Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.
“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”
Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.
We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.
Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.
“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.
“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.
When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.
“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.
Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.
But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.
A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)
The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.
“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”
Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.
According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.
U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
These fights could easily be long and drawn out.
“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.
And, the waiting is tough.
“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”
“It’s a cool story later,” he added.
No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.
“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins died Wednesday. He was one of 24 American astronauts who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. Collins was occasionally referred to as “the loneliest man in history” because while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, he stayed in orbit around the moon in the Apollo command module, more isolated and alone in those few hours than any person on earth had ever been in history.
Though 24 American astronauts have orbited the moon — and three have made two trips there — only 12 have walked on its surface. Of that dozen, four remain alive today.
Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon July 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he famously said upon stepping down onto the moon’s surface. But before his 17-year career as an astronaut with NASA, Armstrong served as a combat naval aviator, flying 78 missions in the Korean War. He even had to bail out of his F-9F Panther jet after it became disabled on a low bombing run in August 1951. Fortunately, he was rescued. He flew 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders, throughout his career. Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Born in the same year as fellow-moonwalker Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission. The pair spent 21 hours on the moon and collected 46 pounds of moon rocks. Like Armstrong, Aldrin flew combat missions in the Korean War with the Air Force. He flew 66 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre, shot down two MiG-15s, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years before walking on the moon, Aldrin made history by performing the world’s first successful spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), and took the first “space selfie.” In recent years, Aldrin has been known not to put up with moon landing conspiracies. When a denier confronted Aldrin in 2002, Aldrin punched the man in the face.
Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Conrad retired from the US Navy as a captain in 1973 after 20 years of service, 11 of which were with NASA’s space program. The young officer became a naval aviator in 1953 following his graduation from Princeton University and was a flight instructor at the Test Pilot School, among other locations. As an astronaut, he set the space endurance record and put the US in the lead for man-hours in space following his flight with Gemini 5 in August 1965. He also helped set a world altitude record and served as commander on Apollo 12, which completed the second lunar landing Nov. 19, 1969. He flew his final mission with the Skylab II, the first US Space Station.
Conrad died July 8, 1999, at age 69 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Bean had three accomplished careers: He was a naval aviator, an astronaut, and an artist. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean and Charles Conrad completed the second lunar landing, and Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During his two moonwalks, he helped conduct several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generation station to put a power source on the moon. The pair used a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds of moon rocks and soil to study back on Earth. Bean later served aboard Skylab II, the first US Space Station, where he said, “Going outside a spaceship in earth orbit is scarier than walking on the moon.”
“I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come,” Bean later said regarding his post-astronaut life as an artist. “It is my dream that on the wings of my paintbrush many people will see what I saw and feel what I felt, walking on another world some 240,000 miles from my studio here on planet earth.”
Alan Shepard is every golfer’s favorite astronaut. The first American in space and the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon at age 47, Shepard also became the first human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It was during the Apollo 14 mission, the third manned lunar landing, when Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed Feb. 5, 1971, and completed two moonwalks.
The astronaut, who started his career aboard a ship during World War II and later became a test pilot, hit three golf balls in four shots on the moon. In his spacesuit and with one hand, Shepard got “more dirt than ball” on his first shot, sliced the second, retrieved it for a third shot, and then sent the final golf ball “miles and miles and miles” on his fourth shot. That statement isn’t entirely hyperbole — because of the moon’s low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the ball could have traveled up to a mile, more than four times the average professional drive. Shepard died July 21, 1998, at age 74.
Edgar D. Mitchell
While Shepard is remembered for his golf skills on the moon, Edgar D. Mitchell is remembered for his quick thinking that saved Apollo 14 from disaster. When the lunar module encountered two failures, he had to manually punch 80 lines of code into a computer so they wouldn’t have a hard landing on the moon. The former naval aviator was the sixth human being to walk on the moon. He and Shepard set mission records at the time for the longest distance traveled on the moon, largest payload returned from the lunar surface, and longest stay (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon. In his later years, Mitchell voiced his unusual opinions about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. He died on Feb. 4, 2016, at age 85.
David R. Scott
Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, David R. Scott is one of the four still living. He flew in space three times, piloted the command module on Apollo 9 for the first docking of the command module and lunar module, and made history during the Apollo 15 mission by driving the lunar rover on the moon for the first time. He also survived a terrifying spin aboard Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong in March 1966. They were attempting to dock the Atlas Agena target vehicle to complete the world’s first linkup between two spacecraft in orbit when they started to tumble.
“We have serious problems here,” Scott said. “We’re tumbling end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.” They were spinning so fast their vision blurred when the craft reached one revolution per second. Armstrong used almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering propellant to stop the spin and was ordered to return to Earth.
James B. Irwin
James B. Irwin retired a year after exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971 and founded an evangelical religious organization called the High Flight Foundation. He said his experience on the moon inspired him to devote the rest of his life to “spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” He even quoted a Psalms passage to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” Irwin said, according to The New York Times, “but, of course, we get quite a bit from Houston, too.”
The Air Force colonel and David Scott became the eighth and seventh American astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Irwin’s moonwalk was his only space mission. Irwin died from a heart attack Aug. 8, 1991, at age 61.
John W. Young
“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, also a former astronaut, said. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”
Young landed on the moon with the Apollo 16 mission and is the only person to have gone into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. After serving in the US Navy as a fighter pilot, he joined NASA in 1962. He drove 16 miles in a lunar rover through the moon’s highlands and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He retired in 2004 after 42 years with NASA and had acquired more than 80 major honors and awards, including an induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. On Jan. 5, 2018, Young died at 87 after suffering complications from pneumonia.
Charles M. Duke Jr.
“As an American, it was my honor to serve my country by going aboard Apollo 16 and becoming the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface,” Charles Duke said. Gen. Duke received his commission to the US Air Force and earned his pilot’s wings in 1958. He served both as a fighter-interceptor pilot and as a test pilot during his time in the US military before being selected by NASA in 1966 to join the astronaut program. Duke served in five different Apollo missions to the moon, and since his retirement in 1975, he has toured worldwide, giving keynote and motivational speeches.
Eugene Cernan was a captain in the Navy, serving for 20 years (13 of which were with NASA) and flying three historic missions as a pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, and the commander of Apollo 17. Cernan flew to the moon twice and held the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land,” Cernan famously joked in an interview with NASA in 2007. “Made it sort of easy for him.”
Cernan, sometimes referred to as “the last man on the moon,” died Jan. 16, 2017, at age 82.
Harrison H. Schmitt
Harrison Schmitt joined the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods for NASA. A year later, he was selected to become a scientist-astronaut and earned his T-38 jet pilot wings with the Air Force in 1966 and his H-13 helicopter wings with the Navy in 1967. Schmitt became the last of 12 men to have stepped on the moon while he was on the Apollo 17 mission, NASA’s final moon-landing mission. He is the only scientist to have walked on the moon.
We knew the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) were well-equipped to handle any situation, but this new hybrid from five episodes of the popular 1970s series is showing us how to handle COVID-19 as well.
While the sun may have set after 11 seasons on the beloved characters stationed in South Korea during the Korean War, their advice on everything from how to wash your hands, hoarding in a time of toilet paper shortage and social distancing seems almost prophetic.
In the M*A*S*H montage put together by Frank Vaccariello, we see unbelievably timely themes: How to wash your hands from the episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” social distancing from the episode,”Cowboy,” don’t touch your face from the episode, “War of Nerves,” working from home from the episode, “Hepatitis,” and yes, even a toilet paper shortage from the episode,”Crisis.”
When asked what prompted his creativity, Vaccariello said that he started comparing the guidance the nation is receiving on protecting ourselves from COVID-19, to scenes from M*A*S*H in his head. “I have been a M*A*S*H fan since the days it originally aired,” he said in an interview with WATM. “I loved the show, the writing and the acting. I can actually be said to be more of a M*A*S*H freak,” he admitted. “I had intended just to make a couple memes, but then last Saturday morning I woke up and decided to create the video.”
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Dec. 8, 2018, to announce his nomination of General Mark Milley, 60, as the new chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military position.
“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” wrote Trump.
Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since August 2015.
He reportedly graduated from Princeton before serving as a Green Beret. He would go on to hold leadership roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The selection of Milley breaks the unofficial tradition of rotating chairmen by which service they’re a part of. Milley is replacing Dunford, a Marine, who took the reigns from an Army chairman.
General Joe Dunford.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The announcement comes surprisingly earlier, considering Dunford’s official tenure doesn’t end until October 2019. Trump went on to tweet, “Date of transition to be determined.”
Trump was expected to make the announcement at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy game, reportedly telling White House pool reporters on Dec. 7, 2018, “I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game, I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.
And he did so on more than one occasion.
After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.
Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.
Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.
This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.
Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.
Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.
Every Marine is a rifleman. This is evident in every photo of a Marine donning the service alpha uniform, courtesy of the shimmering marksmanship badge over their left breast pocket. Oftentimes this rifle marksmanship badge is accompanied by another badge, indicating the Marine is qualified with the Beretta M9 service pistol.
The pistol qualification is one that is not required by every Marine; instead, only certain military occupational specialties, officers and staff non-commissioned officers require annual qualification on the service pistol. In order to ensure these Marines are properly trained with the weapon, the Marine Corps implemented the Combat Pistol Program.
The CPP was introduced in 2012 after the Corps decided it needed to revamp its pistol qualification, the entry level pistol program. The ELP course of fire was less combat-oriented and was more inclined to promote fundamentals and accuracy.
While these are essential aspects of pistol marksmanship that challenge the shooter to maintain pinpoint accuracy, the ELP lacked sufficient tactical drills to prepare Marines to draw their weapon and engage a target. Thus, the CPP was introduced.
“The goal of marksmanship training is to develop this proficiency to a combat-effective level,” states Weapons Training Battalion Training Command lesson plan CPP.
One of the hallmarks of the CPP is how the first two stages of qualification start with the weapon in the holster, requiring the Marine to present the weapon and engage the target in one motion – this gives the training a more combat-oriented and tactical approach.
While the CPP is known for its tactical application, the fundamentals and coaching are not abandoned.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Bradley Binder conducts pistol qualification with a Beretta M9 service pistol at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 6, 2018.
Marine Corps Order 3574.2L states, “The execution of dry practice conducted by properly trained CMT [combat marksmanship trainer] and CMC [combat marksmanship coach] Marines is a critical element in the development of a Marine’s fundamental marksmanship skill, speed, and accuracy in the Combat Pistol Program.”
Following classroom instruction and non-fire sessions, Marines participate in live-fire drills — training blocks one through three. During these training blocks, range coaches have the opportunity to mentor and guide Marines during practical application where the ELP did not provide this luxury, which results in a more qualified, skilled and effective Marine with the service pistol.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Schuster, a CMT with the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, vehemently supports coaching and its effects – “If we can hone those qualities, those little things…we can take your shooting to another level.”
The ELP was conducted on a National Rifle Association 50-yard bullseye target. To replace this, the Marksmanship Program Management Section combat pistol target (MPMS-1) was introduced. This scoring system trains Marines to see, present their weapon, and engage the target, rewarding shooters for hitting vital areas – the tighter the grouping in the center, the higher the score.
The MPMS-1 is a favorite with Schuster who states, “The scoring rings, while they’re bigger, they’re more applicable… You’re not grading on a circle, you’re grading on – did you neutralize the target?”
Gunnery Sgt. Jarod Vedsted, the lead instructor with 3rd LE Bn, III MIG and former instructor of the protective services course, states “we’re in tandem with them” when asked how the CPP correlates with civilian counterparts in the sense of basic pistol training.
Tables one through five of the CPP teach basic pistol skills and marksmanship, but any further pistol training does not exist in formal standards in the Marine Corps.
“I do think that’s the direction we’re headed. Now how fast do we get there? And at what varying degrees? I don’t know,” states Schuster, “but from my experience with Marine Gunners, they are always looking for ways to better the program.”
The CPP is just one of the ways the Marine Corps has made efforts to make its training more realistic and combat-oriented to better prepare Marines. “Programs evolve as we learn new things about marksmanship,” says Schuster.
Marines are supporters of the CPP, and five years after its official release, it still receives praise among marksmanship instructors. “I prefer it,” said Schuster, “The CPP definitely introduced a more tactical mindset on the pistol range.” Wherever the Marksmanship Program Management Section goes next, Marines are likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to send rounds down range.
The Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, also known as an SSGN, is one of the most fearsome adversaries a carrier strike group could face. When one goes out to sea, NATO dedicates a lot of assets to finding it. Why? It may have something to do with the fact that an Oscar-class submarine packs 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck cruise missiles, which can go Mach 2 and pack a 1,000-kilogram warhead (or a nuclear warhead), in addition to powerful 650mm torpedoes.
NATO spent a lot of time tracking Oscar-class submarines.
The United States has never had a true counterpart to the Oscar. Four Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (or SSBNs) were modified to pack 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, but the Tomahawks in question are land-attack missiles. Furthermore, these submarines, to some extent, still operate like the “boomers” they were, often finding a spot to park their very powerful arsenal.
USS Georgia (SSGN 729) is one of four Ohio-class submarines converted to carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)
This is because, when it comes down to it, the SSBN isn’t exactly intended to sink an enemy ship. Yes, they carry torpedoes, but those are only for self-defense. Their real purpose is to keep 24 UGM-133 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, each loaded with as many as 14 375-kiloton W88 nuclear warheads, safe and ready for use.
Well, those Ohios are getting old and now, there’s a need to replace them. What this also means is that the U.S. Navy will soon have a true answer to the Oscar in the form of the Block V Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. According to a handout obtained at the SeaAirSpace 2018 expo in National Harbor, Maryland, these subs will be somewhat longer than the earlier Virginia-class due to the addition of a plug that will hold 28 additional Tomahawks. Since some Tomahawk variants are capable of targeting ships, this makes the Block V Virginia-class sub a more versatile SSGN than the Oscar was.
A 2012 Congressional Budget Office report indicated the Navy planned to buy 20 of these submarines. With the increase in defense budgets in recent years, however, there’s no telling just how high that total can go.
When Gen. Stanley McChrystal began working on his memoir after retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he realized that his perception of himself as a leader was different from reality. In the past eight years, he’s had time to reflect on his career and the notion of leadership itself.
During that long career, McChrystal led America and its allies in the Afghanistan War before retiring as a four-star general in 2010. He revolutionized the Joint Special Operations Command. And he’s best known for taking out the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
He’s now the managing partner of the leadership-consulting firm the McChrystal Group, and he’s the lead author of “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”
In an interview for Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” he breaks down what he learned from key points in his life, including how recently revisiting the legacy of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee helped him realize it was time to redefine leadership.
Listen to the full episode here:
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Stanley McChrystal: By the time we finished this book, we really arrived at this conclusion that leadership isn’t what we think it is, and it never has been. It’s much more complex. It’s not two-dimensional. And for me, one of the representative incidents is my relationship with Robert E. Lee. I grew up, figuratively speaking, with Robert E. Lee.
Rich Feloni: You grew up in Virginia.
McChrystal: I grew up in Northern Virginia, not far from his boyhood home, and I went to Washington-Lee High School. And when I turned 17, I went to West Point, as Robert E. Lee had done, and when you go to West Point, you don’t escape Robert E. Lee. I lived in Lee Barracks. There were paintings of Robert E. Lee. And while every other leader at West Point is famous, he’s special.
And then when I got older and I was retired and I had this picture that my wife had given me 40 years before. My wife had paid for it when I was a second lieutenant, and I hung it proudly at every set of quarters we ever had, because for me it represented “This is what I believe in.” When someone came into my quarters, they’d see, “Oh, Robert E. Lee. Those are the values that he believes in.” And I was proud of that.
Then, after Charlottesville, in late spring of 2017, my wife, Annie — we’d been married 40 years at the time — she goes, “I think you ought to get rid of that picture.” And my first response was, “You gave it to me, honey. I could never get rid of that?” And she says, “No.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she says, “I think it’s communicating something you don’t think it is.” And I said, “What do you mean? He was a general officer. He just did his thing. He was a military guy, not a politician or something.” She said, “You may think that, but people in our home may not think that, and they may think you’re trying to communicate something deeper, white supremacy and all those things. So one morning, I took it down and literally threw it away. And it was a pretty emotional moment for me.
And then as we started writing this book, and we had already begun the initial work, I realized I couldn’t write a book about leadership unless I wrote about Robert E. Lee. And I knew that was dangerous, because Robert E. Lee had become a controversial character. There’s a part of American society that is just passionate in his defense, part of it that is passionate against him, and everybody’s going to weigh in. But you know, I’d grown up with Robert E. Lee, both as a person in my mind, but also as an ideal. And just recently, I walked down, just to walk the distance between his childhood home and the slave-trading house in Alexandria, Virginia, which was the second-busiest slave-trading house in the United States. And this is where northern African-Americans were bought. Some freed men were captured, but others were bought from farms that weren’t profitable and shipped to the deep South, where cotton was so profitable. And so it was right in front of him. It was 10 blocks from his home. You don’t hide from the fact that this very ugly thing is a reality. And he spent the next four years defending it. And so there’s this contradiction. Here’s a guy who in some ways, is so admirable. His soldiers loved him
Feloni: From a military perspective.
When McChrystal attended West Point in the ’70s, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had transcended his connection to the Confederate cause, and had become a symbol of military discipline and honor.
(The Library of Congress)
Feloni: Yeah, but it would have to be removing from the context of basically a traitor to his country, ignoring that and kind of replacing it with a myth.
McChrystal: That’s right, and I couldn’t.
Feloni: And were you not aware of that link that people could make when you had that painting in your quarters?
McChrystal: Here’s the point. On one level, yes I was. On another level, what I did was I just said, “Yeah, but.” And I think a lot of people, with Robert E. Lee, go, “Yeah, but.” And the real point of the book is, everybody is a complex person like that. Every memory of every leader that we profiled and everyone we could think, may not have that clear a contradiction, but they all have them. And we as followers, we as observers, we have to make a decision on how we look at those, how we process that, because if we’re looking for the perfect person, woman or man, we can wait forever. They’re not coming.
The ‘Great Man Theory’ of leadership is a myth
Feloni: Yeah. Well, when you’re looking at that and kind of leading into your thesis here, what is the way that we define leaders and leadership, and what is wrong with that, and what were you looking to correct?
McChrystal: I wrote my memoirs starting in 2010, and I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened. And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me. And yet, when we went to do … I had a young person helping me that was brilliant. We went to do the research. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we went to things that I had been very much a part of and given credit for. We found that I would make a decision and issue some order and there would be an outcome. And I thought, “OK, my order produced that outcome.” And in reality, we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.
Feloni: So you didn’t realize this until you were writing your memoirs?
McChrystal: No, I mean, you get to this point in life because you sort of believe the Great Man Theory. You sort of believe that the leader is central to everything. And then when I get this, it’s very humbling, and I realize, leaders matter, just not like we think they do. And as we put in the book, it’s also the way we study leadership. We study biographies, which puts the person at the center. And so the spotlight tends to stay on them, and everything else tends to be a bit in shadows. You very rarely see a statue of a team. You see a few, but usually there’s a person on the pedestal. But in reality, a team, and sometimes a very large team, made it happen or didn’t make it happen. And yet, it’s hard to explain that.
Feloni: In this book, you picked a very interesting collection of profiles, and you even included the al-Qaeda leader that you defeated in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. So what can you learn about leadership from studying someone that you morally oppose, even on an extreme example. This was your enemy. What do you gain from studying that?
McChrystal: Well, we didn’t just oppose him — we killed him.
As the head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal hunted down and assassinated al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. McChrystal got inside Zarqawi’s head during the hunt.
McChrystal: I stood over his body right after we killed him. So for about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth. But then what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs, if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot other people were attracted to him. He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do. Later, when he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way; he wore all black, looked like a terrorist leader. He actually killed himself — he was the person who held the knife when they beheaded Nicholas Berg. A gruesome thing to do, but what he’s showing people is our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific. And so he would lead around the battlefield courageously. And so what he did was he was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam, when most of them really didn’t. The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to al-Qaeda, but he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.
Feloni: Yeah, and so by looking at this was, are you saying that to benefit your own leadership you had to get in the mind of him and understand that?
McChrystal: Well, the first thing you have to do is understand him. Your first desire is to demonize him, but the reality is, I had to respect him. He led very effectively, very, and if you really get down and put the lens another way, he believed and he fought for what he believed in. And who’s to say we were right and he was wrong?
Feloni: And that was something that you were thinking when you were in Iraq?
McChrystal: Not initially. Initially, you just say, “We’re just gonna get this guy.” And then after a while you watch him lead and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent — he’s making me better — but you’re also going after someone who truly believes. Who do you want to hang out with, who do you want to go to dinner with? You want somebody who believes what they’re doing. Now, his techniques I didn’t agree with. In many ways he was a psychopath. But I know a lot of people for whom I have less respect than I do for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Feloni: Interesting. When you were having the collection of people in this book, what were you looking for? Because in some ways you were saying that taking a look at profiles of individuals is the opposite of what you wanted to do. Because if you elevate someone above the context that they’re in, it’s counterproductive, but you’re proving that through elevating people so how do you navigate that?
McChrystal: Yeah, that’s an absolutely great point, and we actually didn’t realize that at the beginning of the book. We started writing and we said, “Hey, we are almost running in absolutely opposite directions of what we’re proposing.” You can write a theoretical book on leadership, and there will be a small community of people who read it. We learn through stories, all of us do, and we learn through stories of people. We picked these 13 diverse people and we had these six genres, we had founders, we had geniuses, we had power brokers, we had Coco Chanel, we had Boss Tweed, we have Martin Luther, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have Harriet Tubman. We wanted something that would be universal, give us a wide look at different kinds of leaders and context. We wanted diversity in sex, we wanted diversity in nationality, we have a Chinese admiral from the 15th century. And so we thought that if you could bring it wide like that you can draw the universal lessons out, that we couldn’t do if we just took politicians or soldiers or something.
Lessons from success and failure in war
Feloni:Yeah, now I want to talk about these lessons with the lens of your career as well. You became known for the approach that you took to join Special Operations Command, re-imaging the approach to Special Operations, particularly in Iraq, which led to the death of Zarqawi. And so when you had such transformations at JSOC, what was that like coming into a role where you had to adapt on the fly but every change, every risk that you took had lives in the balance?
McChrystal: Well, it was frightening, but it was very, very important. I had grown up essentially in joint Special Operations Command and the Rangers and then on the staff. I was very familiar with this very elite counterterrorist force. And this force was, you’ve seen it in movies, bearded guys with big knuckles and fancy weapons and these surly arrogant attitudes and that’s pretty accurate but the hearts of lions. But we very insular, we were designed to do counter-hijacking, hostage rescue, precise raids, and so we were almost in an insular part of the military and no one else interacted much with us. We would be directed to do certain missions and we loved that because we didn’t have to be affected by the big military bureaucracy. And then in Iraq what happened is, starting in 2003, really after the invasion, we ran into a problem that was bigger and more complex than we’d ever faced before, and that was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And we found that very narrow insulated way of operating before, tribal way, it didn’t work because you had to have this synergy of a real team and at first we almost were in denial because we’re so good at what we do.
We said, “Well, we’ll just do what we do and everybody else will figure everything else out.” But that wasn’t going to work. Really starting in early 2004 we came to a collective understanding that we were losing, and we were likely to lose if we didn’t change. Now we had no idea how to change, there wasn’t a road map, I wasn’t the visionary leader to provide that. And so what we said was, “Well, we will do anything but this. Now we’ll change.” And because I didn’t have this vision or clear blueprint to put in front of the organization, I essentially put it out to the team. I said, “We’re going to start changing to whatever works, so what we do that works we’ll do more of, what we do that doesn’t work we’ll stop.” And that freed the organization to constantly adapt. We’re able to modify, adapt ourselves and constantly change without the limitations of a doctrine that says, “You can’t do that.”
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal in his official portrait as head of ISAF.
Our doctrine became, “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid and we’ll push it.” And as it came it started to change the way we thought about leadership. When I took over I was approving every mission because I’m the commander and I found there’s no way you can be fast enough, so my role changed. I went from being the micro-manager, the centralized director, to being a commander who creates this ecosystem in which this group of really talented people figure it out. And my goal was to keep the ecosystem going, grow it with new participants and keep everyone supported and inspired.
Feloni: When you’re saying that when you had to take big risks with these changes, that there was a level of fear involved. Were you mitigating that fear by learning to trust the people that you were working with?
McChrystal: Yeah, and you have to — sometimes you can’t completely mitigate it. In an organization like JSOC, when you take casualties it’s deeply emotional because it’s not like new privates coming in, you get a new private. It takes about a decade to build an operator, everybody’s the godparent of other operator’s kids, you know. And so when you lose people, you lose people who’ve been around a long time, it took a long time, so it’s very emotional. T.E. Lawrence talked about the ripples in a pond.
Feloni: That’s “Lawrence of Arabia.”
McChrystal: That’s right, “Lawrence of Arabia.” He talked about when you lost one of the better ones, it was like ripples because it went out into their families and whatnot. Every casualty was much more costly and therefore you had to try to minimize them. And so as we went into this risk period there was a lot of uncertainty and I couldn’t, I don’t have the wisdom or courage or any of that to bear all that together, so we had a team and we supported each other.
Feloni: Distribute that.
McChrystal: Yeah, exactly.
Feloni: Yeah, and in terms of looking at something continuing after you leave, so you led the US-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan. That was eight years ago when you left; the war is still going. How does that look to you, because, for example, I could speak to a CEO who left a company and they can comment and be, like, “Oh, here’s what worked and what didn’t.” But as we were talking about, the stakes are just so much different in war. How do you process that?
McChrystal: You can process it in a lot of ways. You could take a strict business sense you could say, “Well, it hasn’t succeeded thus far, so it’s a bad investment.” And then I can also look and see that as of 2001 when we entered Afghanistan there were no females in school under the Taliban. There weren’t that many young males in school and now we’ve had almost 17 years of young ladies going to school, young men and so we’ve got a different young generation in Afghanistan. And 4.4 million Afghans voted this week and it wasn’t a presidential election. Is the glass half full, is it half empty, is there a hole in it? The answer is yes to all of those. There’s deep corruption, there’s huge problems inside the country, but in many ways I think that rather than say, “OK, it’s a failure,” I’d say it’s a complex problem, one of which you work on over a long period. I know I would not subscribe now to thousands of American troops or unlimited amounts of money, but I wouldn’t recommend walking away. I think our partnership with the Afghan people and the signal we send to other countries in the region is important. And if we think about the world as a completely connected place now, not just by information technology but culturally, I think the ability to have relationships, to demonstrate our willingness to be a part of things is more important than ever. It was critical really right after the Second World War, we gave both Asia through Japan and Europe enough cohesion to grow back. It doesn’t feel as easy or as good in Afghanistan but I would tell you, I look at the world through that lens is how I come at it.
Feloni: In “Leaders,” your memoir, it’s giving you a chance to be introspective of your own career. And on the nature of leaving the military when it came in this much publicized, there was a Rolling Stone article that reporter Michael Hastings portrayed you as a renegade general and that ended up leaving your position. How do you process that now, looking back at your role since it’s been eight years?
McChrystal: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of ways that maybe I could or should. The first thing is it happened, and I didn’t think that the article was truly reflective of my team. It was about me and my team and the runaway general and that is obviously not a good title. And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible and we have this negative article about a senior general shows up on the president of the United States’ desk. And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation. President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not. I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, “I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.”
Now that’s phase one, and I feel very good about that decision. I’m not happy it happened, but I feel good about that. Then you have a moment when you have a failure like that in your life and you get to make a decision. You’re either going to relitigate that for the rest of your life and I could be a retired bitter general, I could be whatever, the CEO got fired or whatever or not. And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, “She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror.” And so we made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future.” We made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future. There is no point in being bitter because nobody cares but you.” So I decided to look forward, I decided to think about, “What can I do now?” Now, that’s easier said than done. Every day there’s some hurt.
Feloni: Even now?
McChrystal: Occasionally. Not every day, but occasionally something will come up. Last week, Rolling Stone queried if I wanted to do another interview. The answer was no.
Feloni: That seems like … yeah.
McChrystal: Yeah. I kind of went, “Really?” But the reality is, it always kind of comes back up, and you have to remake that decision on a constant basis. But it gets easier over time because you start to see how healthy that is. I would argue that every one or your listeners is going to fail. They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision, “OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?” Because you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, “For God’s sakes, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.” And if you make the right decision, to lean forward, I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that.
McChrystal in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Feloni: And if you were to write a biographical profile for yourself in “Leaders,” what would the theme of your leadership style be, and what would be the reality versus the myth of it?
McChrystal: It would be evolution. One of the things we see in some of these leaders is they didn’t evolve. Walt Disney was this extraordinary animator, and with a small team he was exceptional. When the team got big, he didn’t adapt well, and his brother basically had to run it, and he focused on projects. Mine was a journey … I was a very different leader as a lieutenant colonel than I was as a company commander captain. I was very centralized when I was young. I started to loosen up, by the time I was a general officer I was, I think, completely different. I was much more decentralized. So I think the theme of a profile of me would be the evolution of that.
Now, the myth is the opposite; the myth is the counterterrorist leader who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I went out, wrestled him to the ground, buried to the waist, and that’s total B.S. At times do I like the myth because people go, “Wow, look at him!”? Yeah, it’s kind of cool, you never want to go, “No, that’s not true.” But it’s not true. The reality is that I built a team. Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team that I would be of wrestling to his death. But it still feels kind of cool when people say that. [laughs]
Feloni: So it’s the evolution of you as someone who is a very centralized commander to decentralizing.
McChrystal: Yeah, and thinking about it entirely differently.
Applying these lessons to the workplace
Feloni: And we’ve been talking about leadership on a grand scale, but you’re also the head of the McChrystal Group, which works with businesses on leadership development. So after having worked with a bunch of different industries, often on much smaller scales, what would you say are some of the most common mistakes a new leader makes?
McChrystal: I think often a new leader comes in and wants to prove themselves, because they’ve been hired, typically they’ve been given a role and a fair amount of money, and so they think they’ve got to prove themselves. There’s a reticence to say, “I don’t know.” There’s a reticence to look at the team and say “What should we do?” and to have the team do it. Because you’re worried about your own credibility. I think leaders actually, if they’re willing to, I’m not saying take a subordinate role, they’re responsible, but take a much more inclusive role, a much more role in which you ask people to help lead, actually works much better. Some of the best I’ve ever seen that have particularly been in jobs awhile have reached that, and it’s magic to see.
Feloni: And on the flip side of that, should people who are followers, should they see leadership in a new light, maybe their relationship to their boss, their boss’ boss?
McChrystal: Yeah, think about it — how many times have we sat back and you’ve got either a new leader or your leader in the auditorium, in the room, and they’re saying, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” and you’re sitting back kind of the smart-ass, going, “This is stupid, that won’t work, boom, boom, boom.” Rear up on your hind legs and bark, and maybe we’ll think about doing it. Leaders have a role, but the followers have a huge role, huge responsibility. Huge responsibility in doing their part, but also shaping the leader. You see the leader making a mistake and you don’t say something to them? You fail in your job. And then when you see them fail and you get smug and you go, “Yeah, I thought that she was never that good, he was never that good,” shame on you. Because you own part of that, and in reality when it’s firing time they had to fire all of you.
Feloni: So not only should we not put figures of the past on pedestals. We shouldn’t do that with our own bosses.
McChrystal: Absolutely, and bosses shouldn’t put themselves on pedestals either. There are a few who keep wanting to step up there, and then … I think it’s much better for the leader to stay away from the pedestal.
Feloni: And at this point, how do you personally define success?
McChrystal: It’s the team I’m part of. I’ve got this company that’s now 100 people, it’s grown, and I’m not critical to the business, except my name’s on the door. I show up occasionally, and they’re very nice to me and whatnot, but the reality is the work gets done by the team, and I take the greatest pride in the world when I sit in one of our meetings and I’m not saying much, and it’s happening. They’re just doing things, they’re pulling, they’re saying we’re going to go in this direction, and nobody looks to me to say, “Can we go in that direction or should we?” And they’re not being discourteous. They know that that’s not the best thing to do. If they turn to me or somebody else to let the old gray beard do it, it’s too slow. It’s often not the right answer. So I am really happiest when I see that, and it gives you great pride.
Feloni: So success to you, would it be having a non-integral role among your team?
McChrystal: No — I want to be integral to it, I want to feel like a part of it, but I don’t want to feel like the critical cog. I don’t want to feel like the keystone to the arch. I want the company, the organization, to be confident in themselves. If I got hit by a car, they’d say, “We’re going to miss Stan, but guess what? In his honor, we’re going to move forward and we are going to do X, X, X.” That’s when I really feel best about things. Or they don’t even tell me about things they’re doing, and suddenly we’re doing very well on a project and I hear about it, and I go, “Wow, that’s good — when did we do that?” They say so and so, I say, “Well, why didn’t I know?” They say, “Well, you didn’t need to know. It’s not important.” And they’re right.
Feloni: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? It doesn’t necessarily have to be military — it could be a sense of leadership.
McChrystal: When I think about the two things that I hope leaders have, first is empathy. Understanding that if you’re sitting on the other side of the table you have a different perspective, and they might be right. So just being able to put yourself in their shoes. Doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve, but being able to see it is really important. And then the second part is self-discipline. Because most of us know what we ought to do as leaders. We know what we shouldn’t do. It’s having the self-discipline to do those things, because you’re leading all the time. You’re leading by example all the time — it’s a good example or a bad example. It’s not just the leadership in your job; it’s an extraordinary responsibility. I had a battalion commander whose battalion I joined, and he had just left when I got there. But all the lieutenants are wearing their T-shirts backwards. And I’m going, “All right, what’s going on here? Did they get up after drinking all night or something?” And the battalion commander had done that because it showed less skin when you’re out there in the field and the enemy couldn’t see the white skin and shoot you. I didn’t think that was that smart an idea, but the fact that just because he wore his T-shirts backwards, his whole cohort of young lieutenants was doing it.
Feloni: He didn’t tell them to.
McChrystal: I don’t think he told them to. I got there right after he’d left, so it was kind of like this clinical thing. I got there ‘ “Why have they got their T-shirts backwards?” And this guy had done that. Just the power you find that if you are charismatic and whatnot, anything you do, how you treat people, how you think about things, the little things, you’ll start to see it mimicked by people through your organization, and there’s great power in that. And you’ve got to be careful with it.
Feloni: Thank you, general.
McChrystal: It’s been my honor. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We all know the line: “With great power comes great responsibility,” but what about the person who said it? For most fans of the character of Spider-Man, that line comes from Ben Parker, better known as “Uncle Ben,” the guy who raised Peter Parker in most versions of the backstory, and most famously, the Sam Raimi films starring Tobey Maguire. However, since the reintroduction of Tom Holland as Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Uncle Ben hasn’t been around. That is, until now! There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg that references Uncle Ben in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Here’s the deal.
Mild spoilers ahead.
As Peter is packing for his school “science trip” to Europe, the initials on his briefcase are seen very clear: BFP. We’re not sure what the “F” stands for, but it’s pretty clear the “B” and the “P” can only mean Ben Parker. Thematically, this is interesting because in the new Marvel movies Tony Stark has effectively become Peter’s Uncle Ben-figure; an older male mentor who dies and passes along wisdom to Peter. (Note: this scene was in the trailers! So this really isn’t a spoiler!)
This presents a strange question: what happened to this Uncle Ben? The suitcase could just be a fun visual reference, but this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re talking about here. Random, throwaway lines can have huge implications in later movies. And, because Far From Home brought back J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson from the Tobey Maguire movies, it seems like a bunch of stuff from older superhero movies is suddenly on the table.
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man went in search of his biological parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which makes you wonder how long it’s going to take for Tom Holland’s version of the web crawler to do the same.
Uncle Ben- With Great Power Comes Great responsiblities–HD
As moviegoers flock to their local cinemas to watch the latest installment of Star Wars, it’s important to remember that the whole film franchise wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of a young, highly motivated individual, named Luke Skywalker, who had big dreams, but was stuck in a small town.
The original film follows his dynamic journey from living with his uncle’s family to joining the resistance and taking down a dark empire.
It takes a unique character with big aspirations to pull all that off, and it makes us wish Luke was in our squad.
He needs to work on that salute, though. (Image via GIPHY)
David Burnett was a U.S. Army Special Operations Crew Chief with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. You might know it better as the “Night Stalkers.” He even wrote a book about his time with the Night Stalkers. His latest project isn’t about the Army, however. It’s for the Army, for the military. It’s an invention borne of necessity – as all great inventions are – and could save lives.
In short, David Burnett wants you out of his helicopter as soon as possible.
While he was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, troops would board his Chinook for the ride, normally hanging their go bags and other gear inside with carabiners and bungee cord. These are the usual, practical things with which American troops deploy to combat zones. While sitting in a brightly-lit flightline with the cabin lights on, this was no big deal. But U.S. troops, especially special operators, don’t fly to the enemy with the cabin lights on. They’re usually flying in at night, blacked out. It was in those situations David Burnett realized he and his Chinook were spending a lot more time on the ground than they wanted.
The good guys were having trouble releasing their stowed gear. It was still connected to the aircraft. All the old methods of fixing their gear didn’t offer quick-release functionality. David Burnett decided he was going to do something about that.
The Tac Clamp was born.
Burnett’s creation isn’t just a metal clamp. It can be hooked and fastened for quick release, or it can be placed on a tactical track for movement in a ready room, a hangar, arms room, or even the back of an aircraft. With the push of a button, the Tac Clamp will release its iron grip and let the special operator free to bring the fight to the enemy – and it works. It works really well. Burnett’s clamp has been submitted to aircrews at MacDill Air Force Base for review and is currently being field-tested by Navy Search and Rescue teams.
“I deployed with the 160th five times as a crew chief, and I saw this problem constantly on the aircraft and on vehicles too,” Burnett says. ” The reason was because all of these outdated methods they were using don’t offer quick release and is not very intuitive. This is something you clamp inside the aircraft but is not exclusive to the aircraft. If they were doing a ground assault and they can hook the Tac Clamp in their gear and just push a button to release it.”
Burnett even created a Tac Clamp for aerial photography.
Currently, Burnett is working on getting one of the military branches to accept the Tac Clamp for consideration for small-business contracting programs. He currently has two proposals submitted, one for the Air Force and two for the Army. It’s been a long road for Burnett, but he hasn’t given up. What he’s offering is something he’s seen a need for in the military, one that could potentially save American lives. He’s already getting feedback on his aluminum clamp from troops in the field.
“Troops tell me they need a small version, made of hard plastic, one they can attach to their kit,” says Burnett, who enjoys the innovation. “All branches of service, they’re realizing they can streamline innovation process by allowing small businesses to propose their technologies and get new products and innovative technologies fielded within 18 months.”