Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank - We Are The Mighty
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Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Former Army Ranger and West Point grad Matthew ‘Griff’ Griffin isn’t your average vet entrepreneur. He came up with the notion of building something of value when he was serving in Afghanistan during the early phases of the war, way before there was much of a logistics footprint in place. He saw that the Afghan people were in need of more than protection from the Taliban. They needed basic goods and services.


“I saw Afghanistan as a place to leverage the power of small business owners making a difference,” Griff said.  “The region could benefit from more micro loans and fewer armored vehicles.”

When Griff left active duty he returned to Kabul doing some clinic work, but beyond that he wanted to find a way to assist with the country’s stability by creating a manufacturing base, starting with a single factory he stumbled across on the east side of the capital. The factory had the infrastructure; it was just a matter of what to manufacture.

As he was leaving the factory he found a flip flop on the floor — it was unique and a little funky, the kind of design Griff thought might resonate with fashion-minded millennials. He held it up and asked the factory manager if he could make them, and the Afghan local said sure. Combat Flip Flops was born.

Griff and his brother procured the materials from a far eastern supplier and got everything set up, but they’d no sooner returned to the U.S. than they were informed that the factory was shutting down — a casualty of the volatile socio-economic climate of Afghanistan. But the brothers were undeterred, plus they had a lot of money wrapped up in the materials sitting in the factory in Kabul.

Without any U.S. military assistance — the most effective way to operate, according to Griff — they went back in on a private spec ops mission of sorts, one designed to salvage what they could from their investment and work that had been accomplished already.

“We rented a ‘Bongo’ truck and packed the inventory of flip flops into bags designed to hold opium,” Griff said. “We were riding around the streets of Kabul trying to look inconspicuous, two white guys sitting on a pile of opium bags.”

They stored the 2,000-some pairs of flip flops in a warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul, and as they did a closer inspection of their wares they realized that the quality was such that they couldn’t be sold. They wound up giving all of them away to needy Afghans, which was better than nothing but not up to the standards of Griff’s vision.

They found another factory, and once again secured a supplier (and paid for it using Griff’s credit card), and this time failure came even faster and the factory closed down before any materials for the order of 4,000 pairs had been shipped. It was time for a more dramatic pivot in the business plan.

“We wound up taking the guerrilla manufacturing route and assembling the sandals in my garage in Washington state,” Griff said.

The company’s potential big break came in the form of a phone call from one of the producers at ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show. Griff and a couple of his co-workers will appear on the episode scheduled to air on February 5. (Check your local listings.)

“We’re stoked to bring the Combat Flip Flops mission to the tank,” Griff’ said. “Every Shark has the ability to expand the mission, inspire new recruits to join the Unarmed Forces, and manufacture peace through trade. Over the past few years, we’ve survived deadly encounters to create an opportunity like this. Attack Dogs. Raging Bulls. If we need to jump in the water with Sharks, then it’s time to grab the mask and fins.”

“We’ve all seen and heard Shark Tank success stories,” Donald Lee, Combat Flip Flops’ CMO and co-founder, added. “We set our minds to getting on the show and in true Ranger fashion, we accomplished the objective. We hope this is the catalyst our company needs to provide large scale, peaceful, sustainable change in areas of conflict.”

In 2015, Combat Flip Flops’ sales increased 150 percent over the previous year. In keeping with Griff’s original corporate vision, the company donated funds for schools to educate Afghan girls and cleared 1,533 square meters of land mines in Laos, which keeps the local population — especially children — safer.

Griff has leveraged his service academy pedigree and military experience in incredibly productive ways. His entrepreneurial sense and — even more importantly — his worldview defies most veteran stereotypes and associated bogus narratives. His outlook and drive are distinctly that of the Post 9-11 warfighter — “the next greatest generation.”

Combat Flip Flop’s mission statement captures it:

To create peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict. Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, “Business, Not Bullets”– flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect, and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade.

Watch Griff’s presentation at TED Talks Tacoma:

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Army chief sees no future for FOBBITs

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned his officer corps they shouldn’t expect the comforting conditions of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan in future conflicts, according to a Thursday speech in Washington, D.C.


Milley emphasized that future wars against enemies with similar technological capabilities won’t have many of the creature comforts of the forward operating bases in the Middle Eastern wars.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Soldiers and contractors wait on a Popeyes line after the grand opening of the South Park food court July 4, 2012 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The Army’s hard-charging chief of staff says future wars won’t feature amenities like Burger King, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, and a Village Cuisine. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory Williams)

“There’s an entire generation of officers now that think — their own experience in combat is to fight from Victory base, or Bagram base, or fixed sites, where you have access to a variety of comfort items, if you will. Pizza Huts and Burger Kings and stuff like that,” he stated.

Milley continued that it was unlikely future wars would entail soldiers being on a base for a protracted period of time saying, “The likelihood of massing forces on a base for any length of time certainly means you’re going to be dead. If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

He added, “we have got to condition ourselves to operate — untether ourselves from this umbilical cord of logistics and supply that American forces have enjoyed for a long time.”

Milley added that a plus side of this new type of combat will grant more autonomy to troops in the field, saying, “A subordinate needs to understand that they have the power and they have the freedom to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish the purpose.”

He explained, “If you knowingly walk over the abyss because you’re following this task and this task and this task, but you don’t achieve the purpose, you’re going to get fired.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January.


As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, expectations that the punitive measures will target an expanded list of secondary companies, as well as Kremlin-connected insiders and business leaders, are causing consternation.

Unlike previous rounds, when Washington tried to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and Syria by targeting big fish like major state-run firms and government agencies, the focus is shifting. The new wave to be announced by month’s end is expected to be broader, focusing on companies that do business with previously sanctioned entities, closing loopholes that allowed Russia to skirt punishment, and identifying — and potentially going after — the Kremlin’s inner circle of smaller fish.

Moscow appears to be on edge. One official has accused the United States of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election. An influential Russian newspaper has reported that as many as 300 people close to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle could be identified. And financial institutions are taking steps to minimize their risk.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Vladimir Putin held the first meeting with Government members this year. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

‘Freaking out’

“It is true that the Russians have been freaking out over this for more than a month now,” said Daniel Fried, who was formerly the chief sanctions coordinator at the U.S. State Department.

Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst now based in Washington, D.C., echoes that assessment. “The expectations are very gloomy” in Moscow, he said, “because for the first time, it will bring personal pain to those closest to Putin.”

The new measures, expected to be rolled out beginning Jan. 29, stem from a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed reluctantly into law by President Donald Trump in August.

Known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law firstly provides for “secondary sanctions” that broaden the restrictions against people or companies doing business with Russians hit earlier.

The earlier measures were imposed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama not only for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014 but also for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military campaign in Syria, and other things.

Related: US intel officials report that Russian leaders think US wants to topple Putin

In October, in the first indication of whom the new law would be targeting, the State Department put three dozen major Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies on notice, indicating that other companies, Russian or foreign, who do “significant” business with them could face restrictions.

In theory, this meant that a foreign bank that provided credit to a company supplying a previously sanctioned Russian state-controlled company could be targeted for doing business with listed companies. That might include state arms exporter Rosoboroneksport or the legendary weapons-maker Kalashnikov.

‘Oligarchs list’

The law also ordered the Treasury Department, in coordination with intelligence agencies, to provide Congress with a list of prominent Russians and their family members who would potentially face direct restrictions. Known as Section 241, the instruction includes identifying oligarchs according to “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”

This, in theory, could target the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official who owns property in the United States, or the head of a major industrial corporation with holdings in the West.

Around Washington, close observers of the sanctions process are calling it “the oligarchs list.”

“This will hit people because it shows they are not safe; that the U.S. is willing to go after this class of people and Putin cannot protect them… that there will be consequences for Russians who seem to be in Putin’s corrupt inner circle and [are] aiding and abetting his corrupt activities,” Fried told RFE/RL.

Those included will not immediately face financial or travel restrictions, but experts say it would be a clear signal of what may soon come and, more immediately, would have a major psychological effect on those listed and those who do business with them.

It could also foreshadow a public record of some wealthy Russians’ sources of income and assets in the United States.

“For some people, it’s very personal. For others, it will be very political,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The question is: What’s the signal that is being sent by the administration and how will it be received in Moscow?”

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Parlor-game guessing

For the moment, the potential nominees for the “oligarchs’ list” is a closely held secret by both members of Congress and administration officials. But sanctions experts, Russian opposition activists, and Western lawyers and business groups have been trying to guess. Some wealthy Russians have also stepped up quiet lobbying campaigns in Washington, trying to persuade Congress or administration officials to keep them off the list, according to several observers.

On Jan. 12, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing its own sources in Washington, said as many as 300 people could end up being listed, a number that includes both officials themselves, but also their relatives.

In December, a group of Russian opposition activists with backing from chess master and outspoken Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov met in Lithuania to compile their own sanctions list. The compilation features more than 200 names, including prominent business tycoons who have so far avoided restrictions, including Aleksei Mordashov, owner of the steelmaking giant Severstal, and German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s largest state bank, Sberbank.

Several prominent Russians included in the opposition group’s list were already on earlier U.S. sanctions lists, including Sergei Ivanov, an ex-defense minister and President Putin’s former chief of staff; Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, head of Russian military intelligence; and Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Garry Kasparov. (Photo from Flickr user Gage Skidmore, cropped to fit)

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.

Credit crunch

One indication of how the Kremlin has sought to get ahead of the new measures came in November. The business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree that would exempt Russian state companies from the requirement to disclose the names of their contractors.

Already there are signs that financial markets, in and out of Russia, are factoring the likelihood of sanctions into predictions for 2018. But among bond traders, equity dealers, and other portfolio managers, the measure that has prompted most worry is a possible restriction on buying Russian government debt.

That measure is seen as an attempt to close a loophole that allowed Russia to skirt sanctions imposed in 2014 that cut certain companies close to or controlled by the state from international credit markets.

The Kremlin ended up bailing out those companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and was still able to raise capital on its own. In 2016, for example, Russia sold around $3 billion in new Eurobonds.

The Countering Adversaries law includes the possibility that U.S. citizens could be barred from buying ruble-denominated, Russian government bonds. It’s unclear how much of Russia’s overall sovereign debt is held by Americans, but Central Bank data from October showed that foreigners held about $38 billion of it.

That decision won’t be handed down for some months, but still, analysts predict a ban would put severe pressure on the Russian ruble, which plummeted in 2014 after the Crimea sanctions and amid low world oil prices and has yet to fully recover. In the medium term, that would drive up inflation, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said in a research note in December.

Ripple effect

Some Russian financial institutions have also given indications that whatever the measures are that end up being issued by Washington, they will ripple through the country’s economy.

For example, Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private commercial lender, said it was cutting back its exposure to the country’s formidable defense industry.

“This does not mean that we have severed relations with it overnight,” Oleg Sysuyev, a deputy chairman of the bank’s board of directors, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “But we are just trying to minimize risks.”

In the short term, that could pose a direct challenge to Putin, who will run for another term as president in the election scheduled for March, a month after the new measures are unveiled.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov alluded to this on Jan. 13 when, in comments to the state news agency TASS, he charged that the U.S. measures were an attempt to influence the vote.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Photo from Flickr user Moscow CTBTO Youth Group Conference. Cropped to fit)

Piontkovsky, a longtime critic of the Kremlin, predicted that the U.S. move to target more individuals could help undermine the broad support that Putin has enjoyed for years.

“It means he is losing his meaning for the elites, his function was to protect them, and their assets in Russia and the West, to ensure their security. And now, on the contrary, he is becoming toxic,” he said.

The question now, according to Oliker, who directs the CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program, is whether the new sanctions will, in fact, affect Kremlin policies.

For example, with the conflict in eastern Ukraine grinding into its fourth year, dragging on Russia’s economy and losing popularity among Russians, there’s good reason for Russia to pull back on its support for separatist fighters.

However, it would be virtually impossible for Putin to pull back if it appeared he was giving in to the pressures from U.S. sanctions, she said.

Depending on who or what is targeted, the problem is that the new measures could reinforce the perception — encouraged by the Kremlin — that Washington only wants to damage Russia, Oliker said.

“In Russia, the pervasive narrative is that all the sanctions are merely to punish Russia — [that] they’re punitive, it’s not a matter of attaining actual policy goals,” she said. Many think “it’s just those nasty Americans trying to get us.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps could soon have its first female infantry officer

It took a while, but the United States Marine Corps could have its first female infantry platoon commander soon. The milestone will be possible if a lieutenant currently taking part in the Infantry Officer Course graduates on Monday.


According to a report by the Washington Post, the candidate just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last of the graded exercises in the grueling course. Prior to this female candidate, at least 30 others have entered, but failed to graduate for one reason or another.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro is one of the first women to graduate infantry training with Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso/Released)

After graduation, she will command an infantry platoon, usually with three squads of Marines. The integration of women into ground combat roles with the Marine Corps drew controversy due to actions by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus who was an outspoken proponent of the change. Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study showing that all-male units out-performed gender-integrated units in nearly 70 percent of the tasks.

Mabus’s comments drew fire from Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lehew’s Navy Cross citation noted that he led the team that rescued survivors of the 507th Maintenance Company, the unit in which Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch served with at the time, and also ran back and forth to retrieve Marine casualties from a destroyed amphibious assault vehicle.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Sgt. Major Justin LeHew aboard a P781- RAM/RS Amphibious Assault Vehicle at Camp Shoup, Kuwait on March 17, 2003.

The Infantry Officer Course is seen as one of the toughest schools in the U.S. military, and roughly one out of four officers who enter the course do not compete it. Earlier this year, three female enlisted Marines were assigned to an infantry battalion. At least 10 women have graduated from the Army’s Infantry Officer Course.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the advice a Navy SEAL has for his younger self

If you can’t control it, your ego can destroy everything in your life.


That’s according to former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who teach this fundamental lesson through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front.

Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” We asked him for the advice he would give his 20-year-old self, and he said it taps into this idea about ego.

While it may seem obvious that you know more about the world at age 30 than age 20, Willink said it’s important to realize that you’re never old enough to outgrow your ego — and it can make you susceptible to reckless decisions.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“If I went back to my 20-year-old self what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything,'” Willink said. “Because everyone when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world and you don’t. And when I was 25, I thought that 20-year-old didn’t know anything but I thought my 25-year-old self knew everything. He didn’t know anything either. And when I was 30, the 25-year-old didn’t know anything. And then when I was 35, the 30-year-old didn’t know anything.”

Willink reflected on this in a previous interview with Business Insider. “When I get asked, you know, what makes somebody fail as a SEAL leader, 99.9% of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with their physical skills or their mental toughness,” he said. “What it has to do with is the fact that the person’s not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind. They can’t change.”

Read More: This SEAL commander has 5 tips to transform your life

He noted that being ego-driven can, at times, be constructive. You want to be competitive, you want to prove yourself, Willink explained — but you need to realize that your opinions may not be the best available.

Willink said that this really crystallized for him when he began training young SEALS and saw how some were headstrong about beliefs that his experience taught him definitively were incorrect.

“And I would do my best to help them along that road and realize, ‘You’re not quite as smart as you think you are,'” Willink said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bail denied for suspected Russian spy

A U.S. judge has denied a request by a Russian woman accused of working as a foreign agent who sought to be released on bail pending her next hearing.

Prosecutors have charged that Maria Butina had worked for years to cultivate relationships with U.S. political organizations and conservative activists.

They have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who allegedly has ties to Russian organized crime and who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in early 2018.


Butina’s defense lawyers sought to persuade a Washington judge to release Butina to house arrest pending her November 2018 hearing.

But Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that request, agreeing with prosecutors who said Butina might flee the country.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Maria Butina’s mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that they had mistakenly accused Butina of trading sex for access. They said they misinterpreted one of Butina’s text-message exchanges but said there was other evidence supporting keeping her in custody.

Butina, 29, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy accepts delivery of its newest nuclear submarine

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the future USS South Dakota (SSN 790), the 17th submarine of the Virginia class, Sept. 24, 2018.

The ship began construction in 2013 and is scheduled to commission in early 2019. This next-generation attack submarine provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea superiority.

South Dakota is the seventh Virginia-class Block III submarine. Block III submarines feature a redesigned bow with enhanced payload capabilities, replacing 12 individual vertical launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles. This, among other design changes, reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.


South Dakota’s delivery is an important milestone,” said Capt. Chris Hanson, Virginia Class Program manager. “It marks the penultimate Block III delivery and will be a vital asset in the hands of the fleet.”

The submarine’s sponsor is Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS South Dakota.

(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey)

The submarine will be the third U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name South Dakota. The first South Dakota (ACR 9) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser. The ship served in the Pacific until the American entry into World War I, where it patrolled the South Atlantic operating from Brazil, and escorted troop transports destined for Europe.

During World War II, the second South Dakota (BB 57) was commissioned as the lead ship in its class. The four ships of the South Dakota class are considered the most efficient battleships built under the limitations of the Washington Naval treaty. South Dakota served in the Pacific and Atlantic as a carrier escort and patrolled the North Atlantic with the British navy. During the ship’s second tour in the Pacific, it helped to cripple the Japanese navy during the Battle of the Philippine Sea before helping to bombard shore defenses at Okinawa and preparing for an eventual invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Virginia-class submarines are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations forces support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare and mine warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility, and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israelis shoot down Syrian fighter in ISIS territory

Israel’s military said on July 24, 2018, that it fired two US-made Patriot missiles at and “intercepted” a Syrian Sukhoi fighter that entered its airspace.

The plane crashed in Syria near the country’s border zone with Israel, and the fate of the pilot is unknown, The New York Times reported. The Syrian jet is thought to be a Russian-made Su-24 or Su-22.


For weeks, rockets fired from Syria and elsewhere outside Israel have peppered the country and activated its missile defenses on multiple occasions.

Israel and Syria have a border dispute in the Golan Heights and have squared off in aerial combat before, with Israel in early 2018 destroying much of Syria’s anti-air batteries and losing one of its F-16s.

The Israel Defense Forces said a Russian-made Syrian jet “infiltrated about 1 mile into Israeli airspace” before being intercepted.

“Since this morning, there has been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria and the Syrian Air Force’s activity,” the IDF added. “The IDF is in high alert and will continue to operate against the violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement,” the UN resolution that ended the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria.

Featured Image: A Sukhoi Su-24M of the Russian Air Force.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Top Gun’ trailer thrills even seasoned fighter pilots

On July 18, 2019, after a 33-year wait, the trailer for ” Top Gun: Maverick” finally debuted. While Tom Cruise’s Maverick may have aged, TOPGUN recruits are still singing in bars, playing beach volleyball, and performing exhilarating feats in F/A-18 Super Hornets. While the original “Top Gun” was a glamorized, Hollywood version of the real TOPGUN naval aviation training, there are many parts of the original film — and the new trailer — that ring true.

“As an institution, we don’t focus on the Hollywood glamour of the job,” Guy Snodgrass, a former TOPGUN instructor and the author of the forthcoming book “Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” told INSIDER via email. “That being said, there’s an undeniable truth that when the first movie came out, in the mid-1980s, it fueled a lot of interest, both in TOPGUN and in naval aviation as a whole.”


Snodgrass said he was 10 when he saw the original, and it fueled his desire to become a naval aviator. During his days as a fighter pilot and TOPGUN instructor, Snodgrass performed all the maneuvers new trailer shows, and then some.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

The “Top Gun: Maverick” trailer shows an F/A-18 pilot perform a high-g nose maneuver.

(Paramount Pictures)

In the trailer, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell performs a feat called a high-G high nose maneuver that’s usually executed to avoid shrapnel from bombs in a war zone. Snodgrass told INSIDER he could still remember what it feels like to do it, too.

“It’s easy to lose the sense of speed when flying at high altitude, as in an airliner, but when you’re flying at more than 600 miles per hour, 200 feet off the ground, the speed rush is exhilarating.”

“When the first movie came out, Paramount Pictures made it a priority to work with the TOPGUN staff to bring as much realism into this project as they could, whether it’s the radio calls, or maneuvering the aircraft. It’s reassuring to know that they’re taking the exact same approach with this movie,” he told INSIDER.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Tom Cruise’s Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is confronted by an admiral.

(Paramount Pictures)

Besides the thrill of breaking sound barriers, the original film, and the new trailer, do a great job of capturing “the swagger of naval aviation,” Snodgrass said. In the trailer, an admiral played by Ed Harris asks Maverick why, after all his accomplishments as an aviator, he hasn’t advanced beyond the rank of captain. “You should be at least a two-star admiral by now. Yet here you are…captain. Why is that?” Harris’ character asks.

“It’s one of life’s mysteries, sir,” Maverick replies immediately.

Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

“It’s a great moment that captures the focus of naval aviators — of how mission and a great job is more important than rank,” Snodgrass said.

While the trailer makes it seem as though Maverick’s rank is something unusual or shameful, it’s not that out of the ordinary, retired Adm. William Gortney told INSIDER.

“Retiring as a captain, that’s a pretty honorable rank, as far as I’m concerned.”

Snodgrass agreed, citing the example of Col. John Boyd, a brilliant Air Force aviator and a military strategist who helped develop the F-16 and changed aerial combat as we know it.

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

Articles

Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.


According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.

This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Imagine what Amazon can do with MREs. (WATM Archives)

MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.

The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Could MATS mean nobody has to have this any more? (WATM Archive)

The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.

“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
MATS could make the MRE look like this K-ration above. (US Army photo)

One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.

Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.

Articles

After 50 years, a heroic Huey pilot will receive the Medal of Honor

In the early morning of May 15th, 1967, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed near Song Tra Cau riverbed Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam. Outnumbered and outgunned, they faced an entire battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. The 101st couldn’t hit their attackers and quickly took casualties.


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Maj. Kettles deployed in Vietnam

Charles Kettles was a UH-1 Huey pilot on his first of two tours in Vietnam. When he learned soldiers on the ground were taking intense fire and many were wounded, he didn’t hesitate. Then-Maj. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six Hueys (including his own)into the firefight to drop off reinforcements and pick up the wounded.

“There wasn’t any decision to be made,” Kettles was quoted as saying in a recent Army Times piece. “We simply were going to go and pick them up.”

When the helicopters approached the landing zone, they came under the same intense fire. Kettles stayed in the fight until all the wounded were loaded and the 101st received their supplies. He then went to pick up more reinforcements.  After dropping off the second wave, his gunner was injured and the small arms fire caused a ruptured fuel line. He got his bird back to Duc Pho but later that same day, the last 40 U.S. troops, with eight members of Kettles’ own unit (their helicopter was shot down) requested an emergency extraction. Maj. Kettles volunteered to go back with five other Hueys.

“The mission was simple,” Kettles said. “The situation was anything but simple.”

Kettles had what he thought was everyone, and so he departed the area. Once airborne, however, he learned that eight troops were pinned down due to the intense fire and didn’t make it to the helicopters. Kettles immediately broke off from the main group, turned his bird around, and went back for the missing eight men on his own. With no gunship or artillery support, Kettles flew what was now a giant, lurking target into the ambush area. A mortar immediately his tail boom, rotor blade, and shattered his front windshield. His Huey was raked by small arms fire. Despite the constant attack and severe damage to his helicopter, he held firm until the eight men were aboard and flew everyone to safety. When he landed, he was “unrattled and hungry.”

“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA Today. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”

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Kettles receiving the Distinguished Service Cross.

He did another tour in Vietnam, then retired in 1978 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He started a car dealership with his brother after his retirement, happy to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. He had no expectations of receiving the Medal of Honor. That came about from the work of amateur historian William Vollano. Vollano, in the course of interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project, heard Kettles’ story. With written accounts of men from the 101st who were there that day, Vollano was able to push the Army to reexamine Kettles. They determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest honor.

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“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten a Medal of Honor who deserved it more.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

B-2 stealth bombers are learning new tricks, sending message to Russia

Three US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, airmen, and support equipment from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived in the United Kingdom on Aug. 27, 2019, for a Bomber Task Force deployment.

It’s not the first time B-2s have flown out of RAF Fairford, the Air Force’s forward operating location for the bombers.

The presence is a “continuation” of what the US military and European partners have done since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, said Jim Townsend, adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s a matter of just continuing to show that we can operate at any level, whether it’s with a B-2 or it’s a lower level, [and] then we can operate where we need to in Europe, including in the Arctic.”


But within days of arriving the B-2s had done several new things that may have been as much about sending a message to rivals as they were about testing pilots and crews.

“B-2s and bombers have always been as much about the signaling as the capability,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

See what the B-2s have been up to and for whom their message is meant.

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Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 on the flight line at RAF Fairford, Aug. 27, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

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A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland, Aug. 28, 2019. It was the B-2 bomber’s first time landing in Iceland.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

A day after arriving in the UK, a B-2 landed in Iceland — the bomber’s first time there.

Using “strategic bombers in Iceland helps exercise Keflavik Air Base as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said in a caption on one of the accompanying photos.

Despite that phrasing, “Iceland is not considered a forward operating location similar to RAF Fairford,” US Air Forces Europe said in an emailed statement.

“Training outside the US enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges in support of the National Defense Strategy,” the statement said.

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509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 bomber at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

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US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Astride sea lines between the North Atlantic and the Arctic, Iceland also likely provides “geographical advantages in terms of things we’re worried about the Russians doing,” Skaluba said. “There’s probably, for certain missions or certain mission sets, a little bit of an advantage to use [Keflavik] over UK bases.”

Russian forces are increasingly active in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Arctic, the Norwegian Sea, and in the GIUK Gap, which refers to the waters between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — “so in and around Iceland with their own kind of high-end capabilities including nuclear subs and advanced fighters,” Skaluba said.

“So I think that this is a signal that the US, the UK, [and] NATO, are watching Russia closely, in clearly a little bit of, ‘Hey, we can match you with high-end capabilities in this geography,'” Skaluba said.

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A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber taxis at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The message may not only be for Russia.

“There’s a lot of Chinese investments,” Skaluba said. “There’s a big Chinese embassy in Reykjavik. I think that it’s in the first instance about the Russians, but there’s clearly some broader signaling going on, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that there’s a big Chinese presence in Reykjavik and that we landed the bombers there.”

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UK F-35B Lightning fighter jets fly with US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for the first time, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

A day after the Iceland landing, B-2s flew along the English coast with Royal Air Force F-35Bs. It was the first time the stealth bomber had flown with the British Joint Strike Fighter — and with any non-US F-35.

Source: The Aviationist

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A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

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Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers fly alongside two RAF F-35B Lightnings near the White Cliffs of Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

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A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies along the English coast near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

Like the B-2, the F-35 is a stealth aircraft, meant to evade air-defense systems like the ones stationed around Europe, particularly Russian systems across Eastern Europe.

Russia’s Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad, bristles with anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, weaponry, and Moscow has added such A2/AD systems to Crimea since its 2014 seizure.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, told Business Insider in late 2018, creating what he called “an arc of A2/AD.”

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A US Air Force B-2 bomber over the English countryside near Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(Royal Air Force)

The first-of-its-kind joint flight also came at a time when the US-UK special relationship might not be in the best shape, Skaluba added.

“This is kind of a reminder that the UK is the US partner of choice in security and defense, and frankly the UK is one of the few militaries globally that can…operate with the US at the high-end of the capability spectrum,” Skaluba said.

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A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

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A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The US has been more active in the Arctic in recent years, largely out of concern about competition in the region, particularly with Russia and China, as climate change makes it more accessible.

In October 2018, a US aircraft carrier sailed above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the Cold War.

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A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The B-2s first Arctic flight may have been made possible by changing conditions there. “But really it’s about the signaling,” Skaluba said.

The US, NATO, and Arctic countries are concerned “that Russia is being more aggressive on the security front in the Arctic,” and China has sought a larger role in the region. “We’re seeing competitor moves into the Arctic in different ways,” Skaluba said.

Russia shares an Arctic border with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and all three countries are close to the Kola Peninsula base that is home to both Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear weapons storage and test facilities.

Norway is the only one of the three that is a member of NATO, but all the Nordic countries have kept a close eye on Russian missile tests in the region and on its Arctic combat forces.

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A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

“There was a time right after Crimea when the Obama administration didn’t want to do anything to provoke the Russians,” Townsend said.

“So just sending B-52s over the Baltic was something that had to be cleared at a pretty high level,” Townsend said, adding that there has always been recognition of not wanting to provoke Russia by sending bombers close to its borders. “For whatever reason, the feeling must’ve been that was worth doing this time around.”

Skaluba also pointed to a recent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of the Arctic Council, in which Pompeo said the Arctic had “become an arena of global power and competition.”

Within the eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Russia, “there’s still a lot of practical cooperation … but I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that Pompeo got everybody a little bit upset … talking about [how] we need to talk security issues, and then the US sends some big-time military assets up into the region.”

“So I think this a bit of a banging of the drum or pounding on the table from the US that we need to think about the Arctic in security terms, and on our own we’re going to do that, no matter what anybody else does. But it’s a clear signal to the Russians and the Chinese, no doubt.”

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A B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, Sept. 9, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Ricky Baptista)

The B-2s have continued to train around Europe in September, including a trip to the Azores where the bombers conducted hot-pit refueling, in which ground crew refuels an aircraft while its engines are running, allowing it to get back into the air as quickly as possible.

“As a fulcrum point of the Atlantic Air Bridge, Lajes Field provides the US Department of Defense and allied nations a power-projection platform for credible combat forces across Europe and Africa,” US Air Forces Europe said in a release.

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A B-2 performs a touch-and-go at RAF Fairford, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The bombers also performed touch-and-go drills at Fairford, during which the bombers land and take off again without coming to a complete stop, allowing pilots to practice many landings in a short period of time.

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

Articles

Veteran launches ‘The War Horse’ to tell stories of Iraq, Afghanistan

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Cindy Schepers | The War Horse


One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.

Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”

Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.

He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.

In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”

Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.

The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.

Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.

In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.

While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”

Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/

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