Bet you think you’re a good driver. No one can knife across three lanes of traffic and make an exit doing 73 mph like you can, hoss. You even throw around the occasional courtesy wave.
Former Army Engineer and “Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis fancied himself above average in the driving department until he met Jim Wilkey at Bobby Orr Motorsports, where the two-tour Vietnam Vet proceeded to hand our host his ass.
A former Navy Seabee, Wilkey is now one of Hollywood’s most highly-regarded stunt drivers, flipping cars and drifting in such modest cinematic offerings as “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
When he’s not rolling on “action,” Wilkey teaches the art of stunt driving to amateur road warrior wannabes on his home track in Camarillo, CA.
Watch as Wilkey puts Ryan through a day’s worth of paces and Ryan makes an unwise decision to challenge the master in a timed stunt lap, in the video embedded at the top.
Mark Tufo wrote Zombie Fallout, a nine-book series that follows Marine Corps veteran and family man Mike Talbot as he tries to keep his family safe in a world overrun by zombies.
Like the character Talbot, Tufo served in the Marine Corps before returning to civilian life, starting a family, and adopting an English bulldog. The similarities end when Talbot’s neighborhood is taken over by flesh-eating and brain-hunting zombies, forcing him and his family to fight their way out.
Now, Talbot and his family might be getting their own TV series. Brad Thomas, a television producer and fan of the series, has teamed up with Tufo to bring the zombie epic to the masses. WATM got to spend a day with them and some military veteran fans on the set as the crew filmed a teaser for the show.
WATM’s Weston Scott interviewed special effects artist Michael Spatola (known for his work on Predator 2, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and numerous zombie flicks) and got a chance to experience firsthand what it’s like to sit in the chair and transform into one of the walking dead.
Platoon sergeants have to be jacks-of-all-trades to handle their many roles. They must balance the welfare of their troops and supervise training evolutions all while keeping up with the platoon’s administrative tasks — it’s a lot of work.
When you first enter the unit as a newbie boot, it’s rare that you’ll ever get to know much about your platoon sergeant outside of their name, rank, and how many countries they’ve deployed to. However, there are others who pride themselves on getting to know a few things about each one of their troops. Every platoon sergeant has their own style of leading that works best for them.
But, if you’re in the infantry, you’ll come in contact with at least five different types of platoon sergeants in a grunt unit.
Some platoon sergeants take a back seat to their other NCOs when it comes training their troops. Others want to spearhead the training and break everything down themselves, “Barney style” — which isn’t a bad thing.
2. The organized pointer
This type of platoon sergeant has practically seen it all and done it all. He shows up prepared and ready to kick ass. They know what they need and how to get the job done.
3. The one who wants to get in the fight
This motivated leader helps plan out missions and even lends a hand when they aren’t in battalion-level meetings.
4. The one who loves themselves some training
These are one of our favorite types. They’re the ones who will strap on a heavy pack and go on a ruck march to prove they can lead, and that they’ve still “got it.”
After a 12-mile hike, this platoon sergeant is still smiling — no big deal. (NCO Journal photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)
This is the type that when he speaks, everyone in the platoon listens like the words are spoken from scripture. He’s earned the right to be heard by everyone. Other up-and-coming grunts hope they’ll be like him someday.
If you sometimes struggle with strength and optimism in difficult situations, keep reading.
I recently discovered motivational speaker and all-around role model Ryan Manion through her podcast, titled The Resilient Life. Honestly, I was hooked on Ryan’s story after learning about the foundation she started in her brother’s honor and name, following his death in Iraq. The Travis Manion Foundation strives to “unite and strengthen communities by training, developing and highlighting the role models that lead them.” Ryan has pledged to inspire others to improve themselves through service, and has done so through her work in TMF and, more recently, through her podcast.
In The Resilient Life, Ryan discusses how struggles shape people and the different ways we can face them. In her words, “Every human will struggle in this life. Our challenge is to struggle well.”
I think Ryan’s podcast is so impressive to me because I, too, am constantly struggling (and, subsequently, am always learning). It’s common for me to find myself thinking about the best ways to deal with pain and handle conflict. Listening to Manion’s podcast felt like hearing my own personal thoughts put into words that made sense, were inspiring, and additionally were directly applicable to my life. Through Ryan’s personal stories, dialogue with guest speakers and practical advice, aspects of my life that had previously seemed utterly cryptic are starting to make sense.
Something good happening during 2020!?
Manion dives further into the deeper topics discussed in the podcast in her book, The Knock at the Door.
The foundation of TMF in itself is the product of Ryan’s own productive struggling. Travis was killed in combat with other members of his battalion in the Al Anbar province of Iraq during his deployment in 2007. While many people use a life altering tragedy such as this one as a reason for pity and squander opportunities to learn from their own suffering, Ryan took the opportunity, or “knock at the door,” to grow and to improve herself. Her podcast and her book demonstrate her growth and put her wisdom into words.
In fact, The Resilient Life has a new episode airing today. In the second ever episode of the podcast, Manion and Brian “Tosh” Chontosh, a well-known force in the Marine Corps, discuss failure, discipline and more. Tosh is a retired Marine Corps officer who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism and patriotism during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The most encouraging thing about the podcast is the reassurance that even successful, strong people such as Manion and Tosh can struggle and fail. Listen to the podcast to hear the details of Tosh’s struggles with the “ultra” marathon, taking place in Minnesota during wild blizzards.
Personally, I feel good about myself after running a 5K. We all have different definitions of success. And that may be why Tosh and Manion’s joint work is so amazing.
Manion’s podcast, work with and foundation of the TMF, and book are all examples of how we can use pain for productivity; suffering for efficiency. In a time where it’s so natural to be passive and let time pass us by as the world is shut down around us, it’s very easy to lose our sense of urgency in the doldrums of quarantine. However, with Manion’s inspiration, it’s a little easier to get up and get shit done.
The Travis Manion Foundation is inspiring people every day. Let yourself be one of them by listening to The Resilient Life.
After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”
Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.
The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.
“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.
Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.
“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”
Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.
Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”
Chain of events
William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.
Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.
That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.
On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.
It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.
The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”
Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.
Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.
At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.
The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.
When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.
She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.
She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.
She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”
She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.
“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.
At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.
“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”
Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.
So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?
It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.
Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.
Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.
George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”
The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”
The North’s missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.
1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton
In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.
Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.
The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.
2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe
Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.
3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year
During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.
4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un
After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.
The Smyrna, Georgia-based company submitted versions of its 9mm Glock 19 and .40 caliber Glock 23 pistols in the Army’s effort to replace its M9 9mm pistol. The release of the photos comes three weeks after the Government Accountability Office denied Glock’s protest against the US Army’s decision to select Sig Sauer, Inc., to make the service’s new Modular Handgun System.
“GLOCK, Inc. met or exceeded all of the mandated threshold requirements set forth in the RFP by the Army,” Josh Dorsey, vice president of Glock said in a statement.
Military.com has requested an interview with Glock to give the company the opportunity to explain why it protested the Army’s decision.
Glock’s MHS pistols feature a frame-mounted thumb safety and a lanyard ring next to the magazine well.
Glock filed the protest with the GAO on Feb. 24, challenging the Army’s interpretation of the solicitation regarding the minimum number of contract awards required by the Request for Proposal, according to a statement by Ralph O. White, managing associate general counsel for Procurement Law at GAO. Glock also alleged that the Army improperly evaluated its proposal.
“GAO denied the challenge to the interpretation of the solicitation, finding that the RFP allowed the Army to make only one award, although up to three awards were permitted by the RFP’s terms, White wrote. “GAO also denied the challenge to the Army’s evaluation of Glock’s proposal on the basis that any errors did not prejudice Glock in the competition.”
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 Modular Handgun System competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
The Army awarded Newington, New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer the MHS contract Jan. 19, selecting a version of its P320 to replace the Beretta M9 service pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.
We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:
1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.
1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.
1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.
1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)
1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.
1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.
1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.
1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.
1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.
1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”
1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.
1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”
1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.
2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.
2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.
2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.
2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.
2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.
2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
The 1943 season was a tough one for the NFL, its fans, and America. At the height of World War II, Pennsylvania’s two pro teams lost a number of players to military service. As a result, the two teams merged temporarily in order to play out the season, forming what the NFL called the “Phil-Pitt Combine.” The sports press labeled the team the “Steagles,” a name that fans quickly adopted. The season was saved.
The U.S. government fully supported the continuation of American sports to keep morale up on the homefront, but teams like the Steagles had rosters filled by players who didn’t join the war effort because they were unfit for service, received a draft deferment, or were actually serving but on leave.
But in spite of the fact that the NFL needed eight teams to have a functional season, the Steagles almost didn’t happen. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were bitter rivals in the 1940s, and the men who would be co-head coaches hated each other.
Players received some public ridicule because of the general perception that if a player was fit enough to play football he should be fit enough to fight the Nazis. But most of the Steagles’ players were declared physically unfit for service. The teams players also worked full time war production jobs. Football was not their only gig.
Philadelphia was hometown for the team and the team wore the Eagles’ green and white colors. It was the only time in the history of the Steelers franchise that the team didn’t wear black and gold. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney did manage to get two home games played in Pittsburgh, however, both of which they won.
After a 2-0 start, the Steagles started to fall apart and by the end of the season, their record was a mediocre 5-4-1. They still hold the record for most fumbles in a winning game, where, against the New York Giants, they lost the ball ten times but still pulled out a 28-14 win, as lopsided a win as the U.S. had against the Axis.
In 2003, the Steelers hosted the Eagles on the 60th anniversary of the Steagles’ formation and honored the surviving members who could make it. Philadelphia won that game 21-16.
In the Academy Award-nominated film “A War,” a platoon leader named Claus Michael Pederson finds his unit under heavy fire in Afghanistan. He directs a close air support on a nearby building he believes is housing Taliban fighters, but it turns out the building is actually full of civilians.
When he returns to his native Denmark, he faces a trial for violating the rules of engagement (ROE) in a way that allegedly caused the deaths of innocents killed in the air strike. He defends himself by stating that his primary responsibility was to save his men and the ROE put him in a position where he couldn’t do that.
Here are 5 trials in American military history that illustrate that war is never clean and often involves choosing the best among bad options:
1. General William “Billy” Mitchell
A member of the Army General Staff before WWI, Mitchell traveled to Europe to study aviation’s possible effects on warfare at the time and concluded that airpower would revolutionize war in every conceivable way… and he was very vocal about it. When a Navy airship crashed and killed his crew, Mitchell said, “These accidents are the result of the incompetency, the criminal negligence and the almost treasonable negligence of our national defense by the Navy and War Departments,” prompting President Coolidge to call for his court martial. He was convicted of insubordination and suspended without pay for five years.
The War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg lasted four years and brought to justice many of the highest ranking Nazi officials and collaborators. Eleven of the 21 defendants were sentenced to death and 2o out of 65 others were summarily executed.
3. Major General Robert Grow
Grow was an heroic armor commander during World War II who became the military attaché to Moscow in the years following the war. In 1952, the Soviet Union stole Grow’s personal diary from a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. When portions of the diary showed up in Soviet media, Grow was charged failing to safeguard classified information under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was convicted by court martial in 1952 and removed from his command.
4. Lt. William Calley
In March of 1968 Lieutenant William Calley was on his second tour in Vietnam when the company under his command murdered hundreds of unarmed civilians in the small village of My Lai. The incident was covered up, but a Life magazine photographer had a series of photos published the next year, which caused a huge public outcry. In his 1970 trial, witnesses testified that Calley had ordered the slaughter of the civilians he claimed were Viet Cong guerillas. He was given a life sentence for the murder of 22 civilians, but President Nixon paroled him after only three years. Calley apologized publicly for his crimes in 2009.
5. Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning
Manning was a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst in Iraq who sent a trove of classified intelligence data to an ascending website known as Wikileaks, which gave the world insight into the U.S.’ military dealings. Manning and Wikileaks were credited with information that helped spark the Arab Spring uprisings. She was charged with more than 22 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis threatened an “effective and overwhelming” response by the US and its allies if North Korea ever uses nuclear weapons.
His remarks came on his first overseas trip to South Korea, where he met with his counterpart in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense and other government officials.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
He also praised South Korea — which has nearly 30,000 US troops stationed there — as a “lynchpin of peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mattis’ stern warning to the North is likely to be taken seriously, since Pyongyang often responds to the slightest provocation. For example, North Korea regularly threatens total war against its southern neighbor whenever the US and South Korean forces train together during annual exercises, which are regularly scheduled and known well ahead of time.
The secretary’s overseas trip was also another chance to push the South to continue with its deployment of the US’s powerful THAAD missile defense system, which would blanket the country with protection from conventional or nuclear-tipped missiles fired from the north.