Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

120 miles Northeast of Los Angeles lies the fictional country of Atropia. That’s the name of the area given to what the commanders at the Fort Irwin National Training Center call ‘The Box,’ a 1,000 square mile area in the Mojave Desert used to train U.S. & allied troops and their commanders in large scale combat and the realities of modern warfare.

I was honored to visit Fort Irwin and witness the lives of some of the 10,000 soldiers and dependents stationed there.


Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

The Department of Defense routinely provides what they call ‘Civic Leader Tours’ to local communities so we might learn and take our experiences back to the rest of the civilian population.

As the closest Army installation to Los Angeles, they hope that their outreach here helps influence creative leaders in Hollywood to provide realistic depictions of military life, instead of the harmful portrayals of dangerous PTSD damaged veterans, or fanciful representations of larger than life superheroes the public can’t relate to.

Two of the most important lessons learned from my visit with the brave men and women stationed at Fort Irwin were quite different from what is commonly portrayed by Hollywood or suggested by our leaders in D.C.

The first is the importance of counterintelligence and public relations in modern warfare. One of the greatest assets the U.S. Military has is in its technological advantages. Comprising of an area larger than Rhode Island, with complete control of the land, airspace, and electronic signals in the area, the commanders of the 11th Armored Cavalry that make up the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) not only have the home field advantage of knowledge of the terrain, but the ability to jam or spoof GPS, track radio transmissions, and operates a closed intranet with its own “Falsebook”, “Tweeter”, and even an “Atropia News Network” for the actors portraying the citizens and insurgents that the visiting units must contend with.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

One past engagement involved the visiting unit accidentally killing some innocent civilians, and exasperated the situation when a young junior officer came off as unsympathetic when approached by role-playing journalists for the ‘Atropia News Network’ that went viral in the simulation. Another involved a helicopter of the visiting unit being ‘shot down’ by the OPFOR, and reached by insurgents before the visiting unit could rescue the crew. The insurgents then were able to strip the helicopter of its valuable electronics and armament, which were then sold on ‘Falsebook’ and provided the OPFOR additional resources to use against the visiting unit.

Commanders and troops must contend not only with the unforgiving desert terrain as they attempt to approach Atropia, but frequently find themselves either without technological advantages they rely on such as the jamming of their GPS guidance systems, or the targeting of their radio transmissions by OPFOR artillery units that require strategic thinking instead of brute force.

The second, and more important lesson learned was through conversations with some of the spouses and dependents of the troops also invited to participate.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

They expressed a desire to see more depictions of the difficulty they face at home as their spouses are deployed. Less than 10% of the American population has ever served or come from a military family, and the difficulties they face from constant relocation, inability to conduct some legal transactions without their spouse, or simply the loneliness and worry faced by a deployed spouse is something often forgotten in our rush to war.

Although Hollywood has had a long and beneficial relationship with the military, depictions of the experience of those most affected by a soldier’s deployment are often overlooked. Recent productions such as NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ or the book ‘Sisters of Valor’ by Rosalie Turner offer an insight into the sacrifices made on the homefront are often glossed over.

As tensions in Korea heat up and the conflict in the Middle East continue with no end in sight, we’ve become used to the sights of soldiers in combat, but thanks to the outreach by Army OCPA-West, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, let’s hope we can continue to be a witness not only to the brave men and women serving our country, but to those left behind as well.

Like their sister services, the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs is the primary contact for processing film and television production requests seeking support from the Army.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you might be able to access military assets or knowledge for your project, give the Department of Defense a call and see if it is something they might be able to support.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honor Guard makes paratrooper’s final request come true

A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.

Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.


With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.

Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.

On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.

The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.

Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.

The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.

Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.

It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.

According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.

Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.

After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.

But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.

In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.

Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.

“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”

“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.

“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A hunt for a death ray gave us radar

One of the most useful and game-changing weapons of World War II was radar, a technology that allowed Allied pilots to know when and where to fly in order to intercept incoming German bombers, but Britain was actually hunting for a super weapon: A death ray.


How War Made Flying Safer

www.youtube.com

In 1935, World War II had essentially not started yet. Japan was conducting limited, intermittent fighting with China, but Europe was technically at peace. Except war was clearly bubbling up. Germany was re-building its military in violation of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, and Italy launched a successful invasion of Ethiopia.

Britain knew, sooner or later, it would get dragged into a fight. Either Italy would attack colonial possessions in Africa that belonged to it or its allies, or Germany would attempt to conquer Europe. And there was a rumor that Germany had developed a weapon that could wipe out entire towns.

(This may have been a result of early nuclear research. German scientists made some of the critical first breakthroughs in what would later result in nuclear bombs.)

So British leaders asked Robert Watson-Watt if his research, using electromagnetic radiation to detect clouds, could be used to kill enemy pilots.

Yes, they wanted a death ray. But Watson-Watts quickly realized that he couldn’t get that much energy into the clouds. His work, which would lead to modern day weather radar, used a magnetron to send microwave radiation into the sky. But it wasn’t a focused beam of energy, and there simply wasn’t enough juice to kill or even seriously distract an enemy pilot.

To get an idea of how the death ray would’ve had to work, imagine a microwave that could cook a human in less than a minute while they were still miles away. That would be a huge, power-sucking microwave and essentially technically impossible to build.

But Watson-Watts came back with an alternative proposal. The death ray was dead in the water, but the magnetrons could be used to detect planes just like clouds, but even more effectively. And the early math around the idea revealed that the device could see enemy planes for miles and miles, eventually 100 miles out.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

British troops guard a downed German Messerschmitt Bf 109 in August 1940. Radar helped British pilots hold off German advances despite a shortage of pilots and planes.

(Imperial War Museums)

This was game-changing for British pilots when war did break out and reach British shores. Germany quickly conquered France and then began attacking England in the Battle of Britain, using the Luftwaffe to bomb British targets and take on British fighters. The British were outnumbered, and so they needed to make each flight hour of each pilot count for as much as possible.

Radar made this possible. If Britain could only spot incoming German forces with human eyeballs, it would need a large number of spotters on the ground and pilots in the air at all times. But with radar looking out a hundred miles, the Royal Air Force could fly fewer patrols and keep most pilots resting on the ground until needed, instead.

When radar detected incoming planes, the in-air patrols could fly to intercept as additional forces scrambled into the sky as necessary. The network of radar stations would become the “Chain Home” system, and it watched Britain to the north, east, and south.

Germany developed its own radar and deployed it operationally in 1940.

Britain never got its death ray, but Japan did experiment with making a death ray like Watson-Watts considered. They used magnetrons to create microwave radiation in an experimental design that did kill at least one rabbit targeted during tests. But killing the rabbit required that it stay still for 10 minutes, not exactly useful in combat. A groundhog took 20 minutes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

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

Articles

6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is where the stakes are highest in the world of professional football.


But for some who have played in that big game, they have staked far more than whether or not they help hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy — they’ve served in the military, signing “a blank check to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including my life,” to paraphrase a popular quote.

Here are some of the more famous names (and not-so-famous) names who served in the military and played in the Super Bowl:

1. Hall of Fame OLB Kevin Greene

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
Former NFL linebacker Kevin Greene is greeted by Senior Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Personnel In Support of Contingency Operations superintendent, in the dining facility Feb. 2. Mr. Greene is traveling to military bases in Iraq to show support and increase the morale for U.S. service members. Throughout his career, he played for the Las Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. (USAF Photo)

While Greene is not well known, he is one of the NFL’s all-time great pass rushers, and played in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also served in the Alabama Army National Guard, according to a 1986 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, getting paratrooper wings and also at times commanding a tank platoon.

In the 2017 season, he will coach linebackers for the New York Jets.

According to NFL.com, Greene totaled 160 sacks and five interceptions over 15 seasons.

2. New England Patriots LS Joe Cardona

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
New England Patriots long snapper and Navy officer Joe Cardona. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Cardona will be playing in Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots, serving as a long snapper. He did the same with the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team – starting as a freshman and for all four years.

A 2015 DoD feature on military-NFL ties reports he serves on active duty, and has assignments with the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport and with the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

3. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who threw for 153 TDs in a career that came after service in the United States Navy that included a tour in Vietnam. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to Pat Tillman, Roger Staubach was probably the most famous person who had his feet in both the military and National Football League. He played 11 years in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing 153 TD passes according to NFL.com. He played in four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls VI and XII.

He served four years in the Navy, including a tour in Vietnam.

4. Retired WR Phil McConkey

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
(YouTube screenshot)

Perhaps best known for his Super Bowl XXI heroics as a member of the New York Giants, including a 6-yard TD catch, McConkey wasn’t drafted by an NFL team when he graduated from the Naval Academy.

His naval service included time as a helicopter pilot, but he decided to go for his dream of playing pro football. A 2013 Buffalo News article revealed that it was a family connection to New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck (whose father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy) that launched McConkey’s NFL career.

A 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t hurt, either. Over his six-season professional football career, NFL.com notes that McConkey had 67 receptions for 1,113 yards and two TDs for the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and one other team.

5. Retired DT Chad Hennings

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
Chad Hennings, a 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on May 16, 2006. He was considered one of college football’s great defensive linemen of his era, a unanimous first-team All-America selection in 1987 who received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman. As a pro, he embarked on a nine-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys that brought him three Super Bowl titles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Though Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he also was very well known as an Air Force pilot flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane, according to GoAirForceFalcons.com. According to NFL.com, Hennings had 27.5 sacks over his nine-season NFL career.

6. Retired RB Rocky Bleier

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
Vietnam Veteran and former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier poses with Capt. Doug Larsen who tries on Bleier’s four Super Bowl rings at the North Dakota National Guard’s 2009 Safety Conference in Bismarck Jan 24. (US Army photo)

Rocky Bleier was overshadowed in the Steelers’ backfield that won four Super Bowls by NFL Hall of Fame legends Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.

One reason may have been the fact that in December, 1968, he was drafted by the Army and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. According to a 1969 AP report printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleier was wounded on Aug. 20 of that year — shot in the thigh and hit by grenade fragments, losing part of his right foot.

According to NFL.com, Bleier only played six games in 1971 after missing all of 1970. He would rush for 3,865 yards and 23 TDs, while catching 136 passes for 1,294 yards and two more TDs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force top enlisted leader encourages airmen to connect

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking — to each other, friends, family — with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside.

Wright doesn’t expect commanders at each base to draft a plan of what they believe could prevent suicide, which has plagued the service’s ranks in recent months, with 78 airmen taking their own lives between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2019. But the top enlisted airman hopes the effort might help struggling airmen again feel a sense of purpose when they come into work, even if they carry baggage from their personal lives with them.


“While mental health is a part of it, I personally think a larger part of this solution is us just being good human beings,” he said during a recent interview. Military.com accompanied Wright and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, last week.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Team Travis airmen.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

The Air Force in August 2019 ordered a one-day “tactical pause” that had commanders and airmen address a rise in suicides across the force. As of Aug. 1, 2019, the service had exceeded the number of suicides in all of 2018 by nearly 20 people.

Wright said suicide has become the leading cause of death in the Air Force despite airmen serving overseas in combat.

“If some initiatives [at bases] came out of that, then I think that’s great. But it really wasn’t designed to develop prevention initiatives,” he said Oct. 9, 2019.

“All of the airmen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, connecting with and talking to who’ve thought about committing suicide, none of them — not one — pointed to a program or a process or mental health [initiative]. … They all pointed to the thing that kept them going, and that was another person,” Wright said, but added some have been in therapy programs to keep talking to someone they’re comfortable with.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright listens to an Airman’s question.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

Wright said he’s heard feedback from airmen who’ve felt the most hopeless during deployments, unable to connect with someone from their unit or loved ones back home.

On those occasions, help came from a friend or teammate — sometimes even a stranger — asking the simplest questions like, “How are you? Is there anything I can do?” Wright said.

“That’s all it was — meaningful connections,” the chief said.

“It makes a big difference if you walk into a work center where you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a valued member of his team, and my supervisor, my teammates, they care about the things that I’m going through’ versus, ‘Hey nobody cares,'” Wright said. “This is about making airmen feel valued.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington desperately wanted to be a British officer

American Gen. George Washington, the hero of the Revolution and the country’s first president, spent much of his early career wishing he was a British officer, working as an unpaid aide, and then traveling approximately 450 miles just to earn his “Lobsterback” coat.


Before he was a hero to the American people, he was a hero to Royal Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie was the lieutenant governor when he ordered Washington on one of his first major missions, a diplomatic undertaking to tell French forces in the Ohio Valley of Virginia to please, “GTFO. K, thanks. Byeeee!” on behalf of the governor.

The French, secure in their fort and coveting the rich farmland for themselves, invited Washington in for dinner and then told him that these fine cuts of meat were all he was ever going to get from the Valley. It’s unknown if they even let him take his leftovers with him in a simple brown bag.

Washington reported back to Virginia and then published a pamphlet about the mission. (Pamphlets were the tweets of their day, but the maximum number of characters was crazy high. For example, Washington’s title alone was 63 characters above the limit of a newer tweet.)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Fort Necessity, where Washington was forced to surrender to a larger French force.

(Photo by Ikcerog)

The pamphlet went super viral and was a hit in the U.S. and Britain, where a number of distinguished men were known to drop monocles and women suffered the vapors when they read it. The French threat in the valleys had apparently been allowed to grow much too large, and something needed to be done about it.

Washington was sent back, this time at the head of a 160-man force. They snuck up on a French encampment in the night but were spotted in the half-light of dawn, May 28, 1754. Someone fired a shot and a battle quickly raged. Washington was successful in the initial engagement, but was forced to surrender to a larger body of French forces on July 3.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

There were about to be Redcoats for days, man.

(Photo by Lee Wright)

Washington bounced back from this setback, even without the benefit of a montage, which had not yet been invented. The battles in the Virginia wilderness triggered a war between the French and British that raged across the world. For the colonies, this fight would center on alliances with the Native Americans and control of valuable territory.

And Washington, recently promoted, ambitious, and knowledgeable of the area, was perfectly positioned to aid a British victory. He applied for a commission in His Royal Majesty’s Army, ready to lead loyal subjects of the crown to their destined glory!

The Brits didn’t want ‘im. He was a dirty colonial, after all, and there were some questions about whether Washington’s success on May 28 had been a valid engagement or a war crime amid French claims that they tried to surrender.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Colonel of Militia George Washington, just a few years before he became a general and showed all his Lobsterback detractors what was really up.

(Charles Willson Peale)

At the time, officers in the British Army were often placed above their colonial counterparts, regardless of rank. Rather than suffer the indignity of reporting to officers he outranked, he became an unpaid aide to the British commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock.

Washington’s advice to Braddock was often timely, accurate, and ignored until the Battle of Monongahela. On the Monongahela River, Washington was suffering from dysentery but took command after Braddock was shot. While the British lost the battle, Washington’s actions were credited with saving hundreds of soldiers from capture and death, and he once again became a hero. Braddock, who later died of his wounds, even gifted Washington his commander’s sash, a red length of fabric signifying command.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Woodcut of Braddock’s death. He actually died a little after the battle, but never let the facts get in the way of a good woodcut, guys.

Washington, once again a hero and now wearing a pimp red sash, traveled to Boston to meet with Governor William Shirley, the new acting commander-in-chief now that Braddock was dead, to ask for a commission in the Royal Army. Shirley thanked Washington for his service but turned him down. He did decree that militia officers outranked royal officer of lower ranks, so that was something.

Washington eventually left the governor’s service to concentrate on farming. Did some things, and ended up being on the id=”listicle-2588139621″ bill after some trials and tribulations that probably helped him grow as a person or something.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.

Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.


At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.

Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.

“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)

The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.

While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.

A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.

The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.

On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why selling US war bonds was so important in earlier wars

Many troops take for granted the degree to which our military is funded today. There’s been a defense budget in place since the very early days of our country. Before World War I, this budget was made up of around 3 percent of the country’s GDP. Today, we’re sitting at 3.5 percent, but our total GDP is leagues larger than it was back then.

When the United States entered World War II, however, this defense budget spiked to a massive 41% of the country’s GDP — or $350 billion. Even that much money wasn’t enough to keep America at peak performance on all fronts. It needed more from the people.

That’s where war bonds, or “liberty bonds,” come into play.


Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

And not just because Superman and Batman told them to.

(DC Comics)

In their most basic form, war bonds could be bought and sold through the Department of the Treasury. These bonds came in various amounts, ranging from 25 cents to for the average civilian and up to between 0 and 00 for the wealthy and for businesses. The overall idea was simple: You’d buy a war bond and return it at a later date for a specified amount.

From a financial perspective, they were a pretty terrible investment. During times of war, the government would print more money to further fund our military, thus causing a spike in inflation. And, just like that, the you spent isn’t worth nearly as much as it was when you bought the the bond.

That didn’t matter to the citizens, though. It was the patriotic thing to do. Throughout the Second World War, over 85 million Americans purchased over 5.7 billion’s worth of securities.

For the people back home, war bonds were a way to feel like they were contributing directly to the war. Everyone from the elderly to children to medically disqualified applicants could give something and feel invested in the American effort overseas. These investments came with a hope that their individual contribution was the little push needed to turn the tide of the war.

Everywhere you looked back then, posters lined the streets, telling people that it was their duty to purchase bonds. Major celebrities of the time starred in pre-movie ads, selling bonds. The .25 cent war bond stamps were heavily advertised in Superman and Batman comics. Even Bing Crosby sang “The Road to Victory,” a performance that wasn’t subtle in its promotion of victory bonds.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

Ten percent of every single paycheck wasn’t even an outrageous ask. That was actually the norm.

As odd as it sounds, the most important thing that war bonds did was taking money out of circulation. The Treasury Department needed to pay for the war and printing more money was one of their only options. This isn’t uncommon but, at the rate the government needed to pay for the war, it would’ve crashed the economy if left unchecked.

It’s a basic economic principle: If there’s too much printed currency and not enough value behind it, the freshly printed money is worth less and less. Given that the United States was still reeling from the Great Depression, it’s safe to say the well was pretty dry. Every cent of a war bond was returned to the treasury, so the 5.7 billion’s worth of bonds that citizens purchased, essentially, allowed the government to print that many more dollars — they’d worry about the repercussions later, when there wasn’t a war to fight.

But at the ends of both World War I and World War II, two periods in history during which the United States spent an insane amount of money (in relation to the era’s GDP) on the war effort, bonds were repaid en masse, putting money in civilian pockets and sending the country into its greatest periods of economic growth.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 18th

It seems like everyone is doing that dumb “ten year’s difference” thing on Facebook. Personally, I think this is just depressing for the military community no matter how you slice it.

Either you’re a young troop who’s now reminded of how goofy they looked as a civilian, you’re a senior enlisted/officer who’s now reminded of how much of a dumb boot they once were, or you’re a veteran who’s being reminded of how in shape you once were ten years ago.

If you’re an older vet who’s been out for longer than ten years, well, you’re probably the same salty person in the photo, and no one could tell the difference or that you aged. Maybe a bit more gray and less hair.

Anyways. The Coast Guard hasn’t been paid, but at least these memes are free!


Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Comic by The Claw of Knowledge)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via History in Memes)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Military Life

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.


Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.

Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard)

The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.

The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
I get that it’s a typo on President Reagan’s name, but seriously… that was just worth five cents. (Screengrab via eBay)

Articles

These 17 hilarious reviews of MREs from troops in the field will bring back memories

If there’s one thing the DoD can count on soldiers to be bluntly honest about, it’s the food. In 2005, 400 soldiers from Fort Greely, Alaska, were asked to taste test a new menu of Meals, Ready to Eat for anything that might stand out to them.


There were a lot of standouts.

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
Fort Greely is one of the coldest places in the U.S. military. This is how they warm up. Probably. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Love)

Fort Greely’s finest filled out the evaluation forms, which were then compiled and sent to the DoD office that manages the procurement of field rations. Grunts don’t pull punches. That’s kinda the whole point of their job.

The main result was that U.S. troops got new MREs. Luckily for us, the Smoking Gun got their hands on the actual reviews and some of the comments are gold.

1. Shakespeare:

“Cheese spread with bread is never a liked mix. Anger is usually the result.”

2. The prophet:

“I noticed this meal # was 666…I will probably die of a massive heart attack thank you for feeding me possessed food.”

3. The skeptic:

“This donut is just a brownie in a circle with crappy “frosting” what are you trying to pull?”

4. The poet:

“I believe it was the dinner meal that caused this (Chicken and Dumplings), but it sounded like a flatulence symphony in my tent all night.”

5. The biographer:

“I have disliked cabbage since childhood.”

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

6. The drama queen:

“Oh my god what were you thinking… don’t give cabbage to a soldier ever again even POWs deserve better.”

7. The fortune teller:

“The entree will only be eaten if you haven’t eaten all day.”

8. The PR Rep:

“Maybe change the name ‘Chicken Loaf,’ [it] scares me.”

9. PFC Gung Ho:

“Put Ranch Dressing on everything! Airborne!”

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

10. The guy who’s wrong about everything:

“F*ck hot sauce [put] gummy bears inside.”

11. Sgt. WTF:

“Tabasco is good in your coffee.”

12. The Obvious Sapper:

“Change the Ranger bar name to ‘Sapper Bar'”

13. The Stream of Consciousness:

“5 Veg ravioli ‘friggin’ sucks. Spiced apple ‘friggin’ rock. Apple cinn. Pound cake taste like cheap perfume. (Friggin). Is chocoletto a foreign Name crap? Pizza anything friggin rocks! Gum is good.”

14. Staff Sgt. TMI:

“This new menu has me using the latrine 3x a day.”

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert
The Post-MRE Experience we all know.

15. Sgt. Maj. No Chance:

“Please bring back cigarettes.”

16. Pvt. Ungrateful:

“Jerky is very, very good. How many years did it take to figure that out?”

17. Sgt. Missing the Point:

“The name should be fiesta breakfast party. That would be funny.”

“The vanilla pudding is so good I ripped it open, Licked the inside and rolled around on top of it like a dog. I prefer not to eat anything called loaf but in this case I made an exception… thank god I DID.”