Making it through selection to serve in one of America’s elite special operations units marks an unusual milestone in a service member’s career. Making the cut serves as the culmination of a lifetime of preparation and hard work, while simultaneously ushering in a new era full of brutal challenges, higher stakes, and even longer days ahead. Becoming a Green Beret is a lot like earning a spot on a professional football team: when everyone is elite, it takes something special to stand out.
Former Green Beret and current Director of Player Development for the Indianapolis Colts Brian Decker knows that, and he’s managed to quantify that something special into a model that improved candidate selection rates by thirty percent in his last Special Forces unit. Now, he’s brought that same model to the NFL.
(Courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
“What Brian did was change the paradigm,” said Col. Glenn Thomas, Decker’s former boss at Fort Bragg. “People get accustomed to looking at things the same way and applying the same solutions to the same problems. Brian challenged our assumptions. He took things that had generally been intangibles and turned them into tangibles.”
Football is, in many ways, analogous for war, with a combination of strategy and brute force playing out in a melee of individual skirmishes with the singular goal of advancing deep into enemy territory. The stakes in a football game are lower than in war, of course, but in the minds and hearts of those playing, themes like sacrifice and commitment are just prevalent between the hash marks as they are on the battlefield.
The thing is, despite the hard metrics both NFL teams and military units have been measuring for decades (using tests to assess things like speed and strength), many would contend that once a person has proven their physical ability to perform at that level, the real elements that dictate success or failure tend to be less tangible. A timed run can’t measure a soldier’s ability to dig deep in a firefight, nor can a series of drills determine if a rookie could handle the incredible pressure of playing at the professional level.
Decker believes there are some things that set elite operators apart in all fields, whether we’re talking combat operations or professional football.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
“One of the things about professional sports, rock climbing, parachuting, jumping from 123,000 feet in space to Earth, they’re all really hard things to do,” Decker explains.
“I think if you remove the sport, specific skills and domain from it, you find that (elite performers) are a lot alike. I think the demands placed upon greatness look a lot alike, regardless of field.”
Roughly half of all first-round draft picks in the NFL wash out of the league, and with so much money riding on these decisions, NFL teams have spent years trying to devise ways to predict a player’s success before they sign the contract. From Decker’s perspective, however, they simply haven’t been measuring the right things.
Teams are taking big financial risks with their draft picks. The entire franchise could be effected by these decisions for years to come.
So Decker set out to quantify the unquantifiable–to find a way to use numerical measurements for seemingly intangible elements of a player’s personality like their drive or desire to succeed, their responses to stress, and their emotional intelligence. If all other things are equal, Decker’s approach states, it’s those qualifiers that will indicate the likelihood of a player’s (or Special Forces candidate’s) success.
The hard part is assigning hard numbers to such things in a uniform way, and while Decker won’t reveal the exact metrics he uses for his assessments, the success his program has been enjoying in the Colts’ locker room seems to speak for itself.
“Every team in the league is doing a lot of work in terms of psychological evaluations, and has been doing it forever and ever,” says Joe Banner, the former Browns CEO who gave Decker his first job in the league in 2014.
“But his approach, and the types of questions he asks, and his ability to synthesize information and get to the right conclusions, that part of it is absolutely groundbreaking. There is nobody in the league doing what he’s doing as effectively.”
Last season the Colts went 10-6, marking a turnaround for the franchise.
Once Decker has met with a prospective player and made his assessments, he always follows the math up with five specific questions meant to steer his line of thinking:
Does this player have a favorable development profile?
Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?
Does he have a good learning and support system?
Is he a character risk, and if so, how do we understand that risk and help this player?
Is he a good fit?
But it takes a lot more than assigning some figures and asking lofty questions. Prior to this season’s draft, Decker interviewed and assessed over 160 players. Next year, he plans to top 300.
“This is a commitment industry,” Decker, who served in the military for 22 years, explains. “That’s another thing I like about football. You can’t just be here for the T-shirt. You gotta give a pound of flesh to do this.”
The US military destroyed its own anti-ISIS headquarters in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 16, 2019, to prevent them from falling into the hands of fighters backed by Turkey.
According to WSJ, Turkish-backed troops advanced on the facility, which had been used to equip and train SDF fighters against ISIS, on Oct. 15, 2019, leading US officials to quickly withdraw US troops and destroy the base on Oct. 16, 2019.
As the Turkish-back fighters moved closer, US troops attempted to repel them, using F-15s and Apache helicopters as a show of force to warn them away while US troops were still there. But, according to The Wall Street Journal, the airpower failed to dissuade the Turkish-backed forces; SDF fighters fled and set fire to their part of the base, and US troops left before US assets destroyed the base.
Insider reached out to the US operation in Syria to request more information about what assets were used to destroy the base, but did not receive a response by press time. It is also unclear what was being held in the base, although The Wall Street Journal noted that it had previously been used to store light arms and ammunition for the SDF.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow.
Oct. 11, 2019, Turkish forces fired at an American position in Syria; while no casualties were sustained it came after reassurances from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that Turkey knew where US troops were stationed. An officer familiar with the situation told The Washington Post that the incident was likely not accidental, as Turkish forces were aware of the US position, and had been for months.
“#Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast #Syria. On Oct. 16, 2019, we vacated the Lafarge Cement Factory, Raqqa, and Tabqah,” Col. Myles. B. Caggins, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, tweeted Oct. 16, 2019, referring to the base, the LaFarge Cement Factory, on which US forces carried out strikes.
Two F-15E Strike Eagles conducted an airstrike on the LaFarge factory to keep munitions and military equipment from the hands of the Turkish-backed armed groups, a coalition spokesman said.
F-15E Strike Eagle.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on their way to Ankara to try and broker a ceasefire. The two officials are set to meet with Erdogan, according to The New York Times.
The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey due to its incursion in what was Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria, but pressing pause on a 0 billion trade deal between the two NATO allies and re-imposing a 50% tariff on Turkish steel exports has not deterred Erdogan. Pence and Pompeo, along with the State Department’s special envoy for Syrian affairs James Jeffrey and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, are expected to threaten harsher sanctions should Erdogan refuse a ceasefire.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family,” reads the Spartan Pledge, a new initiative started by Cutler.
The pledge started between Cutler and his battle buddy Nacho who served in Iraq with him. They lost touch after the military, but were brought together after Nacho’s friend – who was also a veteran – committed suicide.
The Spartan pledge was created after they both admitted to each other of having suicidal thoughts and not talking about it. Realizing the disproportional suicide rate among veterans, Cutler started engaging other war buddies with his pledge starting a viral effect.
According to Boone, the pledge ensures that veterans take care of themselves, take care of their own, and maintain a mission focus.
Here’s Boone’s video. He requests that you please pass it along.
NOW: This disabled veteran describes his scars of war with incredible slam poetry. Watch the video
There aren’t many war movies better than Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece. It’s definitely worth watching at home, but you’ll soon have a chance to see it in theaters again, more than two decades after its original release.
The film is returning to theaters to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Participating theaters will host a matinee at 3:00 p.m. on June 2, 2019, and an evening screening at 7:00 on June 5, 2019. D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.
Saving Private Ryan tells the story of a squad of Army Rangers played by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribis, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies. Led by John Miller (Tom Hanks), their mission is to find and rescue a paratrooper, Ryan (Matt Damon), the only survivor of his four military brothers.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer
Saving Private Ryan was a commercial and critical hit when it was first released. It was the highest grossing film of 1998, grossing 1 million that year, the equivalent of about 0 million today. It received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing, infamously losing the Best Picture race to Shakespeare in Love.
The opening scene of the film is a sprawling, brutal 20-plus minute recreation of the invasion that immerses the viewer in the horrors of combat without glorifying war.
“[W]e wanted people to get the feeling that despite what you see in movies and what you read in books, death in hellacious combat like there was on Omaha Beach can sometimes be very random, and it can be shocking because it’s so close,” Marine veteran Dale Dye, the film’s military advisor, told Task Purpose.
It’s the kind of scene, and the kind of film, that deserves to be seen in theaters, so don’t miss this opportunity.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.
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!
Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.
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?
Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her 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!
Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.
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.
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
Founders and Innovators
Empower – Milspouse Track
Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.
Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.
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.
The first trailer for Avengers 4 is finally here. We’ve got a real-deal title, too: Avengers: Endgame. Captain America has shaved his beard, Tony Stark is lonely, Hawkeye is back, and it looks like Ant-Man is going to be the key to it all, just as we predicted!
Be warned this trailer is super-emotional and we’re already crying. Watch the trailer a few times, and then take a breath. Okay, you good? Let’s dig into this a little bit.
First of all, even though “Endgame” is a really boring and generic subtitle, the trailer itself is excellent, possibly more thrilling than any other Marvel trailer ever. Unlike the Captain Marvel trailers (which are fine by the way) this trailer really gives the audience what they want without actually spoiling the movie. Though if you somehow missed Infinity War, this trailer weirdly makes watching that movie slightly unnecessary because Black Widow sums up the plot of the previous installment with one line “Thanos did exactly what he said he was going to do: he wiped-out 50 percent of all living creatures.” (Side question: does this include cockroaches, rats, and pigeons? Is there a vermin-version of the Avengers who are grieving right now, too? I mean we all cried for Spider-Man, what about actual spiders?)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, this trailer is really great. Chris Evans is clearly going to give the performance of his life in this movie and its rad to see him clean-shaven, like pretty much saying to the audience that yeah, he’s back and he’s going to do whatever it takes to fix all of this stuff. The return of Hawkeye is super-dope, too, and that coda with Ant-Man pulling up in his van is great and totally teases the idea that the post-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Waspwill be the key to saving all the Avengers.
Seems like May 3, 2019, can’t get here fast enough.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
It’s been almost 30 years since the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the primary crossing post between East and West Berlin, was taken down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The original guardhouse was little more than a temporary shack for much of its life and has since been replaced. As the area in Berlin began to grow and become a tourist attraction, more and more Cold War-era sights were added to the checkpoint.
One of those sights is a photo of a real American soldier, looking East.
These days, the area in Berlin that saw some of the most intense showdowns between East and West is full of tourists and Berlin residents who probably wish they had taken a different route to work. For three Euro, you can take a photo with one of the soldier-reenactors who dress up to man the post. If you’re hungry, there’s a McDonald’s across the street. It’s very much not the Checkpoint Charlie of old, but still worth a visit. For military veterans approaching the once-legendary area, there might be a different question – who is that guy in the photo?
The “soldiers” holding the U.S. flag and posing for tourists were never troops, that’s just fun for the onlookers. But staring at the photo of the American soldier posted at the guardhouse, it’s clear that he’s wearing a real U.S. Army uniform.
His name is Jeff Harper.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint’s rise as a prime tourist attraction in the German capital, the photos of Sgt. Harper and his Soviet counterpart on the other side have become as synonymous with the checkpoint as anything else in Cold War lore. But Harper wasn’t exactly the stereotypical Cold Warrior. He was a U.S. Army tuba player with the 298th Army Band in Berlin from 89-94 and never pulled guard duty at the checkpoint. He was just 22 when the photo was taken.
In an interview with the German publication Der Tronkland, Harper said he almost dropped his coffee when he first saw his face up on the sign. That was 1999.
“I am very proud to have become part of the story to this extent and still be part of what is happening in Berlin today,” Harper said. “I can hardly imagine in how many photo albums I have been immortalized.”
Harper has since retired from the Army, but he was still in Berlin for the fall of the wall.
Jeff Harper after his retirement in 2010.
The most important thing to know about the photos is that they’re not part of any authentic recreation of the site. They’re an art exhibit, called Ohne Titel – or “Light Boxes.” The photo was taken by Berlin photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, as an attempt to capture photos of the last Allied soldiers in the city. The young Russian troop isn’t wearing a Soviet military uniform, he’s wearing a 1994 uniform of the Russian Federation.
“… These portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – “You are leaving the American/British/French sector” – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here,” said Thiel. “By using two portraits to symbolize almost 50 years of history, I am suggesting that these two faces are representative.”
These days, Harper is enjoying the retired life driving his motorcycle around the highways of the American West. He says the highlight of his career in Berlin was being able to play in the band for President Bill Clinton. As for the Russian soldier on the opposite side, no one really knows who he is or where he ended up.
It may not make for polite conversation, but most runners at one time or another have dealt with unpleasant intestinal rumblings, sometimes called runner’s stomach, or faced other gastrointestinal running emergencies while running recreationally or competitively. The Army Public Health Center’s resident nutrition experts offer a few strategies to help runners avoid unfortunate GI issues.
“It is difficult to connect the cause and effect of this unfortunate situation, but some plausible culprits are dehydration and heat exposure,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center. “Contributing factors likely include the physical jostling of the organs, decreased blood flow to the intestines, changes in intestinal hormone secretion, increased amount or introduction of a new food, and pre-race anxiety and stress.”
Reagan offers a few suggestions to help runners avoid runner’s stomach while running or training.
“If you have problems with gas, bloating or occasional diarrhea, then limit high fiber foods the day before you race,” said Reagan. “Intestinal bacteria produces gas and it breaks down on fibrous foods. So avoid foods such as beans, whole grains, broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. Lactose intolerance may also be something to consider, so avoid dairy products, but yogurt or kefir are usually tolerated.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)
APHC Nutrition Lead Army Maj. Tamara Osgood recommends avoiding sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which can cause a ‘laxative effect’ and are commonly found in sugar free gum and candies.
“Also, limit alcohol before run days, and try to eat at least 60-90 minutes before a run or consume smaller more frequent meals on long run days,” said Osgood.
So broccoli and cauliflower are out. Are there any “good” foods to eat before a planned run?
“In the morning the stress hormone, cortisol, is high,” said Reagan. “To change the body from a muscle-breakdown mode to a muscle building mode eat a small breakfast or snack of 200 to 400 calories within an hour of the event. This depends on your personal tolerance and type of activity.”
Reagan says some quick food choices are two slices of toast, a bagel or English muffin with peanut butter; banana (with peanut butter); oatmeal, a smoothie, Fig Newtons, or granola bar.
“These food choices will also help provide energy and prevent low blood glucose levels,” said Reagan.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
Although energy bars and gels are popular, runners who haven’t trained with these products may experience diarrhea because of the carbohydrate concentration, said Reagan. A carbohydrate content of more than 10 percent can irritate the stomach. Sport-specific drinks are formulated to be in the optimal range of 5 to 8 percent carbohydrate, and are usually safe for consumption leading up to and during a long run.
Reagan advises staying well hydrated before and during the run and consider getting up earlier than usual to give the GI tract time to “wake up” before the race. For those in race “urges” it’s wise to know the race route and where the portable restrooms are located.
Osgood says runners should train like they race to learn how their bodies tolerate different foods.
“Training is the time to understand how your body tolerates the types of food or hydration you are fueling with,” said Osgood. “Everyone is different when it comes to long runs regarding the type of foods or best timing to eat for you to avoid GI intolerance. Find out what works for you while you train.”
Osgood also recommends refueling following the run. Most studies suggest 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio within 30 minutes post run.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”
From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.
1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.
2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.
Darryl during his days as a teacher.
3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.
4. What values were stressed at home?
My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.
Darryl at his first duty station
Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).
Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).
5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?
Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.
James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.
6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?
The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)
I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.
An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.
Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.
Faculty picture for the school yearbook.
7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?
Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.
8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?
“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.
“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.
“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.
Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com
Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”
9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?
I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.
Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.
I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.
Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.
Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.
My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.
Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.
Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com
Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com
Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com
Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com
Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com
10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?
Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.
I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.
Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.
I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.
Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.
Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”
Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.
The objective of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was to eliminate the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet as an effective fighting force. This would enable Japan to take the Dutch East Indies and secure China without effective opposition. As history shows, however, that didn’t work out too well for Japan. But there are effective ways to keep an enemy fleet bottled up.
One of the best methods is to make moving out of a harbor a hazardous venture. There are a few ways to do that – one is by parking subs outside the harbor and firing torpedoes at any ship that comes in. The problem here is that the subs can be sunk or driven away — and the enemy fleet is now out and hunting your ships. There is, however, a much more long-lasting way to keep enemy ships in their harbor that doesn’t risk a sub and its crew.
You lay mines. It can be done many ways, but you’re best off using submarine-laid mines or air-dropped mines. The submarine approach is best for when you don’t want the enemy to know what’s in store. Something going boom quickly tells the enemy that this isn’t a bluff. Submarines can carry two mines for every torpedo and can quickly shut down a harbor, even if they can’t carpet the entire area.
The other option is to drop the mines from planes. This is a significantly more conspicuous method but, as Tom Clancy commented his book Submarine, sometimes, all you really need is a press release. Watching mines get dropped into nearby waters is sure to shut down movement. Today, the primary air-dropped mines the United States uses are the Quickstrike series – modified dumb bombs.
Here’s what makes using those mines extra appealing: A B-2A Spirit can carry a few dozen 500-pound bombs in a single sortie, and a Mk 62 Quickstrike mine is little more than an Mk 82 bomb with a different fusing arrangement.
The use of air-dropped mines has a long history and was used prolifically during World War II.
Check out the video below to see some historical, airborne mine deployment.
Two naval officers facing courts-martial following a fatal ship collision that killed seven sailors will have their charges dropped, Navy officials announced late April 10, 2019.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will withdraw and dismiss charges against Cmdr. Bryce Benson and Lt. Natalie Combs, ending a years-long legal battle following the 2017 collision between the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan.
Benson was the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer at the time and Combs the tactical action officer. Navy Times first reported that Richardson would drop the charges on April 10, 2019.
“This decision is in the best interest of the Navy, the families of the Fitzgerald Sailors, and the procedural rights of the accused officers,” a Navy news release states. “Both officers were previously dismissed from their jobs and received non-judicial punishment.”
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer will issue letters of censure to Benson and Combs, the release adds. Those reprimands are likely to end the officers’ Navy careers.
Damage to USS Fitzgerald.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Benson and Combs faced charges of dereliction of duty through neglect, resulting in death and improper hazarding of a vessel. Navy officials had at one point considered negligent homicide charges against Benson and two junior officers, but the decision to pursue them was later dropped.
A series of in-depth reports on the collision and the lead-up to it by ProPublica, a nonprofit that produces investigative journalism, revealed years of warning signs about the surface fleet’s readiness had been ignored by top Navy leaders.
The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers to suffer deadly collisions in the Pacific that year. Ten more sailors were killed two months after the Fitzgerald accident when the destroyer John S. McCaincollided with a merchant ship off the coast of Singapore.
The deadly accidents led to a host of overhauls to Navy training and processes that were designed to prevent future tragedies. On April 10, 2019, Spencer told members of Congress that of the 111 recommendations made following the collisions, 91 have been adjudicated and 83 implemented.
The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
Navy leaders will continue to do everything possible to improve readiness and training to ensure those programs remains on track, according to the statement released April 10, 2019.
“The Navy continues to strive to achieve and maintain a climate of operational excellence,” it says.
David Sheldon, Combs’ attorney, told Navy Times that the service’s failed policies and leadership ultimately led to the Fitzgerald tragedy.
“The responsibility for this tragedy lies not on the shoulders of this junior officer, but on the unrelenting deployment schedule demanded of Navy commanders and the operational tempo demanded by Navy leadership and this administration,” he told the paper. “Until these shortcomings are addressed, the losses of those talented, young sailors will be in vain.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.