A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.
“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”
Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.
The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.
Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.
The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.
“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”
Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.
Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.
Great power competition
These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.
“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”
Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.
However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.
The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”
He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.
Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.
“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”
When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.
Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.
The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.
Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Sgt. Hailey Falk is the Army’s first enlisted female soldier to graduate from the rigorous Sapper Leader Course since the program’s inception in 1985.
Falk, 23, received her Sapper Tab, Dec. 7, 2018, after completing the “demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.” She is assigned to B Company, 39th Engineer Battalion “Bull Strike,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“Sgt. Falk’s success as the first enlisted [female] graduate represents a step forward in the process of recognizing success in the combat arms field by performance, not by gender,” said Capt. John D. Baer, B Company commander, 39th BEB. “The combat engineer MOS [12 Bravo] opened to females in 2015, and Sgt. Falk’s graduation from the Sapper Leader Course reinforces the wisdom in that decision by proving that both genders can achieve success in the enlisted combat arms career field.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
According to the Army, the mission of the course is to “train and certify the next generation of Sapper leaders, to serve as members of Combined Arms team, through training in small unit tactics and combat engineer battle drills in a physically demanding, stressful and austere environment.”
Sapper Leader Course
Falk was promoted to sergeant in 2017. With a high Army Physical Fitness Test score and a dedication to physical fitness, Falk’s leadership saw her potential to succeed at the Sapper Leader Course.
“Sgt. Falk is an outstanding noncommissioned officer and embodies the be, know, do leadership model and esprit de corps. She accepts the most difficult task without hesitation. As an NCO she leads from the front and drives troops forward to accomplish all missions,” said Staff Sgt. William Frye, Falk’s squad leader.
Each platoon in B Company rallied to help Falk and her fellow soldiers succeed at Fort Leonard Wood.
Among the challenges Falk faced at the leader course was the Sapper physical fitness test. The test is graded by Army standards to the individual’s age and gender. The minimum passing criteria is 230 total score, with no less than 70 points in each event.
The Sapper Leader Course not only challenged Falk physically, but mentally. According to the Army, the Sapper Leader Course is designed “to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient) and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”
At the end of the course, Falk’s instructor delivered the news that she had passed.
A Sapper Leader Course 06-17 squad detonates a silhouette charge to create an entrance through a wall during urban breaching exercises as part of the course.
(Photo by Stephen Standifird)
“At that moment, that’s when it hit me that I did all this. Now, it didn’t seem hard anymore,” she said. “During it seemed like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then, after, I [thought] I could do this again, honestly.”
Baer said Falk’s success should be a challenge to all combat engineers of any gender.
“There are physiological differences between genders, and female combat engineers often have to work harder to meet the strenuous physical demands of combat relative to their male peers. Additionally, the unit’s operational demands prevent an extended preparation time for the school,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has humbly taken on these challenges, succeeding purely through hard work and mental toughness.”
As the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, Falk said she encourages other soldiers to try it and plans to encourage those under her command to enroll in the school.
“I would say ‘go for it.’ Don’t be scared of failure. As long as you work hard for it and you don’t give up, you can push through it,” she said. “It’s not just you, there are other people who are working to help you get it. All of your battle buddies are earning your tab for you. You can’t just earn it yourself. Everyone has to work together.”
Her Army future
A week after graduation, Falk said she is catching up on her sleep and preparing for her next adventure — attending Pathfinder School in January.
“[I’m] hoping to get as many [Army] schools as I can,” she said. “I’m ready to do anything at this point. I just got through that, I guess I can do anything.”
Her squad leader and company commander agree Falk has a bright future.
A U.S. Marine climbs a rope while maneuvering through an obstacle course during a Sapper Leaders Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., October 20, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
“With Sgt. Falk graduating Sapper Leader Course, she now has no limits. She has faced and overcome the many challenges of one of the Army’s hardest schools,” Frye said. “Her unit now has one more lethal fighter among the ranks who is now an expert in mobility, counter mobility and survivability, ready to provide her task force with the tools to accomplish the most difficult missions.”
“Graduation from the course represents months of diligent preparation and an exceptional quantity of mental stamina,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has exhibited these qualities throughout her career in the 101st, and I suspect this is just the beginning of her success in the military.”
Falk remains humble about her accomplishment and credits her leadership and unit for her success.
“I still don’t think it’s a big deal, [but] I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she said. “I’m just glad I have the support system back here. My first sergeant, my sergeant major came [to graduation]. A lot of people from the unit came to support. I owe it to all of them because without all the training — even though I didn’t want to do it at the time — the training that we do, that I dread, it ended up paying off.”
If the E-4 mafia, those pesky 2LTs, and the old Command Sergeant Major were wrestlers, what would their gimmick be? It’s difficult for longtime wrestling fans to avoid comparing their fellow servicemembers and veterans to wrestling personalities.
Each rank, be it officer or enlisted, comes with a group of qualities that perfectly fit in the world of pro wrestling/sports entertainment. WWE is such an advocate for the military (and vice versa), and with Wrestlemania kicking off in Dallas this weekend, it seems fitting to use WWE superstars to describe your pay grade.
Young Enlisted (E-1 to E-3)
The Ultimate Warrior
Active and rambunctious, the Ultimate Warrior was known for his signature face paint, ring entrance, and infectious energy as he performed in front of thousands of fans around the world. Coming out of initial training, many young service members are full of energy, fit to fight, and looking to take on the world. Young privates feel they can accomplish anything thrown their way. Although, much like the Ultimate Warrior’s interviews and promos, they can also speak a lot of nonsense.
Specialists/Senior Airmen (E-4)
Jake “the Snake” Roberts
With the wisdom of a sergeant but the responsibilities of a private, members of the E-4 mafia are cerebral and hypnotic as they slither their way out of details and play mind games with authority figures. Like a good E-4, Roberts had the smarts to avoid the dirty work, but the skills to achieve greatness when he wanted to.
Junior NCOs (E-5 to E-6)
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
The Texas Rattlesnake was confident, brash and would stomp a mud hole on anyone who crossed him. Those new stripes make young NCOs feel like the baddest SOB in the command. They have a sense of confidence and even stand up to authority just like Stone Cold would do to WWF owner Vince McMahon by giving him the Stone Cold Stunner. Junior NCOs are also masters at double fisting beer cans. Give them a hell yeah!
Senior NCOs (E-7 to E-8)
The first thing senior NCOs have in common with Mick Foley is the split personalities: Nice one minute, intense the next. Whether he was Cactus Jack, Dude Love, or Mankind, Mrs. Foley’s baby boy is one of wrestling’s most iconic figures. He put his body on the line every night for 20 years and just like Senior NCOs, his body has taken a pounding over the years.
They may have throbbing knees, sore backs, and carry a few extra pounds with age, but they are still tough to take the pain and keep fighting. Watch 1998’s King of the Ring “Hell in a Cell” match to see the legend of Mick Foley.
CSM/Senior Master Chief (E-9)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair
“To be the man, you have to beat the man” WOOO! The CSM is styling and profiling as the guardian of the colors. Our E-9s have put in many years of hard work and service. It’s ok to flaunt a little bit now like the Nature Boy. And believe me those $600 alligator-skinned shoes are staying off the grass.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Before he was one of Hollywood’s A-listers, The Rock was a rank-and file wrestler working his way to the top of the card as “Rocky Maivia” when he debuted in 1996. Before they were Warrants Officers, they were enlisted Soldiers and NCOs paying their dues.Today, The Rock only returns to the ring when it is time for ‘Mania. He is rarely seen and only shows up before a big event. Sounds like our lovable warrants.
Lieutenants/Captains (O-1 to O-3)
Roman Reigns thinks he is ready for increased responsibilities. Roman has the look, the tools and the family lineage to make him a great wrestler. However, he lacks the experience and hasn’t paid his dues. Our L-Ts are groomed for greatness, and they may great one day, but are not ready to be the main event. L-Ts still have much to learn.
Field Grade Officers (O4 to O5)
John Cena lives by the slogan “Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect.” This is the motto of field grade officers. After 15 years, they are at the top of their game. Just as Cena is either loved or hated by wrestling fans, with field grade officers,Some people love them and some people hate them.
Except for maybe Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker may well be the most legendary wrestler of all-time. His presence is menacing as he looms in the shadows only to appear when we least expect it. The mere sight of that full bird brings a level of intimidation among the formation. With that eagle comes great power.
The Undertaker also had his unsettling manager Paul Bearer, who carried an urn to the ring, at his side at all times. The Colonel makes sure his Executive Officer or Aide is present at all times carrying the powerful OD green notebook.
Generals (O-7 to O-10)
Vince is the chairman and CEO of the WWE. He is the boss, the general. Bad idea to cross him. That’ll get you fired.
On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.
After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.
The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.
Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.
1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.
2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.
3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.
Medics remove an American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg on Jan. 12, 1945
4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.
Two elements of the 84th Division meet up at an abandoned mill near River L’Ourt, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945
5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.
6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.
101st Airborne Division paratroopers Pfc. M.L. Dickens of East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt. Sunny Sundquist of Bremerton, Washington, and Sgt. Francis H. McCann of Middleton, Conn., set out to rejoin their unit near Bastogne on Jan. 11, 1945.
7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.
Infantry supporting engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to the front at Compogne, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945.
8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.
9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.
10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.
11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.
Two paratroopers advance through a snow-covered, wooded section of the battlefield near Henumont, Belgium on Jan. 14, 1945.
12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.
13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.
14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.
15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.
16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.
A crashed plane lies in the snow near Remagne, Belgium on Jan. 13, 1945.
17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.
18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.
In the Kontum Province of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, there were many reports from U.S. troops on patrols of a strange, not-quite-human but not-quite-ape creature the locals call Nguoi Rung, or “The people of the Forest.” In other words: Bigfoot.
Gary Linderer was on a six-man patrol with the 101st Airborne’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. While struggle through the underbrush, he ran into “deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms.” The creature “walked upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso.” His battle buddies told him he just saw a rock ape, but Linderer had seen Rock Apes before. This was no Rock Ape.
Like the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the Sasquatch sightings all over North America, the Nguoi Rung is a oft-told tale in the area, but despite endless the sightings and folklore attached to the semi-mythical creature, no concrete evidence exists. Linderer wasn’t the only witness, either. Army Sgt. Thomas Jenkins reported his platoon was attacked by these apes throwing stones.
Toward the end of the war, Viet Cong and NVA soldiers reported so many sightings of the reddish-brown hair-covered Nguoi Rung the North Vietnamese communist party secretariat ordered scientists to investigate.
Dr. Vo Quy, a respected ornithologist and environmental researcher from Hanoi, discovered a Nguoi Rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of it. The cast was wider than a human foot and too big for an ape.
In 1982, another Vietnamese scientist, Tran Hong Viet discovered more footprints, which led zoologist John MacKinnon to investigate the region. MacKinnon called the area a “tiny, pristine corner of the world unknown to modern science.”
In 1969, MacKinnon discovered manlike footprints in Borneo’s jungles, which the locals called Batatut. While much of the evidence surrounding the existence of these apes is anecdotal, MacKinnon, known for his discovery of new mammal species in Vietnam, believes there is a possibility the existence of a previously unknown ape species is real.
In the days following the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, one combatant shocked the United States after his capture on an Afghan battlefield. His birth name was John Walker Lindh and he was fighting for the other side. After being sentenced to twenty years in prison, he’s on his way to being released.
The wounds from the September 11th attacks were still very fresh in America, as a wave of patriotic sentiment swept the country from sea to shining sea. For the first time in a long while, the country was reminded that it could band together during trying times. The pro-American sentiment made it all the more shocking when the United States invaded Afghanistan and found one of their own fighting for the other side, California native John Walker Lindh.
Dubbed the “American Taliban” by the media, Lindh had actually converted to Sunni Islam at age 16 and moved to Yemen to learn Arabic. In 2000 he was trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, where he received lectures from Osama bin Laden himself. When the United States invaded in the wake of 9/11, Lindh, named Sulayman al-Faris in Afghanistan, was already fighting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. According to Lindh, he never wanted to be in a position where he would fight the U.S.
Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann spent eight years as a Marine Corps officer before joining the CIA.
Lindh was captured by the Northern Alliance at Kunduz with the rest of his band of Mujahideen and turned over to the CIA for questioning. CIA officer Mike Spann interviewed Lindh because he was identified by one of the other Taliban as an English speaker. He originally claimed to be Irish. But that was the only time Spann would get an opportunity to interrogate Lindh. Later that same day, a planned prisoner uprising killed the CIA officer along with 300 Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, in one of the largest POW camp uprisings ever, now known as the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.
It took the Northern Alliance and U.S. air support, along with both British and American Special Forces six days to quell the uprising. Hundreds died on both sides of the fighting and Lindh was wounded by a bullet to the thigh. From there, Lindh was taken to Camp Rhino, where his wounds were tended and he recovered enough to eventually be sent back to the U.S. to face a grand jury.
Now you know why detainees were shipped in tight controls – because hundreds of people died when the CIA was lenient.
Unlike other combatants, Lindh was never sent to Guantanamo Bay. Instead, he was indicted on ten charges by a federal grand jury. The Bush-era justice department offered a plea if Lindh copped to only two of them: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh took the deal and a 20-year sentence. With time off for good behavior, John Walker Lindh will be walking free from the Federal Correction Institution in Terre Haute, Ind. any day now, to finish his last three years on strict probation.
The commercial starts out with two American jets entering the frame, then after buzzing past the camera a few times — one of the pilots decides he needs a diet Pepsi. As he pulls a lever back, a chilled drink pops up out of a customized metal container.
But as he goes to lift it up, there’s a malfunction, and the Pepsi doesn’t want to come out of its customized storage unit — and that’s a problem.
The other pilots jokingly mock him for a few moments, but our “Mustang” Pepsi drinker takes a bottle opener and removes the cap. He then rolls the plane into an inverted position just like Maverick and Goose did at the beginning of “Top Gun.”
As the jet turns over, the Pepsi pours into a cup the pilot has made ready to hold his delicious drink and positions himself right above his sh*t talking fellow pilots.
A senior Army modernization official today said that the service’s new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle will be the 7.62mm Heckler Koch G28.
The Army selected the G28 as its new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System in 2016 to replace its M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System — a move that will provide snipers with a shorter rifle that doesn’t stick out to the enemy as a sniper weapon.
Now, the Army plans to start fielding the G28 in 2018 to infantry squads as the service’s standard SDMR, Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for Army G8, told Military.com.
The Army has money in the fiscal 2018 budget earmarked for the SDMR program, said Murray, who did not have the exact figure listed in the budget.
Equipping squads with a new 7.62mm SDMR is the first step in a two-phase effort to ensure units have the capability to penetrate enemy body armor.
May 2017, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
The revelation launched an ad hoc effort to acquire new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle, mainly for infantry units, but the idea quickly lost momentum.
Then, in early February 2018, Murray told members of Congress that the new SDMR is a phase one; phase two would be to field a more powerful replacement to the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is chambered for 5.56mm.
The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in the squad formation is nothing new, but units currently have to turn in their SDMRs at the end of a combat deployment.
Since 2009, the Army’s SBR has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14, a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.
The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.
Congress just nixed a plan that would have made women register for the military draft.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees stripped the requirement of women to register for Selective Service that was inserted into the forthcoming $618 billion defense bill, which will be voted on by both chambers within the next few days, according to The Washington Post.
Current law requires all male US citizens aged 18-25 to register for the draft. The provision requiring women to do the same was part of early drafts of the bill, added after a number of military leaders and women’s rights advocates offered support for it following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s removal of restrictions placed on women in combat.
While the bill doesn’t change the Selective Service System, it does call for a review of whether a military draft is still worthwhile and cost-effective, according to Military Times. The last time a draft was ordered was during the Vietnam War.
Dropping women from draft registration may be a signal that the next Defense Secretary could reinstitute the policy excluding women from some direct combat jobs, such as infantry and artillery. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the policy change in 2013, but since Congress never passed a law affirming it, a stroke of the pen could roll it back.
Kevin Kent is one of the most experienced and trusted military advisors in Hollywood. With over 20 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, specializing in evasive driving, air operations, diving, & weapons handling/ instruction, while traveling to hundreds of countries, he definitely has the experience to back it up. He currently works as a director, producer, actor, stuntman, personal security specialist, weapon’s instructor, and a Military/ Police & Technical Advisor in the film industry, as part of Global Studies Group International. WATM sat down with Kent to learn more about his background, his experience in the Navy and how it all translates to the big screen.
Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I am the youngest of three boys. My father was a 22-year Army veteran and served in Vietnam. I was born in Greece and my brothers were born at various spots around the globe. My mom is a nurse and I had a disciplined childhood. My father retired from the Army when I was about five years old and we moved back to northwest Tennessee in the late 70s where my parents had grown up. My parents were very goal-oriented people and that education was important. We were driven to do our best and learn something. My grandparents had a farm where I grew up hauling hay and cutting tobacco, so it was hard work. I played baseball and football growing up. I am an Eagle Scout and was heavily involved in scouting. Both of my brothers are Eagle Scouts. We camped a lot and spent much time outdoors.
Accountability was a key family value that was stressed. Being in the military reinforced some of those values taught as a kid. Holding yourself and others around you accountable. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. If you screw up, own it. Write down goals and set out a path. You never think your parents are as smart as they actually are until you grow up.
What made you want to become a SEAL and what was your experience like?
I did not want to go to college while in high school where I was more hands on and desired to build something or travel. I couldn’t see myself sitting in a classroom. I was given guidance but come from a small town where a lot of the industry had dried up. The town went from 20,000 people living there to about 10,000 because of the industry drying up. The military was the best thing for me and my father gave me the advice to join the Navy instead of the Army for EOD school. He shared that the Navy owns the school and will get dive training out of it. The Navy is a better fit for who I was. I didn’t care for the Navy uniforms at the time, Cracker Jack guy. My mom was happy about me joining the Navy. My oldest brother was in the Army as well. You couldn’t be an EOD tech until you were an E-5, so it was a long road. You couldn’t get orders to the school until you were an E-5. The EOD school is technically hard, similar to Navy Nuke school.
Before leaving for bootcamp I was informed about the SEAL program. I had some knowledge of the program and knew it was going to be tough. I joined the Navy a few months after high school and went into a dive program to train for BUD/S. All of the guys in the program were in my bootcamp company. I went to bootcamp in Orlando, FL. You had to pass your first Physical Screening Test with a certain score and times for the program. You had to pick a source rating (Navy Fleet MOS) if you washed out of BUD/S. I ended up with Gunner’s Mate and had to do a six-month long course. I reported to Great Lakes, MI and was part of a galley detail to prepare food for the rest of the base, so my class didn’t start up for another two months. That was my first taste of the military’s “hurry up and wait.”
After graduating A school, BUD/S was backed up so the Navy was sending candidates to dive commands. It was so weird because I ended up at the EOD school in Indian Head, MD which is the same one my dad went through. I spent six months at the command getting ready for BUD/S. I went to BUD/S in 1994 and graduated in 1995 where I was sent to SEAL Team Five in 1995. I went to Jump School on my way to my unit. I made E-4 right before “Hell Week” and checked into SEAL Team Five with nothing much going on. I was assigned to SEAL Tactical Training upon arriving at my unit. It used to be where each team would run its own STT training that tailored it to the unit’s missions. SEAL Team Five used to be a colder weather unit.
I did nine deployments overall and was initially with SEAL Team Five for ten years. At the time there were SEALs that had been with one team for twenty years. My first deployment I ended up in the Persian Gulf after Desert Storm. In that deployment we were involved in recon and ship boarding in the region. My first deployment into Iraq in 2003 was eye opening to see how people can be oppressed, especially women by the Baath party. We were digging up mass graves in countries where people were getting closure on their lost relatives. It is insurmountable with forensic people laying out countless human bones on mats to where Iraqis are waiting to see if their family member(s) are among the bones. We took over a dam in the early part of the invasion that was in the eastern part of Iraq. The dam was near Tikrit and further east. We had dune buggies to traverse around the areas. We had a lot of helicopter supporters and two C-130s on station for support. Once we got on the ground, we secured the dam.
The next day we were driving around scouting everything where there was a village close to the dam. It was amazing seeing some of the kids where they were blonde haired and blue-eyed Persians. It was like something out of Alexander the Great and being from another time. We found a lot of anti-aircraft guns loaded close to the dam that were unmanned. If someone had been on one of these guns when we came in via helicopter we would have been shot out of the sky. We turned over the dam to a Marine Corps unit later on. The Iraqi people in the village welcomed us with open arms. People from the village also showed up to the dam for work where we had to turn them away.
Kent on being secured from “Hell Week” at BUD/S class 198. Photo credit KK.
What are you most proud of from your service in the Navy?
I’m most proud of the group of men that I was able to stand side by side with and do great things for oppressed people in the world, such as those in Iraq and other places in the world. I believe that this Country is the greatest in the world and having our presence in many places brings hope to those individuals who might never have any type of freedom or individual rights. I’ve stood at the edge of mass gravesites, while looking mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in their eyes, as they hoped that the large excavating machine would reveal whether or not these people’s loved ones were buried there many decades prior to our occupation of their home. Just so they could get closure.
Kent during his time as a SEAL. Photo credit KK.
What values have you carried over from the Navy into Hollywood?
Harry Humphries has been my mentor and has trained me well. I have brought over “Train like you fight” from my service, especially when instructing the technical part of the role. I cut my teeth on “The Last Ship” for five seasons with Harry, which was a constant cycle of work. Actors would come to pitch me ideas on the show of what to do tactically, where it added a lot of realism to the show. Credibility is key and we want to make sure the actors are training and doing rehearsals. The camaraderie aspect of the work I do is great. We had a tight knit group in the most recent season of “Jack Ryan.” For season two of the show I was in Columbia by myself as an adviser. We got so close working together down in Columbia it kind of felt like I was in a platoon again. The actors want to remain authentic as military-types and they want to do a good job.
Kent on his retirement day from the SEALs. Photo credit KK.
Kent at his retirement ceremony. Photo credit KK.
What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
One of the better lessons learned was in Season Two of “The Last Ship” where I was working with Keith Woulard where he sees me talking with some actors. As a note, my last two years in the military I was a BUD/S instructor as a third phase weapons chief, so I could be intense. Keith comes up to me and asks, “What am I doing?” He gives me tips such as tell the actors they are doing something right first and then telling them where they are messing up. So, I may have been a little hard on them where they are actors and not SEALs.
“The Last Ship” 2018 (L>R Bridget Regan, Eric Dane, Kevin Kent)
Kent with Mike Moriarty and Harry Humphries. Photo credit IMDB.com.
What was it like working on projects such as Twelve Strong, Bumblebee, 13 Hours, Kong: Skull Island, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Last Ship, Da 5 Bloods and the like?
All of the directors on those projects were professional where I would work with them again if the opportunity arose. Each project offered a different challenge as shared with “Jack Ryan.” 13 Hours with Michael Bay was great where he was such a huge influence on me. Bay puts us in a place to succeed where he wants military guys a part of the production and in the cast. 13 Hours set me up for success on “Jack Ryan” with John Krasinski where John wants to make everything look better. Twelve Strong was my first opportunity working with Jerry Bruckheimer where it was eye opening. Bruckheimer is a machine when it comes to producing. Bruckheimer and Ian Bryce were just phenomenal to work with.
We were surprised when we went to Thailand to work with Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods. Lee is so organized and knows exactly what he wants. Lee was okay with me training the actors every day where on other productions that would not fly. The stunt guys were getting so many repetitions where it definitely showed in the finished product. He knows everybody’s job on set to where after a take he would ask me what we thought about a take. He would encourage me to go give people notes if needed. Lee filmed the flashback sequences on 16mm film, which was the first time we have ever seen film on a set before.
Filming on Transformers 4 (2014) in Detroit (L>R, Titus Welliver, Kevin Kent, Michael Bay, Andrew Arrabito, Kenny Sheard).
Kent on set with the cast of 12 Strong. Photo credit IMDB.com.
12 Strong 2018 (L>R David H. Venghaus Jr, Kevin Kent, Chris Hemsworth)
13 Hours 2016 (L>R David Furr, Demetrius Grosse, Kevin Kent, Mike Moriarty, David Giuntoli)
Kent on set with the cast of 13 Hours. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Season 1 of “Jack Ryan” in Morocco (2017) (Kneeling L>R Wendell Pierce, John Hoogenakker, Joost Janssen,
Standing L>R Ron Culpepper, Geoff Reeves, Mike Moriarty, John Krasinski, Kevin Kent, Todd Sharbutt, Christian Stewart, Scott Foxx.
Season 2 of “Jack Ryan” in Colombia (Kevin Kent as Savage)
On set with Jeff Ward (stunt coordinator), Humphries, Kent and stunt team members of Da 5 Bloods. Photo credit KK.
What leadership lessons in life and from the SEALs have helped you most in your career?
Praise in public and chastise in private. Always take responsibility as a leader. It’s easy to be the leader when things are going great, but when Michael Bay comes and says, “What are you doing?”, it is not always that easy. My deployments have given me life perspective and patience in tough situations. I recognize where we are at and what needs done, I stay calm in the intense moments on set.
As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
I feel like most individuals coming from the military are extremely humble about their service and aren’t inclined to tell “war stories” to people they don’t know. In many ways, those actions and stories are sacred to the brothers-in-arms that lived those tales, and many guys feel vulnerable to be judged by others who perhaps didn’t live through those specific interactions or battles. However, if there was a way to get some of these high influence personal, such as Medal of Honor recipients to open up about their specific challenges and victories downrange, while either leading or being led by phenomenal service members, it might lead more people to open up and tell their stories. Even getting these stories on a podcast with guys like Jocko Willink, who has a great platform and could lead to potential books being written or interest in films made about these phenomenal individuals. Obviously, it would take someone with some clout in the industry, like a Bruckheimer or Bryce to develop these stories into something meaningful for the screen. Tom Hanks has done great things with his production team for projects such as “Band of Brothers”, “The Pacific”, and Saving Private Ryan to name a few. I would love to take on a military project as part of a proven team like that and I’m sure the Harry Humphries story needs to be told!
Navy SEALs vs. Zombies (2015)
What would you like to do next in your career?
I want to get into writing, producing and second unit directing. I started the Digital Cinematography program at Full Sail University. It has got me out of my comfort zone and has helped hone my technical skills, especially with editing in Premiere Pro. Harry and his wife Catherine have been very supportive of my education. I really want to stress how great she & Harry have been in bringing me into this industry. I filmed a couple of documentaries and my kids are into acting right now. It would be great to work with fellow veterans as well. One of the things that pushed me in this direction was having worked on “Jack Ryan” where I worked with Dennie Gordon, she did season two of the show. She is phenomenal at her craft and is a great person. We have kept in contact with each other since our time on “Jack Ryan.” She would let me set up and block shots for the series. It pushed me to get my stuff together and learn about the craft. I can now talk to the director and the cinematographer about the shots in a technical manner.
I was humbled to meet Patricia Riggen as well on “Jack Ryan” where her and her husband Checco Varese who is a cinematographer. There was a mutual feeling of respect between Patricia and Check where I learned as much from them as they did me. They both pulled me aside and told me how much they want to work with me again and the feeling was the same from me as well. It has been amazing where I am grateful in having people like them and more take time with me and mentor me. It has been great working with so many high-level people.
Kent with his twin boys. Photo credit KK.
What are you most proud of in life and your career?
The fact that I was able to hold my family together. I have been married now for 18 years, I have twin boys that are 15 and a daughter that is 11. I am grateful to be able to teach and mold them into the productive members of society I want them to be. Being deployed so much kept me away where my wife is a saint. She puts up with me being gone all the time and is the glue that holds everything together.
One of my son’s has expressed interest in joining the service when he is old enough. My sons were introduced to acting when they were young by my wife since they are twins. They played Bill Paxton’s son for five seasons on the HBO show “Big Love”, which put me on set to be with them. They did the last two seasons of “Weeds” as the son of Mary Louise Parker. The boys were nominated separately for the same award for the Imagen foundation (https://www.imagen.org/) which is for Hispanics in Entertainment. They did a show called “Room 104” where they were nominated for best young actor award for TV. It is crazy when one of my sons says, “I don’t know dad it might be cool to be a Navy SEAL.” I told them, “They are on a gravy train with biscuit wheels right now, you guys need to stay on this whole acting gig.”
Mrs. Kent with Gavin and Ethan at the Imagen Awards Ceremony. Photo credit KK.
Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.
Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.
They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.
Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”
Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.
‘Enough to kill tens of millions’
Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.
Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”
“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.
Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.