As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.
Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.
I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.
Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.
In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.
Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.
“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.
Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.
Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.
Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.
He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.
“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.
Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.
Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.
For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.
Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.
Supporting the military is nothing new to T-Mobile. The carrier is one of America’s most dedicated veteran employers. In keeping with the practice of asking customers what they want and giving it to them, T-mobile asked its veteran employees what they needed. The veterans answered truthfully. T-Mobile listened — in a big way.
“We change to adapt to our customers’ needs, we listen to their pain points” says Matt Staneff, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of T-Mobile. “Our veteran employees and customers transitioning out of the military were just making ends meet during long periods of unemployment.”
And so began the company’s Military Support Initiative.
(Twitter @JohnLegere, T-Mobile CEO)
T-Mobile decided to go all-in for the military-veteran community in a number of ways. On top of the benefits of buying into T-Mobile’s ONE family plan (of which there are many, including a Netflix subscription), T-Mobile will now offer that plan at half-off for military families — along with half-off of popular Samsung smartphones. It’s not just the biggest discount T-Mobile has ever offered, it’s the biggest discount in the wireless industry. Ever.
But the carrier’s plan is more than just a discount and some great service, it’s a real investment in military communities. It starts with the discount, but T-Mobile quickly recognized that making it easier for transitioning military families to make ends meet was solving only part of the bigger problem: the long period of unemployment. So, T-Mobile decided to do something about that, too.
“Our plan to hire military veterans has had phenomenal success to date,” says Staneff. “We have vets in every department performing very well. What veterans bring to the culture of T-Mobile is one of the keys to our success.”
A few years back, the company pledged to hire some 5,000 veteran employees, and not just for entry-level positions. The company employs vets at all levels and in all areas. Now, they’ve pledged to hire 10,000 more veterans — and their spouses — in the next five years.
“It took a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do during transition,” says Tana Avellar, once an active duty Army officer who now serves in the Washington State National Guard. She is also a T-Mobile employee. “I can’t be more proud to work for a company that is such an advocate for their employees, veterans, and their families overall.”
(Photo from Tana Avellar)
But T-Mobile is looking to help out all veterans, not just the ones who want to work for them. It’s teaming up with FourBlock, a career readiness nonprofit designed for veterans and their families. The company is funding FourBlock’s Massive Open Online Course, a training course based in 15 cities in the U.S. (with four more on the way). The training helps spouses gain employment while giving them the confidence to pursue the jobs they’re more than qualified to do.
The last part of T-Mobile’s investment plan is a real investment, in both T-Mobile’s future and military families. The company is rolling out a $8 billion investment in new infrastructure, and will start that with a $500 million plan to build new 5G towers in military communities.
“Our mission is to have the best coverage for all Americans,” says Staneff. “And bases aren’t always near big cities. So, we wanted to make sure everyone had access to the fastest networks, whether they live in cities or rural small towns, military bases or somewhere in between. They all deserve the same access.”
Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.
It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”
The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds.
“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.
Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”
The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.
“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.
The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.
The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.
From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.
“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.
They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next.
“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”
There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set.
As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.
“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”
“We’ve been through it twice before” he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the “Arduous March,” or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.
“We can do it a third time,” he said.
“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again … A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”
“If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.
But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.
“This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats,” Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans’ attitude toward nuclear war. But “people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang,” said Kristof.
Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.
In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang’s infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.
The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn’t lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.
The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.
Even if average North Koreans aren’t as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.
But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.
North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.
Service members have high standards for military movies — after all, they portray a life we led, and it’s not always easy to get it right. That won’t stop Hollywood from trying.
Nor should it. Films about the military inspire men and women to volunteer every day. They memorialize our heroes. And most importantly, they remind us of the horrors of war so we can, hopefully, pave a peaceful future for those who will serve after us.
Here are a few films on the slate for this year:
*Don’t be a hater — you know it’s 83% the reason why we have pilots
The Last Full Measure,2019,Sebastian Stan,Samuel L. Jackson,First Look
During the Vietnam War, an Air Force Pararescueman named William Pitsenbarger saved the lives of 60 soldiers and, when offered the chance to evacuate on a helicopter, he stayed behind to defend the lives of his men. 34 years later, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
A World War II drama starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound is based on the C.S. Forester (ahem creator of Horatio Hornblower ahem) novel The Good Shepherd, in which a convoy of 37 Allied ships crosses the German U-boat infested Atlantic ocean. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, leader of the convoy and in command of his first ship, the Greyhound.
The screenplay is by Hanks himself and directed by Aaron Schneider. It is set to release on March 22, 2019,
Battle of Midway Tactical Overview – World War II | History
Trump’s speech focused largely on the long history of North Korea’s human-rights abuses, though Trump departed from his past rhetoric by offering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his people “a path to much better future” if the country abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
But returning to typical form, Trump also brought up the US’s victories over ISIS and its nuclear submarines in the region. Trump said misinterpreting the US’s restraint for weakness would be a “fatal miscalculation” by North Korea, and he called on the international community to implement the UN’s strict sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korean officials, who spoke with CNN about the speech, were not thrilled. “We don’t care about what that mad dog may utter because we’ve already heard enough,” they said.
The officials reaffirmed North Korea’s commitment to building nuclear weapons, bringing up the US’s “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers” before promising to “counter those threats by bolstering the power of justice in order to take out the root cause of aggression and war.”
North Korean officials have repeatedly said they will not look to negotiate with the US until they complete their country’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, the US remains intent on preventing North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-equipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
On Wednesday, Trump arrived in China to talk to President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, about North Korea among other things. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been unusually helpful in the US’s recent push to increase sanctions on Pyongyang.
ERAPSCO, a joint venture between US company Sparton Corp. and a subsidiary of British firm Ultra Electronics, was awarded a US defense contract worth $1.041 billion on July 18, 2019, to produce sonobuoys used in anti-submarine warfare.
“Sonobuoys are air-launched, expendable, electro-mechanical, anti-submarine warfare acoustic sensors designed to relay underwater sounds associated with ships and submarines,” the Pentagon said in the contract listing.
The id=”listicle-2639331070″,041,042,690 award was for the manufacture and delivery of a maximum of 37,500 AN/SSQ-36B, 685,000 AN/SSQ-53G, 120,000 AN/SSQ-62F, and 90,000 AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys for fiscal years 2019-2023.
Aviation ordnancemen load sonobuoys on a P-3C Orion before flight operations in Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2011.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Julian R. Moorefield)
The AN/SSQ series of sonobuoys are the principal sensors used by the US Navy to detect, classify, and localize adversary subs during peacetime and combat operations.
Active sonobuoys send pings through the water to bounce off potential targets. Passive sonobuoys just listen for subs or other vessels. There are also special-purpose sonobuoys that collect other data for radar and intelligence analysts.
Sonobuoys are limited by their battery life, and, if tracking a moving target, can become useless soon after being dropped. They’re mainly launched from MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and when hunting without a target in its sights, the P-8A can expend its full supply in one mission.
A US sailor launches a sonobuoy into the Atlantic Ocean from guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, Oct. 27, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge)
More subs means more buoys
Increasing submarine activity around the world has led to more interest in anti-submarine warfare, especially among the US and its partners, which are concerned about Russian and Chinese submarines.
In a July 2018 funding request, the Pentagon asked Congress to reprogram million to buy more air-dropped sonobuoys, saying that “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017 … resulted in unexpected high expenditure rate of all type/model/series.”
A 2015 study predicted global demand for sonobuoys would grow by 40% through 2020, with most of the interest in passive sonobuoys.
The Navy’s sonobuoy budget grew from 4 million in 2018 to 6 million in 2019 to 4 million in the 2020 budget, which asked for 204,000 of the devices. But there is concern about the Navy’s ability replenish its supply in the future.
The Pentagon believes it may no longer have a reliable supplier without government investment in the sonobuoy market, officials told Defense News in March 2019.
A US sailor unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon to prepare it for use, April 10, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
Right now, the Pentagon has just one supplier: ERAPSCO, a joint venture between the Illinois-based Sparton Corp. and the UK firm Ultra Electronics. But ERAPSCO will dissolve by 2024, and there’s no assurance either company can make the necessary investments to produce them independently.
The US is not the only buyer, but it is one of the largest, and the loss of US domestic production could lead to sonobuoy shortages around the world.
In March 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo declaring that “domestic production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys is essential to the national defense” and authorizing the Defense Department to pursue increased production.
Without action under the Defense Production Act, the memo said, “United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys adequately and in a timely manner.”
Trump, the Pentagon, and the Navy believe money from the Defense Production Act and industry investment “to be the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical approach to meet critical AN/SSQ-series sonobuoy capability requirements,” a Defense Department spokesman told Defense News earlier this year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.
North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”
Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.
North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.
According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.
Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.
Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater
Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.
“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.
(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)
Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.
“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.
Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.
“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”
‘A natural at military strategy’
While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.
NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”
He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”
But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.
“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.
“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.
Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.
“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”
Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.
“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”
In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”
NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.
In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon acquisition officials in November that he is “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers from Boeing, which is leading the effort to replace the aging KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to Bloomberg.
Mattis has had limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, but he is the latest defense chief to comment on the 16-year-long effort to replace the Air Force’s tanker.
Boeing won a contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s. But the $44.5 billion program has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns.
Under the contract signed with the government, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. So far, the defense contractor has eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.
The KC-46 program has been stymied by delays for years.
In summer 2014, Boeing was hit with nearly a half-billion dollars in overruns related to wiring problems in the first program’s first four airplanes. The test version, the 767-2C, which was not outfitted with any refueling systems, was supposed to take its first flight in June 2014, but missed that date, taking the air for the first time during the final days of that year.
In mid-2015, issues with the plane’s fueling system added another half-billion-dollar accounting charge for Boeing.
In the middle of 2016, it was announced that Boeing would miss its contractual deadline to deliver 18 of the KC-46 tankers to the Air Force by August 2017 due to numerous technical issues. Though the tanker was able to refuel F-16 fighter aircraft at that point, a major issue was refueling the Air Force’s huge C-17 cargo plane, which put “higher than expected” pressure on the aerial boom extended by the tanker to distribute fuel.
A technical solution to the boom issue was developed over the following months, but another major problem — this time a “category one” deficiency — arose during testing in late 2016, when the refueling boom was found to have scraped the surface of the aircraft taking on fuel.
Though the damage was minor, the problem not only posed a threat to the aircrews involved but also risked compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded. The Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, Ellen Lord, said the issue was still under investigation as of November.
Two other “category one” deficiencies — considered less serious — were also found at that time, but the Air Force has said progress has been made on both.
Boeing’s president and CEO of defense and security said on December 2 that the company will miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first KC-46 tanker by the end of 2017.
The firm is contractually required to deliver 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018.
Despite issues, the KC-46 has been praised by Department of Defense officials and the Government Accountability Office.
Mattis himself in recent days has complimented Boeing’s cooperation with the Pentagon.
“I reinforced that the Air Force was not going to accept tankers that weren’t completely compliant with the contract,” Mattis said of his note during a press briefing en route to Kuwait on Dec. 3, according to Bloomberg. Boeing has been “excellent,” Mattis said, adding that there hadn’t been any “pushback” from the contractor
“The Air Force needs tankers done right. The American taxpayer expects tankers done right, and Boeing is committed to tankers that are done right,” Mattis told reporters. “We’ll get there. It’ll be the best tanker in the world.”
Paul Rieckhoff, director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Photo: C.J. Lin, Stars and Stripes
In politics, business, advocacy, and media, there are veterans on the American landscape who have the potential to make a big difference in the months ahead. Some of them are well-known; many of them are not (but should be).
The editors of We Are The Mighty looked across the community and created a diverse list of veterans who continue to serve in a wide variety of high-impact ways. Here are The Mighty 25:
WILLIAM MCNULTY — Managing Director, Team Rubicon Global
William McNulty is a former Marine infantryman who later transitioned into the intelligence community. In 2010 he assumed a new mission with what would eventually become Team Rubicon, a non-profit disaster relief organization he co-founded with fellow Marine Jake Wood.
Since then, Team Rubicon has grown considerably. The permanent staff now oversees some 16,000 volunteers who deploy wherever disaster strikes. Late this year, McNulty stepped back from the main organization to focus on an ambitious project to take TR international.
In 2015, with McNulty now managing director of Team Rubicon Global, look for greater impact from the five-year-old organization as it expands to support relief efforts worldwide. This franchise approach will model Team Rubicon’s successes with American veterans and allow foreign military vets to continue to serve in their communities.
DON FAUL — Director of Operations, Pinterest
Annapolis grad and former Marine Don Faul got to his new job by way of Google and Facebook, a great training track for the task he faces as Pinterest’s head of Operations.
Faul is already making waves with his innovative approach to the site’s ad units, substituting the standard way of charging an advertiser per one thousand impressions for a model that charges by the amount visitors actually click on an ad – a huge benefit for the small businesses that frequent Pinterest. Faul’s leadership could make a big difference in Pinterest’s performance, and beyond that, in how social media is monetized next year and beyond.
JONI ERNST — Senator from Iowa
A day after winning the most contested Senate race in the country — a race punctuated by ads that showcased her talking about castrating cows — Maj. Joni Ernst showed up for duty with the Iowa National Guard where she’s served since 1993.
She now arrives in D.C. as the only female combat veteran in the Senate, and the Republican side of the aisle is ready to use that for all it’s worth. “It’s really good for our National Defense,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley told National Review Online, “having [Ernst serve] in the Senate will be good for all debate on national security.”
DAN BRILLMAN — Co-founder, Unite US
Along with co-founder and West Point grad Taylor Justice, Air Force reservist and tanker pilot Dan Brillman has figured out a way to leverage web technology to allow eligible parties to effectively navigate the “Sea of Good Will” — the 40,000 organizations dedicated to helping veterans that have historically presented a challenge because of their sheer number and dizzying overlap.
Brillman created Unite US, a website that uses “interactive, proximity-mapping technology” to match vets to the services they need – sort of like Yelp for the military dot-org ecosystem. If you haven’t used UniteUS.com yet, by the end of 2015 you will have.
SETH MOULTON — Congressman from Massachusetts
Seth Moulton’s reluctant entry into politics was spurred primarily by his experiences as a Marine across four tours during the Iraq War – a war he didn’t believe in. After getting his MBA at Harvard and working for a start-up for a while, he decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts sixth district.
He ultimately won the election after unseating a longstanding incumbent during the primary. The same work ethic, intelligence, and moxie that made him a Gen. Petraeus acolyte should serve him well on the Hill. If anyone has the pedigree and problem solving skills to get something done from across the aisle in a Republican-majority Congress, it’s Moulton.
BRIAN ADAM JONES — Editor-in-Chief, Task & Purpose
After an award-winning career as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, Brian Adam Jones honed his journalism chops at Business Insider, working as a reporting intern for the military section.
This year he joined (and helped launch) the HirePurpose blog “Task Purpose” as editor-in-chief, and in short order his content choices and writing helped that website become a breakout property among a host of emerging military-affinity destinations.
And he’s just getting started; Jones is currently working on a political science degree at Columbia in addition to his gig at Task Purpose. Make it a point to find his byline in 2015.
PATRICK MURPHY — Host of MSNBC’s “Taking the Hill”
Patrick Murphy was the first Iraq War vet to be elected to Congress in 2007, but his political career was short-circuited in 2011 when the Tea Party helped orchestrate his defeat in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, primarily because of his work in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Murphy fell back into legal work until he was approached to host a new show on MSNBC. “Taking the Hill” is the only broadcast network program dedicated to military issues and veteran advocacy, and the show was just picked up for a second season. Look for bigger impact in 2015 as Murphy continues to find his voice as a host and gains more creative control over program topics.
PHIL KLAY — Author of “Redeployment”
The New Yorker said this about Army vet Phil Klay’s debut Redeployment: “The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars . . . Klay’s fiction peels back every pretty falsehood and self-delusion in the encounter between veterans and the people for whom they supposedly fought.”
This year Klay was awarded National Book Award for Fiction — the first Iraq war veteran do so — and he was also named a National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35′ honoree. Whenever he puts pen to paper going forward, his will be an important and credible voice on behalf of those who served during our most recent wars.
TOM COTTON — Congressman from Arkansas
Tom Cotton first came to the attention of conservatives when he wrote The New York Times a nastygram from the Iraq War because of a story the paper published that he believed hazarded the safety of his troops. Since that time he’s been shaped into a new breed of veteran politician: an anti-progressive in spite of his Harvard degree, one who’s Tea Party-friendly but whose views are shaped as much by reason as ideology.
A recent Atlantic Monthly article put it this way: “He unites the factions of the Republican civil war: The establishment loves his background, while the Tea Party loves his ideological purity.” That combo could be used to good effect – the kind that actually causes outcomes – as he continues to represent the people of Arkansas’ 4th District next year.
TM GIBBONS-NEFF — Reporter, The Washington Post
While working toward his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University, former Marine and Afghan War vet T.M. Gibbons-Neff has emerged as a high-impact writer with bylines in vaunted publications like The New York Times andThe Washington Post.
As an intern with The Post, Neff landed a significant scoop earlier this year with a story that revealed that Maj. Doug Zembiec, the “lion of Fallujah” who was killed in 2007, was actually working for the CIA at the time.
Gibbons-Neff is a guy to watch in that he shows a deft hand by leveraging his warfighting experience while remaining an objective journalist — a skill few possess who deign to cover the topics surrounding national security.
TULSI GABBARD — Congresswoman from Hawaii
Tulsi Gabbard deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2004, and eight years later she was elected to represent Hawaii’s second congressional district. With a diverse background — she’s just 33, thereby one of just a handful of millennials in the House — and the first member of the Hindu faith to be elected to Congress. She’s also just one of two female combat veterans in office.
“I saw in Congress we had fewer veterans serving than had ever served before in our nation’s history and you have people making very important decisions about where and when our troops go into battle,” Gabbard told Yahoo News. As the Obama Administration continues to struggle with how to best counter threats like ISIS, watch how Gabbard leverages her war experience going forward.
TODD CONNOR — Founder, The Bunker
After earning his MBA, Navy veteran Todd Connor started to miss military life while working as a consultant, so he approached Chicago-based tech incubator 1871 with the idea of creating an effort dedicated to veterans.
The result was “The Bunker,” a group of entrepreneurs helping vets avoid the pitfalls of tech start-up life as they struggle to get their businesses off the ground – sort of like a friendlier version of the TV show “Shark Tank.” Connor has a vision of national dominance, and “The Bunker” detachments have sprouted up from Boston to Austin to Los Angeles.
ANU BHAGWATI — Founder, Service Women’s Action Network
Anu Bhagwati’s path to becoming an advocate on behalf of female service members started during her time in the Marine Corps where she weathered myriad examples of sexual harassment and found no quarter within the system designed to protect her and then found no justice when she attempted to go around it.
She channeled her frustration and anger into action in the form of the Service Women’s Action Network, a nonprofit organization that works to end discrimination, harassment and assault in the military. In short order Bhagwati’s clear voice and unflinching approach to SWAN’s mission has influenced policies at the VA and legislation on Capitol Hill. Look for her to keep the pressure up into the new year.
OWEN WEST — Director, Goldman-Sachs Veterans Network
Business Insider labeled Owen West as “the most badass banker on Wall Street” a couple of years ago, and his efforts since then have done nothing but reinforce that title.
West left his lucrative job at Goldman-Sachs three times to serve during the Iraq War. He defines “Renaissance Man”: Novelist and historian; triathlete, world traveler, and philanthropist. But perhaps most importantly, his day job as the director of Goldman-Sachs’ veterans network underwrites the impact of that program and ensures this generation of warfighters have a place in the halls of power on the south end of Manhattan.
DAWN HALFAKER — Board Chairwoman, Wounded Warrior Project
Dawn Halfaker was serving as a military police officer when she lost her right arm in an ambush in Iraq in 2004. Her employment struggles after being medically retired from the Army motivated her to start Halfaker and Associates, a consultant firm that specializes in government tech solutions.
She’s built the business with an eye on veteran hiring, and, in turn, used the lessons learned as a board member for the Wounded Warrior Project, specifically with WWP’s “Warriors to Work” employment program. “A lot of business leaders say they want to hire veterans, but don’t know ultimately how they can bring veterans in and empower them to be successful, given the cultural differences of the military,” Halfaker told The Huffington Post. Look for her to continue bridging that cultural divide in 2015.
ANTHONY NOTO — Chief Financial Officer, Twitter
Army vet Anthony Noto was named Twitter’s CFO this summer after shepherding the social media giant through its IPO, and he’ll need to channel the aggressiveness he used as a football player at West Point as the company attempts to, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “transform its mainstream presence into widespread adoption.”
Noto’s job this year is to diminish investor skepticism by growing Twitter’s user base beyond its already gigantic footprint – a suitable challenge for a former Ranger who honed his business chops at Goldman-Sachs and the NFL.
PAUL RIECKHOFF — Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America marked a decade of existence in 2014, and the organization is showing no signs of slowing down going into next year. Under the leadership of the well-networked and media-savvy founder Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA championed the Clay Hunt SAV Act – legislation designed to combat the veteran suicide rate – at the end of the year, although the bill’s passage was singularly impeded by Sen. Tom Coburn.
As military vets continue to take their own lives at a rate of 22 per day, don’t expect Rieckhoff to give up on this issue in 2015.
GUY FILIPPILLINI — Co-founder and CEO, The Commit Foundation
Former Army intel officer Guy Filippellini co-founded The Commit Foundation to address what he saw as a fundamental flaw in veteran career transition programs he’d seen: One-size-fits-all approaches are largely ineffective.
The Commit Foundation’s mission statement is at once lofty and matter-of-fact: “[The foundation] creates serendipity for veterans by fostering mentorship, extending and growing professional networks, promoting familiar camaraderie, and setting the stage for inspiring moments.”
The foundation’s approach is different than most in that it’s focused on what Filippellini calls “small touch high impact efforts,” which means they focus on small numbers of veterans at a time and give each “sustained attention.” The veteran unemployment problem isn’t going away next year, but Filippellini’s foundation is poised to lessen it.
JOHN MCCAIN — Senator from Arizona, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Senator John McCain returned to the spotlight at the end of 2014 when the Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA enhanced interrogation techniques hit the streets. “[The CIA] stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good,” he said on the senate floor.
McCain also took over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee this year, which could be sporty considering his criticism of wasteful spending and his currently rocky relationship with the Pentagon. With his unique ability as a Hill provocateur, 2015 could be an exceptionally bad year for weapons programs that are over budget and behind schedule.
ROBERT MCDONALD — Secretary of the Veterans Administration
Former Army Ranger Robert McDonald took the reins of the VA on the backside of a massive scandal that revealed administrative ineptitude at the agency had led to the deaths of more than 40 veterans.
McDonald was brought aboard primarily because of his experience as CEO of Proctor and Gamble, but also because he has more charisma than his predecessor, the phlegmatic Eric Shinseki. McDonald has already been more visible than Shinseki was, threatening to fire large numbers of entrenched bureaucrats and even making his cell phone number public. As more veterans transition to VA care next year, the pressure is on the new secretary to improve the way the agency has performed overall since 9-11.
JASON MANGONE — Director, The Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project
The Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project “envisions a future in which a year of full-time national service — a service year — is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American,”according to their website. Jason Mangone is a former Marine Corps infantry officer and the director of the project.
Although he served three tours in Iraq, he is quick to point out that he never saw actual combat and that service is not about that. “While those who bear the costs of battle carry a heavier burden, the rest of us can still rightly say we’ve served our country,” Mangone writes at The Huffington Post. “Serving my country means that I gave up the normal progression of my life — high school, college, work — to do something whose end was civic. The same could be said for the veterans of many other types of national service.”
In an era where the social contract is increasingly challenged by diverging political outlooks, economic circumstances, and cultural backgrounds, Mangone’s effort in leading the Franklin Project may ultimately design the road map toward preserving our national identity.
MAT BEST — Founder, Article 15 Clothing Company
Though Mat Best did five combat tours to Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he’s best known for his collection of hilarious videos on YouTube. He’s doing something right: His videos that poke fun at military life have been viewed a whopping 13 million+ times.
Besides his videos, he’s also written on important topics like PTSD. Best is also the founder and president of Article 15 Clothing, a successful business selling everything from t-shirts to patches to branded coffee. While 2014 has been a huge year for the company, next year looks to be even better. Article 15 is launching their own whiskey brand and the team is scheduled to appear in major movies outside of YouTube.
TIM KENNEDY — MMA Fighter
Tim Kennedy is many things: Special Forces sniper, YouTube video star, and philanthropist. As if that weren’t enough, his main gig these days is a professional mixed martial arts fighter in the UFC.
Fighting since 2001, the 35-year-old Kennedy now has an 18-5-0 record in the UFC. In 2014, he had two major fights: a dominant win against Michael Bisping, and a controversial loss against Yoel Romero. (Kennedy maintains Romero cheated during the fight by sitting on his stool an extra 30 seconds before the final round).
Look for Kennedy to continue his rise in the UFC next year. Also keep an eye out for more of his hilarious videos, which are usually put together by Ranger Up.
MAXIMILIAN URIARTE — Creator, “Terminal Lance”
In 2010, then-Marine Lance Cpl. Max Uriarte launched “Terminal Lance,” a web comic that captures the grunt-level view of life in the Corps. Drawing on his time in the service — with two deployments to Iraq — Uriarte runs a 300,000+ fan-strong Facebook empire that drives readers to his site where he posts two new comics each week.
Now four years old, the strip has matured into a must-read for military personnel, while also making Uriarte a celebrity among Marines. His Terminal Lance brand helped him fund a successful Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel he’s working on, which brought in more than 0,000. While he works on the novel — working title “The White Donkey” –Max also has plans to move into animation next year.
JAS BOOTHE — Founder, Final Salute
Jas Boothe was a captain who’d been in the Army for 13 years when she was hit with a double whammy: She found out she had cancer and her home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The single mother was suddenly homeless and unemployed. As she fought for her family and her dignity, she discovered there were many other female veterans suffering the same plight. She founded Final Salute to address the problem, and she created the Ms. Vet America event (don’t call it a “pageant”) to bring visibility to the organization. Look for more from Boothe and the Ms. Vet America event in 2015.