Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.

Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.


In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.

Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.

“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”

Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.

“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”

Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.

Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading.
“Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”

It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.

“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”

When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless.
“I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”

Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.

Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.

“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”

From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.

“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.

Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.

“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”

When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.

“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”

His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct.
Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”

The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fugitives, special operations, and high-stake spy games

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.

It’s a new year and one of the many resolutions people tend to make is to ‘read more!’ What should you be reading?

With all the choices of books and genres out there finding the right book or series can be a challenge. If you or your loved ones are into military fiction or thrillers, the team here at We Are The Mighty have your back with three very solid book recommendations which we’re sure you will enjoy.


Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

First up is Nathan’s Run by prolific author and New York Time’s bestseller John Gilstrap. Nathan’s Run is John’s first published work which launched a successful career spanning twenty books. John is best known for his ‘Johnathan Graves’ series, a ten book series about a former Delta operative running an independent hostage rescue firm, which has garnered praise from other authors and reviewers alike. He clearly knows how to spin a good tale.

Nathan’s Run is a retelling of the ‘Fugitive’ tale, except the fugitive in this case is a scared but resourceful twelve-year-old boy who is pursued by an overly ambitious District Attorney, law enforcement officers who believe Nathan is a murderer, a villainous mob enforcer, and a weary and emotionally wounded Detective playing a hunch. The book starts off ‘small’ but the story soon blossoms into a nation-wide obsession as the stakes get higher every hour Nathan remains at large.

The author has a unique background as a fire-fighter and safety inspector, not military or law enforcement, but he has a knack for finding the right mix of detail and storytelling to create a book which was quite cinematic. It didn’t take me long to become emotionally invested and start rooting for Nathan. I wager those willing to give the novel a chance will be pulling for him as well.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Next is Northern Thunder by Anderson Harp. Northern Thunder is the first book of a newer series – currently three books – featuring Will Parker, a small-town Georgia prosecutor and former Marine special operations veteran. There is trouble in North Korea, and Will’s background and ‘specific skills’ makes him uniquely suited to go into North Korea in a high stakes covert mission. Complications ensue and what should be a straight-forward mission turns in a deadly struggle for survival.

Northern Thunder has a ‘Dirty Dozen’ kind of vibe to it as a good portion of the book is taken up with descriptions of Will and his team’s training for the mission, interspaced with peripheral dramas that ultimately feed into the central storyline. The book is filled with intricate details of military gear, jargon and culture, and survival skills informed by Anderson’s long history in the Marine Corps honing his craft. Ultimately this book is highly recommended for those who like their military fiction detailed and tradecraft heavy.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

The final recommendation is Active Measures by Marc Cameron, the eighth book of his long running Jericho Quinn series. Marc is a former United States Marshal and a New York Times bestselling author, penning the popular Jack Ryan series set in the extended Tom Clancy universe.

The Jericho Quinn series, despite the military background of its central character, is more espionage and spy craft than special operations raids. The latest book sees Quinn and his companions in Havana, Cuba trying to stop a madman with a nuclear missile. The Jericho Quinn books feature a host of real-life bad folks ranging from Russians to Cartel guys going full Bond villain, with increasingly intricate and dastardly plots to destroy the United States and/or do evil. Active Measures can be read as a stand-alone, but there is a lot of fan service written to satisfy long time readers of the series. If your reader likes this book, they can always go back to the beginning to find the origins of this interesting cast of characters.

Have a safe and joyful holiday season and keep reading!

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments above on the novels are his own.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 missions of the military working dog

“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.”
– Robert Crais


The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.

The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.

A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Scout/Patrol dogs

Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Casualty dogs

Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Explosive detection

With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.

No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this Afghanistan veteran could soon be deported

A U.S. Army veteran and green card holder with a felony drug conviction could be deported as soon as this week, his attorney said Jan. 29 after a federal court denied his appeal to remain in the U.S.


Miguel Perez Jr., 39, a Chicago resident who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and recently finished a prison term on a drug conviction, had sought to remain in the U.S., arguing his life would be in danger if he were deported to Mexico, where he has not lived since age 8. A three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument last week.

Perez’s attorney, Chris Bergin, said the case highlights hypocrisy in how the country treats some American military service members.

“If you’re going to put your hand on your hearts every time at a game, you’re going to say thank you for your service and wear American flag lapel pins, and you’re going to criticize football players for taking a knee during the national anthem, it seems that’s all superficial and false patriotism if you’re not caring about an actual military veteran,” Bergin said.

In a statement, Perez’s supporters said Jan. 29 the ruling has left his family “distraught.”

“From the beginning, Miguel has fought his deportation, not only for himself, but in solidarity with other green-card veterans who have been or who are now facing deportation after having served their country in combat,” they said.

Related: A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

Perez, who has two children who are U.S. citizens, is one of many legal permanent residents who served in the U.S. military then confronted the possibility of deportation to their native countries after committing a crime.

Perez said he mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. His military superiors never offered to help him expedite his citizenship, Bergin reiterated in court Jan. 31.

After his military service, Perez sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury.

In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, prosecutors have said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Prosecutors also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction.

Perez said he discovered the citizenship oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his September 2016 release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
File photo. (Photo courtesy of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

When legal residents or people who are here illegally commit crimes, ICE’s standard protocol is to let them serve most of their sentence for the crime in the U.S., then deport them.

Roughly 18,700 legal permanent residents are in the U.S. armed forces, and about 5,000 join every year, according to the Department of Defense.

After oral arguments to the appeals court panel this month, Perez’s mother, Esperanza, fought back tears. In Spanish, she said she could not bear hearing her son’s fate discussed in such callous terms.

“He defended this country, and the same system wants to throw him away like garbage,” she said through a translator. “It’s so sad for me to think if they send him back to Mexico he’d be just another statistic.”

In court, Perez cited the United Nations Convention against Torture, a protection that resembles asylum. Under that international provision, the U.S. agrees not to deport people who are not American citizens or nationals to another country where they could face imminent danger.

Prosecutors rejected the argument that the danger allegedly facing Perez qualifies under the torture provision and asked the judges to affirm the immigration court’s order for removal.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents gear up before a raid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bergin said he has filed a stay on two grounds. One is based on a medical evaluation finding that Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD and his brain injury. The other seeks retroactive citizenship for Perez to when he joined the military in 2001.

Perez and his supporters are also preparing, if necessary, to file an appeal to the full panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit and have asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to grant a pardon to Perez for his criminal conviction, supporters said. If Rauner grants the pardon, it’s not clear how that might affect the deportation case.

Congress should also address the problem facing green card veterans, supporters said.

Bergin hopes somebody at ICE “has a sense of decency and says, ‘Look, we’ve got to credit the service this guy did.’ ”

“Every step of the way, we’ve tried to get somebody to be sympathetic and reasonable,” Bergin said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s new carriers will be hamstrung by this disappointing jet

China is touting its improved aircraft carrier capabilities, but one of the biggest obstacles to having the world’s second-most powerful carrier fleet remains its troubled carrier-based fighter — the J-15 Flying Shark.

Striving to build a blue-water navy suitable for global operations, China expects to have four operational carrier battle groups within the next decade. China already has one active carrier, another undergoing sea trials, and another one in development. Experts speculate that while the first two appear to be limited in their combat capabilities, the third carrier could be a “huge step forward.”


In several state media publications, China cheered its carrier-based fighter jet force for achieving “breakthroughs” since its establishment a little over five years ago. Chinese media said Navy pilots have qualified to take off and land the J-15 fighter on the Liaoning, China’s first and only active aircraft carrier. “An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Wednesday.

The Global Times ran a video Thursday of Chinese J-15s conducting night operations from the deck of the Liaoning carrier.

The J-15 is far from the most suitable aircraft for carrier operations though. Not only is the plane considered too big and too heavy, with an unarmed take-off weight of 17.5 tonnes as compared to the US F/A-18 Super Hornet’s 14.6 tonnes, but it can be rather unreliable. Problems with the aircraft, especially the flight control systems, are believed to be behind several fatal training accidents, the Asia Times reported.

The weight issues really come into play on a ship like the Liaoning, which uses a ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch system. This system — as opposed to steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems used on US carriers — strains the aircraft and tends to force reductions in operational range, payload size, and sortie frequency.

The J-15, a reverse engineered version of a Soviet-era prototype, is rumored to be getting a new engine, which could boost its capabilities, but a new carrier-based fighter will eventually be necessary. China is reportedly considering replacing the fourth-generation fighter jets with a lighter and more capable aircraft. Nonetheless, Chinese military experts expect the J-15 to “remain the backbone of China’s carrier battle groups in the future,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

The J-15 Flying Shark.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the J-15 is the lack of them. As production and deployment rates are low, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army reportedly has only 30-40 of these fighters. The Liaoning needs 24 to form a full combat-ready fighter squadron, and the soon-to-be-commissioned second carrier will need roughly the same amount to stand up a fighter wing.

“As a big power, China needs more carrier-based warplanes to support its naval ambitions, especially with its first home-grown aircraft carrier entering the final phase of sea trials and likely to go into service next year,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told SCMP.

As China works to build up its naval fleet and expand its capabilities, especially those of its carriers, China will need to overcome challenges, such as number of trained pilots, power and propulsion issues, launch system problems, and limited experience with carrier operations.

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

Articles

That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines threw together a crazy mission to rescue a wounded Marine trapped inside the compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode back into the compound.


The situation arose after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, but the insurgents returned a heavy volume of fire when the Marines dismounted. Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.

After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield spotted what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound with his infrared sensors. The Royal Marines quickly devised the plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound. They would recover Ford, who appeared to be severely wounded, and then ride back out.

The men called for nearby NATO assets to assist and American A-10s and a B-1 came in to help. The B-1 kicked off the assault by dropping four JDAMs onto the opposite side of the compound from Ford. According to a report published in War is Boring, the American pilots were shocked by what they saw during the mission.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
Photo: Youtube

“As I passed ahead of one Apache,” an unnamed pilot wrote, “I glanced high left to see a man, leaning over the stubby helicopter wing, unloading his rifle on the enemy. We matched with 30-millimeter and rockets.”

That’s right, the Marines were firing their rifles while strapped to the helicopters.

When the Apaches landed at the fort, there wasn’t enough space for both helicopters at the planned landing zone. So one Apache landed just outside the walls while the other landed inside the compound. The Marines quickly detached themselves and began searching for Ford. When one pair of Marines headed in the wrong direction, an Apache pilot jumped out of his bird to show them the way.

As the A-10s provided fierce covering fire, the Brits found Ford and carried him back to the helicopters. They managed it just in time. At three minutes after landing, the insurgents had recovered enough to begin firing on the parked Apaches. The Marines and pilots got away at five minutes without suffering further casualties.

The Apaches rushed Ford to medical aid before returning to base, barely making it before they ran out of gas. Unfortunately, Ford had died of his wounds sometime before the rescue attempt.

The men involved in the rescue attempt received awards for their valor. One of the pilots involved in the mission wrote a book, “Apache: Inside the Cockpit of the World’s Most Deadly Fighting Machine,” where he detailed his time in Afghanistan and the mission to rescue Lance Cpl. Ford.

Articles

US government places sanctions against Syrian chemists after attack

The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.


In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.

The attack left 87 dead, including many children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun, provoking outrage in the West, which accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible.

The sanctions will freeze all assets in the United States belonging to the 271 individuals on the blacklist, and block any American person or business from dealing with them.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, the SSRC is Syria’s leading scientific research center, with close links to the country’s military.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

“Back in the days when I got injured while serving overseas, the program to recover wasn’t like the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) is now,” explained Capt. David Espinoza, a wounded warrior athlete who is competing at the 2019 Army Trials, March 5-16, 2019.

Espinoza is a light-hearted, Florida-native, and also a Purple Heart recipient who has spent over a decade serving his country. Currently assigned to WTB-Hawaii, he is recovering from a motorcycle accident and receiving care at Tripler Army Medical Center. There he completed seven surgeries and received 26 pins in his left hand.


“The WTB is a great program because the unit has given me time to recover and get ‘back into the fight,'” he said. “And being a part of the WTB has also helped me to recover from my previous deployments.”

Espinoza was first led down the road to recovery in 2007 when the signal officer, a sergeant at the time, was deployed to Iraq. During a night convoy mission, Espinoza’s squad was ambushed by insurgents when his Humvee got hit by an IED and he fractured his left arm and femur.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod, a wounded warrior athlete from Fort Benning gets ready to shoot a bow at archery practice during the 2019 Army Trials.

(Photo by Leanne Thomas)

“I saw a bright light and my life flashed right before me … it was like shuffling a deck of cards,” he said. “The first card was me as a kid … then I recalled my entire life, all the way to current time.”

That experience, he explained, “Was an eye-opener, and it makes me feel grateful for what I have now.”

While recovering from injuries sustained during combat, Espinoza entered the U.S. Army Reserves and said he made a full recovery but went through the experience alone. Now assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit and competing in adaptive sports, Espinoza has the opportunity to heal alongside soldiers who have faced or are going through similar situations.

“It’s an honor to experience this event with other fellow warriors,” Espinoza explained.

The 2018 Pacific Regional Trials was Espinoza’s first adaptive sports competition. There he established a baseline to see where he stands as a competitor.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement … mind, body, and soul,” he said. “This experience has made a big impact on me, and also for my family.”

Now a rookie athlete at the 2019 Army Trials, Espinoza is competing in seven of the 14 sports offered: cycling, powerlifting, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and swimming.

“I’m really looking forward to competing in wheelchair basketball, but one thing I didn’t know is that I’m actually good at cycling,” the athlete explained. “It’s like a mind game and you’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’ve got this,’ because it’s seven laps, and those seven laps take a long time to finish.”

During the Trials, Espinoza, along with nearly 100 other wounded, ill, or injured soldiers and veterans are competing for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, coming June 2019 to Tampa, Florida.

“Hopefully this experience keeps going so I can continue to learn and grow as I take this journey to the next level,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 hilarious ways to welcome the new ‘butter bar’ lieutenant

You never really know what you’re in for when welcoming a new guy to the unit. Sometimes, you get handed a young, clueless private who has no idea what they’re in for. Sometimes, you get an apathetic specialist who’s been in for a minute and they’ll just wiggle right into the flow of things. Sometimes, you get a salty sergeant who’s dead set on making your unit just like their last.

Nobody, however, brings joy to everyone in the ranks quite like a new second lieutenant — and it’s not because everyone is just so excited to see them. It’s because they make for the greatest punching bags in the military.


Literally everyone has a go at the second lieutenant. They’re affectionately called “butter bars,” both because their rank insignia looks like one and because they have about the same value as a stick of butter.

Whether it’s done in good fun or out of spite, it’s your duty to give the new butter bar a hard time. Looking for a little inspiration? Try on these ways of letting your new platoon leader that they’re now one of you.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

“Yeah. We totally run with vests on every day. Didn’t they teach you anything at BOLC?”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

Smoke the hell out of them at PT

When new troops arrive at the unit, you’ll most often meet them for the first time on the PT field. Butter bars have a tendency to make long-winded, elaborate presentations that sound something like, “Hi! My name Lt. FNG and I’m honored to be your new platoon leader!”

Get ’em.

By this point, you and the platoon have a certain, established rhythm for morning PT that the fresh-out-of-OCS lieutenant can’t keep up with. Show no mercy and go a few extra laps around the company area. Your guys will be cool with it as long as they understand the joke, and the new butter bar will be absolutely gassed.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

But if the “exhaust sample” task does work on them… by all means, ask them to give the platoon a hand.

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Send them on a wild goose chase

The age-old tradition of sending the new guy to go find something that totally, 100%, absolutely exists isn’t just for privates. It’s open season for butter bars as well.

They probably won’t fall for the old “get me an exhaust sample” trick — plus, if they did, they’d probably just delegate it down to someone else who would ruin the joke. Try something more creative, like “ask the supply NCO about getting you assigned your new PRYK-E6” if their E-6 platoon sergeant is sitting right there. The NCO will gladly walk them through if it means the potential to pawn the Lt. onto someone else.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

No one is safe from the knife hand.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Introduce them to the actual chain of command

There’s no denying the rank structure. Despite how it plays out, the lowliest second lieutenant technically outranks even the Sergeant Major of the Army. However — and that’s with a huge “however” — that should never be confused with the structure of the chain of command.

If they ever mention that they outrank the battalion sergeant major, don’t interfere — just observe. This will go one of two ways: That Lt. is about to get a boot shoved so far up their ass that they’ll be tasting leather or (and personal experience has proven this to be hilarious) the sergeant major will stay calm and collected as they go and grab the battalion commander. The sgt. major then asks the commander what the f*ck, exactly, is wrong with their new guy. The commander then proceeds to chew their ass out.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Just try to fight every instinct in your body to just let them get lost. The commander won’t look too highly on that.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte)

Let them lead a land nav course

Lieutenants are generally trained to recite answers found in “the book” as they’re written and land navigation is a skill that entirely almost relies on winging it.

Related: Why the ‘Lost Lieutenant’ jokes actually have some merit

But instead of just letting them lead the platoon into danger, establish dominance over them by going to a land nav course that you know inside and out. Let them think that they’re holding the reins while you’re in the background tossing jokes their way and keeping an ever-watchful eye on where you guys are actually heading.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

Remind them that every last drip pan, fire extinguisher, and piece of scrap in the motor pool now belongs to them. Because it does.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Dennis, 1st ABCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

Toss all the paperwork onto their desk

No one wants loads of crap on their hand receipts and now everyone has some poor fool to pawn them off on. You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this — it’s basically their job to handle all of the paperwork while the platoon sergeant worries about training the troops.

For added measure, gather up all of the paperwork in one giant stack and drop it on their desk at once in that way that’s typically reserved for comedy films. Enjoy watching the sorrow build in their eyes when they realize that it’s not a joke and all that paperwork really does need to be done by final formation.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

What good is a family if you can’t throw a little bit of shade at each other?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)

Eventually welcome them in

The military is one big, dysfunctional, family. We joke around with each other all the time, but there’s a time and place for all of that — there’s never time for legitimate hate or cruelty towards another person who raised their right hand.

Once the butter bar has taken their lashings, they can finally be welcomed in as the new platoon leader. Sure, feel free to offer the occasional jab here and there — but keep it all in good fun. The troops genuinely respect the new Lt. if they take it all in stride (or throw even better insults back).

Articles

This former SEAL Team 6 officer just called the VA chief a ‘fellow veteran’ — which he’s not

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke incorrectly identified Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as a “fellow veteran” in a photo Zinke tweeted from Air Force One.


Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, July 25 with President Donald Trump.

 

Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.

Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China is weaponizing capital all over the world

China’s move to boost defense spending has sparked dismay among US officials in recent days, but it is Beijing’s efforts to gain influence that are more worrisome, the secretary of the US Navy said on March 7, 2018.


China’s finance ministry said this weekend that the country’s defense budget will rise 6% to 1.1 trillion yuan or $173 billion. It is the biggest increase in three years and makes China’s defense budget the world’s second-largest — behind only the US.

Chinese state media defended the new budget as proportionate and low. “If calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries,” official English-language newspaper China Daily said.

More: China increases military spending by $175 billion

On March 6, 2018, US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the head of US Pacific Fleet, said the military budget lacked transparency and that China’s “intent is not clearly understood.”

On March 7, 2018, US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — asked about Russian and Chinese activity in relation to the newest US National Security Strategy— echoed those concerns but pointed to a different kind of spending.

“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook, to be very frank with you,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “Not only in the dollar and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological [research and development] work, but what they’re doing around the globe that I know you all are aware of, which is weaponizing capital, to be very frank with you.”

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.)

Spencer pointed to a summer 2017 deal China signed with Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, where Beijing agreed to a 99-year lease to operate the strategically located deep-water port of Hambantota, which is located near important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.

“Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that, and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, ‘These are now ours,'” Spencer told the committee of the deal. “They’re doing that around the globe. So their open checkbook keeps me up at night.”

Also read: China is sick of people stealing its supercomputer technology

Many Sri Lankans were themselves dismayed with the agreement, taking to the streets to protest what they saw as growing Chinese influence in their country. India, which has eyed Chinese infrastructure deals and military activity in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region warily, also objected.

“This is going to be a standing example for the other countries to watch, because China is not Father Christmas, handing out dollar bills. They want return on the money, and they want the money to come within a certain, certified period,” K.C. Singh, former secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in July 2017.

“Is it a model then for future extension of the Chinese strategic footprint?” Singh added. “When … countries can’t return the money, then you grab territory?”

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridors in black. (Map by Lommes)

The port deal was a part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project to link scores of countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe through Chinese-backed railways, shipping routes, and infrastructure projects.

As a part of that effort, China has funded development projects in poorer countries, which it leverages for more advantageous relations or for regional access. The trend has also been called “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Related: Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Hambantota is not the only port deal secured by the Chinese government or a Chinese state-owned company in recent years. Beijing has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win over locals and develop a deep-water port in Gwadar, on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast.

The moves are a departure from China’s usual approach to such foreign projects, but the focus has concerned India and the US, which see Beijing’s investment in Gwadar as part of efforts to expand Chinese naval influence.

 

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
Gwadar port of Pakistan. (Photo by Umargondal)

 

Chinese state firms are also growing their presence in Europe, buying up ports and cargo terminals on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts — including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Belgium.

Chinese state-owned enterprises now control about one-tenth of all European port capacity.

European leaders have become concerned Beijing plans to leverage its financial interests into political clout. Greece, where Chinese influence has grown in recent years, has blocked recent EU efforts to condemn China over its human-rights record and other policies.

US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, speaking alongside Spencer, voiced similar concerns about China.

“The Chinese are playing the long game. They are, as the secretary said, everywhere I go, they’re there,” Neller said. “They’re going and they’re buying airfields and ports to extend their reach … they want to win without fighting.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The touching tribute Korean pilots put together for their fallen

Aviation journalist and expert Ian D’Costa shared a video on Oct. 1, 2018, we had to pass on. This Korean news video, originally published on bemil.chosun.com, loosely translated from Korean as “Military News”, is a dignified and heart-wrenching tribute to South Korea’s repatriated fallen soldiers from the Korean Conflict.

On Oct. 1, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in cancelled the traditional South Korean military anniversary parade in favor of holding a ceremony for the arrival of remains of South Korean soldiers killed during the Korean conflict. The remains were repatriated in early 2018 from North Korea, flown to Hawaii’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for DNA identification and, once verified as South Korean servicemen, scheduled to return to South Korea for formal military burial.


D’Costa managed to find the Korean in-flight newsreel video of a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15K Slam Eagle of the 11th Fighter Wing from Daegu, South Korea joining other aircraft including FA-50 Fighting Eagles of the 8th Fighter Wing at Wonju, South Korea as they escort the remains flight in a ROKAF C-130H transport.

The newsreel video published on bemil.chosun.com shows an F-15K Slam Eagle crew fly right wing formation alongside the remains flight C-130H and, with perfect military precision, render a final in-flight salute before dropping back to fly wedge formation while escorting the aircraft. It’s a heart-wrenching moment to see.

www.youtube.com

The video goes on to show the precise and reverent loading of the remains onboard the C-130K flight in Hawaii for return to South Korea. The remains repatriation flight was escorted by two ROKAF F-15K Slam Eagles and two FA-50 Fighting Eagles.

The dignified gestures attendant the handling of military remains is an important ritual in observing the personal loss to families of fallen servicemen. In this case, the rituals are also a historic part of the slow healing process between the two fractured Koreas.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

The aerial funeral procession in flight near South Korea as it returns from Hawaii.

(bemil.chosun.com photo)

According to several sources including CNN, South Korea suffered 217,000 military and a staggering “1,000,000” civilian casualties during the entire Korean Conflict which began on June 25, 1950, and continued to varying degrees until April 27, 2018, when talks between North and South Korea brokered by the United States brought an end to the conflict. According to reports, 7,704 U.S. servicemen remain unaccounted for following the end of the Korean Conflict.

Thanks to Ian D’Costa of The Tactical Air Network, Sightline Media Group and We Are The Mighty for letting us know about this story.

Top image: screenshot from video published at bemil.chosun.com.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service
Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.