A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

It’s been over 40 years since the AH-64 Apache made its first flight. This helicopter emerged as the best among entrants to the 1972 Advanced Attack Helicopter program, beating out a design from Bell to become the Army’s most advanced helicopter. From there, this legendary aircraft went on to see action across the globe in the hands of the world’s most advanced militaries.

Originally designed as a Cold War tank killer, the Apache has since become a very lethal hunter of terrorists. These helicopters are outfitted with the M230 30mm chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

An AH-64D Apache Longbow flies over Baghdad in 2007.

(US Army)

From the skies above, the Apache has watched as the Army shifted from Patton to Abrams and Bradley to Stryker. It’s had a service career that the AH-56 Cheyenne, a cancelled helicopter that created a vacuum in capabilities filled by the Apache, could only dream of.

It seems fitting that this chopper was the first to fire shots in Desert Storm — after all, it’s had a long history of making terrorist asses grass. It even took a turn as a cinematic star in the movie Firebirds, which featured Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones.

Over 2,000 Apaches have been purchased in the decades since its military debut in 1986. The Apache has seen action in the Balkans and during the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

The AH-64E Apache Guardian is slated to be in production through 2026, 51 years after the Apache’s first flight.

(US Army)

The Apache has survived at least one attempt to replace it (in the form of the RAH-66 Comanche). Recently, it’s taken over scout helicopter duties from the new-retired OH-58 Kiowa — and learned how to control UAVs in the process. The new AH-64E Apache Guardian is now in service and has export orders with Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Qatar.

Learn more about this helicopter that’s survived for nearly four decades in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMdz_L2_ogo

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl at his first duty station

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

Lists

5 things enlisted troops love but officers hate

No matter what branch you serve in, there will always be a solid line between enlisted personnel and officers — they rarely understand each other.


Enlisted troops do some crazy sh*t, which causes officers to get in a bad mood — and vice versa.

Most officers want their troops to abide by all the rules and regulations while the members of the E-4 mafia just want to push the envelope as often as possible and have a little fun.

Related: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

So check out five things enlisted troops love, but officers freakin’ hate — according to our resident military officers.

5. Practical jokes

We all love to play some grab ass to liven up a dull situation, and some jokes do go too far — f*ck it. Once the principal officer shows up, consider the fun is over. Most officers aren’t fans of practical jokes especially if they’re the butt of that joke — but enlisted folks love it!

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Don’t think an officer can’t prank their troops right back. They did graduate from college.

(Note: I’m told this doesn’t apply to pilots…)

 4. Mustaches

It’s common for service members to grow mustaches — especially on deployment. The military has strict grooming standards for all facial hair and officers keep a close eye out on them. We wouldn’t want a single hair follicle to fell out of line — we’d probably end up losing the war.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Master Sgt. Bryan McCoy, Staff Sgt. Clayton Morris, and Master Sgt. Anthony Foster show off their whiskers that were grown for Mustache March, March 27, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo: Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

(Note: The exception appears to be “Movember”)

3. Dipping tobacco while standing duty

Sometimes we need a nicotine fix and aren’t allowed to walk outside for a smoke. So we tend to dip tobacco and leave the spit bottles laying around. We’ll give this one to the officers since spit cups aren’t sexy.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
At least he’s not just spitting it on the ground. Keeping it in a clear bottle is a much better idea. (Source: Pinterest)

Also Read: 6 ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman

2. Out PTing their company commanders

When you’re just starting out in a leadership position and trying to lead from the front — no officer wants to get beaten in a sprint contest by someone who just graduated high school 6-months ago.

It’s probably why enlisted troops always have to run at the officer’s pace.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Lt. Col. David Bardorf and Sgt. Maj. Michael Rowan lead their battalion on a run during the annual battalion’s physical training session to support the Combined Federal Campaign. (U.S. Marine Corps photo: Lance Cpl. Nik S. Phongsisattanak)

1. Buying expensive vehicles right out the gate

Some branches are supposed to clear significant purchases with their command before executing on the sale. This system helps the enlisted troop from blowing his or her already low paycheck on a car with 30% APR — that’s bad.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Troops love buying brand new trucks — until they have to actually pay for it. (Source: Ford)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a massive amount of warships

The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.


The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.

Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.

The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

(Forbes)

China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.

Unless you also have hundreds of ships.

While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.

One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Dogfighting at 9Gs: Like ‘aiming through a toilet paper roll’

If you have any hope of winning, your strength has to be greater than your opponent’s weakness. As a young second lieutenant in pilot training, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I was flying a Basic Fighter Maneuver Flight, also known as dogfighting. The objective was for me to point at my instructor, who was in his own F-16, and as soon as we passed—with over 1,000 miles per hour of closure—maneuver my jet so I could gun him.


A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

On the first set I hit the merge at just under the speed of sound and pulled back on the stick. At 50 pounds of force, the stick was fully-aft, yet only moved one inch—a design feature to make the jet as responsive as possible. The big stabilizers on the tail dug in and in less than a second I was at 9G’s.

At 9 times the force of gravity, my body weighed over 2,000 pounds. The crushing force pushed me into my seat as blood drained from my head into my arms and legs. If enough drained out, I would lose consciousness and, more likely than not, impact the ground before I woke up. To counteract this, I performed an anti-G straining maneuver—squeezing my legs and abs, while making short, crisp breaths to keep pressure in my lungs. Even with an effective G-strain, I lost my peripheral vision as the world closed in until it looked like I was watching it through a toilet-paper roll.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Pilot fitness has a significant effect on performance while dogfighting. (USAF Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

For the next minute or so I struggled to maneuver my jet into a position to gun my instructor. He was able to easily neutralize my game-plan and called “knock it off” so that we could set up the fight again. The next three fights ended the same way. By this point, I was out of breath and exhausted from fighting him and the G’s. We ended up doing two more sets, but instead of just neutralizing the fight, he gunned me on both of them.

In the debrief, after the flight, my labored breathing was evident in the tape. He paused it and said, “How did you ever expect to win today? I have 15 years of experience flying fighters, and granted, you don’t have anywhere near that, but I’m also in better shape than you.”

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

(Ben on Flickr)

He was right. Being in my mid-20’s, I should have been in better shape than someone in their early 40’s. Having far more experience than me, there was no way I was going to be tactically superior. But, my fitness, and my poor performance towards the end of the flight was completely in my control. His weakness was greater than my strength which meant there was a zero percent chance of me winning that day.

I’ve reflected that lesson many times since; not only for myself, but also as a package commander in charge of upwards of a hundred aircraft. As the weaker force, you must find an area on the battlefield where your strength is greater than the enemy’s weakness. If you can’t find it, you’re in for a bad day. Likewise, if you are the incumbent, stronger force, it’s important to shore up your weaknesses so that hopefully they are greater than your enemies strength.

Want to learn more about dogfighting, flying, and the most successful professionals in any industry? Make sure to check out F-35 pilot Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

popular

The 6 types of people you meet outside of every military base

There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation. We all have a type, right?


Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.

1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.

You’re at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. “Oh, are you a soldier?” she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn’t give it away. “What rank are you?”

Just run away. Now.

 

2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.

Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn’t always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.

And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.

 

3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.

The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don’t really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect “USMC” in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.

4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.

The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone’s throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read “E-1 and Up!” along with “We Support our Troops!” Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.

“Oh hey, I’m a former Marine too, so I’ll definitely hook you up, brother,” is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don’t end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.

 

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

 

5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week. We don’t like this type.

You may have heard the phrase “gear adrift, gear a gift.” As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.

 

6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn’t cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.

You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn’t a good strategy.

Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.

What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How the identity theft in ‘Mad Men’ would actually play out

Mad Men, a fantastic period drama that ran from 2007 until 2015, followed the life of Don Draper, a 1960s advertising executive in Manhattan. The show was praised for being well-crafted and rightfully earned 16 Emmy awards and five Golden Globes. It was the first basic cable show to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama.

Toward the end of the first season, we see a flashback to the lead character’s time in the Korean War. Out of the laundry list of terrible, despicable things the protagonist does throughout the show — including lying, cheating, and fighting anyone on his way to the top — the only thing he expresses true remorse for is deserting the war by assuming the identity of a fallen lieutenant, Lt. Don Draper.

Let’s take a look at how this would play out in real life — and determine if this is some gigantic plot hole.


A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

The only person who knows of the protagonist’s desertion is the real Lt. Don Draper’s wife, who plays along in hopes of making something good come of her late husband’s death. They get a “divorce” but remain friends throughout the series.

(Lionsgate Television)

Before his service in the Korean War came to a close, Jon Hamm’s character went by the name of Dick Whitman, an adopted drifter with little family and even fewer prospects. When he arrives in Korea, he’s sent to build a field hospital, accompanied by only the real Lt. Don Draper.

The two men are attacked and an explosion kills Lt. Draper and seriously wounds Whitman. So, Whitman does what any coward trying to get out of there would do and swaps his dog tags with his dead officer’s before medical assistance shows up, effectively killing his former identity and assuming another. The man now known as Don Draper awakes in the hospital to an apathetic officer giving him a Purple Heart and orders to return stateside as soon as possible.

When the casket of the real Don Draper, now under the guise of Dick Whitman, is sent to the protagonist’s adoptive family, no one but his younger half-brother cares. As the casket is delivered, the protagonist is spotted by his younger brother, but his parents quickly dismiss his shouting, treating it as if he’d seen a ghost.

Draper quickly abandons both his previous life and his new one and finds work in advertising, setting up the show.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Thus kicking off the rest of the show and its theme of piling lies on top of lies.

(Lionsgate Television)

Now, this event isn’t entirely implausible, but it required a perfect storm of outrageously “lucky” events.

First, despite being an engineer in the 7th Infantry Division, the protagonist was left with only a single person in his immediate chain of command. He arrives in South Korea, meets a single apathetic NCO who tells him to go to the tent, and he’s never seen again. There was, effectively, only one person who knew of his real identity in Korea — and he’s killed off.

Draper and Whitman are both sent back stateside in a hurry. Despite the death of an officer and Whitman’s serious injuries, the real Draper’s chain of command never checked up on one of their lieutenants as he’s sent back. This seems unlikely, but hey, there’s a war going on.

The body of Lt. Draper could have been identified with dental records, which have been recorded as far back as 1882, but the show goes out of its way to make everyone seem as apathetic as possible to make the situation more plausible. The body was never examined and everyone took Whitman’s claims at face value. All they needed to see were some dog tags before shipping him back.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

…and the series ends with none the wiser.

(Lionsgate Television)

Now, let’s pretend a single thing went awry and he gets caught, either in the act or later on in the series. It’s a textbook example of desertion — case closed. The consequences would have likely netted him jail time. Execution is out of the question — it’s only happened once since the Civil War and Draper returned to the United States instead of defecting to North Korea. Plus, by the time the show kicks off, he’d likely have a good lawyer that’d push for misconduct on the part of the medical center for simply assuming he was Lt. Draper since he never outright says it during his time in the Army. The “impersonating an officer” charge could also be fought since he likely received heavy brain trauma after the blast and everyone started calling him Lt. Draper.

Without a doubt, such a revelation would destroy his career. Everything he gets in the show is based off the mutual respect from his boss, Roger Sterling, a retired Naval officer of World War II. Sure, he actually earned the Purple Heart and did serve in Korea, but Sterling would fire him for breaking the honor among veterans. At one point, Sterling even goes on a rant about how he left his cushy career before advertising because one of coworkers was also in the Army but was a coward — he values integrity.

In the first season, Pete Campbell, a junior executive, finds out everything about his past but takes it to the other head of the company who dismisses the accusation – despite him having all of the proof.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia probably can’t actually build its doomsday weapons

Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, have made a lot of waves and headlines in recent days with their claims of magnificent weapons that can fly faster than the speed of sound, hit targets with untold destructive capability, and deliver a stunning Bolshoi suplex that just knocks the Guile right out of opponents.


The last example was actually from Street Fighter, but Putin’s plans for the promised miracle weapons are just as real as Zangief.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

This is the real Cold War.

The prime case in point is a recent, incredibly deadly nuclear explosion near a weapons site in Severodvinsk, Russia on Aug. 8, 2019. It killed two people, and emergency responders had to get to the site in hazmat suits. This was no rocket engine test, unless that engine is nuclear-powered. Which it was.

The United States has tested a missile like the one Russia was testing in August. NATO has dubbed the Russian nuclear-powered missile the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. When the U.S. put a nuclear reactor on a missile, we called it Project Pluto. Whatever you want to dub it, know that it’s basically a nuclear missile with a nuclear reactor, spreading nuclear material from its engines wherever it goes.

American scientists scrapped it because it would be an environmental disaster. Putin seems to have no such reservations. But that doesn’t matter.

Whatever the test was, there are nuclear weapons experts who cast doubt on the idea that Russia has the finances or technical ability to create such superweapons. One of these experts believes the Russians are just throwing weapons ideas at a wall like spaghetti to see what sticks.

“I don’t think it can all stick,” Ian Williams, the deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Foreign Policy. “It’s just the novelty of it. No other country is even considering this kind of thing. It’s the most technologically unproven, probably the most expensive in the long run.”

More likely, Putin is trying to sell the idea of Russian superweapons, hearkening back to the good old days of the Soviet Union, where Russians had pride, dammit, even if they couldn’t always buy cucumbers. Putin is promising as much in recent days, introducing the superweapons in a March 2018 address to the nation. It’s only been a couple of years since Russia emerged from a financial crisis caused by the devaluation of the Russian Ruble – but with more and more economic sanctions imposed on it, the country is hardly out of the woods.

When Putin introduced the weapons last year, he challenged Russia’s top brass to name the weapons. I’m sure we could do better – how about the Pipe Dream torpedo or the Fukushima Missile?

MIGHTY HISTORY

Where the middle finger got its meaning & a great POW use of it

Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?

While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.

Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.


Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

(Photo by Natã Figueiredo)

For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.

Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.

Socrates: Well, to begin with,
they’ll make you elegant in company—
and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
the enoplian and the dactylic,
which is like a digit.
Strepsiades: Like a digit!
By god, that’s something I do know!
Socrates: Then tell me.
Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this!
[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.

[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Giphy

Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.

Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.

Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).

At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:

Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.

By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
  • American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
  • As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.

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

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10 military units that define ‘the tip of the spear’

When America needs to break its way into an enemy country, these are the people who slip, kick, or explode their way past the defenses and blaze the way for follow-on forces.


1. Marine Raiders

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm

Marine Raiders are the rank and file of the Marine Special Operations Command. MARSOC fields three Raider battalions that conduct special reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and direct action missions. The Raiders trace their lineage to World War II where Marine Raiders led beach assaults, conducted raids, and used guerrilla tactics against Japanese defenders.

2. Green Berets

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Hebert

The Army’s special forces soldiers were famously some of the first troops in Afghanistan where they rode horses to get to the enemy. They guarded Hamid Karzai when he was an unknown politician putting together a militia to aid an American invasion, and they’ve served in dozens of unpublicized conflicts around the world.

3. Delta Force

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: Department of Defense

Composed of the Army’s best green berets as well as operators from around the Department of Defense, Delta Force takes on high-stakes missions far ahead of the rest of the military. It was Delta Force that led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001.

4. Navy SEALS

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

They got Bin Laden in Pakistan, saved Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and produced “American Sniper” legend Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. Navy SEALs are the sea services’ most capable fighters on terra firma.

5. Army Rangers

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: USASOC Public Affairs Trish Harris

U.S. Army Rangers first led the way into combat in 1775. These elite infantrymen took out key positions on D-Day, led the way into Panama in Operation Just Cause, played a huge role in Somalia, and conducted airborne assaults into both Afghanistan and Iraq.

6. Force Recon Marines

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Anna Albrecht

Recon Marines work for Marine ground commanders, moving ahead of other forces into any area where the commander needs “eyes on” but can’t otherwise get them.

The popular miniseries “Generation Kill” followed a group of these Marines spearheading the invasion of Iraq and feeding information up the chain to Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other senior leaders.

7. Carrier-based aircraft

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: US Navy

The Navy’s carrier groups provide an awesome platform for launching jets against American enemies, quickly conducting air strikes when the wars opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria. This is done primarily by Navy Super Hornet air wings, though Marine Corps Harriers fly missions from carriers as well.

8. F-22 fighter wings

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Image: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jim Araos

While the F-22 has not yet fought in the first wave of an invasion, it’s proven that it’s capable in Syria. When it entered the fight about a month after airstrikes against ISIS began, it slipped past enemy air defenses to take out protected targets. It now escorts other jets past enemy air defenses, using its sensors to detect threats and targets.

9. Naval ships

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

While U.S. ships rarely get to mix it up with enemy navies these days, they still get to launch the opening blows in a fight by using long range cruise missiles, especially the Tomahawk Block IV. Navy destroyers, cruisers, and submarines have launched Tomahawks against Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo … ( actually, just see the full list at the Naval History Blog).

10. 509th Bomb Wing

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

The 509th Bomb Wing operates most of America’s B-2s, the stealth bomber that can slip into enemy airspace, destroy air defenses and runways, and then leave without the enemy knowing what happened. The B-2 has been used in strikes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and flew many of its missions from Missouri to the target and back, taking about 30 hours for each mission.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US soldier has deployed home to Afghanistan

As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.

Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.

Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.


“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”

The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.

Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.

Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.

His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.

His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.

The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.

“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”

Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.

Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.

Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.

“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.

Joining the Army

While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.

In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.

“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.

At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.

“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”

Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.

Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.

News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.

The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.

“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.

SFAB mission

Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.

Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.

His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.

“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.

During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.

“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”

When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.

“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”

Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.

“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend

Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.

“They are appreciative of my service.”

With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.

If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.

“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”

Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.

Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.

Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.

“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.

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

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Why we’re excited about the upcoming Battlefield V

The Battlefield series has always been known for its breathtaking graphics and in-depth storytelling about real-life conflicts involving troops. These popular features seem to be continuing with their latest installment, Battlefield V, coming Oct. 19.


The new game will be set in World War 2 and have several modes. The single-player “War Stories” will be brought back from Battlefield 1, which gave each chapter of the story to a different soldier fighting in the war. This opened up many storytelling possibilities that could give each region and troop the respect they deserve.

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
No matter how many times we play it in every WW2 game or movie, the Battle of Normandy is always one of the most hardcore scenes in every medium.
(EA Dice)

The multiplayer is also looking just as in-depth. The series is known for its massive 64 versus 64 player matches and it’s being teased that those matches may be even bigger. This even branches off into the “Last Stand” mode where a player is given only one life and that’s it.

Another much welcomed return to video gaming is an extremely interesting co-op mode called “Combined Arms.” In it, a squad of four players will be paratroopers given a mission to sneak behind enemy lines to complete their objective. The squad-based multiplayer is the game’s focus, just as it was in the phenomenal Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Everything in the game is destructible and players can interact with everything and even build their own fortifications. Not only is being able to clear out buildings standing between you and your opponent coming back, but there’s a return of minor details that make the game feel more realistic. A key example is grabbing a health pack; players have to actually apply it to heal (instead of the gaming norm of just walking over it and magically healing.)

A look back at the 40-plus year career of a US military legend
Even tiny things like each weapon having a certain unpredictability makes things so much more realistic.
(EA Dice)

This offers a much more difficult level of game play that is unparalleled — and very welcomed from gamers.

Another popular perk of the game is their discontinuation of a premium or season pass. Every bit of post-launch content will be free to all players. In similar fashion, EA Dice has filled previous content with enough things to do that nearly doubles the game-play content in a matter of months.

Check out the video below to watch the official trailer.

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