MIGHTY MOVIES

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

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

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

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

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The 8 rules for rookie combat pilots in World War I

Before the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was Germany’s air power hero, it was Oscar Boelcke, a German air ace and the mentor to von Richthofen and the “Flying Circus.” Boelcke was one of Germany’s first fighter aces and, when he took command of a group of fighters, he did all that he could to pass on the knowledge that would keep the men alive. He came up with eight rules that would stand for decades, and most still apply today.


There were multiple versions of the rules, all with variations in wording. But they all carried the same eight sentiments:

Oscar Boelcke was once the world’s top fighter pilot, and he wrote eight rules to help other pilots survive to be like him.

(Public domain)

Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.

This is one of the rules that has shifted over time, but target acquisition in World War I was done almost exclusively through pilots simply scanning the skies. For that reason, Boelcke recommended the pilot keep the sun at their backs when heading into enemy territory or when deciding on an angle of attack against an unwary enemy pilot.

This would blind the adversary to the threat until the German pilot was already letting loose with his first machine gun burst. Nowadays, it does work a little different since targets are generally acquired via radar and other sensors. Still, Boelcke would certainly recommend hiding the approach and only engaging with the advantage.

Always carry through an attack when you have started it.

This one was far from hard and fast, but it was aimed at a particular shortcoming of young pilots. While Boelcke would allow for the occasional need to bug out (more on that in a later rule), he worried for new pilots who would see an enemy and attack, but then would turn and run after the first burst. That allowed the enemy to get a good bead on the fleeing German and shoot them down.

Instead, he recommended, only engage if you’re certain you can succeed and then stick with the fight unless you lose all advantage and have no other options left to fight. In more modern terms, “Finish the fight.”

A German pursuit squadron in World War I.

(German military archives)

Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.

This was another rule squarely aimed at a common mistake by rookies. Overeager pilots would fire from hundreds of yards away, giving away their position with little chance of a hit. (Aerial marksmanship is famously difficult as, even in World War I, the shooter and the target are moving in different directions at dozens or even hundreds of miles an hour.)

Boelcke insisted that pilots wait until 100 meters or so, about 110 yards, before firing if at all possible. This helped in two ways. First, the attack pilot would only give away their position when there was a chance of success. But two, it hedged against the common problem of aviation guns jamming. So withholding fire until it was most likely to kill the enemy reduced the chances of a jam on a mission because the pilot fired less overall.

Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.

This one may feel obvious: Always keep your eye on your enemy. But American pilots, following their British counterparts, had learned to fake their deaths in the air by seemingly going into an irrecoverable spin during combat when they needed to bug out.

Boelcke wanted to make sure his pilots were ready for this and other tricks, and so he recommended that they always watch their enemy, even if the foe seemed dead or doomed.

Lt. Baldamus, a German ace fighter pilot.

(German military archives)

In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.

Again, rookie pilots would do stupid stuff, like attack an enemy flying from one side to the other, or coming head-on, both attack angles that were extremely challenging for even a veteran pilot to accomplish. So Boelcke directed his younger pilots to always focus on getting behind their enemy and attacking from there. There was one exception featured in the next rule.

If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.

Yup, no need to try to navigate to the enemy’s rear if they’ve already gotten the jump on you. Instead, treat it like an “ambush near” on the ground and immediately turn to face the threat and shoot at it. Then, if at all possible, get to the enemy’s rear.

Rookie pilots had often made the mistake of running from their enemy instead. If they weren’t close to enemy lines, this resulted in them shedding altitude and pointing away from their attacker, allowing the attacker a series of free and easy shots at the fleeing pilot.

Baron Manfred von Richthofen became the top fighter pilot of World War I, following in the footsteps of his mentor who achieved 40 kills before anyone else.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

When over the enemy’s lines never forget your own line of retreat.

This is the exception to a number of the rules above. Yes, you should always try to finish the fight against an enemy, whether you initiated the fight or were responding after they attacked you. But, you should always know which way to go if you have to run. If the guns jam, if the engine fails, if you’re hit with a potentially mortal wound, you have to know which way help is.

Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for the same opponent.

This one was aimed at younger squadron leaders. Basically, try to fly in groups whenever possible so that pilots can support each other. But, when fighting one group against another, be sure that you have each enemy plane on the run. If you’re matched man-to-man, but two of your pilots accidentally go after the same target, then there’s an enemy plane free to go after one German after another.

Instead, the pilots should be aware of where each other are, and they should coordinate their attacks as best as possible to keep the enemy on their back foot.

Boelcke would employ these rules and his own skills to achieve 40 aerial victories, rising to the position of the top fighter pilot in the world. But he died in a crash on Oct. 28, 1916. One of his students would, eventually, greatly surpass Boelcke’s number of aerial victories. The “Red Baron” would achieve 80 victories before dying in aerial combat on April 21, 1918, while chasing an enemy pilot over hostile lines.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy confirms mysterious videos of pilots spotting UFOs are genuine

The US Navy has confirmed videos showing pilots confused by two mysterious flying objects over the US contained what it considers to be UFOs, after years of speculation since their release.

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, confirmed that the Navy considered the objects in the videos to be unidentified.

“The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena,” he said in a statement to The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents.

He also later gave the statement to the news outlet Vice.


The term UFOs, which stands for “unidentified flying objects,” is now used less frequently by officials, who have instead adopted the term “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAP.

Another image from a video showing a UFO filmed near San Diego in 2004.

(Department of Defense)

Neither the term UFO nor UAP means the unknown object is deemed extraterrestrial, and many such sightings end up having logical, and earthly, explanations.

Gradisher also said the videos were never cleared for public release. “The Navy has not released the videos to the general public,” he said.

Susan Gough, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, previously told The Black Vault that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

Gradisher told Vice the Navy “considers the phenomena contained/depicted in those three videos as unidentified.”

He told The Black Vault: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can see the 2004 video here:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” John Greenwald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, when one commander who saw the object on a training mission told the outlet “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

The Times spoke with more pilots, who spotted objects in 2014 and 2015, this year. One of the pilots told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

These pilots, many of whom were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress, The Times reported.

The pilots said the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology, The Times added.

They said they were convinced the objects were not part of a secret military project like a classified drone program.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet taking off from the USS Harry S. Truman in the North Atlantic in September 2018. Red Rippers crew said they saw mysterious objects while in flight.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kaysee Lohmann)

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Hypersonic speed is more than about 3,800 mph — five times the speed of sound.

The 2004 video and one of the 2015 videos were also shared by The To Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182, in December 2017. The group released a third Department of Defense video in 2018 that Gradisher told The Black Vault was filmed on the same day as the other 2015 video.

The group hints at non-earthly origins of the videos, claiming they “demonstrate flight characteristics of advanced technologies unlike anything we currently know, understand, or can duplicate with current technologies.”

Gradisher, the Navy representative, told Vice the Navy changed its policy in 2018 to make it easier for crew to report unexplained sightings as there were so many reports of “unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled training ranges and designated airspace.”

Why Scientists Don’t Freak Out About UFO Videos

www.youtube.com

“The Navy and USAF take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report,” he said.

Scientists told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

US President Donald Trump said in June 2019 that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

And one Republican in the House Homeland Security Committee is accusing the Navy of withholding information on such sightings.

Rep. Mark Walker told Politico in June 2019 there was “frustration with the lack of answers to specific questions about the threat that superior aircraft flying in United States airspace may pose.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 ways the military prepared you for a pandemic

Don’t panic, the military prepared you for this.


How many times in life can we actually say that? Today, today, we can say that. On the verge of uncertainty, nothing has prepared you better than military life, either as a service member or spouse. Here’s the list of skills more valuable than gold right now– cheers to not just surviving but thriving my friends.

No food no problems, I survived Ranger School.

This isn’t the first time you’ve had to skip a meal and it won’t be the last. Field chow, AKA rations, eaten in world record time, or the MRE that makes a bigger impact on exit than entrance (think about that one) has left you hungry before.

Walk down the apocalyptically empty aisles with pride that you have what it takes. Not only can you hack it, but it’ll feel like a downright vacation when all you must do today is hike it to the fridge versus up a mountain.

Weird a*$ food combinations? Bring it on.

Stomachs of steel are made in the military. No one knows for sure what’s in an MRE, and I’m guessing we don’t want to know either. If you’re mid grocery haul and figuring out how to pair pickles, pears, and quinoa into a gourmet meal, fear not. Your stomach can handle it.

Beef stew, it’s what’s for breakfast. Yummm.

Keep calm, it’s only chaos.

Did you have to cancel plans for the 12th time today? Do you have absolutely no clue where you’re going to end up next month, what job you’ll have or when your kids will actually return to school? If so, you might be a military spouse.

Champions of chaos, military spouses can ride a tornado like a cool summer breeze. Need something fun to do? How about sitting back and watch your civilian friends freak out about experiencing a small fraction of what your life is like each year. We are the chaos, and the chaos is us.

Life skills for the win!

Ok, it’s not to this point yet, but just stick with us here… survival skills could possibly tip the scales to outweigh social media followings. Shocking but true. Who can find their way through the woods? You can. Who has seven duffel bags full of survival gear? You do.

You’ve been prepping for doomsday scenarios your entire career, or at least during the training portions of it. If necessary, you have everything you need to walk for miles with everything you need on your back.

Boredom? Hello old friend.

It’s about to get hella boring around here. Snipers, do you know anything about passing long amounts of time with nowhere to go? Remember that super fun game you played while in Afghanistan? Throwing rocks at other rocks, throwing rocks at…each other during downtime? Yet again, life in the military has superbly prepared you to endure the long bouts of boredom we are all experiencing right now.

What are we most looking forward to? Your Facebook posts full of the awesome ways you’re excelling at life right now.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

www.facebook.com

Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

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LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

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Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

Articles

That time a drunk Richard Nixon tried to nuke North Korea

The North Koreans have been provoking the United States for as long as North Koreans have been praising Kim Il-Sung for being birthed from a shooting star.


If you think that sounds stupid, go read about what they actually believe.

In the 1960’s the Hermit Kingdom was at the height of its power, which mostly came from the Soviet Union, who both supplied it and protected it from U.S. “intervention.”

The election of U.S. President Richard Nixon changed how Communist nations interacted with the United States in geopolitical affairs. Nixon, a staunch anti-Communist Cold Warrior, was able to provoke the major Communist powers and them off of one another. His famous 1972 trip to China and the subsequent thaw in relations with the USSR are proof that Nixon’s “triangulation” theory had merit.

But in April 1969, mere months into the first Nixon Administration, Nixon’s internationalist savvy was still unproven. That’s when North Korea shot down an EC-121 spy plane over the Sea of Japan. Nixon was furious.

And Nixon could do a lot when he’s that angry. (Painting by Jason Heuser – SharpWriter on DeviantArt)

A July 2010 story on NPR featured remarks from Bruce Charles, an Air Force pilot based in Kunsan, South Korea at the time. He recalled being put on alert to carry out his part of the SIOP, the Single Integrated Operational Plan – the U.S. nuclear strike plan for war with the Communists.

Charles was put on alert to drop a 330-kiloton nuke on a North Korean airstrip.

Eventually, the order to stand down was given, and Charles returned to his regular duties. According to the official accounts, Nixon and his advisors mulled over how to respond. In the end, the President opted not to retaliate.

It’s worth speculating that Nixon would have wanted the Communists to believe he actually considered a nuclear strike. In the coming years, the President would even send nuclear-armed bombers toward the Soviet Union while spreading the rumor that he was so insane, he might really trigger World War III.

Related: That time Nixon wanted Commies to think he was crazy enough to nuke them

Of course, he wasn’t insane. And thanks to a 2000 book by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, we know he was just drunk. Not with power, but with booze.

George Carver, a CIA Vietnam specialist at the time of the EC-121 shootdown, is reported to have said that Nixon became “incensed” when he found out about the EC-121. The President got on the phone with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ordered plans for a tactical nuclear strike and recommendations for targets.

Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor for Nixon at the time, also got on the phone to the Joint Chiefs and got them to agree to stand down on that order until Nixon woke up sober the next morning.

That’s some party.

According to Summers and Swan’s book “The Arrogance Of Power: The Secret World Of Richard Nixon,” Kissinger is reported to have told aides on multiple occasions that if the President had his way, there would have been a new nuclear war every week.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Ross Perot was a veteran to be admired

Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.

The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.


As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.

“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”

Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.

“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.

But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.

When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.

It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the injury that Jodies everywhere should fear

We’re all familiar with the story of Joe D. Grinder, right? Joe the Grinder was a fictional ladies’ man who seduced the wives of hard-working men, prisoners, and soldiers while the husbands were away. The character dates back to the 1930s, and is a staple of the military where he’s known as “Jody.” Turns out, there’s an injury named for jerks exactly like that.


It’s known as either the “Lover’s Fracture” or the “Don Juan Fracture.” And it’s so named because if you jump out of a second- or third-story window because the spouse of your lover just got home, you’re probably going to suffer the fracture yourself.

It’s a break of the heel bone, specifically the calcaneus. It’s diagnosed with X-rays, but symptoms include pain, bruising, and trouble walking. But best-case scenario when we’re talking about a recently active Jody, the fracture commonly happens at the same time as fractures in the hips and backs.

So, yeah, Jody’s gonna have a lot of trouble walking when his heel, hips, and back are all fractured at the same time.

Usually, we don’t root for other people to be severely injured. But we’re willing to make exceptions when it comes to Jody. Seriously, military marriages have enough stress without some jerk flying circles over them like vultures, waiting for deployments or other stress.

No one needs Jody around. And if he wanted healthy heels, he should have learned to do a parachute landing fall or dated single women. When a stranger sleeps with paratroopers’ wives, he should learn to jump like one. And that goes for female Jodies as much as the male ones. And while we’re not rooting for anyone to inflict physical violence on someone else outside of combat, a 10- or 20-foot fall is likely safer than being captured by an irate Marine. Or soldier, sailor, airman, or Coastie.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why United States NASA, China, and UAE are all going to Mars at the same time

NASA just launched its Mars rover Perseverance, along with its first interplanetary helicopter, perched atop an Atlas V5 rocket.


But NASA wasn’t alone….In the past two weeks, space agencies from China and the United Arab Emirates also launched missions to Mars.

These spacecraft will travel over 400 million kilometers before all reaching their destination around February 2021.

But in the past 13 years, only seven rockets sent missions to the red planet. So, why are so many attempts to reach Mars all happening right now?

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy takes out a drone in new weapons test

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.

The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.

A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.


The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.

Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.

That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.

The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.

The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.

The problems have even left some members of Congress reluctant to bless future multi-carrier purchases, a process that some say saves the service billions.

Navy and Raytheon officials are planning to conduct more live-fire events this year as they continue putting the Ford’s integrated combat system to the test.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Military Life

See the Navy haul its crew’s vehicles on the USS Ronald Reagan

The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.


Sailors direct the movement of vehicles onto an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.

Sailors’ vehicles are parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?

Sailors direct the movement of vehicles on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.

For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

During World War I, France created the Croix de Guerre to decorate its bravest troops, and it gave the decoration to members of foreign armies who took great risks or who achieved great things in service of liberating France from German occupation.


In the years following the Battle of Verdun, France issued the Croix de Guerre to units with 2,500 White Company trucks and named the vice president of the company, Walter C. White, as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in recognition of how important a humble truck was in France’s ultimate victory over Germany, especially at Verdun.

White Motor Company trucks at Fort Riley. Full panoramic image available here.

(Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General)

The story of the White Motor Company is a strange one. In 1902, it was the White Sewing Machine Company, and the Surgeon General proposed that the Army Quartermasters purchase a motor vehicle to serve as an Army ambulance in future conflicts. R. H. White, already looking to diversify the company’s offerings, pushed the company to take part in the competition.

But the competition never happened, because the quartermasters didn’t embrace it. But the company decided to develop an ambulance anyway, debuting a steam-powered design in 1906 that the War Department later purchased. It could carry four litter patients at a time and hit 40 miles an hour on smooth roads. But, best of all, it was reliable. According to a 1906 article, it had traveled over 1,600 miles in testing with zero mechanical failures or breakdowns.

But the company wasn’t done. They developed more truck designs and, in 1916, one of their trucks was upgraded with armor and sent on the Mexican Punitive Expedition. By the time World War I rolled around, White trucks were trusted by plenty of military men.

The automotive business proved to be a great investment for the company, and the White Sewing Machine Company opened itself a second company, the White Truck Company. This particular confederation of engineers and businessmen found themselves a ready market for reliable trucks and sold thousands of Model A trucks to France and other allied militaries.

From 1914 onward, France was sending these “Little trucks” into combat and seemed to have been more than pleased with the trucks’ performance. In the 1916 Battle of Verdun, the trucks were used to transport supplies and troops. At the Battle of Château-Thierry in 1918, the trucks moved U.S. troops into position in time to stop a German advance.

But it was at the 1918 Battle of Verdun, when many of the same trucks returned to that blood-soaked stretch of land, that the trucks earned their major laurels.

White Trucks of Cleveland advertisement

(Thoth God of Knowledge)

It was there that France needed to move hundreds of thousands of troops to the front over a stretch of just a few days, and they turned to the 2,500 Model A trucks of Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. The drivers and trucks carried 200,000 troops to the front, some for over 100-mile stretches.

According to a 1919 issue of Better Road and Streets:

The task was tremendous, the crisis very grave. A supreme effort was necessary to stop the German advance last March on the British front. Without this unprecedented movement of French reserves right into the teeth of the fighting, the issue might have been serious indeed for the Allies.

According to the same article, drivers often drove for 24 hours straight. One unit averaged driving 20 hours a day, and another pulled 60 hours straight of duty.

It was the only time that a motor convoy unit would be awarded the medal, and some chalked it up to the service of the trucks. According to Time Magazine in 1932, the only White trucks to break down in the battle were those disabled by shells and so, “The result was that 2,500 of them received the distinction of France’s Croix de Guerre.”

While this notation, implying that the trucks themselves had received the award, is obviously wrong, it remained a fairly common way of describing the success of the Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. And, Walter C. White, then the vice president of the White Company, was inducted into the Legion of Honor as a Chevalier in 1919, in recognition of the company’s contributions to France’s war efforts.

This all worked out well for the company after the war. They posted record profits in 1917 and again in 1918. They suspended, forever, their automobile construction and focused on trucks. And they advertised the ruggedness of their vehicles with ads featuring the Croix de Guerre. They would create plenty for the U.S. and its allies in World War II, as well as half-tracks and other vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”