As I have written elsewhere, the Army’s leadership has taken a number of bold steps to reform its sclerotic acquisition system. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have set ambitious goals for a revamped acquisition system. Secretary Esper has spoken of reducing the time it takes to formulate requirements from an average of five years to just one. General Milley wants new capabilities ten times more lethal than those they replace. Getting there, he suggested in a recent speech, is as much a matter of attitude and culture as it is about technology:
I’m not interested in a linear progression into the future. That will end up in defeat on a future battlefield. If we think that if we just draw a straight line into the future and simply make incremental improvements to current systems, then we’re blowing smoke up our collective fourth point of contact…
There is no question that the Army’s leadership is all-in on acquisition reform. This does not mean that success is assured. It is natural for the current system to resist change, marshaling all the weapons of law, regulation, custom, and habit to retard or even negate progress towards the goals of a faster and more effective way of designing and procuring new capabilities. In a recent RollCall article, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy recommends that elements within the current acquisition system will present the hardest challenge as they attempt to preserve their “bureaucratic rice bowls.”
As aggressive as the Army acquisition reform program has been, they could be bolder still. Here are three additional initiatives that should be pursued.
3. Restructure the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition technology and logistics (ASA/ALT)
One of the major problems the current reforms is intended to address is the stovepipes that exist between requirements formulation and capabilities development and procurement. The proposed solutions, including the creation of Futures Command, do not go far enough. Currently, Army Material Command (AMC), the organization that oversees the actual development and production of new capabilities, reports to the Chief of Staff. However, by law, AMC’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs), which manage specific programs also report to the Secretary of the Army through the ASA/ALT.
This creates an inherent conflict of interest for the PEOs who are responsible both for program execution and oversight. There will be a natural tendency for PEOs to exploit this organizational contradiction to pursue their own interests and maximize their freedom of action. But this is more than just a bureaucratic problem. There are reports that some PEOs have been told by Army lawyers that they cannot participate in the work of the newly-created Cross Functional Teams. The current system also runs counter to Congress’ efforts to allow the Service Chiefs greater authority over the acquisition process.
Army leadership needs to change this system. The logic of the current reform campaign dictates that the entire acquisition process be placed under the Army Chief of Staff. The role of the Assistant Secretary of the Army should be limited to oversight, assessment, and review of the work done by AMC and the PEOs. Clearly, this will require action on the part of Congress to rewrite the current law. But the Army needs to make a case for restructuring ASA/ALT.
2. Seek Relief from the onerous requirements of the Congressional appropriations process
The current defense budget appropriations process requires the Services to produce detailed descriptions, called exhibits, of the programs they are pursuing, including the specific quantities and types of equipment to be procured as well as the funds required. A lack of specificity in these documents often results in the appropriations committees refusing to fund a request.
The problem is that the Services’ budgets must go through an elaborate review and vetting process at multiple levels before a defense budget is actually submitted to Congress. Consequently, they may be up to two years out of date. But if changes are required, a reprogramming request must be submitted, which is a laborious process in itself.
This has been a particular problem of late in the procurement of munitions since the Services, particularly the Air Force and Army, did not anticipate two years ago how many weapons would be expended in the fight against ISIS. It is already a serious problem in areas such as cyber and communications systems where the technology cycle time is measured in months, not years. But if the Army can accelerate the acquisition system, it will become a problem in multiple areas.
The Army, really all the Services, need to work with the appropriations committees to revamp the budget document process. There needs to be a way of promoting flexibility for the PEOs while allowing for Congressional oversight. This could involve building off-ramps or alternative pathways into the reports that can be executed without triggering the need for a reprogramming request.
1. Make aggressive use of available rapid acquisition authorities
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to waive virtually all procurement regulations in order to rapidly acquire critically needed capabilities. Congress also expanded the power of the Services to employ other transactional authorities to speed up the acquisition process. The current Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ellen Lord, has proposed using these new authorities to reduce contracting times by fifty percent.
To date, the Army has not taken advantage of these new authorities. The Army needs to walk through the open door provided by Congress and senior leaders of the Department of Defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff need to identify a set of candidate capabilities that could be acquired using the new authorities. This has both a practical and symbolic value. There are a number of capability gaps that would benefit from the introduction of an interim solution.
More importantly, the use of rapid acquisition authorities is a demonstration of how serious Army leaders are about changing the risk-averse, “all the time in the world” acquisition culture. The Army has shown it can terminate programs that are failing or no longer meet warfighters’ needs. It must show that it is just as capable of making rapid decisions when it comes to procuring new capabilities.
Implementing organizational change is hard; altering an institution’s culture is even more difficult. The key to success is to go big and fast. The Army needs an even bolder program for reforming its acquisition system.
Amid ISIS’ defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and ongoing fighting in its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, the fate of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains unknown.
Russia said in late June that it believed he had been killed in a bombing raid on Raqqa, but earlier this week Moscow admitted that it was unable to confirm the death and said it was getting contradictory information.
Despite an observer group saying Baghdadi has been killed, Defense Secretary James Mattis and other US commanders are skeptical.
“I think Baghdadi’s alive,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon July 21, according to Military Times. Mattis has made similar statements before, and he told reporters that absent evidence Baghdadi was still commanding ISIS, it was possible he was acting in a religious or propaganda role for the terrorist group.
“Until I see his body, I am going to assume he is alive,” Mattis said. The US intelligence community has also seen no evidence Baghdadi is dead.
Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the leader of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, hasn’t confirmed the death either, but earlier this week he said he had no “reason to believe he’s alive. I don’t have proof of life.”
While Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain unclear, the group he led appears to be on the wane. Iraqi forces have recaptured Mosul — after ISIS fighters there destroyed the mosque where Baghdadi declared ISIS’ “caliphate” in summer 2014 — and US-backed fighters have advanced into Raqqa, though much hard fighting remains there.
Like Baghdadi’s fate, who will succeed him is also unclear. Experts believe that two lieutenants, ISIS war minister Iyad al-Obaidi and the group’s security agency chief, Ayad al-Jumaili, are the most likely candidates. Both served in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein and then joined the Sunni Salafist insurgency in Iraq in 2003, after Hussein was deposed by the US invasion.
Leadership questions aside, the group looks to remain present in some form. In June, US officials were quick to note that ISIS remained a threat in both Iraq and Syria after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the group was at its end. And even with ISIS eroding, the tensions that fostered or accompanied its rise and other drivers of conflict are likely to endure.
Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.
“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.
Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.
“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”
Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:
The Army’s troubled program to buy a new standard-issue handgun for soldiers was the subject of renewed debate on Capitol Hill.
During Thursday’s confirmation hearing for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become defense secretary in the Trump administration, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina took turns criticizing the service’s XM19 Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, a $350 million competition to buy a replacement to the Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
At a time when Russia is upgrading its service rifle, “we continue to modify our M4s [and] many of our troops still carry M16s, the Army can’t even figure out how to replace the M9 pistol, first issued in 1982,” Ernst said.
The senator, a frequent critic of the program who in 2015 retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, said she and others would joke while in the military that “sometimes the most efficient use of an M9 is to simply throw it at your adversary.”
Ernst blasted the Modular Handgun Program’s many requirements. “Take a look at their 350-page micromanaging requirements document if you want to know why it’s taking so long to get this accomplished,” she said.
She also mocked the stopping power of the 5.56mm rifle round. “Our military currently shoots a bullet that, as you know, is illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power,” she said.
Tillis went even further by showing up to the hearing with the pistol program’s full several hundred pages of requirements documents wrapped in red ribbon. “This is a great testament to what’s wrong with defense acquisition,” he said, slapping the three-inch-tall stack of paperwork.
In response, Mattis said, “I can’t defend this,” but added, “I will say that at times there were regulations that required us to do things.”
Coincidentally, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was asked about the program earlier in the day at a breakfast sponsored by the Association of the United States Army. Milley was tight-lipped about the effort but hinted the service is making progress.
Beretta, FN Herstal, Sig Sauer and Glock are reportedly still competing for the program after the Army dropped Smith Wesson from the competition last year. We’re hoping these gunmakers will help shed more light on the status of the program next week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.
Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.
“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.
On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.
Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.
“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.
‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’
When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.
At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.
The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.
The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.
“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”
Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.
On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.
“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.
“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.
Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.
27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.
“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”
Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.
“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”
‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’
Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.
Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.
“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.
On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.
The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.
The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.
“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”
While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.
“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.
The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.
“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”
UrselD: How did the Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel movies thing start?
Born Stanley Martin Lieber almost a century ago in 1922, the man who would become far better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, was born into a family of very modest means with Stan, his brother, and Romanian immigrant parents sharing a single room apartment in New York during the 1930s.
As Lee would recall, “I grew up in New York City during the Depression. My earliest recollections were of my parents, Jack and Celia Lieber, talking about what they would do if they didn’t have the rent money. Luckily, we were never evicted. But my father was unemployed most of the time. He had been a dress cutter, and during the Depression, there wasn’t much need for dress cutters. So I started working when I was still in high school. I was an office boy, I was an usher, I wrote obituaries for celebrities while they were still alive. Lots of jobs.”
Showing an interest in writing from his teens, Lee’s mother was his #1 fan at that time, “She thought I was the greatest thing on two feet. I’d come home with a little composition I had written at school and she’d look at it and say, “It’s wonderful! You’re another Shakespeare!” I always assumed I could do anything. It really is amazing how much that has to do with your attitude.”
Stan Lee in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
In 1939 at the age of 17, Lee landed a job with a company owned by his cousin, Jean Goodman’s, husband, Martin Goodman. The company was called Timely Publications. While the pay wasn’t much, a mere per week (about 7 today), it was potentially a path to a professional writing gig, though not quite the one he originally envisioned for himself.
When I got there, I found out that the opening was in the comic book department. Apparently, I was the only guy who had applied for the job. I figured it might be fun. So I became a gofer — there were only two guys, Joe Simon, the editor, and Jack Kirby, the artist. They were the creators of Captain America, and that’s what they were working on at the time. I would fill the inkwells, go down and buy lunch, and erase pages and proofread.
Two years into the job, he was finally granted a chance to write filler text in the 1941 Captain America #3 comic. Called, Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge, the story, along with being warmly received by fans, introduced the idea of Captain America being able to throw and ricochet his trademark shield, now a defining aspect of the character. It was also the first comic in which Lieber, as he was then known, wrote under the pseudonym Stan Lee. According to Lee, he chose not to write under his then real name since he still hoped to one day write “proper literature” and had dreams of writing the “great American novel”. Thus, he didn’t want his name to be sullied by his work in comics.
Plans changed, however, when he randomly got a promotion to head editor of the comic department at just 19 years old.
[Simon and Kirby] were fired for some reason. Martin had no one to run the department. He said to me, “Can you do it?” I was . When you’re , what do you know? I said, “Sure, I can do it.” Martin must have forgotten about me, because he just left me there. I loved it. I was so young, it was sometimes embarrassing. Someone would come into the office and see me there and say, “Hey, kid, can I see the editor?”
At this point, in order to give the illusion of a large staff, Lee took to using a variety of other pseudonyms as well.
In 1942, a temporary editor was hired while Lee served in the US Army with the Signal Corps. He never saw combat, instead working at repairing communications equipment and later writing field manuals and military slogans as a part of the Training Film Division. Also in that division were the likes of Frank Capra, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and the creator of The Addam’s Family, Charles Addams.
Despite being in the army, Lee still kept up with his work at Timely as best he could from afar, with weekly letters mailed to him explaining exactly what he needed to produce content for that week. Once he was done, he’d mail it back.
Lee’s service ended in 1945 and he went back to Timely full time.
It was two years later that Lee, with an awkwardness befitting a man who would come to create the characters nerds the world over would grow to love, Lee met and wooed his future wife.
There are conflicting accounts on whether one of Lee’s friends dared him to ask out some red headed model or his cousin set him up on a blind date with said model. Either way, Lee went to her office to see about that date. However, when he arrived and knocked at the door of the modeling agency, the woman who answered was someone completely different — a hat model from England by the name of Joan Boocock. Joan had come to America after marrying one Sanford Dorf, who had been serving in the UK during the war.
Stan Lee in “Doctor Strange.”
Stunned when he saw her, rather than play it cool, instead Lee apparently almost immediately professed his undying love for her, and then followed this awkward exchange up by telling her he’d had her face in his mind and been drawing it since he was a kid… (According to Lee, this wasn’t any sort of cheesy line, but the absolute truth.)
Rather than finding any of this weird or creepy, despite being married at the time, Joan agreed to go out on a date with Lee. As to why, despite by her own admission being in a happy marriage, she found it completely boring. (I guess as you’d expect from marrying someone named Sanford Dorf.)
But Stan Lee, she states, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam [an 11th/12th century Persian poet] when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.”
As for Lee, he said he knew right on his first date he wanted to marry Joan. Two weeks later, not caring in the slightest that she was already married, he proposed and she said yes.
The problem was that she now needed a divorce, which was prohibitively difficult in New York at the time. Where there is a will, there’s a way, however, and she simply moved to Reno temporarily. You see, in Reno, you only needed to live there six weeks before you could file for divorce in the area, and the judges there were much more accepting of such.
However, during her time in Reno, being a beautiful young model and all, suitors flocked to her like the salmon of Capistrano. With Lee back in New York and their relationship not exactly built on a firm foundation, Lee said at one point he got a letter from Joan with the implication being she was thinking of breaking off their whirlwind courtship.
Not going to give her up without a fight, Lee took a trip to Reno and convinced her he was the love of her life and she his. The two then got married in Reno on the same day she got a divorce, and by the same judge who granted it, mere minutes after the divorce papers were signed.
While you might think such a relationship was doomed to end in failure. In fact, the couple spent the next 69 years together, before Joan’s death in 2017 at the age of 95.
Stan Lee in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Said Lee of Joan in their twilight years together, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”
Going back to Stan Lee’s career, as for Timely’s strategy in those days, it was essentially just copy whatever the competition was doing.
Martin was one of the great imitators of all time. If he found that a company had Western magazines that were selling, he would say, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” Horror stories, war stories, crime stories, whatever. Whatever other people were selling, we would do the same thing. I would have liked to come up with my own stuff, but I was getting paid.
This all changed, ironically, from copying someone again–
Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes… “If the Justice League is selling, he spoke, “Why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superhereos?”
At this point in his career, Lee had grown weary of writing comics, seeing the medium as stagnant and devoid of interesting characters. He was, in fact, planning on quitting.
That’s when Joan told him he should take the opportunity in trying to copy the Justice League concept to create the character’s he’d find interesting. Lee says she stated, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”
Simultaneously, Lee states, “[My wife] Joan was commenting about the fact that after 20 years of producing comics I was still writing television material, advertising copy, and newspaper features in my spare time. She wondered why I didn’t put as much effort and creativity into the comics as I seemed to be putting into my other freelance endeavors… [Her] little dissertation made me suddenly realize that it was time to start concentrating on what I was doing — to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books.”
Lee then decided,
For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.
While this might all seem pretty normal today, at the time in the superhero genre it was groundbreaking. Said Lee, “That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have until that point. They were all cardboard figures….”
The product of this was The Fantastic Four. The results surpassed his wildest expectations.
We had never gotten fan mail up until that point… Sometimes we might get a letter from a reader that would say, “I bought one of your books and there’s a staple missing. I want my dime back.” And that was it. We’d put that up on the bulletin board and say, “Look! A fan letter!” Suddenly, with Fantastic Four, we really started getting mail…”We like this… We don’t like that… We want to see more of this.” That was exciting! So I didn’t quit… After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes… And we stopped being a company that imitated.
With business booming, Lee states, “[We] realized we were onto something. I figured we needed a new name, because we were not the same company we had been. I remembered the first book Martin published when I started there was called Marvel Comics. It had the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and it was very successful. Why don’t we call the company Marvel? There are so many ways you can use that word in advertising. I came up with catch phrases like ‘Make mine Marvel’ and ‘Marvel marches on!'”
At this point while Martin was open to giving Lee fairly free rein, he still had his limits, which was a problem for Spider-Man, who Lee dreamed up as follows:
The most important thing in those days was the cover. All these books were on the newsstand, and you had to hope your cover would compel somebody to buy the book. And everything depended on the name. A character like Hurricane was a guy who ran very fast. Later on, when I was looking for new superheroes, it occurred to me that somebody crawling on walls would be interesting. I thought, Mosquito Man? It didn’t sound very glamorous. Fly Man? I went down the list and came to Spider-Man. That was it.
The concept of Spider-Man, however, was a little too far out.
Stan Lee in “Spider-Man.”
[Martin] didn’t want me to do it. He said I was way off base. He said, “First of all, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man, because people hate spiders.’ I had also told him I wanted the hero, Peter Parker, to be a teenager, and he said, “A teenager can’t be the hero… teenagers can just be sidekicks” Then when I said I wanted Spider-Man to have a lot of financial problems and family worries and all kinds of hang-ups, he said, “Stan, don’t you know what a hero is? That’s no way to do a heroic book!” So he wouldn’t let me publish it.Later, we had a book that we were going to cancel. We were going to do the last issue and then drop it. When you’re doing the last issue of a book, nobody cares what you put into it, so — just to get it off my chest- I threw Spider-Man into the book and I featured him on the cover. A couple of months later when we got our sales figures, that had been the best-selling book we’d had in months. So Martin came in to me and said, ‘Do you remember that Spider-Man character of yours that we both liked? Why don’t you do a series with him” After that, it was much easier… Whatever I came up with, he okayed. After that, came The X-Men and Daredevil and Thor and Dr. Strange… and the rest. The books did so well that I just gave up all thoughts of quitting.
With business booming, Martin decided to sell the company, with Perfect Film and Chemical aquiring Marvel in the late 1960s. Not long after that, Lee got a promotion,
[They] made me the president and even chairman. But I was never a businessman. I remember when the board asked me to come up with a three-year plan for the company. I said, “Guys, I don’t know how to predict where we’ll be in three years. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.” I resigned as president after about a year. I mean, I can add and subtract, but I hate to read sheets of numbers. I like to write stories.
This brings us finally to the cameos and how that whole thing got started.
His first cameo of sorts was text only, occurring in an All-Winners comic in 1941 where various characters petition Lee to add more characters. Next up, Wayne Boring and Hank Chapman decided to put their boss in the 1951 Astonishing #4.
Where the cameos really became a thing though started in 1963, when Lee and his long-time collaborator, Jack Kirby, appeared in The Fantastic Four #10 in which the pair are featured on the cover, as well as inside. On the cover, it shows the duo with Lee saying, “How’s this for a twist Jack? We’ve got Doctor Doom as one of the Fantastic Four!!” With Kirby adding, “And Mister Fantastic himself as the villain!! Our fans oughtta flip over this yarn!!”
Stan Lee in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Beside them, it also states, “In this epic issue surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story!! Plus a gorgeous pin-up of the invisible girl!”
As for inside the issue, it has Doctor Doom demanding that Lee and Kirby get the Fantastic Four to walk into a trap, which they then do.
Said Lee of this sort of thing, “The artists back then would draw me in as a joke or just to have fun. And I would put some dialogue balloons there and it looked as if I intended it. I didn’t try to do cameos in those days.”
But fans loved it, as well as the chance to get to know the people behind the comics, which were featured in a section of their own as well. The point of all of this, along with the little quips and notes in various areas was, according to Lee, “[For] the reader to feel we were all friends, that we were sharing some private fun that the outside world wasn’t aware of.”
From here the occasional cameo caught on, with Lee stating, “Anything that seemed fun and anything that the readers seemed to enjoy we kept doing and those things brought in a lot of fan mail. And we weren’t doing movies or television, our whole existence depended on comic books, so if you see that something is interesting to the fans you stay with it.”
Since then Lee, and to a lesser extent Kirby (who was notably more camera shy), appeared numerous times across many forms of media. These cameos range from simple background characters in comics bearing Lee’s likeness to full on self-referential roles in Marvel’s numerous works. The most egregious example of the latter is arguably the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon in which Spider-Man is transported to the “real” world via magical comic shenanigans and meets Stan Lee, who reveals that he created Spider-Man and spends some time conversing with his creation before being left stranded on a roof.
Moving on to Lee’s first cameo in video form, this appeared in the 1989 The Trial of the Incredible Hulk where Lee appears in the jury at the trial.
Arguably Lee’s most unusual cameo is one in a property owned by Marvel’s single biggest rival, DC — Superman: The Animated Series. In the episode, Apokolips… Now! Part 2, Lee, along with characters who bear a striking resemblance to members of the Fantastic Four, appear in a brief crowd shot of the funeral of the character, Dan Turpin. Said character’s appearance was largely based on the aforementioned Jack Kirby, who’d sadly died the year earlier. Out of respect for his memory and his contribution to the world of comics, the animators for the episode snuck in a character who looked like Lee along with several other Marvel characters Kirby had helped create. The commitment to accuracy was such that the graveyard shown in the episode was modeled on the one Kirby is buried in, in real life and the crew hired an actual rabbi to read a kaddish that was included in the episode’s audio. Lee’s cameo was removed in the subsequent DVD release of the episode, but he can still be seen in the episode’s storyboards.
Speaking of cameos, a slightly lesser known fact is that Lee’s beloved wife, Joan, who was the inspiration for a few female characters in the Marvel universe, also did voice work for the 1990s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man animated series, as well as a cameo of her own in X-Men: Apocalypse where she appears alongside Stan Lee.
This all brings us to Stan Lee’s final cameo, where he appears as a de-aged hippie alongside a woman who is meant to be a de-aged Joan Lee — very fittingly for them both, this final cameo appeared in Marvel’s Endgame.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
There are some people lucky enough to swim with dolphins — and then there are even luckier people who get to swim next to a nuclear submarine in the open ocean.
That’s exactly what the crew of the USS Olympia recently did.
After partaking in the world’s largest naval warfare exercise called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, where they helped sink the USS Racine with a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile, the submariners aboard the Olympia got a chance to cool off in the ocean next to their sub.
The Russian Air Force plans to purchase a dozen Su-57s fitted with the AL-41F1 engines in 2019, and over “the next eight years … will continue to purchase small numbers of these planes for testing,” CNA senior research scientist Dmitry Gorenburg recently wrote.
Production of the Su-57, which made its maiden flight in 2010, has not only been hampered by budgetary problems, according to The Drive, but also “delays, accidents, and rumors of massive design changes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.
The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.
The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.
Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.
He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.
Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.
If you’ve ever watched a video or seen an ad from Black Rifle Coffee Company, you’ve seen the work and style of co-founder Jarred Taylor. “Everything is devoted to creation,” Taylor said, describing his overall philosophy. “So every piece of time, it might seem like I’m having fun, but everything is devoted to creating stuff for the audience base, on my part.”
Taylor grew up in Novato, California, north of San Francisco. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and they lived on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force base, Hamilton Army Airfield. In 1994, he and his family moved to Bangor, Washington.
“I was always fascinated with the military,” Taylor said. “I loved jets specifically.” But his other passion, from an early age, was film. “I would tell people when I was super young, ‘I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies.'”
At age 13, Taylor started making short skateboarding films using his parents’ 8mm camera and a VCR. When he was in high school, technology improved and he began using iMovie to edit. He took all the classes he could about digital media.
Taylor completed high school a year early and joined the Air Force in 2002. As the war in Iraq started, he was eager to get in on the action. “I was kicking and screaming during basic training, trying to find any way to get to that,” he said. When he had the chance to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) — the person responsible for coordinating air strikes on the ground for the Army — he passed selection on his first try.
His role as a TACP meshed nicely with his continuing desire to create movies. “I was in this cool job now where we drop bombs right in front of our face. And I was like, ‘Well shit, no one’s ever really recorded this so I’m gonna do that,'” Taylor said. During two deployments to Iraq, he made films that were eventually used to help with military recruiting.
Jarred Taylor while in the U.S. Air Force.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor re-enlisted — with a hefty ,000 bonus — and became an instructor at the TACP schoolhouse. “It was one of the biggest signing bonuses they ever had,” Taylor said. “I got it and spent pretty much all of it on camera gear and editing stuff. I was gonna go full force on this.”
He began moonlighting in marketing and design work for a variety of companies in the tactical industry as early as 2005. “I had only been in the military for two years before I was searching for something more, wanting to come home from work and continue to work,” Taylor said. “I went to my first trade show with a shitty photo album from Walgreens with a bunch of 4×6 pictures. Everything was always a stepping stone.”
At the same time, Taylor began studying social media, especially YouTube and Facebook. “I’m face deep in how do you get traffic, how do you get the maximum number of people to see this stuff?”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
That was when he saw a YouTube video made by a former U.S. Army Ranger named Mat Best. “I took one look at him and his videos he was making and said, ‘You’re it, man. You’re gonna be it,'” Taylor recalled. “This is what the tactical industry was looking for, this is what I’ve been looking for as a partner, somebody who’s perfect for in front of the camera while I’m doing all the things behind it.”
While Taylor was still active duty in the Air Force and Best was deploying as a CIA contractor, they formed Article 15 Clothing and began posting video content on Best’s YouTube channel. By the time they teamed up with another veteran-owned apparel company, Ranger Up, to crowdfund and produce the feature film “Range 15,” they had already created a wide-reaching community that was passionate about their work.
“The script was so ridiculous that no agents could understand how this movie got funded,” Taylor said with a laugh. They managed to pull in well-known actors Keith David, William Shatner, and Danny Trejo to participate in the film, which brought Article 15 even more notoriety within the veteran community.
Through the Article 15 Facebook page, Taylor met Evan Hafer, a former CIA contractor and entrepreneur. The first time they spoke, “We ended up staying on the phone pretty much from 11 to 1 o’clock — two hours,” Taylor said. “We just went down this rabbit hole.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor, Best, and Hafer began collaborating on multiple projects, and when Hafer suggested starting a coffee company, Taylor and Best were very interested. “Mat and I went chips in on Black Rifle with Evan,” Taylor recalled, “and said, ‘Okay, this is the future. This is going to be the big one that we’re always talking about, so let’s roll with it.'”
“I’m our business development guy,” said Taylor, who’s official BRCC title is Executive Vice President, Partnerships. “Evan points at things that he wants in different markets, anything that’s out there in the realm of where coffee drinkers that generally think like us, and then I go out and find the people and the influencers and the partnerships that can benefit us. I get them to jump on the Black Rifle train.”
But things weren’t always that clear cut. Taylor said he, Best, and Hafer started by running the entire operation by themselves — including “standing there with Evan while he’s roasting coffee, grinding it, and putting it in a bag, putting it in a box, putting a label on it, shipping it.”
Taylor credits much of the company’s success to the relationship he has with Hafer and Best. “We’ve spent more time with the three of us than any of us have spent with anybody else in our entire lives,” he said. “And we still are the focal point of all the big ideas for the company. It’s still coming from the three of us, in a room together making fun of each other until we find something that’s the next thing.”
On Dec. 19, 2017, B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the bomber. The aircraft landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft.
“Close encounters” between civil and military aircraft and lightnings occur every now and then around the globe.
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being struck by lightinings. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conducting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightining-related requirements to get the airworthiness certifications required in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
After assessing the damage, it was determined that the tail was damaged beyond repair and would have to be replaced: a large-scale, and uncommon, repair.
The B-52 is equipped with a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but this one was too strong even for the jet’s safeguards. “We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” said Lt. Col. George P. Cole, III, 307th Maintenance Squadron commander in a public release.
“I’ve been with the unit for fifteen years and this is the first time we have had to change a tail,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Nelson, 307th MXS flight maintenance superintendent. “We only had one other maintainer on our team that has ever changed one.”
According to the U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight person team with experience replacing a tail prior to the lighting strike. “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand pound piece of metal,” he said. “It is like lining up the hinges when replacing a door,” said Tech. Sgt. David Emberton, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic. “You have to line it up correctly and the whole time it is twisting and flexing.”
Another possible obstacle was finding a replacement but instead of ordering it from the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), the maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron found that one tail was available from a retired jet.
“Having that tail on hand saved us a great deal of time because ordering it from AMARG would have taken months,” Nelson said.
So, the 307th MXS completed the works and made the B-52 available for flight operations in just a couple of weeks. Sporting a different tail reclaimed from another decommissioned B-52, still able to take to air again.
By the way, the Stratofortress has already proved it can fly with damages to the tail: actually, even with a detached vertical stabilizer, as happened 54 years ago, when a B-52H involved in a test flight lost its tail at about 14,000 feet over New Mexico. Six hours later, the civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three-man crew managed to perform the first and only Stratofortress’s tailless landing.
China plans to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2018 in an effort to modernize its armed forces.
Beijing proposed spending 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) on its military, according to its budget report presented ahead of the opening of China’s 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2018, according to Reuters.
Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will “advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
He also said the military, the government, and its people must always be as “strong as stone.”
China’s defense spending has increased following Xi’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Operations Command in April 2016. The budget grew 7.6% in 2016, and 7% in 2017.
Can a rifle turn a novice into a world-class sharpshooter? Yes, based on the shootout scoreboard at a major fundraising event for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Saturday.
A sharpshooting showdown pitted a young American woman against the reigning NRA global champion … the novice crushed her opponent at the inaugural American Sniper Shootout Saturday in Mason, Texas.
The victorious novice shooter was Taya Kyle. Founder of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, she is the wife of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in US military history,” author of autobiography “American Sniper,” and the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper.”
TrackingPoint says that its Precision-Guided Firearms can transform inexperienced shooters into world-class marksmen. To prove this claim, the company put $1 million on the table in an ultimate shootout. If the NRA champion Bruce Piatt could outshoot novice shooter Kyle then he would take home the hefty prize.
But Kyle defeated the champion, with the proceeds from the event going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation – here’s how she did it.
Piatt competed with the current military rifles M4A1, M110, and M2010.
Taya Kyle opted for TrackingPoint’s new M600, M800 and XS1 firearms. TrackingPoint touts advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of first-round shots at any distance.
Kyle explained why she chose to be armed with TrackingPoint at the shootout. “The technology of the gun was developed based on conversations with Chris [Kyle] about what factors a marksman has to consider on with every shot,” she told FoxNews.com, via email. “The end result is technology that I know would have saved lives of friends we have lost and will save life and/or limb of those who put it all on the line for the 99% of us they choose to give their life for.”
The rifles incorporate a range of innovations like the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity. Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger is completely squeezed.
Kyle faced off against Piatt in a series of battlefield-simulated challenges.
The competitors had to take shots consistent with those warfighters must take in battle. It meant grappling with realistic challenges like shooting at targets placed at unknown distances as well as moving targets.
To win, both competitors also had to shoot in a range of positions, including prone and off-hand shots. They also had to tackle blind shots when the shooter takes shots while completely hidden without a direct line of sight to the target. The competitors also emulated Chris Kyle’s famous long-distance ‘Sadr city shot,’ which was featured in the film American Sniper.
And Kyle emerged the victor – by a lot. She made ALL of her shots from prone, kneeling, sitting and from cover…as in every single one – 100 percent.
How did the NRA champ fare? Piatt made 58.4 percent of the shots.
There were 29 targets with a total of 10,140 points available.
Kyle scored a perfect 10,140. Piatt scored 3,040 points, making 58.4 percent of his shots. The scoring was weighted based on degree of difficulty.
In the challenges where the shooters took on targets without a direct line of sight while concealed from ‘enemy fire’ – Kyle made 100 percent of the blind shots while Piatt did not make a single one.
For practical application in war, this means the TrackingPoint technology has potential to allow American warfighters to stay concealed while still accurately taking on targets. The ability to stay concealed and still shoot accurately could help reduce the risk to warfighters.
Kyle explained further why the tech was developed. “Our first responders and military members regularly face situations most of us cannot imagine,” she told FoxNews.com via email. “They need every advantage for precision and efficiency to protect and serve while minimizing collateral damage and risk to themselves.”
Armed with TrackingPoint tech, Kyle was also able to make moving target and canted shots that Piatt did not.
The day-long American Sniper Shootout was open to the public and also featured music from country singer Easton Corbin, Grammy winner Asleep At the Wheel.
The proceeds from the event benefit the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Kyle explained her inspiration for the event as “being able to simultaneously showcase the technology and raise money for CKFF to fulfill its mission … this event was an opportunity to take care of our warriors and their families on many different levels.”