The holidays are rolling in fast. The time for gift giving, massive meals, and too many parties and get-togethers. The perfect drink to keep you going while still catching a nice buzz is the Espresso Martini.
The Espresso Martini as we know it was created in 1983 by Dick Bradsell at the SOHO Brasserie in London. The cocktail was originally called the Vodka Espresso and consisted of a generous shot of vodka, two types of coffee liqueur — his choices being Kahlua and Tia Maria — and a shot of espresso. But as the 1980s came into full swing, Bradsell rebranded the Vodka Espresso as the trendier Espresso Martini, and the rest is history.
But we’re going to turn that cocktail on its head by throwing out the vodka and coffee liqueur entirely. If we have to deal with our extended family, we’re going straight to whiskey. So we’ve opted to use Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and an Irish cream liqueur — our preference is Five Farms, but any Irish cream will do. The result is a nutty and sweet cocktail with a tinge of smotky bitterness from the espresso.
(Recipe by Tim Becker/Coffee or Die. Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)
11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee: Fox News Correspondent Katie Pavlich
Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?
Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.
That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.
Here’s how they break it down:
Phase 1 — Using space debris
Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.
Phase 2 — Attack during entry
When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.
If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.
Then, we prepare for phase three.
Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes
If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.
If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.
Take that, alien scum!
Phase 3, Option 2 — Guerrilla warfare
If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.
It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.
Footage of a Coast Guard drug interdiction where one Coast Guardsman jumps onto a narco-submarine and forces the hatch open has gone viral. And for good reason. It was possibly the most insane thing I’ve seen all week, but it’s actually not a shock to me. The Coast Guard does insane stuff like this all the time, but it’s never really talked about as much.
I get it, we all mock the Coasties. It’s the price you pay for being the little brother. But when you consider this, their elite snipers, and their track record for going toe-to-toe with narco-terrorists while the rest of us are stuck at NTC or 29 Palms… I think it’s time to admit that some Coasties may be more grunt than a good portion of the Armed Forces.
Just don’t be surprised when that sub-busting Coastie with balls of f*cking titanium calls you a POG at the American Legion. These memes go out to you, dude. Keep giving the Coast Guard an awesome name.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
In case you missed the video, here’s an accurate representation of it…
When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”
Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.
Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.
Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.
“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.
You are more thoughtful and creative.
“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”
Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”
Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.
“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.
Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)
When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.
One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.
Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.
After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.
Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”
Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.
The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.
But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.
Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.
The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.
Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.
As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.
A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.
Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”
The upcoming Army-Navy game is one that temporarily divides our usually-united U.S. military, if only for a few hours. The rivalry is 118 years old, is attended by sitting Presidents, and is older than the Air Force itself. But for the men who compete for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, it can be even more daunting to head west and face the Air Force Academy Falcons.
There’s no way the Air Force will ever get as legendary a rivalry as the Army-Navy game. It’s one of the biggest games in sports. Even if it doesn’t change the rankings on any given year, it’s still got a huge fan base. The Air Force, despite being the better playing team for much of the past few decades, can’t compare to that kind of legacy.
What they can do, however, is spoil the parties at West Point and Annapolis.
Air Force’s 2014 starting QB Kale Pearson.
The trash talk
The Army-Navy game, while known for its mascot thefts and funny spirit videos, is also known for being overly polite. Not so at Navy-Air Force. Midshipmen hold a Falcon Roast pep rally during the week before the Air Force game, burning a wooden falcon in effigy.
As for an interesting game, everyone knows the service academies aren’t playing for the BCS National Championship, so the winner doesn’t get more than bragging rights and the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. But for fans watching a game, scoring is important. No one wants to sit through a Navy 0-7 win over Army, even Midshipmen. Moreover, there’s no better ending to a game than a squeaker.
The average margin of victory in an Army-Navy Game over the last 15 years is almost 16 and a half points. For Air Force vs. Navy, that number drops to a two score game. And despite Army’s recent uptick in the quality of their game, Air Force and Navy always field much more impressive and more explosive teams.
Despite all of these facts, the Air Force Academy Falcons will never quite measure up to the ancient rivalry that is the Army-Navy Game. The Air Force-Navy game happens on the first Saturday in October, followed by the Army-Air Force game on the first Saturday in November.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game will be on Dec. 8, 2018 at noon Eastern, presented by USAA, and live from Philadelphia.
Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.
The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.
Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.
But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.
There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.
But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.
The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.
Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.
The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”
Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.
All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.
This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.
The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.
The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”
In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.
Green Beret goes to Congress
Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.
After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.
But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.
So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.
A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.
Cup only half-full
The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.
And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.
Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.
When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.
Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)
Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.
For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.
The third step is a doozy.
Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.
That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”
If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine “Cate” O’Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)
Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because…they don’t want to.
That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.
Not even Christmas was a candidate to compromise our resolve to train to standard.
Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”
An abandoned hood such as this makes an excellent complicated urban target
[David Lohr, Huffington Post]
While some real estate investor had come up bust, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way to even modestly know what to expect.
The keyword there is what lends the greatest to the realism of the training venue — not knowing what to expect; to be coaxed into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.
The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yes, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.
Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion, and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of degrees of right or wrong of an opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason why with the Grinch, ours was to pop the snot bubble and move out.
We spent half days planning our assaults on our “Slim City” as we called it: methods of infiltrations onto target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. The second halves of the days we executed our assaults on targets.
A meeting with the City Mayor’s office and Police Chief was required to secure the use of the abandoned neighborhood that was scheduled for demolition. After presenting a description of the training we planned to do, the Mayor asked our senior officer: “What guarantee can you give me that your men will not miss some of these targets and send bullets whizzing through my city?”
The response: “Because they’ll be told not to,” the senior officer replied — sold!
During the last assault (it’s always on the last assault) the Grinch skillfully maneuvered his pipe-hitters from building to building. The booming of flash-bang grenades and the quick staccato of double-tap* rifle shots was almost rhythmic, to the extent that we could pretty much tell how far through the buildings he was.
Then “it” happened…
The Grinch slammed a flash-bang in a room. It bounced off a wall and came to rest near the open entrance door. When it exploded it shoved the locked door shut. It was a metal door that did not respond to mule kicks from the powerful Grinch: “put a man on it and the rest of us by-pass it!” the Grinch instructed. When they finished clearing the structure, it had become filled with smoke that was coming from the locked room.
“BLOW IT!!” the Grinch called out, and a man immediately slapped a full 80-inch high explosive charge on the door and fired it. With an Earth-rocking explosion, the door was pushed inside the room…but immense flames shot out of the doorway. The Grinch keyed his microphone and called in the situation as structural fire out of control. The Command and Control element had the city fire department alerted.
It became painfully clear that most the the neighborhood was going to burn.
The old building was consumed totally and in short order by flames which spread from building to building. Soon an entire block was a raging inferno of flame and choking smoke. The pumper trucks from the local fire department showed up. The boys were there to meet the trucks:
“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the boys told the fire crews, who stood stunned for many moments, then ultimately had to concede the pipe-hitters who bore no grins upon their faces. It was no joke.
“They… they took our trucks.
The fire crews huddled at the hood entrance while the boys fought the fires, knocking them down with high-pressure hoses and water canons. The assault tactics on fire were the status quo for any assault, just that water was now being launched. The last of the flames succumbed to the deluge with a small number of structures hardly worth the count.
The brothers knocked down the flames with high pressure water the best they could.
“Who on God’s Earth is responsible for this?” demanded our ranking officer later into the night where he addressed the balance of the men. The mighty Grinch, offering no sugar coating, took a mighty step forward.
Saying nothing as he stood with hands on hips, and stared the Major down.
“Ok… we’re all tired from a very long day and night; let’s knock it off and get some sleep!” the major conceded.
*Double-tap: two shots of rifle or pistol that are fired very quickly to the chest area of a threat target. Often time they are fired so fast as to be barely discernible as two separate shots fired. Double-taps are often fired with a slower third “clean up” shot to the head. The meter of the event will “sound” like this: “Ba-Bam… bam, Ba-Bam… Bam.”
– excerpt from a speech by President Donald Trump, March 2018
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Five military veterans walk into a bar. A Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, a Coast Guardsman, and an Airman. They all order a drink. The Soldier orders a German beer, raises his stein, and says, “Prost.” The Sailor orders a shot of rum, raises his shot glass, and says, “Fair winds.” The Marine orders a tequila, salts his thumb, and says, “Semper.” The Airman orders a blue ice bomb, elevates his plastic cup, and says, “Aim high.” The Coast Guardsman orders a dark and stormy, clinks glasses, and says, “Down the hatch.” A sixth veteran arrives, a Space Guardian, and the Airman buys him a shot of Jim Beam bourbon whisky. The Space guy raises his glasses and says to the others, “Beam me up.”
Get it? It’s a bad joke that I just made up. It was ill-conceived, poorly timed, and expensive in terms of the time it took me to think it up. It was just a dumb idea. These are all adjectives that the new Space Force has been called as well. Ill-conceived, prematurely timed, created at the expense of more important priorities. A dumb idea. A bad joke. Absurd. Another in a series of punchlines that critics of the current administration feel have pockmarked the last four years. In a year that’s been hard to laugh at, a lot of “humor” has derived from making fun of the administration. Here’s something more lighthearted: The late 2000s gave rise to the popular trend known as “gender reveal parties.” Those being the touchy 2000s, these parties couldn’t avoid being the subject of controversy. Critics argued that it’s the baby’s sex, not gender, that is being revealed. Gender is a social construct, not tied to biological characteristics. After a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party in Yucaipa, CA started the El Dorado Fire in September, the fad has thankfully faded. Not because it is said to heavily reinforce stereotypical gender roles, but because it’s just plain dumb.
On June 18, 2018, the Space Force, still a fetus, was given, what could be called, its gender reveal party. On that day, President Donald Trump spoke in front of the National Space Council. “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation…our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”
Three months earlier, on March 13, the day before Stephen Hawking died, the president teased the military’s sixth child at a speech aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.”
At the National Space Council meeting in June, he continued, “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” Remember that line; a lot of press did. Then came the reveal: “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces… We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal.” Addressing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs he said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out.” Marine General Dunford replied, “We got it.”
No fires were started with the president’s reveal that day in March 2018. Unless you count the one started in the press, or all the laptop fires started by bloggers, writers of various online magazines and publications, columnists, journalists, amateur or professional, Twitter users, and internet trolls, as they furiously pounded keyboards, drumming up mocking headlines, retorts, and rebuttals that called into question the declaration’s timing, sanity, legality, and everything in between.
Jokers Gonna Joke
Do an online search for the words “space” and “force” and the first result is www.spaceforce.mil. Then the official Space Force Wikipedia page, and third, Space Force, a new TV series The Office creator Greg Daniels and actor Steve Carell. The collaboration, ordered by Netflix, capitalized on the president’s June 2018 announcement, which must have been catnip to comedy writers. The show was announced on January 19, 2019, seven months later. In the show’s promotion, the words from an August 2019 speech by Vice President Pence are used: The Space Force’s mission is to “defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks… or something.” The “or something” was their clever and completely groundbreaking addition.
In a review of the show by Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic, Gilbert seems to have made a judgment on the merit of the Space Force (the military branch, not the show) without having done any real digging:
“The show was supposedly dreamed up a few years ago when President Donald Trump announced the founding of a sixth, extraterrestrial branch of the armed forces, a project so absurd that most people just carried on living their lives without really processing that it was real — barring occasional reminders in the form of Star Trek badges and Scientology-vague recruiting ads. A grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego!”
Why is it so absurd, grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive, and a militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego? We’ll never know because she doesn’t back up any of those claims with facts. She just provides some links to affiliated content and the Space Force’s recruiting video on YouTube. Comparing it to Scientology is like comparing a Marine Corps recruiting video to the NXIVM cult because Marines sometimes get eagle, globe, and anchor or USMC brandings and tattoos. Her journalism in this regard is emblematic of the epidemic that has plagued supposedly objective journalism in the past few years. Feelings have taken the place of facts and unconscious bias has been replaced by an angry and very conscious one. To weigh the idea of the Space Force on its own, apart from the president, would be too much and risk the possibility that not all things he says are bad, a thought that would send some writers, reporters, and journalists into a catatonic state.
On September 18, 2018, three months to the date after the president’s announcement, Stephen Colbert yukked it up on his late show with guest Neil deGrasse Tyson. Colbert simply invoked the words “space force,” twisted his mouth into a wry grin, and looked into the camera. He was validated by the audience with a mixture of equal parts incredulous laughter and contemptuous cackles. It has since become a worn-out comedy shtick, a crutch for comedians with little else to offer but to say what the audience wants to hear. Speak the name of the president or one of his “crackpot ideas” and win the crowd, their clapping, and laughter, or clappter,” offered up in agreement, not as a response to anything said being funny, clever, or original.
“People make fun of it, I among them,” Colbert went on. “I like space exploration, I’m excited about us conquering space scientifically and through knowledge. Why do we need the Space Force?” The audience, satisfied with another skewering of the president, lapped it up.
“Just ‘cuz it came out of Trump’s mouth, doesn’t require that it then be a crazy thing,” responded Tyson. More chuckles in the crowd. The implication – that everything the president says and does is a hair-brained scheme of some sort – tickled all the pleasurable nerve endings in their high blood sugar bodies.
“It don’t help,” Colbert replied drily, and the audience’s clappter crescendoed. Colbert beamed, then got down to business. “But why do we need a Space Force?”
More Than an Absurd Idea
It’s a question necessary to answer if we’re ever to get past the ignorance and idiocy of such lowbrow comedy shows like the Colbert-created Our Cartoon President and a thousand other virtually identical satires with identical premises that have capitalized on the prevailing sentiment of the last four years: orange man equals bad.
While Chinese and Russian space operations have been cited by the president and backers of the Space Force as a rationale for the move, countries aligned against the West are not the only reason. Like the other warfare domains – land, air, sea, and cyberspace – America continuously strives to achieve and maintain dominance. Space, now recognized as a crucial and contested domain, is no different. The creation of the Space Force is not a publicity stunt, it is not a calculated move for political gain or Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns, it’s more than fodder for late show monologue jokes or, apparently, even a good premise for a Netflix comedy series. (Ms. Gilbert did not give the show a favorable review). It is the evolution of the military-space relationship long in the making.
It might help critics if they understood the difference between going to space in order to arm it, and arming space because we are, inevitably, driven into it. And we’re not alone in our aspirations. Anti-west sentiment doesn’t end in space. The opposition has decried the Space Force as a continuation of Reagan-era rhetoric, saying it hurls war into space like Red Bull Flugtag where competitors launch homemade flying machines off a pier into the water for no other reason than to excite the audience with a fun, slightly dangerous spectacle. But is that really the case, or is that just the lazy observation to make when one disagrees with a president and his administration?
The word “spacepower” is not in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Neither is the word “warfighting.” Like the Space Force itself, spacepower is newly minted. On August 10, nearly eight months after the birth of the Space Force, the same time when infants transition from rocking on their bellies to crawling, the Space Force published its doctrine titled Space Capstone Publication, Spacepower (SCP). Dedicated to past, present, and future spacepower pioneers, the Space Capstone Publication sheds light on and provides clues to several of the questions critics have been asking.
The 60-page document, with a foreword penned by General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, begins with a preface and a quote from the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “The eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”
The quote is echoed in the first guiding principle for military spacepower, which calls for a “peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain.” Let us not forget that oft-cited Roman general Vegetius quote, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war). China certainly has not, neither has Russia. Aerospace experts and legislators in Congress, notably Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) have said the Air Force needed an immediate congressional push to match the “potentially threatening progress from China and Russia.”
“One thing we can all agree on is that space superiority for our nation is critical, so we appreciate the attention the issue is getting right now,” said an Air Force spokesman.
Like Vegetius witnessing the deterioration of the Roman army’s quality, Mr. Cooper cited “eroding dominance” in U.S. satellite and related technology in comparison to China and Russia. Both countries are developing anti-satellite weapons that could threaten U.S. satellites. This concern is a real one, say Defense Department officials and aerospace experts. In June 2018, shortly after the president’s announcement, the New York Times reported that in February, “a U.S. intelligence threat assessment warned that Russia and China would be able to shoot down American satellites in two to three years, potentially endangering GPS satellites as well as military and civilian communications satellites and the country’s spy satellites.” China made history on January 3, 2019, by achieving the first attempt at and successful landing of an unmanned robotic spacecraft on the “dark side” of the moon, which is never visible from Earth.
Where Space Force and Global Security Collide
The U.S. military is reliant on space. From satellites that “help guide aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, drones in the skies above Yemen and fighter jets over Syria, to American ground troops on patrol in Afghanistan using GPS coordinates to track their movements, and intelligence officers at C.I.A. headquarters depending on spy satellites to gather information on adversaries.”
The Air Force itself was also highlighted as a reason America needs a “separate but equal” Space Force. Representatives Cooper and Rogers argue that the Air Force does not pay enough attention to outer space. Other critics of the Air Force say that it will never make space its top priority when it also has pilots and warplanes to worry about.
“We keep buying these big expensive satellites that are juicy targets for our adversaries,” said Todd Harrison, the director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Meanwhile, our existing space forces are fragmented across our military.”
“Over the years, the Air Force has used space programs as a money pot to reach into and subsidize air-dominance programs when they feel like Congress hasn’t given them enough for tankers, fighter jets, whatever,” Representative Rogers said. “Congress has not given any of the services enough, but that doesn’t mean you starve to death one of your subordinate missions.”
U.S. military officials have acknowledged that America’s adversaries have caught up to it in space. But classified reports paint an even more troubling picture, the lawmakers said. Rogers called the over-classification of such information “disturbing.”
“There would be a hew and cry in the American public to fix this situation if they knew how bad things were and what we’ve allowed Russia and China to do,” he added.
Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that studies space policy, emphasized the military’s reliance on space assets. “Take drones, for instance. Their signals are routed over satellites. Data is routed over satellites. Intelligence satellites do the B.D.A. [battle damage assessments] after strikes.” Mr. Weeden continued, “In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American military exercised restraint on anti-satellite weaponry.” But other leading powers did not follow in America’s footsteps, and Russia and China “have not decided to exercise the same restraint.” As those countries continue to develop ways to disable American satellites, they could interfere with U.S. communications in potential future conflicts.
For the past two decades, it seems the main arguments against creating a Space Force have been money and bureaucracy. In 2017, White House, Pentagon, and Air Force leaders pushed back on a proposal from the House Armed Services Committee to create a “Space Corps” (its name chosen to reflect that it would be what the Marine Corps is to the Navy). They argued that it would add unneeded bureaucracy. Despite Rep. Rogers’s championing efforts in Congress, the provision faced opposition in the Senate, and the 2018 defense policy law forbade the creation of such an organization.
However, the law did give Air Force Space Command “authority over space acquisitions, resource management, requirements, warfighting, and personnel development — viewed as a start for the potential creation of a Space Corps in the future.” And it required that an independent organization develop a roadmap to start a separate military department to encompass “national security space.” To the charge that the Space Force would “create unnecessary bureaucratic responsibilities for a military already burdened by conflicts,” the SCP states that it embodies the Department of the Air Force’s continued commitment to “establishing the Space Force in a manner that minimizes cost and bureaucracy and maximizes focus on space doctrine, training, and capability.”
Public opposition to the Space Force has included grievances over the needless militarization of space, specifically citing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, some going so far as to claim that the Space Force is a blatant violation. There’s been a resurgence in popularity in the public space for citing this treaty, seemingly without actually giving it a close read. The treaty provides a basic framework for international space law. Some have written that 90 countries signed the treaty, others say 106 countries. Wikipedia states that as of June 2020, 110 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed but have not completed ratification. Signatory countries are barred from “placing weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.” Of course, this can all become subject to interpretation, and orbiting space debris and satellite disabling technology likely do not qualify as weapons of mass destruction, nor conventional weapons, such as ballistic missiles. Generally speaking, the treaty is meant to control arms in space and maintain the peaceful, shared use of outer space. But the militarization or weaponization of space is not prohibited. Article IX, however, states:
“A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.”
And according to the Space Force’s Space Capstone Publication, “In keeping with international law, the United States acknowledges that the use of space is for peaceful purposes while preparing for the reality that space must be defended from those who will seek to undermine our goals in space.”
This is Part I of a multi-part series on the United States Space Force. Part II will publish tomorrow.
For the past few years, both Army and Navy break out with new uniforms to honor some aspect of their service or academy heritage during the much-anticipated Army-Navy Game. The 2019 game will feature the Black Knights honoring the 1st Cavalry Division with their uniforms while Navy is wearing throwback unis reminiscent of the days of Navy legend Roger Staubach – who will surely be in attendance.
While it’s cool to see all the thought and effort that goes into making one of college football’s biggest rivalries an epic game, not all of the uniforms were on target. Here are a few of the all-time best.
6. Navy’s 2013 “Don’t Give Up The Ship”
These majestic blue and gold digs honored not only the traditions and history of the Naval Academy but also included a traditional design with a historical, entirely relevant message underneath the uniform. Navy didn’t give up the ship, beating Army 34-7.
5. Army’s 2012 “1944” Tribute
This year, Army sported black and gold uniforms that honored its World War II heritage, incorporating real-world battle maps of the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Their helmets this year also featured the black spade logo to honor the 101st Airborne Division. But badass uniforms were not enough to beat Navy, who won 17-13.
4. Navy’s 2015 Ship Helmets
While Navy’s uniforms this year may be par-for-the course college football jerseys, each helmet was specifically painted with a different kind of ship in the Navy’s fleet. Ranked Navy beat Army 21-17.
3. Army’s 2017 10th Mountain White-Outs
Almost as if Army predicted the weather, the Black Knights’ 2017 all-white tribute to the 10th Mountain Division came when the game was pretty much played in the middle of a snowstorm. Army topped Navy 14-13.
2. Navy’s 2019 Staubach-Era Throwbacks
Yes, it may seem unfair to add this year’s Navy uniform to the list, but choosing to honor the Staubach-era Navy team by wearing a throwback to their uniforms is a thoughtful touch for the aging “Comeback Kid,” who will turn 78 in 2020. Staubach led the Mids to numerous come-from-behind victories, including over vaunted rival Notre Dame. The Heisman Trophy-winner then led the team to the 1964 National Championship, but fell to number one Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
1. Army’s 2018 “Big Red One” Uniforms
In 2018, the Black Knights honored the 100th Anniversary of the End of World War I with an homage to the 1st Infantry Division with these sweet black and red combo uniforms. I’m not saying this is why ranked Army topped Navy for the third year in a row, but I’m also not ruling it out.
It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.
The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.
Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.
Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.
In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.
Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.
(Bath Township Police Department)
There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.
Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.
Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.
Security guards or bouncers
Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.
If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.
…or so I’ve been told.
Personal fitness trainers
Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.
Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.
Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.
Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.
Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.
Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.
Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.
If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.
The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.