Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.

When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard

a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.

I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.

I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.

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

My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.

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

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.

I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.

The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.

I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.

No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.

I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

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

It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.

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

I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?

After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com

Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.

Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.

Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.

Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

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

There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com

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

First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.

Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.


Humor

6 disappointing things new recruits discover after basic training

Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters’ offices who land in basic training thinking they’re going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who’s ever lived.


Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn’t a bad thing.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It’s more common than you think.

(Photo by Glenn Sircy)

A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy

So, you’ve learned that “Green Beret sniper” isn’t something you can enlist into right away and you’ve picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won’t be doing that job, either.

You’ll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn’t even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn’t want to scrub floors.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Or you’ll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)

You rarely do the things you learn in schools

Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it’s either out of date, doesn’t apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.

Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you’ll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

There will also be so much commotion going on that you’ll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.

(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)

You’ll find out that the things you learn at the “fun” schools still suck

Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you’ll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you’ll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.

Just how “awesome” are these schools, really? First, you’ll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day (maybe) jump out of. Then, when it’s time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Don’t worry, shared pain will get you there.

(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)

Camaraderie isn’t given to you — it’s earned

You’ll hear the phrase “one team, one fight” echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They’ll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They’ll even toss you into the barracks where there’s basically a party every night.

But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Even grenades become boring once you learn they don’t explode like in the movies.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

You won’t be having much fun at the range

The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don’t get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don’t worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.

Nearly every time you go to the range, it’s to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There’s a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

On the bright side, you’ll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad…

(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)

Most of your career will be spent waiting.

The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You’ll wait on formation. You’ll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You’ll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.

If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers can now serve their country…playing video games

Over 6,500 soldiers are already hoping to be part of a new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide in an effort to attract potential recruits.

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the budding team.


About 30 soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first positions could be filled summer 2019. Only active-duty and Reserve soldiers are currently allowed to apply.

Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is headquartered.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

More than 6,500 Soldiers have already applied to join the Army esports team, which was created to boost recruiting efforts in the gaming community.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in learning about the service.

Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.

Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.

In August 2018, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about 5 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers — roughly the same number of those who watched 2018’s Super Bowl.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

“It’s something really new and it’s been gaining a lot of steam,” Jones said.

While on the team, soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a soldier. They will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.

“Outside of that, there will be esports training,” Jones said. “So whatever game they’re playing in, they’ll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better.”

The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.

“Esports is like traditional sports,” he said. “Nobody can just walk in and expect to play at a competitive level.”

The Army, he said, already has talented gamers out there who can compete in events.

in January 2019, a few soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

A few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community Jan. 18-20, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

In one of the events, a Street Fighter V tournament, two soldiers placed first and second.

“This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only to the Army, but to the civilian populace and the esports industry that we also have what it takes,” Jones said of the events.

Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.

There are plans to do the same at the PAX East exposition in Boston in late March 2019.

As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may have about the Army.

Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same passion is also a bonus.

“For a lot of soldiers, to include myself, it’s like a dream come true,” Jones said. “This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviets were the first to put a flag on the moon — not the US

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person in history to dismount a lunar space module and walk on the moon. It was then that he spoke those famous words,

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That epic moment had millions of Americans glued to their television sets, witnessing history in the making.

The moon is positioned 240,000 miles away from Earth and, as far as we knew, Armstrong’s famous moment marked the first time a flag was ever planted into the extraterrestrial surface — a landscape pocked with inactive volcanoes, impact craters, and lava flows.

The only problem is, it wasn’t actually the first time a flag was placed on the moon. We may have beaten the Soviets by putting the first man on the moon, but they get the credit for planting the first flag.

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An overhead view of the moon’s surface.

Toward the end of the 1950s, Russia beat the U.S. by firing a satellite called Sputnik into orbit. The thought of Russia beating the United States in the “space race” left many Americans scared sh*tless. They believed that if the Soviets possessed a type of lunar technology, they might be able to fire weapons at the U.S. aimed from space.


Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
The Soviet satellite, ‘Sputnik’

So, when the Russians successfully put an object into orbit, the American government responded by further funding and speeding up their space program. The Soviets took notice and quickly fired a rocket toward moon, which crash-landed on its surface. That rocket, however, was carrying a Russian flag inside. Technically, the Russians had placed a flag on the moon.

It was a slick move, but the American government made sure to tell the Russians that their shady act didn’t give them any territorial rights in space.

Then-Vice President Nixon was incensed by the Soviets’ ballsy move and was sure to remind everybody that it took them four tries to even hit the moon. In 1960, Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy promised Americans that if he were elected, he would win the “space race.”

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Kennedy kept that promise on the day Armstrong touched down on Lunar soil.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army just committed $72 million to battlefield Artificial Intelligence

The U.S. Army is investing $72 million in a five-year artificial intelligence fundamental research effort to research and discover capabilities that would significantly enhance mission effectiveness across the Army by augmenting soldiers, optimizing operations, increasing readiness, and reducing casualties.

Today, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army’s corporate laboratory (ARL), announced that Carnegie Mellon University will lead a consortium of multiple universities to work in collaboration with the Army lab to accelerate research and development of advanced algorithms, autonomy and artificial intelligence to enhance national security and defense. By integrating transformational research from top academic institutions across the US with the operational expertise and mission-focused research from within CCDC, the Army will be able to drastically accelerate the impact of Battlefield AI.


“Tackling difficult science and technology challenges is rarely done alone and there is no greater challenge or opportunity facing the Army than Artificial Intelligence,” said Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the Army’s corporate laboratory. “That’s why ARL is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, which will lead a consortium of universities to study AI. The Army is looking forward to making great advances in AI research to ensure readiness today and to enhance the Army’s modernization priorities for the future.”

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

(U.S. Dept of Defense photo by Peggy Frierson)

This Cooperative Agreement for fundamental research was formed as a result of collaboration that initially started between the Army Research Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon under ARL’s “Open Campus” initiative, which Carnegie Mellon joined earlier in 2018. Carnegie Mellon and the team of academic research institutions will focus on fundamental research to develop robust operational AI solutions to enable autonomous processing, exploitation, and dissemination of intelligence and other critical, operational, decision-support activities, and to support the increased integration of autonomy and robotics as part of highly effective human-machine teams.

“For almost 30 years, the Army Research Laboratory has been at the forefront of bold initiatives that foster greater collaboration with U.S. universities,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “At this time of accelerating innovation, Carnegie Mellon is eager to partner with ARL and with universities across the nation to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and better serve the Army mission in the 21st century.”

In support of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), AI is a “crucial technology to enhance situational awareness and accelerate the realization of timely and actionable information that can save lives,” said Andrew Ladas, who leads ARL’s Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute (A2I2). Through this work, he said researchers expect to achieve automated sense making, or the ability for AI to recognize scenes and generate real-time, actionable correlations, insights and information for humans.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

An adversary with AI capabilities could mean new threats to military platforms including human-in-the-loop platforms, or technologies that require human interaction, and autonomous platforms.

“The changing complexity of future conflict will present never-seen-before situations wrought with noisy, incomplete and deceptive tactics designed to defeat AI algorithms,” said Ladas. “Success in this battlefield intelligence race will be achieved by increasing AI capabilities as well as uncovering unique and effective ways to merge AI with soldier knowledge and intelligence.”

For the Army, advances in fundamental research in AI will enable distributed shared understanding and autonomous maneuver, and facilitate human-AI teaming that can jointly and rapidly respond to dynamic adversarial events while retaining human-like adaption; adversarial learning to defeat the enemy’s AI; autonomous networking that adapts to electromagnetic/cyber events; analytics that rapidly learn/reason for situational awareness with uncertain/conflicting data; and autonomous maneuver/teaming behavior and decision-making that increases survivability in a highly contested environment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets can get free flu shots at VA and Walgreens

During flu season, protecting your health with a flu shot is easier than ever and as close as your local VA or neighborhood Walgreens. VA and Walgreens care about your health and are partnering to offer enrolled Veteran patients easy access to flu shots.

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost standard (Quadrivalent) flu shots to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system.

If you are interested in finding out more about other vaccine options, especially if you are aged 65 or older, contact your VA health care team.


During the program, which runs from Aug. 15, 2018, through March 31, 2019, enrolled Veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 8,200 locations in addition to their local VA health care facilities.

No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Your immunization record will be updated electronically in your local VA electronic health record. Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA electronic health record.

The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many Veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.

Other options for immunization

VA health care facilities:

You may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment if you are admitted to one of our VA health care facilities, or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.

Other non-VA providers and pharmacies:

Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for your flu shot at these locations. If you do not have insurance, there will usually be a charge.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Thanks to movies and video games, tons of people join the military thinking they’ll be the next John Wick. Gun-hungry recruits salivate at the prospect of sending rounds downrange using all the latest and greatest weaponry. Unfortunately, that rug will be pulled out from under newcomers when they realize that “military-grade” really just means “broken all the time with no money to fix it.”

The famous M203 Grenade Launcher is no exception. Yes, it’s a useful tool in combat since it can fire a 40mm grenade and reap an entire cluster of souls and limbs. But, in reality, they’re big pieces of sh*t.

Here’s why:


Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

It’s mostly just annoying to have a fore grip.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider)

You can’t really use a grip

There are fore grips made specifically for the M203, but they aren’t all that great. The real tragedy here is that you can’t add a cool, angled fore grip or any variation. If you choose to use the M203-specific grip, you have to place it somewhere that won’t interfere with the reloading process.

They’re noisy

When you get issued an M203, your rifle’s sling swivel will turn into your personal noisemaker because it’s going to click against the M203 with every step you take.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Aiming is a minor inconvenience with an M203.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

It adds weight to your rifle

Granted, the M203 doesn’t weigh so much on its own, but as every infantryman will tell you, “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.”

Additionally, when you want to fire from a standing position, you’ll have to lift the front end of your rifle, which has now been weighted down. This may seem like a nitpick, but after days of little food, water, and sleep, you’ll be feeling it. If you get issued an M203, start hitting the gym because you’ll need the extra muscle.

They’re bulky

If you’ve got that M16/M203 combo going on, have fun fitting into tight spaces. It’s baffling how often that M203 gets in the way. Want to sit comfortably in any military vehicle? Good luck.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Consider yourself lucky if you can reload with it still attached.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)

They fall off

Easily the worst part of having an M203 is that they’re not usable 100% of the time. Most will just fall of the rifle after firing a single shot, which is both dangerous and annoying. If you’re in a situation where you have to use that bad boy, you don’t have time to pick it up and put it back on. This means you’ll just have to hand-fire it, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it also means you don’t have the sights of the rifle for aiming,

With these issues in mind, you’ll likely not get to fire it often enough for it to be worthwhile. You’ll most likely end up hating the thing and it’ll feel like dead weight.

Articles

This is “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts”

The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom acquired many nicknames over its storied career: Snoopy, Old Smokey, St. Louis Slugger, the Flying Anvil, and many more. The best, by far, came from the sheer number of Soviet-built MiGs taken down by the plane.

The F-4 was truly an amazing aircraft. Even at the end of its service life, it was winning simulated air battles against the United States’ latest and greatest airframes, including the F-15 Eagle, which is still in service today. Even though it was considered an ugly aircraft by pilots of the time, it’s hard to argue with 280 enemy MiG kills — which is how it acquired its best nickname, “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts.”

After being introduced in 1960, it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy as an interceptor and fighter-bomber. In Vietnam, the Phantom was used as a close-air support aircraft and also fulfilled roles as aerial reconnaissance and as an air superiority fighter.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
U.S. Air Force Col. Robin Olds lands his F-4 Phantom II fighter, SCAT XVII, on his final flight as Wing Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Thailand in Sept. 1967.

All of the last American pilots, weapon systems officers, and radar intercept officers to attain ace status did so in F-4 Phantom II fighters over Vietnam — against MiGs.


And the MiG fighters flown by the North Vietnamese were no joke, either. The Navy’s Top Gun school was founded because of the loss rate attributed to VPAF pilots — and that’s only the opposition in the air. North Vietnam’s air defenses were incredibly tight, using precise, effective doctrine to thwart American air power whenever possible. Air Force Col. Robin Olds used this doctrine against them in Operation Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the war and a brilliant air victory.

Now Read: This is how triple-ace Robin Olds achieved his perfect victory over Vietnam

Olds found the loss rate to VPAF MiG-21s to be unacceptable when taking command of the 8th TFW in Ubon. With the F-4’s success in Operation Bolo, Olds and the 8th TFW grounded the entire Vietnamese People’s Air Force for months.

The F-4 Phantom II was eventually replaced, but it took a number of different planes to compensate for the absence of this versatile airframe. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 was also the most widely produced aircraft, with more than 5,000 built.

Today, the Phantom still out there with the air forces of Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Iran, and was last seen blowing up ISIS fighters in a close-air support role.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
You don’t have to cheer for Iran, but you can cheer for American-made F-4s still kicking ass.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force moving ahead with 2 new light attack options

The Air Force has entered the next phase in its development of a new, combat-ready Light Attack aircraft designed to maneuver close to terrain, support ground combat operations, and operate closely with US allies in an irregular warfare scenario.

The service is now entering a proposal phase for its new aircraft, designed to lead to a production contract by 2019.

The Light Attack planes are optimized for counterinsurgency and other types of warfare wherein the US Air Force largely has aerial dominance. Given this mission scope, the planes are not intended to mirror the speed, weaponry or stealth attributes of a 5th generation fighter, but rather offer the service an effective attack option against ground enemies such as insurgents who do not present an air threat.


“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an Air Force report. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”

The combat concept here, should the Air Force engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers and potentially fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range.

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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School drops an AGM-65 Maverick during a close air support training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range on Sept. 23, 2011, as part of a six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base.

Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft experiment in 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force streamlined its approach and entered a 2nd phase of the program. The second phase included “live-fly” assessments of the aircraft in a wide range of combat scenarios. The service chose to continue testing two of the previous competitors from its first phase — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

A formal Air Force solicitation specifies that both Textron and Sierra Nevada will now help draft proposal documents for the aircraft.

“The Light Attack Aircraft will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the Air Force solicitation says.

The emerging aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.

The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions – such as recent attacks on ISIS.

Air Force officials provided these Light Attack assessment parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following last summer’s experiment:

  • Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets
  • Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
  • Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates
  • Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions
  • Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets
Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

A U.S. Super Tucano flying over Moody Air Force Base as part of training program for the Afghan pilots.

A-29 Super Tucano

US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.

A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

AT-6 Light Attack

The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The bizarre story of how two artists independently created ‘Dennis the Menace’

We’ve talked before about the bizarre Hollywood phenomenon of Twin Films – essentially films with near identical premises inexplicably released around the same time – and all of the machinations that can lead to them existing. Today, rather than focusing on an industry wide trend, we’re going to discuss a specific example of something similar — the bizarre tale of the time two comic artists based in the UK and US respectively somehow both created “Dennis the Menace” at almost the same time, with the first editions of each published on the exact same day, despite neither one knowing anything about what the other was doing.

While it’s commonly misstated that the UK version of “Dennis the Menace,” which debuted in Beano #452, came out on March 17, 1951, in truth both “Dennis the Menace” comics hit the shelves on March 12, with the incorrect date for the British version coming from the fact that this date was on the original cover. As to why, a common practice at the time was to post-date editions to try to keep them on the shelves longer.


Beyond sharing a name, both characters own dogs that usually aid in their mischief, with American Dennis having a snowy white Airedale mix called Ruff, and British Dennis owning a “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” called Gnasher. Like their owners, each dog has a distinct personality, Gnasher being decidedly more violent than Ruff, with his favourite pastime being chasing and biting postman. Another similarity between the two Dennises is their penchant for causing mischief with a slingshot, which is considered to be a trademark of each character in their respective home markets.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher.

That said, it should be noted for those unfamiliar that the British Dennis is an intentional menace who relishes in the mayhem he causes, whereas the U.S. version tends to be over all good natured and ends up being a menace in many cases via trying to do something good, but having it all go wrong.

Nevertheless, given the similarities, it should come as no surprise that soon after each comic hit the stands on the same day in 1951, news of each other’s comics quickly reached the two creators. While initially foul play was suspected, it became clear to all parties involved that the whole thing couldn’t possibly be anything but a massive, inexplicable coincidence.

In the end, both creators agreed to continue as if the other comic didn’t exist and the only real change made to either comic was that as both comics gained in popularity, the name of the British version evolved, initially just in foreign markets, but eventually everywhere to Dennis and Gnasher.

During discussions about how each creator came up with the idea of “Dennis the Menace,” it was revealed that British Dennis was the brainchild of Beano editor, George Moonie. Moonie was inspired to create the character after hearing the lyric “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice” while visiting a music hall. With this lyric in mind, Moonie tasked artist David Law with creating a character called, you guessed it, Dennis the Menace, saying simply that the character was a mischievous British schoolboy.

Although Law was responsible for drawing Dennis from his conception until 1970 when Law fell ill, the now iconic look of Dennis was first suggested by Beano Chief Sub Ian Chisholm who is said to have sketched a rough drawing of what would come to be Dennis’ default look on the back of a cigarette packet while Chisholm and Law were at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland.

Billed as “The World’s Wildest Boy!” in his debut strip, proto British Dennis looked markedly different from his modern counterpart, with some of his more iconic features, such as his pet dog and bestest pal Gnasher or his iconic red and black striped sweater, not being introduced until later comics.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

In the end, “Dennis the Menace” played a big part at revitalizing Beano, as noted by Beano artist Lew Stringer, “‘Dennis the Menace’ was like a thunderbolt. The Beano was flagging by 1950 and no longer radical. But there was an energy to ‘Dennis the Menace,’ it was modern and became one of the first naughty kids characters of the post-war period.”

As for American Dennis the Menace, he was the creation of Hank Ketcham. Ketcham briefly attended the University of Washington in Seattle, but had a passion for drawing from a very young age when a family friend had showed him his, to quote Ketcham, “magic pencil”, and how it could draw things like cartoon characters such as Barney Google.

Fast-forward to his freshman year of college in 1938, after seeing “The Three Little Pigs” Ketcham promptly dropped out of school and left Seattle, stating,

I had one thing on my mind: Walt Disney. I hitchhiked to Hollywood and got a job in an ad agency, changing the water for the artists for [about 9 today] a week. Which was OK because I lived at a rooming house on Magnolia – three meals a day and a bike to ride to work – for a week.
Then I got a job with Walt Lantz at Universal, assisting the animators, for . It was the tail end of the glory days of Hollywood and I loved it! I was on the back of the lot, where W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi, Crosby, Edgar Bergen were all parading around. My neck was on a swivel! Marvelous!

As he notes there, he eventually achieved his goal, doing some work for Disney on movies like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio.

When the U.S. entered WWII, he found himself in the Navy drawing military posters for things like War Bonds and the like. By 1950, he was working as a freelance cartoonist. On a fateful day in October of that year, his toddler son, Dennis, did something that changed the family’s fate forever.

His wife, Alice, went to check on the toddler who was supposed to be napping, but instead she found Dennis’ dresser drawers removed and contents unceremoniously dumped out, his curtain rods removed and dismantled, mattress overturned and just a general mess everywhere.

Ketcham would recount in an interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of his comic that Alice remarked in an exasperated tone after witnessing the destruction, “Your son is a menace!”

This statement resonated with Ketcham who quickly devised and refined the idea of a mischievous toddler who accidentally causes wanton destruction wherever he goes. Dennis the Menace was born, and a mere five months later debuted in 16 newspapers. This is despite the fact that Ketcham himself would later state, “Oh, the drawings were terrible! Even when I started with Dennis they were just wretched! How any editor ever bought that junk…”

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Hank Ketcham in 1953.

Nevertheless, within a year of its debut, 245 newspapers across the world had picked it up representing a readership of over 30 million people. At its peak, the number of outlets that carried “Dennis the Menace” grew to over 1,000.

Unfortunately, things did not have a happy ending for the real Dennis. Much like with Christoper Robin Milne, who A.A. Milne based his character of Christopher Robin on, Dennis came to loathe the fact that his father had created a famous character after himself. Unlike Christoper Robin, Dennis never got over it.

That said, despite his son’s accusations, Ketcham vehemently denies ever using anything from his son’s childhood as fodder for the comic other than the name, noting he almost always used a team of writers to come up with the comics’ content, stating, “Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people. Otherwise, you settle for…mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”

Whatever the case, the comic was perhaps just a side issue. You see, as her husband’s fame grew, Dennis’ mother became an alcoholic and by 1959 she filed for divorce. Around the same time, with Alice no longer capable of taking care of Dennis, he was shipped off to a boarding school. Said, Dennis, “I didn’t know what was going on except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way.”

Very soon after, his mother died after mixing barbiturates with a lot of alcohol. As for Dennis, Ketcham didn’t end up getting him from boarding school to attend the funeral, nor did he tell him about his mother’s death until weeks later, reportedly as he didn’t know how to break it to him, so delayed as long as possible. Said Dennis of this, “Mom had always been there when I needed her. I would have dealt with losing her a lot better had I been able to attend her funeral.”

Things didn’t improve when mere weeks later, Ketcham married a new woman, then moved the family off to Switzerland where he once again placed Dennis in a boarding school, which ultimately didn’t work out. To begin with, his new wife and Dennis weren’t exactly pals. Said Ketcham, “Jo Anne was unused to children. and she and Dennis didn’t get along.”

Seeing his son struggling academically because of a learning disability, combined with being in a foreign country and issues between his new wife and Dennis, Ketcham sent Dennis off to a different boarding school back in the United States where he hoped he’d be more comfortable.

After graduating two years later than most, Dennis joined the Marines for a tour in Vietnam and subsequently suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for his relationship with his father, it never improved, with Ketcham even losing track of him completely at one point. As Ketcham stated when asked about his son, “He’s living in the East somewhere doing his own thing. That’s just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families… He checks in about twice a year. And if he needs something, I try to help him.”

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
Giphy

As you might imagine from all this, Ketcham would come to greatly regret using his son’s name for his character because of how he felt it negatively impacted him. “These things happen, but this was even worse because his name was used. He was brought in unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.”

He also regretted not being there for his son. “Sometimes, young fathers scrambling to make a living, to climb the ladder, leave it to the mother to do all the parental things. But you get back what you put into a child. It’s like a piano. If you don’t give it much attention, you won’t get much out of it… I’m sure Dennis was lonely. Being an only child is tough.”

He goes on, “In my family now. I’m much more active with the kids and their schooling than I was before. I listen better. And I think I’m more patient. Maybe not. But I’d like to think so.”

As for Dennis’ side, he stated, rather than a successful, famous father, “I would rather have had a father who took me fishing and camping, who was there for me when I needed him… Dad can be like a stranger. Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel anything.”

When Ketcham died on June 1, 2001, Dennis didn’t show up for the funeral and a family spokesman stated they hadn’t heard from him in years and didn’t know where he was.

To finish on a much lighter note, in 1959, Ketcham was invited to visit the Soviet Union as a part of a cartoon exchange trip. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the CIA asked Ketcham if he wouldn’t mind sketching anything significant he saw while in the Soviet Union. Said Ketcham, “We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes. I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book of funny-face cartoons at the end that I didn’t know how to read.” Needless to say, the CIA didn’t exactly appreciate his work.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

“Dennis the Menace” creator Hank Ketcham.

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to British Dennis, Kurt Cobain was known to wear a jumper remarkably similar to that of the British Dennis the Menace on stage. As it turns out, the jumper was a genuine piece of official Dennis the Menace merchandise, though the singer didn’t know this. Apparently Courtney Love bought the jumper for Kurt for for £35 (about £70 or today) from a fan called Chris Black at a concert in Northern Ireland in 1992 after taking a liking to it.
  • Speaking of having to find a way to be original week after week in comics, Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, once sagely stated, “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” That’s a tall order for someone who created nearly 18,000 strips- and it wasn’t always easy. On this note, Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip Cathy, revealed in an interview that Schulz once called her in something of a panic as he couldn’t think of anything to draw and was doubting whether he’d be able to come up with anything. Exasperated, she stated, “I said, ‘What are you talking about, you’re Charles Schulz!’… What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt.”
  • Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” famously not only passed up but fought vehemently against merchandising of “Calvin and Hobbes,” costing himself many tens of millions of dollars in revenue. He stated of this that it wasn’t so much that he was against the idea of merchandising in general, just that “each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.” Despite this, it’s not terribly difficult to find merchandise of “Calvin and Hobbes,” but all are unauthorized copyright infringements, including the extremely common “Calvin Peeing” car stickers. Despite never having earned a dime from these, Watterson quipped in an interview with mental_floss, “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”
  • Most of the characters and names in “Winnie the Pooh” were based on creator A.A. Milne’s son’s toys and stuffed animals with the exception of Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher. Christopher Robin Milne’s toy teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear he saw at the Zoo in London. The real life black bear was in turn named after the hometown of the person who captured the bear, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, who was from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bear ended up in the London Zoo after Colebourn was sent to England and then to France during WWI. When he was sent to France, he was unable to bring the bear so gave it to the London Zoo temporarily and later decided to make it a permanent donation after the bear became one of the Zoo’s top draws. The “Pooh” part of the name was supposedly after a black swan that Christopher Robin Milne saw while on holiday. A black swan named Pooh also appears in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy (and how to fix it)

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense issued a statement saying that in order to ensure our military remains at its strongest, any troop that’s been listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more will be removed from service. The policy was officially enacted on October 1.

On one hand, it’s reasonable to assume that the primary mission of troops is to deploy and engage the enemies of the United States. If a troop isn’t physically up to the task, then it’s time to let them go. And the policy isn’t coming down like an iron fist; there are a number of exceptions in play, including some for those on temporary non-deployable status for reasons like pregnancy or injury.

Now that the policy is in place, however, we’re starting to see how it’s affecting the overall combat readiness of troops. On paper, everything seems fine, but many unintended consequences are now hampering the troops.


For a full look at the policy, click here.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

If not, many troops will try to fight their way into a Warrior Transition Unit.

(U.S. Army)

Many wounded troops will be unceremoniously given the boot

The exception for wounded troops we mentioned above is only applicable to troops who received injuries in combat. The policy is geared specifically toward sidelining troops who have endured prolonged injuries that have gotten worse over time or were sustained during training. It remains to be seen whether the policy protects troops who were injured outside of combat while deployed.

Since this directive is coming from the Pentagon level and any appeals will be made at the military service-level, expect troops who’ve served their country for years face an extremely uphill battle just to try and stay in. The debatable “positive” side of this is troops who’ve served long enough may be eligible for an early medical retirement.

If the appeals process were to be set at a much lower level, say, the installation level, then troops could present medical documentation in person, giving them a better chance to appeal.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

At least the lines at sick call will be shorter…

(U.S. Air Force photo)

More troops will skip medical exams

Put yourself in the perspective of a lower enlisted. As it currently stands, you are seen as either weak or a discredit to your unit if you go to sick call. If your injury or sickness happens to fall anywhere near a unit run/ruck march, it’ll look like malingering. You’ve had bad experiences with the medics/corpsmen at sick call and you weren’t given the proper treatment. Now, to top it all off, if you go to sick call and get some bad news, there’s a chance your career is over.

The intention of the policy is to keep only the able-bodied troops who’re capable of withstand the hardships of a deployment — and that’s understandable — but the only way the Pentagon can keep tabs on who is and who isn’t eligible is through medical records. Troops who know something is wrong with their body will simply avoid sick call or medical if they want to stay in.

In order for this policy to be effective, there has to be better rehabilitation options available to troops. That 12-month deadline can remain in place, but only if the troop has proven that the previous fifty-one weeks weren’t getting them closer to the action.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The VA isn’t as much of a mess as it used to be and hopefully they don’t get complacent.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sara Francis)

The VA will be even more backlogged

As with any change in policy, it’ll hit hardest at first and then taper off after a while. Currently, there are around 126,000 troops (six percent of all troops currently active, reserves, or guard duty) who face separation under this policy. It will hit the ranks pretty hard at first and then affect only a couple thousand or so per year after the initial impact.

All of these troops leaving the service simultaneously for medical reasons will immediately go to the already-overworked Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who currently serve 9 million veterans across their 1,243 health care facilities. If evenly dispersed, every VA center stands to receive 100 new applicants — but the system works by geographical location, so expect activity at metropolitan centers to surge. This is bad news for a department that currently has a backlog of 326,000 still-pending disability claims to deal with.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has gotten better recently, bringing that backlog down from 800,000 in just six years. The only thing they can do is prepare themselves for a massive surge of new appointments — good luck.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Someone’s gotta take care of things back stateside. That’s not a figure of speech or anything. We seriously need people back here to do the mission while others are deployed.

(Department of Defense photo by David Bedard)

Rear Detachment units will be inoperable

Not every single troop joins and then deploys when a unit heads overseas. Those responsible for staying behind and taking care of the home station are called the Rear Detachment, or Rear-D. These units are skeleton crews that take care of stateside logistics and handle any new and incoming troops that may arrive to the unit. While an entire battalion-sized unit is gone, maybe two platoon’s worth of troops will hold down the fort. Before this new policy, this is where you’d send the medically non-deployable troops, pregnant troops, and any new arrivals.

Under the new policy, a huge chunk of Rear-D troops are facing separation. Before the policy, it would have been easy to find a handful of troops and an E-7 with a bad back to take charge and keep the gears turning.

One of two things will now need to happen instead. Either a deploying unit will need to keep certain troops back home to handle Rear-D (and these troops would’ve otherwise deployed, thus taking able-bodied soldiers out of the fight and negating the intended effect of the policy) or stateside units will need to play a larger role for deployed counterparts, taking away from their current training mission.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

But, as with all things, the policy will probably only be in effect for a few years before we realize the mistake and start letting anyone who wants in to join. I’m calling it now.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Philip Speck)

The total number of troops affected will be far greater if the military keeps its path

An estimated 126,000 troops are currently on the chopping block. While we may never cut that many in a given year, there will be many more that are removed in the coming years.

The Army is planning on implementing a new PT test, one that features three events capable of causing injury if done incorrectly. A massive overhaul of Basic Training and Boot Camp is expected, making the experience far more intense, which will result in more injuries. An increased military presence overseas will result in more intense pre-deployment training, which is already resulting in more injuries with each passing year. Combine all of these factors with a civilian population that’s becoming less and less eligible to enlist, and the military is going to be shrinking way too fast.

This isn’t a problem that can be easily fixed. This is the fundamental problem with the Deploy or Get Out policy. The military is going to shrink beyond its already record-low personnel numbers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how NATO’s budget really works

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO over how the alliance is funded and pressured other member states to increase defense spending.

In the process, he has made a number of misleading claims about NATO, distorting how it works and why it exists in the first place.

On July 12, 2018, Trump reiterated his criticism of NATO in a tweet, stating, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”


Trump added, “All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”

The president is correct that his predecessors also pressured other NATO member states to increase defense spending, but his claim that member states must pay the US for “protection” misrepresents how NATO works.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by US President Harry S. Truman in Washington, on April 4, 1949, and was ratified by the United States in August 1949.

NATO’s roots

NATO is an alliance that was formed in the wake of World War II as the US and its allies sought to counter the Soviet Union’s growing influence in Europe and beyond.

The alliance was founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them. This is precisely why NATO, for example, rallied behind the US in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years.

Collective defense requires collective spending

Accordingly, every NATO member state contributes to a relatively modest direct budget: a roughly id=”listicle-2586418750″.4 billion military budget and a 0 million civilian budget.

Overall, the US provides about 22% of this budget based off a formula that accounts for the national income of member states.

Beyond the direct budget, NATO came to an agreement in 2014 that each member state will increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective gross domestic product by 2024.

At present, NATO has 29 members and few have reached this goal — only five NATO members are expected to meet the 2% target by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US spends roughly 3.6% of its GDP on defense, as its military budget in 2017 was approximately 8 billion.

There is no penalty for not reaching the 2% goal; it’s simply a guideline, and most member states have increased defense spending even if they haven’t reached that goal quite yet.

Moreover, NATO estimates collective defense spending among all member states will total more that 6 billion in 2018. US defense spending accounts for roughly 67% of this, but it’s also true the US has the highest defense budget in the world by far and this is linked to both its strong economy and internal politics.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg participate in a joint press conference, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Here’s Trump’s big issue with NATO

Trump wants other NATO member states to increase defense spending — and soon.

On July 11, 2018, he tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”

There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as one of the globe’s leading powers, if not the most powerful country in the world.

Moreover, Trump’s remarks on NATO seem to suggest that Europe must pay the US for protection from Russia, when this is not how the alliance is meant to function. Not to mention, Trump already has a dubious relationship with Russia at a time when much of the world, especially Europe, is concerned about its aggressive military activities.

In this context, Trump’s criticism of NATO has been condemned by politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US as well as by other world leaders and foreign policy experts.

Trump caused a crisis at the NATO summit over the issue of defense spending

Trump reportedly broke diplomatic protocol on July 12, 2018, by referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, and his intense demands regarding defense spending saw NATO leaders enter a special emergency session.

After the session, Trump said NATO member states had agreed to quickly increase spending.

“We’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in an unscheduled statement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.