This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security.
In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?
Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.
Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?
Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.
Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.
With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.
By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.
Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”
On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.
Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”
Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.
Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.
Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.
Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.
The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.
After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.
A purple heart recipient and Vietnam war veteran, Dan Osteen, 69, sacrificed his life saving his 3-year-old granddaughter after the Oklahoma house they were in exploded.
Dan Osteen, 69, with granddaughter Paetyn, 3.
Dan Osteen’s son, Brendon, says his father looked forward to every single moment he could spend with his granddaughter, “That’s what he was first and foremost I mean he was all about that baby and she was all about him.”
On Sept. 19, Brendon said his father was lighting a candle next to the stove, when there was a powerful propane gas explosion. Brendon spoke to the immediate selflessness about his father’s actions, “He wasn’t worried about himself at all. I’ll leave it at that, but save [to] her was the message he was trying to get across and he did exactly that.”
Osteen suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and severe burns when the blast ripped through the house. Against all odds, he was able to carry his granddaughter out of the explosion into safety—going so far as to traverse a steep driveway that winds over a quarter mile through the woods, with his sustained injuries.
“He just got out of the house and headed straight to where he knew help was. He tried to get in his truck and his keys were melted to him. His phone was exploded in his pocket” Brendon said.
Don’s wife was the first to make it to the scene. There she found the pair in the front pasture of the family’s property, where Don had laid Paetyn in the shade. Brendon said that before he died, Osteen told his wife, Brendon’s mother, that the roof had fallen on top of Paetyn. Miraculously he was able to recover Pateyn and return her to safety, where she was treated for burns on 30% of her body.
Dan Osteen passed away from a heart attack during emergency surgery after spending days fighting for his life. “He was a man set in his faith and he knew where he was going” Brendon added. “He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken,” he said. “He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live.”
Brendon said the Oklahoma house belonged to his parents and brother. The house, along with all their belongings, were destroyed.
Osteen was an Army veteran who received a purple heart from a grenade explosion in Vietnam. He was a man of service to others, who paid the ultimate price to save his granddaughter. A GoFundMe page has been set up by the family.
For its second act of expansion, Arlington National Cemetery plans to grow southward onto property formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. Work there will begin in 2020, said the cemetery’s executive director.
Karen Durham-Aguilera spoke March 12, 2019, before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. She told lawmakers the cemetery plans to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2020. She also thanked them for providing the appropriate funding to make it happen.
“With Congress’s support, the Defense Access Road project is fully funded with million and the Southern Expansion is partially funded with 9.1 million dollars no-year funding, toward a 0 million requirement,” she said.
Both projects, which include a plan to reroute Columbia Pike, which runs alongside the cemetery to the south; and a plan to develop reclaimed land and bring it up to the standards of the cemetery, are currently underway.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)
The road project should finish by 2022, Durham-Aguilera said. The second phase of the project should begin in 2022, and complete in 2025.
“Southern Expansion will add 37 acres of burial space and extend the cemetery’s active life,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We will continue to provide quarterly report to Congress, outlining the progress of these important projects.”
To move forward on the project, Durham-Aguilera said the Army is working with Arlington County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration.
Durham-Aguilera also told lawmakers about additional projects that have either been completed at the cemetery, which are underway, or which are currently in the planning stages. Since 2013, she said, 70 infrastructure projects have been completed. Today, an additional 25 are underway.
“We have completed or are currently rebuilding more than eight miles of roadways, with approximately ten additional miles in planning or design,” she said. “We have replaced about one-third of the cemetery’s storm sewer lines … since 2013, we have replaced over 1,000 feet of sanitary line, typically, as an emergency repair. We plan to replace or rehabilitate an additional 5,000 feet to prevent further failures.”
The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Plan will add more space to ANC in a location near the existing Air Force Memorial and former Navy Annex. Plans include rerouting portions of the existing Columbia Pike.
In submitted testimony, Durham-Aguilera said the cemetery will also do work on its administrative building where families gather in advance of a funeral.
In fiscal year 2018, ANC buried nearly 6,500 service members, veterans and eligible family members, Durham-Aguilera said. While the expansions will extend how long the cemetery can remain active, it will not be enough, she said.
“Expansion alone will not keep ANC open well into the future — defined as 150 years,” Durham-Aguilera said. “The [fiscal year 2019] National Defense Authorization Act requires the secretary of the Army, in consultation with the secretary of defense, by Sept. 30, 2019, to prescribe and establish revised criteria for interment that preserves ANC as an active burial ground. Evaluation of multiple options is ongoing to inform the secretary of the Army’s decision.”
To help inform that decision about eligibility criteria, Durham-Aguilera said, ANC has, among other things, conducted two public surveys of nearly 260,000 respondents and held meetings and listening sessions with key stakeholders — including more than 25 veteran and military service organizations.
“Arlington National Cemetery’s enduring mission is to represent the American people for the past, present and future generations by laying to rest those few who have served our nation with dignity and honor, while immersing guests in the cemetery’s living history,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We are committed to ensuring confident graveside accountability, our cemetery maintenance, our fiscal stewardship, and preserving the iconic look and feel of the cemetery.”
The personnel chiefs for the Navyand Marine Corps revealed Tuesday that both services are considering updating their policies to require mandatory processing for administrative separation for troops found to have engaged in abusive social media activity, a move that would make online violations akin to drug use and sexual assault.
Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com that a task force organized to address the aftermath of a social media scandal implicating Marines is considering the option.
The scandal centers on a private Facebook page called Marines United, where hundreds of active-duty troops and reservists apparently viewed and exchanged nude and compromising photos of female service members without their consent. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the illicit activity has since expanded beyond the page to other groups and users, NCIS officials said last week.
“There is mandatory processing for administrative separation in a number of different cases. Use of drugs requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual harassment requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual assault requires mandatory administrative processing,” Brilakis said, following a congressional hearing on military social media policies on Capitol Hill.
“We are considering whether events wrapped up in Marines United, those things, would rise to the level where the commandant would recommend or direct me to begin mandatory administrative processing for separation,” he said.
Processing does not guarantee that an individual will be separated from the service, but it does direct that the relevant commander begin a review, and an administrative board review the case of the service member in question. Such a move would require a change to the Marine Corps separations manual, Brilakis said.
The Navy, which organized a senior leader working group in the wake of the scandal, is considering a similar step, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel Tuesday.
“We are reviewing the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and Navy policy governing mandatory administrative separation to ensure they are adequate,” he said.
The fact that both services are considering such a move, reserved for violations for which the military has a zero-tolerance policy, underscores how seriously the military is now addressing the problem of social media harassment and the pressure from lawmakers to produce results fast.
Similar policies implemented in the 1980s to combat drug use in the services resulted in a huge reduction. According to Defense Department statistics, 47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995. More recently, the military has worked to apply the same approach to sexual harassment and assault, though the results to date have been more muted.
The policy reviews come as multiple lawmakers express outrage at service members’ alleged behavior and call for decisive action.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire, called on the military to boot offenders, reading aloud from an enlistment document that states troops will be subject to separation if their behavior falls short of military standards.
“I don’t know why we have to debate and you tell them at the very beginning and you sign off saying their behaviors are unacceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to then pursue many various avenues. Do you still have the power to throw them out if it’s very clear they can’t do this?”
Brilakis, however, emphasized that everyone in uniform deserves due process and will continue to receive it.
“Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes,” he said.
U.S. Army aviation leaders offered details on Oct. 10, 2018, about recent solicitations to industry designed to advance the attack-reconnaissance and advanced drone aircraft programs for the service’s ambitious Future Vertical Lift effort.
Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is the Army’s third modernization priority, intended to field a new generation of helicopters such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2028.
The FARA will be designed to take targeting information from FVL’s Advanced Unmanned Aerial System and coordinate “lethal effects” such as long-range precision fires to open gaps into a contested airspace, Rugen said.
Released Oct. 3, 2018, the RFP for the FARA asks industry to submit proposals for competitive prototypes.
“All the offerors will basically get us their designs by Dec. 18, 2018; we will down-select up to six in June 2018 and, in 2020, we will down-select to two,” Rugen said.
The Army plans to conduct a fly-off event in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 to select a winner, he added. “It’s a tremendous capability … that we think is going to be the cornerstone for our close combat control of contested airspace.”
UH-60 Black Hawk.
The service also released a Sept. 28, 2018 Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems RFP for industry to present platforms to conduct demonstrations for Forces Command units.
“Future Tactical UAS is really something that we have been asking for; it’s a [Brigade Combat Team]-oriented UAS,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd III, commander of Program Executive Office Aviation. “It isn’t necessarily a replacement for the [RQ-7] Shadow, but it could be, depending on how it goes with industry … so we are ready to see what you’ve got.”
The Army plans to pick three vendors to provide “future tactical UAS platforms to FORCOM units, and they are going to go and basically demonstrate their capabilities,” Rugen said, adding that the Army is looking for features such as lower noise signature and better transportability.
The service plans to “do a fly-off in the next couple of months and down-select in February,” he said. FORCOM units will then fly them for a year in 2020.
The results of the demonstrations will inform future requirements for the FVL’s Advanced UAS, Rugen said. “If it’s something we really, really like, we may move forward with it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In May 2014 then-Tech Sgt. Kristopher Parker, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, was out of comms in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents.
According to an Air Force release, the firefight started when Parker and other American forces who had been sent to clear an improvised explosive device factory came across the insurgents holed up in a cave.
Parker and his fellow troops faced RPGs, small-arms fire, and even hand-thrown IEDs during the 20-hour engagement with the enemy.
Despite all that incoming, Parker was doing a lot of multitasking. He swept the area for IEDs. He cleared routes. He pulled wounded personnel out of the line of fire. He marked cache locations.
“Kris saved the lives of so many Soldiers, Marines and Airmen,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Global Strike Command, said in the release. “He put their lives first and took care of them and that is so honorable.”
When the fight was done, 18 insurgents were dead. Parker had also cleared and destroyed over 200 pounds’ worth of homemade explosives.
On March 17, Parker, now a retired Master Sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during that 20 hour battle. The award is the third highest that can be presented for valor in combat.
“We are so lucky to be here with this true hero,” Rand said. “A hero who has deployed several times in harm’s way. A hero that saved lives. I’m so humbled and appreciative of his incredible service. It’s a great time to be an Airman.”
If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.
It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.
While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.
1. Understand your mission
Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.
Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.
The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.
“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”
In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.
3. Identify obstacles
A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.
“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”
“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”
What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.
If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.
4. Call for support if necessary
Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.
Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.
Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.
CBD is an emerging drug derived from the cannabis plant for its ability to reduce anxiety without “getting you high.” As federal restrictions relax, scientists continue to study CBD for its medicinal properties and companies continue to find great ways to administer it.
But does it actually work?
The short answer is: it sure seems to.
A recent preclinical study strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies are limited due to past federal restrictions, but so far the anecdotal evidence looks convincing.
What is CBD?
Cannabis (most commonly known as marijuana) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. The two major components of marijuana cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC has a psychoactive effect, doctors and scientists have been able to procure CBD by itself, which is non-psychoactive (in other words, it won’t get you “high”) and has many promising medicinal properties that treat symptoms of chronic pain or anxiety.
In a survey conducted in 2017, 40% of cannabis users reportedly found CBD to be more effective than prescribed anti-anxiety medications. It should be noted that CBD can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but like any medication, it should be used along with practical methods to treat the sources of anxiety (such as therapy, wellness and fitness programs).
How to use CBD
There are many ways to enjoy CBD — and many different doses. Because it does not produce a psychoactive effect, you may be able to use a small dose of a tincture under your tongue for quick relief without compromising your concentration or if you have work you want to accomplish.
Maybe it’s the end of the work day and you want to relax for the evening. A CBD bath bomb can give you a larger dose absorbed by the skin at a slower rate for a dreamy evening. A CBD lotion can be part of your morning routine to calm your muscles and start your day off right.
CBD is an emerging medicinal offering with many different possible applications: liquids, capsules, edibles and topicals. Each one will result in a different experience. Furthermore, the strength of the dose is measured by miligrams and should be experimented with slowly (for example, I enjoy beverages with 10-25mg of CBD, but my evening bath bomb might have 100-200mg).
Overall, if you are seeking a way to help manage anxiety, talk with your health care provider about whether it’s safe to try CBD (remember, it is a drug — it can affect other medications you are taking), and then begin to experiment with different applications and doses slowly.
Looks like it’s about time to get back to the grind, guys. Grab that razor and shave off that poor excuse for a block-leave beard because Uncle Sam is about to get his dues again. You got all the warm and fuzzies from telling your family and friends you’re in the military, but now it’s time to do actual military stuff again.
On the bright side, next week is going to be lazy. While you’re slugging through the motor pool, know that you’re not alone —your chain of command is in the same boat. They just can’t show it since, ya know, burdens of leadership and all.
Oh? You thought the 100% accountability urinalysis was to “ensure good order and discipline?” Hell no. Your NCOs want to get out of PT just as much as you do.
Here’re some memes to help bring you back into the military mindset:
Marine corporal and well-known TV and film actor Tim Matheson spent a morning with We Are The Mighty. He discussed everything from growing up in Hollywood, to his service in the Corps in the late 1960s and 1970s, to his starring in many great, classic films.
Matheson is notable to audiences worldwide for his performances in John Landis’ Animal House, Steven Spielberg’s 1941, Mel Brooks’s To Be Or Not To Be, with Chevy Chase in Fletch, as Vice President John Hoynes in the award-winning show West Wing and more recently as President Ronald Reagan in the TV movie Killing Reagan. He got his start in TV back in the 1960s on such series as Leave It to Beaver with Jerry Mathers; being the voice of Jonny Quest in Jonny Quest and guest-starring on Bonanza, The Virginian and Adam-12. His early film roles offered him the chance to work with Dick Van Dyke, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds and Jane Wyman in such films as Divorce American Style; Yours, Mine, and Ours; and How to Commit Marriage. He starred with Clint Eastwood, David Soul, Hal Holbrook, Robert Urich and Kip Niven in the second installment of the Dirty Harry series Magnum Force.
Matheson described coming up in the industry as: “I learned on the job as an actor. I took classes when I was younger, but most of it was OJT. I’d get a day job here and a day job there. I sort of got the hang of it and it evolved into me learning my craft. The most interesting show I did was Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball. It was like my first big movie and it was a big part with Henry Fonda, and he played a Naval Officer. It was based on a real story about this family. My character had a draft physical and then enlisted in the Marines. I think I was 18 and the day I was to shoot that scene. It was the day I actually had a draft physical. Passed it of course and became 1A, which means I am available to be drafted. Then I am wearing a Marine uniform (for the scene), I remember walking and didn’t know any of the etiquette or anything, I just knew I felt really strange wearing a uniform. I was actually out on the street. I had to walk from where I had lunch over to the studio, where someone yelled, ‘Hey Marine!’ I didn’t know what to do.”
Shortly after that experience, Matheson enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and went to bootcamp at MCRD San Diego. He kept his identity incognito during his bootcamp experience so as not to stick out as the “Hollywood” type in his platoon. During boot camp, he was chosen to be a squad leader and he picked up PFC out of bootcamp.
Matheson told a story while marching on base by the base theater which was showing a film he had worked on. The base was showing Divorce American Style with Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds as they marched by. He thought, “Oh dear, I don’t want to blow my cover now!” He considers boot camp the toughest time of his life. He described it as, “One of those things that you hated every minute of it and yet when you look back at it you learn so much. I think mostly about yourself and what you can do and what you are capable of doing. I was a Hollywood actor. I had never really done anything physically, I could run … there were these kids in my squads who were from the south and played football; I remember one kid, in particular, that would just break down. He couldn’t run. He’d just say, ‘I can’t do it,’ and broke down in tears. I would tell him, ‘Listen, look at me, if I can do it you can do it. I’m telling you seriously, you are in better shape than me. It’s all here (points to mind)…Get your mind right,’ and we nursed him all through that. That is the training that everybody gets. You all have your breaking point and you all have to learn how to get beyond it.
“There is a reserve and a resource inside you can call upon when is necessary and you can go farther than you think you can.” The Marines offered him the opportunity to compete for a slot at OCS. He declined the offer and was happy with being enlisted. He was stationed at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chavez Ravine, which is close to Dodger Stadium. It is now the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center and run by the LAFD. He would go to 29 Palms with his reserve unit in the summers. He was part of his unit’s press department that would put out a paper even though he served in an artillery unit. Matheson made good friends in the Corps and enjoyed going through training with fellow Marines. He said, “There is a bond there you created that will never, ever go away. You have gone through something together. You’ve supported each other. You are there for each other….such a memorable time.”
One of Matheson’s funniest moments in boot camp was during pugil sticks training. His platoon fought against one of the platoons that was mostly made of up inner-city tough guys from Chicago. The tough guy platoon had a recruit named “Melson”, who looked, sounded and acted like Mike Tyson. Melson was considered the baddest guy in all of the platoons. While waiting for his pugil stick match, Matheson realized he was about ten recruits back from the start in which case Melson was about seven back, so he was in the “clear” or so he thought. He had not been paying attention when he realized he was six back and Melson was six back. His fellow recruits had been peeling off and going to the back, so they didn’t have to face Melson. Matheson was too close to the front of the line to get out of it. At the time he weighed about 160lbs and Melson was, “formidable.” His DI’s suited him and wished him luck in the pugil stick bout. Matheson said, “I’m just gonna go for it, I’m not going to just jab him. So, I go out there, KABAM! I hit him as hard as I could. He (Melson) looked at me, he throws down the pugil stick and dives on me. We have helmets on and he starts pounding my helmet. Everybody is laughing so hard.” The DIs separated the two of them.
Matheson found his way to the Corps through one of his industry friends, Mike Stokey Jr. Stokey’s family was in the Hollywood business as well. Matheson would take Stokey down to Camp Pendleton at times and his experiences of the Corps led him to pursue enlistment in the Marines. After boot camp, he did four weeks of ITR, which was that era’s infantry training. During ITR, the students of the school that ran the show were hardened street kids from Chicago. If other students didn’t go along with how things were being run, at night they would be chased through the billeting, likely en route to a beating of sorts. Matheson then went to radio school for his primary MOS of Field Radio Operator and was trained on the PRC-25.
While finishing up his time after radio school he was put on mess duty and then was sent to NYC to be on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. He shared, “…the Sergeant in charge of wherever I was….he said, ‘Matheson there is a car coming to pick you up tomorrow and you’re getting four days to go to NYC to do the Ed Sullivan Show for Yours, Mine, and Ours.'” Lucille Ball had called Bob Hope who then called HQMC to get Matheson permission to appear on the show. A car picked up Matheson and took him right to the airport. He had only one dollar in his pocket on the way to NYC; he didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast and couldn’t afford it arriving at The Plaza Hotel in the city. Until given some money, he was unable to eat. He said of being in NYC, “It was night and day different from being in training.” The Bee Gees were the guest of the week on the Ed Sullivan Show and he said, “It was a thrill to be on The Ed Sullivan Show (Matheson does his best Ed Sullivan impersonation).” Sullivan was filmed on Sunday and he was sent back to Camp Pendleton on Monday morning. By Tuesday he was back to swabbing the deck and he kept the visit to the show under wraps with Marines in his unit. He said of potential reactions, “Oh, here comes Hollywood, oh yeah, let’s get you down here. Scrub that toilet.” He made sure to fly below the radar most of the time, which made for a smooth enlistment.
When asked about Vietnam, Matheson shared, “I had mixed feelings about it and mixed feelings about what I should do, yet I did feel an obligation and sense of devotion to my country that I needed to do something. The Marine Corps Reserve was the perfect solution for me. If I am activated, at least I will be a Marine. With all due respect to the US Army, I did not want to be one of a huge number of people that was not seriously training. I knew the training in the Marine Corps was going to serve me well, so that if I ultimately ended up in combat I would be better prepared to handle it than I would if I had just been drafted and rushed through with the herd….it made me proud to be a brother of theirs (Marines that served and went to Vietnam), to stand alongside them and to feel that I had done a little bit for my country. And then it made me realize the obligation a citizen really does have in terms of service. It is so different today.” He said of the Corps, “I was proud to be part of that organization…I totally respected the price that was paid by all my brothers and sisters who did what they did and paid the ultimate price.” He shared, “It grew me up from being some kid in the valley…to seeing really what it was like to be trained and then shipped right over. Getting to know them when they came back or didn’t come back….You really learn the mettle of the men and women that you train with.”
Matheson retains a strong sense of pride, maturity and appreciation from his service. He carries over many values from his service such as, “Your word is your bond. It takes a team and you need leaders. Leadership was the thing I learned. I was a squad leader and then a guide at ITR. I learned how to take control and command. You couldn’t just stand in the back.” He credits the Corps with helping him ultimately become a director in TV and movies because of his leadership and initiative training. He believes running a film set is similar to running a military unit, especially in getting people to do things they don’t want to do yet need to be done. He was taught during automatic weapons training at Camp Pendleton if caught out in the open with no possible cover, to turn and to run toward the guns. His unit crossed paths in the chow hall with Navy SEALs and he was impressed with their toughness. “I had never seen any group eat as much and as fast as those guys. I thought we Marines were tough, and then I saw those guys! That was the first time I’d ever heard of SEALS. I never forgot them!”
Matheson is proud of his work with Clint Eastwood on Magnum Force. He said of Eastwood, “He was quiet, but filled with authority. He was the real deal.” He trained and qualified with the pistol for his role in the film. Matheson also did ride alongs with the police. He shared, “Clint always had a crew that just stayed with him through the years and they were the best.” Prop master Eddie Aiona on the film gave Matheson a .357 magnum to practice speed loading with to take back to his hotel room. Eastwood told Matheson of running lines and rehearsing before their scene, “No, I think there is something very special the first time that you hear those words and it should be on camera.” Eastwood’s comments surprised Matheson. He said of Eastwood, “He was the best listener I had ever worked with….he is totally listening to what I say and then I say what I had to say, and then he responded and changed one word that affected my next line…it was totally natural and totally spontaneous. I walked away at the end of that day saying, ‘This guy is the real deal; I mean wow.’ He was gracious to everybody and in public, he was very personable. Generally speaking, he had a way of moving around the city that you didn’t notice him. He just cut through all the blather. But if anybody stopped him, he would say ‘Hi’ and he would sign his autographs. He was the real deal and I just loved working with him.”
When asked who some of his more memorable colleagues were, Matheson shared, “Certainly John Belushi on Animal House was one of my favorites. He was one of the greatest guys, tremendous actor, wonderful improv. I remember the scene in the cafeteria where he is eating his lunch and stealing the food — he did it in one take. ” Belushi invented a lot of his work on the spot. “He couldn’t have been more gracious and generous to me. It was my first comedy.” Matheson speaks of the rivalry between New York and Los Angeles actors with, “None of that with John. Belushi set the tone of the film. John was just generous and loving and supportive of everybody and just great. Heartbreaking that his multiple successes took his life…that was when drugs weren’t bad for you…he just couldn’t get away from it. It was just a tragedy that we lost him.”
Matheson as a young actor got to work with many Vaudeville performers turned actors; Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope. “I learned a sense of discipline and how professional they were. Lucy was like a DI. I remember one scene with Lucille Ball where there were 11 kids around and there is a prop guy hiding under the sink … he has got to pop toast up that she’s gotta catch on a certain line. And at one point she looked around at everybody and she said, ‘Always rehearse with your props.’ It was just like a DI…it was one of those moments where this is what you do.” He is grateful for his good fortune in working with such greats and in the wisdom they imparted to their cast-mates.
Additionally, Matheson is grateful for having been able to work with great voice actors such as Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny), Dawes Butler (voice of Yogi the Bear, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, etc.) and Don Messick (voice of Papa Smurf, Scooby-Doo, Bamm Bamm Rubble, etc.). He got to see Mel Blanc perform a scene as two different characters/voices talking to each other, which floored Matheson. He said, “One of the finest actors I have ever worked with was Mel Blanc. Because he created the third-dimension voice, and you could see the character.” Matheson was a series regular on The Virginian,Bonanza and his own western with Kurt Russell called The Quest for a year each. His career was part of the waning time of western TV shows in the 1970s. He decided to start doing improv comedy to change the kind of parts he got which opened the door for doing Animal House, which opened even more doors for him.
He plans to keep on working as an actor with his current characters being more doctor roles now. “I must say the one thing I also learned from the Marine Corps was, ‘Get your ass in shape.’ I ran and ran and ran for years and did marathons until my knees started acting up. Now I am into spinning bikes and stuff like that. That was the main thing it instilled in me a sort of discipline; get up, work out…I see actors come to the set at 6:30 or 7 o’clock in the morning. They just woke up. I have been up for two hours, worked out because I want the blood flowing in my brain before I get to the dialogue — film is forever and pain is temporary so you are not embarrassed when your kids look at it in 20 years.”
Regarding veteran stories in Hollywood, Matheson sings high praises of Rod Lurie’s work directing The Outpost. He said, “ I thought it was an exemplary piece of work.” Matheson has positive feelings for Eastwood’s film Letters from Iwo Jima, as well. He shared, “I thought that was a masterful film…that he just threw together….I actually liked it better than the other film (Flags of Our Fathers)…I just think that those personal stories like that show the valor, gumption, strength and what it takes to be a leader in the service.” He said of working with Steven Spielberg on 1941: “Steven was one of the most wonderful, giving….and was very collaborative and encouraged me and my directing life and was quite an inspiration. He is just one of those guys that thinks differently. He is a genius and I look at his films and just study them because I find I learn so much in simply watching how he does things.” Working with Lurie on Killing Reagan was a great experience for Matheson and he describes Lurie as, “What a gem…and a gift he gave to me and Cynthia Nixon who played Nancy…to create an environment for us to play in…it was a memorable experience….I hold him (Lurie) in the highest esteem.” He said of political candidates that have served in the military: “I want them in our government. I want them to run a lot of different things.” His faith in military service and the Corps is still intact.
The Corps provided him with the following leadership takeaways: “The buck stops with me and I should be there for people that need help….To create a team in whatever situation you are in to do it better.” He is most proud of his kids in life and making them into responsible adults. He is glad to be in a position to keep learning his craft and is grateful to share the screen with great artistic craftsmen.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea in June. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier. PHILIPPINE SEA (June 1, 2020) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea June 1, 2020. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.
In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.
“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.
“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”
Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.
Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:
Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.
Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
Minimize contact with delivery personnel.
Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.
“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.
“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”
Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.
Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.
Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”
As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.
“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”
Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.
“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”