The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.
The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.
The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.
Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.
The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.
Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”
Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.
Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.
But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.
In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.
Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.
A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.
Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.
The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.
A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)
The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.
The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.
Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.
The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.
The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)
A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.
The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.
“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every job has its unexpected perks. Even being a Marine Corps aviator in World War II had some unexpected benefits. This is because Marines make do, as the saying goes, and are used to making the most out of whatever Uncle Sam provides them to get the mission done. They will even make miracles happen when it’s not part of the mission.
That’s just what Marines do, even when it comes to ice cream.
You read that right.
Everyone loves ice cream and I state that firm belief as someone who has been lactose intolerant his entire life. Marines these days give the Air Force a lot of smack for (almost) always having sweet treats present wherever there’s an Air Force dining facility. But let’s be real, after a few days, weeks, or however long being deprived of even the simplest luxury, a bit of ice cream goes a long way. Marine aviators in the Pacific Theater thought so, too.
The United States captured the island of Peleliu from Imperial Japan after more than two months of hard fighting toward the end of 1944. Marines on Peleliu were within striking distance of the enemy, but since there was no real threat at the time, they were not on combat patrols or supporting operations elsewhere in the theater. The Marines were getting bored and if you’ve ever made it past basic training in any branch of the military, you know there are few things more inventive or more dangerous than bored Marines.
The crew of the USS Lexington raided the ice cream stores after being torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. That’s not a joke.
One squadron commander, J. Hunter Reinburg, figured he could probably raise morale among his men if he could fix one of his F4U Corsair fighter-bombers to become a high-altitude ice cream maker. It wouldn’t be that hard. His crews cut the ends off a drop tank, created a side access panel, and strung a .50-caliber ammo can in the panel. He instructed the mess sergeant to fill the ammo can with canned milk and cocoa powder. All he had to do was get it cold enough to freeze – no problem for a high-altitude fighter.
There was something to Reinburg’s thinking. Ice cream has long been a staple of American morale. During the years of Prohibition, ice cream and soda jerks replaced bar nuts and bartenders for many Americans. Ice creams were marketed toward helping people cope with suffering during the Great Depression. When World War II broke out, other countries banned ice cream to enforce sugar rations — but not the United States. Americans loved the sweet treat so much the U.S. military even planned to build a floating ice cream factory and tow it into the Pacific Theater.
For Marines stranded on a hot island with no fresh food and no refrigeration, high-altitude ice cream was a great idea.
I need to get me one of those old-time ice cream makers.
Army Air Corps bombers had been making the sweet treat in the same way for years, flying at frigid high altitudes while the hum and vibrations from the engine churned the milk and sugar into frozen ice cream. For the Marines, the first run was a disaster. Reinburg circled the island at 33,000 feet for 35 minutes. When he landed, the mixture was still liquid. But Marines don’t give up so easily.
The second run saw ammo cans bolted onto the underside of wings to keep the ice cream base far from the hot engines. The mixture froze, but didn’t have the creamy texture the men wanted so badly. The third run was the most inventive of all. This time Marines rigged the ammo cans themselves with propellers which turned a screw inside the ammo cans, churning the ice cream as it froze.
This time the ice cream was perfect. The only hitch was they forgot to let the Operations Officer, a Colonel, have a ration of ice cream.
It was the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. President James K. Polk’s attempts to annex Texas and buy the lands west of the amiable state had failed, and the Army was sent in under Gen. Zachary Taylor to force the issue, starting at the Battle of Palo Alto where a young West Point graduate would first face the guns of the enemy.
Then-Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, at left. Grant and Lt. Alexander Hays fought together in Mexico and later in the Civil War where Hays was killed.
Cadet Ulysses S. Grant had been an underwhelming student, graduating 21st in a class of 39 students in 1843. But even the lowest West Point graduate commissions as a lieutenant, and Grant was sent to be the quartermaster in the 4th Infantry despite having proven himself as an adept horseman.
Palo Alto was named for the tall trees in the area, and Mexican artillery and cavalry numbering almost 4,000 men and 12 artillery pieces had positioned themselves on a hilltop near these trees. The U.S. forces arrayed against them had almost 2,300 troops and only 8 artillery pieces, and they had to march through tall grass and up the slope to attack.
An illustration shows U.S. troops engaging Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Palo Alto.
As I looked down that long line of about three thousand armed men, advancing towards a larger force also armed, I thought what a fearful responsibility General Taylor must feel, commanding such a host and so far away from friends.
But Grant’s memoirs also provide a window of hope for the U.S. forces. Though outnumbered, they had a clear technological advantage:
an army, certainly outnumbering our little force, was seen, drawn up in line of battle just in front of the timber. Their bayonets and spearheads glistened in the sunlight formidably. The force was composed largely of cavalry armed with lances. Where we were the grass was tall, reaching nearly to the shoulders of the men, very stiff, and each stock was pointed at the top, and hard and almost as sharp as a darning-needle.
So the men were in tall, sharp grass like they were advancing through a sea of rapiers, but their enemy was relying on lances to pierce through the infantry. Lances were a dangerous weapon at the time, but disciplined infantry could still give better than they got under lance attack if they stayed in formation and fired when the horsemen were close.
But if they broke and ran, lancers would slice through the lines and gut one man after another.
As Grant and the men advanced, the Mexican artillery was the first to fire, but they opened fire when the U.S. lines were still too far away, and the grass proved itself to be quite useful to the Yanks.
As we got nearer, the cannon balls commenced going through the ranks. They hurt no one, however, during this advance, because they would strike the ground long before they reached our line, and ricocheted through the tall grass so slowly that the men would see them and open ranks and let them pass. When we got to a point where the artillery could be used with effect, a halt was called, and the battle opened on both sides.
Major Ringgold, an artillery officer, was killed at the Battle of Palo Alto.
It was at this point that the U.S. artillery advantage showed itself. The infantry on either side could still inflict little damage as they were too far apart for accurate musket fire. But while the U.S. soldiers were barely in the effective range of Mexican artillery, American artillery could reach further and with greater effect.
The artillery was advanced a rod or two in front of the line, and opened fire. The infantry stood at order arms as spectators, watching the effect of our shots upon the enemy, and watching his shots so as to step out of their way. It could be seen that the eighteen-pounders and the howitzers did a great deal of execution. On our side there was little or no loss while we occupied this position.
For most of the day, Grant and the infantry would trade limited shots with the enemy infantry while their artillery punished the Mexican forces. The U.S. did suffer losses; Grant makes note of two artillery officers hit nearby, one of them killed. The Mexican cavalry tried to turn the U.S. flank, but disciplined infantry fire drove them back. The limited U.S. infantry advances and the punishing artillery fire made good effect, and the Mexican forces began to withdraw before sunset.
Grant went forward under fire to occupy the vacated positions and saw the effects of Mexican artillery at close range.
In this last move there was a brisk fire upon our troops, and some execution was done. One cannon-ball passed through our ranks, not far from me. It took off the head of an enlisted man, and the under jaw of Captain Page of my regiment, while the splinters from the musket of the killed soldier, and his brains and bones, knocked down two or three others, including one officer, Lieutenant Wallen,—hurting them more or less. Our casualties for the day were nine killed and forty-seven wounded.
When Grant and the U.S. forces advanced the next day, they found that their enemy had departed. The Battle of Palo Alto was over with a decisive U.S. victory. But there was a lot of war left to fight, and Grant was at or near the front for most of the major battles, serving under Gen. Taylor for the start but transferring to Gen. Winfield Scott’s command in 1847 before the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec.
During these engagements, he was twice promoted by brevet for bravery, reaching the rank of brevet captain.
Arla Harrell, a 90-year-old Missouri veteran who was intentionally exposed to mustard gas during World War II, has been awarded his backdated benefits from the VA, following a decades-long fight and legislation from US Senator Claire McCaskill on behalf of Mr. Harrell and his fellow service members.
The VA’s decision cited McCaskill’s legislation, and her testimony on the family’s behalf, in the awarding of Mr. Harrell’s benefits.
McCaskill testified in July at Mr. Harrell’s Veterans Affairs claim appeals hearing after the VA’s repeated denial of his benefits-asking the judge to take a careful look at his case and grant him the right to hear that his government believes him.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Arla and his family, that after so many decades being told ‘no’, so many claims denied, so many bureaucrats refusing to believe he had been mistreated by his own government-the VA is finally saying ‘yes'” said McCaskill, herself the daughter of a World War II veteran, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “This law, that so many folks put party aside to pass, is already getting results: long-overdue justice and the simple recognition of what Arla and so many of his fellow soldiers, sacrificed for their country. And three simple words that the government should have said to Arla decades ago, ‘we believe you.'”
In August, President Trump signed McCaskill’s Arla Harrell Act into law after it was approved by the Senate, capping a two-year battle and paving the way for decades-overdue relief to veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas.
As the document granting Mr. Harrell’s claim states, the reversal comes after McCaskill, who is listed as a witness for Mr. Harrell, passed her legislation. “During the pendency of the Veteran’s appeal, the President of the United States… signed legislation [the Arla Harrell Act] that directs the VA to reconsider previously denied claims for disability compensation for veterans who allege full-body exposure to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas, or Lewisite during World War II… [ Arla Harrell’s claims] will be reconsidered in light of this new legislation.”
During World War II, thousands of US servicemen were exposed to mustard agents through secret US military experiments. By the end of the war, 60,000 servicemen had been human subjects in the military’s chemical defense research program, with an estimated 4,000 of them receiving high levels of exposure to mustard agents.
For decades, these servicemen were under explicit orders not to discuss their toxic exposure with their doctors or even their families. The US military did not fully acknowledge its role in the testing program until the last of the experiments was declassified in 1975. The military did not lift the oath of secrecy until the early 1990s.
Following her investigative report, McCaskill battled what she called a “decades-long record of ineptitude and failure” at the VA, and enlisted the support of Republican and Democratic colleagues, including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who introduced companion legislation in the US House.
McCaskill also rallied veterans service organizations in support of her bill, and successfully pressured President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in support of the legislation.
The law required a re-examination of Arla Harrell’s claim for VA benefits, and the inclusion of Camp Crowder on the list of sites where full body testing took place. It also mandates a quick review of previously denied claims, places the burden on the VA (instead of the veteran) to prove or disprove exposure, revamps the VA’s application and adjudication process in the future, and mandates an investigation by both agencies to determine what went wrong with this process and officially acknowledge the horror these servicemen endured.
One week after D-Day, Germany began launching a new, secret weapon at London. The distinctive roar of V-1 flying bombs would slowly fill the air and then suddenly cut out, followed shortly by the massive explosion as a warhead went off. Dozens would fall in the first week, and the Royal Air Force had to scramble to stop them.
This led some pilots to, after expending all of their ammunition, take more drastic measures to stop the bombs: flying wingtip to wingtip until they either crashed or tipped the bomb off course.
The V-1s had pulsejet engines, and prop-driven planes couldn’t keep up with them. But, if a pilot flew to high altitude and then dove toward a passing V-1, the speed from the descent would allow them to keep up.
The first intercept took place on June 15, 1944, the third day of V-1 attacks. A Mosquito pilot was able to shoot one down with his guns, and others soon followed.
But the pilots had limited ammunition, and it was tough to hit the fast-flying V-1s. And each bomb could kill multiple Londoners if it wasn’t intercepted.
A Spitfire nudges a V-1 missile off course during World War II.
But this had obvious risks. If the pilot accidentally bumped the V-1, they could crash into the ground alongside the bomb. A soft bump was obviously no big deal. It would just help the pilot tip the bomb over. But a harder strike was essentially a midair crash, likely clipping or breaking the pilot’s own wingtip.
Despite the risks, the work of pilots and gunners on the ground saved London from much of the devastation. 1,000 of the bombs were shot down or nudged off course in flight. And, the bombs were famously inaccurate, which was lucky for Britain. Of the approximately 10,000 flying bombs fired at the city, around 7,000 missed, 1,000 were shot down, and about 2,000 actually hit the city and other targets.
Eventually, this would result in about 6,000 fatalities and 16,000 other casualties.
In October 1944, Allied troops captured the V-1 sites targeting London and were able to stop the threat there. Unfortunately, that was right as the Germans got the V-2 program up and running, The faster, rocket-powered V-2s were essentially unstoppable with anything but radar-controlled guns.
An American JB-2 Loon based on the German V-1 missile.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
After the war, Allied powers experimented with the weapons and some, including America, made their own knockoffs. Some were shot down as flying targets for pilots, but others were held in arsenals in case they were needed against enemy forces. Eventually, the invention of modern cruise missiles made the V-1s and V-2s obsolete.
When a Russian destroyer came close to colliding with a US Navy warship on June 7, 2019, Russian sailors were spotted sunbathing on the deck. A retired Russian admiral says there’s nothing weird about that.
Russian Admiral Valentin Selivanov, a military analyst who previously served as the chief of staff of the Russian Navy, told Russian media on June 10, 2019, that there’s nothing wrong with relaxing topside when you’re not at war. “There is a time for war, and a time for sunbathing,” the admiral explained.
On June 7, 2019, the US Navy accused the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov of taking a run at the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Philippine Sea. The two ships narrowly missed one another as the Russian destroyer came within 100 feet of the US warship.
Each side blamed the other for the incident; however, the US Navy released photos and videos to support its version of events.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
In one video, at least two Russian sailors were seen sunbathing shirtless on the helicopter pad. One sailor is sitting down, and pants aren’t immediately visible, although the video isn’t particularly clear.
“Our vessel is on the move in the open sea,” Selivanov told the Russian government’s Sputnik news agency, adding, “The seamen and officers have had lunch. They are on their after-lunch break, glad to be serving in the south. Sure, if one was sunbathing, then dozens were. And yes, you have to be undressed to sunbathe.”
The sunbathing Russian sailors has been interpreted a couple of different ways.
The New York Times noted the sailors and argued that this behavior could suggest that “the Russian vessel was not on high alert at the time and was not engaged in a planned provocation.”
The Russian statement on the incident claimed that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian destroyer and the “crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville, right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Were the Russian warship seriously concerned about the possibility of a collision, there would have likely been an all-hands response. The lack of such a response and the presence of Russian sailors calmly sunbathing on the deck could signal that the Russian destroyer was not the reactive party in this incident.
It is difficult to know for certain what was going on aboard the Russian ship, but US naval experts have already cast doubt on Russia’s narrative, with one telling Business Insider that the USS Chancellorsville had the right of way and accusing the Russian warship of acting in a “dangerous” fashion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s not clear yet who is responsible for the truck attack that killed dozens at a Bastille Day celebration in France. But terrorist groups have long been calling for supporters to attack “infidels” with cars.
At least 70 people were killed in the southern French city of Nice when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the country’s national holiday Thursday night.
The earliest information from the attack does point to terrorist involvement. US President Barack Obama said it appears to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”
The truck was reportedly loaded with firearms and grenades, and US officials told The Daily Beast that the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) is a top suspect in the attacks.
Both ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons.
The Institute for the Study of War noted in a 2014 report that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani instructed supporters in a speech in September of that year.
“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him,” Adnani said.
And a 2014 ISIS video aimed at French-speaking recruits encouraged supporters to attack people in France with cars and other easily accessible weapons.
“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member says in the video. “Operate within France.”
The man then goes on to mention cars specifically: “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. … Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”
Al Qaeda has also put out global calls to attack Westerners with cars.
In the second issue of its English-language magazine “Inspire,” the terrorist group referred to pickup trucks as “the ultimate mowing machine.”
“The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” the magazine article states.
Pro-ISIS accounts on the messaging app Telegram, which the terrorist group uses as a platform to disseminate its message, have been celebrating the Nice attack. But the group has yet to make any claim of responsibility.
ISIS in particular has increasingly been relying on external attacks as it has been losing territory in the Middle East, where its self-declared “caliphate” lies.
When the terrorist group first rampaged across Iraq and Syria claiming territory, it encouraged supporters to travel to the Islamic State, but recently ISIS rhetoric has shifted to focus on encouraging people to mount attacks in their home countries. Sometimes these attacks are directed by ISIS leadership, but sometimes they are carried out by lone actors who don’t have any significant contact with ISIS members.
Mia Bloom, a terrorism expert at Georgia State University, told Business Insider that it’s too soon to tell who’s responsible for the Nice attack.
“It is true that Isis has returned many fighters to France for these kinds of attacks,” she wrote in an email. “It is equally true that if Al Qaeda felt ignored it might plan an elaborate operation to get itself back in the the media spotlight and back on the map. My research showed groups might compete with each other for ever-[more] spectacular attacks.”
Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.
For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.
You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.
While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.
They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.
That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”
There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
The event honored those who served and gave veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about veteran-related resources and programs.
Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.
“It starts with vets helping vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.
Veterans of all eras were recognized and honored for their service to the nation during the opening ceremony on July 11, 2019.
Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.
VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.
Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations held July 11-12, 2019 brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
“It’s a great honor to connect with veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.
“This event is about helping our veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.
It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.
Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.
Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”
Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.
Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.
Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.
But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.
On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.
The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.
Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.
The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.
“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”
The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.
During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.
“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Radicalized In Pakistan
The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.
The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.
The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.
War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.
But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.
The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.
Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.
‘We Were All Scared’
Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.
Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.
“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”
Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.
“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”
During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.
The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.
By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.
By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.
The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.
Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.
Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.
Negotiating An End To War
In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.
But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.
For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.
Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.
“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.
“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”
Road Map For Afghanistan
The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.
More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.
But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.
“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.
But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.
Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.
There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.
The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.
The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.
“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”
The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.
Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.
But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.
Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.
“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”
Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.
“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”
Bishop and motion capture actors for EA’s Battlefield4 video game.
Greg Bishop advanced from private in the Army to Lieutenant Colonel, across a spectrum of specialties from Infantry to the Signals Corps and finally to Public Affairs. He had a dream to work in Hollywood when he was young which he fulfilled through his military service. Bishop runs MUSA Consulting now for the entertainment industry advising on different projects. Bishop has produced his own feature Ktown Cowboys and worked on projects such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Battlefield4 and Snitch.
1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I grew up in the suburbs of Louisville, KY, in a normal, all-American, middle-class family and experience. I was the third of four boys, I had loving parents who are still married today. My father, who was a Marine Corps officer and Vietnam Veteran, was tough but a great role model. My mother took great care of us boys and she was our superhero. We grew up in the pre-home-video game era, so we spent most of our time outside, playing sports, riding bikes, chasing girls and getting into normal boyhood trouble complete with skinned knees and elbows, broken bones and hearts.
2. What values were stressed at home?
With my father being a Marine, and having four boys within six years of one another, discipline, hard work and personal responsibility were paramount in the Bishop household. A strong work ethic was instilled in all of us, so all of the Bishop Boys worked as soon as we were big enough to rake leaves, shovel snow, or cut grass. Our family also pretty much had a newspaper delivery dynasty in the neighborhood for several years. All of us delivered papers until we were old enough to have a regular job, and that was back in the days when newspapers were delivered two times a day. Once old enough, we all had after school jobs washing dishes, busing tables, working in fast food, or whatever we could do to make money legally.
We all went to private Catholic high schools and we were expected to pay half of our tuition for the first three years; our parents covered all of it in our senior year. At the time it was tough. My friend’s parents were giving them money for their hobbies and entertainment while I had to work to pay for the things I wanted or wanted to do. My Mom would slide us a couple bucks if she knew we were tight on cash, but for the most part if I wanted to go to the arcade and play video games, those were my quarters going in the machine. I bought my first car at 15 before I even had a driver’s license. It was a lot of work for a kid, but in the end, my parent’s lessons paid off. All of my brothers currently work for themselves in one capacity or another.
3. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
I wasn’t the best student in high school. I had to go to summer school my freshman year, and I think I only had two A’s in my four years…one in Physics and one in Film Appreciation. Don’t ask me to explain that. In my junior year I was cast as an actor in a local educational video on teen suicide. The director allowed me to tag along throughout the production and post-production process. That was my first taste of video production and I really loved it. My senior year, in the film appreciation class, I made a Super-8 movie as the final project, and that’s when I really fell in love with film and video production. I loved the process and everything about it. I knew I needed to go to film school.
Now, there were no film schools in Louisville, so I attended a couple regional colleges for a couple of years, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. I desperately wanted to go to film school. Then one day I saw an Army commercial promoting the GI Bill and the Army College Fund which just so happened to be the amount of money I needed. I went to see a recruiter; told him I wanted the college money and if I was going to join the Army, I also wanted to paint my face green and run through the woods with a gun. I signed up for the infantry and I shipped off to Basic Training February 27, 1989. While at Fort Benning, I was offered the opportunity to apply for Army OCS (Officer Candidate School). I was accepted and made it through OCS. I was commissioned a year and a day after I arrived at Basic Training and spent the first half of my career as an Army Signal Officer serving in Korea, Fort Campbell and Germany. I wasn’t really thrilled with being a Signal Officer.
While at Fort Campbell I met, fell in love and married my amazing wife, and then the Army let me finish my degree through their Degree Completion Program. I got my bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, which is right outside of Fort Campbell. I studied public relations there and did a summer internship in an advertising firm. At this point the film school dreams began to dwindle, but I enjoyed advertising because it was still very creative. So while still serving I took the GMAT, applied for MBA programs, all with the intention of getting out of the Army and going to work in advertising.
I still owed the Army a few years because of the time they gave me to finish my degree, so fast forward a couple of years, in the mid-90’s, I was stationed in Germany and deployed to Bosnia. One day I stumbled on an article in the Stars and Stripes, about Army Advertising, that changed my life. I learned that I could do advertising IN the Army. I loved being a Soldier, I just didn’t like the Signal Corps. I learned I needed to become a public affairs officer to get that job, so after my company command time in the Signal Corps, I transitioned over to Army Public Affairs, and my first job in that career field was with Army Recruiting Command’s Advertising Directorate at Fort Knox.
While stationed at Fort Knox I was accepted into the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program and I went to USC (University of Southern California) where I got my MA in Strategic Public Relations. While there, I learned about this awesome job in LA where a Public Affairs Officer served as the Army’s liaison to the entertainment industry. I really wanted THAT job one day.
While at USC, OIF and OEF started, so after graduating I was assigned to Fort Campbell and deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from ’05-’06. I was one of the first brigade combat team PAOs during the Army’s “Transformation” period. I had a great team, an important mission, and was part of one of the best divisions in the Army. It was a tough but rewarding year.
After Iraq I was assigned as the Deputy PAO for the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown DC. After serving there for a couple of years it was again time for a reassignment. I learned an important lesson from a senior officer once and it was to not just accept any assignment the Army offers you. If you want something, you have to fight for it. I fought very hard to get the PAO job in Hollywood. My branch manager told me that the entertainment office position was open, but he would not fill the slot because the Chief of Public Affairs (2-star general) believed it didn’t need to be filled. I told my branch manager that that position was one of the most important public affairs jobs in the Army, but he assured me the general had made his decision, and it was “final.” I told him that I was going to write a white paper on why it was such a critical position and why I was the right guy for it…I asked him to promise me that he’d read it. He did, and he agreed, but now had to go change the mind of a 2-star general to put me into that position.
The general called me into his office a couple weeks later, told me my white paper made sense and he thanked me for keeping him from making a mistake. I admired him for his humility. He told me to pack my bags, you’re going to Hollywood. A few months later, I was on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and I thought to myself, “Holy shit, the Army got me to Hollywood.” It was a surreal experience. I retired from the Army about 10-years ago and have been working in the entertainment industry ever since.
Bishop with his Drill Sergeant on Basic Training graduation day.
4. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am most proud of just being a soldier and serving. I am proud to represent our country. I’m proud that I began my Army career as a Private First Class with no degree and finished as a Lieutenant Colonel with a master’s degree. My proudest achievement in service was the year I spent in Iraq where I like to say we fought the information war. Serving as a PAO doing media relations with major news agencies was interesting but working with the Iraqi people to set up their own newspapers and media outlets was the most rewarding. I helped Iraqi citizens run their own businesses, instructing them on how to create a revenue model for their newspapers, radio and TV stations. I also helped my two interpreters create a market research company that helped the local government, the U.S. Army and the U.S. State Department understand the concerns and opinions of local Iraqi citizens. We advised the police, fire and government public affairs of what it means to tell their citizens the truth. We were there for the first election in Iraq and I got to be a small part of it. It was an incredible experience.
Bishop (top left) deployed in Bosnia.
5. What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
The military and entertainment business are very similar. I told Michael Bay once that, “you shoot film and we (the Army) shoot bullets, everything else is the same.” People in entertainment might be shocked to hear this, but both industries require teamwork, leadership, planning, and even OPSEC. You deal with fiefdoms, budgets and timelines. Hard work and discipline are key. Understanding the commander’s intent, or the director’s vision, it’s the same. Neither culture suffers fools for very long. Both are meritocracies for the most part. I think it’s more so in the military than in Hollywood, and Hollywood is more nepotistic that the military, even though that exists in both worlds. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll succeed. I knew the Army trained me to be a producer, I just needed to learn the entertainment industry language.
6. What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?
I worked in Hollywood as a soldier and as a civilian. As a soldier, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the most fun. It was a Michael Bay movie, so we blew things up and we fired thousands of rounds on set. We had nearly everything in the Army inventory in that movie. There were so many explosions. We shot live rounds from Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles on set. The set caught on fire a couple times. Everybody was out there putting the fire out. Even Michael Bay had a hose in his hand putting out the fire. Every day was just a blast.
As a civilian, it has to be producing my first movie Ktown Cowboys with my business partner Brian Chung. We took it from script all the way to distribution. It premiered at SWSX (South-by-Southwest) in 2015 and it was a nerve-racking experience having so many strangers watching our film. But there’s nothing more rewarding than watching an audience laugh and enjoy a film that your team made. Finishing a movie is very tough. Making a bad movie is hard, making a great film is almost impossible. The military trained us to face challenges and solve difficult situations. That’s true in a military operation and it’s true in the film business.
MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
The film that Greg produced. Photo credit IMDB.com
7. What was it like transitioning to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in the Entertainment industry for the Army it was harder than you may think. The industry doesn’t have the time to help anybody else achieve their dreams unless it’s a family member. Most people stop returning my phone calls once I no longer “had the keys” to Army helicopters, troops, vehicles, locations, etc.
I knew some people at Electronic Arts who worked on the Battlefield franchise. Working with them was one of our first gigs. One of the early challenges we had was knowing how much to charge for our services. As a Soldier, you work as long as it takes to accomplish the mission and your pay is the same regardless of outside circumstances. There’s really no relationship between pay and time in the military. I remember in one of our early phone calls with EA one of the producers asked us how much we charge for our services. At the time we had no idea what our time and expertise was worth. We threw out a number and the EA guys laughed at us. They literally said, “We can pay you more than that!” Lesson learned.
We probably wasted a lot of money and time starting a business immediately after retirement because we were career military guys and not trained businessmen. We made some mistakes, learned a lot, but we’ve been doing this for more than 10-years now.
One other similarity between Hollywood and the military is both cultures tend to slap labels on people. In the military we literally wear those labels on our uniform. That’s one of the things that always bothered me about the military culture. Promotions and career paths tend to be very rigid and bureaucratic. In the civilian world there are 25-year old CEOs and they’re judged on performance of their leadership and the company. There aren’t any 25-year-old generals. The entertainment industry is similar though because if you’re a consultant, in their mind you’ll always be a consultant. It’s tough to use that role as a stepping stone into something bigger like acting, or directing, or producing.
Our consulting company was essentially our film school. It helped us learn the language of the industry. In 2012 we created our production company, and while our consulting company is still operating and growing, our production company is our primary focus these days.
Bishop working with Norman Lear on Netflix’s reboot of “One Day at a Time”.
Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Photo credit IMDB.com
A screenshot of Battlefield 4. Photo credit imdb.com.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra released in 2009. Photo credit IMDB.com.
8. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
I have a few leadership lessons.
For big challenges, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t let the scope of the challenge intimidate you. Take it on incrementally.
You have to do the work. A lot of young people think accomplishing something is as easy as Googling it. It isn’t. You have to do the work, and oftentimes the work is more difficult than you imagine.
Don’t take “no” for an answer. Write the white paper telling the two-star general he is making a mistake.
Teamwork. It’s critical that you come together to achieve a common mission or objective. You won’t do it alone.
For those getting out of the military soon, I recommend that you find and do something you’re passionate about. Do something that excites you. Do something that will make you look at weekends as a distraction and look forward to Monday mornings. Whatever you are passionate about and love doing, find a way to do it and make money from it. If it doesn’t work, you can always get a government job or contracting job or whatever job other retired military people do.
9. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
In 1927 the first Academy Award for Best Picture went to the Army for a movie called Wings. The military has been part of Hollywood ever since and military stories have always been a part of the DNA of filmmaking and storytelling in Hollywood. For decades Hollywood was patriotic and told mostly pro-American stories portraying our troops against foreign enemies. Yes, it was probably borderline propaganda, but it was a unifying effort from people who loved their country. After the Vietnam War, and even more so after 9/11, most films and television programs about our troops were about fighting their own government, their chain of command or themselves. The politics in the industry shifted along with the way Hollywood portrayed our military. Hollywood struggles with telling authentic stories about our military. It seems we’re mostly portrayed as superheroes or broken mental patients. To answer your question, the only way we can change Hollywood is to do it ourselves. That is the only way it is going to get done authentically. We need to work to become the writers, or producers, or financiers to fund our own content. It’s easier to do that today than it’s ever been, but it’s still extremely difficult.
A scene from Wings in 1927 that won the first Oscar for Best Picture. Photo credit Paramount Studios.
10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Personally, I am most proud of my marriage to my wife of 25 years. She is my life’s purpose. Career wise, building three businesses with my business partner Brian Chung. But I am not done yet, so we will see what comes next.
Any dad would put himself in danger to save his child, but a North Carolina dad proved he’s truly a hero. When Charlie Winter’s 17-year-old daughter Paige was attacked by a shark at Fort Macon State Park’s Atlantic Beach, he sprang into action. Winters punched the shark five times, fighting off the predator and ultimately saving his daughter’s life.
Family friend Brandon Bersch described the frightening attack to TODAY Parents: “They were standing in waist-deep water and chatting and then Paige suddenly got pulled under.” Winters quickly reacted by punching the shark repeatedly. “Charlie wouldn’t stop until it released his little girl,” Bersch continued. “He lives for his children.”
Winters’ quick response is likely due to his experience as a firefighter and paramedic, which allowed him to know to apply pressure to Paige’s wounds and was able to remain calm. “Paige is alive today because of her father,” Bersch said.
Paige was airlifted to Greenville’s Vidant Medical Center 80 miles away, where she had emergency surgery and unfortunately, lost her leg. “Paige has more surgeries upcoming, but she’s really optimistic,” Bersch said of the teen’s recovery. “As soon as Paige woke up at the hospital, she made a comment about how she doesn’t have animosity toward sharks and she still loves the sea.”
This was hardly the first time Charlie stepped in to save a life. In 2013, he rescued a then 2-year-old boy from a burning home. “Charlie is the bravest man I know,” Bersch said of his friend. Absolutely no arguments here.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.