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:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the Army’s new drone school

Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.

The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.


Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.

Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.

“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”

Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.

The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.

Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.

Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
RQ-11B Raven

“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”

The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.

“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.

“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US has a fake J-20 that it practices hunting

A mysterious photograph that surfaced early December 2018 appeared to show China’s top stealth fighter sitting at a US military airbase in Georgia.

The apparent Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon was spotted at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport Dec. 5, 2018, The Aviationist reported, citing a photo provided by an unnamed source. The US Air Force confirmed Dec. 9, 2018, the existence of the aircraft.

“It is a full-scale replica,” Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, explained to The Aviationist, further explaining that the US Marine Corps “is funding and directing the training objectives of this device.”


The training tool was located at the Savannah Air Dominance Center from Dec. 4 to 6, 2018. The exact purpose of the replica is not publicly known.

The initial photograph caused a lot of speculation, with some observers suggesting that the photo was doctored and others guessing that the aircraft was a movie prop. That the mock aircraft is real and serves as a training tool for Marines suggest that the US is taking Chinese defense developments quite seriously, The Aviationist posited.

The focus of the 2018 National Defense Strategy is great power competition, specifically the challenges posed by Russia’s resurgence and China’s rise in Asia.

The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter is a fifth-generation aircraft meant to rival the US F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, two elite combat-proven weapons systems.

An increasingly-capable platform, one really only held back by its engine, the Chinese J-20 has the ability to carry out air superiority, intercept, and long-range strike missions. With exceptional endurance, it offers China the ability to better project power in its home region.

The Chinese stealth fighter recently showed off its arsenal of missiles at an airshow in southern China.

The J-20’s chief designer says the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer, although it is unclear if this is reality or hype. Regardless, the US military is actively taking steps to maintain overmatch in the face of Chinese and Russian defense developments.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This critical Navy system you’ve never heard about is retiring

When the Navy announced plans to retire a system in August of 2018, not a lot of media outlets paid attention. Despite its failure to make headlines, the system that’s on the way out is actually one of the most important in the Navy. We’re talking, of course, about the Standard Automated Logistics Tool Set, or SALTS.

Developed in the space of just three weeks during the run-up to Operation Desert Storm, this system has been with the Navy for 27 years — and it makes sure that the personnel in the fight have what they need by rapidly moving data on required parts and available inventory to and from the battlefield electronically.


There is an old saying, “amateurs discuss tactics and strategy, while professionals talk logistics.” Think of it this way: How can the pilot of a F/A-18E Super Hornet be expected to blow an enemy MiG out of the sky if his radar doesn’t work? Yes, launching skilled pilots on the right mission at the right time is critically important, but nothing happens if the moving pieces aren’t in order. The fighters on a carrier, for instance, need spare parts to work (just like your car).

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

A F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Such operations would not be possible without enough spare parts.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

It’s not just the super-complex fighters. Even the M16 rifles and M4 carbines used by SEALs will need spare parts or replacement magazines (which are often ejected and left behind in firefights) — not to mention ammo. Then there are the many other needs of the Navy: Food for the sailors, fuel to keep ships and planes running, the list goes on and on.

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These magazines loaded with ammo for M16 rifles and M4 carbines — something Marines and SEALs need in abundance.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Turner)

SALTS enabled sailors on the front to handle Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures (MILSTRIP) in minutes as opposed to weeks or days. It also could fix some mistakes in seconds. Not bad for a solution that was designed and implemented in three weeks.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

The replenishment underway in this photo is one of many made possible by SALTS.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)

SALTS, though, was running up against advancing computer technology and new cyber-security threats. There is a new system known as One Touch Support, or OTS, that will take over for SALTS. And yes, just like its predecessor, OTS isn’t likely to make headlines, but will play a crucial role for the Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines create their own bridge in Norway

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.


A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.

During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.

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Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”

Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.

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U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”

Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.

“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”

The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Jobs

Easter Seals, Disney, and USAA team up to find jobs for vets and spouses

The beginning of November saw three important organizations come together for the Heroes Work Here initiative. Easter Seals, Disney, and USAA held a conference to compel the leaders of Midwest-based companies to improve their veteran hiring programs and teach them how to integrate and celebrate veterans in their work forces.


J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran attended the event and spoke with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the President and CEO of Easter Seals, the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, the Director of Veterans Initiatives for the Walt Disney Company, the founder of the Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, the Program Manager of Veteran Hiring Initiatives for Sears Holding Company, and Military Affairs Relationship Director of the USAA.

Travis Mills, also an Army veteran and author of Tough As They Come, is a quadruple amputee who joined the major players, devoting time and effort to bring American companies into the Heroes Work Here fold. He lent his voice to the conference as a guest speaker to advocate on behalf of Easter Seals.

“Easter Seals is really leading the way with Walt Disney, USAA, and Sears, and all these other great companies here in support of this event,” Mills said.

United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert A. McDonald was the keynote speaker at the event.

“This is a national challenge to all of us,” McDonald said.  “[We need] to make sure we take care of the quarter of a million veterans who are coming out of the service, making sure their transitions into their communities is seamless, and that they have jobs.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub completes final deployment

The US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine wrapped up its final deployment Sept. 8, 2019, after sailing around the world.

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia completed a seven-month, around-the-world deployment when it returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the Navy said on Sept. 9, 2019.


Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

The USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

The crew of the USS Olympia returns home from a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The powerful sub “completed her final deployment after 35 years of service, circumnavigating the globe in seven months starting from Oahu, Hawaii, transiting through the Panama Canal, Strait of Gibraltar and Suez Canal,” Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the sub’s commanding officer, said.

Selph said the sub and its crew worked visited various allies and partners during the deployment, at times engaging other navies, such as the British Royal Navy. “We joined the crew of HMS Talent in a day of barbeque and friendly sports competitions of soccer, football and volleyball,” he explained.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

The crew of the USS Olympia moors in Hawaii following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Selph said that “sailing around the world in our country’s oldest serving nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine is a testament to the durability and design of the submarine but also the tenacity and ‘fight on’ spirit of the crew.”

Master Chief Electronics Technician (Radio) Arturo Placencia, Olympia’s chief-of-the-boat, said the boat and its crew “performed with excellence,” adding that “for everyone onboard, this was the first time we completed a circumnavigation of the globe.”

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Sailors assigned to the USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

The War Zone, a defense publication, tracked the Olympia’s travels from Hawaii to the Western Pacific and through the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. The sub then conducted operations in the Mediterranean before heading to the Atlantic, passing through the Panama Canal, and sailing through the Eastern Pacific to Pearl Harbor.

Source: The War Zone

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USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Sailors load a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile aboard the USS Olympia as part of the biannual RIMPAC maritime exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Even in the final years of its more than three decades of service, the Olympia remained a symbol of US undersea power. For example, last summer, it became the first US sub in 20 years to fire a Harpoon sub-launched anti-ship cruise missile. The US military is building this capability as it confronts great power rivals with capable surface fleets.

Source: Submarine Force Pacific

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Electronics Technician (Nuclear) 1st Class Todd Bolen hugs his girlfriend at Olympia’s homecoming.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

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Cmdr. Travis Zettel, commander of the USS Bremerton, left, hands the Rear Adm. Richard O’Kane cribbage board to Cmdr. Benjamin J. Selph, commander of the USS Olympia, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lee)

In Navy tradition, a lucky cribbage board belonging to Cmdr. Richard O’Kane, who was dealt an incredible winning hand before his Gato-class sub, USS Wahoo, sank two Japanese freighters in 1943, was passed from the USS Bremerton to the Olympia when the latter became the oldest fast-attack sub. Before it is decommissioned, the Olympia will pass the board to another sub, reportedly the USS Chicago.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

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Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

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

Articles

Here’s why North Korea is thumbing its nose at US threats

North Korea provocatively launched a ballistic missile over Japan Aug. 29, dramatically escalating tensions and demonstrating that it has no interest in restraint.


The launch, the fourth in a matter of only a few days, followed statements by President Donald Trump claiming that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is starting to respect the US and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserting that North Korea has shown “restraint” by halting its missile tests. America’s lead diplomat even suggested that there might be a path to dialogue.

Evidence indicates that Trump and Tillerson may have misread North Korea’s behavior. “This is not the action of a country that is interested in showing restraint or in creating a glide-path to dialogue, at least not on our terms,” James Schoff, an East Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Washington Post.

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North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. Photo from KCNA

Not only is North Korea apparently frustrated with the activities of the US and its allies, but it may also be determined to set a precedent for new missile testing.

The US and South Korea began the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises Aug. 21. The North perceives joint military exercises as a precursor to an armed invasion of North Korean territory.

“This is a clear indication of the attempt to mount a preemptive attack on the North,” a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, argued Aug. 27. North Korea is particularly concerned with the preemptive strike elements of Operation Plan 5015, which the North claims is a key part of this year’s exercises.

“The warmongers at home and abroad are working hard to master and perfect the performance procedures and the actual maneuverability of the “beheading operation” and “secret operation” under OPLAN 5015,” the North Korean state media report explained.

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Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2016. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“The DPRK will continue to strengthen its defensive capability with nuclear force, as long as US … does not stop military drills on the doorstep of the DPRK,” North Korean ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song explained Aug. 29. “US pressure and provocative acts only justify the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities.”

North Korea is also irritated with the regular high-level meetings between senior US military officials and their South Korean counterparts.

“It is a very ill-boding development that timed to coincide with the exercises, the US Pacific Command chief, the US Strategic Command head, the Missile Defense Agency director, and other US high-ranking military officers flew into South Korea to hold confabs on the DPRK,” North Korean state media explained.

Furthermore, the North is aware of allied efforts to boost their offensive and defensive capabilities in response to the growing North Korean threat. South Korea conducted its own missile tests last week, testing weaponry designed to penetrate North Korea’s underground and hardened facilities, and Japan just deployed a collection of new missile interceptors.

 

There is also a strong possibility, as this has long been a strategic objective, that North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the US and its allies in Asia.

The latest missile launch may also clear the way for a more realistic weapons testing program, helping North Korea develop combat-capable missiles to boost its deterrence capabilities.

“There is a technical imperative for conducting this test,” Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told WaPo. “They want to be able to look at reentry dynamics and how it performs on a more normal trajectory.” North Korea will need to ultimately move ships into the area to get telemetry data, but this is a first step.

If the consequences for North Korea’s actions are limited, Pyongyang may assume that the benefits are worth the risks and conduct additional tests of this nature in the future, possibly for its new intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2015. DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Schneider.

“In a way, it’s kind of a trial balloon,” Elleman said. “If we overfly Japan, what happens? If the blowback isn’t too significant, they will feel more comfortable with launching a Hwasong-14 to a good distance to validate its performance on a normal trajectory.”

North Korea typically tests its missiles by lofting them, and then analysts calculate their theoretical range were the missiles to be fired along a normal trajectory. North Korea needs more reliable data if it intends to field a viable nuclear deterrent. When North Korea threatened to fire missiles into waters around Guam earlier this month, some observers suspected that North Korea might be trying to set a precedent for launches over Japan.

“This sets a new dangerous precedent of overflying Japan and launching into the western Pacific,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, posted on Twitter after North Korea’s threats.

While the North may have deescalated earlier, it does not appear to have backed down. The country appears as committed to its strategic ambitions as ever.

Articles

The 8 most painful non-lethal weapons

When the military doesn’t want to kill anyone but really needs to make sure they stay away, they turn to nonlethal weapons. Some of these weapons are painful enough that a gunshot might seem preferable.


1. The non-lethal claymore

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Two M5 modular crowd control munitions are mounted on the side of this M-113 armored personnel carrier in Camp Bucca, Iraq, in 2008. Photo: Capt. Jason McCree

The M5 modular crowd control munition is described as a non-lethal claymore. It works about the same as a normal claymore in the sense that a small explosion propels hundreds of small balls. The M5 uses 600 rubber balls instead of steel pellets, and so just hurts like Hell instead of killing people.

2. Pulsed Energy Projectile

The Pulsed Energy Projectile is a beast. It fires a short laser burst that creates plasma on the surface of the skin and then fills the plasma with laser energy that explodes with a loud flash and bang. Basically, it turns small patches of skin into mini flashbang grenades.

3. Pain Ray

The Active Denial System is commonly called a pain laser, but it’s actually a pain ray that uses millimeter waves to heat water under a target’s skin. This gives a sensation of burning, like they’ve opened a blast furnace. The target usually flees immediately and no one lasts more than a few seconds. China has its own version of the weapon.

4. Plasma shield

Flashbangs are already known as a painful and occasionally lethal way to control foes. The Plasma Acoustic Shield System uses lasers to create pockets of plasma in the air and then detonates those pockets with another laser, creating a flashbang effect each time. Currently, the system can only make 10 explosions per second but the Pentagon is aiming for hundreds.

5. Shotgun tasers

Extended Range Electronic Projectiles are shotgun rounds that each contain a mini, self-contained taser. They contain a battery, microprocessor, and 10 electrodes. The rounds fly for up to 100 feet before striking a target and burying four electrodes into its skin. Six more electrodes then deploy and spread the shock over more of the body.

6. 40mm sponge grenades

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Photo: Wikipedia/יורם שורק

This 40mm round isn’t really a grenade: It’s a dense sponge fired from a grenade launcher from up to 75 meters away. It slams into the target with enough force to stun someone but the sponge cushions the impact, limiting the chance the target will be permanently injured or killed.

7. Rubber ball hand grenade

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

The rubber ball hand grenade is exactly what it sounds like. It’s thrown like a normal grenade and a small charge propels at least 100 rubber pellets at nearby targets, stinging and bruising them. It may not kill anyone, but it hurts like hell and will make anyone deaf for at least a little while.

8. High-Capacity Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Dispenser

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Robert Gonzales

All oleoresin capsicum devices cause agitation to the skin, sinuses, and respiratory systems as well as coughing and crying. The High-Capacity Oleoresin Capsicum Dispenser used by the Marine Corps is specifically designed for 12 strong bursts of the chemical.

Articles

2 lessons this elite fighter pilot says will guide you through a successful life

When Dave Berke was a kid, he imagined himself flying an F-18 off an aircraft carrier.


By the time he retired as a US Marine officer in 2016, he had not only done that, but he’d also flown an F-16, F-22, and F-35, taught at the elite Top Gun fighter pilot school, and served a year on the ground alongside Navy SEALs in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi as a forward air controller.

Today, he’s a member of Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm started by two of those SEALs, Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink and one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin.

Berke has spent the past year sharing lessons from his 23-year military career, and we asked him what insights were at the heart of his leadership philosophy. He shared with us two lessons he learned as a teenager, long before he ever saw combat.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

They’re lessons he said became not only the foundation of his service, but his entire life, and they’re ones he’s had reinforced repeatedly.

Set specific goals and develop detailed paths to them.

Berke’s mom Arlene had become used to hearing her young son talk about how he wished he could fly fighter jets one day.

She told him that he needed understand that the role of a fighter pilot was a real job, one that existed outside of his daydreams. Berke said her message boiled down to: “You could sit there and think about wanting to be a pilot. By the time you’re 25 somebody will be doing that job. Spend less time fantasizing about it, spend less time dreaming about it, and spend more time coming up with a plan.”

Berke took it to heart, and in retrospect, probably took his mom’s advice even more intensely than she had intended. By 15 he knew that his goal was to fly F-18s off aircraft carriers and be stationed in Southern California. He wouldn’t go the more traditional Navy route, either, but would join the Marines and become an officer.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

The Marines have fewer pilots, but even their pilots go through the same training as all other Marines. He wanted the best of both worlds, and to have his goal be as challenging as possible.

He accepted that he might not make this a reality, but decided he would act as though there were no alternative.

At 17, he met with a recruiting officer to nail down everything he needed to do to make his vision a reality, giving him a year to think about the resulting timeline before signing up for the Marine Corps.

“It keeps you disciplined because the risk of not doing all the things you need to do is failure,” he said about this timeline approach. “It’s a failure that you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”

 

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon

Mental toughness is more important than abilities.

Berke said that he’s never been the biggest or strongest guy among his friends in the military, and as an 18-year-old, he was thin and average height.

He arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer candidate school scared and intimidated. “I looked around and everybody else around me looked bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and seemed to be more qualified than me to do that job,” he said.

But as the days went by, he would be surprised to see some of his fellow candidates break under pressure. A guy next to him that he knew was naturally a better athlete than he was wouldn’t be able to keep up in fitness trials, but it was because he didn’t share the drive that Berke had developed for years.

“As they started to fail, I started to realize that the difference between success and failure was mental toughness,” he said.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank
Berke, middle, with the Echelon Front team and Jocko Podcast producer Echo Charles, second from right. Berke joked this photo proves his point about not having to be the biggest or strongest to succeed. Photo from Echelon Front

He became an officer. Next was the Basic School, where he would be given his role in the Marine Corps. He was one of 250 new officers, and there were only two pilot spots for his class.

“There’s no way I’m going to let somebody else work harder, be more committed, be more disciplined, and outperform me in that environment to accomplish what they want at my expense,” he thought. “It’s not going to happen.”

The same mindset is what got him through the chaos of Iraq 15 years later, when a plane didn’t separate him from the fighting on the ground.

“There’s no Plan B to losing in combat,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Huge Marriott hack reportedly done by Chinese state hackers

US investigators have reportedly traced the massive data breach on Marriott customer data to Chinese hackers, a move that will likely exacerbate ongoing US-China economic tensions.

The hackers are suspected of working for the Ministry of State Security, the country’s intelligence agency, The New York Times and the Washington Post reported Dec. 11, 2018.


The Post’s sources warned against making definitive conclusions on the attack, as the investigation was still ongoing, but said the methods of the hack suggested it was state-sponsored. Private investigators also identified the techniques as those previously used in attacks attributed to Chinese hackers, Reuters reported.

Marriott, which operates more than 5,800 properties in more than 110 countries, says it is the top hotel provider to the US government and military personnel.

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Marriott is the top hotel provider to the US government and military personnel.

The hotel chain announced in late November 2018 that about 500 million customers had their personal data breached in the attack, which began four years ago.

About 327 million of them had information like their name, phone number, and passport number taken, while an unspecified number had their credit card details taken.

The Trump administration has been planning to declassify US intelligence reports that show China’s efforts to build a database with the names of US government officials with security clearances, the Times reported.

People involved in the company’s private investigation into the breach also said the hackers may have been trying to collect information for China’s spy agencies, rather than for financial gain, Reuters reported.

Passport numbers, which are not usually collected in data breaches, may have been a particularly valuable discovery for the hackers, the Post said.

Beijing has denied responsibility for the attack.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry, told reporters: “China firmly opposes all forms of cyber attack and cracks down on it in accordance with the law. If offered evidence, the relevant Chinese departments will carry out investigations according to the law. We firmly object to making groundless accusations on the issue of cyber security.”

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

US-China tensions over trade and cyber policies are mounting. Here, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Reports of Beijing’s involvement in the Marriott breach comes amid mounting tensions between the US and China over trade tariffs and cyber policies.

Washington has been planning to issue a series of measures that include indictments and possible sanctions against Chinese hackers, The Times and Post both reported.

Beijing is currently reeling over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder, over her alleged involvement in Iran sanction violations.

She was granted bail at .4 million while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the US. December 2018, Beijing summoned the US ambassador to China and warned of “grave consequences” if Meng was not released.

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