This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders - We Are The Mighty
Articles

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

The walls of Travis Bell’s modest barbershop on Fort Bragg are lined with history.


Photos of Army heroes are here, men such as the late Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, a Special Forces legend best known for leading the Son Tay raid during an attempted rescue of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Former Army leaders have found their way on the walls, too, including Gens. Hugh Shelton, Ray Odierno, Lloyd Austin, and Stanley McChrystal.

Some are official photos. Others were taken from Bell’s barber chair in the center of his shop. In a few, it’s Bell in the chair and a general behind him, playfully holding a pair of clippers.

Nearly every photograph includes a handwritten note to Bell, who has been a fixture on Fort Bragg for more than half the Army post’s almost 100-year history.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Travis Bell at work. DoD Photo by Spc. Paul A. Holston.

“Thanks for your dedication and friendship,” wrote Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, who served as a deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps from 2007 to 2009.

“Thank you for your friendship, support, and dedicated service to America,” wrote Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commanded the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg from 2005 to 2007.

“To Travis with deep respect,” wrote McChrystal, who served as chief of staff of the corps and later commanded Joint Special Operations Command and the US war in Afghanistan before his retirement in 2010.

After 50 years of standing behind his barber chair, Fort Bragg leaders pulled Bell out into the open July 7 to honor him for his decades of service.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Photo from DoD.

Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and the acting senior commander of Fort Bragg, said Bell has had a lasting impact on Fort Bragg and its leaders that stretches well beyond making them look good.

“He’s shaped a lot of leaders in the Corps,” the general said. “He has probably counseled every Corps commander since 1967.”

Bell, 77, has long served as a sounding board for soldiers across the 18th Airborne Corps, LaCamera said. And he has more time in the headquarters than anyone in history.

As a token of appreciation, the general presented Bell with a book full of handwritten letters from past Army leaders.

“The impact he’s had…” LaCamera said. “Who he has touched… It’s unbelievable. We’ve got a man who has had a tremendous impact.”

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
General Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera (right). Photo from DoD.

Bell opened his shop on Fort Bragg during the week of July 4, 1967. The then-27-year-old had worked on post for several months by that time — first at the old E-4 club, which would eventually become the Noncommissioned Officers Club, and then briefly at the 1st Corps Support Command headquarters.

Bell recalls accepting the job at the 18th Airborne Corps reluctantly.

In 1966, he turned down a similar job on Fort Bragg when he learned that the Corps headquarters was “where all that high brass” was stationed.

Instead, Bell kept working as a night foreman at a poultry plant in Robeson County. He cut hair on the side for a quarter or $.35 a cut.

When another job at Fort Bragg opened — this time with lower-ranking troops as the customers — Bell jumped at the opportunity.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

“I was one of them,” he said of the privates and privates first class who were among his first customers on post. “I was right at home.”

It would take Bell weeks to feel comfortable cutting the hair of soldiers at higher ranks.

When a lieutenant sat in his chair for the first time, Bell said he froze.

“I got so nervous I couldn’t hardly finish,” he said.

When Bell was offered the job at the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters a second time, he said he felt he had little choice but to accept it.

“It was go there or go home,” he said.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Preston Cherry

Bell grew up on a Robeson County farm, one of nine boys who worked the fields alongside their father. Later, he would be a painter, carpenter, plumber and mechanic, and do other odd jobs along the way.

He said he viewed cutting hair as his way out of those jobs, learning from an older brother and practicing on his siblings.

But settling into his shop at the 18th Airborne Corps, Bell would have had no idea he would still be there 50 years later.

“I thought I wouldn’t even last the first day,” he said. “But I made it through that. Then I made it through another one. And another one.”

Bell estimates that he has cut more than a million heads of hair at Fort Bragg, although he said business is a lot slower these days, with much of the 18th Airborne Corps deployed to lead the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
DoD Photo by Cpl. Angelica Annastas

“My customers are over in the war,” he said.

Originally, Bell charged 90 cents per cut. Today, the cost ranges from $8.55 to $10.75.

Bell has cut the hair of 23 Fort Bragg commanders, starting with Lt. Gen. Robert H. York in 1967.

The general walked into Bell’s shop, shook his hand and introduced himself, Bell said.

“I was so nervous, to this day I haven’t told him my name,” he said.

Those nerves would eventually go away. And Bell would become a trusted counselor to Fort Bragg’s leaders.

Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, who retired on Fort Bragg last week after a career that culminated as vice chief of staff for the Army, said he sought out Bell to cut his hair one last time before he stepped away from the military.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill.

Allyn thanked Bell alongside current and former Army leaders.

“Travis has been cutting the hair of airborne troopers for over 50 years,” Allyn said. “He lowered my locks one final time this week. Thank you for not only keeping us looking as good as possible but thanks for your constant reminder of the impact of faith in our lives.”

When not cutting hair, Bell is often seen reading from a Bible he keeps in his shop.

He said he still makes the drive from Lumberton to Fort Bragg each day.

The July 7 celebration was just one way the Fort Bragg community said thanks to Bell. It was also his first day back in a newly remodeled barber shop.

And on July 6, he rode in an airplane for the first time in his life, flying with the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.

Bell still hasn’t been on a plane when it landed, though. The 77-year-old touched the ground while strapped to a member of the parachute team.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
A member of the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

“I’m airborne now,” he said July 7, proudly recalling the experience of the day before.

Bell said Fort Bragg is home now.

“They take care of me good around here,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure.”

And after 50 years, the barber has no plans to slow down.

“I’m enjoying it right now,” he said. “I don’t know when I’m going to retire.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52s tore through the South China Sea in a show of force

Two US bombers tore through the hotly-contested South China Sea on Oct. 16, 2018, an apparent power play signaling US determination to continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows ahead of a key meeting between US and Chinese defense chiefs Oct. 18, 2018.

A pair of Guam-based US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers “participated in a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” Pacific Air Forces told CNN in a statement, adding that the flights were in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, a mission focused on deterring regional challengers.


The Pentagon did not specifically identify which islands the aircraft flew by, but open-source flight tracking data suggests they may have been near the Spratly Islands, the location of a recent showdown between a Chinese destroyer and a US warship carrying out a close pass of the islands. During the incident, which occurred late September 2018, a Chinese naval vessel nearly collided with destroyer USS Decatur.

Following that incident, Vice President Mike Pence warned that “we will not stand down.”

“What we don’t want to do is reward aggressive behavior like you saw with the Decatur incident by modifying our behavior,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter, according to CNN. “That’s just not going happen. We’re going to continue to exercise our rights under international law and encourage all our partners to do the same.”

The flight was seemingly intended to send a message that the US will not change its behavior in response to Chinese aggression at sea.

The “Chinese have successfully militarized some of these outposts and their behavior’s become more assertive and we’re trying to have an appropriate response,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver told the reporters while traveling abroad with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver.

China does not see the situation the same way, having previously described bomber overflights in the South China Sea as “provocative.”

China “always respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by other countries under international law,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said at a press briefing Oct. 18, 2018, adding that China “firmly opposes to relevant country’s act to undermine the sovereign and security interests of littoral countries and disrupt regional peace and stability under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation and overflight.'”

“We will take necessary measures to safeguard our sovereign and security interests,” he warned.

The flight, one of many through the disputed East and South China Seas in recent months, came ahead of a meeting between Mattis and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defense minister. The meeting had been previously canceled amid rising tensions over trade, territorial disputes, sanctions, and Taiwan.

Their meeting was described as “straightforward and candid” on Oct. 18, 2018, with Pentagon officials saying that relations with the Chinese military may be stabilizing, according to the Associated Press. The discussions covered numerous topics but focused heavily on tensions in the South China Sea.

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

Articles

Navy sends McCain to challenge Beijing in South China Sea

The US Navy challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea on August 10, Navy officials revealed.


The US Navy conducted the third freedom-of-navigation operation under President Donald Trump in the South China Sea on August 10. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (DDG-56) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island chain, according to Fox News.

A Navy P-8 reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft reportedly flew nearby.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed past Mischief Reef in late May. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands, in July.

Over the past year, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea. China has been constructing military outposts in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and equipping them with armaments to protect its claims to the region, discredited by an international tribunal last year, through force.

China has constructed airstrips and hangars and protected harbors for the air and naval units in the Paracel Islands. The military has even deployed surface-to-air missiles. In the Spratly Islands, China has built airstrips and reinforced hangars, possible missile silos, and point defense systems.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese military has actually armed all seven of its military outposts in the Spratlys, strengthening its stranglehold on the disputed territories.

While the Trump administration was initially hesitant to rile China, which the president believed was an essential ally in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis, Beijing’s hesitancy to act on the Korean Peninsula has led the administration to target China’s strategic interests.

In addition to freedom-of-navigation operations, the US has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to send letters to deployed troops — for free

Hollywood has done a great job of making writing letters to deployed troops seem glamorous and romantic, but the truth is there is nothing fun about having a loved one sent overseas. Being thousands of miles apart from the one you love with little to no communication for months is never easy.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars knows about these hardships all too well, and has partnered with Sandboxx to cover the cost of the next 4,500 letters sent to deployed service members.


There are approximately 15,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen currently deployed to war zones. While access to technology is more ubiquitous than ever before, many service members can only receive physical mail and care packages from home while they are overseas.

Also read: How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Sandboxx makes it easier and faster to send mail to overseas service members through the Letters feature on the app. Families and friends of deployed service members can download the Sandboxx app to write a meaningful message, snap a photo, and hit send. Sandboxx will then print and mail the letter to the service member, and include a stamped, addressed return envelope to make it easy for their service member to send a handwritten reply in return.

Thanks to the support of the VFW, the next 4,500 letters sent to APO, FPO and DPO addresses via Sandboxx will be free.

“Mail call was, and still is, one of the most important morale boosters for isolated service members,” remarked Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith (USMC Ret.), Founder and Chairman of Sandboxx. “We are incredibly proud to partner with the VFW in order to get more mail written and delivered to our servicemen and women away from home. Families can easily take a photo at a family gathering or at the dinner table and send it through Sandboxx, knowing with confidence that we’ll take care of the rest.”
 

To ensure that your letter is sent free of charge, the city section of the address must contain APO, FPO or DPO. Be sure to update your app to the latest version in the app store, to receive the free credit.

Make sure to share this with your friends who also have a service member who is currently deployed!

Click right here to download the app. If you encounter any problems or have any questions about our services, please feel free to contact Sandboxx at support@sandboxx.us.

On behalf of everyone at Sandboxx and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, thank you and your service member for their service to our country. Start sending letters to deployed troops now.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

hauntedbattlefields

You don’t know the real Rudy Reyes

We’ve all heard of Rudy Reyes, the Recon Marine, martial artist, and actor who famously played himself in the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, but few people really know what Rudy has been up to these days. Hell, we didn’t know either until we asked Rudy to sit down and chat.

The only problem? Rudy doesn’t sit. He’s always on the move. Always.


As a former Marine and Green Beret myself, I should’ve known what I was getting into when I asked Rudy for an interview. I’m sitting in my office waiting for the 47-year old Marine to arrive from Mongolia (yep, you read that right). After knowing Rudy for years, I can tell you there is one thing I should be doing right now: stretching.

I first met Rudy in a NYC restaurant back in 2010, just a few weeks after I had left the Marine Corps myself. I was in that awkward, post-military transition phase where the opportunity for a new life seemed so real, but I still had no idea what to do with myself after three tours to Iraq. That’s when I ran into Rudy. He was waiting tables at a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, trying to pick up some extra cash between auditions. I can tell you with 100% accuracy, Rudy is a horrible waiter, but that didn’t stop him from giving the task his complete focus and energy. He only knows one speed: fast.

In fact, the Recon Marine and veteran of some of Iraq’s most gruesome battles moved around the restaurant like he was clearing a room. Maybe it was the newly grown “veteran” beard on my face or just the post-military emptiness that all warriors feel, but Rudy stopped when he saw me and asked me, “hey brother, are you a vet?” When I answered,”yes” and mentioned that I was just a few weeks out, Rudy invited me to join him for a workout the next day. See, that’s the kinda guy Rudy has always been. He knew me for less than a minute before welcoming me into his world.

Nearly a decade later, I am excited to see my friend again, especially now, because he’s literally traveled the globe to come up to my office. Besides his warrior spirit, there is one thing that I’ve always loved about Rudy: He knows how to make an entrance. He’s just walked in wearing a sleeveless WWII blouse while carrying a kettlebell and tactical boombox.

So let’s get this interview started…

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes

Brother and leader of Marines, welcome back to We Are The Mighty. What the hell are you wearing?

RR: Hey brother, good to see you. Aww yeah, you love this jacket. My buddy who worked on ‘The Pacific’ hooked me up. It’s what the hard chargers wore when they stormed Iwo Jima.

And what about the sleeves?

RR: Didn’t need them. [Rudy’s now doing pull-ups in the office]

Dude, it’s been a decade since ‘Generation Kill,’ and you still look like you’re on the teams. How the hell do you find time to get in the gym?

RR: Brother, I am the gym. I have Sorinex center mass bells, Monkii bar straps, and a positive attitude. That’s all I need.

Ok, well, I have no excuse not to work out today. What were you doing in Mongolia?

RR: Aww, oh my gosh bro, it was amazing. I’m part of the Spartan Race Agoge Krypteia. I am one of the leaders of these 60-hour endurance races all across the globe. Just like the Spartans of Greece, we train people to be the strongest and [most] mentally tough citizens on earth.
This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

Why Mongolia?

RR: It’s the land of Genghis Khan. We took a group of Agoge athletes through a training program just like the amazing warriors of the steppe. There was wrestling, archery, and shapeshifting.

Shapeshifting?

RR: Oh yeah, the Shaman [priest], covers his face so you can’t see it, but it’s real. He changes into different animals to help the athletes remove the evil spirits from their lives. It’s amazing how this cleansing will move you towards peak performance.

Wow, this just got interesting. You really think that fighting spirits is part of fitness?

RR: I don’t just think it, brother. I know it. I’ve been cleansing my own demons for years as I move toward being my best self. I’ve learned to dive into my dreams and explore the world as if I was awake. I’m an oneironaut.
This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

An Onierawhat?

RR: Oneironaut. I’m able to travel into my dreams, and once I am awake, I draw what I saw so that I can learn about the future or the past. It’s like being on a reconnaissance mission again. I have to get close to the enemy around me so that I can learn how to defeat them.

What have you learned from these dream missions?

RR: The enemy can come in many forms both internal and external. I have to fight things like self-doubt and depression as well as evil spirits that put barriers in our path to success. I’ve grown to be a better warrior, athlete, and father as an oneironaut. I recently dreamed about my son and I traveling to a beautiful waterfall.
This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

Can you teach me how to do this?

RR: Yes, of course.

Sh*t! He said yes, change the subject before we actually start fighting spirits.

It sounds like you’ve had a helluva year thus far, what does 2019 look like for you?

RR: Brother, I am so blessed. I’ve spent the years since I first met you focused on the things I love and believe in, and now it’s paying off. I get to be the warrior I am on camera with the Spartan Agoge and travel the world. I also have my non-profit, Force Blue, where we pair special operations veterans and underwater conservationists to save the planet’s coral reefs. We were just awarded a grant from the State of Florida to rescue and restore the coral reef off of Miami and the keys.


This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

(Photo Courtesy of @ianastburyofficial)

Wait, what? The state of Florida is paying you guys to dive coral reefs?

RR: Hahaha [Rudy’s laugh is now visibly causing all my coworkers to look in our direction]. Pretty much, brother. Florida’s reef is the 3rd largest in the world and one of the most threatened. The coral is both a wall and source of life. By getting in the water and restoring the coral, we are protecting the coastline from tidal erosion and protecting the fishing industry. We call it Project PROTECT.

Dude, that’s awesome. You’re rocking it. I see the same passion in you now that you had back when we first met in NY. What’s your secret?

RR: Positive mental attitude, my brother. We are our best when we believe in ourselves. That’s where I start each day and try to land each night. Positivity is contagious just like an insurgency.

You know I like that.

RR: Semper Fi.

Semper Fi, brother. [Rudy is now doing more pull-ups]

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.

Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.


By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.

Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.

“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.

Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition

(Photo by Sean Worrell)

On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.

Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.

“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.

All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.

Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”

Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:

  • Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
  • Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
  • Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
  • Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
  • Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 signs that let troops know it’s about to get real

Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.

Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:


This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

The commander shows up to inspections

In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.

But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)

Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop

When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.

But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.

All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners

But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.

So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive

Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.

So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.

(HBO)

A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal

As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.

This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,

“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)

Comms blackout

Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.

So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

All flights from Ireland’s Shannon Airport were suspended on Aug. 15, 2019, after a plane carrying US troops was evacuated because of a fire, Irish news outlets reported.

Shannon Airport said an Omni Air International Boeing 763 was halted as it taxied on the runway at 6:20 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET).

There had been reports of fire and smoke coming from the landing gear.

Air-traffic controllers instructed the crew to evacuate the aircraft as a fire on the left landing gear became visible, the Irish newspaper The Journal reported.

The Irish Independent reported that the fire was thought to have been caused by punctured tires.


Shannon Airport tweeted on Aug. 15, 2019: “We can confirm that an incident has occurred at Shannon Airport involving a Boeing 763 aircraft.”

“Emergency services are in attendance,” it said. “All passengers and crew have disembarked. Airport operations temporarily suspended.”

Irish news outlets reported that the Omni Air International, a US charter airline flying out of Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma, was a private charter carrying US military personnel.

Omni Air International tweeted: “We are investigating reports of an incident involving Omni Air International flight 531 at Shannon Airport, Ireland. The Omni Boeing 767-300 aircraft rejected takeoff and was safely evacuated. Initial reports indicate no serious injuries to passengers or crew.”

Shannon Airport said in a later tweet: “We are currently working to remove the aircraft from the scene of the incident so we can resume safe operations on the runway. This may take some time.”

In the wake of the incident, several flights from the airport were canceled.

Shannon Airport is the focus of an antiwar campaign demanding that the Irish government stop letting the US use the airport as a de facto military base. Campaigners say that over 3 million US troops have passed through the airport since 2003.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Intense bombing brings Syrian rebels to the bargaining table

Rebels in besieged areas of southwestern Syria say they are returning to negotiations with Russia over a possible pullout after an intensive bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian forces.

The move by rebel forces on July 5, 2018, comes after a brief suspension of the Moscow-brokered negotiations that have produced agreements already to return more than 30 towns to government control in the strategic zone of southern Syria bordering both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A brief collapse of the talks on July 4, 2018, ushered in a blitz of Russian and Syrian air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles, following a pattern Russia and Syria have pursued repeatedly to regain control over rebel territory.


The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria’s seven-year civil war, prompting an international outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s goal is to recapture Syria’s entire southwest, one of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

Within 24 hours of the resumed bombing, rebels said they wanted to return to negotiations, with the talks focusing on their pullout from the territory they still control in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Daraa is considered to be the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad that triggered the devastating war, which has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions.

Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south’s joint rebel command, accused Russia of pursuing a “scorched-earth policy” to force rebels back to the negotiating table.

As rebels agreed to renewed talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported a halt to both Russian and Syrian government air strikes over the south.

Rebels say Russia has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

Moscow also reportedly has refused rebel requests for safe passage to opposition-held territory in other parts of Syria, as was granted to rebels who agreed to pull out of Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

Rebels then handed some 275 square kilometers of territory near the border to government forces without a fight, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nearly 150 civilians have died since the government assault in the south began two weeks ago, according to the observatory.

Many of the area’s 320,000 displaced people have been fleeing south to the borders with Jordan and the Golan Heights, the UN says.

But both Israel and Jordan have kept their borders closed, despite mounting calls to let Syrians escape to safety.

The International Rescue Committee said displaced families are struggling to cope with 45-degree heat, scorpions, and snakes in the open desert area.

Rebel territory in southern Syria was included in a cease-fire zone created last year in a deal between Washington, Amman, and Moscow, but that did little to halt the government’s assault.

Near the start of the government’s offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of the cease-fire deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it had told them to expect no American military help.

The onslaught has sparked calls for restraint and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on July 5, 2018. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an “estimated 750,000 lives are in danger.”

But Russia blocked the council from adopting a statement on the issue. A diplomat said on condition of anonymity there had been a fruitless push to persuade Moscow to accept a pause in fighting to distribute humanitarian aid.

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

Articles

The Army may allow all soldiers to sport ‘operator beards’

You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.


This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Confederate General James Longstreet

For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”

According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
Army Special Forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.

“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”

The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”

“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.

The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.

At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.

Articles

The 10 best military movies to watch on Netflix this month

There’s aren’t many military-themed new releases for December, so take a dive deep into the Netflix catalog for some fascinating catalog titles.


1. The Longest Day

Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was determined that his movie was going to be the definitive movie about D-Day and it probably was before the release of “Saving Private Ryan.” While “Ryan” focused on the personal stories of men on the ground, “The Longest Day” aims to tell the WHOLE story. There’s a massive cast that includes Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, Eddie Albert and Curd Jürgens. If you’re under 40, you might wonder how anyone could watch a 3-hour movie with so much talking, but “The Longest Day” is the greatest generation’s most ambitious tribute to itself. (1962)

2. Kagemusha

“Kagemusha” (a/k/a “Shadow Lord”) was a worldwide success for Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in 1980. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign film, but it’s of interest here for its epic battle scenes. The plot revolves around a street criminal hired to imitate a medieval war lord and fool enemies in battle. If you can deal with subtitles, this movie features staggering swordplay. (1980)

3. Von Ryan’s Express

Frank Sinatra (and his hairpiece) were almost 50 years old when he played a World War II Army Air Corps pilot shot down over Italy. He ends in a POW camp with a bunch of Brits and takes over as their commanding officer, because he’s a colonel. And American, full of American leadership. After the Italians surrender, the newly-freed POWs are chased by the Germans. The good guys highjack a train and try to escape to Switzerland. There are heroics and some heroic deaths. Are there better WWII movies? Sure, but the Chairman is determined to prove he can carry a war movie by himself and he’s always fun to watch when he’s angry. (1965)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxCHiZ-UxOI

4. The Enemy Below

Film noir star Dick Powell tried to make a move into the director’s chair in the late ’50s, but it was bad luck that his first gig was “The Conqueror” starring John Wayne. Early scenes from that (terrible) movie were shot in Utan downwind from nuclear bomb test sites and almost half of the cast developed cancer over the next twenty years and Powell was gone by 1963. The only other movie he directed was this WWII “KILLER-SUB versus SUB KILLER” movie starring Robert Mitchum as a Naval reserve captain hunting a German U-boat commanded by a Curd Jürgens. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for the German because he’s not enamored of his Nazi leaders, so this one’s about the mutual respect that warriors feel in battle. It’s surprising to see Hollywood moving on from Evil Nazis so soon after the conflict ended. (1957)

5. Last Days in Vietnam

This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)

6. Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history of World War II stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads a squad of Nazi hunters who successfully carry out a plan to assassinate Hitler and his top brass in a movie theater. It’s profane and funny: Tarantino is more interested in paying tribute to the low-rent drive-in war movies he saw as a kid than exploring the history of WWII. (2009)

7. Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)

8. Hell is for Heroes

Steve McQueen gets to work the moody anti-hero magic in a World War II flick directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame. Pop singer Bobby Darin and Bob Newhart round out a cast that also features tough guys Fess Parker and James Coburn. Sticklers for accuracy will be quick to notice where the production cut corners and McQueen’s struggles with a balky M3 in the final reel. Still, it’s all about his performance and he’s fantastic. The whole think clocks in at 90 minutes, so you’re not committing your entire night to the experience. (1962)

9. Bravo Two Zero

Former SAS commander Andy McNab is sort of the UK version Chris Kyle. He’s had a successful career writing military thrillers. Sean Bean plays McNab in this 2-hour BBC TV film detailing an SAS mission McNab led to capture Iraqi SCUD missile launchers aimed at Israel during the first Gulf War. There aren’t many movies about that conflict and this one serves as a reminder that we’ve been fighting alongside the Brits in almost every war for the last 100 years.(1999)

10. The Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story

This PBS documentary begins with Navy frogmen in World War II and does a fascinating job of detailing the evolving mission and eventual official creation of the SEAL units. There are extensive interviews with the men who served and a lot of filmed footage you haven’t seen endlessly recycled on those History and Military (sorry, “American Heroes”) channel programs. (2014)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these ISIS propaganda video bloopers

A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.

A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.

The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.

Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.


ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.

Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.

In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.

On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.

The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.

Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information