Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.
That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.
The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.
Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.
Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.
The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.
Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.
That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.
Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.
Grace Hopper, WAVE mathematician, assigned to Harvard University to work on the computation project with a Mark I computer, was instrumental in ushering in the computer age. Hopper went on to become a Rear Admiral, held a Ph.D. from Yale, and tried to enlist during WWII but was rejected because of her age. As a computer scientist, Hopper made significant strides in coding languages. Here’s a profile of her life and how she directly impacted yours.
Who was she?
The fact that you’re able to read any of these words on your device is thanks, in part, to Grace Hopper, one of the most formidable American computer scientists. Serving as a Navy Rear Admiral, Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Her impact on our modern lives is significant and nothing to be trifled with; let’s take a look at how Hopper directly impacted everything we do today.
In 1934, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in math from Yale. Her dissertation was published the same year. By 1941, she was an associate professor at Vassar.
Hopper’s great grandfather was an admiral in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. At the onset of WWII, Hopper tried to enlist in the Navy but was turned away because of her age. At 34, she was too old, and her height to weight ratio was too low for Navy standards. Hopper’s enlistment was also denied based on the criteria that her job as a mathematician was valuable to the war effort.
Undeterred, Hopper took a leave of absence from Vassar in 1943 and then joined the United States Navy Reserve. She was one of several women who volunteered to serve in WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Service), as part of the US Naval Reserve.
What were her contributions?
Hopper had to receive an exemption to enlist because she was fifteen points underweight. After training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smooth College, Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. There, she and Howard Aiken co-authored three papers on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as Mark I.
Mark I was used during the war effort during the latter part of WWII. It helped compute and print mathematical tables and directly contributed to the Manhattan Project. Specific sets of problems were run through the Mark I to help create simulation programs to study the atomic bomb’s implosion.
Despite her contributions, Hopper was denied a transfer to the Navy at the end of the war because of her “advanced” age of 38.
Hopper moved on to the private sector and set at work recommending the development of a new programming language that would entirely use English words. She was told that this was impossible since computers didn’t understand English and it took three years for the idea to be accepted. That was the beginning of COBOL – Common Business Oriented Language, a computer language for data processors. During this time, Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1973.
What was her impact?
Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve as a commander in 1966 at the age of 60. She was then recalled to active duty in August 1967 for what started as a six-month assignment but turned into an indefinite appointment. Then in 1971, she retired again … only to be called back once more to active duty. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt presided over her promotion in 1973.
A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives led to her promotion in 1983 to commodore by special appointment from President Reagan. Hopper remained on active duty for several years after the mandatory retirement age. IN 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral, and Hopper became one of the Navy’s few female admirals.
Admiral Hopper’s career spanned more than four decades, and she retired in 1986. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the DoD.
At the time of her retirement, Admiral Hopper was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy. To commemorate her 42 years of service, Hopper’s retirement ceremony was held aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. Admiral Hopper is interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
There’s an old USMC saying, “If the Corps wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.”
While the phrase is meant as a joke, when analyzed further, it becomes clear that “the most difficult job in the Corps,” or being a military spouse, requires a variety of attributes if you want to cultivate a successful partnership.
If the Marine Corps was responsible for issuing spouses, these are the five attributes they’d have.
1. Spouses would come from military families
The Marine Corps is well-known for issuing Gulf War-era Army gear and your new life partner is no exception. Get ready to sign for and receive your 45-year-old Army brat that supply is going to issue you.
They may not look all shiny and brand new, but what they lack in aesthetics they more than make-up for in years of proven, valuable experience.
2. Maximum capacity of three offspring
Marines are trained to plan for the worst — to have a backup plan for their backup plan. That mentality is just exactly what issued spouses would be accustomed to, which is why having a primary, secondary, and tertiary legacy is appropriate.
Any more and the situation would seem redundant, any less and you’re playing with fire.
3. Financial accountability
In all honesty, junior enlisted Marines are not well-known for their financial foresight. Given the high tempo training cycles, their chances of overlooking a few things are close to inevitable.
That’s why every Marine-issued spouse will have a degree in accounting from the Armed Forces University. You can rest easy, Marine, while your money is managed by the one you’ve been told to trust the most.
Carry the two and — he spends way too much on Copenhagen long cut Rip-its.
4. Diplomatic superiority
Marines have a storied history of high morale, foul mouths, and dirty minds. This translates to acting a fool at parties which, unfortunately, can land those same devil dogs in some hot water. Betrothing a Marine-suppressor in the form of a life companion that is classy AF is essential.
Changing duty stations regularly is a part of life for any Marine and moving with a family can be stressful, to say the least. That is why all issued spouses will come equipped with the same capabilities of USMC Logistics/Embarkation Warrant Officer and, if you’re lucky, the same sweet disposition.
Words matter. And sometimes well-meaning words can sting. It’s been almost 2 decades since I said, “I do” and entered the military family — and its rather unique lifestyle.
Here is my list of the 4 biggest offenders in the “things never to say to a military spouse” category.
4. “You knew what you were getting into.”
Actually, most of us did not. I would go as far as to say that even a military brat who grew up surrounded by the culture didn’t know exactly what it feels like to send their spouse off to war. We didn’t know what it would be like to move our own children across the country multiple times or to sacrifice our career goals for another person’s military service. It’s kind of like having your own kid — you can read all the books and take all the classes, but nothing truly prepares you for the moment when you’re the one rocking a sick child to sleep in the middle of the night.
This is mostly a veiled attempt to say, “stop complaining, you signed up for this.” I get it. No one likes a complainer. But venting is healthy and we all need to get things off our chest from time to time.
3. “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Embracing the suck is sometimes a necessity. But frankly, a military spouse doesn’t need a reminder of how to do this. Just because he/she puts up a tough front doesn’t mean they aren’t scared, upset, worried, or a combination of all three at times. It’s normal to miss home. It’s normal to be scared about a deployment. It’s normal to be overwhelmed with everything.
If your milspouse friend is becoming isolated or seems to be negative constantly, it’s perfectly fine to reach out and offer resources or just show up and take them to get coffee. Wanting to help is wonderful, but telling someone going through something very real and challenging to “suck it up” is rarely helpful. Tough love in this situation is mostly just lacking in the “love” department.
Yes. Yes, you could. I didn’t marry my husband because I wanted to be a military spouse, I married him because I love him. I haven’t stayed with him for 19 years because I adore the retirement check, I stay because I love him. I didn’t have two children with him because I think the term “military brat” is cool, we had kids because we love one another and wanted to grow our family.
Military families love each other, just like any other family does. And when we love someone, we do things for that person. Do you love your spouse? Then, yes. You could do it, too.
1. “Thank you for YOUR service.”
I don’t know why this one bothers me so much — maybe it’s just me. I know where the sentiment is coming from and, on some level, I appreciate people who recognize that spouses and children also face challenges due to military service. Regardless, the word “service” always makes me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t step on those yellow footprints. I have not deployed. I haven’t sacrificed my own health for this country. I did not agree to die in defense of it.
So, for me, the word ‘service,’ while well-meaning, seems off. When a kind stranger says this to me, I thank them and gently say, “thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure to support my husband in his service.”
This week’s Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran David Tenenbaum, the creator of Honor Media and Heroes Linked.
From a young age, Tenenbaum wanted to help others in need. Inspired by his father, a Holocaust survivor liberated by US forces, he grew up with the stories of seeing good people standing against great injustice. Like the men who freed his father, he wanted to follow in their footsteps, to do good for others.
His journey began in 2001, at Officer Candidate School a month before 9/11.
Tenenbaum served in the Air Force for six years as an Aircraft Instructor Navigator, leading stateside and overseas operations for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. He left the service during a downsizing period to begin a new journey, but the Great Recession made it a rough transition.
Moving to Los Angeles, Tenenbaum pursued a new profession direction: media production. He created Honor Media, a nonprofit that supports other Veteran nonprofits with media production, distribution, photography and social media support. He is also the director of Heroes Linked, an online platform that pairs Veterans with mentors to help them get to the next step in their post-military journey.
Because of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard’s perseverance and focus, a platoon was able to hang on during one of the Vietnam War’s fiercest battles.
Two years after earning two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, Jimmie Earl Howard arrived in Vietnam in April 1966, when he was 36 years old. The Burlington, Iowa, native enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 after completing a year at the University of Iowa.
Here’s a look back at GySgt Howard’s career and what he and his platoon managed to accomplish.
June 13, 1966: Staff Sgt. Howard’s platoon, which includes just 15 other Marines and two Navy hospital corpsmen from C Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are helicoptered inside enemy-controlled Hiep Duc Valley in northern Southern Vietnam. Their landing point, Nui Vu Hill, is a 1,500-foot observation point. Known on military maps as Hill 488, it would quickly become rechristened as “Howard’s Hill.”
June 15, 1900: An Army SF team reports that a 300-person North Vietnamese Army battalion is moving toward Hill 488. Darkness is falling, and there’s no time to alert Howard or pull out the platoon.
2100: American personnel shoot a Viet Cong scout just 12 feet from their position, provoking a fire barrage that wounds one Marine. Howard pulls her men into a tight circle just 20 yards in diameter.
A lull in the firefight is short-lived. The NVA returns with reinforced lines that attack Howard and his unit with gunfire, grenades, mortars, and machine guns. Howard moves in between his young Marines, encouraging them, redirecting when necessary, and helping them pinpoint their targets. Despite his advice, every single Marine and both Navy corpsmen are wounded. Two are killed in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The enemy falls back – temporarily.
Howard uses the fall back to radio Lt. Col. Arthur J. Sullivan at nearby Chu Lai. He tells Sullivan, “You have to get us out of here.”
But there was no rescue force that could reach Howard and his men that night.
From deep in the valley comes the voice of the enemy. “Marines, you die in an hour.”
One young Marine looks at Howard and asks if he can respond. Howard tells him to yell anything you like. Soon, the entire platoon is shouting at the enemy with the worst schoolyard taunts. Later Howard would recall that when his unit started laughing at the enemy, something shifted for the NVA soldiers. “I think it had a chilling effect on them,” he recalled.
For five hours, the NVA alternates between small probes and full-on assaults of the entrenched platoon. Howard is hit in the back with grenade fragments and can’t move his legs. He continues to drag himself around the perimeter to encourage his platoon and distribute ammunition.
Soon the grenade supply is gone, so Howard issues one of the most basic military strategies – he tells his Marines to throw rocks at the enemy. The NVA mistake the sound of rocks as grenades and inadvertently expose themselves to single-shot fire.
At 0300, the radio dies. Commanders in Chu Lai fear that Howard and his Marines are gone. Three hours later, Howard sounds Reveille, as if his unit hadn’t been in a firefight all night. Demoralized, the NVA troops begin to fall back.
Dawn comes to the valley, and that’s when, finally, the helicopters start to arrive. By now, the surviving Marines have only eight rounds of ammunition between them, and they’re still under sporadic fire. Howard waves off the first of the rescue aircraft, and one gets shot down. It takes another five hours for a full relief force to fight its way from the hill’s base to where Howard and his Marines are on top. When the rescue arrives, just three Marines can walk without assistance. Six out of the 18 are dead.
Three Marines and one corpsman are awarded Navy Crosses, and 13 Marines receive Silver Stars. A year later, Howard received the Medal of Honor. The ceremony is attended by eleven of the surviving Marines.
Howard retired from the Marines in 1977 after serving 27 years in the Marine Corps. He died on Nov. 12, 1993. In 1998, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton named one of three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard in honor of GySgt. Howard and his courage in Vietnam.
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) can be a debilitating condition and often referred to as the silent killer of veterans. Alarmed by the 22 veteran suicides per day statistic, Jake Clark founded Save A Warrior, a warrior-led healing experience to save active duty service members, veterans, and first responders from committing suicide and improve their lives.
In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast Jake Clark and Raychad Vannatta—Save A Warrior’s executive director—stop by to discuss their mission and tactics for curbing PTS.
The horrors of war are probably only fully appreciated by those who have served their countries in battles on land, at sea, or in the air. Nearly every history buff has watched Saving Private Ryan or read Unbroken, from which we glean a taste of what it might be like to kill or be killed for a cause–or to simply survive.
It’s all too easy to forget about the pure hell and random misfortunes that men and women are subjected to so that the rest of us can live free and safe. Sometimes, historical accounts from people who have experienced the burden of combat help us understand the sacrifices those soldiers and others have made. I am in possession of photocopies from a journal written by one of my wife’s relatives, a soldier who served at the end of World War I. He died in France on Armistice Day — November 11, 1918. He may well have been the last American killed in the Great War.
Private Joseph Sommers was born in Springfield, Illinois. After boot camp at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, he was sent to fight for America and her allies on the front lines in France during the summer of 1918. What you are about to read are excerpts from Private Sommers’s journal: The soldier was my wife’s great-great uncle. Most of the spelling and grammar is presented as written, though some capitalization and periods have been added to improve readability. The images described within the 5000-word manuscript and the emotions they elicit might leave an indelible impression upon your mind, heart, and soul–they are deeply affecting.
While you read the following, try to place yourself in the French countryside walking along battle-scarred roads on a journey situated somewhere between beautiful and truly horrific. Become the imaginary comrade of Private Joseph Sommers, Company C, 124th Machine Gun Battalion, 23rd Division. A young soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that others might live free.
Left Camp Logan 5/4/18. Sunday. We always leave on Sunday.
Arrived in Hoboken, NY. 5/16/18. Sailed on SS Mount Vernon ship, formerly the pride of the Kaiser. Ship very crowded. Mess was bad. 132nd Infantry Wolves hogged the boat.
Arrived in Brest, France on 5/24/18 and debarked.
5/26/18 Harbor filled with transports. A beautiful site coming into the harbor. Hills studded with guns. Airplanes and dirigibles guard harbor from subs. Very hot, overcoats on.
Oisemont 5/29/18. Arrived at our present camp. We are expected to be called to the front most any time. Anti-aircraft guns fired at airplanes. White puffs of shrapnel. Elusive planes. The rumble of guns very plainly heard, never ceasing, 25 miles back of the line. Bombing of towns close by continues nightly. I expect ours to be bombed most any time.
6/18/18 Going to machine gun school today for 12 days. Boche [German] planes, 10 in one bunch, 11 another bunch. Antiaircraft guns firing, very few hits made. We are now attached to the British Army.A visit to the lines on the night of July 3. We approached within 3 miles of the front line. Shells began to burst and I wished at the moment that our helmets was large as umbrellas. It is surprising how small you can make yourself when shells are bursting all around you. Ammunition dump struck by airplane bomb near Amiens. The whole heavens lighted with red flare, a wonderful thing.
7/7/18 An observation balloon high in the air, a cigar shaped affair with elephant ears, sways with the wind. It is held in position by a big cable which is attached to a motor car weighing 6 tons. The cable winds around a drum, and the balloon is either brought down or rises in the sky. The observer cuts loose his parachute, it drops. It fails to open like an umbrella. He is finished.
7/20/18 A doctor was found at the operating table standing over a patient in the act of operating on him when the gas struck both and they died. The graveyard at Biere was shelled so much by the Germans that the caskets and bodies and tombstones were scattered all over. There are quite a few soldiers graves here, from all regiments.
7/29/18 Our home in the woods was visited by Fritz’s [German] planes. He dropped about 12 bombs, luckily no one was hit. I would rather dodge 100 shells then hear one bomb whistle through the air.
8/7/18 Arrived at our positions at 12:45 A.M. On our way to this place we met some trucks and ambulances loaded with wounded and gassed, also many wounded walking to the first aid station.
8/7/18, 4:30 A.M. The British opened a terrible barrage. The sound was deafening. The shells were bursting through the air with such speed as to liken the sound of Niagara Falls. Previous to that time Fritz had been sending over gas shells by the hundreds, Mustard Gas which is one of the worst gases Jerry [Germans] uses. We had to wear our gas mask for over two hours.
9/18/18 The trees split as under their naked trunks against the skyline. Nature itself seems to be dead. In that dreary space not a living thing moves, save an occasional bird. “Dead Man’s Hill” is close by. The bones, skulls of men still thickly cover the ground. The rats are tame enough in our dugout to eat out of your hand. They sit and wink at you.
9/24/18 Turned in all our surplus stuff in the A.M. We are now traveling light. The Stunt is near being pulled off and by the looks of things it is going to be a big one. The Germans dropped some Gas and High Explosives pretty close today. We are bringing up ammunition in great quantities. We are waiting for zero hour.
9/26/18, 2:15 A.M. Gen. Jack Pershing and our Captain bid us God Speed and good luck. Up and among them soon. We opened our barrage which lasted for one hour starting at 5:30 AM. We hopped over the top amid the hell of machine gun bullets and ducking big shells. We saw plenty of dead lying on the battlefield which had been a battlefield for four different battles.
9/27/18 We advanced three and half miles yesterday. The Germans left in a hurry. The water was still in the stoves that they were making coffee. Water was still hot. The Meuse River is about 800 yards in front of us.
10/2/18 Great artillery this A.M. on both sides. It was a little stronger than the usual morning song. Heard tonight that Bulgaria and Austria had surrendered.
10/5/18 Still in the line. Artillery still hammering away and also some machine gun firing.
10/9/18 Orders to move forward. Fired a machine gun barrage and orders came to remove guns and seek shelter in a deep dugout. Still waiting for orders to go forward.
10/10/18 Still in reverse. Got mail from Sister. Beautiful day, sun shining. The sky was full of airplanes, never saw so many. The sky was full of them just like birds. Have been in the line, for five weeks now. Still looking every day for relief.
This entry on October 10, 1918 was Private Sommers’s last. He died on November 11, Armistice Day, during an attack near Bougainville, France. While the armistice took effect at 11 a.m. on November 11, family lore has it that Sommers was actually killed later that day. I’ve thought about trying to help prove he was in fact the last American killed in the Great War. I struggle with whether that matters.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has cost more money than any weapons system in history, but a bright new idea from the same company could see its best bits gutted and slapped into the world’s deadliest combat jet: The F-22.
The F-22’s development started in the 1980s, when computers took up much more space. That didn’t stop Lockheed’s engineers from building a 62-foot-long, 45-foot-wide twin-engine fighter jet with the radar signature of a marble.
The F-22 even kicked off a new category of fighter. Instead of air superiority, like the F-15, F-22s wear the crown of air dominance, as it can dogfight with the best of them or pick them off from long range before it’s even seen.
The F-35 benefits from stealth in much the same way, but with a smaller frame, smaller weapons loadout, and a single engine, it mainly works as shorter range missions with a focus on hunting down and destroying enemy air defenses, rather than aerial combat.
An F-22A Raptor (top) from the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., fly over the Emerald coast Sept. 19, 2012.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
The F-35 can do this much better than the F-22 because it’s got newer technology and compact computing and sensors all around it.
So Lockheed has proposed, as Defense One reported, putting the F-35s brains, its sensors and computers, inside an F-22 airframe for an ultimate hybrid that would outclass either jet individually.
Instead of a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that the US has earmarked hundreds of millions for and which strains the imagination of even the most plugged in military planner as the world hasn’t even adjusted to fifth generation fighters — why not combine the best parts of demonstrated concepts?
“That can be done much, much more rapidly than introducing a new design,” David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who now leads the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Defense One.
But what seems like a giant windfall for the US, having on hand two jets that could be combined into the best the world’s ever seen, could actually upstage the F-35, which has only just now started to make deliveries to US allies.
The US will spend a solid trillion dollars on the F-35 program, and will export it to NATO and Asian allies, but while the jet solves a lot of problems around modern air combat, it’s not a one-size-fits all solution.
In that way, an F-22/F-35 hybrid could preserve the best parts of both jets in a new and powerful package that could put the US miles beyond anything its adversaries can touch, but in doing so, it could kill the F-35 before it even gets a chance to prove itself.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.
Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.
By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.
Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”
“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”
Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.
But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.
“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”
Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.
One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.
To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.
“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”
He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.
“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”
Air Force pararescuemen are among the elite when it comes to special operations. Their main task is to rescue pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. It’s never been an easy task, but at least the tech has improved since World War II. Back then, a pilot had to walk back to friendly lines – a very long walk.
Amphibious planes, like the PBY Catalina and HU-16 made rescue possible, but you needed enough water – or a strip of land – for them to land and take off. The same went for other planes, even the L-5, the military designation for the Piper Cub.
Insert the helicopter. They first appeared in a small capacity during the Korean War before they really came of age during Vietnam, proving to be the search-and-rescue asset America needed.
Here’s a look some legendary choppers that carried out that mission.
1. Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant
The first helicopter to become a legend for search and rescue was the Sikorsky HH-3. The H-3 airframe was first designed for the Navy to carry out anti-submarine warfare, and was called the Sea King. But the size of the chopper lead the Air Force to buy some as heavy transports. They were eventually equipped with 7.62mm Miniguns and used to rescue pilots, with some seeing service in Desert Storm and the last ones serving until 1995.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-3 has a top speed of 177 miles per hour, and could carry up to 25 passengers or 15 litters, plus a crew of four and two attendants.
2. Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly/Pave Low
The Air Force didn’t stop with the Jolly Green. Eventually, the even larger HH-53 was procured, and called the Super Jolly Green Giant. They also took part in search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War, but after that war, the HH-53s were upgraded into the Pave Low configuration, making them capable of operating at night and bad weather. They also became used as special operations transports. The last Pave Lows were retired in 2008.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the latest version of the Pave Low has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, an un-refueled range of 690 miles, and a crew of six.
3. Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk
The Air Force though, was looking for more search-and-rescue assets – mostly because they only bought 41 of the Super Jolly Green Giants. The HH-60G is primarily tasked with the combat search and rescue role, and it usually carries .50-caliber machine guns to protect itself. Like the Pave Low, the Pave Hawk can carry out missions at night or day. The HH-60G is currently serving.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that a total of 99 Pave Hawks serve in the active Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. The Pave Hawk has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of four.
4. Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter
The H-60 airframe has been a mainstay of all five armed services, so much so that the replacement for the HH-60G is another H-60. In this case, the HH-60W is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60M Blackhawk.
According to materialsprovided by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the HH-60W has a combat radius of 195 nautical miles, and is equipped with new displays to reduce the air crew’s workload, and to help the pararescue jumpers do their job more efficiently. The Air Force plans to buy 112 HH-60Ws to replace the 99 HH-60Gs currently in service.
In short, when a pilot goes down, the assets are now there to pull him out, and to keep him from becoming a guest in a 21st century Hanoi Hilton.
The day my husband swore in to the US Marine Corps, his veteran grandfather gave me a book that had belonged to his late wife: “The Marine Corps Wife,” published in 1955.
This marked the first of many sources I came across in my quest to figure out Military Spouse 101; as a new, eager (and, frankly, naive) military wife, I was desperate to *prepare* myself for the life that lay ahead of me.
I was met with (what I believed to be) a veritable charcuterie of articles and forums — but as the years went by, I noticed that there was something missing. The spread was inadequate, repetitive, and at times, toe-curlingly tacky; a little more big box store than French boutique, if you will.
There’s a slew of contemporary literature out there for the prospective military bride, but among the twee messages about “stages of deployment” and care packages and (yawn) PCS season, there are myriad mil-nuances that your average milspouse blogger will omit.
The truth is, there’s a delicate disconnect between the star-spangled blogs and real-life immersion in military culture; the too long/didn’t read version is, quite simply, that military life is not real life.
No one — no musty tome or cheery modern blogger —quite prepared me for this.
Granted, I’ve drunk my fair share of military Kool-Aid (and — yikes — tap water) in the relatively short time my husband and I have been married, but I’m here to tell you about the subtext, the small-print: some of the things you don’t hear about military life.
1. It’s not glamorous.
Imagine: Laundry that smells worse than Lake Bandini, dowsing your true love’s blistered feet in hydrogen peroxide, and the smell of MRE farts. And I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of deployments, I think of cheap wine, popcorn for dinner, and record-breaking Netflix marathons (shout-out to me for slaying six seasons of “Lost” in a month).
Even the movie-montage-worthy highlights are largely unspectacular. I’ll take all the flack that comes my way for admitting this, but farewell ceremonies before deployments are, honestly, rather tedious; imagine a lot of standing around for several irksome hours while bags are loaded and fed-up children cry.
Homecomings happen at relatively short notice, rarely do things go according to plan, and there’s always those awkward hours of families standing around with bedazzled signs, twiddling their thumbs. There’s the heartbreaking sight of junior enlisted troops trudging off to the barracks without anyone to greet them, the readjustment phase that no clipart-laden pamphlet can prepare you for, and work begins as usual within an obscenely short window of time.
It’s worth it — it’s always worth it — but trust me, nothing about military life is glamorous.
2. Your spouse’s job affects your social life.
Ah, the mother of all military spouse debates: does your husband’s rank determine your social life?!
Unpopular opinion: yes. Yes, it does. A military spouse’s life is at least somewhat affected by their significant other’s job. And yes, it’s as asinine and frustrating as it sounds.
By this, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that there are ranks among spouses —even my quaint 1950’s wife manual states as much, for goodness’ sake — and the (perceived) dichotomy between officers’ spouses and enlisted spouses only exists if one allows it to.
Lore of spouse’s “wearing” rank is, more often that not, just that: social myth. That’s not to say that wives who refer to “our” promotion or bluster when they aren’t saluted don’t exist, but these rare prima donnas are best left to stew in their own little worlds.
We military spouses do, however, have to accept that our significant other’s job will have some degree of influence over our social life. Fraternization rules dictate who service-members can and cannot be friends with, and therefore, socializing as a couple can get a little thorny. We learn to accept that it’s at least expected that we’ll make an effort with the spouses of our husband’s chain of command (I consider myself to be enormously blessed in that I ended up making some seriously fabulous friends this way).
We also become accustomed to pasting on a smile and being ultra-nice to the people our partner tells us to be pleasant to, even when we’re cranky and would rather not be a circus monkey, thank you very much.
3. It’s seriously old-fashioned.
Sorry, not sorry, y’all: military life is pretty archaic. The question of how to solve this is a much bigger one than I can give credence to, so, for now, I’ll stick with a few illuminating personal examples.
Recently, I took a vacation by myself because my husband had to work through the weekend. This simple endeavor was met with pure shock in dozens of my peers: to think, a married woman might travel to a new place on her own. Pass the smelling salts!
At the ripe old age of 26, no single group of people has ever been so interested in my reproductive health or family planning methods — not even my grandparents, and trust me, they are thirsty for grand-babies. Turns out, there’s an unspoken timeline in military marriages, and after a certain point — generated by some vague algorithm involving your age and the amount of time you’ve been married — people feel no shame in asking unsolicited questions.
I’ll also never forget how I read a three-page list of guidelines for wives of Marines attending the annual USMC birthday ball; highlights included a friendly reminder to “remember: this is not about you,” and a subsequent series of commandments forbidding everything to include cleavage, talking before one’s servicemember, and being afraid of utensils. Bless this lady’s heart; the piece was punctuated with a reminder to “HAVE FUN!!”
I wish someone had at least forewarned me of this before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed a thing — I like, like like him, guys — but this retrograde aspect of the military is something that I do wish people talked about more openly. Stay tuned for the book to follow.
4. It’s freaking weird.
There are endless quirks to life on a military base; granted, you become accustomed to them fairly quickly, but to an outsider, it’d be pretty easy to see why most people inside the military community refer to it as a “bubble.”
For example, when you live on a military base, gone are the days when you can roll out of your car and into the grocery store in your favorite Spongebob pajamas; there’s a dress code, ma’am, and you’ll be kicked out if you don’t stick to it. You get used to passing gas stations for tanks, helicopters passing overheard stopping your conversation in its tracks, and speed limits that seem more adequately designed for tortoises. You stand to attention (yes, even as a civilian) for colors twice a day. You notice the coded badges pinned to people’s collars, and you understand what they mean.
It’d take a real Scrooge to hate all these strange subtleties, though; it just becomes part of life that, when you’re extracted from it, is simply a little bit kooky.
5. This is a job that your spouse can’t escape from.
Now, when I come home from work, I have the luxury of becoming real-life Amy the moment I clock out. My husband? Not so much.
Servicemembers are paid by rank, not by the total amount of hours worked (which is arguably criminal if you look at the military pay rate, especially for junior enlisted ranks). Thus, they’re never “off the clock.”
This bleeds into everyday life, even when they’re not working. They’re never not a Marine, a soldier, a sailor, or an airman.
If I could only take back the number of hours I’ve lost waiting for my husband to get his weekly haircut, I could probably take a short sabbatical with them. He shaves every morning that he has to go out in public (save for the cheeky vacation scruff of 2017, RIP). He receives work-related phone calls at all hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacations are a precarious endeavor that are dictated by ops temp o, deployments, and leave blocks — not simply a whim and accumulated hours.
Furthermore, the military life whittles at the character of the person you married. In my case, this has been all positive; my husband has truly blossomed since he became an active duty Marine, and I wouldn’t trade any of the lost hours (or facial hair) for this immaculately-sculpted person.
Regardless, cheesy stories aside, no-one ever tells you that the job will mold the human you wed in ways you weren’t anticipating.
6. It does take a specific type of person to be a military spouse.
In the beginning, I naively thought that marriage would be easy (that was my first mistake).
The second, larger mistake was ardently believing that anyone could be successfully married to a service-member if they wanted to. I truly believed that grit and love were the only necessary components of a lasting military marriage.
Now, I look at long-term military spouses with nothing less than awe; to weather decades as a military spouse is a truly incredible feat.
You have to be tolerant. You have to be flexible. You have to be resilient. You have to be extroverted, or at least sociable enough to fool all the pools of new people you’re thrown in with on a regular basis. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to your career — because fulfilling, military-spouse-proof, work-from-home jobs don’t grow on trees (whatever Susan’s pyramid scheme would have you believe). You have to be capable enough to manage a household single-handedly, but humble enough to be sidelined in social situations.
Could I do it? I’m not sure; time will tell.
What I am sure of is that military couples who manage to maintain strong, healthy relationships over long periods of time deserve unadulterated respect.
The bottom line? Military life is a life of sacrifice, however large or small, for servicemembers and their families.
Admitting this is not martyrdom, it’s an admission of truth in a world that encourages marriage without making it known that civilian wellbeing is not a priority.
Ultimately, I think if we talked about this elephant in the room, instead of laughing at it and labeling it a “dependa,” we’d see some real change in military family culture.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A top Ford executive implied on Nov. 25, 2019, that Tesla’s video showing its new Cybertruck beating an F-150 in a tug-of-war might not have been completely fair.
“Hey @elonmusk send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” Sunny Madra, who leads Ford X, the automaker’s mobility-ventures lab, said on Twitter. Not long after, Tesla’s billionaire CEO accepted the challenge, saying “bring it on.”
On Nov. 21, 2019, as part of a laser-filled reveal that didn’t always go to plan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went out of his way to take shots at Ford and other automakers.
“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” he said.
Ford was quick to fight back.
“We’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do,” a Ford representative told Business Insider.
Madra’s tweet appears to be the first time since the Tesla reveal that a Ford executive has publicly discussed the Cybertruck. Musk responded to the Ford executive’s challenge on Nov. 25, 2019: “Bring it on,” he said.
For its part, Ford has big plans for its own electric-truck fleet.
Earlier this year, Ford showed off an electric F-150 prototype that handily towed 1 million pounds of train cars for 1,000 feet. (For context, a properly configured Ford F-150 pickup truck can tow 13,200 pounds.)
It’s not clear whether Tesla will take Madra up on the offer of a test, which could be the first of its kind for the nascent electric-vehicle industry — and certainly a treat for automotive fans.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.