Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.

It’s a new year and one of the many resolutions people tend to make is to ‘read more!’ What should you be reading?

With all the choices of books and genres out there finding the right book or series can be a challenge. If you or your loved ones are into military fiction or thrillers, the team here at We Are The Mighty have your back with three very solid book recommendations which we’re sure you will enjoy.


Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

First up is Nathan’s Run by prolific author and New York Time’s bestseller John Gilstrap. Nathan’s Run is John’s first published work which launched a successful career spanning twenty books. John is best known for his ‘Johnathan Graves’ series, a ten book series about a former Delta operative running an independent hostage rescue firm, which has garnered praise from other authors and reviewers alike. He clearly knows how to spin a good tale.

Nathan’s Run is a retelling of the ‘Fugitive’ tale, except the fugitive in this case is a scared but resourceful twelve-year-old boy who is pursued by an overly ambitious District Attorney, law enforcement officers who believe Nathan is a murderer, a villainous mob enforcer, and a weary and emotionally wounded Detective playing a hunch. The book starts off ‘small’ but the story soon blossoms into a nation-wide obsession as the stakes get higher every hour Nathan remains at large.

The author has a unique background as a fire-fighter and safety inspector, not military or law enforcement, but he has a knack for finding the right mix of detail and storytelling to create a book which was quite cinematic. It didn’t take me long to become emotionally invested and start rooting for Nathan. I wager those willing to give the novel a chance will be pulling for him as well.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Next is Northern Thunder by Anderson Harp. Northern Thunder is the first book of a newer series – currently three books – featuring Will Parker, a small-town Georgia prosecutor and former Marine special operations veteran. There is trouble in North Korea, and Will’s background and ‘specific skills’ makes him uniquely suited to go into North Korea in a high stakes covert mission. Complications ensue and what should be a straight-forward mission turns in a deadly struggle for survival.

Northern Thunder has a ‘Dirty Dozen’ kind of vibe to it as a good portion of the book is taken up with descriptions of Will and his team’s training for the mission, interspaced with peripheral dramas that ultimately feed into the central storyline. The book is filled with intricate details of military gear, jargon and culture, and survival skills informed by Anderson’s long history in the Marine Corps honing his craft. Ultimately this book is highly recommended for those who like their military fiction detailed and tradecraft heavy.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

The final recommendation is Active Measures by Marc Cameron, the eighth book of his long running Jericho Quinn series. Marc is a former United States Marshal and a New York Times bestselling author, penning the popular Jack Ryan series set in the extended Tom Clancy universe.

The Jericho Quinn series, despite the military background of its central character, is more espionage and spy craft than special operations raids. The latest book sees Quinn and his companions in Havana, Cuba trying to stop a madman with a nuclear missile. The Jericho Quinn books feature a host of real-life bad folks ranging from Russians to Cartel guys going full Bond villain, with increasingly intricate and dastardly plots to destroy the United States and/or do evil. Active Measures can be read as a stand-alone, but there is a lot of fan service written to satisfy long time readers of the series. If your reader likes this book, they can always go back to the beginning to find the origins of this interesting cast of characters.

Have a safe and joyful holiday season and keep reading!

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments above on the novels are his own.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fake soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie got the boot from Berlin

The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.


The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.

One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.

(Blake Stilwell)

Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.

Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

U.S. Department of Education proposes big changes to distance learning

If you have ever run into a situation in which you asked yourself, “What rule? How could someone think that was a good idea? Why was I not told?” you can now offer your comments for an upcoming rule.

You may have experienced distance learning during your military service or know someone who has. As such, you can provide valuable insight into a proposed rule, Distance Education and Innovation, which will likely affect service members’ online schooling worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has published a proposed set of rules that will significantly affect distance learning for service members and their families enrolled in post-secondary educational programs. The public comment period for your valuable insight closes May 4, 2020, at 11:59 PM ET. If, after reading, you feel you would like to share your thoughts, you can do so here. Following the comment period, the Department will publish a final regulation before November 1, 2020.

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Distance Education and Innovation, the Department has proffered many changes to current educational policies from how universities define their curricula to how regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors is defined. Most importantly, educational institutions with proven track records will benefit from a streamlined approval from the Secretary for the first direct assessment program offered by the school.
Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

What this means for service members

In the coming months, service members will likely see a rapid expansion of new online schools and online programs — also, advertisements for newly G.I. Bill-approved schools will appear on social media platforms everywhere. Also, a more comprehensive array of applications will be made accessible to members of the military and veterans. This is excellent news for members of the military bouncing from state to state and country to country, where some traditional universities’ programs cannot follow due to their accreditors’ archaic and arguably avaricious policies.

For example, in response to one of its student’s military-related mobilization, a servicemember’s military friendly school may state, “You want us to record your classes? That’s too much of a burden. You volunteered to deploy, that is not the university’s problem.” Thus, the traditional university, under the guise of its federal and state regulations, may deny a student-soldier’s request for accommodation and defer to its accreditation standards in its defense.

Conversely, the non-traditional university, better equipped, may see a mobilization of a Reserve or National Guard soldier as a straightforward situation to accommodate because, fundamentally, the online university is best positioned to handle the unique circumstances that affect service members and civilians alike. As an example, the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing traditional students to stay at home, has driven student-soldiers nationwide to temporarily drop their textbooks and, instead, get into their uniforms. Thus, student-soldiers’ statuses and VA-payments may be negatively affected.

Despite the proposed set of rules accommodations for non-traditional students, the rapid development of the rule itself – the process – may be cause for concern.

Criticism of the Rule

According to William J. Zee, partner and chair of the Education Law group at Barley Snyder, LLC., a strategically focused, full-service law firm representing businesses, organizations, and individuals in all major areas of civil law, “Critics believe it is worrisome that these regulations were proposed at the same time the biggest commentators – namely higher education institutions – are busy trying to institute distance learning in the face of COVID-19 and do not have enough time to fully digest and comment on the proposed regulations.”

Critics’ concerns about the rapidity of this Rule’s development are supported by a seemingly absent involvement of traditional universities within the Department’s “months-long negotiated rulemaking effort” that constituted public hearings and engagement from education-subject matter. See generally Notice, DoED, 2020 at 1.

Also, Sharon L. Dunn, PT, Ph.D., president, American Physical Therapy Association, stated publicly, “. . . changing the accreditation requirements, process, or standards for purely programmatic accreditors could cause lasting damaging effects.” See Public Comment, APTA, September 14, 2018.

Thus, the Department’s shift towards programmatic accreditation standards may mean damaging effects on educational institutions relying more on institutional accreditation, and an outcome possibly welcomed by some in the military community.

Support for the Rule

Mr. Zee, continued, “On the other hand, the proposed distance learning regulations could prove positive for current active military servicemen and women who have the possibility of being deployed while obtaining some sort of degree. These regulations propose to broaden the ability for institutions to better use technology and serve the classes of people who may not be in a traditional school setting. These regulations call for more use of technology, a broader acceptance of distance learning, and a recognition that the method of obtaining credentialing isn’t as important as the end result.”

In addition, Blake Johnson, a first-year law student, stated publicly, “This is a very important move toward protecting the student . . . First year itself is difficult and presents an educational challenge unlike any I’ve faced before. That being said, I was getting used to the in-person socratic lectures. That’s all gone. The ABA (American Bar Association) is stringent on their allowance of distance learning. This current situation has seen an unprecedented move in which the ABA allowed for students to not only go ‘online’ but also allowed for a trend towards Pass/Fail type grading. This proposed rule allows for a relaxed and more accommodative approach to education and factors in the issues associated with the current [COVID-19] pandemic.” See Public Comment, April 15, 2020.

Thus, more significant innovation in distance learning could prove beneficial to members of the military.

Author’s Public Comment and Concerns

This author will be specifically addressing administrative remedies in his public comment to the Federal Register.

Because of the extraordinary degree of speed by which the Department has rollbacked regulations in its Proposed Rule, student-soldiers could be at higher risk of exposure to misrepresentation and fraud.

Addressing this author’s concern, the Department generally states, “These proposed regulations attempt to limit risks to students and taxpayers resulting from innovation by delegating various oversight functions to the bodies best suited to conduct that oversight—States and accreditors. This delegation of authority through the higher education regulatory triad entrusts oversight of most consumer protections to States, assurance of academic quality to accrediting agencies, and protection of taxpayer funds to the Department.” See Proposed Rule, DoED.

In laymen’s terms, the Department is passing the buck to State regulators such as the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, for example, a state agency charged with the duty of assuring academic quality in Massachusetts.

The problem with such delegation is (1) many state regulators are hyper-focused on targeting for-profit institutions and politically incentivized to protect non-profits, and (2) there are very few remedies for student-soldiers facing disputes with their universities, regardless of the school’s tax status. Frequently, military commanders cite the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA, a federal employment law, in response to their student-soldiers’ concerns with missing classes due to drill or deployments.

Expect to see a Public Comment from this author very soon that will advocate for the inclusion of protective language to the Department’s Proposed Rule modifying eligibility to ensure student-soldiers are given big sticks to augment their respectful, soft voices in the classroom.

The metaphorical equivalent of a student-soldier’s attempt to resolve a dispute with their non-profit university would be like an attempt to sue God. The cards are stacked unfairly in favor of universities nationwide, and, in closing, for those who believe non-profit universities to be a fragile, delicate butterflies, worthy of extraordinary deference by state regulators, please research universities’ publicly available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990(s).

Call to Action

After reviewing the Department’s Tips for Submitting Comments, submit your comments through the Department’s Rulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. The Department will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that the Department does not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID [ED-2018-OPE-0076-0845] at the top of your comments. If you are submitting comments electronically, the Department strongly encourages you to submit any comments or attachments in Microsoft Word format.

If you must submit a comment in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), the Department strongly encourages you to convert the PDF to print-to-PDF format or to use some other commonly used searchable text format. Please do not submit the PDF in a scanned format. Using a print-to-PDF format allows the Department to electronically search and copy certain portions of your submissions.

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket is available on the site under ”Help.” See 18638 Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 64. Thursday, April 2, 2020, Proposed Rules. at 1.

Attending a Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Educational Institution 

A common misconception about non-profit educational institutions is that they cannot, by definition, be predatory. In an online document concerning non-profits, last updated February 2018 by Pasadena City College (PCC), a non-profit educational institution, PCC states, “None are predatory, but have varying success rates – students should research institutions carefully applying.” See Document at 2. In its blanket immunity declaration, PCC also highlights the importance of carefully researching educational institutions’ successes, which can be intentionally elusive to some consumers.

A more in-depth article addressing the logical fallacy behind blanket immunity granted to non-profits is discussed further in These Colleges Say They’re Non-profit—But Are They?, written by Robert Shireman, Director of Higher Education Excellence and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation. If further clarification is needed on what it means for an educational institution to be predatory, the Federal Trade Commission, in concert with many State Attorneys General, maintains publicly available reports and cases that define bad actors’ deceptions of consumers in areas ranging from aviation to wine and beer.

According to Mr. Zee, “For-profit institutions have been preying on the education of current soldiers and veterans because their GI Bill does not go toward the for-profit institutions’ 90/10 limit of federal funding. For-profit institutions have been caught deceiving prospects into believing they are actually non-profit institutions, and many soldiers have been negatively impacted, as they are seeking a non-traditional method of schooling.”

In deciding whether to attend a non-profit or for-profit educational institution consider this, enrolling at an institution of higher learning through an online portal provided by the bursar’s office may not feel the same as removing a wrinkled dollar bill from a tired, leather wallet, handing it to a cashier across a counter, and receiving a delicious chocolate candy bar unwrapped in return. Still, it is a financial transaction just the same. Students are consumers of educational services provided by companies, whether the U.S. Internal Revenue Service sees them as 501c3 or not.

Measure of a Post-Secondary Educational Institution’s Success

It is generally easy to discern the success of teaching a child to play catch, the child either catches the ball, or they do not catch the ball. However, some may take the view that the measure of success is instead the child reaching to catch it. The attempt itself is worthy of some admiration, an ideal not lost to many.

However, an attempt to catch the ball is categorically not a success, determined by many programmatic-accreditation bodies, an example of which would be the American Bar Association. One either passes the bar exam or does not pass. Likewise, one either passes their State’s medical board or they do not. The ramifications of either determine whether one will be permitted to practice law or medicine, an ideal we value for the professionals charged with the duties of either keeping us out of prison or alive on the operating table.

Conversely, to an institutional-accreditation body, a child may be the next Jason Varitek despite missing the ball and landing on his or her face. An institutional-accreditation authority is not so concerned whether the child catches the ball, it is concerned with what the ball is made of, how fast it was thrown, and whether the child was the intended recipient. In other words, institutional-accreditation bodies are more concerned with the educational process, the number of students per class, than the result, the number of students working in their desired field. An accredited university can retain its accreditation by solely focusing its business decision-making process on an extensive gamut of unique gradable metrics, rather than merely one: whether its graduates obtained jobs.

In its Notice, the Department “call[s] for institutions, educators, and policymakers to ‘rethink higher education’ and find new ways to expand educational opportunity, demonstrate the value of a post-secondary credential and lifelong learning, and reduce costs for students, schools, and taxpayers. See Factsheet (emphasis added).

What is a CFR?

CFR is short for a Code of Federal Regulation, more amicably known as administrative law by members of the legal community. Administrative law is unique because it is technologically complicated. For example, Lawyers and Judges typically do not enjoy defining what is or is not the correct way to fly an airplane.

Hence, a federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, filled to the seams with aviation experts, defines the technical means to fly an aircraft correctly. Likewise, other areas of specialization like immigration or education are governed by administrative rules, ultimately guided by the federal, executive branch of government.

In this instance, the Department’s change to the CFR will result in a cascading effect on how the education sector conducts its education-business – or for the FAA, flies a plane. However, unlike flying a plane, which arguably has a clear right and wrong way of doing it – up or down, education has its unique nuance. For example, a law student, activated for a combat military deployment – yet with access to computers, may

As a valued reader of We Are the Mighty, you may know or be a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Marine, or Coast Guardsman who balanced online, distance learning with their military service. Please, share your insight on what you think of the Department of Education’s proposed rules.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.

Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.


In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.

Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.

“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”

Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.

“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”

Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.

Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading.
“Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”

It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.

“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”

When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless.
“I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”

Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.

Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.

“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”

From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.

“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.

Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.

“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”

When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.

“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”

His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct.
Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”

The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ruck ‘N’ Run honors those who served

When was the last time you sat around the campfire with civilians who support the military, current military personnel serving in our armed forces as well as our veteran community to share like-minded stories, help support each other and bring honor to those who served? Well, if you said never, then now is your chance. Ruck ‘N’ Run®, created by Army Drill Sergeant George Fuller, wants you to know that if your interest is in uniting with those who stand behind veterans, raise money for those in need and reduce the over-commercialization of current military holidays that may have lost some of their message, you can now be a part of providing help. “We all race together and then celebrate our hard work together around the fire pit,” Fuller said. “It’s a big part of our logo and very unique to our events.”

Ruck ‘N’ Run was born out of a desire to Honor, Build and Connect, or HBC for short. “We honor those who served, build camaraderie and connect the community and do so through challenges, events and gatherings that help to support a good cause.” Those who participate in either the annual event or the monthly challenges that take place both physically and virtually, have the ability to complete challenges, earn awards, and most importantly, become connected with those who support the mission.


“Our annual boot camp inspired walk/run allows the general public to interact with those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Fuller explained. “This is our original and main event held on the Saturday before Veterans Day, on location in Republic, MO.” Our Shadow (virtual) events allow the world to participate”. Honor, Build and Connect, was created to bring those in the military a reminder of why we serve, but also to our veterans the ability to further connect with those both in and outside of the military as well as connect the communities in a way not seen before in other events. “We connect the community through fun, motivating, yet challenging events,” Fuller said. “We also connect the community for a greater purpose and one that is in need now more than ever.”

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Raising funds for the “In Their Honor” fund helps to provide assistance to families of U.S. service members that pass away. This can help offset the cost of food, lodging, transportation and other unforeseen, incurred expenses. This is different than any other form of military assistance or aid provided today and one that sets Ruck ‘N’ Run as a front runner in aiding veterans in need. While the worldwide pandemic looms on, there are still those who serve and need our help. “As we continue to support our nation abroad, there are those who make the ultimate sacrifice and we need to help the families get back on their feet during these times.”

While we are able to raise money to help and bring about more focus to this need, the ability to gather has diminished greatly and we need to be aware that these needs still exist. With the expansion and growth of our monthly virtual offerings and shadow events to include new team based challenges, we have been able to raise considerably more money and awareness but there is always more help that is needed. “As more and more people seek online ways to help, the ability to join a Ruck ‘N’ Run event and be able to Honor, Build and Connect has become even easier as we have expanded our offerings of challenges which will not only help to honor those who served, but raise funds to help families for the ‘In Their Honor’ fund. Most importantly, it offers a way to stay (and remain) connected to active military, veterans and civilians looking to build, help and support each other,” Fuller said. “Please consider joining our mission; we look forward to connecting with you”.

If you are interested in joining an event with Ruck ‘N’ Run®, visit the website for more details.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
MIGHTY MOVIES

How to tell your story from the heart: An interview with Norberto Barba

Norberto Barba is a well-established TV producer, director and writer, and he’s a U.S. Army veteran. His career began directing independent films which led him to breaking into the TV industry on the show “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” He is proud of his Cuban heritage and family’s cultural influence on his life.


Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?

I grew up in the Bronx, NY, where I am first generation as my parents came from Cuba in 1960. We grew up very humbly with six of us in an apartment. We had been evicted from a couple of apartments growing up. Although we did not have much in material possessions, my parents instilled a drive for excellence in us. There was a love of education and discipline in our family. My siblings are all highly educated with master’s degrees, which is a testament to my parents as we have all become successful.

The neighborhood was an interesting place and we lived in the Bronx during the “Bronx is Burning” period where it was rough. I went to Regis High School in NYC, which is one of the top five high schools in the country, where upon acceptance I got a free ride I was accepted into Columbia where I had an interest in pursuing medicine. I had done a lot of theater in high school which weighed in on the decision for me to study film instead. I studied film at Columbia for two years, mostly graduate courses and transferred to USC where it was all “hands on.” My next stop was at AFI where it was all story and character.

WATM: What is your most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother worked hard as a seamstress and embroidery work. She did that for over 30 years. My father had a strong work ethic as well. They got to see all three of us succeed. They started from scratch and sacrificed for the next generation. They were highly successful in sacrificing so we as children could succeed in the US.

I went to Cuba in 1992 for a film festival and then went back in 2000 to take my mom who hadn’t been back since she had left. It was a heartfelt experience with her.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

Self-sufficiency and that we were capable of anything if we set our minds to it. Education was the driving factor as well. With the little they had they made sure I had piano lessons, the latest encyclopedia and we were reading at an early age. They knew the power of our future would be based on education, discipline, self-belief, hard work, and determination. They taught us not to give up. The bar was set very high and there was an expectation of excellence. Having a “drive” is a very Cuban culture trait. Cubans are one of the most successful immigrant groups based on a solid value system. Family was stressed and important in life.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

Through college I worked consistently where I bar tended and worked at a Broadway theater on weekends while at Columbia. Between USC and AFI I recognized my need for help with my student loans where the military had a program to help pay them back. I enlisted in the Army Reserve and did Basic Training at Fort Sill, OK. I placed into the advanced courses and was a 25P for my specialty. I did my weekend a month at Los Alamitos by Long Beach. They would ask me if I was available to film a conference or a documentary which sometimes, I was. I did Basic Training right after the Panama conflict and then was in the Reserves during Desert Storm and Kosovo.

I met a lifelong friend while in the service and I do not regret having joined. They did make it difficult to get the Army to pay back my student loans where I never got what was owed to me. There was a lot of red tape in the student loan repayment process. They only were paying back the federal loans I had taken out. It seemed the Army was not used to paying back Ivy league types of expenditures. The expense of education is one of the drawbacks of going for higher degrees and training in the US.

I thought back to my time before entering the Army and what I was experiencing when I joined. There were no prospects where my dream was to be a director. I was burnt out of the part time jobs, temping and driving a taxi. I had the desire to do the Army and liked the idea of the discipline. I wanted a life experience and so I went. I liked the group of guys we put together out of the 306th Psychological Operations Company. We would mount radio stations and do propaganda work. I met actors and filmmakers in that unit where it was an interesting group.

AFI was a tough school to get into where only 23 candidates were selected per year. At that same time Desert Shield was starting as the lead up to Desert Storm. There was talk about putting boots on the ground where it came to January of 1991 and my unit asked me about if I wanted to deploy to the Gulf War. I told them I couldn’t do it as I was in the middle of production for my school. A week later they called me back asking me again to go to Kuwait. I told them again all my chips were up to AFI. They called a third time and said we need your MOS where you are being called up. I packed my TA-50 and picked up my weapon to head to Fort Bragg for deployment to Kuwait. I was ready to go even though I was in the middle of production. A day later or so the news came out that they had boots on the ground in the Gulf War and Desert Storm began. The war lasted about 100 hours where they stood me down before leaving. I was on the brink of going.

I finished AFI and was on the verge of my first feature film just a few years post my Desert Storm call up, and I get a call about me being needed to go to Kosovo. The Army did call me up, but my enlistment had just ended the day before and I didn’t go. My best friend in the unit took my place and left for Kosovo. It changed his life and he had a rough time. He came back to the states and was an actor where he decided to get a master’s in clinical psychology where he focused on PTSD. He then worked in Long Beach with the veterans with PTSD and returned to St. Louis to run a nonprofit support group for veterans that are homeless and that have difficulties. He is now the director of this program. Things are meant to happen where now he is doing this incredible work in St. Louis.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing?

I brought esprit de corps over into directing. The way I run shows is a lot of the same camaraderie and mutual respect as you would have in a unit. The best producers delegate where I believe in the chain of command. As an EP I work in tandem with the writers where my primary goal is to protect the show and execute the writer’s vision. I have to run a production machine that is creative but at the same time it is pragmatic and a logistical effort. It is M an episode with a certain amount of time to shoot it and prep it. I have heads of departments and confirm with the writers what we are looking for. This runs down the chain of command to the different departments. I empower those department heads as captains and lieutenants where they have NCOs within the department to empower.

I remember an early comparison with the Soviet and US military where it was said the US would likely win. The Soviet military if they lost a captain or senior officer no one below them could run the unit. In the US military if the captain is taken out, the next person in line runs the thing and so on. If you are taking out the top guy you are not taking out the group. I think this is true because you are empowering through the chain of command where I don’t have to dictate everything and creative people in the chain of command can come up with new things. It allows for creativity and leadership that is inherent.

One morning while directing an episode on the set of “CSI:NY” Gary Sinise comes up to me and shakes my hand while saying “thank you for your service.” He found out the day before that I had served in the Army. I told Gary I am not some super patriot where I joined because I was broke and needed to pay back student loans. He said, “That doesn’t matter where folks join the military for different reasons. You shouldn’t feel ashamed or that you are not patriotic where your initial reason was financial. You didn’t have to join the Army where you could be sent somewhere and might be killed for serving your country.” His comments really stuck with me.

One thing I have noticed is that the majority of accomplished people have the most humility and gratitude.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

Martin Scorsese said this on revisiting films he had done before where he answered, “We grow as people and humans. The stories we want to tell fifteen years ago are not the stories we want to tell now. We grow and change.” Stories that make a humanistic difference are the most moving to me.

On “CSI:NY” I did an episode called “Yahrzeit” where Ed Asner plays an Orthodox Jew through the story, we see he was actually part of the Nazi Youth during WWII. He escaped Germany after the war, changed and embraced Judaism so as to not be discovered. For the show we interviewed Holocaust survivors as part of a documentary for the behind the scenes of that episode. It was a rare experience on “CSI:NY” where every time I watch that episode, I feel sad. It was also a powerful episode, where Gary Sinise’s character’s father in the show was part of liberating camps in WWII. I thought that episode made a difference.

I loved my experiences on “Better Call Saul” and “Lights Out.” “Lights Out” had a lot of heart. I loved working on “Grimm” and it was so fulfilling on a visual level, storytelling level and the audience we reached. It was the first series where my boys got what I did for a living because they were fans of the show. To this day I am very close to the actors and filmmakers of the show.

I have made some stinkers in my lifetime as well. Let’s not talk about them.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

The cast of “CSI NY”. Photo credit tvseriesfinale.com.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Barba with the cast of “Mayans M.C.”. Photo credit Zimbio.

WATM: What was your experience like on projects such as “New York Undercover,” “CSI,” “Grimm,””Law Order,” “Mayans M.C.” and “FBI”?

When you look at a career, people tend to get pigeonholed for the things you do. I tailored my career from action to police procedurals and moved into more dramatic shows to avoid being pigeonholed. It is a journey through a career and it also reflects where I am in life at the time. I had a slow period in the early 2000s where it was just an inconsistent time. I remember thinking if I got “Law and Order”, that would really change things. Then I got an offer to direct “Law and Order: CI”, where one of the best things I did was the first episode I directed for the show. They asked me back for “Law and Order CI”, then I directed “Law Order: SVU” and even got to direct the original “Law and Order”. I did so well they asked me back to be an EP on “Criminal Intent.” I got very close to the Dick Wolf family and owe them a lot where it has become a somewhat symbiotic relationship.

I came back to “SVU” as a producer/director last season (2019) and am back this season (2020). You can be in a lot of producer camps where I have been in the Bruckheimer camp and Wolf camp.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

The cast from “Law Order: SVU”. Photo credit tvinsider.com.

WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?

Looking at the group you are meeting as equals and sharing the same goals. I don’t look at a leadership position where people are under me, but we are in this together. We are equal compatriots in reaching the same goal. We had to put up a radio tower in the Army where we are all in this together. Basic things as night watch in the Army where you are all supporting each other stick in my mind. It is a leadership quality that goes back to humility and gratitude.

Supporting each other going back to humility. I try to engender a cohesive group mentality, where they work out of desire to make the whole better and not out of fear. You want team members to desire to make the whole better. It all starts at the top and you can set the tone from there for the project.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Barba on the set of Solo. Photo credit IMDB.com.

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?

It all goes down to a story where we shouldn’t be result oriented. We should not just want to tell more veteran stories we should have a veteran story that is really going to be impactful not just because it has veterans in it. An organic and true story as opposed to results-oriented veteran story. We will have more of those stories if we come from truth and from the heart.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

I am most proud of my family, my boys and my wife. I am proud of my work as a director although it took a while for me to make it. I am proud that I hung in there.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

The life of a Civil War re-enactor is a very dedicated one. They’re dedicated to the history, the stories, and the lives of those who fought in The War Between the States. They take care in being as accurate as possible, representing the true history of the war down to the smallest details, from the things they carried to the food they ate all the way to their personal appearance. The America of some 150 years ago was a very different place.

Nylon-cotton blend uniforms give way to wool, the “woobie” gives way to old gum blankets, and MREs become a much more complicated process, handed over to a camp’s cook. These are just a few of the details in the mind of the re-enacting foot soldier. But not everyone who carries a .58-caliber Minié ball rifle onto historical battlefields has the same dedication to accuracy.

To the truly dedicated, those people are called farbs.’


Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Re-enactor memes are so dank.

Imagine spending all year practicing long-obsolete infantry drills with members of your unit just so you can execute them beautifully on oft-forgotten battlefields in the Spring and Summer months. Imagine the patience it takes to purchase (or, in some cases, build) infantry gear that hasn’t been necessary in over a century. Imagine the dedication required to sit in those wool uniforms in the dead of summer, swarmed by mosquitoes and plagued by the hot sun, only to have the FNG roll in, wearing sunscreen and insect repellent and playing with his iPhone.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Do not bring your camera, either.

The farb is someone who wants the glory of the job without putting in the work. It’s a judgmental term, one that, when used, ensures that the farb knows he’s not just factually wrong, but he’s also morally wrong. Their lame attempt (and acceptance of their subsequent failure) at authenticity is offensive. Like a civilian trying to pass themselves off as a Marine (aka “Stolen Valor”), farbs ruin the immersive experience of this kind of time travel — not just for the viewer, but for the re-enactors themselves.

It’s the worst thing you can call someone in these fields of dreams.

“That jacket is farby,” “his farbery is appalling,” and “can you believe the farbism he just dropped?” are all common lamentations of the truly dedicated.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Re-enacting battles of bygone eras isn’t strictly a Civil War pastime. History buffs in the north and south alike also re-enact the Revolutionary War (and, in some places, even World War I). Overseas, dedicated Europeans re-enact the Napoleonic Wars, especially the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in what is today Belgium. There is no limit to how far the dedicated will go to keep history alive — some battles date as far back as the Middle Ages, where fighting Mongols in Eastern Europe was the thing to do.

They’re keeping history alive and it’s a big job.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Wilson Freeman, an 18-year historical re-enactor, runs the blog “Historically Speaking: The Life and Times of a Historical Reenactor.” He says it’s not just an insult to the other re-enactors, it’s an insult to the people they’re working to portray.

There are several reasons that farbs are looked down upon in the reenacting hobby. One argument I’ve heard is that it’s an insult to the people we portray. Another is that it’s an insult to reenactors who actually take the time and effort to create a highly authentic impression. Yet another is that seeing something inauthentic on the field takes other reenactors “out of the moment” by reminding them that what they’re experiencing isn’t real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

vimeo.com

Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Paratrooper fails demonstrate butt-clenching jump ramp errors

Military static line parachuting is safe when practiced correctly, but minor mistakes can quickly turn a jump into a disaster. Take a look at these.

This video appeared on social media early March 2019 from the Flintlock 2019 military exercise in the Sahel region of Africa. Whoever the unit is in the video — and no one is giving them credit (or blame…) — they demonstrate about every aircraft exit mistake a static line parachutist can make short of actually forgetting to hook up their static line.


The video has disappeared from social media, but we managed to make a video of the video before it disappeared.

African Jump Errors Exercise Flintlock 19, 2019.

www.youtube.com

The first man looks like he is trying to do a side-door exit from an aircraft, when he’s actually using the tailgate. It’s weird, because tailgating an aircraft — jumping from the rear cargo ramp, is easier than exiting the side door of an aircraft. U.S. paratroopers look forward to the rare opportunity to do a “Hollywood tailgate party”, a daytime static line jump from a rear cargo ramp without carrying heavy combat gear. It’s the safest, easiest jump a paratrooper can make. The first troop makes a safe exit, but his parachute deployment probably had some twisted parachute risers.

The third guy should be commended for his motivation, if not his style. It looks like he is doing a freefall exit, not a static line exit. It likely went OK for him, but the opening shock probably spun him around some, making for an uncomfortable parachute deployment.

The third man out executes a pretty nice exit; feet and knees (sort of) together, relatively tight body position, hands protecting his reserve parachute. The black hat instructors at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning might give this exit a “Go”.

Things really go south for the fourth guy, who face plants on the exit ramp. He may have been hesitant to exit, he may have tripped on the non-skid surface of the exit ramp, hard to say, but he makes an incredible mess of the exit and belly-flops out the rear exit ramp. This is extremely dangerous because falling on your reserve parachute, worn in front by these jumpers, could accidentally deploy it. It may get tangled in the jumper’s main parachute and, at low jump altitudes of around 600-800 feet and sometimes even less, could cause a catastrophic malfunction with way too fast of a descent rate and no way to untangle the two chutes before impact. Expect broken bones at best.

The rest of the jumpers seem justifiably freaked out by this. But the fifth man sucks it up and makes a passable, if messy, exit. His feet are too far apart. Static line parachute jumpers must “maintain a tight body position and count” to insure the parachute does not accidentally deploy between their legs. I don’t have to explain why having the static line become high speed dental-floss deal between your legs would be bad.

Jumper number six just isn’t sure about this whole “Airborne!” thing. He decides to sit down on the exit ramp for a minute and contemplate his participation in the elite parachute infantry. Someone on the aircraft, presumably the jumpmaster, motivates him by shouting “GO!”. After his moment of quiet reflection on the future of his military career, he apparently decides that being an elite airborne trooper is worth a bit of a risk and tentatively tumbles off the ramp. He may have also calculated that leaving the aircraft from the seated position got him about two feet closer to the ground upon exit, thereby presumably making the jump safer.

Jumpers seven and eight both execute fairly decent exits, at least relative to the other jumpers, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Jumper nine defies description. He apparently deduces that using his butt as a kind of braking device upon exit may make his jump somehow safer or easier. Whatever the reason he smacked against the exit ramp on exit, that had to hurt. He also kind of flaps his arms in a bird-like motion. Maybe he doesn’t trust his ‘chute.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

(Video: YouTube via Facebook)

That was it for this stick of jumpers. It would seem as though these guys need to head back to the jump ramp simulator and practice some exits if they are going to continue their Airborne careers. Whatever the case may be, nearly every exit on this jump demonstrates what can go wrong when a static line tailgate parachute jump is executed poorly. For that reason, we owe these guys for 32 seconds of video that is destined to go down in Airborne history as a documentary on how not to leave an aircraft.

The Author of this article was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DC Comics pulled Batman poster after China said it looked like protester

DC Comics pulled its ad campaign for an upcoming Batman comic book after Chinese fans claimed Batwoman looked like a Hong Kong protester and accused the company of supporting the city’s anti-China demonstrations.

The deleted images showed Batwoman preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail imposed on a text background that read: “The future is young.”

They were promotional materials for the upcoming comic book, “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child,” due to be released Dec. 11, 2019.


The book is about Carrie Kelley, aka Batwoman, teaming up with Lara Kent — the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman — to fight “a terrifying evil” in Gotham City, according to DC Comics’ synopsis. It makes no mention of Hong Kong or China.

The company removed the poster from all its Twitter and Instagram channels on Nov. 28, 2019, Newsweek reported.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

DC Comics removed this poster for the upcoming Batman comic book, “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.”

(DC Comics)

Hours after the ad campaign was released on Nov. 27, 2019, Chinese fans claimed the book depicted ongoing anti-China protests in Hong Kong, representing veiled support for the demonstrators. Thousands of people have been protesting the Chinese government’s increasing encroachment on the semi-autonomous city since June 2019.

People on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media platform, said Batwoman’s throwing a Molotov cocktail symbolized Hong Kong protesters doing the same, Variety reported.

Demonstrations have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with police officers deploying tear gas and live rounds, and activists using Molotov cocktails and acid on numerous occasions.

Chinese commentators also said Batwoman’s black clothing and masked face referenced the de facto uniform of the Hong Kong protests — a black t-shirt, black trousers, and a gas mask.

Batman has virtually always dressed in black.

Chinese fans also claimed that the “golden child” in the book’s title referred to the color yellow, the unofficial color of pro-democracy protests in 2014, Variety said.

One person wrote on Weibo, according to a screenshot posted on Twitter: “I don’t even know what the hell DC is trying to hint at. I’ve truly never seen Batman hold a Molotov cocktail before.”

Another Weibo user wrote: “I don’t know what exactly [DC Comics] is trying to say, but it’s certainly a bit sensitive.”

Another person wrote, according to Variety: “The black clothes represent Hong Kong, the mask represents Hong Kong, the Molotov cocktail represents Hong Kong, what else here doesn’t represent Hong Kong???”

China’s state-run Global Times tabloid also joined in the fray, reporting that the poster “implied its support of Hong Kong’s rioters.”

Business Insider was unable to find any posts relating to “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child” on Weibo on Nov. 29, 2019, suggesting that the platform’s censors had blocked all mention of the topic.

Weibo often removes posts and censors key words to prevent discussion of politically sensitive topics.

DC Comics has not yet responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

It is one of many Western companies to have bowed to pressure from Chinese consumers in recent years — a testament to the China market’s enormous clout.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Dozens of brands, from Dior to Versace to the Houston Rockets, have groveled to Chinese customers after running ad campaigns or products that did not appear to respect China’s perceived borders and internal politics.

China has proven itself to be an increasingly valuable market to Hollywood production studios, including DC Comics’ parent company Warner Bros.

US and Canadian box offices earned a total of .9 billion on all films last year, while China alone earned billion, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Warner Bros’ 2018 movie, “Aquaman,” reaped more than 2 million in Chinese box office sales last year, some million more than what it gained in US box offices.

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

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A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

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These Dutch villagers wait years to adopt US graves from World War II

There are so many rich, incredible facts surrounding the World War II-era Netherlands American Cemetery near Maastricht. It lies along a highway that saw some of history’s most memorable names – Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, just to name a few. In the 20th Century, Hitler’s Wehrmacht also used the road to capture the Netherlands and Belgium and bring them into the Nazi Reich.

What rests there now is a memorial and cemetery to those who fought to liberate the country from the grip of the Nazi war machine. The locals have never forgotten who died there and, from the looks of things, they never will.


The cemetery is meticulously well kept. A memorial tower overlooks a reflecting pool and at the base of the tower is the stature of a mother grieving over her lost son. Elsewhere on the grounds is a list of the battles and operations fought by U.S. servicemen during World War II, the names of those 8,301 men buried on the grounds, and the names of those 1,722 who went missing while fighting in the Netherlands.

Among the honored dead are seven Medal of Honor recipients and a Major General. In all, it’s a remarkable site with historic significance. The most significant thing about the 65-acre Netherlands American Cemetery is who takes care of each American gravestone.

Wikimedia Commons

Since 1945, the Dutch people in the area have adopted individual graves, keeping the site clean and maintaining the individual memorials. They ensure that flowers adorn their adopted grave and that the name and deeds of the American interred there are never forgotten. They actually research the entire life of their adopted fallen GI. Some of them adopt more than one.

Ever since the end of WWII, people have adopted the graves of these men and women out of a deeply heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices that they made for our freedom,” local Sebastiaan Vonk told an Ohio newspaper. “They truly are our liberators and heroes.”

The Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery Margraten has 300 people waiting to join them.

 

The American Cemetery is one of the largest in the world. Its upkeep and memory are so important to the locals whose families saw the horrors of Nazi occupation. Even those separated by the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands by a generation or more still hold those names dear and are taking their remembrance project one step further – remembering their face.

A new effort, The Faces of Margraten, seeks to collect photos of the men who died or went missing in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. On Dutch Memorial Day, the group displays personal photos of more than 3,000 of those interred in the cemetery, holding an event that “brings visitors face-to-face with their liberators.”

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