Five days into the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit women, one female Marine has washed out and one remains.
Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for the command, told Military.com that two women, a staff sergeant and a corporal checked in Aug. 9 at the command’s headquarters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and began the first 19-day phase of assessment and selection on Aug. 11.
The staff sergeant washed out of the course the following day during a timed ruck march, Mannweiler said. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
Both the corporal and the staff sergeant came from administrative military occupational specialties, Mannweiler said. He did not disclose their identities or ages.
Mannweiler said he couldn’t say how many started the AS class for operational security reasons, but noted that 32 Marines, including the female staff sergeant, have departed the course so far.
The first phase of assessment and selection tests physical fitness and a range of aptitudes to ensure Marines are physically and mentally prepared for what will be 10 months of intensive follow-on training to become Marine Raiders. Alongside physical training, Marines receive classroom instruction in land navigation skills, MARSOC and special operations history, and nutrition and fitness.
In January, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, called AS Phase 1 a holistic profile for the Marines who qualify to enter the training pipeline.
Military.com broke the news in March that a female staff sergeant had been accepted for AS, just months after a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter had required all military services to open special operations jobs and other previously closed fields to women.
Osterman said then that MARSOC leadership had leaned into the new reality, reaching out to all eligible female Marines through the command’s recruiting arm to give them the opportunity to apply.
The current AS phase is set to conclude Aug. 22. If the female corporal in AS can make it through this phase, she will enter a second, more secretive three-week AS phase. Following that is MARSOC’s individual training course, which covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and more over the course of nine intensive months.
Those who wash out of AS have up to two chances to re-enter the pipeline, Mannweiler said, as long as they have enough time left on their contracts and until their next promotion, and the command has enough boat spaces to accommodate them.
While MARSOC recruiters have received interest from other female Marines, the command is not currently processing any other applications from women, Mannweiler said.
Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.
The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.
The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.
“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”
The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.
Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.
The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.
The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.
The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.
Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.
Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.
On Mar. 28, 2019, the Air Force Global Strike Command, that manages the U.S. bombers, ordered a “safety stand-down” of the Lancer fleet.
“During a routine inspection of the B-1B drogue chute system, potentially fleet-wide issues were identified with the rigging of the drogue chute. It appears to be a procedural issue and is unrelated to the previous problem with egress system components. As a precautionary measure, the commander directed a holistic inspection of the entire egress system. The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft. As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight,” said an official statement released by the Command on the very same day.
The drogue chute is part of the B-1B emergency egress system that relies on ACES II ejections seats, hatches in the upper side of the fuselage through those the seats are ejected from the aircraft and the drogue chutes, used to put the seat in the proper position before the main parachute deploys.
The safety stand-down was issued after the U.S. Air Force had already grounded its Lancer fleet in June last year, following an in-flight emergency on a Dyess Air Force Base’s B-1B with the 7th Bomb Wing, on May 1, 2018: the heavy bomber was on a training mission when a serious engine fire erupted near the right wing root. There were fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. All but one was extinguished by taking appropriate flight procedures, prompting the aircraft commander to heed technical orders and command a controlled manual ejection from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, arrives at Andersen AFB, Guam, Dec. 4, 2017
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
So, the 2018 incident has nothing to do with the current issue that still keeps the bomber fleet on the ground. However, as reported by Air Force Magazine, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Timothy Ray approved a recovery plan on Apr. 16, 2019: all the U.S. Air Force 66 B-1s will be inspected. It takes from 7 to 10 days to inspect the egress system and aircraft will be cleared to fly once the inspections are completed Ray said according to Air Force Magazine.
An incredible image showing five B-52s flying over Northern Europe during the recent deployment of B-52s to RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s and the B-2s remain operative as the B-1 fleet is grounded.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The safety stand-on was order as there no B-1s deployed across the world. The most recent deployments of U.S. strategic bombers involved the B-52: six “Buffs” belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing, deployed to the UK last month as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation in Europe (the largest Stratofortress deployment since Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when there were as many as 17x B-52s on the ramp at RAF Fairford); B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Pacific region.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.
That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.
American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.
The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.
This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for threeattacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.
The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.
War is a dangerous thing, often necessitating actions that — in any other circumstance — would be absolutely insane.
Here are six of the things that make sense in war, but are still pretty ballsy regardless:
6. Flooding your own territory
The idea for most defenders is to keep their territory whole for their own people, even in the face of enemy forces. But for defenders in low-lying areas facing a potentially unstoppable force, there’s always the option of making sections of it impossible via water (though mines, obstacles, and a few other maneuvers work also).
This forces the enemy to attack through narrow channels determined by the defenders, and limits the territory that has to be protected. Does make for a hell of a cleanup problem, though.
5. Night raids
Night raids have all the same drawbacks of normal raids in that the attackers are trying to conduct a quick assault before the defenders can rally, but with the added confusion of limited visibility and increased sound transmission — sound waves typically travel farther at night and have less ambient sound with which to compete.
Of course, the U.S. enjoys a big advantage at night against many nations. While night vision goggles and other optics provide less depth of field and less peripheral vision, if any, they’re a huge advantage in the dark against an enemy without them.
4. Submarine combat
Submarines face a lot of jokes, but what they do is pretty insane. A group of sailors get into a huge metal tube with torpedoes, missiles, or both, dive underwater and sail thousands of nautical miles, and then either park or patrol under the waves, always a single mechanical failure from a quick and agonizing death.
The reasons to go under the waves anyway are plentiful. Submarines can provide a nearly impossible-to-find nuclear deterrent, molest enemy shipping, sink high-value enemy vessels, place sensors in important shipping lanes, or tap into undersea cables.
But the guys who sail under the water are crazy to do it.
Either way, it leaves a large group of soldiers with relatively little armor and artillery trying to quickly mass and fight an enemy who was already entrenched when they arrived, hopefully with the element of surprise.
It’s risky for the attackers, but it allows them to tie up or destroy enemy forces that could threaten operations, such as when Marines air assault against enemy artillery that could fire on a simultaneous amphibious assault.
2. Assault through ambush
When a maneuver force finds itself in a near ambush — defined as an ambush from within hand grenade range, about 38 yards — with the enemy sweeping fire through their ranks, it’s trained to immediately turn towards the threat and assault through it, no matter the cost.
Each individual soldier takes this action on their own, not even looking to the platoon or squad leadership before acting. While running directly towards the incoming fire takes serious cojones, it’s also necessary. Trying to go any other direction or even running for cover just gives the enemy more time to fire before rounds start heading back at them.
And the number 1 ballsiest move:
1. Ships ramming submarines
It’s hard to get more ballsy than one of the earliest methods for attacking submarines: taking your ship, and ramming it right into the enemy. This is super dangerous for the attacking ship since the submarine’s hull could cause the surface ship’s keel to break.
But surface ships do it in a pinch anyway, because there’s more risk to allowing a submarine to get away and possibly into position for a torpedo attack. And the surface ship is generally more likely to limp away from a collision than the submarine is, which is still a win in war.
The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.
These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.
The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.
Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.
Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.
You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.
From St. Nicolas Island, Calif., the United States fired its latest gift for Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army – a new medium-range missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987. The accord, also known as the INF Treaty, bans nuclear-capable weapons with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States left that treaty earlier in August 2019, after blaming Russia for violating the agreement first. The Russians aren’t happy about it at all.
Russia’s 9M729 missile, the one that broke the 1987 INF Treaty.
The Aug. 18, 2019 missile test saw the projectile deliberately fly beyond the 500-kilometer range that would have seen it banned by the INF Treaty. Newly-minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants missiles like this new one deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but that effort was hampered under the old agreement. Now the U.S. is free to pursue the relevant technology.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the Defense Department said.
Meanwhile, the Russians were openly upset about the Americans pulling out of the treaty and then having a new weapon within the same month.
“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”
Bold words from a government who has, according to the United States government, already violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on several occasions, most notably after it developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation Novator 9M729, a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.” But it’s not just the President who is denouncing the Russian military. The State Department came to the same conclusion.
“The United States has determined that in 2016, the Russian Federation (Russia) continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” according to the State Department’s April 2017 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments report.
The new U.S. missile isn’t nuclear-equipped (at least, not for this particular test) and resembles the more common Tomahawk missile in looks and the once-banned intermediate-range Tomahawk missile last seen in 1987. But the Russians weren’t the only ones upset about the looming new Cold War.
“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, adding that the U.S. should ditch its Cold War mentality.
We’ve all heard the saying: “All is fair in love and war.” While it may hold true for love, the war part couldn’t be further from the truth for our troops.
According to the “Sanremo Handbook on Rules of Engagement” posted by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, the rules do not dictate how the troops achieve results. But they do say what’s unacceptable.
With everyone hating on some ignorant teacher for sh*t-talking the troops or an Airman for making a horrible rant video, can’t we all just band back together and hate on the real enemy? Tom Brady. So we’ll mock him. Because he can take it.
13. There’s always one in every unit.
12. We’re also experts at drinking until 0500, sneaking guests past the gate in car trunks, and putting bullets in things.
With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain conducted the first spacewalk in this series on March 22, 2019. Hague and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch now are preparing to conduct the second spacewalk Friday, March 29, 2019, during which they will continue work started on the first spacewalk to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays.
Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, 2019, Koch will wear it.
McClain now is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk – the third in this series – on Monday, April 8, 2019, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Assignments for this spacewalk will be finalized following completion of the second spacewalk.
Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.
Experts will discuss the work to be performed on the April 8, 2019 spacewalk during a news conference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Media wishing to attend the briefing in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2019. Media interested in participating by phone must contact the newsroom by 1:45 p.m. April 2, 2019.
Participants in the briefing will be:
Kenny Todd, International Space Station manager for Operations and Integration
Rick Henfling, spacewalk flight director
John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer
McClain and Saint-Jacques will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone, during their April 8, 2019 spacewalk. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.
Live coverage of both spacewalks will begin at 6:30 a.m., and each is expected to last about 6.5 hours. The March 29, 2019 spacewalk is scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m., while the April 8, 2019 spacewalk is set to start at 8:05 a.m.
These will be the 215th and 216th spacewalks in the history of International Space Station assembly and maintenance. During the first spacewalk of the series, on March 22, 2019, McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk. Koch will become the 14th on March 29, 2019.
After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.
I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?
With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.
When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”
I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.
My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.
One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.
“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”
I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”
God, I miss the military.
Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”
I tried to imagine how I would handle this.
To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.
I’d be perfect for this job.
Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.
In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.
Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.
I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.
Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.
I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”
After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.
I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.
I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.
I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.
This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.
I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.
A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?
Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.
The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.
Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.
Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.
He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.
“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”
By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.
That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.
When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.
It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.
The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.
The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.
It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.
Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.
Fisher Houses were born.
The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.
“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”
Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.
Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.
Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.
Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.