We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Former Marine Sgt. Donald P. Bellisario loves the Marine Corps and cherishes what he learned during his time in service. He has developed and produced some of the greatest tv shows of all time such as Magnum, P.I., JAG, NCIS, Airwolf and Quantum Leap to name a few. He is proud of his military service and wrote many strong and real veteran characters for his shows. The main character of Magnum in Magnum, P.I. was one of the first positive veteran characters in TV up to that point. 

He  joined the Corps in 1955 and served until 1959. He was raised in a coal mining town which was 20 miles from Pittsburgh. His father owned a tavern, Al’s Place, since his first name was Albert. It was filled with miners that would come off of a shift and all black except where the cap was on. It was a man’s town where women were not allowed in the bar. Bellisario shared, “I only once saw a woman in the bar and she was from out of town. The miners were aware of her presence and took note not to swear in her midst. Swearing in front of a woman at that time was deemed not right.”

His father taught him a strong work ethic and ingrained in him that you don’t take something for nothing, which has stuck with Bellisario all his life. He has one brother that is seven years younger than him that lives in Boston where they are as different as two brothers could be. Honesty was stressed at home. The work ethic was really stressed too, “when you start a job and you finish it.” He started working at a very young age for his father at the tavern including tending bar way underage. He did road construction while growing up and helped build the superhighways around Pittsburgh that were being built at the time. His job was to put burlap sacks over the concrete so it wouldn’t dry out too quick in the sun. He had to come by a week later to pick up the sacks and sweep four lane highways. He also was a brick layer which he believes he inherited from his grandfather who was a stonemason. His grandfather built homes, buildings, wells and sewers.

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Bellisario as a toddler. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

His mother worked in the bar in the morning. Bellisario’s job was to sweep it up, clean it and prepare the glasses. His father never got in until 5:00 in the morning after closing the bar. He would get up around 4:00 pm and be in the bar until closing at 2:00 am. His father was a generous man where if a person needed money, he would give it to them, knowing that he would likely never get it back. His mother was tight with money. He took after his dad where his brother took after his mom. 

He shared, “I was raised in World War II and we had a large bowl in the bar that would collect letters from people that wrote letters to us from the service.” They also kept the photos on the wall of everybody from the town that went into the service. Quite a few went in and the town lost three in the war. Bellisario said, “All the propaganda that comes out during a war I was inundated and loved it.” He had an uncle in the Corps that served in Guadalcanal and was injured on Tarawa, where he came to the bar in his blues after he came back from being wounded. Bellisario just liked the way he looked in his uniform. 

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Bellisario (left) with his parents and brother. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

It was interesting how he joined the Corps where he spent a year and a half in college. He always had an interest in flying and becoming a Naval Aviator, so he went with some friends to join the Navy and he saw a Marine recruiter first. The Marine recruiter told them they could be Marine Naval Aviators. He signed up for the Corps for four years and left a couple of days later. He went to Parris Island and was designated an infantryman initially where he still remembers his serial number to this day! He applied for Marine Corps Aviation and passed all the exams. The Marines flew him up to Cherry Point for testing as well. He graduated with his platoon and didn’t leave with them where he was to be assigned to Pensacola. He stayed at PI and was put in charge of the platoon of misfits. He had to form them up and march them to chow.

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Bellisario during his time in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario. 

He was assigned to guard a prisoner and to take him to chow by himself. The prisoner had to eat by himself as well. His head DI GySgt West came through the chow hall and saw Bellisario with the prisoner. The DI liked Bellisario and his sing-song cadence. There was another DI with his platoon in the chow hall where he saw Bellisario and started going after him like he was still a recruit. Bellisario doesn’t know why he did, and he informed the DI to stay away from his prisoner. The DI kept coming where Bellisario pulled his M1911 from the holster and put it to the DI’s head. Bellisario shared that the next day they shipped me out and he figures the Corps had given him enough punishment for wanting to be an aviator. 

He then went up to Great Lakes to be trained as an aviation technician. He met his wife up there as she was in the Navy. The Marines cordoned her off from the Navy personnel at the school during the breaks and free time. This opened the opportunity for Bellisario to ask her out. He asked her for a date many times and finally got one. He showed up an hour and a half late for the first date. He shared, “She wanted to know why I was late to a date that I had persisted about for so long. I made up some story about being stuck in Chicago where she forgave me.” The first year of their marriage she got pregnant and was discharged from the Navy. He said, “You could not be in the Navy and pregnant at the same time during that era.” His first duty station was in San Diego after the schoolhouse. 

He did two and a half years of living in Mojave California at Marine Corp Base Twentynine Palms in a Quonset hut. He painted the hut dark green and got sidewinder missile boxes, broke them down and made a white picket fence out of them. He put down grass outside of the hut where he said, “you could watch it grow, literally.” Bellisario elaborated, “People wondered why I was putting so much time into where he would have to move it would go to someone else.” He told them, “I am living here now, and am going to make it as comfortable as I can.” He put a new floor down of Masonite for his children that were crawling around. Marines lined up for his Quonset hut when he shipped out.

Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

While at MACS-9 he had to go over to another unit to pick up a part in the supply office. A junior Marine was sitting on the floor cross legged and reading Pravda. He said, “This was in the late 50’s and you didn’t read Pravada.” The young Marine started spouting off to Bellisario about the Russians, and Communism which angered Bellisario. It got to the point that they were going to fight where one of the Marines in the Marine’s unit grabbed Bellisario before he hit him. The Marine that grabbed him told Bellisario told him, “Leave him alone, he is harmless.” Bellisario said, “I will never forget that.” 

When President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Bellisario was at Penn State University when he saw a picture of former Marine Private Lee Harvey Oswald on the TV he said, “My God, I know that man.” Bellisario’s wife said, “You don’t know him, you just think you do.” He argued back and believed he did know Oswald. It came to him later that Oswald was the same man that he got in an argument within the Marine Corps in that supply office. He said, “Oswald was totally spouting propaganda, and no one did anything about it.” 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario speaking at his alma matter Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He is most proud of his service in the Corps, just being a Marine and he loves the camaraderie of the Marine Corps. Bellisario loves the inclusion of a small group where the Marine Corps is better than the Army. He said, 

“I am proud to be a Marine even though I have a love/hate relationship with the Corps. Once I got married, I couldn’t go through flight school in Pensacola. At that time, you couldn’t be married and go to flight school unless you were commissioned. Once I was in college, I had a Naval Aviator show up at my door and ask me if I wanted to go to Pensacola with me.” Bellisario responded with, “What’s the difference between me now and five years ago, see those two little kids crawling on the floor. That is the difference and I can’t go now because I have two little babies. Going to Pensacola as a cadet at the time would have been tough and take a pay cut from where I was working so it wasn’t a good idea.”

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The cast of Magnum, P.I.. Photo courtesy of closerweekly.com.

He got his pilot’s license himself in single engine planes and helicopters. He flew the helicopter in Magnum, P.I. sometimes for the filming of the show. The Air Officer, former Marine Captain  J. David Jones, on Magnum, P.I. was a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot that was stationed in Marine Corps Air Station Tustin at the same time Bellisario was, but they never met. Jones taught Bellisario how to do everything with a helicopter. He said, “We did things that were not in the book.” Jones was a great guy and was patient as an instructor. On the show they flew Hughes 500s and a Bell 206 helicopter.

Magnum, P.I. is his favorite project he has done in Hollywood. It was his first time creating a show and working with Tom Selleck is great. They got along really well. It was his chance to run the show. The Corps set me up for success where nothing bothered me, I wasn’t afraid to do anything. I took charge when I needed to.” In year two of Magnum, P.I., his federal and state income taxes exceeded his lifetime earnings up to Magnum. He said, “I used to think that a loud voice coming from above would tell me they made a mistake and it wasn’t supposed to be me.” 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario working on set. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He wanted to make a film while he was making commercials where he shared, “I wanted to make something that lasted longer than 28 seconds.” Bellisario turned 40 and decided it was time to take the leap. He was at a Raoul Walsh retrospective in Dallas where they were screening a famous film. Virginia Mayo was in attendance with fellow Hollywood stars. He was in a group of six guys and was drinking beer. In walks Jack Nicholson and he has a beer with Bellisario and his friends. Bellisario told Nicholson that he wanted to make films. At the time he was living in Dallas, TX where Nicholson said, “If you want to make films you can’t do it from here, you have to come to Hollywood.” Bellisario’s wife at the time heard Nicholson’s discussion and yelled a profane comment at Jack over the crowd. Nicholson responded with surprise and questioned why he was being cursed at. Bellisario’s wife did not want to take the family with four children to the Hollywood “drug culture.”

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Tom Selleck, Larry Manetti and Frank Sinatra on the set of Magnum PI. Photo courtesy of bamfstyle.com.

A year later he went to Hollywood without his wife and family. He said, “I didn’t have anything but the ability to direct commercials, which most were done for free and were Public Service Announcements.” He decided he had to do something where he wrote a screenplay and he had copies of it on his desk in his office. A casting director came into his office and wanted to read it. He let her read it and she gave it to her husband who was a B director at Universal Studios. Her husband wanted Bellisario to shoot some film with him and write something. He also wanted to introduce Bellisario to his agent, which is serendipitous because getting an agent is so hard and to get that first gig you need an agent. Bellisario said the director introduced him to the agent and the agent said, “I liked your script and you are a good writer.” He asked the agent how long it takes to sell a script. The agent said, “You’ll sell a script within a year.”  Bellisario had enough money to last six weeks. The agent said the fateful words, “Have you ever thought of writing for television?” Bellisario said no – – “It had never occurred to me to write for television.” 

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The cast of Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula (right) and Dean Stockwell (Left). Photo courtesy of sears.com.
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Scott Bakula as Sam and Dean Stockwell as Al in the Quantum Leap two-part episode about Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo courtesy birth.moves.death.com.

The script was sent to Stephen J. Cannell at Universal where Cannell called him in for a meeting. Bellisario spent about 30 minutes in the waiting room and when he walked in Cannell did a double take because of his age. Cannell said, “I can make this script and will make this script right now without any changes.” Cannell dropped the script on the desk and asked Bellisario if he wanted a job as a story editor. Bellisario asked, “What does a story editor do?” Cannell said, “A story editor turns out scripts.” Bellisario agreed and he got a job as a story editor for Cannell. That started the whole thing for Bellisario’s career. Bellisario is a self-taught writer where most of it comes from writing advertising commercials. He had to write something that entertained the public and sold a product in 28 seconds. Learning to write short and crisply where only what is necessary is carried over to the script. He wrote the screenplay the same way without anything extraneous in it. 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario gearing up for a flight. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
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Major Joel Searls with Bellisario back in 2019.  Photo courtesy of Joel Searls.

Throughout his career Bellisario enjoyed working with all of his leads in the series. He said, “Some were nicer than others, all of them were okay.” Thankfully he didn’t end up with anyone who gave him any problems. Bellisario comments, “Catherine Bell was very nice to work with.” One actor, Jan Michael Vincent, the lead of Airwolf  was having alcohol problems on set. Bellisario talked to him one day where he said, “Jan, why are you doing what you are doing? Why don’t you straighten up and work on the show, this is your chance to be a hit again?” Vincent responded with, “Bellisario, I am a drunk, I have always been a drunk and I only want to be a drunk.” Bellisario refers to it as a sad moment for him and for Vincent. Bellisario credits actor and star Ernest Borgnine with keeping Airwolf professional and helping the show get done. 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario and friends at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

The values Bellisario had when he went into the Marine Corps were strong and he said, “The Corps just reinforced them.” The values were devotion to duty, do a job the whole way through without much delegation, he shared, “Parris Island wasn’t a chore for me where it was something I had prepared my whole life for.” He was made Platoon Guide at boot camp and was the Honor Man for the platoon. He had a great DI, GySgt. West, and when he was kept at PI after graduation, GySgt. West and he would go out fishing together. He shared, “Not too many Marines get invited by their DIs out fishing.” 

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The cast of Airwolf. Photo courtesy of amazon.com.

The best leadership lesson Bellisario shared is to finish the job you start and take charge when needed. You must go above and beyond what you must do, which is what he learned in the Corps. He encourages Marines that work in Hollywood to write more and about their time in the Corps. You need an accurate portrayal where those who have never served in the Corps don’t write the best Marine scripts because they lack the experience. 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario on set with actors David James Elliott (left) and Patrick Labyorteaux (right) on JAG. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario shared, “I am most proud of Quantum Leap in his career and it is the most creative show I have done.” He stated that, “I loved making it and considered it the best show I created where Quantum Leap was a different movie every week.” He said,  “It made it challenging and made it interesting.” Bellisario did a two-part episode of Quantum Leap focused on Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination where it is worth re-watching the episode.  

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario with the cast of JAG at his star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of cheatsheet.com.

It is a time travel show and when he pitched it to Branden Tartikoff, Tartikoff responded with, “I don’t get it.” Bellisario said, “Branden, your mother would get the show.” Tartikoff replied, “Yeah, but I don’t get it.” Bellisario replied, “Yeah, but your mother gets it Branden.” Tartikoff retorted, “Get out of here and go make it. You’ve got a pilot.” Bellisario always gets a kick out of a Marine Corps sergeant telling the head of a studio what to do. 

He does know how to sell and uses his advertising skills even in Hollywood. His children work in the industry where some worked for him on his shows. He held them to a higher standard where his kids worked extremely hard so that no one thought they got the job just because of their father. 

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Bellisario with his wife Vivienne in front of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario and his family are grieving the loss of one of his sons, David Bellisario, who recently passed away. David had worked on a lot of his father’s shows where Bellisario is, “Extremely proud of him and the work he did.” Bellisario described him as, “A good man and he was disciplined.”

MIGHTY MONEY

Budget proposal prioritizes pay increase, quality of life, modernization

With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.

The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.

After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.


While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.

“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.

To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.

The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.

“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.

The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.

The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.

“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.

While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.

The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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


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

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

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

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

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

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

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

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

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

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s biggest military weakness is the US’ biggest strength

Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.

China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?


Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.

At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.

(U.S. Army)

The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.

In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.

(Vietnam News Agency)

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.

Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.

So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 facts you didn’t know about the U.S. Coast Guard

Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230 birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.

1. Writers, take heart.

Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots, was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.

Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks, and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath, or being tossed around by high waves.

3. Flags for all occasions.

The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.

4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.

Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

(NOAA/Flickr)

5. Protecting the US is just a small part

In addition to protecting the United States coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.

6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big

With roughly 40,000 Active Duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. But what the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.

7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources

Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.

8. It’s not easy to join 

The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such few recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying. Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swim for 100 meters, and then tread water for five minutes.

So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!

Articles

New Navy secretary welcomes ‘any patriot that wants to serve’

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer visited Naval Station Norfolk for the first time August 10, where he pledged that America would defend itself and its allies against aggression from North Korea.


Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated amid threats from Kim Jong Un to lob missiles near the American territory of Guam, which is home to naval and Air Force bases. President Donald Trump ramped up warnings of “fire and fury” should the dictator put his plan into action.

Spencer, who was sworn in as the Navy’s 76th secretary August 3, declined to comment on the Navy’s preparations in the Pacific.

“We just hope that Korea stops acting the way it does,” Spencer said. “We’re going to defend ourselves; we are going to defend our allies. They should know that, and we hope that we can have conversations and de-escalate.”

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
US Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez (right), command sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Regions, greets Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay.

Spencer’s comments came after he toured the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner and named people, capabilities, and process as priorities for his new role.

Spencer joined the Marine Corps in 1976 after graduating from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and flew the service’s H-46 helicopter. He attained the rank of captain before leaving in 1981 for a career in finance, according to a Navy biography. He most recently served as managing director of Wyoming-based Fall Creek Management, LLC.

Spencer follows Ray Mabus, whose nearly eight years as Navy secretary — the longest since World War I — was marked with criticism for decisions to name some ships after civil and human rights leaders and for dropping a more than two-century-old naval tradition of referring to sailors by their rate, or job title, in favor of rank. That decision was reversed after a storm of fierce opposition.

During his July 11 confirmation hearing, Spencer told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports the use of alternative energy sources, growing the capacity and capabilities of the fleet, and protecting Navy bases against sea-level rise.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service
Richard V. Spencer is sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy by William O’Donnell, Department of the Navy administrative assistant. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Spencer also said he opposed the use of the services as “a petri dish for social experiments,” instead saying it should be left to the Pentagon to develop policy. A little more than two weeks later and in a series of tweets, Trump said he was banning transgender military personnel from service, stunning an unprepared Pentagon.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reaffirmed current policies until additional guidance is given by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Spencer said August 10 he would follow policies developed by the Pentagon at the direction of the White House, adding context to his “petri dish” statement to mean that no service secretary “should go off and do experiments on their own.” But Spencer did not directly say whether the thousands of transgender service members on active duty and in the reserves should be kicked out.

“As I’ve said before, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military,” Spencer said.

Articles

9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US expects to withdraw more troops from Afghanistan

The U.S. military is expected to trim troop levels in Afghanistan by more than 1,000 soldiers, a U.S. general told Reuters on Feb.15, 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump told Congress in February 2019 he intended to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan as negotiators make progress in talks with Taliban insurgents.

However, U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said the decision to reduce some of the 14,000 American forces in Afghanistan was not linked to those negotiations.


Instead, he said it was part of an efficiency drive by the new commander, Army General Scott Miller, who took over in September 2018, to make better use of U.S. resources.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

United States President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“This is something that he started as he got into the position here and was looking at how we [can] be as efficient and as effective as we can be on the ground,” Votel told Reuters during a trip to Oman.

Asked whether Miller would likely cut more than 1,000 troops from Afghanistan under the efficiency drive, Votel said: “He probably will.”

The U.S.-Taliban talks are aimed at finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.

The United States has been attempting to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with officials in Kabul.

The Afghan government has been absent from the U.S.-Taliban talks, prompting anger and frustration in Kabul.

The Taliban considers the Kabul government a Western puppet and has so far refused to directly negotiate with it.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean officials are desperate to understand Trump

North Korean officials are reportedly perusing columnist Michael Wolff’s blockbuster book, “Fire and Fury,” the tell-all that paints a mostly unflattering picture of a tumultuous Trump-led White House, a former diplomat said.

“They were very keen to study Donald Trump when I was there in December,” Jonathan Powell, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, told CNN. “They were reading ‘Art of the Deal,’ and wanted to discuss the book and what it showed about the president.”


Art of the Deal,” a book coauthored by Trump in 1987, was partly a biography and a broad outline of Trump’s approach to making deals throughout his business career.

“When I went back at the beginning of this year, they were reading ‘Fire and Fury’ – all on PDFs, not buying the book itself, and trying to discuss what that told them about Trump too,” Powell said.

Based on other reports, members of North Korea’s government have been attempting to analyze Trump and decipher his methodology of governing. In 2017, North Korean officials previously reached out to Republican-linked analysts and think tanks in Washington because they “can’t figure him out,” according to a person familiar with the situation.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

“Their number-one concern is Trump,” the source said to The Washington Post.

Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” took political and media circles around the country by storm after its release in January 2018. It provided a rare behind-the-scene look at pivotal moments throughout Trump’s 2016 campaign and the beginning stages of his presidency.

However, critics have questioned some of the wilder claims made in the book and questioned the reliability of some of its sources. Wolff has also admitted that he was not sure if all the claims in the book were true, and that there were times he knew his sources were lying to him.

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue,” Wolff noted in the book’s prologue. “These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US accuses Russia of violating Cold War weapons treaty

Russia is unlikely to meet U.S. demands for more verification on a missile system Washington says has violated a key Cold War treaty, the lead U.S. negotiator on arms control issues said.

Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson downplayed the meetings that U.S. and Russian officials had in January 2019 in Geneva about the dispute, which has pushed the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to the brink of collapse.


And she downplayed an unusual public presentation made a day earlier in Moscow, in which Russian defense officials displayed elements of the disputed missile system, known as the 9M729 or SSC-8.

The Geneva talks weren’t “the normal bluster, propaganda, the kind of dramatics that we associate with some of these meetings,” Thompson said in a private briefing on Jan. 24, 2019.

Russian military presents 9M729 missile, which US claimed violates INF Treaty

www.youtube.com

“But as I said before, we didn’t break any new ground. There was no new information. The Russians acknowledged having the system but continued to say in their talking points that it didn’t violate the INF Treaty despite showing them, repeated times, the intelligence, and information,” she said.

Thompson’s remarks were made nine days before a Feb. 2, 2019 deadline, when the United States has said it will formally withdraw from the treaty, and suspend its obligations.

“I’m not particularly optimistic” that Russia will meet U.S. demands to show it is complying with the treaty, she told reporters.

The 1987 treaty prohibits the two countries from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The agreement was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles and is widely seen as a cornerstone of arms control stability, in Europe and elsewhere.

On Jan. 23, 2019, Russian officials held a public briefing for reporters and foreign diplomats in Moscow, where they showed missile tubes and diagrams of the missile in question — part of an effort to push back against the U.S. claims.

Lieutenant General Mikhail Matveyevsky, the chief of the military’s missile and artillery forces, said the missile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers.

“The distance was confirmed during strategic command and staff exercises” in 2017, he said. “Russia has observed and continues to strictly observe the points of the treaty and does not allow any violations.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later accused U.S. officials of rebuffing Russian invitations to hold more talks on the question, something that Thompson disputed.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“While seeking an uncontrolled arms buildup, Washington is actually trying to take down one of the major pillars of current global stability, and this could result in the most painful repercussions for global security,” Zakharova was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency. “It is not late yet for our American partners to work out a responsible attitude to the INF Treaty.”

Thompson said U.S. officials have proposed discussing a wider range of arms control issues on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting scheduled in Beijing.

The United States first publicly accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty in 2014. After several years of fruitless talks, Washington began stepping up its rhetoric in late 2017, publicly identifying the missile in question and asserting that Russia had moved beyond testing and had begun deploying the systems.

“These are manned, equipped battalions now deployed in the field,” Thompson said.

Late 2018, Washington began providing NATO members and other allies with more detailed, classified satellite and telemetry data, as part of the effort to build support for its accusations.

Thompson said that in addition to providing detailed information on the dates and locations of the missile’s testing and deployment, U.S. officials had also given Russian counterparts a plan for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range.

Moscow, however, countered with its own proposal, which she said wasn’t realistic because Russian officials were in charge of all aspects of such a test.

“When you go and select the missile and you select the fuel and you control all of those parameters, characteristics, you are controlling the outcome of the test,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Warrior Games trials have begun

More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.

The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.


We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.

“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.

The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”

This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.

The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Plastic Army set will finally include women and military working dogs

At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.

“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”

Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”


BMC Toys designed figures like “Pathfinder Captain” and “Standing Rifleman” among many others. The original 24-piece set included:

  • Pathfinder Captain
  • Standing Rifleman
  • Kneeling Rifleman
  • Prone Sniper
  • Grenadier
  • Bazooka Operator

The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:

  • Running Rifleman
  • Combat Medic
  • Low-Crawl Rifleman
  • Radio Operator
  • Wounded Soldier
  • Light Machine Gunner

By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.

BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.

The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.

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