Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

As the sun went down leaving a peach hue above the Baltic Sea, U.S. soldiers, partner, and ally countries prepare weapon systems that would soon be shot off into the night sky.

Soldiers with C Battery, or the “Catdogs”, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment participated in the multinational air defense night fire exercise June 18, 2019, Utska Poland. The night fire is part of Tobruq Legacy 2019, Tobruq Legacy is a 21-day exercise that focuses on multi-national partnerships with shared understanding and demonstration of Air Defense capabilities by the United States Army and 11 different partner and allied countries.


The silence of night was broken as the Slovakian army fired missiles into the sky leaving behind a trail of fire and smoke. The U.S. Forces waited to the east of the firing line eager to demonstrate the capabilities they bring to the table. During the night fire U.S. soldiers showed mission readiness by demonstrating the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System and the FIM-92 Stinger Missiles.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, prepare to fire the FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The Avenger Missile System is a rugged camouflaged military vehicle whose stature can be imposing with 4 missile ports in each of the two guns fixed to the turret. The AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System has been around for many years, while the FIM-92 Stinger Missile system is fairly new technology. This was the first live test for the FIM-92 as firing teams took turns engaging moving targets.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, radio in that the final missile was fired from the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“Firing the missile is probably the greatest feeling there is,” said Spc. Matthew Lashley, an Avenger crewmember in C Battery. “Once you pull the trigger everything goes away with a loud bang, and it’s just a great experience shooting a live missile.”

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, are smothered with smoke as they fire the new FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The FIM-92 is a handheld weapon system commonly used to engage aircrafts and it proved itself to be an adequate weapon system throughout the day and night, as it was visibly more effective than the Avenger system.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The goal for the exercise is to work side-by-side with partner nations and find a way to utilize all of the technology and fire power available should these countries have to partner to defend against an attack from potential adversaries.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“It should make our potential adversaries nervous,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Bryan, a 1st platoon squad leader and team chief. “If I saw multiple nations coming together in a huge exercise that was successful such as this one, I would be nervous, because it shows we have the capabilities and firepower to do what we need to do.”

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, watch as the missile they fired from the FIM-92 Stinger missile system flies towards their target as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The exercise was able to demonstrate how effective and devastating ADA can be as missiles engaged targets hundreds of meters away lighting up the night sky. The final missile burst over the Baltic Sea as the last vehicle for the night drove off the range in the early hours of June 18, 2019, and zipped down the road back to the Logistics Support Area where the vehicles were staged for the next day.

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

Articles

US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.


“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.

The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded “within seconds” after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a “saturation attack” — a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.

Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea’s ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.

Meanwhile, the US has openly floated military action against North Korea, which experts tell Business Insider could easily cost millions of lives and result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

Articles

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Airborne forces face a problem whenever they have to jump behind enemy lines — whether it’s to seize an enemy airfield or to take and hold territory.


The paratroopers can’t bring their own armor support, because America doesn’t currently have an airborne-certified tank or large armored vehicle. (The Stryker and the Light Armored Vehicle have undergone successful airdrop tests, but neither has been certified).

But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.

The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Sheridan was crewed by four people and weighed 16 tons, light enough that it could actually swim through the water. It was powered by a 300-hp diesel engine and could hit approximately 45 mph. It could travel 373 miles between fill-ups.

The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.

The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.

Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
The M551 Sheridan could be airdropped from Air Force cargo planes. Crew would follow it to the ground and get the tank up and running. (GIF: YouTube/Strength through Humility)

Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.

The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.

By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
The M60 Patton, which is still in service with allied nations today, was seen as more reliable and powerful than the M551. (GIF: YouTube/arronlee33)

According to an Army history pamphlet, one cavalryman told the Stars and Stripes, “We can get the job done with the Sheridan, but most cavalrymen would rather have the tank.”

The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.

The Army is, once again, looking at new light tanks or heavy-armored vehicles to support paratroopers. The new solution could be another custom-built tank, like the Sheridan. But as of summer 2016, its specifications were up in the air. It just has to be capable of an airdrop, and it has to get the job done.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Humor

7 types of riflemen you’ll meet in your first platoon

Considered the backbone of the infantry, the Marine MOS of “0311” has been kicking in the enemy’s doors and striking fear into their hearts for decades.


Although the training required by the hardcore occupation is demanding, when you join your first platoon, you’ll encounter some of the world’s most interesting people.

Here are just a few types of Devil Dog you’ll meet.

Related: 6 types of enlisted ‘docs’ you’ll meet at sick call

1. The one who has something to prove

This guy didn’t have the most comfortable time in high school. They probably weren’t the star football player or wrestler, but they’ve got an enormous heart. They joined the Corps to prove something to themselves and those around them.

Deep down, we’re all this person.

2. The Marine who wants to make the Corps a career

In the beginning, this Marine doesn’t see himself embarking on any other career path. They are hard chargers who believe in the Corps’ mission down to their very bones.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
This Marine rifleman conducts a training exercise prepping him for deployment.

3. The one who is “testing the waters”

This young stud isn’t sure what he or she wants out of life, they just know that they need to move out of their hometown and see what else is out there. The may find themselves during their service — or they may not.

4. The most in-shape Marine ever

This PT guru is always at the gym or running up 5th Marine Regiment’s First Sergeant’s Hill during their free time. However, they always invite their brothers to join in and continuously motivate everyone to press on.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
This Marine almost completes his rep during a single-arm preacher curl at one of the 56 fitness centers the Corps provides.

5. The one who dreams of going to Special Forces

An outstanding, motivated Marine always achieves their goals. Many Marines want to push themselves to find and test their limits. What better way to test your limits than by joining up with MARSOC?

6. The tech genius

This smarty-pants is the one who will surprise you with how intelligent they are outside of work. They might not be able to split an atom or some sh*t, but they might be able to re-hardwire your computer so you can download more porn.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
This Marine developed armor with a package of clottings agent and painkillers installed inside the protective shield.

Also Read: 8 things a boot lieutenant should never say

7. The one with the drunken split personality

This Marine is the most helpful guy in your platoon… when they’re sober. But, after a few 6-packs, they become the biggest pricks and damn near intolerable. A lot of these Marines end up getting choked out MCMAP-style just to shut them up.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘having guts’ actually meant being an able U.S. troop

These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.


Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

For the record, it still is.

Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke *again*

In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.

The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.

As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

www.youtube.com

The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The bizarre story of how two artists independently created ‘Dennis the Menace’

We’ve talked before about the bizarre Hollywood phenomenon of Twin Films – essentially films with near identical premises inexplicably released around the same time – and all of the machinations that can lead to them existing. Today, rather than focusing on an industry wide trend, we’re going to discuss a specific example of something similar — the bizarre tale of the time two comic artists based in the UK and US respectively somehow both created “Dennis the Menace” at almost the same time, with the first editions of each published on the exact same day, despite neither one knowing anything about what the other was doing.

While it’s commonly misstated that the UK version of “Dennis the Menace,” which debuted in Beano #452, came out on March 17, 1951, in truth both “Dennis the Menace” comics hit the shelves on March 12, with the incorrect date for the British version coming from the fact that this date was on the original cover. As to why, a common practice at the time was to post-date editions to try to keep them on the shelves longer.


Beyond sharing a name, both characters own dogs that usually aid in their mischief, with American Dennis having a snowy white Airedale mix called Ruff, and British Dennis owning a “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” called Gnasher. Like their owners, each dog has a distinct personality, Gnasher being decidedly more violent than Ruff, with his favourite pastime being chasing and biting postman. Another similarity between the two Dennises is their penchant for causing mischief with a slingshot, which is considered to be a trademark of each character in their respective home markets.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher.

That said, it should be noted for those unfamiliar that the British Dennis is an intentional menace who relishes in the mayhem he causes, whereas the U.S. version tends to be over all good natured and ends up being a menace in many cases via trying to do something good, but having it all go wrong.

Nevertheless, given the similarities, it should come as no surprise that soon after each comic hit the stands on the same day in 1951, news of each other’s comics quickly reached the two creators. While initially foul play was suspected, it became clear to all parties involved that the whole thing couldn’t possibly be anything but a massive, inexplicable coincidence.

In the end, both creators agreed to continue as if the other comic didn’t exist and the only real change made to either comic was that as both comics gained in popularity, the name of the British version evolved, initially just in foreign markets, but eventually everywhere to Dennis and Gnasher.

During discussions about how each creator came up with the idea of “Dennis the Menace,” it was revealed that British Dennis was the brainchild of Beano editor, George Moonie. Moonie was inspired to create the character after hearing the lyric “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice” while visiting a music hall. With this lyric in mind, Moonie tasked artist David Law with creating a character called, you guessed it, Dennis the Menace, saying simply that the character was a mischievous British schoolboy.

Although Law was responsible for drawing Dennis from his conception until 1970 when Law fell ill, the now iconic look of Dennis was first suggested by Beano Chief Sub Ian Chisholm who is said to have sketched a rough drawing of what would come to be Dennis’ default look on the back of a cigarette packet while Chisholm and Law were at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland.

Billed as “The World’s Wildest Boy!” in his debut strip, proto British Dennis looked markedly different from his modern counterpart, with some of his more iconic features, such as his pet dog and bestest pal Gnasher or his iconic red and black striped sweater, not being introduced until later comics.

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

In the end, “Dennis the Menace” played a big part at revitalizing Beano, as noted by Beano artist Lew Stringer, “‘Dennis the Menace’ was like a thunderbolt. The Beano was flagging by 1950 and no longer radical. But there was an energy to ‘Dennis the Menace,’ it was modern and became one of the first naughty kids characters of the post-war period.”

As for American Dennis the Menace, he was the creation of Hank Ketcham. Ketcham briefly attended the University of Washington in Seattle, but had a passion for drawing from a very young age when a family friend had showed him his, to quote Ketcham, “magic pencil”, and how it could draw things like cartoon characters such as Barney Google.

Fast-forward to his freshman year of college in 1938, after seeing “The Three Little Pigs” Ketcham promptly dropped out of school and left Seattle, stating,

I had one thing on my mind: Walt Disney. I hitchhiked to Hollywood and got a job in an ad agency, changing the water for the artists for [about 9 today] a week. Which was OK because I lived at a rooming house on Magnolia – three meals a day and a bike to ride to work – for a week.
Then I got a job with Walt Lantz at Universal, assisting the animators, for . It was the tail end of the glory days of Hollywood and I loved it! I was on the back of the lot, where W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi, Crosby, Edgar Bergen were all parading around. My neck was on a swivel! Marvelous!

As he notes there, he eventually achieved his goal, doing some work for Disney on movies like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio.

When the U.S. entered WWII, he found himself in the Navy drawing military posters for things like War Bonds and the like. By 1950, he was working as a freelance cartoonist. On a fateful day in October of that year, his toddler son, Dennis, did something that changed the family’s fate forever.

His wife, Alice, went to check on the toddler who was supposed to be napping, but instead she found Dennis’ dresser drawers removed and contents unceremoniously dumped out, his curtain rods removed and dismantled, mattress overturned and just a general mess everywhere.

Ketcham would recount in an interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of his comic that Alice remarked in an exasperated tone after witnessing the destruction, “Your son is a menace!”

This statement resonated with Ketcham who quickly devised and refined the idea of a mischievous toddler who accidentally causes wanton destruction wherever he goes. Dennis the Menace was born, and a mere five months later debuted in 16 newspapers. This is despite the fact that Ketcham himself would later state, “Oh, the drawings were terrible! Even when I started with Dennis they were just wretched! How any editor ever bought that junk…”

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

Hank Ketcham in 1953.

Nevertheless, within a year of its debut, 245 newspapers across the world had picked it up representing a readership of over 30 million people. At its peak, the number of outlets that carried “Dennis the Menace” grew to over 1,000.

Unfortunately, things did not have a happy ending for the real Dennis. Much like with Christoper Robin Milne, who A.A. Milne based his character of Christopher Robin on, Dennis came to loathe the fact that his father had created a famous character after himself. Unlike Christoper Robin, Dennis never got over it.

That said, despite his son’s accusations, Ketcham vehemently denies ever using anything from his son’s childhood as fodder for the comic other than the name, noting he almost always used a team of writers to come up with the comics’ content, stating, “Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people. Otherwise, you settle for…mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”

Whatever the case, the comic was perhaps just a side issue. You see, as her husband’s fame grew, Dennis’ mother became an alcoholic and by 1959 she filed for divorce. Around the same time, with Alice no longer capable of taking care of Dennis, he was shipped off to a boarding school. Said, Dennis, “I didn’t know what was going on except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way.”

Very soon after, his mother died after mixing barbiturates with a lot of alcohol. As for Dennis, Ketcham didn’t end up getting him from boarding school to attend the funeral, nor did he tell him about his mother’s death until weeks later, reportedly as he didn’t know how to break it to him, so delayed as long as possible. Said Dennis of this, “Mom had always been there when I needed her. I would have dealt with losing her a lot better had I been able to attend her funeral.”

Things didn’t improve when mere weeks later, Ketcham married a new woman, then moved the family off to Switzerland where he once again placed Dennis in a boarding school, which ultimately didn’t work out. To begin with, his new wife and Dennis weren’t exactly pals. Said Ketcham, “Jo Anne was unused to children. and she and Dennis didn’t get along.”

Seeing his son struggling academically because of a learning disability, combined with being in a foreign country and issues between his new wife and Dennis, Ketcham sent Dennis off to a different boarding school back in the United States where he hoped he’d be more comfortable.

After graduating two years later than most, Dennis joined the Marines for a tour in Vietnam and subsequently suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for his relationship with his father, it never improved, with Ketcham even losing track of him completely at one point. As Ketcham stated when asked about his son, “He’s living in the East somewhere doing his own thing. That’s just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families… He checks in about twice a year. And if he needs something, I try to help him.”

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Giphy

As you might imagine from all this, Ketcham would come to greatly regret using his son’s name for his character because of how he felt it negatively impacted him. “These things happen, but this was even worse because his name was used. He was brought in unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.”

He also regretted not being there for his son. “Sometimes, young fathers scrambling to make a living, to climb the ladder, leave it to the mother to do all the parental things. But you get back what you put into a child. It’s like a piano. If you don’t give it much attention, you won’t get much out of it… I’m sure Dennis was lonely. Being an only child is tough.”

He goes on, “In my family now. I’m much more active with the kids and their schooling than I was before. I listen better. And I think I’m more patient. Maybe not. But I’d like to think so.”

As for Dennis’ side, he stated, rather than a successful, famous father, “I would rather have had a father who took me fishing and camping, who was there for me when I needed him… Dad can be like a stranger. Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel anything.”

When Ketcham died on June 1, 2001, Dennis didn’t show up for the funeral and a family spokesman stated they hadn’t heard from him in years and didn’t know where he was.

To finish on a much lighter note, in 1959, Ketcham was invited to visit the Soviet Union as a part of a cartoon exchange trip. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the CIA asked Ketcham if he wouldn’t mind sketching anything significant he saw while in the Soviet Union. Said Ketcham, “We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes. I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book of funny-face cartoons at the end that I didn’t know how to read.” Needless to say, the CIA didn’t exactly appreciate his work.

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“Dennis the Menace” creator Hank Ketcham.

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to British Dennis, Kurt Cobain was known to wear a jumper remarkably similar to that of the British Dennis the Menace on stage. As it turns out, the jumper was a genuine piece of official Dennis the Menace merchandise, though the singer didn’t know this. Apparently Courtney Love bought the jumper for Kurt for for £35 (about £70 or today) from a fan called Chris Black at a concert in Northern Ireland in 1992 after taking a liking to it.
  • Speaking of having to find a way to be original week after week in comics, Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, once sagely stated, “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” That’s a tall order for someone who created nearly 18,000 strips- and it wasn’t always easy. On this note, Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip Cathy, revealed in an interview that Schulz once called her in something of a panic as he couldn’t think of anything to draw and was doubting whether he’d be able to come up with anything. Exasperated, she stated, “I said, ‘What are you talking about, you’re Charles Schulz!’… What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt.”
  • Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” famously not only passed up but fought vehemently against merchandising of “Calvin and Hobbes,” costing himself many tens of millions of dollars in revenue. He stated of this that it wasn’t so much that he was against the idea of merchandising in general, just that “each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.” Despite this, it’s not terribly difficult to find merchandise of “Calvin and Hobbes,” but all are unauthorized copyright infringements, including the extremely common “Calvin Peeing” car stickers. Despite never having earned a dime from these, Watterson quipped in an interview with mental_floss, “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”
  • Most of the characters and names in “Winnie the Pooh” were based on creator A.A. Milne’s son’s toys and stuffed animals with the exception of Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher. Christopher Robin Milne’s toy teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear he saw at the Zoo in London. The real life black bear was in turn named after the hometown of the person who captured the bear, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, who was from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bear ended up in the London Zoo after Colebourn was sent to England and then to France during WWI. When he was sent to France, he was unable to bring the bear so gave it to the London Zoo temporarily and later decided to make it a permanent donation after the bear became one of the Zoo’s top draws. The “Pooh” part of the name was supposedly after a black swan that Christopher Robin Milne saw while on holiday. A black swan named Pooh also appears in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the firepower the US is sending to take on Iran

The US military is sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force to Iran. There is a ton of firepower heading that way.

The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which consists of the carrier and its powerful carrier air wing, as well as one cruiser and four destroyers, is moving into the region with an unspecified number of B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers, according to US Central Command.

These assets, according to US Central Command, are being deployed in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” This is in addition to strategic assets already in the area.


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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

Aircraft carrier: USS Abraham Lincoln

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, previously described aircraft carriers as “tremendous expression of US national power.” A carrier strike group is an even stronger message. “CSGs are visible and powerful symbols of U.S. commitment and resolve,” US European Command said in a statement on May 7, 2019.

The USS Abraham Lincoln, a mobile sea-based airfield, is the lead ship for the carrier strike group that bears its name and is outfitted with a highly capable carrier air wing.

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An F/A-18E Super Hornet.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

Carrier air wing: fighters, electronic-attack aircraft, early-warning aircraft, and rotary aircraft

Carrier Air Wing Seven consists of F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, and a number of rotary aircraft from multiple squadrons capable of carrying out a variety of operational tasks.

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The USS Leyte Gulf.

(US Navy photo)

Cruiser: USS Leyte Gulf

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are multi-role warships that run heavily armed with 122 vertical-launch-system (VLS) cells capable of carrying everything from Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles to surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine-warfare rockets.

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The USS Mason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anna Wade)

4 destroyers: USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason, and USS Nitze

Like the larger cruisers, destroyers are also multi-mission vessels. Armed with 90 to 96 VLS cells, these ships have air-and-missile defense capabilities, as well as land-attack abilities.

Early in the Trump presidency, two US Navy destroyers devastated Shayrat Airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to punish the Syrian regime in the aftermath of a chemical-weapons attack.

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The B-52 with all its ammunition.

(US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert Horstman)

Bombers: B-52s

The B-52 is a subsonic high-altitude bomber capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads. These hard-hitting aircraft can carry up to 70,000 pounds of varied ordnance and can be deployed to carry out various missions, including strategic attack, close air support, air interdiction, and offensive counter-air and maritime operations.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

Editor’s Note: On April 15, 2018, R. Lee Ermey passed away from complications of pneumonia. His long time manager, Bill Rogin, made the announcement via Ermey’s twitter handle. In honor of his passing, We Are The Mighty is proud to share these facts about America’s favorite Gunny.

Most people know R. Lee Ermey from his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” And if you somehow joined the military and never saw “Full Metal Jacket,” the first question anyone would ask is “How is that even possible?” But the second would be “How much do you know about this guy, anyway?”


Ermey didn’t go right into acting and if it weren’t for his Marine Corps-level determination, we might never know him at all. Which would be a shame, because his life before and after “Full Metal Jacket” is equally interesting.

1. His first job after the military was untraditional.

Ermey was medically retired from the Marine Corps and was at a loss about what to do as a civilian. He told Entertainment Weekly in a 1997 interview that he “bought a run-down bar and whorehouse” in Okinawa. He had to leave the business behind when the Japanese FBI caught wind of his black marketing. He escaped to the Philippines, where he met his wife.

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What Ermey actually looked like as a Drill Instructor in 1968.

2. His first role was an Army helicopter pilot.

It was while in the Philippines that the future Gunnery Sergeant was cast in “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola himself. Ermey was studying drama and did a number of Filipino films before Coppola discovered him. You can see him in yet another legendary war movie scene.

Coppola also hired him as the film’s technical advisor for all thing military.

Also read: 7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

3. He wasn’t supposed to be in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Ermey was doing his job as technical advisor, reading the part of Sgt. Hartman while interviewing extras for the film. They already hired another actor for the part but Ermey had a plan to get the part. He got the job as technical advisor because of his other roles in Vietnam movies. He taped the interviews he did as Hartman and Kubrick cast him after seeing those tapes.

Interestingly enough, Ermey wrote the insults he hurled at the Marines in the film. Kubrick never gave him input on what a drill instructor might say. He wrote 150 pages of insults.

4. Ermey is the only Marine to be promoted after retiring.

He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after spending 14 months in Vietnam and doing two tours in Okinawa. He was medically retired for the injuries he received during his service. But it was in 2002, that Marine Corps Commandant James L. Jones promoted Ermey to E-7, Gunnery Sergeant, the rank he became so well-known for. It was the first and only time the Corps has promoted a retiree.

5. He originally joined the Corps to stay out of jail – and almost went Navy.

In the old days, joining the military was an option for at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents to avoid real jail time. Ermey was arrested twice as a teen. He admits to being a bit of a hell-raiser. And he didn’t even know about the Marine Corps the day he decided to join.

 

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Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Basically a silver-haired judge, a kindly old judge, looked down at me and said ‘this is the second time I’ve seen you up here and it looks like we’re going to have to do something about this,” Ermey told a gathering in 2010. He wanted to join the Navy because his father was in the Navy, but they rejected him on the grounds that he was a troublemaker.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the deal with the NASA spacewalk spacesuit change

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to perform a spacewalk together to upgrade the power systems of the International Space Station. It would have been the first all-female spacewalk in human history. While disappointing to many people, after the last spacewalk was completed March 22, 2019, NASA changed the assignments to protect the safety of the crew and the timing of the mission. Now, Christina Koch and Nick Hague will be performing this upcoming spacewalk, leaving lots of people are wondering: What’s the deal?


1. Why did the availability of spacesuit sizes affect the schedule?​

Spacesuits are not “one size fits all.” We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes.

McClain trained in both a medium and a large on Earth. However, living in microgravity can change the size of your body! In fact, Anne McClain has grown two inches since she launched to the Space Station.

McClain realized that the medium she wore during the March 22, 2019 spacewalk was a better fit for her in space. She had planned to wear a large during the March 29, 2019 spacewalk.

In a tweet, McClain explained: “This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.”

To provide each astronaut the best fitting spacesuit during their spacewalks, Koch will wear the medium torso on March 29, 2019, and McClain will wear it again on April 8, 2019.

​2. Why is spacesuit sizing so important?

The spacesuit is a mini spaceship that keeps our astronauts alive while they are spacewalking!

Astronauts train several hours on Earth in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab for every hour they spend spacewalking. Spacewalks are the most physically demanding thing we ask astronauts to do, which is why an optimally fitted spacesuit is important to completing the assigned tasks and overall mission!

​3. How come you don’t have enough spacesuits in the right size?

We do have enough torsos. The spacesuit takes into account more than 80 different body measurements to be configured for each astronaut. The suit has three sizes of upper torso, eight sizes of adjustable elbows, over 65 sizes of gloves, two sizes of adjustable waists, five sizes of adjustable knees and a vast array of padding options for almost every part of the body.

In space, we have two medium hard upper torsos, two larges and two extra larges; however, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require 12 hours of crew time for configuration.

Configuring the spare medium is a very methodical and meticulous process to ensure the intricate life support system – including the controls, seals, and hoses for the oxygen, water, and power as well as the pressure garment components – are reassembled correctly with no chance of leaks.

Nothing is more important than the safety of our crew!

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Astronaut Anne McClain gets assistance putting on her spacesuit during her ASCAN EVA Skills 3 Training.

(NASA)

12 hours might not seem like a long time, but the space station is on a very busy operational schedule. An astronaut’s life in space is scheduled for activities in five minute increments. Their time is scheduled to conduct science experiments, maintain their spaceship and stay healthy (they exercise two hours a day to keep their bones and muscles strong!).

The teams don’t want to delay this spacewalk because two resupply spacecraft – Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX cargo Dragon – are scheduled to launch to the space station in the second half of April 2019. That will keep the crew very busy for a while!

​4. Why has there not already been an all-female spacewalk?

NASA does not make assignments based on gender. The first female space shuttle commander, the first female space station commander and the first female spacewalker were all chosen because they the right individuals for the job, not because they were women. It is not unusual to change spacewalk assignments as lessons are learned during operations in space.

McClain became the 13th female spacewalker on March 22, 2019, and Koch will be the 14th March 29, 2019 – both coincidentally during Women’s History Month! Women also are filling two key roles in Mission Control: Mary Lawrence as the lead flight director and Jaclyn Kagey as the lead spacewalk officer.

​5. When will the all-female spacewalk happen?

An all-female spacewalk is inevitable! As the percentage of women who have become astronauts increases, we look forward to celebrating the first spacewalk performed by two women! McClain, Koch (and Hague!) are all part of the first astronaut class that was 50 percent women, and five of the 11 members of the 2017 astronaut candidate class are also women.

You can watch the upcoming spacewalk on March 29, 2019, at 6:30 ET, which is one in a series to upgrade the station’s power technology with new batteries that store power from the solar arrays for the station to use when it is in orbital night.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 details you should know about the Bergdahl case

On Oct. 16, 2017, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy.


Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.

Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.

10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.

9. He was described as “Squared Away”

During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”

Also read: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

8. He deployed late

While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off.  When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”

7. There were some red flags

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.

First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.

Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.

Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.

6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. (Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.)

Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.

5. His platoon searched for 10 days straight

After Bergdahl was found missing, the other soldiers in his platoon took it upon themselves to find him.

In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”

After 10 days, the platoon was allowed to rest and refit. Many soldiers had to buy new socks and uniforms that had literally rotted of their bodies. According to the Army lawyers, the official search for Bergdahl would last another 45 days.

4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog

During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.

Related: Bowe Bergdahl just apologized to those hurt searching for him

3. The Afghan elections ended the search

The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.

By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.

2. He’s been an Intel source since his return

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

When Bergdahl returned to U.S. forces in 2014, he was immediately questioned about his time in captivity. During the trial, some of intelligence officers testified that Bergdahl was a “gold mine” of information.

Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”

1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty

The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.

While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.

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