Former Army Ranger uses company profits to build community among veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Army Ranger uses company profits to build community among veterans

A 1990 white Lincoln stretch limousine covered in dust slowly pulls to a stop. Former Army Ranger Angel Cortes, his brother, and a few of their posse roll out of the door. Their clothes sport a sketch of a grinning jack o’lantern. 

They are carrying AR-15s, Multicam plate carriers, high-capacity P-mags with 5.56 armor piercing ammunition. Glocks are tucked in their waistbands. Moments later, rounds are ricocheting through car windows. Screeching high velocity lead rips into passenger side doors, metal on metal screaming as the car interiors are ripped open, their soft innards gutted by the physics of force times mass.

This could be the beginning of a post-apocalyptic film or a violent street crime. But it is not.

Instead it was a friendly gathering of ex-special operations soldiers on a practice shooting course, dreamed up and funded by former Army Ranger Angel Cortes. Bringing veterans together to shoot the shit and shoot some targets is his way of giving back and building a community of  veterans and a few trusted civilians to talk about life.

Cortes behind a Tacos Callejeros grill.

Look closely and a few fine details start to emerge from the smoke and gun powder and dust. Listen closely, and you start to hear a melodic rhythm to the pattern of fire. This is not the chaotic gun fight of a street skirmish gone off the rails. Angel and his friends maintain a continuous volley of fire. When one person empties their magazine, another increases his rate of fire. They unload and reload sequentially, so that there’s never a time when someone is not firing. They are leaping and bounding in a smooth synchronicity, like members of a ballet company who have rehearsed this dance over and over again; there is a grace and a fluidity to their violence that upon close examination belies their level of training. They are shooting moving, communicating, and executing dilapidated cars the way a butcher cleaves a chicken. Look closer and you see even finer details. The magazine holders are made by Crye precision, a bespoke brand of high-end gun gear made by hipsters in Brooklyn (the gods of war have a funny sense of humor) that has become the go-to standard for the most elite Special Operations units in the world. Their skin and shirts are marked with bone frog tattoos, scuba bubbles, parachutist wings, globes and anchors. G-shocks and Garmin watches adorn their wrists. These are the subdued brands of SEALs, MARSOC and a variety of other commando units, many who have spent the last several decades at war.

The firefight ends as abruptly as it started. There’s no high fives, no whooping and screaming, little fanfare to signify the end of the run. After all, these are not the streets of LA… but it easily could have been for Angel and his brother who admittedly grew up in LA’s gang life as affiliated members. Nor are these the streets of Anbar or the dirt roads of Afghanistan. But once again… it easily could’ve been. Five years ago Angel was deployed to Afghanistan attached with 3rd Special Forces Group.

For much of the American public who holds caricatures of veterans in their heads, this seems like a strange scene. The wars are over, or at the very least waning. Many veterans are suffering. An un-indoctrinated civilian might ask, “Should they be out playing GI Joe on the range? Don’t they need to heal?” Some civilians might even be cognizant of the story of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who was shot by a PTSD stricken veteran on the very shooting range he was trying to help him with rehabilitation. These narratives neglect the full range of experience of a large portion of veterans who are returning from overseas.

Angel, like many of the veterans out on the range this day, became a man in the military — literally. Angel’s mom signed his papers to join the service when he was 17 years old. He was in combat in Iraq by the time he was 18. He spent most of his 20s, his formative learning and earning years, deployed. While other 18 to 30 year olds were forming networks and connections that would determine their trajectory in life, Angel was fighting and watching his friends die.

Returning at 26 to the civilian world, Angel had three kids, no savings, and few job skills that translated to civilian life (there are a few jobs outside of the smoke-jumper community that require a static line parachuting qualification). He worked at a yogurt shop while attending community college. In the military, every penny of his paycheck had been spent on supporting his brother and sister back home. He took his last active paycheck to treat himself to one thing to commemorate his multiple combat deployments, a 1990 325I BMW. The beemer just kept breaking and his wife suggested he purchase a car that was more reliable. So, he saved some money and got the infamous 1990 white limousine, with mahogany interior, which became his famous daily driver. Inspired by Bam Margera of the Jackass skater culture, it represented how Angel was driving forward in his own unconventional style. While going to school, Angel started a T-shirt company, the OG Pumpkin, based on a design made for him by his son. The pumpkin design, like Angel, is paradoxically both menacing and friendly. It has a ghoul-like appearance that is sinister, sarcastic and yet somehow seems to be laughing with you. 

Angel promotes his OG Pumpkin brand online and on Instagram. Like all great advertising though, his greatest asset is word-of-mouth— and the word is starting to spread. Every month Angel uses the proceeds from his company to hold shooting range days for his fellow veterans who like him are navigating the twilight between active duty service and the civilian world.

OG Pumpkin design and tattoo on Former Army Ranger Angel Cortes's arm.

This particular range day was a vehicle range. A mid 90s silver Jetta and a white Toyota Corolla were towed to a remote shooting range in the foothills of Los Angeles. The tow truck driver, 40-something hispanic, with easily recognizable ink indicating a formerly affiliated or incarcerated life, looks like he could’ve been right out of Angel’s neighborhood. He dropped the cars in the middle of the range, then headed to the safe fire spectators area where Angel’s dad was grilling carne asada and adobo tacos for the group.

About 30 veterans, including SEALs, Army Rangers, MARSOC and a host of other operators from the alphabet soup of elite units (DEA, HRT, SWAT, others), teamed up in impromptu pairs to run drills, shoot targets and offer tactics and tips to each other. The vehicle course is a treat even for top-tier units. It’s not every day you get to practice shooting through the front windshield of a car to hit steel targets. The operators were jovial but subdued. The culture of Special Operations, which pays homage to the idea of a silent professional (although more often in word than deed) makes it uncool to express too much emotion, even after letting 30 rounds rip through your muzzle.

Putting together range days is not just about shooting. in fact it’s very little about shooting. It’s merely Angel’s version of golf. It allows him to spend time with his friends, his fellow veterans, network about business and entrepreneurialism, and re-capture some of the community that ended when he took off his uniform.  

Ryan Garcia is one of those veterans. He returned home from Nangarhar, Afghanistan last year after serving in the 2nd Battalion 34th Regiment out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. He didn’t know Angel in the service, but had watched his YouTube videos about becoming a Ranger and going through selection. Garcia, like Angel, had grown up in Southern California, and upon completing his last tour returned home. His transition was somewhat rocky. He ostensibly was going to school, but didn’t exactly move from the front lines to the front of the class. “When I got out, I lost my purpose … yeah I’m getting through school, but I was in a depression. I would say I was busy but I wasn’t doing anything.” About six months ago, between Xbox games, Garcia saw a post of Angel’s from the shooting range. Inspired, he went to shoot. What he found was a camaraderie that seemed to fill a hole he didn’t know was missing. Being around fellow veterans was a first step toward a healthier reintegration. Garcia spoke with Angel about classes, and saw how Angel was attacking the classes like a mission. Previously Angel had helped inspire Garcia to excel in the Army, now he was leading by quiet example by stressing the importance of classes and community. Garcia remains grateful for Angel’s mentorship, and now helps out other veterans as well. “At end of day whether you’re in a  warzone, or back here, we have each other’s back.” 

For other veterans it’s a chance to stay involved, and help. Mike O’ Dowd, a former Navy seal close quarters combat tactical instructor volunteered his time at the range day to help other veteran sharpen their skills. O’Dowd, who runs a Company called Defense Strategy Group that teaches civilians shooting tactics and skills said, “By hosting these range days, Angel has been bringing veterans from all branches together in our natural environment.  He’s given us a space to feel at home again, with people we trust.  It’s something that I’ve been missing since leaving the Navy.” 

Ultimately, Angel’s path as an entrepreneur, starting with a clothing company, studying to become a registered dietitian, even the range days he puts on for his fellow veterans, speak to something larger. Veterans return from service and overseas, and face a series of choices: What am I going to do? How do I support myself? And more fundamentally: Who am I? What is my purpose? Those questions are more formally known as veterans transition. There are significant headwinds for veterans transitioning out of uniformed service; many lack formal education and networks for civilian occupations, some are struggling with the invisible wounds of war, and many struggle to find purpose in a world where your mission isn’t briefed to you before you go out the door. Angel, and the cabal of veterans he has touched, show all the promise of a way forward. Coming home to a community where he once sold guns on the street, he is now a community leader, teaching self-defense and gun safety. Returning to a family that was abusive, he has broken the cycle of abuse, and is not only a father thrice over but a patron of the entire family. Angel came from a home where he often had only one meal a day, and is now feeding his fellow veterans.

Like many veterans, there was no clear path for Angel when he left the military. Instead he used the same skills and values that got him through Ranger selection and 24 months of combat, to find his way in the civilian world. Taking care of others, perseverance, service above self, finding a way to win; these are traits burnished into the character of special operations personnel. What he lacks in formal education, he made up for in hustle and drive. While Angel and many of his fellow veterans return home and are still fighting demons from their time overseas, they also have a host of skills and armor that are allowing them to become leaders in the civilian world. In some way this was the original mission of the Jack-O-Lantern, in the old world it was designed to ward off evil spirits. Angel, and his band of OG Pumpkin brothers, continue to do just that.

Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on NETFLIX, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. Prior to his work in television, Kaj spent five years on active duty serving as a US Navy SEAL. As a lieutenant, he led a team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas deploying as a detachment commander in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Kaj continues his service as a science diver for Force Blue, a team of veterans in support of ocean conservation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic battle between 40,000 Jedi and Sith needs to be in Star Wars 9

Is the Dark Side stronger?” Luke Skywalker first asked the question as he trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah, wondering if all his hard work could ever make a difference against the full power of the Dark Side of the Force. Yoda insisted that while the Dark Side is “more seductive,” it is inferior to the Light Side of the Force. It’s a nice sentiment that reassures Luke (and viewers) that good will triumph over evil. But wise as he is, Yoda is also a Jedi and might be a little biased.


So to prove once and for all whether a Jedi or Sith Lord is the most powerful warrior in the galaxy, one YouTuber figured out an alternative to just taking Yoda’s word. He had 20,000 Jedi Knights face off against 20,000 Sith Lords in the ultimate Star Wars battle royal. Despite being amazing, the only tragedy of this fan-made simulation is that it likely won’t find it’s way in the next big Star Wars movie, Episode IX.

YouTuber SergiuHellDragoonHQ used the PC game Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator to initially pit one Sith (who is pretty clearly Darth Maul) against one Jedi. All fine and good, but he soon realized that things would get more interesting if the battle was considerably grander. He upped the simulation to 20,000 warriors per side. Not surprisingly, the battle quickly descended into total chaos and, well, never really stopped ⏤ at least not for 26 minutes. Still, the absolute beautiful insanity of the battle is worth checking out at least for a few of them.

www.youtube.com

So who ended up winning? Sadly, it looks like Yoda may have bet on the wrong side of the Force, as the Sith handily defeated the Jedi Knights. By the end, there were still nearly 14,000 Sith Lords standing, while only 5,000 Jedis remained alive.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 of the most powerful weapons NATO has against Russia

For seven decades, the NATO alliance has practiced collective defense and deterrence against evolving international threats, and over the years, its capabilities have changed accordingly.

NATO’s most “powerful weapon,” according to Jim Townsend with the Center for a New American Security, is the “unity of the alliance,” but the individual allies also possess hard-hitting capabilities that could be called upon were it to face high-level aggression.

Heather Conley with the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that Russia is likely to continue to press the alliance through low-end influence and cyberwarfare operations. Still, she explained to Business Insider, NATO needs to be seriously contemplating a high-end fight as Russia modernizes, pursuing hypersonic cruise missiles and other new systems.


So, what does that fight look like?

“I’ve always likened it to a potluck dinner,” Townsend told Business Insider. “If NATO has this potluck dinner, what are the kinds of meals, kind of dishes that allies could bring that would be most appreciated?”

“If a host is looking to invite someone who is going to bring the good stuff, they are for sure going to invite the United States,” he explained, adding that “in all categories, the US leads.”

Nonetheless, the different dinner guests bring a variety of capabilities to the table. Here’s some highlights of the many powerful weapons NATO could bring to bear against Russia.

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team pilot and commander performs a dedication pass in an F-35A Lightning II during the annual Heritage Flight Training Course March 1, 2019, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

“The air side of the NATO equation is led by the United States with the F-35 and other various aircraft,” Townsend told BI.

The fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an aircraft that rival powers have been unable to match its stealth and advanced suite of powerful sensors.

While some NATO countries are looking at the F-35 as a leap in combat capability, others continue to rely on the F-16, an older supersonic fighter that can dogfight and also bomb ground targets. And then some countries, like Germany, are considering European alternatives.

Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon F2.

2. Eurofighter Typhoons

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a capable mutli-role aircraft designed by a handful of NATO countries, namely the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain, determined to field an elite air-superiority fighter. France, which walked away from the Eurofighter project, independently built a similar fighter known as the Dassault Rafale.

Observers argue that the Typhoon is comparable to late-generation Russian Flanker variants, such as the Su-35.

While each aircraft has its advantages, be it the agility of the Typhoon or the low-speed handling of the Flanker, the two aircraft are quite similar, suggesting, as The National Interest explained, that the Eurofighter could hold its own in a dogfight with the deadly Russian fighter.

A B-52 Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sits on the flight line at RAF Fairford, England, March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick)

3. Bombers

The US provides conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities through the regular rotation of bomber aircraft into the European area of operations.

American bombers have been routinely rotating into the area since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Military.com. That year, the Pentagon sent two B-2 Spirit bombers and three B-52s to Europe for training. The B-1B Lancers are also among the US bombers that regularly operate alongside NATO allies.

US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking off at Perth Airport.

4. US P-8A Poseidon

“There’s also the maritime posture, particularly as Russia continues to rely on a submarine nuclear deterrent. We need a stronger presence. That’s why we’re seeing Norway, the US, UK do more with the P-8As,” Conley, the CSIS expert, told BI.

Facing emerging threats in the undersea domain, where the margins to victory are said to be razor thin, NATO allies are increasingly boosting their ability to hunt and track enemy submarines from above and below the water.

While there are a number of options available for this task, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, which was brought into replace the US military’s older P-3 Orions, are among the best submarine hunters out there.

Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (front) leads Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis, Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie and a Swedish Visby-class corvette during Trident Juncture.

(NATO/LCDR Pedro Miguel Ribeiro Pinhei)

5. Frigates

Another effective anti-submarine capability is that provided by the various frigates operated by a number of NATO countries.

“The NATO allies, in particular Italy, France, Spain, all have frigates that have very capable anti-submarine warfare systems,” Bryan Clark with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told BI.

“They have active low-frequency sonars that are variable-depth sonars. They can find submarines easily, and they are very good against diesel submarines.” These forces could be used to target Russian submarines in the Eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea.

“Norway and Denmark also have really good frigates,” he explained. “They could go out and do anti-submarine warfare” in the North Sea/Baltic Sea area, “and they are very good at that.”

An AH-64D Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

6. AH-64 Apache gunship

The Apache gunship helicopter, capable of close air support, has the ability to rain down devastation on an approaching armor column.

The attack helicopters can carry up to sixteen Hellfire missiles at a time, with each missile possessing the ability to cripple an enemy armor unit. The Hellfire is expected to eventually be replaced with the more capable Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.

The Cold War-era Apache attack helicopters have been playing a role in the counterinsurgency fight in the Middle East, but the gunships could still hit hard in a high-end conflict.

7. German Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 main battle tank, which gained a reputation for being “indestructible,” is a formidable weapon first built to blunt the spearhead of a Soviet armor thrust and one that would probably be on the front lines were the NATO alliance and Russia to come to blows.

While this tank, a key component of NATO’s armored forces, took an unexpected beating in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, it is still considered one of the alliance’s top tanks, on par with the US M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2.

Observers suspect that the Leopard 2, like its US and British counterparts, would be easily able to destroy most Russian tanks, as these tanks are likely to get the jump on a Russian tank in a shoot out.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 16, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

8. US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers

A last-minute addition to last year’s Trident Juncture exercise — massive NATO war games designed to simulate a large-scale conflict with Russia — was the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its accompanying strike group.

The carrier brought 6,000 servicemembers and a large carrier air wing of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Norway for the largest drill in years.

“One thing the NATO naval partners have been looking at is using carriers as part of the initial response,” Clark told BI. The US sails carriers into the North Atlantic to demonstrate to Russia that the US can send carriers into this area, from which it could carry out “operations into the Baltics without too much trouble,” he added.

America’s ability to project power through the deployment of aircraft carriers is unmatched, due mainly to the massive size, sophistication and training regimen of its carrier fleet. The UK and France also have aircraft carriers.

(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)

9. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile system

PATRIOT, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” is an effective surface-to-air guided air and missile defense system that is currently used around the world, including in a number NATO countries.

There is a “need for an integrated air and missile defense picture,” Conley told BI. “That is certainly a high-valued protection for the alliance.”

NATO is also in the process of fielding Aegis Ashore sites, land-based variants of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, that can track and fire missiles that intercept ballistic targets over Europe.

The U.S. Navy submarine USS North Dakota (SSN-784) underway during bravo sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

10. US Virginia-class submarines

Virginia-class submarines, nuclear-powered fast attack boats, are among the deadliest submarines in the world. They are armed with torpedoes to sink enemy submarines and surface combatants, and they can also target enemy bases and missile batteries ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

These submarines “could be really useful to do cruise missile attacks against some of the Russian air defense systems in the western military district that reach over the Baltic countries,” Clark told BI.

“You can really conduct air operations above these countries without being threatened by these air defense systems. So, you would want to use cruise missiles to attack them from submarines at sea.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are #StillServing

This article is sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

During the last few months, Americans have faced a lot of adversity and continue to look for those to lead, guide and help navigate them through these uncertain times. One group has shown up and set an example of leadership and duty that we all should emulate.

Veterans.


We often use terms like, “When I served,” “When I was in the service,” or others to talk about when we were in uniform. But as many of us know, and many more of us learned during the last few months, the service that veterans provide to our country isn’t limited to the 4 to 20+ years in the military.

For many veterans, the desire to serve continues into their next career or the volunteer work they do. And the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) wants everyone to know the many ways veterans continue to serve.

The VFW has launched #StillServing, a campaign to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans.

“Veterans truly exemplify the best of America,” said William “Doc” Schmitz, VFW national commander. “They are dedicated to giving of themselves, and the skills and values they develop in the military only deepen their desire to better themselves, their communities and their country through service. We are grateful for the millions of members who have made service a hallmark of the VFW and we’re excited for the veterans who are joining now to carry this forward in new ways.”

The VFW is encouraging all veterans to share stories of their ongoing service using #StillServing on social media channels. They want veterans to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family members are also asked to use #StillServing posts to honor a veteran in their family who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

The VFW gives veterans a place to share in the bonds formed through military service. VFW members have created a foundation of service since 1899, and that legacy is now attracting a new generation of members who want to carry the torch forward.

This article is sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ruck ‘N’ Run honors those who served

When was the last time you sat around the campfire with civilians who support the military, current military personnel serving in our armed forces as well as our veteran community to share like-minded stories, help support each other and bring honor to those who served? Well, if you said never, then now is your chance. Ruck ‘N’ Run®, created by Army Drill Sergeant George Fuller, wants you to know that if your interest is in uniting with those who stand behind veterans, raise money for those in need and reduce the over-commercialization of current military holidays that may have lost some of their message, you can now be a part of providing help. “We all race together and then celebrate our hard work together around the fire pit,” Fuller said. “It’s a big part of our logo and very unique to our events.”

Ruck ‘N’ Run was born out of a desire to Honor, Build and Connect, or HBC for short. “We honor those who served, build camaraderie and connect the community and do so through challenges, events and gatherings that help to support a good cause.” Those who participate in either the annual event or the monthly challenges that take place both physically and virtually, have the ability to complete challenges, earn awards, and most importantly, become connected with those who support the mission.


“Our annual boot camp inspired walk/run allows the general public to interact with those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Fuller explained. “This is our original and main event held on the Saturday before Veterans Day, on location in Republic, MO.” Our Shadow (virtual) events allow the world to participate”. Honor, Build and Connect, was created to bring those in the military a reminder of why we serve, but also to our veterans the ability to further connect with those both in and outside of the military as well as connect the communities in a way not seen before in other events. “We connect the community through fun, motivating, yet challenging events,” Fuller said. “We also connect the community for a greater purpose and one that is in need now more than ever.”

Raising funds for the “In Their Honor” fund helps to provide assistance to families of U.S. service members that pass away. This can help offset the cost of food, lodging, transportation and other unforeseen, incurred expenses. This is different than any other form of military assistance or aid provided today and one that sets Ruck ‘N’ Run as a front runner in aiding veterans in need. While the worldwide pandemic looms on, there are still those who serve and need our help. “As we continue to support our nation abroad, there are those who make the ultimate sacrifice and we need to help the families get back on their feet during these times.”

While we are able to raise money to help and bring about more focus to this need, the ability to gather has diminished greatly and we need to be aware that these needs still exist. With the expansion and growth of our monthly virtual offerings and shadow events to include new team based challenges, we have been able to raise considerably more money and awareness but there is always more help that is needed. “As more and more people seek online ways to help, the ability to join a Ruck ‘N’ Run event and be able to Honor, Build and Connect has become even easier as we have expanded our offerings of challenges which will not only help to honor those who served, but raise funds to help families for the ‘In Their Honor’ fund. Most importantly, it offers a way to stay (and remain) connected to active military, veterans and civilians looking to build, help and support each other,” Fuller said. “Please consider joining our mission; we look forward to connecting with you”.

If you are interested in joining an event with Ruck ‘N’ Run®, visit the website for more details.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army Sniper vs. US Marine Scout Sniper — Who’s the sharpest shooter?

The origin of the American sniper is vague, with reports dating back as early as the American Revolution. The first established peacetime sniper school within the U.S. military was the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper course in Quantico, Virginia, in 1977. The U.S. Army followed suit with their sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1985. Brotherly competition between the two branches is infamous and continuous, predating the establishment of peace time training for snipers.


As far as sniper legends go, the Marine Corps has Carlos Hathcock, aka White Feather, with 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Of the Viet Cong enemies he eliminated, several were known for their brutality — including a woman known as “Apache.” According to Military.com, “‘She tortured [a Marine she had captured] all afternoon, half the next day,’ Hathcock recalls. ‘I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire.’ Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.”

On the U.S. Army’s side is Adelbert Waldron, also a legendary Vietnam War sniper, with 109 confirmed kills. After serving 12 years in the U.S. Navy, Adelbert joined the Army, starting out as a buck sergeant and deployed to the Mekong Delta area. Major General Julian Ewell, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, recalled a story about Waldron’s eagle eye: “One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot.”

Coffee or Die spoke with both Army snipers and Marine Scout Snipers about their professional differences.

Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Editor in Chief, Logan Stark, started his career in the Marine Corps in May 2007. He spent four years in the service and deployed three times.

Stark passed sniper indoctrination and, later, the Scout Sniper course. He said the most difficult part of the school was the actual shooting. It wasn’t standardized, 1,000-yard shots on paper, but shots from 750 to 1,000 yards on steel. Their range was elevated, which made calculating wind calls for their shots more difficult.

“You get these swirling winds coming off of the mountains, mixing with the wind coming off of the ocean, which makes reading wind extremely difficult to do,” Stark said, adding that “suffer patiently and patiently suffer” was a saying they often clung to during training.

However, the difficult conditions are what helped them hone in on the skill set Marine Scout Snipers are expected to perfect — which is, according to Stark, being an individual who can rapidly and calmly process information and execute a decision off that assessment.

“That’s why I joined the Marine Corps, was to do stuff exactly like that,” he said. “There wasn’t a worst part — it was fun.”

While Stark never worked directly with Army snipers, he has learned through the sniper community that the major difference is “the reconnaissance element to the Marine Corps Scout Sniper program. We’re meant to be an independent unit with four guys going out on their own without any direct support.”

Phillip Velayo spent 10 and a half years in a Marine Corps Scout Sniper platoon. He passed the Scout Sniper course on his second attempt and was an instructor from 2015 to 2018. Velayo now works as the training director for Gunwerks Long Range University.

Velayo has worked with Army snipers in the past and from talking with them, he learned that the Army’s sniper school is shorter — five weeks — compared to the Marine Corps’ school, which includes a three-week indoctrination course in addition to the 79-day Scout Sniper basic course. He added that he believes Army snipers place more emphasis on marksmanship than on mission planning because the Army has designated scouts, whereas Marine Corps snipers are responsible for shooting and scouting.

Velayo presented an example: If you take a blank-slate Marine and put him through Scout Sniper school and do the same with a soldier on the Army side, he said, “I mean, you’re splitting nails at that point, but honestly, I’m going to give it to the Marine side that we hold a higher standard to marksmanship than Army guys.”

Brady Cervantes spent the better part of a decade, starting back in 2006, with the Marine Corps as a Scout Sniper, and deployed four times. Cervantes passed the Scout Sniper school on his second attempt after his first try was cut short due to family matters that pulled him out of class.

“One thing I do respect about the Army is that they have certain calibers of curriculum that we may not,” Cervantes said, regarding differences between the two sniper schools, adding that the Army possibly goes into more depth as far as mission focus for a sniper. However, he said that he believes the Marine Corps maintains the highest standard within the military’s sniper community.

Cervantes said that if you take any Marine Scout Sniper and place them in a different sniper section, their shooter-spotter dialogue is uniform so they can function seamlessly as a team. In Cervantes’ experience overseas, the Army sniper teams he was around didn’t appear to have a clear-cut dialogue between their shooters and spotters.

But at the end of the day, Cervantes said, “if you’re a brother of the bolt, you have my respect.”

Ted Giunta served in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 2003 to 2009, transferring to the sniper platoon in 2006. He deployed four times as a sniper, three of those as the sniper section leader. Since leaving the military, he has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically pertaining to nuclear transportation. He is one of the two long-gun trainers for his entire agency.

Giunta attended the U.S. Army Special Operation Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). He believes that the Marine Scout Sniper program and the Army Sniper program are similar in how they train and evaluate their candidates. SOTIC, on the other hand, was a “gentleman’s course,” where they weren’t smoked or beaten down but evaluated on whether they could do the job or not.

Giunta said comparing Marine Scout Snipers to 75th Ranger Regiment snipers comes down to the level of financing for the unit. Because his unit and their mission set was Tier 2 and often worked with Tier 1 units, they had better access to training and equipment, which gives them the edge over Marine Scout Snipers. Giunta said the work as a sniper is an art form, and no matter what branch you are in, you make it your life.

Andrew Wiscombe served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2010, deploying to forward operating base (FOB) Mamuhdiyah, Iraq, from 2008 to 2009 as part of the scout sniper team.

Wiscombe said that Army snipers who belong to a dedicated sniper/recon section are comparable to Marine Scout Snipers. As far as a soldier who goes through the basic sniper school and then returns to an infantry line unit where they aren’t continually using their skills, they won’t be on the same level, he said.

The biggest difference Wiscombe is aware of relates to how they calculate shooting formulas. “I know we use meters and they use yards, so formulas will be slightly different,” he said. “The banter may be different, but the fundamentals remain the same for any sniper. At the end of the day, there is some inter-service rivalry fun and jokes, but I saw nothing but mutual respect for very proficient shooters and spotters all around.”

Jaime Koopman spent eight years in an Army sniper section, from 2008 to 2016. He has worked with Marine Scout Snipers several times in a sniper capacity; he also had two Marine Scout Sniper veterans in his section after they switched over to the Army. Koopman worked alongside the Marine Scout Sniper veterans as well as others while competing in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) International Sniper Competition.

Koopman’s experience with Marine Scout Snipers showed him that their training is a little different from Army snipers, but it’s comparable. “The Marine Corps Scout Sniper is an MOS for them, so the school is longer, affording them the opportunity to dive a little deeper in each subject area,” he said, “whereas an Army sniper is expected to gain the deeper knowledge outside the school house with his section.”

As far as the most recent standings from the 2019 USASOC International Sniper Competition, first and second place positions were held by U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) teams while third place was claimed by a Marine Scout Sniper team. The 2020 competition has been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

www.facebook.com

Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

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LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

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Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

MIGHTY CULTURE

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.


Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.

My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.

But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.

Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.

Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.

Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.

And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.

My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.

My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.

I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.

From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.

I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.

After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.

She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.

Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.

My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.

Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?

The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.

In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Department of Defense

In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.

I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.

And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.

I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.

I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vehicle scams are targeting service members

According to a recent Better Business Bureau study, service members are more susceptible to fraud than average consumers. In fact, scammers using the name “Exchange Inc.” have been attempting to fool soldiers and airmen into thinking they are working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and boat engines.

“For years, scammers have used the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Steve Boyd, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “Some military members have sent money thinking they’re dealing with the Exchange, only to receive nothing in return.”


Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles or represent private sellers in completing transactions in the continental United States. Scammers have left consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.

Scammers have left military consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by using the name Exchange Inc. to dupe military consumers.

The scammers typically direct potential buyers to use multiple third-party gift cards to pay for purchases. Most recently, scammers required payment using Google Play gift cards. To verify any suspicious payment method requests, military shoppers can call Exchange Customer Service at 800-527-2345.

The Exchange operates solely on military installations and via ShopMyExchange.com. The Exchange does not act as a broker in private transactions and does not advertise in classified advertisement or resale websites.

Shoppers who believe that they may have been taken advantage of can file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 much better names for the Army bases honoring Confederate generals

It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.

Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?

So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.


1. Fort Benning (Georgia)

This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.

For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.

They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)

In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”

Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.

2. Fort Lee (Virginia)

So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.

Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.

A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.

If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.

3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)

Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.

Bragg lost almost every battle he commanded, always took the opposite of good advice and once even misplaced a line of men.

Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?

Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.

Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.

Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.

4. Fort Hood (Texas)

This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.

For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.

Bling.

Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.

5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)

What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.

Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.

Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?

But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.

6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)

Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.

This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.

This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.

Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.

Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.

7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)

Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.

Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.

Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.

A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.

But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.

Pick one, Virginia.

8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)

Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.

Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.

9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)

Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.

The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.

But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.

If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)

Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.

10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)

Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.

While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.

Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.

Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the military gives male recruits a buzz cut

In 1994, a judge ruled the first woman ever admitted to The Citadel, a Charleston, S.C.-based military academy, should not be exempt from getting the same “induction cut” given to all male recruits. For decades, U.S. military recruits have had their locks shorn in the first weeks of training, given what is otherwise known as “The Army’s Finest.”


While the Citadel’s first female cadet would not end up buzzed like her male classmates, male recruits and cadets have been going through the rite of passage since George Washington established the Continental Army. Even then, he required men serving in the American ranks wear short hair or braided up. He could also wear his hair powdered, which he would do with flour and animal fat. If he did, it would be tied in a pigtail.

There are actually worse cuts out there, you know.

The cleanliness desired by General Washington endured through the early years of the United States. Shaving was enforced up until the Civil War, when men were allowed to sport neat, trim mustaches and beards. By then, it was apparent that the hair regs of yesteryear were gone.

Now that’s just absurd.

The shearing of young men began in earnest during the heavy recruitment of troops in World War II. The Army’s official reason was “field sanitation” – meaning it wanted to control the spread of hair and body lice. it had the double effect of standardizing new U.S. troops, creating a singular look to remind the men that they were in the Army now – and that the Army had standards. Like most everything else in a military training environment, the haircut was a boon to individual and unit discipline.

Ever since, the services have tried at various times to recognize the evolution of popular hairstyles for American troops while trying to maintain discipline and grooming standards among them. Women, while not forced to partake in the introductory military hairstyle, have maintained clean, often short hairstyles. Their hairstyles are always expected to be just as well-kept and disciplined as their male counterparts. They still get a visit to the basic training Supercuts – the result is just not as drastic.

He’s ready.

It doesn’t matter if they’re coming into the military as an officer or as enlisted, if they’re Guard or Reserve, if they’re going to a service academy or ROTC, all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines get a solid shearing to christen their new way of life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wet-hulled Arabica is not your typical Vietnamese coffee

As the second largest world coffee exporter — behind Brazil — Vietnam exports 25 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee per year. While 95 percent of this is the Vietnamese Robusta bean, only 5 percent of the coffee grown and exported in Vietnam is the original Arabica bean introduced by the French during colonization. With the rise of specialty coffee in Vietnam and worldwide, the demand for the more expensive — and more desirable — Arabica bean is getting stronger. The push for high-quality coffee is greater than ever, and it’s beginning to take the Vietnamese coffee industry by storm.


Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.

Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

As Robusta beans are less fragrant, more bitter, and have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans, they are ideal for instant coffee. In fact, the first coffee processing plant in Vietnam was established in 1950 to manufacture instant coffee using Robusta beans.

Even though Robusta beans dominate the coffee fields of Vietnam, there remains a strong underbelly of coffee growers who produce high-quality specialty Arabica beans. Arabica coffee trees grow shorter than their Robusta cousins and require a higher elevation. This limits their spread across Vietnam, finding roots only in the northwestern part of the country and the central highlands in the south.

Cantimor is the most common type of Arabica grown in Vietnam, though this hardy bean isn’t a true Arabica bean. The Robusta-Arabica hybrid isn’t well-known for producing a high-quality cup of coffee. Other types of Arabica grown in Vietnam are of the Bourbon and Mocha varieties, or Moka in Vietnamese.

In Vietnam, coffee beans are generally harvested using a strip-harvesting method. This involves stripping a coffee tree of all its cherries, both ripe and unripe. This is the normal practice for Robusta beans and results in a lower-quality coffee.

Arabica beans require a more selective method of harvesting, which involves continually harvesting only the ripest cherries and leaving the unripe cherries to fully develop. This labor-intensive process requires coffee farmers to pick through their coffee trees every few days to select the beans at their ripest.

After harvesting, Robusta beans are processed using a drying method that spreads the cherries out in the sun for up to two weeks. While this can produce high quality coffee, it requires vigilant watch and exceptionally dry sunny weather.

Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.

Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Arabica coffee is processed using the wet-hull method. Instead of immediately drying the cherries in the sun, the cherries are soaked and rubbed in order to remove skin and pulpy flesh from the bean. Sometimes this is done using a hand-cranked pulper, similar to a meat grinder. The beans are then submerged in water with a fermentation enzyme that helps to rid the beans of any remaining pulp.

After fermenting overnight, beans are rinsed to reveal a clean layer of parchment covering the bean. These parchment-coated beans are dried in the sun for up to a week before being run through a wet-huller. This machine vibrates powerfully to jostle the beans, providing the friction needed to separate the wet parchment from the coffee bean. The intense vibrations can sometimes cause the soft beans to split at the end, resembling a “goat’s nail.”

Once through the wet-hulling process, the beans are spread out to dry in the sun. The beans are raked consistently throughout the day but kept bagged at night to continue fermentation. Without the protective layer of parchment, wet-hulled coffee dries quickly and achieves the ideal moisture content in less than a week.

Only the best beans make it into the Vietnamese Arabica elite coffee. Beans are sorted using sieves of different sizes, then they are sorted again based on various characteristics such as foreign matter, moisture content, color, and wholeness. In Vietnam, it is popular for the Arabica beans to be dark roasted in butter, brewed strong, and served with sweetened condensed milk.

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