on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).

Erika Velasquez, U.S. Coast Guard

Erika Velasquez served for 15 years as a Medical Corpsman in the U.S. Coast Guard, assisting in search and rescue operations. Medical Corpsmen have fought with their brothers and sisters in “every clime and place” since their creation — it’s a competitive and critical career field.

When asked why she wanted to volunteer with Pin-Ups for Vets, Velasquez said, “I always want to acknowledge and remind the community at large of the sacrifices of our veteran community. I am thankful to each individual who has served and contributed to better the world through their service to others.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Gina Elise in the upcoming 2020 calendar, now available for pre-order.

Gina Elise, Founder of Pin-Ups for Vets

Elise has been creating her iconic calendar for 14 years now. “The calendar images are starting a conversation about women in the military. People see the images, and they want to know the stories behind the ladies. They ask, ‘Who is she?’ ‘Where did she serve?’ ‘What did she do in the military?’ The stories of our lady veterans need to be told. The ladies tell me that people often assume that they are not veterans because of their gender. One of our ambassadors, Jovane Marie, who is a Marine Veteran, has summed it up: ‘There is nothing that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pin-up — so I choose to be both.’ These ladies are changing the narrative of what it means to be a veteran. They are breaking the stereotype.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors — all military veterans — gather for a group shot on set at Perfect 10 Beauty Studios during the 2020 calendar shoot.

Finding a community after service

Elise produces the calendar herself, but she has gathered together an incredible team. Ana Vergara styles the retro hair and make-up for each of the models, including Elise. Voodoo Vixen provides the dresses and vintage-inspired fashion for the shoots. Shane Karns photographs the entire calendar.

Her team has allowed the organization to donate over ,000 to help VA hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs. Her volunteers have visited over 13,000 veterans at 68 hospitals across the country. The organization has also provided makeovers for veterans, military spouses, and gold star wives.

There are good days and bad days when it comes to hospitalization or mourning a fallen hero. When Gina Elise and her pin-up volunteers are around, it usually means it’s going to be a good day.

You can support the organization by pre-ordering your 2020 calendar — or donating one to a hospitalized or deployed service member!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weekend safety briefs are on the chopping block and it’s about time

Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.

For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.

The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.


Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)

The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:

  1. Don’t drive and drive.
  2. Don’t assault your spouse.
  3. Don’t assault your children.

These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.

To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

​As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.

(U.S. Army)

In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.

In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)

The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?

And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch CIA Chief of Disguise break down iconic spy scenes

Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.

During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.

Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…

Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”

In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:


Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED

www.youtube.com

“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.

She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.

Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.

Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.

The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.

The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).

Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
MIGHTY CULTURE

How food causes stress for women veterans

The military is no picnic when it comes to consuming food. Eating quickly and at strange hours is a way of life in the armed forces. For many women veterans, these experiences can affect their eating habits, and relationship with food after their military service is over.

For a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers Dr. Jessica Breland of VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Shira Maguen of San Francisco VA Health Care System talked with 20 women veterans about how military service affected their eating habits. They found that many had developed unhealthy patterns such as binging, eating quickly, eating in response to stress and extreme dieting. In many cases, those habits carried over into civilian life.


Poor eating habits

The veterans described three military environments that promoted poor eating habits: boot camp, deployment, and on base.

Almost all of the women recalled that in boot camp, they were forced to eat quickly.

“My family asks why I eat so fast, and I say I learned it from the military,” one woman veteran said. “We were always timed.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Finding healthy food choices in the military was not easy.

Others ate quickly in order to get second helpings. In addition to eating fast, they also ate a lot. Since they were physically active, they didn’t gain weight. But when they got out of boot camp and continued eating large meals, they gained weight, which then affected their self-esteem.

Deployment changed eating habits even further since there was no set schedule for meals.

“You ate as much as you could before the flies ate your food, or you had to run off and do something and get [to] … the next stressful situation” said one woman veteran.

On base, meals were less stressful than in boot camp or on deployment, but healthy choices were limited.

“Your options are the mess hall or Burger King and Cinnabon,” said another woman bveteran.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Security Forces Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing participate in quarterly weapons training during a regularly scheduled drill at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, May 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn)

For many women, the need to “make weight” — not exceed maximum military weight limits — was an ongoing struggle. This involved continually monitoring what they ate and being monitored by others. For some, this struggle was tied directly to the stress of being female in the military.

“There is just a whole host of things that we have to deal with that [male service members] don’t have to,” one woman said, “and one of those things is being constantly judged on our appearance. It’s like there is nothing we can do right as women in the military and … that translates into these eating issues when we get home.”

Challenges making weight

Making weight was even more challenging — and critical — after pregnancy.

“They give you nine months to gain the weight [during pregnancy], and if you’re over[weight] when you come back to work in six weeks, it’s career death,” one participant said. “They start writing you up, they start demoting you, but the men don’t have that, you know?”

Some women ate as a way of finding comfort and control in stressful situations. One Navy veteran said she and a female colleague felt isolated and bullied due to their gender. They used food as a way to feel good and cope.

“When we got in port, we would just hole up in a hotel room, and just buy a whole bunch of just comfort food, candy, cookies, and whatever it was that we wanted to pig out and eat on. So we [were] in a relationship with the food, her and me, which … helped us out a lot.”

Some became trapped in a cycle of overeating and extreme dieting.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Army 2nd Lt. Caitlyn Simpson prepares her platoon for a training mission from inside a tank at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 28. 2019.

(Photo By: Army Cpl. Alisha Grezlik)

“You [could have] the start of a really serious eating disorder that could have killed you and it was reinforced by people saying, ‘Oh my god, look how much weight you are losing,’ like it was a good thing,” one female veteran said. “Were they going to wait until you were dead before they said, ‘You know, this might not be so healthy’?”

Adapting to civilian life

Some women found it hard to readjust to civilian eating patterns after leaving the service.

“[My family said], ‘We’re not in the military. You have to slow down and back away and think about what you are doing,'” another female veteran said. “So that was hard … it wasn’t clicking in my head that I was no longer in the military. They didn’t know my norm, and I didn’t know their norm, and we were just clashing all the time.”

Other women reported that they no longer took pleasure in food because years of consuming mediocre military meals had reduced eating to the level of a chore.

“You just eat it or you starve,” as one woman put it.

The researchers caution that their findings may not apply to all women in the military, but only to those with certain risk factors. They hope to do larger-scale research to further explore the issue.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These service members aren’t unicorns – they’re USCG

The oldest continuous seagoing military service isn’t the Navy; it’s the United States Coast Guard. Coast Guardsmen have been involved in every major conflict since their inception in 1790, including the current ongoing war. Despite all of this, they are still treated like the mythical unicorn.

Intelligence Specialist Daniel Duffin volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011, spending his pre-deployment training with members of the Army. His role once arriving in a FOB in Eastern Afghanistan was to collect vital intelligence for the troops on the ground. “We did a lot of counter IED and were looking for any sort of intelligence to support troops, preventing loss of life,” Duffin explained. He also worked tirelessly to develop target packages, helping ground troops plan their missions more effectively.

The Coast Guard had boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in 2003. In Bahrain and Kuwait, you can find hundreds of coasties and six patrol boats serving within the U.S. 5th Fleet, where they’ve been since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite their obvious  presence, the unicorn-like mythology of the coastie is ever present. 

The whispers followed Duffin constantly throughout his time in Afghanistan. He describes one particular scene where he was getting food and debating getting a chocolate milk or an energy drink when soldiers began pointing and whispering. “They were like ‘I told you! There he is!’,” Duffin said with a laugh. He was used to it, he said. The awestruck staring had also accompanied him at most joint bases he was stationed at stateside as well. 

After returning from deployment, it wasn’t long before he was headed back to the Middle East – this time to support the mission against ISIS, which he also volunteered for. Now stationed in the DC area, Duffin continues to support intelligence efforts for the Coast Guard and joint forces. 

In 2013, Coast Guard Lieutenant Michael Brooks was a Petty Officer 3rd Class and Intelligence Specialist when he deployed to Afghanistan. When asked why he wanted to go, he was quick to answer. “I have always wanted the hardest jobs I think, even as an officer with TACLET [Tactical Law Enforcement Teams] stuff or deployments. I wanted to be a coastie that down the road I could say I was there, I went through it and I got to feel what it was like to make those bonds with others through grueling and sometimes terrible circumstances,” he explained. Brooks had volunteered to go to Afghanistan after a service member was killed and the team was short.  

While deployed, Brooks was working alongside the 10th Mountain Division at FOB Sharana, supporting their operations. His unit was responsible for target development and breaking down various networks of terrorist cells within their AOR. The comments about him being there were a daily occurrence but he appreciated the humor in it. “It’s always a privilege to represent the Coast Guard and I would go back overseas tomorrow if the opportunity was there,” he said. 

Although Brooks’ remained humble when discussing his deployment, the service he provided in Afghanistan was extraordinary. On May 12, 2013 the 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division was attacked when an Afghan National Army Soldier turned his weapons on US Forces. He responded without care for his safety, providing real-time combat medical care to those injured. Several members of his team were killed in action. Upon his return home, Brooks received the 2013 JINSA Grateful Nation Award and the Combat Action Ribbon. 

After Afghanistan, Brooks was accepted into Officer Candidate School and went on to be the Officer in Charge of a Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) in San Diego, California. You can find him on the east coast now, heading up search and rescue operations.

 

Brooks and Duffin in 2019 atending a retirement ceremony in Hawaii

“As a service we are lucky to have the vast mission set that we do,” he explained. “Every day coasties are training and executing challenging operations and evolutions that determine lives being saved, the security of a port or critical infrastructure, proper compliance or safety of the maritime industry or just preparing for the next hurricane to hit our shores. Our service is unique, wherein every day we are given the opportunity to deal with conflict and overcome it.”

When Brooks was asked what he would want the military community and public to know about the Coast Guard, his message was simple: “Our service is capable, ready and actively playing a role in a vast array of mission sets spanning the globe.”

So, the next time you see their sharp looking dark blue uniform – that’s a United States Coast Guardsman. Not a unicorn. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The fall of Soviet Russia hysterically explained through memes

The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.

This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.


Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Know Your Meme)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Reddit)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Memecenter)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Me.me)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Imgflip)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Makeameme)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(memes-4ever.tumblr.com)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Ballmemes)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’
Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Ice Age baby is actually to blame after all.

What’s your favorite USSR meme? Tell us below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 14 most valuable Lego sets ever released

Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.

“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”


Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.

“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”

So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon

Highest Sale Price: ,000

The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”

Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition

Highest Sale Price: ,864

“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle

Highest Selling Price: ,600

If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer

Highest Sale Price: ,300

According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle

Highest Sale Price: ,484

As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

6. #10190 LEGO Market Street

Avg. Sale Price: ,163

Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(BrickLink.com)

7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck

Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980

Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786

If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(brickpicker.com)

9. #1650 + #1651 LEGO Maersk Line Container Ship + Container Truck

Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])

“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591

The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(BrickLink.com)

11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531

As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(BrickLink.com)

12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333

Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress

Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326

A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny

Average Sale Price: 4

“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 differences between Chesty XIV and the ‘Chesty’ Puller

On Friday, August 24, the illustrious Chesty XIV retired from the Marine Corps after five years of service as a ceremonial animal. While Chesty XIV is an illustrious Marine veteran, some aren’t sure if he quite measures up to his namesake, Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, a hero of World War II and Korea who led the 1st Marine Regiment during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.

So, which is the real “Chesty,” the true hero of the Marine Corps? We find out in five easy steps:


Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

1. Body composition

Chesty Puller was famous for his stature and ramrod posture. A physically imposing man, he inspired the loyalty and rallied the spirits of thousands of Marines over his nearly four decades of service. He also had two feet.

Chesty XIV has four feet, approximately twice as many as Chesty Puller.

Point: XIV.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

2. Heroics

Chesty Puller received five Navy Crosses for heroics performed during things like leading national guardsman in Haiti and Nicaragua through devastating ambushes deep in the jungle and personally leading the naval artillery to rescue his Marines under fire during a Japanese ambush on Guadalcanal.

Chesty XIV, meanwhile, is a dog assigned to ceremonial duties who once wore a drill instructor’s hat.

Point: Puller.

3. Time in service

Chesty XIV served for five years. The general guideline for dog years is that one human year equals seven dog years, meaning the Chesty XIV would be credited with a joint-aching 35 years. That’s a long time to march with Marines in (modified) dress blues.

Meanwhile, Chesty Puller served for… let’s see… 37 years. Yeah, the human Chesty tried to deploy to World War I, but was assigned to training instead in 1918, then served in Haiti and Nicaragua, then the Pacific Theater of World War II, and, finally, Korea before retiring in 1955 as a two-star general.

Point: Puller

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

4. Battle scars

Chesty XIV has a small black spot under his eye that the Wall Street Journal said looked, “…as if he stepped out of a bar fight while on shore leave.” It’s a cool look.

But, Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller had a Purple Heart and was so well known for standing in the heat of battle and rallying his troops that some Marines claimed his nickname of “Chesty” was in reference to his steel prosthetic chest, which was installed after Haitian rebels hacked away his old bony chest, but still failed to kill the man.

Point: Puller

5. Ranks and demotions

Chesty the XIV rose from recruit to sergeant in just five short years, an impressive rise to be sure, but not unheard of. He managed to hold onto his rank despite being physically incapable of properly wearing the rank according to Marine Corps Order 1020.34H.

Chesty Puller, meanwhile, rose all the way to two-star general on active duty and three-star general after retirement. But, he only did this after rising from recruit to corporal to second lieutenant multiple times until finally entering the officer ranks to stay.

Sure, all the demotions for Puller were either due to downsizing or the removal of foreign ranks that he held while leading local national guard forces, but still. Only one of the Chestys was demoted.

Point: XIV

Final tally:

Seriously, no one needs a final tally. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is deservedly a legend of the Marine Corps who trained and led Marines from World War I to Korea, became one of America’s most decorated heroes, and was a class act that nearly anyone could inspire to, despite the fact that they’d almost certainly fall short of his example.

But Chesty XIV did, and Chesty XV now does, represent the tenacious spirit of Puller himself and the Marine Corps as a whole. Hopefully, Chesty XIV will enjoy his well-deserved retirement, and Chesty XV will bring high morale to the young Americans under his charge.

Good luck, good boy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 gift ideas for your commander for the holidays

They’re not our moms or our dads, but they are just as tired of our tomfoolery. Commanders put up with our clowning while taking the brunt of responsibility from Leadership for the squadron and let’s remember: all sh*t rolls downhill. Thanks to the Commander, probably a little less rolled down to us. This holiday season, let’s show our Commanders our appreciation for driving them to the brink of insanity on a weekly, if not hourly, basis.

Ibuprofen: for the headaches.

Antacid: for the heartburn.

Ice Cream GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ear Plugs: for when they have to sit through yet another meeting about the length of your sideburns. You could also swipe some of these guys from the front desk on your way out to the flightline.

Scotch: single malt is best, though more economical alternatives will also do the trick in case SNACKO funds are running low. Pay your SNACKO bills people. Commander deserves the good stuff.

Spoofer Email Address: to deflect orders from higher ups to requisition volunteers for Wing-wide mandatory fun. Can’t reply to an email you never get.

Think About It Reaction GIF by Identity - Find & Share on GIPHY

GPS Tile: to track that one guy in your squadron who can’t make it back in time before curfew. Which was created because of him in the first place after a night in Songan… or Iwakuni…or Sigonella…or Phuket…or Dubai…or Yuma… or….

Backpack leash: for TDYs. You know who you are.

Backpack GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Giant A** Umbrella: We all have our commanders to thank for the protection they provide from the ongoing storm of sh*t that rains down from the Good Idea Fairies known as Leadership.

A Giant A** Butterfly Net: Alternatively, to keep the hare-brained shenanigan butterflies from fluttering around the squadron up to Leadership.

Flowers: for their spouses. No doubt the hours they’ve spent worrying about us have taken their attention away from their family. Their real kids probably did not drink a bottle of Fireball and then get handcuffed on the curb for peeing in the bushes near a Saddle Ranch, and yet the Commander has to answer that call at 2am. We’re sorry. And it wasn’t our fault. It was only a security guard anyway, not the real police.

A Laser Pointer – because herding cats is hard and they deserve to have their fun.

Lonesome GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 29th

Recently, a Marine was kicked out of a wedding for wearing his Dress Blues instead of a regular suit and tie. According to the post on Reddit, he was polite and gentlemanly but was asked to leave because he didn’t follow the dress code and the bride felt he was taking the spotlight away from the marriage.

There’s still a lot of other variables that aren’t really known that could really determine who’s the a**hole in this situation. If he was pulling a “you’re welcome for my service” routine, totally justified. If he didn’t have any other suit and tie, he could have probably explained that. If he was flexing his bare pizza box and two ribbons, he’s a douche. Since he was a friend of the groom, did he ask first? So on and so forth.

I’m personally of the mindset that he didn’t follow the uniform of the day and weddings are one of those things where you just nod and agree with the bride. But that’s ultimately pointless since this wedding has no bearing on my life.


Anyways. Since we in the U.S. aren’t subject to the EU’s Article 13 ruling on copyright material and the gray area it puts on sharing memes – have some memes!

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Relax, it’s only a meme.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Military Memes)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Private News Network)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Infatry Follow Me)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via The Army’s F*ckups)

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 veteran entrepreneurs you need to check out this Veterans Day

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”


This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.

But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.

(Doc Spartan)

Dale King, Doc Spartan

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.

That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.

So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.

(Marjorie Eastman)

Marjorie Eastman, Bicycle Deck of Cards

Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.

She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.

Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.

(Bison Union)

Bert Kuntz, Bison Union

You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.

These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”

Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

(Military Influencer Conference)

Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference

Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.

The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.

The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.

(Uncanna)

Coby Cochran, UnCanna

Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.

Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.

According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”

We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.