Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.
Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.
Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment
(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)
The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.
Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.
Expect the unexpected.
What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick
The day you become a supervisor
This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.
The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.
It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.
This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214
Photo via Parade.com
The day you get out
There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.
Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.
Bishop and motion capture actors for EA’s Battlefield4 video game.
Greg Bishop advanced from private in the Army to Lieutenant Colonel, across a spectrum of specialties from Infantry to the Signals Corps and finally to Public Affairs. He had a dream to work in Hollywood when he was young which he fulfilled through his military service. Bishop runs MUSA Consulting now for the entertainment industry advising on different projects. Bishop has produced his own feature Ktown Cowboys and worked on projects such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Battlefield4 and Snitch.
1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I grew up in the suburbs of Louisville, KY, in a normal, all-American, middle-class family and experience. I was the third of four boys, I had loving parents who are still married today. My father, who was a Marine Corps officer and Vietnam Veteran, was tough but a great role model. My mother took great care of us boys and she was our superhero. We grew up in the pre-home-video game era, so we spent most of our time outside, playing sports, riding bikes, chasing girls and getting into normal boyhood trouble complete with skinned knees and elbows, broken bones and hearts.
2. What values were stressed at home?
With my father being a Marine, and having four boys within six years of one another, discipline, hard work and personal responsibility were paramount in the Bishop household. A strong work ethic was instilled in all of us, so all of the Bishop Boys worked as soon as we were big enough to rake leaves, shovel snow, or cut grass. Our family also pretty much had a newspaper delivery dynasty in the neighborhood for several years. All of us delivered papers until we were old enough to have a regular job, and that was back in the days when newspapers were delivered two times a day. Once old enough, we all had after school jobs washing dishes, busing tables, working in fast food, or whatever we could do to make money legally.
We all went to private Catholic high schools and we were expected to pay half of our tuition for the first three years; our parents covered all of it in our senior year. At the time it was tough. My friend’s parents were giving them money for their hobbies and entertainment while I had to work to pay for the things I wanted or wanted to do. My Mom would slide us a couple bucks if she knew we were tight on cash, but for the most part if I wanted to go to the arcade and play video games, those were my quarters going in the machine. I bought my first car at 15 before I even had a driver’s license. It was a lot of work for a kid, but in the end, my parent’s lessons paid off. All of my brothers currently work for themselves in one capacity or another.
3. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
I wasn’t the best student in high school. I had to go to summer school my freshman year, and I think I only had two A’s in my four years…one in Physics and one in Film Appreciation. Don’t ask me to explain that. In my junior year I was cast as an actor in a local educational video on teen suicide. The director allowed me to tag along throughout the production and post-production process. That was my first taste of video production and I really loved it. My senior year, in the film appreciation class, I made a Super-8 movie as the final project, and that’s when I really fell in love with film and video production. I loved the process and everything about it. I knew I needed to go to film school.
Now, there were no film schools in Louisville, so I attended a couple regional colleges for a couple of years, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. I desperately wanted to go to film school. Then one day I saw an Army commercial promoting the GI Bill and the Army College Fund which just so happened to be the amount of money I needed. I went to see a recruiter; told him I wanted the college money and if I was going to join the Army, I also wanted to paint my face green and run through the woods with a gun. I signed up for the infantry and I shipped off to Basic Training February 27, 1989. While at Fort Benning, I was offered the opportunity to apply for Army OCS (Officer Candidate School). I was accepted and made it through OCS. I was commissioned a year and a day after I arrived at Basic Training and spent the first half of my career as an Army Signal Officer serving in Korea, Fort Campbell and Germany. I wasn’t really thrilled with being a Signal Officer.
While at Fort Campbell I met, fell in love and married my amazing wife, and then the Army let me finish my degree through their Degree Completion Program. I got my bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, which is right outside of Fort Campbell. I studied public relations there and did a summer internship in an advertising firm. At this point the film school dreams began to dwindle, but I enjoyed advertising because it was still very creative. So while still serving I took the GMAT, applied for MBA programs, all with the intention of getting out of the Army and going to work in advertising.
I still owed the Army a few years because of the time they gave me to finish my degree, so fast forward a couple of years, in the mid-90’s, I was stationed in Germany and deployed to Bosnia. One day I stumbled on an article in the Stars and Stripes, about Army Advertising, that changed my life. I learned that I could do advertising IN the Army. I loved being a Soldier, I just didn’t like the Signal Corps. I learned I needed to become a public affairs officer to get that job, so after my company command time in the Signal Corps, I transitioned over to Army Public Affairs, and my first job in that career field was with Army Recruiting Command’s Advertising Directorate at Fort Knox.
While stationed at Fort Knox I was accepted into the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program and I went to USC (University of Southern California) where I got my MA in Strategic Public Relations. While there, I learned about this awesome job in LA where a Public Affairs Officer served as the Army’s liaison to the entertainment industry. I really wanted THAT job one day.
While at USC, OIF and OEF started, so after graduating I was assigned to Fort Campbell and deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from ’05-’06. I was one of the first brigade combat team PAOs during the Army’s “Transformation” period. I had a great team, an important mission, and was part of one of the best divisions in the Army. It was a tough but rewarding year.
After Iraq I was assigned as the Deputy PAO for the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown DC. After serving there for a couple of years it was again time for a reassignment. I learned an important lesson from a senior officer once and it was to not just accept any assignment the Army offers you. If you want something, you have to fight for it. I fought very hard to get the PAO job in Hollywood. My branch manager told me that the entertainment office position was open, but he would not fill the slot because the Chief of Public Affairs (2-star general) believed it didn’t need to be filled. I told my branch manager that that position was one of the most important public affairs jobs in the Army, but he assured me the general had made his decision, and it was “final.” I told him that I was going to write a white paper on why it was such a critical position and why I was the right guy for it…I asked him to promise me that he’d read it. He did, and he agreed, but now had to go change the mind of a 2-star general to put me into that position.
The general called me into his office a couple weeks later, told me my white paper made sense and he thanked me for keeping him from making a mistake. I admired him for his humility. He told me to pack my bags, you’re going to Hollywood. A few months later, I was on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and I thought to myself, “Holy shit, the Army got me to Hollywood.” It was a surreal experience. I retired from the Army about 10-years ago and have been working in the entertainment industry ever since.
Bishop with his Drill Sergeant on Basic Training graduation day.
4. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am most proud of just being a soldier and serving. I am proud to represent our country. I’m proud that I began my Army career as a Private First Class with no degree and finished as a Lieutenant Colonel with a master’s degree. My proudest achievement in service was the year I spent in Iraq where I like to say we fought the information war. Serving as a PAO doing media relations with major news agencies was interesting but working with the Iraqi people to set up their own newspapers and media outlets was the most rewarding. I helped Iraqi citizens run their own businesses, instructing them on how to create a revenue model for their newspapers, radio and TV stations. I also helped my two interpreters create a market research company that helped the local government, the U.S. Army and the U.S. State Department understand the concerns and opinions of local Iraqi citizens. We advised the police, fire and government public affairs of what it means to tell their citizens the truth. We were there for the first election in Iraq and I got to be a small part of it. It was an incredible experience.
Bishop (top left) deployed in Bosnia.
5. What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
The military and entertainment business are very similar. I told Michael Bay once that, “you shoot film and we (the Army) shoot bullets, everything else is the same.” People in entertainment might be shocked to hear this, but both industries require teamwork, leadership, planning, and even OPSEC. You deal with fiefdoms, budgets and timelines. Hard work and discipline are key. Understanding the commander’s intent, or the director’s vision, it’s the same. Neither culture suffers fools for very long. Both are meritocracies for the most part. I think it’s more so in the military than in Hollywood, and Hollywood is more nepotistic that the military, even though that exists in both worlds. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll succeed. I knew the Army trained me to be a producer, I just needed to learn the entertainment industry language.
6. What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?
I worked in Hollywood as a soldier and as a civilian. As a soldier, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the most fun. It was a Michael Bay movie, so we blew things up and we fired thousands of rounds on set. We had nearly everything in the Army inventory in that movie. There were so many explosions. We shot live rounds from Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles on set. The set caught on fire a couple times. Everybody was out there putting the fire out. Even Michael Bay had a hose in his hand putting out the fire. Every day was just a blast.
As a civilian, it has to be producing my first movie Ktown Cowboys with my business partner Brian Chung. We took it from script all the way to distribution. It premiered at SWSX (South-by-Southwest) in 2015 and it was a nerve-racking experience having so many strangers watching our film. But there’s nothing more rewarding than watching an audience laugh and enjoy a film that your team made. Finishing a movie is very tough. Making a bad movie is hard, making a great film is almost impossible. The military trained us to face challenges and solve difficult situations. That’s true in a military operation and it’s true in the film business.
MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
The film that Greg produced. Photo credit IMDB.com
7. What was it like transitioning to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in the Entertainment industry for the Army it was harder than you may think. The industry doesn’t have the time to help anybody else achieve their dreams unless it’s a family member. Most people stop returning my phone calls once I no longer “had the keys” to Army helicopters, troops, vehicles, locations, etc.
I knew some people at Electronic Arts who worked on the Battlefield franchise. Working with them was one of our first gigs. One of the early challenges we had was knowing how much to charge for our services. As a Soldier, you work as long as it takes to accomplish the mission and your pay is the same regardless of outside circumstances. There’s really no relationship between pay and time in the military. I remember in one of our early phone calls with EA one of the producers asked us how much we charge for our services. At the time we had no idea what our time and expertise was worth. We threw out a number and the EA guys laughed at us. They literally said, “We can pay you more than that!” Lesson learned.
We probably wasted a lot of money and time starting a business immediately after retirement because we were career military guys and not trained businessmen. We made some mistakes, learned a lot, but we’ve been doing this for more than 10-years now.
One other similarity between Hollywood and the military is both cultures tend to slap labels on people. In the military we literally wear those labels on our uniform. That’s one of the things that always bothered me about the military culture. Promotions and career paths tend to be very rigid and bureaucratic. In the civilian world there are 25-year old CEOs and they’re judged on performance of their leadership and the company. There aren’t any 25-year-old generals. The entertainment industry is similar though because if you’re a consultant, in their mind you’ll always be a consultant. It’s tough to use that role as a stepping stone into something bigger like acting, or directing, or producing.
Our consulting company was essentially our film school. It helped us learn the language of the industry. In 2012 we created our production company, and while our consulting company is still operating and growing, our production company is our primary focus these days.
Bishop working with Norman Lear on Netflix’s reboot of “One Day at a Time”.
Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Photo credit IMDB.com
A screenshot of Battlefield 4. Photo credit imdb.com.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra released in 2009. Photo credit IMDB.com.
8. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
I have a few leadership lessons.
For big challenges, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t let the scope of the challenge intimidate you. Take it on incrementally.
You have to do the work. A lot of young people think accomplishing something is as easy as Googling it. It isn’t. You have to do the work, and oftentimes the work is more difficult than you imagine.
Don’t take “no” for an answer. Write the white paper telling the two-star general he is making a mistake.
Teamwork. It’s critical that you come together to achieve a common mission or objective. You won’t do it alone.
For those getting out of the military soon, I recommend that you find and do something you’re passionate about. Do something that excites you. Do something that will make you look at weekends as a distraction and look forward to Monday mornings. Whatever you are passionate about and love doing, find a way to do it and make money from it. If it doesn’t work, you can always get a government job or contracting job or whatever job other retired military people do.
9. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
In 1927 the first Academy Award for Best Picture went to the Army for a movie called Wings. The military has been part of Hollywood ever since and military stories have always been a part of the DNA of filmmaking and storytelling in Hollywood. For decades Hollywood was patriotic and told mostly pro-American stories portraying our troops against foreign enemies. Yes, it was probably borderline propaganda, but it was a unifying effort from people who loved their country. After the Vietnam War, and even more so after 9/11, most films and television programs about our troops were about fighting their own government, their chain of command or themselves. The politics in the industry shifted along with the way Hollywood portrayed our military. Hollywood struggles with telling authentic stories about our military. It seems we’re mostly portrayed as superheroes or broken mental patients. To answer your question, the only way we can change Hollywood is to do it ourselves. That is the only way it is going to get done authentically. We need to work to become the writers, or producers, or financiers to fund our own content. It’s easier to do that today than it’s ever been, but it’s still extremely difficult.
A scene from Wings in 1927 that won the first Oscar for Best Picture. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Personally, I am most proud of my marriage to my wife of 25 years. She is my life’s purpose. Career wise, building three businesses with my business partner Brian Chung. But I am not done yet, so we will see what comes next.
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.
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.
The 1950s was a game-changing decade for the world of military aviation, especially with the rise of jet propulsion in place of propeller engines. It was in this decade that the U.S. Air Force came close to fielding one of the most advanced (for its time) “super fighters” ever conceived.
Known as the XF-108 Rapier, and designed by North American – also known for producing the widely successful P-51 Mustang – it was equipped to fly at more than three times the speed of sound for long distances, hunting down and destroying marauding Soviet bombers out to drop nuclear weapons on the US and its allies during the Cold War.
The XF-108 would also be able to complement its larger sibling, the XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, which itself was capable of achieving speeds in the Mach 3 range. Though the Valkyrie’s insane speed would be too much for Soviet air defense systems to handle, it wouldn’t hurt having a smaller fighter escort nearby that could keep up with the bomber, just in case enemy fighters made it too close for comfort.
North American sought to make its newest fighter extremely deadly, adding a Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar that was coupled to an infrared search and tracking system. Together, this sensor suite would be able to lock onto and track targets at long ranges with solid accuracy.
The XF-108’s primary weapon was the GAR-9 missile, which had a range of over 100 miles, and could fly at more than six times the speed of sound on its way to its target. The Rapier would carry three of these on an internal rotary launcher in its belly.
To give it speed, the XF-108 would use two General Electric afterburning turbojets that could pump out over 29,300 pounds of force apiece with the afterburners lit. In comparison, an F/A-18 Super Hornet’s two GE F414 turbofan engines can put out only 22,000 pounds of force apiece in burner!
However, the Rapier lost its mission rapidly with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and guided cruise missiles — the latter of which could be launched from surface warships and submarines floating off the coast of the United States. Instead of sending swarms of bombers, all of which could hypothetically be shot down if responded to quickly enough, the USSR could mail nuclear weapons to the US with ICBMs, which were much more difficult to destroy.
Sadly, the Rapier never had a chance to even fly.
In late 1959, by the end of the decade, the program was shelved altogether, having only made it to the mockup stage. In a matter of months, the XF-108 was no more. Its sister plane, the XB-70 would meet a somewhat similar fate in the next decade, and would be retired from flight testing after a fatal and highly publicized accident.
Some of the technology and lessons learned in designing the XF-108 were put to use with a later North American product – the A-5/RA-5 Vigilante, which bears a considerable resemblance to its predecessor. The GAR-9 was also developed further into the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which would later be matured into the AIM-54 Phoenix, deployed with the F-14 Tomcat.
Mach 3-capable fighter jets have long since been relegated to the history books as an unnecessary hope of the past, but with improvements in propulsion technology, it’s very possible that future fighters fielded by the US military might be blessed with such incredible speed.
When most people think of Iowa, they think about cornfields, hog farms, Field of Dreams, and politics. Generally overlooked is the Battle of Credit Island, an island in the Mississippi River, which would host one of the westernmost skirmishes of the war of 1812.
The Louisiana Purchase
After the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the country faced the challenge of establishing control of the Mississippi River. At the time, St. Louis was the northernmost city on the river, and all the territory north of there, the upper Mississippi, was generally controlled by natives. The United States attempted to gain more control in 1808 by establishing Fort Madison (in present-day Fort Madison, IA).
This fort would be abandoned in 1813, however, as it was regularly attacked by Sauk tribes. This led to the U.S. establishing Fort Shelby (located in present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisc). Fort Shelby, however, was captured in 1814 by the British, just months after its establishment, during the Siege of Prairie du Chien.
Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.
American troops would attempt to retake Fort Shelby, mounting an attack with armored keelboats. However, one would become grounded near East Moline Ill., where it was burned by Sauk Indians, forcing another retreat. One more effort would be made to reclaim the fort using armored keelboats, and this time, Major Zachary Taylor would lead the excursion.
Taylor led eight armored vessels up the Mississippi, but due to inclement weather stopped for the night in the vicinity of Pelican Island (a small island just to the north of Credit Island, near modern-day Davenport, Iowa.) Overnight, Sauk warriors waded to Pelican Island, and at daybreak attacked Taylor’s sentries, killing one. The Americans mounted their defense, repelling the natives, only to come under attack from accurate cannon fire, from a nearby British canon. The British and the native warriors would fire on Taylor’s flotilla for the next 45 minutes, with good effect, until Taylor ordered a retreat downriver.
30 to 40 British troops and approximately 800 Native Americans would repel Taylor’s 334 soldiers, and end their ambitions to recapture Fort Shelby. The Americans would not gain control of the upper Mississippi region until after the war in 1815.
The war would come to an end the following winter of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would normalize relations between Britain and the United States and restore borders to their pre-war status. As for Taylor, he continued to climb the military ranks, serving next in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and later in the Mexican-American war. He would be elected 12th President of the United States in 1848, but died of illness in 1850.
The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.
If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.
1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”
Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.
But that’s not what this is about.
I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”
The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.
There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.
Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.
“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”
According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”
That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.
You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.
“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”
It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.
Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!
Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.
I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.
The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.
3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”
This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.
You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.
Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.
So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.
Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.
The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.
Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?
The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.
May as well be terrorists.
Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”
Eating vegetarian is a personal choice and it isn’t for everyone. However, many people find that reducing their meat intake not only improves their health, but that it also helps their wallet, as vegetarian protein foods are often cheaper than animal proteins. Plus, with climate change on the social conscience, new emerging data touts the earth-friendly benefits of reducing our dependency on farm-raised meats.
If, like me, you were raised on “meat and potatoes,” meatless meal planning may leave you scratching your head. And if your family is accustomed to having meat at every meal, they may be resistant to the idea. How can we overcome these obstacles?
First, let’s clarify what is defined as a “vegetarian meal.” It is a meal that does not include any meat, poultry, fish or other seafood. It may also exclude dairy and/or eggs. Lacto-vegetarians include dairy products in their diets, and ovo-vegetarians include eggs in their diets. A vegan meal excludes all forms of animal-derived ingredients, including eggs, dairy products, gelatin, honey, whey, etc. There are more options when preparing vegetarian meals compared with vegan meals since vegan diets restrict more foods.
Because meat and animal products are good sources of important nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12, there is worry that a vegetarian or vegan diet may put one’s health at risk. This is a valid concern, especially if you are not familiar with how to get these nutrients from other sources. But there is no need to fret. With a little research and a proper planning, you can create nutritious, tasty vegetarian or vegan meals.
What are appropriate vegetarian or vegan substitutes that contain these nutrients?
Protein: Vegan sources include nuts, seeds, soy foods (soy milk, tofu, edamame, tempeh), beans, legumes and seitan. Vegetarians may also choose to include dairy products and/or eggs.
Iron: Legumes, many iron-fortified cereals, nuts (especially cashews), leafy green vegetables, and tofu are all vegan friendly options. Vegetarians may also include eggs.
Calcium: Vegan sources include leafy green vegetables (kale, collards, broccoli, spinach) and fortified soy or nut milk. Vegetarians may also choose to include dairy products.
Vitamin B12: Nutritional yeast, nori (dried seaweed), and shitake mushrooms are vegan friendly sources. Eggs and dairy products also contain B12, and may be included in some vegetarian diets.
Vegetarian or vegan cooking can foster creativity in the kitchen. Broccoli and cauliflower can be grilled like steak, eggplant and mushroom can be sautéed to a “meaty” texture, and nuts (combined with a few other ingredients) can be ground down to a gooey, cheese-like consistency. The possibilities are endless, with more recipes being shared each day through platforms like social media.
Try starting with just one meatless meal a week. For recipe ideas, check out these yummy vegetarian dishes from the Phoenix VA!
For more information on vegetarian diets, take a look at this list of myths and facts. Also consider contacting your local VA dietitian (RD) for more information on vegetarian or vegan diets and assistance with meal planning to meet your goals!
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.
Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.
“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”
His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.
This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.
The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.
It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.
The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.
The U.S. Coast Guard has an under-recognized place in World War II history, fighting German spies before the U.S. entered the war and immediately taking on convoy escort duties, weather patrols, and anti-submarine missions after America declared war on the Axis Powers. One of the Coast Guard crews that bravely shouldered the load was the USCGC Campbell which, in icy Atlantic waters, took bold action to finish off a German U-boat that attempted to attack it.
Crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell pose with their mascot, Sinbad, in World War II.
(U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)
The Campbell was part of a class of 327-foot Coast Guard cutters specially designed for high-speed service on the high seas. It spent much of World War II protecting convoys and, in February 1943, was one of the escorts for Convoy ON-166. This was before the bulk of German submarines were chased from the Atlantic in “Black May,” and the wolf packs were on the prowl to cut off supplies to Europe and starve Britain into submission.
The Campbell’s involvement started with rescuing 50 merchant mariners from the water. It had to dodge a German torpedo during the rescue, and then it pressed the attack against U-753, heavily damaging it and forcing its withdrawal. It spent the rest of the night driving off German U-boats until it finally attempted to get back to the convoy.
Crewmembers load a Mk. VII depth charge onto the HMS Dianthus, another escort of ON-166, during World War II.
(Imperial War Museums)
In the pre-dawn darkness, Campbell was 40 miles behind the convoy, essentially alone and attempting to catch up and help kill more German submarines. But then a shape emerged from the inky blackness. U-606 was bringing the fight to the Campbell and attempting to engage it before it could meet up with the convoy.
U-606 had three kills to its name, including two ships of ON-166. But it had been damaged while sinking those earlier ships, and attacking the Campbell was a greedy and potentially risky move. Attacking from the surface exposed its position to the American crew and would allow the Campbell to employ its gun crews as well as depth charges.
When the Campbell spotted the sub, it went one step further. Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield ordered a ramming maneuver, swinging the ship about to slam its hull against the submarine.
The Campbell’s bold maneuver came at a cost, though, as the side plating ruptured and salt water began to pour in. Cmdr. Kenneth K. Cowart supervised damage control while also helping to ensure that sufficient engine power was on hand for the continued maneuvering and fighting.
Meanwhile, on the deck, the men controlling the depth charges had managed to drop two during the ram, damaging U-606 further. And deck gun crews began pouring fire onto the stricken sub, attempting to disable or kill it before it could unleash its own deadly barrage against the cutter.
In this melee, an all-Black gun crew of a three-inch gun battery distinguished itself for bravery, accurately concentrating its damage on the sub’s deck and conning tower.
He led the remaining crew through four days of damage control without engine power before finally receiving a tow back to port for repairs. The Campbell survived the war. Hirshfield received the Navy Cross for his actions, and Cowart and Cmdr. Bret H. Brallier received Silver Stars for their parts in saving the cutter.
Louis Etheridge, the man who led that all-Black gun crew on the three-inch battery, later received a Bronze Star for his work that February.
Two naval officers facing courts-martial following a fatal ship collision that killed seven sailors will have their charges dropped, Navy officials announced late April 10, 2019.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will withdraw and dismiss charges against Cmdr. Bryce Benson and Lt. Natalie Combs, ending a years-long legal battle following the 2017 collision between the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan.
Benson was the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer at the time and Combs the tactical action officer. Navy Times first reported that Richardson would drop the charges on April 10, 2019.
“This decision is in the best interest of the Navy, the families of the Fitzgerald Sailors, and the procedural rights of the accused officers,” a Navy news release states. “Both officers were previously dismissed from their jobs and received non-judicial punishment.”
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer will issue letters of censure to Benson and Combs, the release adds. Those reprimands are likely to end the officers’ Navy careers.
Damage to USS Fitzgerald.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Benson and Combs faced charges of dereliction of duty through neglect, resulting in death and improper hazarding of a vessel. Navy officials had at one point considered negligent homicide charges against Benson and two junior officers, but the decision to pursue them was later dropped.
A series of in-depth reports on the collision and the lead-up to it by ProPublica, a nonprofit that produces investigative journalism, revealed years of warning signs about the surface fleet’s readiness had been ignored by top Navy leaders.
The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers to suffer deadly collisions in the Pacific that year. Ten more sailors were killed two months after the Fitzgerald accident when the destroyer John S. McCaincollided with a merchant ship off the coast of Singapore.
The deadly accidents led to a host of overhauls to Navy training and processes that were designed to prevent future tragedies. On April 10, 2019, Spencer told members of Congress that of the 111 recommendations made following the collisions, 91 have been adjudicated and 83 implemented.
The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
Navy leaders will continue to do everything possible to improve readiness and training to ensure those programs remains on track, according to the statement released April 10, 2019.
“The Navy continues to strive to achieve and maintain a climate of operational excellence,” it says.
David Sheldon, Combs’ attorney, told Navy Times that the service’s failed policies and leadership ultimately led to the Fitzgerald tragedy.
“The responsibility for this tragedy lies not on the shoulders of this junior officer, but on the unrelenting deployment schedule demanded of Navy commanders and the operational tempo demanded by Navy leadership and this administration,” he told the paper. “Until these shortcomings are addressed, the losses of those talented, young sailors will be in vain.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The film Black Hawk Down has left an indelible mark in the minds of United States military members and gun enthusiasts alike. The movie recounts the story of Operation Gothic Serpent, involving the Task Force Ranger mission on Oct. 3 and 4, 1993. Released mere months after Sept. 11, it was one of the first film depictions of urban combat in a post-Operation Desert Storm world.
Firearms for the film were provided by lead armorer Simon Atherton (whose film credits include The Killing Fields, Aliens, and Saving Private Ryan) with the assistance of U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. veteran and military film advisor Harry Humphries.
When discussing film props, the term “hero” is used to describe the main prop weapons used by the lead characters in the film. Hero props are frequently used in close-ups and often garner the most screen time, becoming publicly recognizable or sometimes iconic.
Ironically, many of the M16s and CAR-15s used on screen were actually built as an export variation of the Colt M16. Simon Atherton, Black Hawk Down lead armorer and owner of Zorg Limited, provided examples of M16s and CAR-15s used in the movie. The CAR-15, notably, was configured with components used on the backup Gary Gordon hero prop rifle.
The blank-firing M16A2 (top) was an export M16A2 from Guatemala manufactured by Colt and redressed for The Green Zone. The rubber dummy prop (bottom) was used in the production of Black Hawk Down and carries the distinctive green duct tape used to recreate the Rangers’ weapons.
The blank-firing M16A2 in these photos was, in our best estimate, used as a Third Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment rifle. It’s nearly identical to the rifle carried by real-life Ranger Matt Eversmann, played on screen by Josh Hartnett. The Ranger M16s were ex-Guatemalan military M16A2s fitted with slings secured with green duct tape. The blank-firing M16 has been photographed, for comparison, with one of the rubber dummy rifles, still configured as used on set for Black Hawk Down.
The Guatemalan export M16A2 was configured with the M16A1 style lower emblazoned with Colt M16A2 roll marks as pictured. The fire control group markings were stamped on both sides of the lower (which is the common configurations for M16A2s) but with a BURST marking replacing the more common AUTO marking.
The rubber dummy prop M16 shows the on-screen configuration for Ranger M16s. Although the dummy’s M16A1 “slab side” lower is slightly different than the blank-firing prop — cast from a civilian Colt HBAR Sporter — it’s similar enough to pass unnoticed to most viewers.
Most CAR-15 rifles were modified M16A2 rifles. This barrel was cut to approximately 10 inches and the front sight post was moved back to accommodate the modified handguards, while retaining the traditional triangular M16A2 handguard cap.
(Photo by Jon Davey)
After receiving the M16s, Atherton’s team converted many of the ex-Guatemalan Colt M16A2s into CAR-15s. The Gordon CAR-15 blank-firing prop is the most iconic weapon in the film. Chris Atherton, Simon Atherton’s son and Zorg employee, was able to immediately locate the last known surviving Gary Gordon hero blank-firing prop CAR-15.
Master Sergeant Gary Gordon’s Colt Model 723 was represented in the film by a Guatemalan export Colt M16A2 modified into a carbine configuration similar to a Colt Model 727. The most significant visual difference between the Colt 723 and Colt 727 is in the rear sights. The Colt 723 uses an M16A1 sight, while the Colt 727 is fitted with a blockier “movable” sight.
To produce the prop, the M16’s 20-inch barrel was cut to approximately 10 inches and the front sight post was moved back. A commercial two-position buffer tube and stock were also added. A 5-inch section of the center of the M16A2 handguard was removed to construct improvised carbine handguards. As a result, the handguards have eight holes (instead of the six- or seven-hole handguards found on production 723 and 727 carbines). This rifle, and many other of Atherton’s CAR-15s, retained the triangular M16A2 handguard cap instead of the circular handguard cap found on Colt-produced carbines.
The Gordon blank-firing prop (top) is fitted with a commercial stock and fake suppressor that carry the original paint scheme used during production. The rifle was subsequently used as the on-screen hero prop in Blood Diamond. The live-fire replica, manufactured by Enhanced Tactical Arms, (bottom) features a fully functional OPS Inc suppressor. The image of the semi-auto replica has been Photoshopped with BURST fire control markings and a full auto sear.
Analysis failed to confirm that the specific stock and dummy suppressor in the photos appeared on screen, but the paint scheme on those components leaves no doubt that those parts were used on an authentic Gordon hero prop. Although it’s impossible to confirm that the CAR-15 pictured was one of the Gordon hero rifles, it has been confirmed that this weapon was later used by Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. The Zorg staff indicated that the rifle may have been repainted in the current tan paint scheme for the film The Green Zone.
The 8-hole CAR-15 handguards were manufactured from full-length M16A2 handguards when many of the M16A2s were configured into the CAR-15 configuration.
This CAR-15, manufactured by Enhanced Tactical Arms in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a replica of the on-screen prop representing Master Sergeant Gary Gordon’s CAR-15 — a replica of a replica, as it were. These images were Photoshopped to represent the rifle in its Class III configuration. The replica is fitted with an Aimpoint CompM red dot optic.
The ETAC Arms live-fire replica is equipped with an 8-hole carbine handguard constructed from an M16A2 full-length handguard and a Surefire tactical light. The duct tape and zip tie matches the configuration shown in the film.
Although Aimpoint 3000 and 5000 optics were used during the real-life operation, they were out of production by 2001. Filmmakers selected the CompM, fitted on a B-Square Mount with a 30mm Weaver split ring mount, as a substitute. The dummy suppressor used on the hero prop wasn’t available, so an OPS Inc. suppressor was used in its place. Although Zorg provided access to the Gordon CAR-15 prop, they indicated that the props used to represent Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart’s M14 were rented from Gibbons Limited and returned after filming.
Gibbons sold the eight MDL.M1As to Independent Studio Services in 2008 or 2009. The ISS armory staff indicated that it was likely that the two tan weapons were used as the hero props in filming. Photo analysis by William DeMolee indicates that it is likely that the top MDL.M1A, which is equipped with a Leatherwood scope, was the hero prop used in close-ups. The live-fire replica was painted to match onset production photos and screenshots by Augee Kim.
Mike Gibbons, owner of Gibbons Limited Entertainment Armory provided eight Federal Ordinance MDL.M1A rifles to the production. Mike revealed that the weapons used to represent Shughart’s M14 were sold to Independent Studio Services between 2008 and 2009. Kate Atherton from Zorg provided specific serial numbers for the eight weapons used in the production. Travis Pierce, Enhanced Tactical Arms M14 Subject Matter Expert, then used these serial numbers to determine that most of the rifles were produced in the ’90s.
The fire control selector switch cutouts on the tan Federal Ordinance MDL.M1A have been filled in and the external surfaces refinished. Almost all traces of spray paint had been removed.
The reproduction Shughart M14 film prop is an M1A built on an LBR Arms receiver with primarily USGI Winchester parts. It was originally assembled by M14 enthusiast Cody Vaughan and then reconfigured to match the film prop by Enhanced Tactical Arms with an ARMS 18 scope mount, Aimpoint CompM red dot optic, M1907 sling, and given a screen-matching camouflage pattern by Enhanced Tactical Arms retro firearms expert Augee Kim.
The Norm “Hoot” Gibson CAR-15 rubber dummy prop, built as a rubber stand-in for Eric Bana’s blank-firing carbine, is an iconic prop worthy of special attention. The rubber dummy, cast from a semi-auto Colt AR-15A2 Carbine with a removable carry handle, was used on-screen in the close-up of the “This is my safety” scene. The prop was weathered with water-soluble aging spray and is fitted with a sling constructed from a piece of strap taken from a parachute lowering line assembly, looped through 550 cord and secured with black polycloth laminate tape.
These include the type of handguard, delta ring, castle nut, stock, lower, and carry handle configuration. The lighting and camera angle make the differences difficult to detect as the story unfolds.
The live-firing prop replica, constructed by Enhanced Tactical Arms, was created using screenshots from the film, production photos, and the Hoot rubber dummy carbine as references. Although the Colt Gray lower on the Hoot CAR-15 appears to be an export M16A2, the black upper is distinctive. The Hoot blank-firing CAR-15 is configured with a 14.5-inch barrel, six-hole handguard, circular handguard cap, flat delta ring, and M16A1 birdcage flash hider.
The Hoot replica, which is similar in general configuration to a Colt 727, weighs in at slightly over 6 pounds and is as reliable and accurate as a modern M4. The helmet, goggles, and American flag were props used during production in 2001.
When we asked Mr. Atherton if the rifles used in the film were painted using an airbrush he laughed, indicating that the rifles were painted quickly, using techniques recommended by military advisor Harry Humphries.
The Hoot character is reported to be a composite of several Special Forces veterans involved in Operation Gothic Serpent.
Black Hawk Down is one of the first films to capture post-Vietnam warfare in a realistic manner and set the standard for how modern warfare (and weapons) would be represented in film. When discussing the long-term impact of the film in a 2013 interview, First Sergeant Matt Eversmann (U.S. Army, retired) stated, “…what I’ve found over the last decade is that, there are a lot of folks that really aren’t touched by the war on terror … watch Black Hawk Down and you have a really fair, accurate, and pretty authentic view of what urban combat is like … it is the reference point, both the book and the movie, that people are going to look at when they talk about getting involved in these type of conflicts in these countries we’ve never heard of …”
This endorsement, in conjunction with the pair of Academy Awards earned in 2002, illustrates why the film continues to receive praise from many film aficionados and military veterans nearly two decades after its release.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
A female National Guard soldier is set to graduate and don the coveted Green Beret at the end of the month. SOFREP has learned that she passed Robin Sage, a unique Unconventional Warfare exercise and the culminating event in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), earlier this week.
This marks a significant milestone for women across the force. She will be the first woman to have successfully completed a Special Operations pipeline and join and an operational team since President Obama opened all jobs within the military to women.
The graduation at the end of the month definitely will not be typical. Because of this historic milestone, graduation will be held in a closed hangar to conceal her identity. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C) with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, the female soldier has big hopes of going active duty. However, her warm welcome may not be as welcome as she may like.
Just over five feet tall, her walking into a Special Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team room will not be high fives and handshakes. Culture takes time to adapt to change. There are plenty of older generations still within the Regiment that believe there’s no place for a woman on a team. However, when talking to newer graduates, they accept it, if she can pass the same standards. So did the new graduate pass with the same standards? All reports indicate yes. She did, however, have her fair of challenges, recycling at least one phase.
For personal security reasons, SOFREP is withholding her identity.
While this is an incredible feat, she won’t be the first. Captain Kathleen Wilder became the first woman to be eligible for the Army’s Special Forces in the 1980s (the selection was somewhat different back then). Captain Wilder attended the Officers Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg but was told just before graduation that she had failed a field exercise and could not be a candidate for the military’s premier Unconventional Warfare unit. She filed a complaint of gender discrimination. Brigadier General F. Cecil Adams, who investigated it, determined that she had been wrongly denied graduation. No reports were found on whether or not she ever graduated.
Additionally, in the 1970s, Specialist Katie McBrayer, an intelligence analyst, had served with Blue Light, a Special Forces counterterrorism element before the creation of Delta Force, in an operational role. She hadn’t graduated the Q Course, however.
Delta Force and other units Tier 1 units have been recruiting women for a variety of roles for decades. So what took the SF Regiment so long? Well for one, combat fields were previously closed to females. However at Group, since 2016, women have been working at the Battalion level. So to walk around Battalion these days and see women is now a very normal thing. And these roles could be right beside the operators while deployed as mechanics, SOT-As, intel, and now as actual operators themselves. So watch out Fort Bragg, you soon may see this woman wearing a long tab.