10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl at his first duty station

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new B-21 said to be tested sooner than expected

The Air Force has announced that its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, will be headed to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California for testing.


Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, the commander of the 412th Test Wing, put the endless speculation as to where the B-21 would be heading to rest during comments at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference, according to The Drive.

“For the first time ever, I would like to publicly announce that the B-21 will be tested at Edwards Air Force Base … Edwards has been the home of bomber test and now we also can publicly release that the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” Schaefer said.

The general’s remarks appeared to confirm that the B-21 will be headed for operational testing sooner than some had previously believed. There are no known images of the B-21, although concept art does exist.

Also read: ‘Sneaky McBombFace’ and other discarded B-21 names

The level of secrecy surrounding the B-21 is so intense that Congress doesn’t even know much about it. Previous reports speculated that the testing would be at the Air Force’s infamous Area 51 facility.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Area 51. (Photo by Simon Johansson)

The Drive reporter Tyler Rogoway said that he noticed a number of changes to the base during his last visit to Edwards. “It was clear that the South Base installation was undergoing a major transition,” he said.

“The USAF’s B-52 and B-1 bomber test units had relocated to the expansive primary apron and South Base had been vacated, aside from the B-2 test unit, so that it could be prepared for a shadowy new program.”

Related: Podcast: Name the B-21 and the OV-10 Bronco is back

Edwards Air Force Base has unique facilities that would help the testing and development of stealth aircraft, such as the Raider, and is the headquarters of the Air Force’s Test Center and Test Pilot School. Edwards is also the home of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

The B-21 will phase out the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Air Force announced in February 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Help a Marine respond to disruptive events on military bases

Arts in the Armed Forces just launched an Action Fund to provide arts and dialogue to the military community in response to disruptive events on base. Every donation will be matched through Labor Day 2020 with the goal of raising $200,000 to help the military community in times of crisis.

Founded by U.S. Marine Adam Driver and Juilliard alumna Joanna Trucker, the mission of the non-profit is to use the powerful shared experience of the arts to start conversations between military service members and civilians in order to bridge the world of the arts and the world of practical action.

After disturbing accounts of violence, sexual assault and suicides on military bases like Fort Hood, this kind of activism can’t come soon enough.
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As most people can attest during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, in times of crisis, people turn to the arts for entertainment, comfort and inspiration. We learn about our own humanity from storytellers. Organizations like Arts in the Armed Forces have also discovered how therapeutic artistic exploration can be for the warrior community.

Now, through Sept. 7, 2020, every gift up to 0,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, so you can double your impact by donating. You can name your gift in honor or memory of a loved one. You can also share your story by tagging @aitaf and #AITAFActionFund on Instagram.

Benefits for service members include film screening and panel tickets as well as other great initiatives like the Bridge Award, which recognizes emerging playwrights (and, recently, screenwriters) of exceptional talent within the United States military. Service members interested in applying can learn more about the Bridge Award here.

To contribute to the Action Fund and help provide morale-boosting experiences to the military and veteran community where and when they are needed most, check out the campaign here.

My journey from Marine to actor | Adam Driver

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In the video above, you can learn more about Adam Driver’s service in the Marines, how he turned to the theater to recreate the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how the arts can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.


MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch the best intro to the Army-Navy Game ever made

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, CBS will once again present the Army-Navy Game, live, at noon EST. Army and Navy already released the uniforms they’re sporting this year, troops around the world are uploading their spirit videos to join in on the smack talk, and, hopefully, CBS Sports will have another outstanding introduction to the game like the one they made in 2017.


This 2018 matchup is the 119th time Army and Navy will take the field in what many call “The Greatest Rivalry In Sports.” Each side will have its students, alums, and military fans cheering on — both in the stadium in Philadelphia and wherever the U.S. Military operates. But as remarkable as the storied game is, the day is truly all about the cadets and midshipmen who are on the field and in the stands that day. Few things can accurately describe the all-encompassing magnitude of a young person choosing life in a service academy quite like the energy of the Army-Navy Game.

Attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the Naval Academy at Annapolis doesn’t just affect the person who wants to go, who competes with so many others for a coveted spot. It affects everyone in their lives, as it has for generations.

And CBS Sports did an amazing job of describing the power of such a decision.

The entry requirements for both of these service academies are rigid — they won’t take just anyone. A candidate must be between 17 and 23 years old and must not be pregnant or have any dependents. The candidate can’t be married and must be a United States citizen. Beyond that, a candidate must be nominated by an official of the U.S. government, which is a sitting Representative, Senator, or Vice President of the United States.

Beyond an excellent high school record and standardized test scores, the candidate must also be in above average physical condition and must successfully complete a Candidate Fitness Assessment for their desired service academy. Needless to say, candidates aren’t just your average American college-age student before they get in.

And before you start thinking this intro video is a little dramatic, consider the ranks academy graduates will be joining.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(U.S. Army)

The cadets of West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis share a lineage with a “who’s who” of American Military History. West Point has graduated names like William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and even current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Other notable alums include Mike Krzyzewski, current head coach of the Duke Men’s Basketball Team, who has led the Blue Devils to five national championships and even coached the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(U.S. Navy)

Midshipmen have their own stunning heritage. Former President Jimmy Carter is a USNA alum who helped pioneer the development of nuclear submarines. Former Arizona Senator John McCain is an alum, along with football great Roger Staubach, Basketball legend David Robinson, billionaire tycoon H. Ross Perot, and the first American in space, Astronaut Alan Shepard.

Along with its distinguished alumni come 21 ambassadors, 24 members of Congress, two Nobel Prize winners, 73 Medal of Honor Recipients, 54 astronauts, and countless scholars.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Review: The Daniel Defense Delta 5 is a bolt-action rifle with AR modularity

The AR rifle platform is popular among gun enthusiasts because of its customization. The modular platform allows gun owners the freedom to accessorize or even create their own build from the comfort of their own homes — the epitome of user friendly in the rifle world. Now, thanks to Daniel Defense, that modularity has spread to the much-loved bolt gun with the Delta 5 long-range precision rifle.

Daniel Defense is known for their AR rifles, parts, and accessories, so the Delta 5 is a first for them in the realm of precision rifles. The modular bolt gun features out-of-the-box customization that would typically require professional gunsmithing. From the user-configurable stock to the interchangeable cold-hammer forged barrel, the user can tailor this rifle to fit their personal preferences without the wait.


Daniel Defense didn’t just “manufacture” a rifle, they designed this gun with the user in mind. Except for the Timney trigger, the entire rifle — from the buttstock to the barrel — was carefully designed and engineered in-house by Daniel Defense.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

The author takes aim with the first bolt-gun offering from Daniel Defense, the Delta 5.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

The rifle I tested was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s also available in .308 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington. After firing more than 500 rounds through the Delta 5, ringing steal at 1,000 yards and beyond, it’s evident that this gun is a fast-cycling tack driver.

The mechanically bedded stainless steel action of the Delta 5 is unique, and the design plays a huge part in the rifle’s accuracy. The three-lug bolt with 60-degree bolt throw and floating bolt head provides excellent lock-up and enables the shooter to get shots off faster. Combined with the integral recoil lug, this enables consistent performance for the shooter. A 20 MOA/5.8 MRAD Picatinny scope base requires fewer adjustments for long-distance shots.

However, where the Delta 5 really changes the game is the barrel, which is interchangeable at the user’s level. The fact that changing the barrel does not require a gunsmith makes moving between calibers dramatically easier and something the user can do at home. The barrels are made from stainless CHF steel, which provides longer life and requires no break-in time. These exceptional barrels are cold-hammered forged, providing a greater potential for accuracy compared to others, and the heavy Palma contour reduces the weight to 64 percent of that of other precision barrels.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

The length of pull of the Delta 5 is adjustable by inserting or removing quarter- and half-inch spacers between the stock and the buttpad.

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Defense)

During my range session, the feature that stood out to me the most was the Timney Elite Hunter trigger. This is a single-stage trigger with a two-position safety and is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds, enabling a smooth pull and crisp reset.

Running the bolt is an easy and smooth pull, and if the bolt knob isn’t a good fit for your hand, the threaded bolt handle makes it easy for the user to install an aftermarket knob. What took some getting used to was the long stroke required when running the bolt. If you run it by memory, you’ll come up short, resulting in an empty chamber click. After spending some time with the gun, you start to become accustomed to the longer stroke, making it much easier and a little more automatic.

The stock of the Delta 5 brings more to the table than aesthetics alone. The eye-catching design is not only ergonomic, but also the carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer construction aids in longer life and lighter weight. The Delta 5 is also configurable for length of pull, shipping with quarter-inch and half-inch spacers, and the cheek riser is adjustable for preferred height, yaw, and drift. There is a total of 14 M-LOK points along the forend, one at the bottom of the stock and three M-LOK QD sling points.

I paired the Delta 5 with the Bushnell Forge Optic. Together, this duo has the power to make anyone feel like a sharpshooter with minimal effort. If you’re a fan of long-range precision shooting, the Delta 5 is worth testing. Daniel Defense didn’t enter the precision rifle game with a cookie-cutter product — they combined cutting-edge technology with in-house manufacturing, and wrapped it in a user-friendly, modular package.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief looks to convert $1 million into grants for soldiers

Army Emergency Relief expanded its support programming in 2020 to keep up with the evolving needs of those impacted by COVID-19. Now the organization is going a step further in easing financial burdens for soldiers and their families.

AER disbursed assistance to more than 710 soldiers this year, according to its website, totaling $1.1 million in assistance. With the pandemic continuing to cause detrimental impacts to Army families, the organization is looking to convert loans into zero-payback grants.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, Director of AER, said he is excited to announce this initiative.

“Soldiers and their families may be exposed to financial challenges as an incident to their service, and this year has presented many challenges. We’ve been closely monitoring the situation and I believe Americans have noticed as well,” he said.

Since its inception, AER has provided $2 billon in financial assistance, with half of that occurring since the events of September 11, 2001. The organization has also supported around 4 million soldiers. While donations do come from larger organizations, many come from citizens who want to support U.S. troops.

“Thanks to the generosity of citizens, patriotic corporations, and Soldiers themselves, we were able to go back and review zero-interest loans where conversion to grant makes the most sense and alleviates distress caused by the unique challenges we’ve experienced this year,” Mason said.

Although the goal itself isn’t to specifically hit the $1 million mark, Mason says by examining the individual needs that prompted the loans, they’ll be able to hit that target.

“Our goal is to identify loans issued in response to some of the unique challenges we’ve faced this year, and eliminate the requirement of payback on those loans. In doing so, we believe we will convert $1 million in loans to grants and potentially change the financial future for over a thousand soldiers and their families,” Mason explained.

Although the loans soldiers received are zero interest, the organization wants to take it further by seeing where they can turn them into grants and further support relief efforts.

“In short, we’re trying to do the right thing while respecting the contributions we’ve received from generous Americans,” Mason explained.

AER has expanded its outreach efforts to ensure soldiers and their families know about its mission and the importance of asking for help when it is needed. The organization is doing this through engagement with Army leadership to instill the notion that AER should be the first stop when Army families find themselves in financial trouble of any kind.

With the entire country being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs remain great for many families. AER is poised to continue supporting Army families and finding ways to ensure they thrive, even in the midst of a pandemic. Stepping forward to convert loans into grants is just one more way it can live out its mission of soldiers helping soldiers.

To learn more about AER and how you can support their mission or request assistance, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

Will this year’s massive military exercise finally provoke North Korea?

The United States military is preparing to launch a major military exercise with South Korea in coming days and faces a dangerous balancing act: How do you reassure allies in the region that you are ready for a war with North Korea without provoking an actual conflict in the process?


The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is scheduled for 10 days beginning August 21, and will include about 25,000 US troops and tens of thousands of South Koreans. The exercise focuses on defending South Korea against an attack from the North, and each year triggers threats and rebukes from North Korea. But it comes at an especially sensitive time now, following the exchange of a series of threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea.

US Forces Korea, the command that oversees some 28,500 American military personnel on the Korean Peninsula, has no current plans to change the size, format, or messaging for this year’s exercise, said Army Colonel Chad G. Carroll, a military spokesman in South Korea. The mission is planned well in advance, considered defensive in nature, and allows both military forces and civilian officials to strengthen their readiness for a crisis, he said.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2015. DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Schneider.

“Our job is provide our leadership with viable military options if called upon, and exercises like this hone our ability to do that,” Carroll said.

North Korea this week denounced the exercise, warning that even an accident in the midst of it could trigger a nuclear conflict. But the war game also has drawn scrutiny this year from Russia and China, which have suggested cancelling the operation to alleviate tensions. The US has rejected that option, saying the exercise is needed to deter North Korean aggression as Washington seeks peaceful means to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development.

“This is why we have military capability that undergirds our diplomatic activities,” said Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an appearance August 14 in Seoul. “These threats are serious to us, and thus we have to be prepared.”

On August 15, North Korea appeared to ease up on a threat to shoot missiles toward the US island territory of Guam. A state-run media outlet reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would watch the US “a little more” rather than responding quickly, but would “make an important decision, as it already declared”, if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity.” The report came hours after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that if North Korea hits the US island territory of Guam with a missile, it would be “game on”, meaning war.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2016. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to respond directly to Kim’s decision to pull back from his threat to launch missiles toward Guam, but said the door to talks remains open.

“We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to a dialogue, but that’s up to him,” Tillerson said at the State Department.

Tillerson and Mattis jointly host their Japanese counterparts in Washington August 17, with North Korea at the top of the agenda.

Army Colonel Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US and South Korea have “made a lot of progress” in recent years to prepare against any North Korea threat. Ulchi-Freedom Guardian is a big part of that, with two other related exercises, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2009. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

The US-South Korean military exercises have exacerbated tensions in the past. In March, the beginning of Foal Eagle prompted North Korea to test-fire four ballistic missiles, which in turn prompted the Pentagon to announce that it was assembling a missile defence system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) on the Korean Peninsula with approval of the Government in Seoul.

In 2015, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian came shortly after an August 4 attack in which two South Korean soldiers stepped on landmines in the heavily militarized border region with North Korea, known as the Demilitarized Zone. South Korea vowed to retaliate, and the two Koreas exchanged artillery and rocket fire over the border during Ulchi-Freedom Guardian after South Korea began broadcasting propaganda messages over the border and North Korea responded by turning on its own loudspeakers.

The exercise itself has changed several times, and dates back to 1968, when South Korea and the US created a war game called Focus Lens. That occurred after North Korea hijacked a US Navy intelligence ship, the USS Pueblo, and launched a bloody Special Operations raid on the Blue House, the centre of the South Korean government, with plans to kill South Korean President Park Chung Hee.

Humor

9 Navy SEAL memes that you’ll be afraid to laugh at

Since the halcyon days of World War II frogmen, Navy SEALs have completed some of the most dangerous missions while remaining hidden in shadows — until the tell-all book comes out, that is.

Although the few who have earned the beloved SEAL Trident are considered the toughest the military has to offer, like anybody, they also have a humorous side the world rarely gets to see — until now.

So, kick back, enjoy and try not to laugh too hard — they could be watching.


10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

We’re pretty sure they meant King Salman, not the king of upstream swimming.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Did you really think these memes were going to be disrespectful? If so, you’re crazier than we thought. We’re talking about the Navy SEALs here — we’re not taking that risk.

MUSIC

6 military cadences you will never forget

Men and women serving in the military have spent hours stomping around the base in well-constructed running formations yelling a repetitive song at the top of their lungs.


Military cadences, or close-order drill, date back hundreds of years as a signal to keep troops covered and aligned as they march forward in the battlefield. Now it’s primarily used to keep service members in step — landing their feet at the same time — causing a prideful beat.

Related: 5 great military cadences you haven’t thought about in years

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Look at all those happy faces! (U.S. Army photo)

Regardless, military cadences stain our memories like a top 40 hit on the radio. Once you hear it, let the rhythm teleport you to the good old days.

1. “Fired Up”

2. “You Can’t Break My Body Down”

3. “Mama, Mama Can’t You See?”

4. “I Used To Sit at Home All Day”

5. “I Heard That in the Navy”

6. “My Grandma!”

Can you think of any others not listed? Comment below.
popular

How to earn a free certificate in piracy using your GI Bill benefits

Avast! America is suffering from two major trends that could adversely affect its future for years to come: an obesity epidemic and a lack of skilled trades. While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may not have intended for one of its certificate programs to tackle both issues, it’s likely that its piracy certificate offering could do the trick. 

For veterans, this also means that they can earn this certificate for free, using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they earned during their service, along with any other veterans benefits offered by the school. 

MIT, the esteemed Cambridge, Massachusetts institute that brought the world such notable alumni as Kofi Annan, Buzz Aldrin and Dolph Lundren, along with 95 Nobel Prize winners and other notables, wanted to offer its student body a little something extra for those students’ bodies. 

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Who says a serious school can’t have a serious sense of humor? (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

In 2011, the school instituted a new physical fitness regimen for the fall semester designed to encourage more physical activities in student schedules. It may have been the first direct assault on the “Freshman 15” in modern academic history. 

Any student at MIT who completes all four specified courses in archery, fencing, pistol/rifle shooting, and sailing will be rewarded with a pirate certificate from the school.  They physical education department holds regular “pirate induction days” with undergraduate and graduate students who often dress up for the occasion.

The MIT pirate certificate isn’t just another piece of paper to be mounted on a wall and forgotten about. True to the romanticism of old-time pirate lore, the certificate of piracy is presented on a piece of faux-parchment paper, and reads:

“This document certifies that the below-mentioned salty dog has fulfilled the Physical Education General Institute Requirement by completing Archery, Fencing, Pistol and Sailing [and] therefore is no longer a lily-livered landlubber. And so, MIT Physical Education Confers upon [STUDENT’S NAME] The Pirate Certificate, with all its privileges and obligations. Given at the swashbucklin’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ahoy, Avast and finally, Arrrrrr!”

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Huzzah! Nothing like some archery to combat the stress of midterms. (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

The “pirate’s license,” according to one former MIT student, began as a goof between some members of the student body, but was soon embraced officially by the school after numerous requests from students to do so. 

Aside from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Nobel laureate alumni, the department of piracy can now boast actor Matt Damon as one of its notable alums. He was awarded the certificate as a commencement speaker in 2016. 

Veterans who want to attend MIT can do that by applying and enrolling like any other student, but the school will help guide you through the process of applying for veterans benefits like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and military tuition assistance, for those still on active duty.

Since the piracy certificate is open and available to graduate students and undergraduate students alike, those seeking a Master’s-level education can also get help from MIT in applying for benefits. 

MIT’s graduate programs are a partner in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, in which the school volunteers to contribute up to 50% of student expenses as the VA matches the same amount. It’s free, it’s fun and there’s plenty of plunder for the plucky pirate in today’s global economy, so there’s no reason not to enroll now.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

CNO sends a message to the Fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.


Below is the text of his message:

Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.

Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.

Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.

Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.

The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.

Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may finally scrap its only aircraft carrier

Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.

The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.

While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.


By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”

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A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.

(Flickr photo by Christopher Michel)

“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.

At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.

The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.

Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.

The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.

Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The CIA’s UFO files are now available for download

The CIA has released a trove of unclassified files related to unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Comprising more than 700 documents dating back to 1976, the CIA files reveal information about worldwide sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, which is the government term for UFOs.

The cache of documents is available for download at The Black Vault, an online archive that for years has been publishing declassified government UFO files, along with other declassified documents.

These documents can be downloaded from The Black Vault’s website for free.

The Black Vault’s founder, John Greenewald Jr., has been filing Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests with the CIA since 1996 — when he was only 15 years old — to gain access to the full sweep of the intelligence agency’s secret UFO files. The CIA ultimately compiled what it claimed was the sum total of its declassified UFO files onto a CD-ROM. Greenewald received a copy and posted it all online.

“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenewald said in a statement posted on his website.

An online clearinghouse for US government records, The Black Vault has reportedly filed some 10,000 FOIA requests to amass a total of 2.2 million pages of material for its archives. Those records cover a broad range of topics, spanning the gamut from the CIA’s UFO files to military programs, law enforcement investigations, and political correspondence. The site even includes a repository of US government documents related to cloning and mind control.

The CIA allegedly opened up its complete UFO archive last year, adding to the number Greenewald had already collected. The Black Vault’s online archive now includes all the CIA UFO files Greenewald has amassed over his years of research. Despite the mountain of material now available for free public download, Greenewald has speculated that there’s still more the CIA has not yet declassified.

“Although the CIA claims this is their ‘entire’ collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that,” Greenewald wrote in a post on The Black Vault’s website. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”

A 2009 CIA response to one of Greenewald’s FOIA requests stated that there were still classified documents related to UAPs that could not be publicly released. In the letter, the CIA cited the need to protect its intelligence collection methods and the identity of its personnel.

Online publication of The Black Vault’s UFO archive comes ahead of a June deadline for the Pentagon to release all of its UFO files to Congress — a provision attached to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December.

The mandate requires the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to compile an unclassified report on UAPs for congressional intelligence and armed services committees. In an addition to the unclassified portions, the report will include a classified annex — a provision that likely means any explosive information will remain hidden from public view.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
A 1976 CIA document related to UFOs published online by The Black Vault. Screenshot of document downloaded from The Black Vault.

While many of Greenewald’s CIA files mention the terms UFO or UAP in passing or out of context, there are, buried within the reams of photocopied pages, some interesting clues about the US government’s longstanding interest in the matter. For example, an April 1976 report cites a request by an unknown CIA official (the name is redacted) for the CIA’s assistant deputy director for science and technology to “see if he knew of any official UFO program and also to answer some of the questions posed by [name redacted].”

Regarding UFO research, the CIA document says that the assistant deputy director for science and technology “feels that the efforts of independent researchers…are vital for further research in this area.”

“At the present time, there are offices and personnel within the agency who are monitoring the UFO phenomena, but again, this is not currently on an official basis,” the 1976 CIA document states, adding: “Any information which might indicate a threat potential would be of interest, as would specific indications of foreign developments or applications of UFO research.”

A Sept. 23, 1976, document includes the subject line: “To immediate director – with personal request to investigate UFO sighted in Morocco.” Another file recounts Russian news reports about UFO sightings at the time of a “mysterious blast” in the Russian town of Sasovo in 1991. According to the CIA document, which includes an English translation of the Russian news report, some residents of Sasovo observed a “fiery sphere” in the sky prior to a “highly powerful explosion” that ripped off roofs and broke windows.

In April, the Department of Defense released three videos — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — taken by US Navy pilots showing what the military defines as UAPs.

The revelation of these unexplained aerial encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, lawmakers in Washington are more concerned that these events could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting advanced new weapons into action — including over US soil.

A group of US senators has drafted an order for the director of national intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among US agencies. The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

The report also calls for the director of national intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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