Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.
Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.
All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.
For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.
The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.
That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.
In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.
Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.
Inscribed on the CIA’s original headquarters in Langley is a passage from the Gospel of St. John: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This unofficial Agency motto alludes to the truth and clarity that intelligence provides to decision-makers, similar to the “knowledge is power” mantra.
But what happens when the craft of intelligence is disrupted or diluted by the politics (read: politicians, journalists, sensationalists, etc.) and policymakers it is designed to inform? What happens when it is dismissed, falls upon deaf ears, or is blatantly ignored?
Below is a quick list of the top four issues with intelligence I have encountered as an intelligence professional, along with completely hypothetical examples of how these issues materialize. Armed with this knowledge, you will have four keys to help you better understand the craft of intelligence.
Disclaimer: The concepts here are all 100-percent true — it is the specific examples and stories that have been altered for their sensitive and ongoing nature. And no, this list is not comprehensive.
1. Intelligence is an extension of politics, which suck.
As SOFREP has previously discussed, the purpose of intelligence is to inform decision-making, plain and simple. People or technology gather the information. That information is then processed and analyzed, disseminated to the consumers, and decision-making is informed. For more on how that works, see the Intelligence Cycle.
Roughly paraphrasing Clausewitz here, “War is politics by other means.” Well if war is politics and intelligence is an extension of politics, then intelligence is total political war — or something like that. Point being, the practice of managing intelligence (or information writ large) can oftentimes be a bit of a monstrosity.
I have observed that the problem with intelligence is not that you do not have it — although that oftentimes is the issue. Rather, what is critical is intelligence’s proper management: who to share it with, how to share it, when to share it, etc. These considerations are what I would consider appropriate “coordination” of the information. Not only managing it but providing the necessary context for the information (as an analyst, this is paramount) and emphasizing what must be emphasized. Some do this well, others not at all — even when they should.
You are an intelligence professional working to counter various extremist threats to U.S. interests in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s not a nice place, so there’s plenty of nefarious activity and you’re gainfully employed. You receive information that a local Hezbollah cell has imminent plans to conduct a suicide attack at a popular south Beirut café that’s frequented by American citizens, other Westerners, and even a few foreign dignitaries. You’ve got a timeline, a method of attack, and maybe even some perpetrator names if you’re lucky. Because you’re a professional, you’ve done your homework and know that what you see is legitimate. It’s now your duty to get the machine in gear. You’ve got credible threat information that must be rapidly disseminated so the proper warnings can be issued, the appropriate authorities can be notified, and the would-be attackers thwarted.
But hold on there. One simply cannot hit “Forward All” and pass this information to 100 of your closest friends and neighborhood-friendly consumers. Forget the mass dissemination technique, however strong. How about just sending it to a handful of people? Better, but still not ideal.
Try this on for size: Send it to one or two overworked and undermanned bureaucrats who demand complete control over the information (i.e. no further sharing or exchanges until they’ve “worked the issue”). They then sit on it for an excruciating period of time, hold an extensive meeting about it with their closest friends at their (not-quite-earliest) convenience, and finally reluctantly pass it out to a limited audience with various caveats that downplay the significance of what you assessed to be time-sensitive and credible information. Never mind that you are intimately familiar with the threat and the environment and confident in your analytical abilities.
As stated above, there is always a time and place for appropriate coordination and processes for managing the information received. However, the caveat is that such management should not be completely sidetracked by politics. Give the information to those who need it, and inform the decision-making of those who have the power to alter the environment and ultimately save lives. It does not take a comms blackout, a strongly worded email, a committee, hours of deliberation, and lackluster dilution downplaying the credibility of the threat to share the information.
2. Information-sharing in the intelligence business is key.
Most people are familiar with the “need to know” principle, wherein if you do not have a legitimate requirement in your mission to know the information, you do not need to know it or even have access to it in the first place. But what about the need to share?
“The need to share” principle stems from the aftermath of 9/11 when the U.S. intelligence community decided it needed to do a better job of ensuring communication amongst the entities responsible for our national security. It spurred the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others, whose sole purpose in life is to facilitate interagency analysis and operations.
This example is less clear, but hopefully still gets the message across. You are back in Beirut. A certain Lebanese government official has decided to get in bed with an ISIL-affiliated extremist group planning to target the restaurant of a ritzy hotel frequented by French expats in Beirut, as some kind of follow-up to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. This government official has worked extensively to pass information regarding French activity at the restaurant to his extremist contact. He has had access to the information as a Lebanese government official and resident of northern Lebanon, an area where ISIL maintains an active presence. The attack is only in the conceptual stages at this time, but the one fact remains: the government official is in bed with the wrong crowd and must be stopped.
The ever-vigilant professional, you learn of this government official’s treachery and seek to notify those working at the U.S. embassy of his ongoing activity so that they may appropriately handle the issue through diplomatic channels. You have a legitimate need to share this information with appropriate contacts and eagerly share it with your supervisor so that it may gain higher-level visibility. After doing so, you are instructed not to share your findings with anyone else.
“Why?” you ask. Well, for one, it is being handled at higher levels, or so it is claimed. This is a downward-directed order to let the issue die. Second, further disclosure of any such information — through appropriate channels or not –regarding the government official could negatively impact U.S. relations with the Lebanese government, something the politicians are not willing nor ready to manage at this time. So you let the issue slide and do not ask questions because you trust it is being handled at the appropriate level.
You later learn that not only was the issue not handled, but that widespread orders were issued to not discuss, mention, or allude to the treachery of the Lebanese government official once it became “public” knowledge in high-level leadership circles. Lower-level U.S. and Lebanese officials continue to maintain interaction with this official, completely unaware of his treachery. Relationships continue to develop, all the while ignoring the fact of his true allegiances.
Given the issue was deemed too sensitive to address nation-to-nation, it has now become an unspoken afterthought, one that is known by various parties on both sides, but not to those to whom it matters most. The issue remains unaddressed and unknown second- and third-order implications develop as time passes.
If something must be said, and there are indisputable facts to support it, say it. Do not hide behind careerism, fear of reprisal, or — again — politics. The truth, however uncomfortable, is best digested as soon as the information is available to be shared (and under the right and appropriate circumstances).
3. Sometimes people go “native.”
The term going “native” is applied to a situation where individuals take on some or all of the cultural traits of those around them. The term is most often mentioned in relation to people visiting or residing in foreign countries. Think Colonel Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now” or the character Kurtz from the “Heart of Darkness,” only less insidious and without the rivers. In intelligence, someone goes native when they blatantly ignore or otherwise disregard the body of information that refutes that which they have been provided by a source. I use the term “native” very loosely here, but it best transmits the concept.
You have a friend who is employed by the U.S. embassy in a position of some importance, a position that requires him to frequently travel to liaise with Lebanese security forces operating in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Given your friend’s consistent contact with Lebanese forces in a turbulent region, you receive frequent updates from him on the situation in the Valley. These updates are fairly accurate given your friend’s access to the Lebanese forces, but clearly possess some bias given the single source of his information and its limited perspective.
One day, you learn of an incident that transpired when a female American aid worker narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt while working at a children’s school for refugees near the Syrian border. Having seen the information the aid worker had provided to various U.S. embassy personnel, who debriefed her when she reported the kidnapping attempt, you are aware of every minute detail the professional debriefers were able to obtain from her and associated witnesses.
When inquiring as to the details of this kidnapping attempt with your friend, the information he provides greatly conflicts with that of the debrief and witness statements. Your friend dutifully informs you the information you possess is incorrect and proceeds to identify all the reasons why. Citing his sources in the Lebanese security forces, your friend directly refutes, point by point, the official and agreed-upon information provided firsthand to the embassy personnel. Try as you might, your friend completely discounts this information and places his faith in his Lebanese contacts, contacts that were not there, and did not even possess secondhand access to the information or associated incident. Your friend has gone native.
While your friend clearly has the access to obtain and provide relatively accurate information regarding the security situation in the Bekaa Valley, his information only comes from the one source to which he has access. Your friend runs the risk of going “native,” and becoming too reliant on that one source. While it is undoubtedly a valuable one, his reference and adherence to the single source of the Lebanese security forces is one that must be taken into account.
This holds true especially if it conflicts with information provided firsthand by members involved in the incident, and obtained by qualified professionals who have gathered such information previously in their lengthy careers. Use all sources: do not refute that which comes from a better source, even when it conflicts with your prized single source. Do not go native.
4. People flat-out ignore the truth.
The final problem I have witnessed is when credible intelligence is completely disregarded by various persons — and ones in leadership positions, especially. Never mind that the information was deemed credible by multiple entities, or that said entities had already implemented various changes in response to the information. This disregard can happen even if there have been multiple warnings, both verbally and in writing, (thus invalidating any claims of ignorance) regarding the intelligence’s importance.
While intelligence can appear alarmist at times, if not presented accurately or appropriately (and with the right amount of emphasis and context), it is designed to properly inform decision-making. Intelligence removes the veil of doubt and the unknown and provides you with the truth. So listen to it and the recommendation that comes with it.
You are back in south Beirut. The threat you have been tracking, regarding imminent plans by a local Hezbollah cell to conduct a suicide attack at a south Beirut café, must be actioned upon. The proper notifications are made. The U.S. embassy is made cognizant of the information and it releases a security notice to all American citizens in Lebanon to avoid the target in question, and travel to various south Beirut neighborhoods is restricted. The threat information has been passed to the appropriate decision-makers and the right people are now aware that they should avoid the café. As a professional, you have done your due diligence and can hope the Lebanese authorities will move quickly to disrupt the plot. You can rest easy, having fulfilled your duty.
But then you learn that one of the decision-makers, one who was informed numerous times of this specific threat information, has allowed various personnel under his office to travel through various south Beirut neighborhoods. Not only that, but two groups of his personnel have even visited — on two separate occasions — the very same café that is being actively targeted. You want to provide the benefit of the doubt: perhaps the decision-maker was simply unaware of the ongoing attack plans or was not notified of the travel restrictions. Unfortunately for him, plausible deniability does not work in this scenario. When questioned as to why his personnel made these visits, the decision-maker claimed he was unaware that the threat notification or travel restrictions were permanent measures, and thought that they only lasted for the day they were issued.
When a decision-maker provides a weak and transparent excuse as to why he knowingly authorized the travel of his personnel to a specific location that is being actively targeted by terrorists (something he was aware of), he knowingly places the lives of his personnel at risk. He completely disregards all of the hard work that was performed in order to provide the intelligence to him in a timely and accurate manner to boot.
Intelligence is not contrived. It is a dynamic product and continuous effort. Listen to what intelligence is saying. Do not disregard it or claim ignorance of it after it has been provided to you. Use it as the tool it is designed to be.
Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?
First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.
The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.
The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.
U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.
That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.
That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.
As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.
Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.
The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.
But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.
And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.
Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.
But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.
So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.
The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.
But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.
U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)
In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.
If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.
But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.
So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.
The reviews for “Suicide Squad” are in, and they’re a mixed bag, to put it politely. The film disappointed critics, but fans were more forgiving. What’s not in question, however, are military skills on display in the movie. That success is owed to Kevin Vance (of Vance Brown Consulting), a former Navy SEAL and professional military advisor for the film industry.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback there,” says Vance. “In terms of the gear we brought in, we had so much support. SS Precision, Vickers Tactical — the list goes on and on.”
He doesn’t judge what’s “good” and “bad.” That’s not his job. He can, however, understand the decisions made by the studios. Vance believes they tried to make a movie for the fans of the comic, like filmmaker Kevin Smith (who called it “dope“).
“I just know David Ayer and the film he wants to make,” the Navy veteran says. “He’s made so many great films over the years and has such a unique perspective. If he sucker-punches you while he tells his story, so be it. He’s not going to do it simply for effect. He’s going to do it to kind of smack you and wake you up”
Filmmaker David Ayer is a Navy veteran who hired Kevin Vance to train the cast of a previous film, 2014’s “Fury.” That film was about a U.S. Army tank crew in World War II. In the film, the experienced crew looses their bow gunner and gets a reluctant replacement.
“What was fascinating to me was Wardaddy’s (Brad Pitt) job was to really dismantle this young man’s sense of decency,” says Vance. “The resistance to becoming a functioning soldier was going to get everyone killed. The sense of decency is what he to break apart.”
Vance put the entire cast – Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal – through a rigorous WWII-style basic training, complete with canvas tents, cots, and lanterns to protect from the cold, North Atlantic winds in the open countryside.
“I wasn’t there to train those guys to be soldiers,” the former SEAL recalls. “I was there to put them in a state of mind. I was there to make them fatigued, miserable, cold, hungry, pissed-off. I broke them down physically and mentally to build them back up. They suffered together to create a functioning group inside that tank.”
They did learn to work as a team in a real Sherman tank, Brad Pitt commanding.
“They’re tight because of it now,” Vance says. “They all still talk to one another; they do dinners together. I’m not saying that’s just because of me. That’s guys bonding.”
(Flag) and Will Smith (“Deadshot”) in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”
“Suicide Squad” was a much different animal in terms of mechanics, actor training, and weapons training. The film was about individuals being individual characters working together. Vance and his fellow military veterans had two weeks and $50,000 in blank ammo to drill the stuntmen and actors to move like operators.
“I was there to get these guys functioning on a level that the audience can truly appreciate, that our peers will appreciate, and then create scenarios where other movies have not performed,” Vance says. “We build this foundation of physical skills then move into this other space which the actor truly needs to perform well – and that’s that mental space.”
To Kevin Vance, that means combat mindset, leadership, and the emotional, psychological, or physical scars a character would have. Vance and his colleagues provide the actors with historical examples and personal examples from their real-world warfighting colleagues so they can take what they want and need for their character.
“Will Smith’s character [Deadshot] is very different from, say Flag [Joel Kinnaman] or Lt. Edwards [Scott Eastwood],” Vance says. “We’re all looking of that life-test. We’re looking to truly challenge ourselves. I didn’t know what that was. I just got very, very lucky when an old book landed on my lap in college when I was 19.”
That book was about scouts and raiders during World War II. It piqued Vance’s interest so much, he read more and more, eventually coming across books about Navy SEALs. One day he met a Vietnam veteran who inspired and educated him. One thing led to another, and Kevin Vance joined the Navy and served as a SEAL from 1994 to 2003. The frustrations of bureaucracy and war led Vance into entertainment.
“We used to have we called the ‘vent book,'” he recalls. “Guys can work out and vent. Guys can use conversation these different ways. So we created this book which turned into, something turned it into something really funny. It’s like how would you fight the war if you were Dirty Harry?”
The SEALs on Vance’s team got really creative with the vent book. Vance know some video game producers with the blessing of his team, decided to pitch the book to see where it led. That turned into Vance and his fellow Team guys writing a “Medal of Honor” game for Electronic Arts.
When I asked Kevin Vance for advice he could give separating military members on working in Hollywood, he was quick to remind me that his case is unique, he’s a “lucky guy,” and that he just came from a 48-hour shift at the local firehouse.
“If you’re getting out of the military, first thing first is to have a plan,” he says. “Don’t make Hollywood your plan A. Hollywood is not a structured environment like the military is, like a fire department is. You’re left to your own devices in a world that is unpredictable and unreliable.”
Vance says success in the film industry is also hinged highly on people skills and mission focus. The military from the garrison to the battlefield is one and the same with movies from set to screen. Veterans could use that same decisive skills set to engage, inform, and aid their own communities.
“I think people are hungry for a challenge,” he says. “Look at things like Mud-Runs, challenges you can pay to get. We ask 19-year-olds, men and women, to be soldiers, to be ambassadors, and spend a significant period of their adult years overseas. The people in our country need help. They need true leaders. We need people who can inspire other people and motivate other people. That’s what this generation of veterans has to offer.”
We all know the line: “With great power comes great responsibility,” but what about the person who said it? For most fans of the character of Spider-Man, that line comes from Ben Parker, better known as “Uncle Ben,” the guy who raised Peter Parker in most versions of the backstory, and most famously, the Sam Raimi films starring Tobey Maguire. However, since the reintroduction of Tom Holland as Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Uncle Ben hasn’t been around. That is, until now! There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg that references Uncle Ben in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Here’s the deal.
Mild spoilers ahead.
As Peter is packing for his school “science trip” to Europe, the initials on his briefcase are seen very clear: BFP. We’re not sure what the “F” stands for, but it’s pretty clear the “B” and the “P” can only mean Ben Parker. Thematically, this is interesting because in the new Marvel movies Tony Stark has effectively become Peter’s Uncle Ben-figure; an older male mentor who dies and passes along wisdom to Peter. (Note: this scene was in the trailers! So this really isn’t a spoiler!)
This presents a strange question: what happened to this Uncle Ben? The suitcase could just be a fun visual reference, but this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re talking about here. Random, throwaway lines can have huge implications in later movies. And, because Far From Home brought back J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson from the Tobey Maguire movies, it seems like a bunch of stuff from older superhero movies is suddenly on the table.
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man went in search of his biological parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which makes you wonder how long it’s going to take for Tom Holland’s version of the web crawler to do the same.
Uncle Ben- With Great Power Comes Great responsiblities–HD
When you’re infantry, your life is going out on field operations to train for war or, you know, actually going to war. Field ops, in short, can be miserable. It’s always raining, you have to eat garbage in a pouch, and there’s that one staff NCO who won’t let up on being a d*ck about grooming standards. That being said, there are little things that happen out there every so often that make things just a little more bearable.
You’re going to eat, breathe, train, and sleep in the rain and the mud for days on end. But sometimes, your battalion will have mercy on your poor grunt soul and deploy some niceties that will restore that waning glimmer of hope.
Here are some of those things:
One of the only lines you enjoy waiting in.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Skyler Tooker)
You’ll go on plenty of field ops where you’re given a load of MREs to pack away and eat when you get the time. The hot meals you get in the field might not be gourmet, but after a week of eating the packaged dogsh*t (and despite the fact that by the time it gets to you it’s just a warm meal) you’ll appreciate it immensely.
The type of ride doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not walking.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore)
It sucks carrying an additional half of your own body weight on your back as you move between training areas. Every once in a while, your battalion will score some transportation to save your knees from that future VA disability claim. If this happens halfway through your op, it’s honestly a better blessing than getting hot chow.
Much better than sleeping in a tent, even.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)
Nothing shows that your battalion or company commander cares like securing indoor sleeping arrangements. It’s not very common, and it’ll probably only happen when you’re training in an urban environment, but when it does, you’ll find yourself appreciating command a whole lot more.
Lower enlisted grunts will still complain about it, though. They’ll find a reason, trust us.
These people are angels.
(Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
The Gut Truck
Probably the best thing to hear someone in the field announcing is, “The Gut Truck is here!” That’s because it’s essentially a mobile post-exchange, which means you can buy snacks and — even cigarettes in some cases. Hopefully you brought cash, though. Otherwise, you might not get sh*t.
The hike back doesn’t seem so bad, huh?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
This is, essentially, a unicorn. It rarely happens, if it ever does. In fact, you’ll more often see your op get extended rather than cut short. If this does happen, it’s usually because of unsafe weather conditions, but there are those once-in-a-lifetime moments when a battalion commander is so impressed with the performance of their grunts that they reward them by pulling them back to garrison.
“When I was behind on an episode of ‘WandaVision,’ my 14-year-old was mad at me.”
Are men hilarious? Or are men tragic? If you’ve watched something directed by Anthony and Joe Russo in the past two decades, the answer to that question will be both. From Arrested Developmentto Community to the Marvel films The Winter Solider, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame, the Russo Brothers have not only directed funny fictional men, but they’ve also, helped those same fictional men seem tragic. Say what you will about the perceived bombast or dominant market share of the Avengers and their Marvel pals, but part of the reason the MCU is so big is that we simultaneously believe in the quirkiness of Thor and the jerkiness of Iron Man.
Recently, the Russo Brothers have walked away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seemingly never to return. Were they consulted on WandaVision or any other future Marvel project, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? “No. I mean look, we had a seven-year process from Winter Soldier to Endgame where we were nonstop telling Marvel stories,” Anthony Russo says. “That was a very focused run for us. And it was among the most amazing experiences of our lives doing that, telling those stories. But it was also hard and immersive and a long run. And I think part of the catharsis of making Endgame for Joe and I was the fact that we didn’t have to carry the story forward beyond Endgame.”
But will they return? “I mean, we may do something with Marvel, again, some time,” he says. “Who knows? But, our, our process was to, pass the baton and step away.”
Back in 2019, the Russos described the theme of Avengers: Endgame as “the cost of being a hero.” Seen from a certain point of view, Cherry is similar, albeit not about superheroes, but instead, about real person, adrift in a drug crisis that Joe Russo points out have “gone fairly unchecked” in the US.
“[Cherry is] a movie about cost. And it’s about the cost of the choices that we make in the modern age,” Joe Russo explains. “There are many complicated issues that surround us as human beings in the modern age from technology to drugs. This is a drug era that is unlike any other drug era. It doesn’t have the romanticism of the hippie vibe culture of the late ’60s and early ’70s with mushrooms and marijuana and psychedelics. These are drugs that are scientifically engineered to make you addicted. And in addicting they can most likely kill you. So there’s a fatalism to this capitalistic endeavor of making these drugs.”
As a recent New Yorker piece pointed out, the profit made by unscrupulous corporations is astounding, with the wealthy Sackler family being one of the biggest profiteers of opioids. “The government is acutely aware of this and doctors are acutely aware of it, yet it still gets prescribed,” Joe Russo says. “And prescribed in ridiculous and copious amounts. And people recovering from surgery who are never the same again. ”
“I think it’s slightly more complex than, what we’re doing with the Marvel characters,” Anthony says. “I don’t know that he’s a hero per se so much as he is a, is an individual who, as a kid who makes one or two decisions that he doesn’t have a life experience to make and that costs him 15 years of his life.”
After providing escapism across four of the greatest Marvel films, and making us laugh for a decade before that, the Russo Brothers are coming back down to Earth and facing reality. That said, they’re still involved with the impending live-action remake of the animated Disney movie Hercules. What will their version be like? The Emma Watson Beauty and the Beast? The recent live-action Lion King?
“Our approach certainly would be to do something more in the category of the male characters who lack self-awareness,” Joe Russo says with a laugh. “We’re trying to find humor, in that version of Hercules. Something inspired by that film and that brings some of old with it along and bringing something new to it as well.”
Anthony has a 14-year-old daughter who is “WandaVision obsessed.” For a while, he was behind an episode. “She was mad at me,” he says. “But my ten-year-old son loves cooking and he’s obsessed with Gordon Ramsey.”
“We just finished watching Your Honor,” Joe Russo says. “But my kids are older, so you can watch thrillers with them. It’s fun.”
The Army has been tossing around the idea of adding another uniform to their wardrobe for a while now. During last year’s Army-Navy game, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wore an updated version of the classic, WWII-era “Pinks and Greens,” which had many people predicting the iconic uniform would be making a comeback. Well, now it’s official.
The Army announced the upcoming addition of new Army Greens on November 11th and with it comes a whole slew of information that soldiers need to know.
Say what you will about the garrison cap, but it does bring back a bit of style back to the uniform.
First and foremost, they’re not called “Pinks and Greens” like the old WWII-era uniforms. These are called, simply, “Army Greens.” It seems like someone finally got around to realizing that the beige-colored shirt and pants aren’t actually pink.
While the Dress Blues will still act as a soldier’s dress uniform and the OCPs will still be used in the field or deployment, the Greens will be worn during duty hours while the soldier is stationed in garrison stateside or outside the continental US, like in Germany or South Korea.
Get ready for uniform inspections on a near daily basis everyone…
The biggest concern that a lot of soldiers have about the new uniform change is the price — which is entirely understandable. The Army has said that the change in uniform is “cost-neutral” and won’t be coming out of tax payers’ pockets.
That being said, enlisted soldiers will need to buy them using their annual clothing allowance. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey told the Army Times in September that they are doing everything in their power to keep the costs low. Even still, it’s going to cost a bit for the average Joe.
Since it’s a duty uniform, the average soldier will need at least three sets to make it through the week before doing laundry. It will also require that soldiers spend more time preparing their uniforms for the next day, setting their ribbon racks right, shining their shoes, and keeping everything ironed. This could also off-set “hip pocket training” from being more sporadic as leaders would be less willing to mess up perfectly good uniforms.
Take that as you will.
I speak for all Army veterans when I say “F*ck yes!” to that jacket.
Costs and effort aside, there are a lot of positives coming with this change.
First off, the slight variations in the uniform seem poised to revive a strong sense of pride in the Army. It hasn’t been officially mentioned yet, but it seems as though airborne and Rangers will still wear their berets instead of the garrison cap. Units authorized to wear jump boots will wear those in lieu of the brown leather oxfords. The Greens also allow for more choices for female soldiers, as they can choose between pants or a skirt and pumps or flats.
Also, the new Greens will supposedly feature an “Ike-style” bomber jacket that goes over the Greens — and that’s badass.
New soldiers will receive Greens in basic training by summer 2020 and it’ll be entirely mandatory, service-wide, by 2028.
As with most uniform changes, it’ll probably look better on the soldiers that take the initiative and start buying them as soon as they hit the PX in summer 2020.
After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. “The Mandalorian” is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
Pedro Pascal, best known as Game of Thrones‘ Red Viper of Dorne (Prince Oberyn, for those of you who refuse to become obsessive fans), stars as the titular character, a bounty hunter heavily inspired by the infamous Boba Fett. The series will take place after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.
Check out the trailer right here:
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy but the first film. Not just the first film but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars,” creator Jon Favreau told The Hollywood Reporter.
The opening scenes contain bloody stormtrooper helmets on spikes, so I’d say he’s off to a great start!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The show, the first Star Wars live-action TV series, will be one of the biggest releases on the new streaming platform Disney+, which will also house Marvel Cinematic Universe shows about Scarlet Witch and Vision, Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye, among others.
Fans got a peek at footage from The Mandalorian at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, but finally the teaser trailer has been released at D23. In addition, the new poster has been released, unveiling the bounty hunter himself — and that fancy new Disney+ logo.
The Mandalorian will be available to stream right when Disney+ launches on Nov. 12, 2019. The service will cost .99 a month or can be purchased as a bundle with ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for .99 a month.
On April 2, 2019, tickets for Avengers: Endgame went on sale online, and in perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Marvel fans overwhelmed ticketing sites across the internet, including Fandango, AMC, and Atom Tickets. All those sites crashed, but now, it seems, they’re back. Which means, if you want to go see this movie with your kids on the opening weekend, you better buy those tickets now.
Fandango reported that Endgame set a first-day presale record, besting numbers from Star Wars: The Force Awakens after just six hours. Customers who used the service were placed in virtual lines for tickets at specific theaters, which seemed to at least keep the site up and running.
Other sites weren’t as resilient. AMC tweeted that their servers were “in Thanos’ snap” after many complaints from frustrated fans, who likely weren’t all that amused by the reference.
Atom Tickets told CNN that three times as many tickets for Endgame sold in the first hour compared to Infinity War, which was released in 2018. For its part, Regal Cinemas reported that Endgame sold twice as many tickets in its first eight hours on sale as Infinity War did.
Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Official Trailer
Theaters can sell this many tickets because, despite the film’s three-plus hour runtime, they’ve absolutely packed their schedules with screenings.
At the Arclight in Hollywood, there are a whopping 15 showings on the film on April 25, 2019, the day before its official release date. The first is at 6:00 p.m. and the final is at 3:00 a.m., which means it should end about an hour and a half before the first screening Friday morning, which begins at 7:30 in the morning.
A quick scan of ticketing sites shows that the vast majority of prime seats — evening shows on Thursday or Friday — have already been reserved at theatres in cities around the country, with seats reserved for disabled patrons and those closest to the screen forming most of the remaining inventory.
So if you want to see Endgame with your family on the opening weekend, plan on finding a limited selection of seats, likely closer to the screen, for less desirable screening times in the morning or afternoon. And for the love of Stan Lee, book your tickets now while there are still some available and the ticketing sites aren’t broken. You don’t want to go to work (or send your kids to school) on Monday just to have someone spoil it, do you?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty badass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.
In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.
That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.
Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.
In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.
Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.
Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.
This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.
The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.
The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.
In 2015, a new generation of lieutenants arrived at Army units. They arrived unannounced with no notice to their receiving commands. These officers are technology-based, possess an innate ability to find information, and are closely aware of the geopolitical environment. While this surge of new thoughts and ideas could be invigorating to the organization, it is more likely that these generational differences will create personality conflicts between senior leaders and these new officers. Some senior officers may not recognize their inherent strengths and only highlight their reliance on social networking and lack of concrete experience.
While academic research continues to explore the impact of differences between the societal generations, it is possible to understand how generational divides have influenced the Army’s officer corps. Due to the strict hierarchical structure of the Army and “time-in-grade” requirements for promotions, the officer corps naturally segregates along generational lines. These prerequisites produce officer cohorts that often share similar societal experiences and may develop similar personality traits.
Currently, there are four generations operating in the Army, individually banded to a specific set of ranks. Each of these generations has different and specific perspectives shaped by their generational experiences. For example, some current general officers tend to strongly value organizational loyalty, colonels and lieutenant colonels prefer to empower junior officers and NCOs, majors and captains are comfortable with change, and the new lieutenants have vast digital networks that help them gain context within the strategic environment.
Acknowledging that there are fundamental personality differences within the entire chain of command is important to create an atmosphere that enables trust and growth. In order to optimize effectiveness, officers must accept that generational differences exist in the Army, understand how those differences currently influence officer interactions and recognize how to leverage the strengths of each generation of officers.
Generational Differences in the Army
A generational label is a brand given to a societal cohort born between a set of birth years. Since these generations experience the same social influences, successes, tragedies, and technologies during the formative years of their lives, they often develop a shared societal personality and view of the world. How old someone is when he or she experiences a key national event can have a profound impact on their personality.
Current studies in neurodevelopment show that visual and emotional experiences during the teenage years are molding and shaping neural brain connections (Hensch, 2016). When the events of World War II, Kennedy’s assassination, and 9/11 happened, teenagers observed and processed them much different than their parents and grandparents. The summation of these events shapes and influences each of these cohorts into a shared identity and culture. It becomes so pervasive, that psychologists label these cohorts by both birth year and personality type, and thus the terms Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials become common societal lexicon.
Without analysis, one might assume that the Army avoids societal generational issues within the officer ranks. With the physical, mental, and societal requirements needed for admittance into the US Army, less than 30% of American youths are eligible for military service (Christeson, 2009). Given these limitations, less than 0.03% of the US population will wear a US Army uniform, and only about 15% of that small amount will become an officer (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, 2015).
The military’s strict admission standards suggest that the officer corps does not represent a cross-section of society, and in turn, a cross-section of societal generations. In 2000, Dr. Leonard Wong conducted extensive interviews of the officer corps and noted that “distinctions between Boomers and Xers are not as glaring because self-selection into the Army serves to homogenize the population.”
However, Dr. Wong (2000) did find that generational differences still emerged. Due to the hierarchical structure of the Army, officer’s promotions are based on performance and time of service. These factors sectionalize the Army’s leaders by age and band them to a specific set of ranks. While a civilian organization may hire a Millennial to serve as a manager of Generation X subordinates, the Army will not directly hire someone to serve as a senior officer. Based on these formal personnel practices, the current Army typically has Baby Boomers as senior generals, Gen X-ers as lieutenants colonel to two-star generals, Millennials as captains to lieutenants colonel, and the iGeneration as cadets to lieutenants.
Impacts of Generations on the Officer Corps
After recognizing that generational differences permeate the force, it is important to understand how these differences influence officer behavior. The effects of generational personalities ripple through the officer corps as each level of command interacts differently with those above and below. Due to the hierarchical structure of the military and the low speed of change, programs enacted by senior leaders can prevail for decades. In fact, aspects of programs implemented by officers born in the 19th century still persist in the Army today. Therefore, in order to capitalize on the strengths of each generation, there should be a better understanding of how the officer corps evolved over the years. While there are currently four generations of officers serving in uniform, a review of the earlier officer generations helps fully understand the rolling ebb and flow of the officer corps.
Lost Generation to Silent Generation
The first major influence on the US Army officer corps was the Lost Generation. These officers were born from 1883 to 1899 and were lieutenants and captains in World War I, field grades in the inter-war period, and general officers during World War II and the Korean War. As children, these officers lived through a period of economic and political reform as the United States struggled with worker strikes and intense political corruption. As lieutenants, they experienced the brutal battlefields of World War I and returned disillusioned from the horrors of the war. Their disillusionment colored their experiences so strongly that Ernest Hemingway labeled the generation as “Lost” because the veterans seemed confused and aimless (Hynes, 1990). In the interwar period, these officers witnessed the 1920 National Defense Act cut the Army to a skeleton shell (U.S. Congress, 1940). With little to no troops in their commands, they focused on education and broadening opportunities. The best of these officers attended the prestigious Command and General Staff College and Army War College (Yarger, 1996). As general officers, these officers quickly mobilized a large US Army, developed new combined arms doctrine, and ultimately won a protracted war across two fronts (House, 2002). Ultimately, these officers witnessed the brutality of war on all its fronts and responded to the call to rid the world of great evil. These officers primed America to move into a new era of development and safety. Their new problem, it seemed, was constraining their overly ambitious G.I. Generation subordinates.
The G.I. Generation, also known as the Greatest Generation, was born from 1900 to 1924. These officers were lieutenants and captains in World War II, field grade officers in Korea, and generals during the Vietnam Conflict. As children, they received an increased emphasis on education and were members of the newly formed boy scouts, learning “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values” (Townley, 2007). Their civic-mindedness bloomed during “The Great War” and they steeled their resolve through the Great Depression. As young officers during World War II, they saw the might of collective organization and teamwork; leading to their mantra of “bigger is better” (Howe and Strauss, 2007). Leaving the war victorious, these officers learned that with tenacity and teamwork, anything is possible. When these officers entered the battlefield of the Korean War, they were ready for the same audacious fight they won five years earlier. However, they commanded battalions that were undermanned and under-equipped for a protracted war on the austere Korean peninsula (Fehrenbach, 1963). These officers arrived home with no fanfare for their sacrifice, a stark contrast to their arrival home from World War II. While these officers sought to understand their Cold War role, their civilian peers flourished in America’s economic boom. By the arrival of Vietnam, the GI Generation occupied the senior positions within the Army, and they disliked the lack of civic support from younger generations (Howe and Strauss, 1992). They believed that their hard work and struggles paved a golden path and the public critique and disobedience from subordinates only disgraced their sacrifice.
The Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1942. These officers were lieutenants and captains in the Korean War, field grade officers during Vietnam, and generals during the Cold War. As children, this generation saw their parents struggle through the Great Depression and then depart for World War II. In college and the workplace, they found that the returning G.I. Generation veterans received preferential treatment and immediately assumed leadership positions in organizations. As lieutenants during the Korean War, they performed admirably on the tactical battlefield. However, the war’s stalemate and lack of homecoming contributed to these officer’s feelings of being part of the “forgotten war” (McCraine and Hyer, 2000). Due to the shadow of their G.I. Generation leaders and the rejection from the Korean War, these officers valued inclusion, acceptance, and conformity (Howe and Strauss, 2007). This was most poignant when Silent Generation officers became field grades during the Vietnam Conflict. As mid-level leaders, they were inclined to mediate between some overbearing G.I. Generation generals and some radical Baby Boomer company grade officers. Ever the peace-maker, the Silent Generation officer worked to appease both sides and succeeded in appeasing neither (Howe and Strauss, 2007). Having to define their own boundaries and identity in a G.I. Generation world, the Silent Generation officer became masters of a process-driven society. Showcased with the Total Quality Management program, these officers strove to maximize efficiency from the grandiose system they received from their G.I. Generation leaders (Department of Defense 1988). As general officers, they struggled to understand why Boomer field grade officers did not appreciate or understand their process-driven approach to problem-solving and leader development.
Baby Boomer: Current 3 and 4 Star Generals (tail end of the generation)
The Baby Boomer officers, or Boomers, were born from 1943 to 1960. These officers were company grade officers during the Vietnam Conflict, field grade officers during the Cold War and Desert Storm, and generals during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As children, Boomers received the windfall of economic growth in America (U.S. Department of State, 2011). While the radio and television brought the horrors of the Korean Conflict to their living room, their parents shielded them from the reality of this war (Spock,
1946). As Boomers became teenagers, the nation emerged into an age of optimism. They watched as their parents placed men on the moon and witnessed women and African Americans fight for equality. Early-stage Boomer lieutenants left to fight a war in Vietnam and came back disgruntled and unappreciated (Karestan, Stellman J., Stellman S., Sommer, 2003). They returned to a nation that cursed their service and devalued their participation in an unpopular war. As field grades in the post-Vietnam era, they witnessed their Army bottom out on readiness and give way to the arrival of zero defects, careerism, and new heights of micromanagement into the military (Jones, 2012). However, with the election of President Reagan, this same army rapidly grew and modernized. Vowing to learn from the failures of Vietnam, early Boomer colonels and brigadier generals helped write Air Land Battle Doctrine and tested its tenants at the newly formed National Training Center (Meyer, Ancell, Mahaffey, 1995). Their hard work paid off during Operation Desert Storm when Boomer officers led the battalions and brigades that routed the 4th largest army in the World (Hoffman, 1989). At the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, senior Boomer officers had the ability to see the fight unfold and talk to the tactical officer on the ground. Often their tendency to micromanage proved too great, and junior Generation X officers rebuked their tinkering at the tactical level.
Generation X: LTC-2 Star General
Generation X officers were born between 1961 and 1980. While some of these officers served in Operation Desert Storm and Grenada, most were company grade officers during Bosnia and the initial phases of OIF and OEF. As children, Generation X felt the impact of a divided Boomer household. Due to an increase in divorce rates and dual working parents, they were generally independent and self-supporting early in life (Zemke, Raines, Filipczak, 2000), also known as latchkey kids. As teenagers, they experienced social failure on multiple fronts between Presidential resignation, economic crisis, and the Challenger Explosion. When Generation X officers entered the Army, a majority of them did not share the same work ethic as their Boomer field grade officers. These junior officers often failed to adapt to the 24/7 work attitude of their leaders, as many felt the Army was simply a way to make a living and not a lifestyle (Wong, 2000). In the mid-1990s, their perspective was reinforced when a downsizing Army laid off many Boomer and Generation X officers. As the Army entered direct combat engagements in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, their experience and commitment to the organization grew. Their independent personality thrived as they controlled large sections of the battlefield and even served as interim mayors of towns (Crane Terrill, 2003; Cerami Boggs, 2007). However, as Generation X officers occupy the senior ranks, they struggle with how to connect to the Millennial junior field grade and senior company grade officers that work for them.
Millennial: CPT- new LTC
Millennial officers were born between 1981 and 1993. These officers were lieutenants and captains in Iraq and Afghanistan and sustained a bulk of their leadership development during these conflicts. As children, Millennials experienced a resurgent focus on family values and a rebuking of the divorce culture their parents endured (Amato Keith, 1991). A key moment of their cultural development was the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, as many were teenagers during this attack (Ames, 2013). They watched the terror live on television and then witnessed America and the World band together to take action. While in high school and college, Millennials experienced the rapid growth of the internet, instant reporting, and the birth of social media. When they entered the military, these officers found an Army that was fighting two protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As currently serving company commanders and junior field grades, Millennials have a direct impact on the newest generation of officers.
A typical iGeneration officer was born after 1993 and started to arrive at U.S. Army units in 2015. When these officers were born, home-based internet became mainstream and connected people through email, chat rooms, and websites (Coffman Odlyzko, 2001). This invention influenced the way they learned, processed information, and even interacted (Anderson Rainie, 2010). As an adolescent, they watched the 9/11 attacks unfold live on television and struggled to understand the fear and uncertainty that gripped the nation in the aftermath (Ames, 2013). As teenagers, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites were mainstay hangouts among their friends. Due to witnessing a terror attack, financial ruin, and world power plays, they are naturally guarded and more pessimistic about America and the future (Doherty, 2105). With the invention of smartphones, information was instantly available and they had the ability to answer any question, interact online with any number of their social circles, and enjoy constant streaming access to world news and current events. With this capability also emerged an environment where companies were marketing to them around the clock. One side effect to this is their inherent distrust of the ‘corporate narrative’ and they prefer to follow the advice and recommendations of the ‘average person’. This is evident in the explosion of YouTube stars that do videos of unboxing, product reviews, movie recaps, and even video game players. Technology is second hand to these officers and through social networking or data mining, they possess an innate ability to find or crowdsource information. Even with unprecedented access to information, these instant updates on world events may also lead to a false t awareness of the strategic environment.
Leverage the iGeneration
Understanding the context and dynamics of the officer corps creates an atmosphere of growth and development. With context, officers understand why Boomer generals value organizational loyalty, Generation X senior field grades and generals prefer to “power down,” Millennial officers are comfortable with change, and iGeneration lieutenants that possess a natural ability to build large social networks to gather information and learn. Ultimately, self-awareness is a leader’s ability to understand their own personality, the personality of others, and most importantly, how their personality affects those around them. Based on the cohort study analysis above, officers should have an insight of themselves, their leaders, and their subordinates. This collective self-awareness is a vital recognition of strengths and weaknesses. The average age for an Army officer is currently 35 years old. This age is the border period between a Generation X officer and a Millennial officer. In the next five years, approximately 15% of all officers will be an iGeneration officer and nearly 65% of the officer corps will be of the two youngest generational groups (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Military community and Family Policy, 2015). Given these demographics, the force is primed for institutional changes that maximize the iGeneration lieutenant’s strengths while leveraging the experience and knowledge of the Boomer and Gen X senior leaders. The context in which an iGeneration lieutenant developed influences how they learn. Between social media, Youtube, and video games, these officers are comfortable with reading, watching, and even interacting with history, science, and current events in an online environment. This information access developed a cohort of officers that have little concrete experience in the world, but an ability to virtually mine anything they need to know. What they lack, however, is the critical analysis needed to filter and understand this information. Leaders should recognize these dynamics and present their experiences in a way that appeals to this new generation. New lieutenants will best learn by observing, researching, and collaborating. This style is less receptive to directive orders and more motivated through senior mentorship. This does not mean that these officers are not effective followers. Instead, they prefer to take the problem at hand, brainstorm ideas, and view it from multiple perspectives to gain consensus on the best solution.
Leaders at the tactical to strategic level should consider these traits while developing organizational programs. Tactical commanders can use the iGeneration’s unique learning style to develop critical analysis by encouraging these officers to critically think and write. Likewise, senior Army leaders could consider expanding the acceptance of more junior officers into information operations and operational support career fields. Operating in these functional areas will leverage these officer’s strengths and can promote and grow the Army capabilities as a whole. Overall, the inclusion of these new officers in multiple arenas of the US Army will promote growth and development for the ability to fight on a twenty-first-century battlefield.
There are currently four different generations of officers within the Army and these generations arrange themselves across the Army’s hierarchical rank structure because of “time-in-grade” requirements for promotions. Leaders should understand that these generational differences impact those around them. Over the last seven generations of officers, these differences often perpetuated a cycle of misunderstanding. Recognizing how these misunderstandings can occur, officers should be aware of personality traits and how leaders and subordinates will interpret these traits. Leaders should also recognize that a new generation of lieutenants is arriving in the Army. These officers are technology-based and have a vast social network that can span various nations and cultures, granting them a unique perspective into the strategic environment. They possess an unparalleled ability to virtually mine the internet but lack the critical analysis to understand it. With proper self-awareness within the officer corps, leaders can effectively develop programs for this emerging generation of lieutenants. Senior officers should develop more programs that develop the critical thinking and analytical abilities of these officers while leveraging their strength and understanding of technology and social networking. By better understanding the Army’s generational divides, officers can ensure that the Army remains on the leading edge of technology, leadership, and war-fighting capability.
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”
Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.
One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)
Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.
Tempered By Memory (Author)
Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.
In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.
However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.
In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.
Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)
Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.