5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned “best friend” — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren’t, say something before both of them make the blotter- aka, the buddy system.

At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever’s on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system’s goofy name — it’s actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Even if that means you’re now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)

It makes sure no one is left out

Let’s call the “battle buddy system” what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.

Granted, you’ll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you’ll swap to someone you’re cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

If your squad leader is happy, everyone’s happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO

Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they’re at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you’ve got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.

When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there’s a better chance that they’re doing the right thing.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Worst case scenario: You’ve got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

It ensures someone will always watch your back

Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can’t even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.

Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they’ll at least be safe while they’re trying to find their way back.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)

With the buddy system, it’s been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently

As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.

It’s simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that’ll say, “what are you doing, you friggin’ idiot?!” are less likely to end up in the commander’s office.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It’s the least you can do for someone who’ll do the same for you.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)

The buddy system gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough

Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.

Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I’ll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my “battle buddy.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

There’s an old saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for. For Mohammad Wali Tasleem, born into the chaos of war, all he ever wanted was a safe place to call home.

Growing up in Afghanistan, finding peace and serenity wasn’t easy. Tasleem’s earliest memories involve death and tragedy, stories seemingly unfathomable to most of us, but all too common and relatable to Tasleem and his family and friends.

At an early age, he saw his relatives fight against the Soviet invasion of his homeland. He vividly remembers being on the run and exiled to Pakistan during his childhood, as if it were only yesterday. No matter where Tasleem and his family turned, they couldn’t evade the perils of war. He knew there was a hard choice he had to make, but it was one he was willing to commit his entire life to.

At the age of 17, Tasleem took up the call to arms and enlisted in the Afghan Army — embarking on the fight against tyranny and terror, just as his ancestors had done. Fighting for his loved ones, fighting for his country, and fighting for a place to call home became his calling. In over a decade’s worth of service, based on his skill, diligence, and honor, Tasleem ascended to the ranks of major and company commander. Moreover, he became one of the most trusted and reliable leaders for joint Afghan-US efforts combating the Taliban in the region.

It was during those high-profile endeavors that he crossed paths with Black Rifle Coffee Company CEO Evan Hafer and Jeff Kirkham. Little did Tasleem know that their bond of brotherhood forged in the midst of war would provide him with a life-changing opportunity down the road — but only after he had arrived in the United States in search of his own version of the American dream.

“We were together for a long time in Afghanistan,” Tasleem recently told Coffee or Die Magazine. “They are my brothers. They always had my back. They still do. That’s why me and my family are here in Utah. But things weren’t always as great as they are now.”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

Unbeknownst to Hafer and Kirkham, Tasleem, his wife, and their five children arrived in the United States in February 2015. Two years after applying for a special immigration visa, they eventually settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. At long last, Tasleem and his family didn’t have to worry about being targeted by the Taliban or becoming casualties of war. But arriving in a new country completely foreign to them presented a handful of unique challenges that were hard to overcome.

“I came from a very well-to-do family in Afghanistan. We helped out a lot of people. We had a nice car and house, but when I came here we lost that,” Tasleem said. “We came here to live a safe life but didn’t have the comforts of back home. We were starting over. It was hard.”

Tasleem recalled the numerous struggles they endured upon arriving in the United States. First and foremost, a stable job was hard to come by. After working for several months as a security guard, Tasleem began working full-time at a gas station. While he was thankful for the opportunity, it wasn’t the type of job that could support his family.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

On top of that, the neighborhood they lived in was rough. Their public housing sector had a high frequency of crime; drive-by shootings were a regular occurrence. After fleeing Afghanistan, the Tasleem family now had to endure worries about their safety in their newfound home in the United States. A little over a year into their journey in America, Tasleem and his wife were beginning to have second thoughts and were considering moving back overseas.

“We were having such a hard time. My wife and I knew we couldn’t go back to Afghanistan, but I had reached out to my youngest brother in India and told him about our life here,” Tasleem said. “We had made plans to move there, but things changed when I reconnected with Jeff and Evan.”

Tasleem recalled reaching out one evening to Kirkham, whom he had serendipitously connected with on social media. When Kirkham learned about Tasleem’s situation, he promptly reached out to Hafer in order to do whatever it took to help their friend. In no time, Tasleem was headed to Utah to meet up with his friends at Black Rifle Coffee Company headquarters — men whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time. 

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

The rest, as they say, is history. Just when Tasleem was about ready to give up on his pursuit of the American dream, his long-lost friends at BRCC inspired him to do otherwise. They offered him a job and a means to move his family from Virginia to Utah.

“I called my wife and turned on the camera,” he said. “I showed her pictures of the mountains and joked with her, ‘Look, I’m in Afghanistan.’ But that’s when I told her, ‘We don’t have to move back home or to India, I found my brothers and have a job here in Utah. We are going to be so happy.’”

Over the past three years, life couldn’t have been better for Tasleem and his family. He started out in the company’s print shop, and his hard work and leadership skills earned him a big promotion after just a year with the company. Today, he is tasked with the responsibility of being the facility manager at the BRCC roasting plant in Salt Lake City. 

“Maintenance and general contracting, renovation, remodeling, things like that. Inside and outside the building, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.

But that’s not all Tasleem has strived to accomplish. He, alongside his brothers at BRCC, has helped move six other Afghans who served with him overseas to the United States — a testament to the company’s mission of giving back to those who have served and put their lives on the line for a greater purpose.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Wali Tasleem with Black Rifle Coffee vice president and co-founder Mat Best. Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

“There are six other Afghans here that BRCC has helped like me. There are seven of us now,” Tasleem said. “Their stories are similar to mine. They were soldiers and interpreters who served with us over in Afghanistan. I am happy they are here with us. They are as important here and as respected as they were back there. It’s an amazing feeling to have them here.”

While Tasleem’s commitments at BRCC keeps him busy, he and his growing family (now with seven children, six boys and a girl) have taken advantage of the beauty and majesty of mountainous Utah, which reminds them a lot of Kabul and their home in Afghanistan. In his free time Tasleem enjoys taking his family hiking and exploring the outdoors, as well as getting together often for picnics. 

Tasleem also serves as president of the local Afghan community, which has several hundred families in the greater Salt Lake City area, and has played an integral role in helping them assimilate to life in America.

After years of fighting against and enduring never-ending terror, the Tasleem family is finally living a peaceful life — which is all they ever wanted.

“My three years in Utah with Black Rifle Coffee Company have given so much positive change to my life” he said. “I’m so thankful for Evan, Jeff, Mat [Best] and everybody else here. It’s not just a great company. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a family. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish together in 2021.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How one former Green Beret is changing everything about NFL recruiting

Making it through selection to serve in one of America’s elite special operations units marks an unusual milestone in a service member’s career. Making the cut serves as the culmination of a lifetime of preparation and hard work, while simultaneously ushering in a new era full of brutal challenges, higher stakes, and even longer days ahead. Becoming a Green Beret is a lot like earning a spot on a professional football team: when everyone is elite, it takes something special to stand out.

Former Green Beret and current Director of Player Development for the Indianapolis Colts Brian Decker knows that, and he’s managed to quantify that something special into a model that improved candidate selection rates by thirty percent in his last Special Forces unit. Now, he’s brought that same model to the NFL.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Brian Decker

(Courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)

“What Brian did was change the paradigm,” said Col. Glenn Thomas, Decker’s former boss at Fort Bragg. “People get accustomed to looking at things the same way and applying the same solutions to the same problems. Brian challenged our assumptions. He took things that had generally been intangibles and turned them into tangibles.”

Football is, in many ways, analogous for war, with a combination of strategy and brute force playing out in a melee of individual skirmishes with the singular goal of advancing deep into enemy territory. The stakes in a football game are lower than in war, of course, but in the minds and hearts of those playing, themes like sacrifice and commitment are just prevalent between the hash marks as they are on the battlefield.

The thing is, despite the hard metrics both NFL teams and military units have been measuring for decades (using tests to assess things like speed and strength), many would contend that once a person has proven their physical ability to perform at that level, the real elements that dictate success or failure tend to be less tangible. A timed run can’t measure a soldier’s ability to dig deep in a firefight, nor can a series of drills determine if a rookie could handle the incredible pressure of playing at the professional level.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Decker believes there are some things that set elite operators apart in all fields, whether we’re talking combat operations or professional football.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)

“One of the things about professional sports, rock climbing, parachuting, jumping from 123,000 feet in space to Earth, they’re all really hard things to do,” Decker explains.

“I think if you remove the sport, specific skills and domain from it, you find that (elite performers) are a lot alike. I think the demands placed upon greatness look a lot alike, regardless of field.”

Roughly half of all first-round draft picks in the NFL wash out of the league, and with so much money riding on these decisions, NFL teams have spent years trying to devise ways to predict a player’s success before they sign the contract. From Decker’s perspective, however, they simply haven’t been measuring the right things.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Teams are taking big financial risks with their draft picks. The entire franchise could be effected by these decisions for years to come.

(Swimfinfan on Flickr)

So Decker set out to quantify the unquantifiable–to find a way to use numerical measurements for seemingly intangible elements of a player’s personality like their drive or desire to succeed, their responses to stress, and their emotional intelligence. If all other things are equal, Decker’s approach states, it’s those qualifiers that will indicate the likelihood of a player’s (or Special Forces candidate’s) success.

The hard part is assigning hard numbers to such things in a uniform way, and while Decker won’t reveal the exact metrics he uses for his assessments, the success his program has been enjoying in the Colts’ locker room seems to speak for itself.

“Every team in the league is doing a lot of work in terms of psychological evaluations, and has been doing it forever and ever,” says Joe Banner, the former Browns CEO who gave Decker his first job in the league in 2014.

“But his approach, and the types of questions he asks, and his ability to synthesize information and get to the right conclusions, that part of it is absolutely groundbreaking. There is nobody in the league doing what he’s doing as effectively.”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Last season the Colts went 10-6, marking a turnaround for the franchise.

(Indianapolis Colts)

Once Decker has met with a prospective player and made his assessments, he always follows the math up with five specific questions meant to steer his line of thinking:

Does this player have a favorable development profile?

Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?

Does he have a good learning and support system?

Is he a character risk, and if so, how do we understand that risk and help this player?

Is he a good fit?

But it takes a lot more than assigning some figures and asking lofty questions. Prior to this season’s draft, Decker interviewed and assessed over 160 players. Next year, he plans to top 300.

“This is a commitment industry,” Decker, who served in the military for 22 years, explains. “That’s another thing I like about football. You can’t just be here for the T-shirt. You gotta give a pound of flesh to do this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII POW gives back to Post-9/11 vets

In 1994, U.S. Army Air Corps WWII veteran and former POW Clarence Robert “Bud” Shepherd opened a small warehouse in Burlington, North Carolina, to assist 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations, like schools, churches, and daycares.

Shepherd refocused his attention on Post-9/11 combat wounded veterans in 2012 by creating the Veteran Toolbox Program. He provided them with free toolboxes to assist with their transition into civilian life. Although Post-9/11 Purple Heart veterans are priority for the program, all veterans can apply.


“I always wanted to do something for veterans, and I came up with the toolbox program,” said Shepherd. “We talked to some tool companies, and they were interested in getting involved. We talked to Stanley and Black and Decker about what we wanted to do and they came back with one word – absolutely! APEX tools, Wooster paint brushes, and Johnson Johnson are also great supporters.”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Bud Shepherd served as a B-17 tail-gunner in WWII and held as a Prisoner of War.

The REAch Veteran Toolbox Program has shipped more than 8,000 toolboxes to veterans, which contains about 0 worth of tools.

“This is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime,” said the 94-year-old.

Shepherd works six days a week, gets up at 5 a.m., and leaves work at 6 p.m. most days. But he’s no stranger to hard work.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, when he was 18 years old. He served in the 8th Air Force in England as a tail-gunner on a B-17. Enemy forces shot down his plane six months before the end of WWII. Shepherd was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Berth, Germany.

“Once we got settled down, things went along fairly smooth because there was 9,000 of us, all Air Force people,” Shepherd recalled. “About 7,500 Americans and a few Brits. We were liberated by the Russians and I made my way back home.”

WWII POW Bud Shepherd: Let’s Never Forget Our POWs and MIAs

www.youtube.com

“We hear from a lot of these guys and their families,” Shepherd said. “Last week we got an e-mail saying ‘You saved my husband’s life. He hasn’t been out of the house in three months but ever since he got his toolbox he’s been out in the garage or the backyard working on something.'”

REAch operates in Graham, North Carolina, but ships the toolboxes across the country.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Tim Shepherd (left) son of Bud Shepherd (right) at the tool room getting 10 boxes ready to ship for the day.

“I go to the VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, for yearly physicals, but my health is excellent,” he said. “These people down there that I deal with at the VA hospital, they are just good people… In my lifetime, I’ve been blessed, and I enjoy every minute of it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.
(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.
(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

Articles

This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

In May 1941, the United States was on the brink of war.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
National Archives

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed an “unlimited national emergency” and ordered American forces to prepare “to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere.”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
National Archives

While the situation seemed grim, at least one commanding officer decided to lighten the mood. He allowed his men to grow their beards in what would be the most hirsute event in the U.S. military until Robin Olds headed to Vietnam.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
National Archives

Related: This Air Force fighter pilot is the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

 

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Your winner, ladies and gentlemen. (National Archives)

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Six months later, the Philippines fell and the American troops who survived were submitted to the harshest treatment of any POWs in the Pacific War. The Allies did not retake the Philippines until October 1944.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A hot YouTuber tried out the Marines’ boot camp

The Marine Corps has to recruit a bunch of teens and young twenty-somethings in order to keep recruits flowing in. And they sponsored four YouTubers to come and spend three days in basic training. The main star of the resulting video is Michelle Khare, a BuzzFeed.News journalist whose YouTube is pretty much all videos about her trying on other people’s lives like the ultimate tourist.


I Tried Marine Bootcamp

www.youtube.com

So when the Marine Corps asked her to try out their training, it was a pretty perfect fit.

But it’s easy to see the difference between basic training for YouTubers and people really entering the service. This author went through Army basic, but he still feels pretty certain that real Marines gets yelled at harder than this. And he definitely doesn’t remember the flock of camera people and producers who accompanied a “platoon” of about a dozen people.

But the YouTube recruits do go through some of the physical and mental challenges that break real recruits. And they made it through, partially thanks to the help of drill instructors who spurred them on even as they got too afraid. The A-Tower, familiar to most soldiers from the “confidence course,” nearly takes our friend Michelle out before the DI helps her master the fear.

The personalities go through some other fun staples of basic training, like breaking the seals on their gas masks in the chamber and firing M16s. Of course, the YouTubers get new or nearly new rifles with ACOGs, but no one said life is fair. And we don’t really need them to fire in combat successfully with iron sights anyway.

Oh, and that was the first day. And one dude literally dropped out after just that.

Like, dude, you’re doing the tourist version. It’s only three days long. Real Marine basic training is 13 weeks.

The rest of the personalities pushed on through physical training to muscle failure, drill instruction, rappel training, more obstacles, and a ruck march.

Check it out at the video embedded at top.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military skills help soldiers brew up business

When Army Reserve Maj. Clay Keel is in uniform, he plans military medical operations by organizing personnel and logistics as part of the Army Medical Service Corps. Off duty, he runs the Keel and Curley Winery and Keel Farms Agrarian Ale + Cider brewery in Plant City, Florida.

In many ways, the two jobs aren’t so different. Both require problem solving and teamwork skills that service members learn early on, Keel said.

“The further up you go, the more civilian the training kind of becomes,” he said. “You start learning about how to make decisions, how to allocate resources and plan for resources, and then you go beyond that … where the Army teaches you about strategy.”


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Maj. Clay Keel

For small business owners like Keel who serve in the military part time, continuing their service while also running a brewing business can be rewarding ⁠— a way to stay connected to the military while also pursuing entrepreneurial passions.

“In my Army Reserve career, I’m never going to be a general because I’m not putting in the time and doing those really challenging jobs that are going to lead me to that. But I’m still able to serve in a role that takes a less amount of time, or at least it gives me more flexibility,” he said.

Keel’s father started the Keel and Curley Winery at Keel Farms, where Keel grew up, in 2003. In his twenties at the time, Keel owned the wine distribution part of the business while his dad ran the winery. He recently bought the entire business from his father and, after nearly two decades of service in the National Guard, active-duty Army and Reserve, including two deployments to Iraq, Keel said it’s time to focus on the company.

“Unless I get orders and I get called up and my country needs me — day to day, the business comes first,” he said.

Balancing the two careers isn’t always easy, however, and requires some difficult choices.

“Sometimes that means telling the military like, ‘Hey I can’t take that job.’ And I’ve made that decision,” Keel said.

Army veteran Torie Fisher also faced a difficult choice in 2016 — continuing her 13-year military career or getting out of the New Jersey Army National Guard as a Black Hawk crew chief to pursue her Backward Flag Brewery business full time. After about a year of overlap, she decided to choose one instead of letting both suffer.

“It being such a new venture — and it’s a very hands-on type business — it was kind of difficult to do both,” she said.

So, Fisher found her niche by staying connected to the military in other ways as she grew her business, which supplies beer to MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets.

She attended a veteran entrepreneurship training through Bunker Labs and has almost exclusively hired veterans or veteran spouses at her company, named for a patch on the Army uniform. Staff frequently donate a portion of their tips to military charities.

Fisher also operates the nonprofit Arms 2 Artisans, working with Post-9/11 veterans interested in artisan trades.

“Everything that we do is based and rooted in the veteran community,” she said.

Both Fisher and Keel said their military-learned skills go a long way in the brewing business.

“In business, things never really ever go right or the way that you expected them to,” Fisher said. “The military does a good job of teaching us how to bounce back from those failures. You never just get to screw something up and just sit there and say, ‘I guess it’s never going to work out, I give up.'”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

The Army also helped both entrepreneurs be better leaders. And for Keel, staying in the military has had its perks in that regard. For times when he is activated, including recently for COVID-19 response efforts, he needs to train others to run things well in his absence.

“In the long run I think it helps you work on the business instead of in the business, which I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with,” he said. “The Army Reserve forces that on me a little bit, and I think there are some positives to that.”

Want to support veteran-owned businesses? Connect at https://www.facebook.com/keelandcurleyatkeelfarms/ and https://www.facebook.com/backwardflagbrewing/.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

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Before he wrote children’s books, Roald Dahl was a menace to Axis forces in the sky

Roald Dahl is often considered to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Among his most popular publications are classic stories like “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda,” “Fantastic Mr Fox,” “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even if you haven’t read the books or seen their film adaptations, the titles of these stories have achieved a mythical status in the world of children’s entertainment. Those that have read his second autobiographical publication, “Going Solo,” will know that Dahl served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during WWII. In the book, he details his service to King and Country and his combat experiences against Axis forces.

After finishing school and taking a hiking trip through Newfoundland in 1934, Dahl went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in Britain, he was assigned to Mombasa, Kenya and then Dar es-Salaam, Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania); the former German colony was still home to many Germans. In August 1939, as a second war with Germany loomed on the horizon, Britain made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar es-Salaam to prevent any sort of rebellion or uprising. Dahl joined the King’s African Rifles, receiving a commission as a lieutenant and command of a platoon of indigenous askari soldiers.

In November of that year, Dahl joined the RAF as an aircraftman and made the 600-mile drive from Dar es-Salaam to Nairobi where he was accepted for pilot training. Of the sixteen other men that joined with him, only three would live to see the end of the war. After just seven hours and forty minutes of instruction in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, Dahl made his first solo flight.

Following his initial flight training, Dahl received advanced flight training at RAF Habbaniya outside of Baghdad. He trained there for six months on Hawker Harts before he was commissioned as a pilot officer on August 24, 1940.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
A Gloster Gladiator. The fact that he had the courage to fly a biplane in WWII tells you something already. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dahl was assigned to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, with No. 80 Squadron RAF. Though he received no training on the Gladiator nor any specific instruction on aerial combat, Dahl received orders on September 19, 1940 to fly his Gladiator from Abu Seir to No. 80 Squadron’s forward airstrip near Mersa Matruh. On the last leg of his flight, Dahl could not locate the airstrip and was running low on fuel. With night approaching, he attempted an emergency landing in the desert. The undercarriage of his Gladiator hit a boulder and Dahl crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose, and emerged from his aircraft’s wreck temporarily blinded. He passed out and was rescued by friendly forces who took him to the aid station at Mersa Matruh before being transferred to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. An RAF inquiry later revealed that Dahl had been given an incorrect location and was mistakenly sent to the no man’s land between the British and Italian forces.

In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from the hospital and returned to flight status. By then, No. 80 Squadron had been transferred to Eleusina, near Athens, as part of the Greek campaign. The squadron had traded in their Gladiators for the new Hawker Hurricane and Dahl was ordered to fly one across the Mediterranean in April after just seven hours in the aircraft. Luckily, Dahl made it to Greece without incident and rejoined his squadron. At this point in the Greek campaign, the RAF combat aircraft in the operating area consisted of just 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
A Hawker Hurricane. That seems more like it (Wikimedia Commons)

On April 15, Dahl got his first taste of action flying solo over the city of Chalcis. He intercepted a formation of six Junkers Ju 88 bombers that were attacking ships and managed to shoot one of them down. The next day, he scored another kill on a Ju 88.

On April 20, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens alongside his friend David Coke and Pat Pattle, the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of the war. The battle was an absolute furball which Dahl described as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side.” Five of the twelve Hurricanes involved in the battle were shot down and four of their pilots were killed including Pattle. Greek observers counted 22 German aircraft shot down, but because of the chaos of the aerial melee, none of the pilots were able to take credit for specific kills. Dahl received credit for one kill, though he likely shot down more.

In May, as the Germans closed on Athens, Dahl and No. 80 Squadron were evacuated to Egypt and reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew daily sorties over the course of four weeks. On June 8, he shot down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 heavy fighter, and on June 15, he shot down his third Ju 88.

Following this period, Dahl began to suffer from headaches that caused him to blackout and he was invalided home to Britain. He would serve the rest of the war as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, attaining the rank of wing commander by its end. In 1946, he was invalided out of service with the rank of squadron leader. His combat record of five aerial victories, confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced with Axis records, qualify him as a fighter ace.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Dahl’s leather flying helmet on display in the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden (Wikimedia Commons)

Dahl would go on to write the aforementioned children’s stories and many more besides. His kindhearted books and their warm sentiment serve as the antithesis to his violent wartime experiences.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to use that Veterans Day Amazon Prime discount

If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.


Turns out, there’s more to Amazon Prime than just free shipping. Here are 6 other benefits to this incredible service. Alexa, sign me up.

Amazon Household

If you are a Prime member, you can set up Amazon Household. You can add one other adult and up to four teenagers and four children on your Prime Household. That means everyone gets to take advantage of the awesome perks. Here’s how to create your Household.

Through Household, your teens can shop til they drop without actually spending any money. That’s right: you have approval powers. We both know a trip to the mall with the fire-monster that is your 15-year-old daughter will be an entree of eye-rolling served with a side of teenage angst. Skip the dressing room battles and let that person who used to love you pick out her own damn clothes. And then veto and approve with the judicious powers that only a mother or father could have and love.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Department of Defense)

Prime Wardrobe

So your teenager has picked out eight pairs of jeans, and you’re going to let her keep one. With Prime Wardrobe, she can try all of them before she buys.

Mandatory fun coming up? Order all the dresses or pants in the land without spending a dime. Yep, order up to eight items at a time, only pay for what you keep, and the returns are free and easy. And you never have to leave your house.

Prime music

With more than two million songs and curated playlists, listening to your favorite tunes just got easier. Download the Amazon music app and listen offline.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(live.staticflickr.com)

AmazonSmile

Set your shopping guilt aside and tell yourself that you’re doing it for a good cause with AmazonSmile.

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from over one million organizations to support.”

See, shopping for yourself is a good thing.

Prime Video

Jack Ryan isn’t going to watch itself. Neither will the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the entire Suits series, countless Disney movies, or thousands of other shows, all included with your Prime membership. Best part? With the app you can download all of these to watch offline. Alexa, book me a cross-country flight.

Prime Books

More of a binge-reader than a binge-watcher? Good on ya. Prime has something for you, too. Prime Books gives you access to thousands of books that you can read on your Kindle (or through the Kindle app if you don’t have a separate device). You is smart.

There are countless benefits to having an Amazon Prime account. Take advantage of this weekend’s discount and live your best life, one Prime perk at a time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

1917 is a war film crafted with military precision

World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…


Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.

The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.

When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.

Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is everything the Pentagon did for a first look at ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

The world is abuzz for the new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped during the San Diego Comic-Con – and no one is more curious than the United States Department of Defense, who lent considerable support to the film’s production. And why not? The first Top Gun was quite possibly the Navy’s best tool for recruiting new sailors since the draft.


But support from the Pentagon didn’t come without some strings attached (it never does). In exchange for support from the DoD, the film’s producers and Paramount Pictures had to agree to give the top brass an exclusive screening before the film is made public.

Not a bad exchange.

Most importantly for the filmmakers of Top Gun 2, the production staff was able to fly aircraft around secured facilities and restricted airspace usually reserved for Naval Aviators. Also important for a movie depicting Naval Aviators, the production crew received escorted access to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. For safety, the cast and crew were also trained by the Navy’s sailors in the art of water survival and aircraft ejection seats.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Two things Goose could have really used.

On top of the unparalleled access to Navy facilities, ships, and F/A-18 Super Hornets (as well as the ability to place cameras in the cockpits and on the fuselage of these Super Hornets), the Navy gave Top Gun: Maverick staff a staff of Public Affairs troops in order to “review with public affairs the script’s thematics and weave in key talking points relevant to the aviation community.” On top of the PA crew, a Navy subject matter expert was on hand during filming to ensure action scenes were depicted with accuracy. Of course, the Navy also reviewed the days’ footage to ensure there were no security violations.

The coolest part (if you were in the Navy at the time, I mean) is that active-duty troops and real Naval Aviators were used as extras and background in the film. Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprise their original roles and are joined in the cast by Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro. Top Gun: Maverick hits theaters in 2020 and the Pentagon shortly before that.

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