GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

UAP is excited to share this exclusive interview featuring GySgt Danny Draher – a seasoned former Reconnaissance Marine and current Marine Raider with more than eighteen years in the Marine Corps.

When did you join the military and why?

I joined the military right after 9/11. I was going to Borough of Manhattan Community College. Once the towers fell, that school was right there, and they used it as a triage facility. They basically gave us this opportunity to withdraw without penalty. So, I took advantage of that opportunity.

I was kind of playing with the idea of joining the military before that, but then I just figured I’d followed through with it. I signed up in December of 2001, and then I actually went to boot camp in February of 2002.

Why the Marine Corps in particular?

I have Navy in my family, my grandfather was in the Air Force, we had Army, and they all kind of thought I should go the Army route. Bu after having a conversation with my oldest brother, I have two older brothers and I respect their opinions very much, but I just happened to be having this conversation with my older brother while I was kind of playing with the idea of joining and trying to figure out what branch, because I had recruiters from all the branches calling me.

My brother is a pretty wise dude, and he’s always been like that. It’s just kind of like that stereotypical older brother where it’s just like, that’s the guy you go to when you have problems, he helps you sort things out.

And he just said, “if you’re going to jump off a cliff, why not get a running start?” So, you know, take the toughest one you can bear and, you know, make that your home. So, and it was words to that effect. He basically told me to go for the challenge, the most challenging branch, and based on all the stories I’ve ever heard, nobody denies that the Marine Corps has the hardest boot camp and, you know, even beyond that more difficult opportunities.

So that was ingrained in the back of my mind and later I started to learn more about the different jobs and opportunities. So yeah, that was why I chose the Marine Corps.

Draher (right) during a combat deployment.

Is there a particular moment or period in your military career that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud that I had a little bit of diversity in the Marine Corps. I had time in the reserves, I had time in the infantry, time in Force Recon, and Special Operations in general, but I also have a lot of diversity within Special Operations.

I’ve been in all three Marine Raider Battalions and I spent time down in Tampa at SOCOM headquarters, and it really broadened my perspective and understanding how the enterprise works. But what I’m kind of most proud of is my time as an instructor, that was the most fun that I had. The most rewarding time that I had.

It’s kind of like the typical cheesy answer, but I mean, it really is. You’re there and you’re part of this whole entire process and you’re the presentation, right? For, for a lot of guys, I was one of the first special operators that they met from any branch and with that comes a lot of responsibility. And, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about people having that job. It was my opportunity to essentially mold the future generation. And really the only thing that matters once you become a senior guy, once you become seasoned, is the next generation of guys.

You’re the tip of the spear of putting your hands on those guys and leaving an impression and then making them a better product at the end than when they showed up so that they’re major assets for their team.

What specifically were you responsible for teaching?

I taught close quarter battles. I taught marksmanship. I taught breaching, which deals with explosives.

Is there a particular military school that you feel was the most difficult to pass?

I went into a lot of schools with my mind made up that that’s what I was going to become. Whatever it was I was going to get out of that school. I’ve gone to a lot of academically demanding courses and a lot of physically demanding courses. I think that the most defining course was the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS).

There’s no doubt about it that place is etched in history – Marine Corps history – and, you know, just to be there was an honor and a privilege. So, there was no way I was going to come back without being a Recon Marine. I just tried to have my mind made up that I was going to go to those schools, and I was going to be successful.

As a student, I wanted it to come out better than I went in. So, I can be the best Reconnaissance Marine, Raider, diver, jumper, whatever the skillset was – I wanted to add value to the team. I really wanted to go there and hone whatever those skills were just for the greater good.

ARS was a very interesting school and I mean; it was every single day you had to show up with your game-face on otherwise you would kind of get left behind and you probably weren’t gonna make it.

Were you a good swimmer from the start, or did you have to learn to be proficient in the water?

Well, coming into the Marine Corps, no. Coming into Amphibious Reconnaissance School, I was well-prepared. My RIP (Recon Indoctrination Program) instructor asked me if I’d been on a swim team, but I was never on a swim team or in the pool doing anything that was physically demanding until I learned exactly what reconnaissance was.

I got letters from my cousin in boot camp and he told me that he was a machine gunner. And as soon as he got done with the school of infantry (SOI) and got to his grunt unit, he immediately went to recon.

And then I was like, oh, so there’s something more. So, recon was, you know, playing off what my brother said about doing what was most challenging. I actually took the recon screener when I was in comm school, right after I got done with combat training, and I just showed up.

Once I learned about that unit, I was like okay I’ll just go do that. Kind of like how I just showed up to bootcamp and did that, but once they threw us in the pool, I was like, wait, I’m way out of my element. I’m from a place where it’s the four-foot pool and that’s where we go to basically hang out with the guys and look at the girls.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

And then I really took that personally and I tried to make that part of my everyday routine. So that kind of changed the way I looked at the water and I never wanted to fail anything again after that. First thing in the morning, I would go to the pool. I would get out of work and go right to the pool. You know, when you want something bad enough, you’ll get it.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

Draher during an underwater reenlistment ceremony.

What three personality traits are most important for someone interested in joining the special operations community?

There’s a lot of different traits that I think are good to have, but I think the top three would be discipline, perseverance, and integrity. I’d also add in a fourth, which would be that it’s hard for someone coming in to be successful if they don’t have a little bit of flexibility.

Nobody wants to get up first thing in the morning and go to the pool. And then you can get traumatized if you have a bad experience. You could be treading water with a group of guys and all of a sudden, you know, because you are in such close proximity, one person grabs you and drags you down to the bottom. And then you’re trying to swim up and getting kicked in the face by some of these other guys. It takes a lot of discipline that gets back in the pool after that.

But you know what it takes to get to where you want to be, and you have to stay after it. So that’s where discipline comes from, which also kind of leads in the perseverance.

You have to take those different challenges and you have to persevere through them no matter what the outcome could be. You have to kind of fix your mind on what you want it to be, and then persevere through all those odds and all the, you know, the cold weather and being wet and tired. Nobody really cares. You got to find a way to persevere through it. And that trait alone right there has helped me a lot in life even to this day. And I’m sure up until I’m in my death bed, that’s going to be something that I hold dear.

Integrity, I mean, a good friend of mine, he says to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. To me, having integrity is a lot about being a trustworthy guy. And if you don’t have that integrity, it’s really hard for people to trust you to the left and the right. If you want to be a good team member and you want to be a reliable person, having that integrity is kind of where that starts from.

Flexibility is showing up somewhere and having a packing list, being ready to go and then, after I receive the first brief it turns out that I’m going to need a lot more than they told me to bring. Now I have to improvise all these things. Or I train all the time in pretty ideal conditions because we have a lot of limitations as to what we can do. We can do a lot of realistic training, but there’s always some type of limitations or some type of backstop for safety reasons. And we call this “training-isms”. You take those training-isms into a real-world environment and into combat and you’re going to be disappointed, right? Cause it’s not going to be a hundred percent what you were trying to do.

Ideally, I think, you know, you don’t want to see anything for the first time in a real-life scenario. You want to be exposed to those things in training, but you may not have that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate enough over the course of my career to have some pretty good training opportunities that have translated into a lot of things that I’ve done for real.

There’s no such thing as a two-way range in the training area. But you only find that when you go overseas and the next thing you know, you’re looking at somebody’s muzzle flashes. It’s a very different experience. There are not many ways to prepare for that outside of actually being there. So, you have to stay flexible and when you encounter something new, you have got to be a problem solver and work through it.

What advice would you give a young person that’s interested in joining the military?

You know, in all honesty, my experiences have just equated to my ability to maintain an open mind. So, coming in with an open mind. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you join, it’s like in Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re gonna get.

I think guys should come in and they should look, you know, just first and foremost to serve your country, but I think they should look to professionalized themselves as much as possible. There’s a lot of benefits that the military offers. Take advantage of it.

You’re going to come in and you’re going to do what the government asked. And they’re gonna ask a lot. It’s a lot to ask a 17 or 18-year-old, or somebody fresh out of college to put their life down for somebody to their left and their right. It may be someone that they didn’t grow up with, that they’re not best friends with, or maybe even somebody that they don’t get along with. But, you know, we’re going to ask that of you when you join. And I think, you know, in return you should seek out every opportunity you can to look for things, to make yourself more marketable when you get out.

And everybody always talks about the intangibles that military members gain throughout the course of their career, whether it’s four years or whether it’s 30 years. I think education benefits is one thing. I also think that guys can take advantage of internships. While they’re in there’s certain training opportunities that they have that can bleed over into the civilian world, you know, I would say, find something that you’d love to do.

And if you don’t find something that you’d love to do, just try and seek it out the whole entire time that you’re in.

Draher (right) during a pause in jump training.

What does your typical workout routine look like?

We always refer to ourselves as a Jack of all trades, master of none. And somebody told me that all that really equates to is not being good at anything. So, I took that to heart and, you know, because I always wanted to try like a little bit of everything.

And I think it’s important to try out a little bit of everything. But the goal overall is being functionally fit. You want to be able to run long distances and be rather comfortable. You’re going to be able to run short distances with weight. You want to be able to move weight. And then you need to adjust that to your environment.

Trying a little bit of everything and finding what you like is good, but don’t stick to any one thing. Try to be well balanced and that’s not just, you know, physically, that’s how you eat. And that’s also your emotional fitness as well. And I mean, you’ve got to have to have the right mindset.

So, you know, watching videos and studying things. It’s another part of fitness that a lot of people don’t talk about. You’ve also got to be your own doctor at times in this community because you gotta be good at medicine. You gotta be a scientist because you gotta understand how to mix all these different explosives together.

You have to be a philosopher. You have to be a historian. You have to be a mathematician. Yeah, there’s a lot of formulas that we have to know when it comes to long range shooting, dealing with mortars, dealing with explosives. So, you gotta have a little bit of all of these skill sets.

Who do you look to as a role model and why?

I really look up to Major Capers. And the reason that I look up to the Major is because I sit with him and I listen to him talk. And for years I I’ve just heard over and over a lot of the same stories and they never get old because from the time he was young, he was determined to do more, and he kept seeking that out.

And that resonates with me because it’s like me telling you why I went to the Marine Corps versus the army, or why I didn’t just stay a comm guy, or why I tried to get to all these different units and why I wanted to get to Force Recon, and eventually we became Raiders – always trying to seek out more.

Not only did Major Capers have a lot of hardships during his service from being a minority – not just because of the color of his skin – but just by the virtue of his job and being the minority who also had all these great qualities just to get from the beginning of something, to the end of something, whether it’s a school, a training evolution or a deployment, but he was able to be great in the military.

And then as he got out and transitioned, he tried to become a great businessman. He tried to be the best husband he could be. He tried to be the best dad he could be. So, you know, just like fitness, right? It’s your physical, mental, emotional fitness as well. For him, he wasn’t just this great Reconnaissance Marine, this great enlisted man, this great officer. He tried to be the very best husband he could be, the very best parent that he could be.

And, you know, as a young guy, I only cared about the unit and cared about the Marine Corps, I only cared about special operations, I only cared about recon. As I grew older, I really started to understand that, you know, those things at one point will become a fraction of your life, a small fraction of your life. Those other things that you do, you have to be investing equally, if not more, and the longer you stay on, the more you should be investing in yourself and in your family, because those people go with you to the grave.

During a very kinetic period of the Marine Corps, I served. There was a long time that I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. Now I’m almost 38 years old. So, I mean, I beat that by eight years. When I sit with him and I talk to him, you know, I think I got the Marine Corps stuff – the military stuff – figured out, but what came slowly to me was understanding family and investing into that. So, I appreciate him. I look up to him. I admire him because he reminds me all the time to hug my wife, to kiss my wife, to hug my kids, to kiss my kids. And I think about that because he doesn’t have that anymore. So, when I come home first thing I do is hug and kiss my wife and I hug and kiss my kids.

When you join, you’re new to the institution, and you’re trying to find your way through, and it can be easy to get lost. But you can learn from your mistakes and you can employ those lessons learned and you can have a better life. You can create more opportunities and a better life for the people around you as well, just by being humble and being open.

Draher with his family at Christmastime.

What is something interesting about you that most people wouldn’t know about?

Well, I used to be a DJ. I started when I was eleven years old and I thought I was going to be a famous one. I actually joined as a communicator in the Marine Corps because I thought that somehow that would tie into my DJ career and help me further my DJ career.

I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case! And I got fully immersed in the whole Marine Corps thing and I kind of let go of the DJ thing.

GySgt Danny Draher was born on June 26, 1983 and raised in New York City, New York. He is married to Destiny Flynn-Draher and they have two beautiful children. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis from Norwich University after graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Draher has attended numerous courses including the Multi Mission Parachute Course, as well as various other parachuting courses, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, Marine Combatant Diver Course, Dive Supervisor, Special Operations Planners Course, The Senior Instructor Course, Fast Rope Master, Multiple Explosives and Assault Breacher Courses, Multiple Direct Action & Special Reconnaissance Packages, Advanced Special Operations, The Merlin Project, Martial Arts Instructor Course, Sergeants Course, Career Course, Advanced Course, Joint Special Operations University Joint Fundamentals, Enterprise Management, and Enhanced Digital Collection Training.

His personal decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Commendation with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 tips for training your dog from a Marine who trained dogs to sniff out bombs

As a Military Working Dog handler in the US Marine Corps, I got to work with some of the best trained dogs in the world.

These dogs can sniff out bombs that have been buried underground, sniff out drugs that are hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they’re gone to find criminal suspects or lost kids.

As a handler paired up with an explosive detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, make sure he got exercise, and make sure he was healthy. After graduating from dog handling school, I was paired with my first dog, Kuko.

As a new handler with an experienced dog, I had to get up to his level before we could be an effective team. Once I got there, I could start teaching him new things to take our team to the next level.

While you may not be training your dog to find bombs buried in mud or drugs hidden in a car bumper, there are some keys to training dogs that will apply no matter what skills you are trying to teach.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

1. You have to build a relationship.

The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand-new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit’s kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day.

However, when a handler partners with a new dog, it’s a good idea to let that handler drop their dog’s food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things.

This was particularly important with our, shall we say, “crankier” dogs. While our dogs weren’t trained to be mean, they aren’t the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.

I’ve seen handlers get bit by their own dogs more than a few times. Two of the best dog teams in my first unit had scars from their dogs. Training too hard, too fast with a dog that doesn’t trust you yet can lead to frustration on both sides and usually doesn’t lead to good results.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eliot Fiaschi takes a moment to brush his partner Meky’s teeth during a break while on duty at the Djibouti Pier, April 23, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

2. Groom your dog every day.

Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can’t see until you brush them.

If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventative medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that don’t feel good aren’t good students.

One of our dogs contracted a tick-borne disease that nearly killed him. While we never found the tick, the dog tested positive for Babesia. He only survived because his handler had noted that he seemed more and more lethargic over the course of about three days.

Because she was watching him closely, she noticed when his gums and tongue went pale, indicating a serious problem. He was rushed to the vet, where aggressive treatment saved his life. His recovery was long and difficult and led to his retirement, but the vets and vet techs care about the dogs and will save them if possible.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

3. Consistency is key.

During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog.

Don’t let them get away with things that you won’t accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results.

If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Don’t change the way you say the command. Don’t give the command unless you are prepared to reward.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A military working dog team completes a detection training scenario in Southwest Asia, Jan. 10, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

4. Training takes time.

You can’t rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. MWDs are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog isn’t grasping basic tasks, you can’t move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience, (the sit, down, and stay) is the foundation of all further training.

Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It’s much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Stone, a military working dog handler, braces for impact as military working dog, Cola, attempts to detain him during a K-9 demonstration exercise, Aug. 17, 2017.

(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider)

5. Dogs have bad days too.

Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.

Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.

During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the good rapport between dog and handler.

Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Longoria shares a playful moment with his partner, Timmy, after a training session, April 16, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

6. Dogs need to have fun.

Recognizing that dogs are living, breathing creatures, they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship.

Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lay in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog’s desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.

My first dog was not especially affectionate, and I wouldn’t say that he ever loved me in the way that a pet loves its owner. He had handlers before me, and he would have more after me, but we still had a strong bond, which made us an effective team.

I took him out, let him play, tossed a ball for him, let him lay in the sun, and took him for long walks with no commands. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play, and he trusted that if he did what I asked and made me happy, good things would come to him.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Staff Sgt. Cody Nickell, a military working dog handler, works with Topa to get him accustomed to being in a Huey helicopter, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task.

Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for the type of work that MWDs do.

We had a dog that didn’t want to bite people. She was sent after a decoy wearing the bite sleeve, and she faked a leg injury instead of chasing him down. The vet determined that nothing was wrong with her, she just didn’t want to bite.

If your dog just isn’t getting it, it might be the dog.

While you probably (hopefully) aren’t training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won’t sit, won’t drop the ball, or won’t stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn, and others are not.

Don’t adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That’s how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you should know about Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

Marines are known for their proficiency in fighting, but not many people know that they’ve developed their own hand-to-hand fighting system, called the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. MCMAP combines several different styles with close-quarters combat techniques and Marine Corps philosophies to create something new.


While many, varying opinions exist on the program, it’s important to understand one simple thing: it’s only as effective as its wielder. In short, if you weren’t any good at fighting before you learned MCMAP, you’re still not going to be much good after you earn that tan belt.

So, for all of you who have no idea what MCMAP is all about, here are the broad strokes:

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer demonstrates an arm bar.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

It’s comprised of several different fighting styles. 

Seventeen styles, to be exact. That’s right, seventeen different fighting styles cultivated from around the world were pulled together to create MCMAP. It includes techniques borrowed from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Krav Maga to name a few. Keep in mind, however, specific techniques were pulled from each and then adapted to be applicable for Marines in combat.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A green belt with a tan Martial Arts Instructor tab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan M. Bowyer)

There are five belt levels

Before you walk across the parade deck at MCRD, you will earn your entry-level, tan belt. The other belt levels are, in ascending order, gray, green, brown, and black. A black belt, as in other martial arts, has varying degrees — 6, in the case of MCMAP. While most of the belt levels can be the subject of mockery, we highly recommend you don’t mess with a black belt.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Sometimes you get a lecture, sometimes you run across base.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)

You learn about more than just fighting

MCMAP is also about studying warrior ethos and understanding that fighting is not just throwing a better punch than your opponent. To quote Marine Corps Order 1500.54A, which officially established the program in 2002,

“MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence.”
GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

If you’re a grunt, you’ll likely be forced to ground-fight in rain.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Infantry Marines are generally required to earn a green belt

Or at least a gray belt. Typically, if a commander sees there’s open space in the training schedule and the armory is too busy to make you stand in line for 3 hours, you’ll be ordered to practice MCMAP. Most grunts earn their gray belt by the end of their first pre-deployment training cycle. Some are required to earn their green by the end of their second.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

The red tab indicates an MAIT.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

There are different types of instructors

There are Martial Arts Instructors then there are Martial Arts Instructor-Trainers. The main difference is a standard MAI can train other Marines to “belt up,” while an MAIT can train a Marine, whose belt level is at least green, to become an instructor.

To become an MAI, you must attend the grueling and unforgiving Martial Arts Instructor Course. To become an MAIT, you must attend the even more painful, more advanced Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer Course. Either way, your soul will never be the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part IV

Need to get caught up? Check out Part I, Part II, and Part III.


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Part IV: Hitting Your Stride

First couple of paychecks under your belt, and you’re ready to look for a place. Game on! You didn’t watch those hundreds of hours of HGTV for nothing.

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You found a place! Time to get your stuff out of storage and find out what broke during the PCS. You’re not sure how your dresser was shattered into five million pieces, but who cares? You’re too excited.

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When you went through TAP and everyone told you to file a VA disability claim, you said “no thanks.” You’re not that hurt, and other people need it more, right?

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But lying awake with your bum ear ringing (and/or your knees throbbing, back hurting, your amygdala telling you you’re about to be eaten by a bear in the comfort of your own bed), you’re beginning to question the wisdom of that decision. Ok, maybe it’s time to file a claim.

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You can figure this out! It’s just some paperwork, right? A visit to eBenefits to check out the details suggests otherwise.

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You call in reinforcements in the form of a VSO. For the low, low price of zero dollars and your medical records, they’ll take care of it for you. Score! Asking for help isn’t that bad. You should do it more often.

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You realize you haven’t talked to any of your old military friends in months, so you text a buddy who separated around the same time. As it turns out, they’re dealing with the same stuff. You communicate through memes, which is surprisingly cathartic. You’re not alone!

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Everybody from your therapist to your partner to your Facebook ads seems to think you’ll feel better if you start exercising again. You attempt an old PT workout, but it’s not the same when nobody is yelling at you. Time to try something new.

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Ok, apparently there’s exercise outside of pushups/situps/running and it’s actually fun. Now, you’re a lean, mean dancing machine.

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Your new exercise routine has got you on an endorphin high. Things are really looking up!

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You love your job, but one of the things you miss most about the military is serving others, so you track down a volunteer gig in your community. Sense of purpose restored!

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At some point, you begin to realize that your military service will always be a part of who you are (a huge part), but it’s not your entire identity forever. You have an opportunity to use your skills and experience to benefit your community, to learn new skills and have new experiences, and to write your next chapter. It’s actually pretty exciting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Sheep Dipping’ is the worst name for the military’s best job

If you’re a sheep farmer, dipping your sheep means you’re literally dipping sheep in a bath made to kill insects and fungus. It’s a good way to keep your flock healthy. If you’re in the military and about to be sheep dipped, it means your life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. It’s a term intelligence agencies use when they pretend to boot someone out of the military but secretly turn them into a covert operative.

Don’t worry, you still get your military retirement time. You just can’t tell anyone about it.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A reminder that the CIA has an undetectable heart attack gun.

While “sheep dipping” isn’t the official term for moving a troop from military service to the clandestine service, it’s the term the Agency uses to describe the process of taking a career soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine out of their branch of service on the surface. Instead of really removing the subject, the intelligence agency will just pull their official records, leaving behind their official record, the one which says the troop is retired, separated, or otherwise not in the military anymore.

The agency will take care of your real official record from there but there’s still work to be done on the service member’s part. They will be establishing an entirely new identity for themselves, after all. Their job is to make the move plausible, writing to friends and family telling them why they got out, what they’re going to do after leaving the military, and whatnot.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

“And that’s why I decided to leave the Army and pursue my new life of definitely not being in the CIA.”

According to L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief of special operations in the Kennedy Administration, the practice started during the Vietnam War, when the Geneva Accords on the neutrality of Laos in 1962. This agreement prevented foreign combat troops from entering Laos. American troops, engaged in combat in neighboring Vietnam, were forced out of the country. The Nixon Administration, not known for honoring international borders when it came to prosecuting the war in Vietnam, decided they would need military support for intelligence agencies in Laos and opted to use “sheep dipping” as a means to get military members into the country.

If this seems implausible to you, remember we’re talking about the guy who decided to bug the Democratic National Committee and then cover it up, even though he was about to win in the country’s biggest landslide.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Smooth.

The North Vietnamese were secretly supporting Laotian Communists in their effort to topple the Lao government, so why shouldn’t the United States do the same thing in order to support the Laotians? Besides, the NVA was still using Laos as a staging point for attacking allied troops in South Vietnam. The United States military decided to sheep dip a number of specially-trained U.S. troops in order to conduct a clandestine war in Laos. Nixon even allowed the Air Force to provide air support for the Secret War in Laos.

The sheep-dipped soldiers of Vietnam were all provided with their full pay and benefits, not to mention regular promotions and their retirement. If a sheep dipped troop were to be killed in the line of fire, that would pose more of a problem. Their family would struggle to get the benefits befitting a widow – but the agency handled each case separately.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the US Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said.

“We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We’re between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.


“We’re about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches,” Nauman added. “It’s a pretty small group of people that we’ve hired over the last 60 to 65 years.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Pilots at Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The U-2 pilot cadre has remained small in part because the Air Force has long sought applicants with extensive experience and flight time — six years and 1,200 rated hours — to fly a challenging, single-seat plane up to 13 miles above the Earth, all while snapping reconnaissance images. Pilots from all backgrounds, from fighter to trainer, can apply, as can transfers from the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force also recently introduced a program allowing student pilots to go directly to the U-2 training pipeline, though that program will only send a few fliers to the Dragon Lady.

The mission itself also keeps the ranks trim. “Part of the reason that we cut so many of the applicants is it’s a really difficult plane to fly,” said Nauman, who joined the U-2 program in 2012.

The first phase is an interview at Beale Air Force Base, California where the U-2s are based, meant to assess “self-confidence, professionalism and airmanship” on the ground and during flights in a TU-2, the U-2 training aircraft.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen prepare a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

On a 2012 fact sheet about the application process, the Air Force said pilots “selected for an interview generally possess a strong flight evaluation history, strong performance evaluations, and exceed the minimum flight experience requirements.”

“When you do an interview, you actually go out to Beale for two weeks,” Nauman said. “You’ll sit down and talk with the different commanders, the directors of operations, [go] over your flight records, your performance reviews, and just kind of your overall goals. ‘So why do you want to fly the U-2? What is it that brought you here?'”

An applicant who makes it through the interviews in Week 1 moves on to Week 2, “where you actually get to fly the aircraft,” Nauman said.

“For some folks, they may have never seen a U-2 in person, and the first time they actually touch the jet is Day 1 of their interview,” Nauman added. “They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it. They’ve talked to some people they knew, but by Week 2 they actually put in you a two-seater with an instructor and you have to demonstrate the ability to land the aircraft.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A U-2 pilot waits for maintainers and crew chiefs to finish final checks before the scheduled flight time at Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 26, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

While the U-2 excels at high-altitude reconnaissance missions — its ceiling is above 70,000 feet — taking off and landing are more challenging in the ungainly aircraft, which has a 105-foot wingspan and only two landing gear, under the nose and the tail.

Landing requires a kind of controlled crash in which the pilot descends and slows until the plane stalls, dropping onto the runway — all done with the guidance of fellow pilots racing alongside in cars.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said. “You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy. Understand we have a very wide runway and very experienced acceptance flight instructors, so it is safe despite what you might see.”

Applicants do three acceptance flight sorties, during which they perform flight maneuvers, approaches and landings, and other scenarios, including driving the chase car that assists landing U-2s. After that, a decision is made about whether the applicant will be offered an assignment.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

If you do the flying portion of the interview but aren’t picked, “we will not interview you again,” the Air Force says. “Basically, you get one shot.”

U-2 flight training includes time in the T-38 trainer and time to get other qualifications pilots may need, before moving on to flying the actual U-2, on which trainees must complete two courses: basic and mission. Those take about three months each.

The whole training program can take nine months to a year. The 1st Reconnaissance Wing, which Maj. J.J. joined in August 2016, has eight classes of three new pilots each year.

The solo flight that made J.J. the 1,000 solo pilot was his seventh in the aircraft but his first without an instructor. That first solo was to be followed by a few more two-person outings, after which he would never again have to fly the U-2 with someone else.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission somewhere in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

Trainees adjusting to the technical challenges of the U-2 also have to adapt to the physical strain of operating it.

Cruising at 70,000 feet puts the plane above the Armstrong Line — the point at which the boiling point for liquids, like blood, is equal to the normal human body temperature — and requires pilots to wear a space suit that weighs about 70 pounds. Pilots also have to breathe pure oxygen before flying to rid their system of nitrogen.

The suit can be a physical and psychological stumbling block. Interviewees must sit in it for at least 45 minutes to prove their mettle before moving on.

“So you get suited up. You go out to the aircraft. It’s pretty warm on the ground, so it could be an endurance test at times,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

“If you’re delayed in take off, your core temperature is heating up pretty rapidly as you’re sitting in, effectively, a plastic bag with a fishbowl” on your head, Patterson added.

The cabin is also pressurized, Patterson said. Previous generations of U-2 pilots flew at what felt like about 29,000 feet — roughly the height of Mt. Everest. (That altitude, along with the challenges of longer and more complex missions in the 2000s, took a toll on pilots’ health.)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

A U-2 pilot prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

In the last decade however, the Air Force has brought the U-2’s cockpit altitude down.

“We’re only sitting at about 15,000 feet — a little higher than you would on a normal airliner,” Patterson added. “We still wear that suit in the event that there’s a malfunction or we have to eject or something like that.”

The pilot is strapped into that suit and flying at that altitude for up to 10 hours or 12 hours. But with their focus on the task at hand, a pilot can forget they’re even wearing the suit, Patterson said.

Upon return, however, pilots still getting used to the Dragon Lady may feel the strain acutely.

“I think after my interview sortie, I came back and [said], ‘Wow, I feel like I just did three days of straight Crossfit,’ just because I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade,” Patterson added.

“A good U-2 pilot will land, and you won’t be able to tell from the outside, but inside it’s almost like you’re flailing around. You’re moving the yoke around. Your feet are moving the rudders. It’s kind of like a full-body workout sometimes.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Marines rescue downed aircrew in training

Marines in the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa are prepared to rescue American civilians and fellow service members in the massive continent where they operate. And they recently went on an exercise focusing on saving downed aircrews, a mission known as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel that often requires Marines entering enemy-held territory and providing medical aid.


The mission is simple enough to understand. When an aircrew crashes to earth, the personnel could be spread out, injured, and in imminent danger of an enemy patrol or other force finding them with their pants down. So the SP-MAGTF flies in, conducts search and rescue, renders medical aid, and extracts everyone.

But that simple mission comes with a lot of complications. There’s obviously the problem of enemy forces, since they get a vote on what happens. But aircraft shoot downs and crashes are naturally chaotic events, so the personnel the Marines are looking for could easily be spread out over miles of debris-strewn ground.

And there’s always the chance, though slim, that the enemy will try to get a mole into U.S. forces by having them impersonate a crew member or passenger, so the Marines have to verify everyone’s identity while also caring for the injured, some likely catastrophically.

And extraction is no picnic either. The Marines will have to carry out the litter wounded and possibly guide the ambulatory. They’ll often have to select and prepare their own landing zone and then secure it to keep out baddies. Only when all the wounded are aboard and safe can they collapse their perimeter and withdraw.

That’s why the Marines spend so much time and energy training for this and other emergencies. On game day, there won’t be much time to prepare, and their performance will determine life and death for themselves and potentially dozens of others.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Be it writing, crafting, sewing, makeup, painting or music, the arts are considered both a hobby and an outlet for many military spouses. One such hobby – cosplay – has begun to pop up more and more in the military community. Cosplay, by definition, is, “a performance art in which someone dresses up as a character from a book, a movie, or a television show.” Cosplay often combines sewing and various forms of crafting, including makeup and building, to make a costume. But to some, it is much more than a hobby – it is a form of self-expression. These three military spouse cosplayers share what cosplay means to them, and how it has ultimately changed their lives for the better.

“Cosplay gives me an attainable outlet that I would not have otherwise.”

For some, cosplay is a way to get back in touch with oneself when life doesn’t go as planned. Lexi Fontaine, 26, an Air Force spouse stationed in Virginia, grew up doing theatre. However, when Fontaine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16, she had to stop performing for the sake of her health. 

When Fontaine and her new husband moved to Georgia in 2015, Fontaine noticed character appearances for birthday parties and other events were a huge hit. “I thought, ‘Well, that sounds fun, and sounds like something that I could do, and would enjoy doing.’ This was also at the beginning of my health journey, so I said, ‘why not?’” she said. 

Shortly after starting her own business, Fontaine realized that this wasn’t what cosplay was supposed to be to her. “I think what was hard for me was when I started the business, I didn’t feel true to myself when I was charging people,” she said. “Because, for me, dressing up was an extension of the escape that theater always was for me. Cosplaying, being able to take on the personality and the magic of other characters – especially Disney – gave me an outlet for creative expression that I felt like my health took away from me.”

Fontaine also enjoys how liberating cosplay can be. “I got some really really nasty comments about my weight when I was dressing up for events, and I was a fraction of the size I am now. They really discouraged me. But with cosplay, you’re allowed to dress up as whoever you want to dress up as, so long as you do it respectfully and like it; you have no obligation to conform to anybody else’s standards. I think that there’s something very freeing about that,” Fontaine said.

If you follow Fontaine on Tiktok, you’ve likely seen her singing, dancing and dressing up like various Disney characters. She even “duets” with other TikTokers who make similar content to hers. “TikTok is where I use a lot of my costumes now. A lot of acting duets and stuff I do are modern day characters inspired by Greek gods and goddesses, and being able to take that and create a character out of that, there’s something that’s also very empowering about that. I feel that way about creative outlets in general – being able to take all of this extra creative energy that is constantly going through my mind, and actually put it somewhere, it gives you the sense of accomplishment that I don’t really get from a lot of things right now,” she said. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow @minniefontaine on Tiktok to see her latest content!

“It feels like a way to express the inner desires of my soul.”

Whether she is splashing in the waves as Mermaid Harmony, frolicking in the forest as Fairy Moonfire or Live Action Role Playing (LARP) as the notorious villain in her local roleplaying group, Aj Smit is weaving joy wherever she goes. Affectionately known as “The Joy Weaver”, Smit, 31, is an Air Force spouse, author, speaker and owner of  In Joy Productions, a safe space for women to explore who they are through art, meditation and creative conversation. 

Smit started cosplaying seven years ago, when she and her husband lived in Hawaii. “We went to the Comic Con. I was selling things, and everybody else’s dressed up and I thought it’d be awesome.” When asked what drew her to cosplay, she replied, “Honestly, I didn’t want to be in ‘human’ clothes.”

She also created a business through cosplay with her character Mermaid Harmony, who entertained moms and kids. “I started [my Mermaid Harmony business] because I always wanted to be a mermaid growing up,” she said. “[My husband] Jared joined the Air Force, and so it was a perfect way to have my own business, be a mermaid and also take it with me anywhere I went. It just looked like the perfect job, and it became the best of both worlds.” she said. “There’s a lot of moms who have dreams, and they also want magical moments for their kids. The way that we strip imagination and fantasy from people nowadays, we only allow it into escapism and we don’t weave it into our everyday lives,” she said. “I wanted to change that.”

When it comes to cosplay, Smit says it gives her a way to explore aspects of herself without ramifications. “When I do my photo shoots, or when I go dress up or dance in the woods, paint or draw henna, it’s all a way to explore who I am,” she says. “And with LARPing, it’s all an expression of something I want to explore, discover or uncover, like a personality trait or something that’s not safe to explore in the regular human world.”

Smit says that she can also explore some of her “dark” side. “You know I can be a crazy power hungry satyr in a game and be like, ‘Nope, it’s my way or the highway,’ where I would never do that in the human world,” she says.

Be on the lookout for Smit’s new book, The Red Thread, out in September 2021!

“Cosplay gave me a way to reconnect with my Ffmily”

Ashleigh Magee is a busy woman. Not only is she an active duty sailor in the Navy, but she is also a military spouse AND entrepreneur. She owns Ashleigh Magee Coaching, where she helps women in the military community lose weight, get fit and build healthy habits. 

Magee says her love of cosplay started when she went to her first San Diego Comic Con. Because of her circumstances, she had to buy her first costume. “I went to my first [San Diego] Comic Con in 2013.I was able to get tickets really late, and I [had] just graduated from the Naval Academy. I was living out of the hotel, so literally the only thing at my disposal was ordering online. So I cosplayed as Princess Peach. And I had a friend dress as Mario,” she said.

Shortly after her first comic con, Magee tried her hand at making her own costume. “When I lived in Hawaii, I found this amazing hot pink sequin ABS dress and got it tailored to my body. So I have an 80s Princess Peach with pink high top Chuck Taylors.” she said.

She says cosplay helped her realize that she had other interests. “I’ve always been a theater kid. I also didn’t know I was a nerd until later in life.I was always the weird kid that didn’t fit in but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was in college. In college, I was finally around theater kids.”  So I think part of it is the theater kind of aspect but cosplay to me is an external expression of who we are and who we want to be.” she said. 

Magee credits cosplay with helping her reconnect with her creativity. “When the pandemic started, I was here alone. I’m extremely extroverted, and I had just moved here so I had time to make maybe three friends before everything shut down,” she said. “I was using my business as a coping mechanism, and just work work work work work work, and I was like, ‘I need to reconnect to my outlets,’ and this was also happening while I was reconnecting with my biological mom who instilled those things in me at a young age.”  

Magee says cosplay has also helped strengthen her relationship with her mother. “I grew up in a house where they taught me how to knit, and quilt, and we were always crafting. So it’s been really beautiful in that way. As I’ve reconnected to my own creativity, I’ve healed my inner child and strengthened my relationship with my mom, so it’s like all these beautiful things all wrapped up into one,” she said.

Her next project? “She [my mom] and I are actually doing a 2021 sewing project! We’re both going to make Victorian outfits – I’m talking skirt, corset, the whole nine yards!” she said.

The next time you’re at a convention and you happen to see a cosplayer, be sure to tell them how awesome their costume is. You never know how much they need to hear it!

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 of the best military-themed books

Have you found yourself with extra time during the social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future? Why not grab one or all of these great military books and learn some history, be inspired and connect with the military community. You won’t even need to leave the house.


8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor by Florent Groberg

If you don’t know the story of Florent Groberg you need to and now you have an opportunity through his new book. He grew up in France and became a naturalized citizen in 2001 and joined the Army in 2008. On his second tour to Afghanistan, his quick actions saved lives and led him to become a Medal of Honor Recipient.

The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a Seal Team Warrior by Robert O’Neil

An instant New York Times bestseller is a “jaw dropping, fast-paced account,” (New York Post) telling the biographical account of SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neil’s, including an incredible 400 mission career. Highlights of his career include the attempt to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, and his pursuits culminate in the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist – Osama bin Laden. This book has been given rave reviews and was signed for a movie deal in 2019.

Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success by Deborah James

What does it take to become the Secretary of the Air Force? A lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and taking a risk to try something new. Those were key aspects to her success. She started her career in government then transferred to the private sector only to come back to government as the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force. She shares her story through a three-part strategy that guided her through her career sharing her experience through both personal and professional challenges.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis

Call Sign Chaos is a #1 New York Times Bestseller by everyone’s favorite general. Mattis is the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time. This book is an account of his career which included leadership roles in three wars, including commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. With a three-part approach focused on direct, executive and strategic leadership you will walk away learning how to be an effective leader.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Women of the Military by Amanda Huffman

Women of the Military is a compilation of 28 stories of women who have started their path to military life, are currently serving, separated or retired. It is the real-life stories of military women shared through an interview format that shows the challenges, the high points and how history was changed through each woman’s commitment to the U.S. military.

Sacred Spaces by Corie Weathers

What started as a trip for a military spouse to visit the troops overseas opened her eyes to what it meant to be a soldier and created a story to share. It not only allowed her to understand her husband’s deployments experience, but also allowed her husband to see the challenges military spouses face as he was left to help with the kids and manage the home front. Through this experience they learned from each other by walking in the other’s shoes and gaining an understanding.

A Knock at the Door by Ryan Manion, Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan

What happens when your family member or spouse dies overseas? A military service member knocks on the door and your whole life changes in an instant. Hear the real stories from three women who lost those closest to them. The book will put a story with the number of men and women we have lost at war. The hurt and pain, but also the courage to keep moving forward and make a positive impact in the world.

You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For by Kyle Carpenter

Kyle sacrificed himself when he jumped on a grenade in Helmand Province. And although he survived, he lost his right eye and had to battle for his life. He uses this book to share that life is worth everything we’ve got. Kyle shares what led him to the point in Helmand Province and how he came back from the gravest of challenges to live a joyful life full of purpose.

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

Written from a collection of stories collected from women who attended West Point, Claire captures the true challenges of attending, graduating and heading off to war as a military woman. This novel inspired by real events will open your eyes to a detailed, in-depth look of the life of being a woman at West Point and beyond.

Final Flight Final Fight by Erin Miller

Do you know about the Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP) that took up the call of a nation looking for women to fill billets home station so men could serve overseas during World War II? Hear their stories and what one family did after their matriarchal leader died and Arlington refused to bury her on their hallowed grounds.

These are just a handful of the great military books that are worth diving into. What is your favorite military themed book?


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military protects the environment

The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.

The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise

(Lip Kee)

The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers

In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.

The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Coast Guard spearheads oil spill disasters

The Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy’s mission statement is to:

Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.

They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.

Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases

www.youtube.com

The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns

Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyr need disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.

The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.

Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

It’s as if the military was never here…

(USAF Civil Engineer Center)

The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training

The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.

Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.

Navy Marine Species Research and Monitoring

www.youtube.com

The Navy shares their data with marine researchers

The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.

The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 5th

This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”

The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.

What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via PNN)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme by Inkfidel)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Shammers United)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Single Malt Irish Whiskey to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us and so is the flavorless onslaught of cheap, green beer dully visible through red solo cups. Midwestern brewed pilsner paired with a few drops of food coloring seems a poor way to celebrate the Irish. We prefer to toast old St. Pat with uisce beatha, also known as whiskey.

There is no shortage of good Irish whiskey. But while most are familiar with the traditional, big name blended varieties like Jameson and Bushmills, few are familiar with the Emerald Isle’s fantastic single malts. That’s a shame because single malts are much more flavorful and there are numerous stellar bottles worth sipping. Take this as an opportunity to celebrate some Irish single malts and try one of these five excellent options.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Dingle Batch No. 3

Out on the island’s west coast, independent maker Dingle only started producing spirits a few short years ago in 2012. Their Batch No. 3 can be a little hard to find but its worth the search. Aged in ex-bourbon and port barrels, it’s is a sweet sipper with elegant notes of honey, berries, citrus, and wood.

Buy now 0

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Connemara 12

Peated whiskey is a rarity on the emerald isle. In fact, there is only one Irish peated single malt on the market. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of smoke in your dram you’re going to love Connemara 12. Nutty and peppery, notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and wood play off the smoke and a lingering brine to create a lovely mouthful.

Buy now

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

West Cork 10

Fruity and rich, West Cork’s ten-year-old single malt is an easy sipper and even easier on the wallet. Delicious with notes of apples, sugar and toffee with a hint of pepper, it’s an approachable and satisfying for whiskey lovers of all stripes.

BUY NOW

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood

A fusion of two 14-year-old single malts, one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the other in Oloroso sherry, the result is a rich and tasty dram. Honey, coconut, and fruit notes play off a subtle touch of oak.

Buy now

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Tyrconnell 10 Madeira Cask

Made from the mountain-fed waters of the Slieve na gCloc river, this ten-year-old malt gets a finish in Madeira wine barrels from the Portuguese islands. Light in the mouth, cocoa and honey play off oak, cinnamon and salt.

Buy now

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why only an idiot would render a  salute in a combat zone

It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.

Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.

But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

There’s a time and place for a salute. Remember, the respect the salute is meant to convey is more important than the act itself.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Miller)

First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.

It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

If you’re going to salute in combat, you’re wrong. If you’re going to salute with a rifle and it doesn’t look like the above photo, you’re even more wrong.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Martinez)

Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.

But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Yeah. Jokingly saluting an officer and saying “sniper check, sir!” suddenly became a little less funny, huh?

(National Archives)

Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.

While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.

Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.

You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.

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