Helicopters have been very versatile, serving as anything from transports to gunships. But they haven’t been all that fast. According to AirForce-Technology.com, the fastest helicopter in military service is the CH-47F Chinook, which has a top speed of 195 mph.
That could change if the Sikorsky S-97 enters service with the U.S. Army. With a top speed of at least 253 mph, it blows the competition away — even if it isn’t quite as fast as Airwolf.
But hey, the technology is getting pretty close.
But the S-97 isn’t just fast. According to Lockheed, this futuristic helo, with contra-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail, can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Hydra 2.75-inch rockets, and will shoot a 7.62mm machine gun or a .50-caliber machine gun. Four can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster transport. Lockheed notes that the S-97 can also carry up to six troops in its cabin.
Lockheed says that the S-97 could fill other roles besides the armed reconnaissance role that the AH-64 Apache has taken over, including as a search and rescue helicopter, a multi-mission special operations helicopter — and there’s even a proposed unmanned variant. The S-97 can also be refueled in flight.
One area the helicopter could excels is in the so-called “high and hot” climates that have often limited other helicopters. Lockheed claims the helicopter can hover at 10,000 feet in an air temperature of 95 degrees.
Lockheed is marketing the S-97 Raider to not just the Army and Special Operations Command, but states that the S-97 could also fill missions for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. You can see a video about this futuristic helicopter below.
Two French commandos were killed during a night operation to rescue two hostages in the west African country of Burkina Faso on May 10, 2019.
The two petty officers, Cédric de Pierrepont, 32, and Alain Bertoncello, 27, were confirmed to have died in the operation, according to the French Navy.
Here’s how the operation unfolded.
Two Frenchmen, one American, and one South Korean were abducted and taken to Burkina Faso, in West Africa.
French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, both of them tourists, were visiting a wildlife preserve in Benin when they were abducted on May 1, 2019.
Their tour guide was fatally shot and their car was burned.
The location where French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas were abducted.
The South Korean and American hostages, both of them women, were held for 28 days. The US State Department did not release the American hostage’s name due to privacy concerns but said she was in her 60s.
The French Foreign Ministry previously issued a travel guidance in the region.
It was unclear who the captors were, but terror organizations, like the Islamic State, have operated in the area.
The captors were believed to be handing the hostages off to an al-Qaeda group in Mali. The French Gen. François Lecointre told reporters it would have been “absolutely impossible” to successfully conduct a rescue operation under those circumstances.
Around 4,500 French troops are deployed to the region after the country set out to eliminate ISIS activity in Mali in 2013. Twenty-six French troops have been killed since the conflict.
The raid relied on intelligence from the US and France.
The original objective was to rescue the two French hostages.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that neither South Korea nor the US were “necessarily aware” of the abduction of their citizens, according to Reuters.
Operators of the National Gendarmes Intervention Group (GIGN), an elite French force, during a demonstration in June 2018.
French officials, who were tracking the kidnappers, decided to strike after they set up a temporary camp.
“France’s message is clear. It’s a message addressed to terorists,” Parly said after the raid, according to Reuters. “Those who want to target France, French citizens know that we will find track them, we will find them, and we will neutralize them.”
French commandos launched their raid on Thursday night.
The mission was personally approved by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The commandos in the mission were part of Task Force Sabre, a contingent of troops based in Burkina Faso. It was unclear how many troops took part in the raid.
During the onset of the mission, a lookout was killed after he spotted the approaching commandos roughly 30 feet away. The French commandos then hit the nearby shelters after heard the sounds of weapons being loaded.
Four of the kidnappers were killed and two reportedly escaped.
Two French commandos, Cedric de Pierrepont, 33, and Alain Bertoncello, 28, were killed.
Petty officers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello joined the French Navy in 2004 and 2011, respectively.
“France has lost two of its sons, we lose two of our brothers,” France Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. François Lecointre said.
Bertoncello wanted to join the French Navy after graduating highschool, Jean-Luc, Bertoncello’s father, said to RTL.
The two French special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Fasso are seen in an undated photo released by French Army, May 10, 2019.
“What he loved was the esprit de corps … he was doing what he wanted and he always told us not to worry … he was well prepared,” Jean-Luc reportedly said. “They did what they had to do. For him it ended badly, for the others, it was a successful mission.”
The French hostages said they regretted traveling to the area, even after officials warned that it could be dangerous.
They also expressed their “sincere condolences” for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.
“All our thoughts go out to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers who lost their lives to free us from this hell,” Laurent Lassimouillas said.
France pays tribute to Petty Officers Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.
A ceremony was held for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello at the Invalides, in Paris on May 14, 2019.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the mission as “necessary” and spoke to family members of de Pierrepont and Bertoncello.
“France is a nation that never abandons its children, no matter what, even if they are on the other side of the world,” Macron said in a speech. “Those who attack a French citizen should know that our country never gives in, that they will always find our army, its elite units and our allies on their path.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.
British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.
The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.
Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.
So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.
Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.
Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.
“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”
“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”
The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.
France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
It’s not surprising why. Not only did the general-turned-president ensure the survival of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he also laid down a number of massively important precedents in his two terms as US president.
So how did he spend his days? Well, that likely varied a bit when he was commanding his army from 1775 to 1783. And, as it turns out, we know a bit more about the breakdown of his daily schedule when he resided at Mount Vernon, his estate on the banks of the Potomac River.
Here’s a breakdown of how a day in the life of George Washington unfolded at Mount Vernon:
In a letter to his grandson, Washington acknowledged that an early wake-up could be “irksome.”
During the Revolutionary War, Washington’s habits understandably varied a bit. If he had a free moment in the evening, he would relax with his aides, drinking Madeira wine and snacking on nuts, cheese, and bread.
Dubious signs boasting that “George Washington slept here” have long been a common occurrence at historical buildings throughout the East Coast. But when it came to the man’s sleeping habits, he seemed to adhere to the “early to bed, early to rise” advice of his fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.
It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.
The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.
The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.
Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.
From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:
From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.
Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.
Pain is now a VA disability
For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.
Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.
Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)
Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.
What the ruling means for veterans
The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)
Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.
This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.
Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.
This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.
The U.S. Army‘s acquisitions chief said recently that the military needs to make a major technological breakthrough in speed if combat forces are to maintain their edge on future battlefields.
“What is it that we could do that would be the same as ‘own the night?’ ” said Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology, referring to the service’s breakthrough in night-vision technology. “And I’ll tell you, the thing that keeps coming is speed.”
Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Science Technology Symposium and Showcase, he recalled an experience he had in the early 1980s as a tank commander during a force-on-force training exercise at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“I was coming up over this ridgeline, and the other guy is coming up over the other ridgeline. I saw him, he saw me,” Jette said.
Each tank started rotating its turret toward the other.
“It was like quick draw: Who is going to get in line with the other guy first?” Jette said, describing how it all came down to “the rate at which the turret turned.”
The Russians are experimenting with robotic turrets that use algorithms to speed up decision-making in combat, he said. Images appear on a flat screen inside the tank, and “the computer goes, ‘I think that is a tank.’
An M1A2 SEP Abrams from 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard (middle) and a M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle from 1st Squadron, 14th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., return from waging mock battle against one another during an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise, at Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho, Aug. 14, 2014.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough)
“They have [pictures] of our tanks and vehicles in their computer, and the computer looks at them and puts little boxes around them and, depending on how far away they are and depending on what orientation they are in, the computer has an algorithm that says, ‘Shoot that one first, that one second and that one third,’ ” Jette said.
This reduces the number of steps the gunner must go through before engaging targets.
“I need your ideas on how to put ourselves way past what these guys are onto,” Jette said, addressing an audience of industry representatives. “How can we be faster? How can we be better?”
He added, “One of the reasons we are not doing that yet is we are not going to mistake an ice cream truck for a tank. Our probability of target detection and identification has to be extremely high. Our thresholds would have to be higher; we would have to be better, we would have to be faster. Speed is going to be critically important.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.
There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.
We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.
Quarantine and Retirement
I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.
It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?
Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.
Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.
2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet
I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.
What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?
Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.
Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
Walks through the neighborhood
Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
Noise-canceling headphones while writing
Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence
3. Open communication makes all the difference
Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.
One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.
All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.
The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.
Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.
Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.
Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.
And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via 1st Civ Div)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?
That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.”
Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.
Bob Ross might be one of the last names you’d think of when considering all the celebrities that have served. The videos of him “painting a happy little bush in the corner right there” exude calmness and tranquility — exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from a training instructor turned hardened, twenty-year First Sergeant turned retiree, but that’s exactly who he is.
What makes Bob Ross’s story even more awesome to the military community is that nearly every aspect of his hallmark zen was directly inspired by — or intentionally the exact opposite of — his time spent as First Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson AFB, Alaska.
Yep. That’s Alaska alright.
(Bob Ross, “Winter Night,” 1984)
His choice in scenery
As you can imagine, at Eielson AFB, there’s nothing but the Last Frontier for as far as the eye can see. It’s 26 miles from Fairbanks and another thousands before you reach what most consider normal civilization.
While Bob Ross was stationed there, this was his view — and it’s what inspired him to draw. A beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains and rivers flowing through verdant woods just needed to be captured somehow. The world needed to see the majesty that he saw.
His style of wet-on-wet oil painting and his use of bigger brushes meant that this masterpiece was made in just 25 minutes.
(Bob Ross, “Mountain Retreat,” 1984)
His quick art style
As the first sergeant of an entire medical facility, he needed to find some sort of distraction from the constant stress. He found his outlet one day at the Anchorage USO Club when he attended an art class. Drawing became his passion and he would often paint during his brief lunch breaks.
Within his hour of break for lunch, he’d have to finish an entire painting — and eat. This time constraint proved handy later on. He was already trained in creating an entire painting within brief, half-hour episodes when it came time to create the show.
His soft voice
Bob Ross served many years as a training instructor and yet found no pleasure in raising his voice to give orders. He swore to himself that when he retired out of the Air Force, he’d never yell again. After twenty years of service, he retired in 1981 and kept his word.
His soft voice was the tune to which many picking up painting as a hobby. As anyone who’s drawn or painted knows, you will often make mistakes while creating art. You’ll crumple the paper up or set fire to the easel because you got one line wrong. But that’s not the Ross way. According to First Sergeant Bob Ross (Ret.), “there are no mistakes. Only happy accidents.”
When they start selling Chia-pets in your likeness because of your wacky hair, no one will let you cut it.
His signature hairdo and beard
Today, he’s known as the man with the poofiest perm and a glorious vet beard, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, for a long time after his retirement, he kept up a professionally done crew cut and would shave every week. But times were tough for Ross.
He would have to skip a hair cut every other week until, eventually, he started skipping them altogether. All the while, he was trying to get the first version of The Joy of Painting on the air. By the time he was able to support himself through the show and associated art supplies, his ‘fro and beard had become part of his identity. This look stuck with him, no matter how much he wanted to shave it and go back to the crew cut.
Hands down the best “post DD-214” life by a long shot!
(Bob Ross Inc.)
His desire to teach
Deciding to leave the military and start a public access show about painting isn’t part of anyone’s get-rich-quick scheme. He did it because it was one of his proudest moments of being in the Air Force: being an instructor, only now he could do it without raising his voice.
Later on, Bob Ross Inc. paint supplies and books brought in money, but that’s never what mattered most to him — he donated plenty of it away. He was just a veteran who wanted to share his Joy of Painting with the world.
For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.
Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).
The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.
I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.
I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.
One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.
1. Physical training
It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.
Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.
We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)
Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.
They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)
3. Dress uniform
Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.
See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)
Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.
This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.
Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)
If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.