4 of the worst things about training in 'Mojave Viper' - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Mock IEDs attacks, fire and maneuvering drills, and scrambled medical evacuations are just a few exercises Marines and sailors run while training at Mojave Viper. “The Viper” takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Although each scenario the Marines encounter is played out under strict supervision, it’s considered the closest thing to war a young infantryman are exposed to before facing the real enemy. The training takes place in a desert landscape that closely resembles the environment troops will meet in Afghanistan — and it sucks.


It’s f*cking filthy

Infantry Marines and sailors from various bases show up to Camp Wilson, where their desert training will take place. 99.9 percent of the time, the Marines occupy the K-spans located on the grounds. Those K-spans are rarely cleaned before the incoming troops arrive, which causes problems.

Plus, since you’re training in an open-desert landscape, the wind will blow all types of viruses and bacteria about. This, in conjunction with already-dirty living conditions, causes troops to come down with all kinds of illness, like pink-eye and a variety of sniffles. Keep your mouth closed and your eyes covered whenever possible.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Cpl. Dwight Jackson, a working dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, cools off his dog, Hugo while training in Twentypalms, Calif.

The summer heat

If you’re unlucky, you’ll be sent to Mojave Viper during the late spring and early summer months. You better start getting ready for the heat.

Not only is it freakin’ hot in the direct sunlight, but the blazing heat is made even worse by training in your full PPE gear. Welcome to hell!

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Lance Cpl. Charles Wohlers, 1st LE Gunner, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, prepares his gear for the cold wear before the Motorized Fire and Movement Exercise exercise on range 114, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

(Photo by Pfc. William Chockey)

The cold nights

If you think the days are bad, just wait until the sun goes down and the temperatures drop. Hell has just frozen over.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Lance Cpl. Daniel Breneiser, right, gets vaccinated against smallpox by Hospital Corpsman Nathan Stallfus

(Photo by MC1 Nathanael Miller)

Showering in a pool of smallpox

While stationed in the camp, most troops receive a smallpox vaccination on their upper arm. This vaccination creates a small blister which takes a few weeks to heal and may leave a scar. However, during that healing period, troops still have to shower to maintain proper hygiene.

As you shower, water will run over the blister and onto the floor. When multiple troops shower at the same time, the plumbing usually gets backed up, essentially creating a nasty pool of smallpox-laden backflow. Great.

Articles

Rob Riggle doubled-down on his USMC service while clearing rubble at Ground Zero

Comedian Rob Riggle accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 with the intent of earning a pilot’s Wings of Gold, but once he got to flight school in Pensacola it hit him that the lengthy commitment was going to keep him from realizing his dream of doing stand up.


Listen to our conversation with Rob on the We Are The Mighty Podcast:

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“If I had continued flying I didn’t see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy,” Riggle says. “I left flight school and became a public affairs officer.”

After nine years on active duty that included stateside tours at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, and Corpus Christi and overseas tours in Liberia and Albania (where he helped build refugee camps for those displaced by the fighting in Kosovo), Riggle transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He moved to New York City to pursue his comedy career and drilled with Marine Training Unit 17 — the only reserve unit in Manhattan.

And then 9/11 happened.

“I got a call from my CO and was ordered to report to One Police Plaza first thing in the morning on Sept. 12,” Riggle says. “I worked on the bucket brigades moving rubble by hand.”

For a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.

Riggle was exhausted and emotionally spent. He’d seen enough.

“Like most Americans, I was pissed off,” he says. “But as a Marine captain, I could do something about it. I put my hand in the air and told my commanding officer, ‘put me in this thing.’ And so he did.”

Now watch Rob Riggle fly with the Blue Angels:

Riggle received orders on Nov. 10 — the Marine Corps birthday — and a week later he reported to CENTCOM in Tampa for training and two weeks after that he was on his way to the war.

“About 20 days from the time I got my orders I was on my way to Afghanistan,” Riggle recalls. “That’s why you have reserves.”

He did two rotations into Afghanistan during his year back on active duty, working out of the Joint Operations Center because he had top secret security clearance. He was part of Operation Anaconda — the first major offensive using a large number of conventional troops — and other major campaigns during that time.

“When my year was up I moved back to New York City and ran the marathon,” he recalls.

The year after that he was added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the rest is American comedy history.

“I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me,” Riggle says when asked to sum up his military career. “I’ll be proud of that as long as I’m alive.”

Find out more about Rob Riggle’s first annual InVETational Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the Semper Fi Fund.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these airborne veterans sing a paratrooper classic

Our veterans have done a lot for the country over the years. They keep us safe from terror organizations and dictators who would use weapons of mass destruction for selfish politics. They took down Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They’ve led singalongs of somewhat inappropriate songs. Wait… what?


That’s right! Recently, a video went viral on Facebook showing Vince Speranza, a World War II paratrooper, leading others along in singing the paratrooper classic, Blood on the Risers, a parody of immortal Battle Hymn of the Republic.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’
Paratroops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade jump from a C-130 transport. They use static lines to ensure their main chutes open. (DOD photo)

Blood on the Risers is probably most famous from its rendition in the award-winning HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. This morbidly funny tune is a cautionary tale about what happens when one fails to follow proper exit procedures during an airborne jump. The grim lyrics follow a young, rookie paratrooper who, after his chute fails to deploy, plummets to his death. The extended version, however, goes on to reveal that the singer has a son who would later join the 101st Airborne Division, serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and be killed in action.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’
Later versions of Blood on the Risers depict the son of the song’s hero serving with the 101st Airborne, pictured above during the operation that took out Uday and Qusay Hussein, during the War on Terror. (US Army photo)

In some ways, it’s very much like the Navy’s Friday Funnies — a way to use humor to get important safety information through to the troops. This is especially important for something so routine as hooking into a static line.

Watch the video below and feel free to join in on the singalong! Don’t worry, the Screaming Eagles have a pretty dark sense of humor — it’s all in good fun.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How your stress is affecting your kid

Six years ago, Austin, Texas, dad Eric Scott had a good job in fundraising and arts event production. He loved the work, but it was a stressful, demanding job that regularly required him to put in 15- to 18-hour days. One day, Scott came home to his then six-year-old daughter. She looked at him very matter-of-factly and said, “Some days it’s like you’re not my Daddy.”

“She didn’t mean to be cruel,” says Scott. “She was just sharing her observation, as children sometimes so brutally do.” But Scott was devastated; the next day, he started looking for a new job.


Working long, demanding hours can affect a parent’s ability to, well, parent. But getting an accurate picture of how a parent’s work life affects kids’ health might be more complex — and the effects could be physical in addition to emotional, new research suggests.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, parents in high-stress jobs in which they had “low autonomy” – meaning they didn’t have freedom to make decisions about how they do their jobs – tended to have children who felt less healthy.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(Flickr photo by mrhayata)

The researchers solicited self-reported data from Nigerian kids, mostly 13 to 15 years old, and their parents. It didn’t matter whether the parents made a lot of money or very little, the authors wrote. The strongest correlation was between parents who had demanding jobs with little freedom and kids who most identified with statements such as “My health is worse now than it was last year” and “Sometimes I feel like my health keeps me from doing something I want to do.”

It takes more resources to regulate behavior in demanding, low-autonomy jobs, says co-lead author Christiane Spitzmueller, Ph.D., professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston. If someone’s job depletes those resources, Spitzmueller says, they’re less able to engage in behavior that requires “sustained effort,” such as parenting.

“Generally, there’s a relationship where the more work stressthere is, the more likely there is to be work-family conflict, where you feel like work is negatively impacting your family,” Spitzmueller says. “Parents who feel depleted tend to want to plop on the couch after work and not do anything active or try to steward kids to engage in positive behaviors.”

Positive behaviors include cooking a meal together, going for a walk, or working on a game or puzzle, she says. Problems can arise, on the other hand, with “passive parenting”: Bringing home take-out or staring at a phone while the kid is entertained by the TV or an iPad doesn’t allow for the kind of engagement that tends to enrich kids.

Psychologists have been studying the effects of parental stress on kids’ mental health for several decades. Studies have linked fathers’ behavior with emotional problems in their children; another study published in 2007 found that marital stress affected teens’ emotional development; and a study of low-income families published the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychologyin 2008 concluded that boys with depressed mothers were more prone to antisocial behavior such as aggression.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(Flickr photo by Vincent Albanese)

But researchers are just starting to explore how parental stress might affect kids’ physical health, too. In another new study, German researchers concluded that stressed mothers were more likely to have infants that were obese. Work demands more of people than it ever did before. The majority of modern workers pull longer hours than ever before and the boundaries between the office and home become more blurry by the day, making it harder to disconnect from the demands of a job. As stress from work bleeds into home life, it’s no wonder a correlation is forming.

At this point, however, it’s probably too soon for parents to begin worrying that their stressful job might make kids sick.

“Could I imagine that, depending on how a child’s treated by a parent on a regular basis, it could have an impact on the child’s health? Sure,” says Matt Traube, MFT, a psychotherapist in San Luis Obispo, California. “But it’s a tricky thing to measure because there are so many factors mitigating how people deal with stress. At this point I would just say, ‘It’s a neat idea — how do we further study it?'”

Although there’s been a trove of published research about stress, the effects of autonomy are less understood, Traube says. “When people feel they don’t have control, that has historically been tied to dissatisfaction at work.”

Feeling as though someone doesn’t have a sense of agency at work can be draining and emotionally exhausting, he continues. “It can affect your self-esteem and start to shape how you view yourself as a parent.”

Another, perhaps simpler, way to look at it is in terms of value rather than autonomy, says Tom Kearns, LMSW, a counselor in New York City and the mental health advisor for the Milwaukee Bucks.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(Flickr photo by whereugotthat)

“If he’s in a workplace where he feels valued, that has a positive impact on his ability to connect and relate to and have patience with his child,” Kearns says. “But if he’s overlooked at meetings, or not included in a meeting or lunch with co-workers, it can make him feel not a part of something, and that can make him feel isolated.”

A father might compensate for the frustration he feels at his job ruling his kids with a heavier hand at home, putting strict and less healthy demands on them to create a sort of “value” for himself, Kearns adds. Feeling isolated also can make dads withdraw at home.

“Even if he’s present, he might not engage with the child if he’s not feeling valued himself,” Kearns says. “The child picks up on this, and it has the effect of the kid longing for something that’s not there. Or the kid might think he or she is to blame for the father not being more attentive.”

So, it might sound, at this point, like an impossibility to hold down a challenging, stimulating job without screwing up your child for life. It’s not. It does, however, require that people take stock of how their career might be affecting their kids and that they make sure to take care of themselves, too.

“Knowing when to focus on your job or your family, and how to deal with the rejected party gracefully, may be the essence of being a working parent,” says Scott, who still works in the nonprofit sector but now as a marketing director with less intense hours. “And it’s easy to place the blame for this on your job or your employer, but I think parents have to take ownership of our part in this.”

Scott points out that sometimes it’s just easier to deal with work than to deal with your kids, although parents might tell themselves that they “have to” answer that email, for example, or put in another hour of work after dinner.

“Your work is straightforward: You have defined responsibilities and expectations, and, usually, you can evaluate your success easily,” says Scott. “You have a level of control that you simply do not have with parenting. Parenting can be a total mind scramble, where success can look like failure and vice-versa, and I think some people retreat into their work as an escape.”

If a parent’s job is unfulfilling for whatever reason, they might want to move on like Scott did. But if they’re stuck for the moment and feeling undervalued at their job, they do have to check that before they walk through the door to make sure that when they’re home, they’re in a good space for their child, Kearns says.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(Flickr photo by J E Theriot)

Self-awareness, per Kearns, is key. “Also ask yourself, How does this connect historically into my family? and Am I doing the kinds of things I saw my father do when he came home from work?” he suggests. Without some reflection and awareness, people tend to repeat negative patterns of behavior even when they don’t want to.

Of course, most parents want to be engaged as much as they’re able. But it’s impossible to be the perfect “on” parent all the time.

Although he overhauled his career to make sure he was more present for his daughter, Scott says he still carves out some me-time. “I cut myself some slack. I’d rather my kids have a father who is overall happy than one who is terrified to let them watch TV for an hour while daddy drinks a beer on the porch to decompress.”

Traube, who is a father of one with another on the way, agrees that creating a support system and figuring out what a parents can do to take care of themselves — whether it’s calling a friend and talking during their commute, meditating, negotiating an earlier work start time so they can leave earlier or letting their family know that taking a breather to walk the dog is the first thing they do when they get home — is essential for parents.

“It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first on an airplane before putting one on your child,” Traube says. “You do need to do self-care to be a good parent.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch children of Civil War veterans talk about their fathers

The American Civil War ended more than 155 years ago, but the country really isn’t all that far removed from that part of its past.

If you need proof of that beyond ongoing racial disparities and questions over the existence of monuments to Civil War leaders, you don’t have to look far. Irene Triplett, the last person to receive a Civil War pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, died in June 2020. The grandson of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, died in October 2020. Unexploded ordnance from the Civil War was still killing people as late as 2008.


4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Also, people are rioting in the streets and tearing down statues of Civil War generals. (Photo by Wikipedia Editor Mk17b)

But Americans’ personal connection to the Civil War is slowly disappearing. A few of the direct descendants, sons and daughters, of Civil War veterans are still around because they were born when their fathers were in their 70s and 80s.

Two of the last remaining children of Civil War veterans sat down with National Geographic in time for Veterans Day 2014 to share stories told by their fathers. They were in their early 90s at the time of the interviews.

William H. Upham was a private in the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry when the North and South first clashed at the Battle of Bull Run. His son, Fred Upham, talked about how his father was wounded in the neck and shoulder during the battle.

“He was captured at that battle and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond,” Upham said in the interview. “The thing that saved his life, I believe, is that, at that point in the war, there was a prisoner exchange. … If he would have been kept in the service, with 50,000-60,000 casualties per battle, he would never have made it to the end.”

Fred Upham died in Colorado in December 2019 at age 97.

Lewis F. Gay, a Confederate soldier from Florida, was also the beneficiary of a prisoner exchange, according to his daughter, then-92-year-old Iris Lee Gay Jordan (who still referred to the war as “The War Between the States”). The young rebel was stationed in the Florida Keys before being captured and held in Delaware.

After his release, he was sent to some of the most critical battles of the late Civil War, fighting at Chickamauga, Atlanta and more. Most of his original company had been killed.

Children of U.S. Civil War Vets Reminisce About Fathers | National Geographic

www.youtube.com

In explaining her connection to the war, Jordan discussed how her parents met. She was born when her father was 82 and her mother 41. Jordan lived in Florida until her August 2017 death.

“He said he enjoyed me more than he did his others [children], because he was so busy making a living to support them, he didn’t have the time,” she says in the video.

Upham, on the other hand, recalled the two times his father got to meet President Abraham Lincoln. The first time was through an invitation from his senator. The president and the former private talked about his time as a prisoner of the Confederacy and about his wounds.

“Lincoln had known that my father had been severely wounded, ” Upham recalled. “So he asked him to take off his tunic so he could examine the wounds in person. My father said yes … and Lincoln examined the wounds on his neck and head in detail.”

They were terrible, the 16th president told Upham’s father. Lincoln was concerned about the treatment of Union prisoners at Libby Prison, but the soldier told him they weren’t being abused or tortured.

Despite his injuries, William Upham got off relatively easy. The Civil War killed more than 650,000 troops and more than 130,000 civilians. Some estimates place the death toll at more than a million Americans. Yet Upham says his father never held any animosity toward Confederates after the war, despite his captivity and the loss of life. Lewis Gay said the same about the Union.

“If he were here, he’d say the men in North were just like he was,” Jordan said. “They were away from home and families and fighting a war, and there was no animosity on his part at all.”

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the US Air Force has planned for all its bombers

The US has three bombers — the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress — to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.

Some form of the B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B took its first flight in 1974, and the B-2 celebrated its 30th year in the skies in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details about it are scarce.

The US Air Force has been conducting missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s in order to project dominance against Russia and train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet has faced problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air Force Times reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.

Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet.


4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Oct. 11, 2017.

(US Air Force)

The Air Force’s B-1B Lancer has had problems with mission readiness this year.

The Lancer is a long-range, multi-role heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52.

The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking at ways to expand that payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.

The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet, and can hit speeds up to Mach 1.2, according to the Air Force. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A US Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea, Jan. 9, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The B-1B was considered nuclear-capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear arms was disabled in accordance with the START treaty.

The B-1B is not scheduled to retire until 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 “broke” the fleet.

Service officials and policymakers are now considering whether the Lancer can be kept flying missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.

(US Air Force)

The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.

The Air Force’s longest-serving bomber came into service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.

It has flown missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.

The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a 70,000 pound payload, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.

The Stratofortress is expected to be in service through 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, a new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.

(Edwards Air Force Base)

As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in use with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.

Two B-52s have returned to service from 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard,” where retired or mothballed aircraft are stored.

One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy,” in May.

“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana to be refurbished, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the aircraft, “a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror” and instructing the AMARG to “take good care of her … until we need her again.”

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere.

The B-2 was developed in a shroud of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently has 20 of them.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has an intercontinental range.

The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying out of RAF Fairford in the UK.

From Fairford, the B-2 has completed several firsts this year — the first time training with non-US F-35s, its first visit to Iceland, and its first extended flight over the Arctic.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(US Air Force)

Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.

What we do know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.

Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named for Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who flew a daring bomb raid on Japan just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Air Force said last year that B-21s would go to three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The B-21 stealth bomber.

(Northrup Grumman)

Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as soon as December 2021.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” according to Air Force Magazine.

The B-21 also loomed over the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and first flew.

Company officials have said work on the B-2 is informing the B-21’s development, and recently constructed buildings at Northrop’s Site 7 are thought to be linked to the B-21.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

Savannah VanHook celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 13, 2019, by visiting Claire’s at the Fashion Place mall, Murray, Utah, with her parents to pierce her ears — something she’s been asking her mother and father for over five months. It stung, but she seemed proud of her freshly-pierced ears. The family headed to the food court when something entirely different pierced her ears: The sound of four gunshots ringing throughout the mall.


Savannah’s father, Sgt. Marshall VanHook, a recruiter with the Herriman U.S. Army Recruiting Station, recognized the sound immediately and directed his daughter and wife, Sarah, into a T-Mobile store to take cover.

Vanhook then ran toward the commotion.

“I saw the flash, and I heard the shots. I knew immediately what it was; it’s very distinctive,” recalled Vanhook. “My first response was to make sure my family was taken care of … and then it was just a matter of ‘I need to stop this before it gets to my family,’ so I took off. I ran towards where I thought the threat was at. While I was running there really were no thoughts other than ‘take care of business.'”

Vanhook ran through the mall and made his way outside in an attempt to see the shooter to get a description, he explained.

“I got out to the parking lot and it was a bit of chaos, people were running and I had no idea where they went,” he said. “I just came back and that’s where I saw the two victims.”

The two victims, an adult male and adult female, were starting to fall to the ground. He ended his search for the gunmen and jumped into action to assist saving lives.

“It was just a matter of getting to work,” said Vanhook.

A mobile phone video from a fellow shoppers captured his next actions. VanHook removed his belt and created a makeshift tourniquet above the woman’s visible gunshot wound. Keeping a calm disposition, he directed an observer to use her scarf to apply direct pressure to the leg injury while he moved on to assess the man’s condition.

Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

www.youtube.com

Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

Dramatic footage of two victims being treated by bystanders following a shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.

Vanhook has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for nine years. Before joining the Herriman recruiting team four months ago, he served as a civil affairs specialist with the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade. There, he received first aid response training, including Combat Lifesaver in 2014.

“Because of the Army, it instilled something in me to react in danger and not to flee from it,” explained VanHook.

Combat Lifesaver Course is the next level of first aid training after Army Basic Training Course. It provides in-depth training on responding to arterial bleeding, blocked airways, trauma, chest wounds and other battlefield injuries. The course was presented as realistically as possible, making it effective and easier to apply in a real scenario, explained VanHook.

“You go over [the training] and over it. It’s just a matter of muscle memory,” he said. “There really wasn’t thought. It was action.”

Although VanHook doesn’t consider himself a hero, his leaders feel he has represented himself and the Army well.

“His actions definitely, I think, were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Carl D. Whitman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion (Salt Lake City). “Most people don’t normally run to the sound of the guns, if you will… but he’s a soldier and went into action as soldiers do. We’re well-trained. His training and that mindset took over.”

“A lot of folks out there may call him or other soldiers that do that a hero, but I think those of us in uniform don’t see ourselves that way, and I know he doesn’t, but definitely his actions were heroic,” Whitman said. “His actions resulted in saving a couple people’s lives.”

VanHook explained after everything that occurred, his family is doing well but it all seems surreal.

“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It makes me angry. I’m a little angry that something like that happened. It was my daughter’s birthday and it kind of messed it up. We had plans that night and because of the incident, it kind of got put on hold.”

He explained his wife was scared to leave the house following the shooting, but now they are working together to get back to normal life. His daughter Savannah, too young to realize the weight of the incident, he said, described the evening as “not how she wanted to spend her birthday.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Get a taste of freedom with SIG Sauer’s latest AR

The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”

Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.


4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)

“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.

Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)

But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.

Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’


tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.

This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.

The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.

“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy would defend a fleet under attack at sea

Naval fleets are predominantly created and organized for power projection, taking the fight to the enemy on their turf to ensure that American are safe at home. But the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps do practice defending the fleet at sea should it come under a direct attack.

Here’s how they do it:


4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) fires its Phalanx close-in weapons system during live-fire training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean on August 31, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Chen)

The Navy has a number of weapons that are custom designed for protecting ships and personnel. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System. This is the final, goal-line defense against anything above the waterline. Basically, it’s R2-D2 with a 20mm, multi-barrel gun.

The Phalanx is typically associated with cruise missiles, and that’s because it’s one of the few weapons that can destroy cruise missiles in their final attack. But it’s also perfectly capable of attacking other threats, especially slower-moving items in the air, like planes and helicopters.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) travels alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment-at-sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)

Of course, the Marines aren’t content to wait for threats to approach the Navy’s Phalanx, and so, on larger ships like LHAs and LHDs, the Marines can drive their vehicles onto the decks and fire the guns off the ship, striking attack boats or enemies on nearby shores with anything from the .50-cal. machine guns to 25mm Bushmaster cannons to rounds from a 120mm Abrams cannon.

All of that’s in extremis, the-enemy-is-at-the-gates kinda of defense. The next ring out is provided by cruisers and destroyers who try to keep all the threats away from the heart of the fleet.

The beefier of these two is the cruiser. For the U.S. Navy, that’s the Ticonderoga class. It has 122 vertical-launch cells that can fire a variety of missiles. Lately, the Navy has been upgrading the cruisers to primarily fire the Navy’s Standard Missile-3. This baby can hit objects in space, but is predominantly designed to hit targets in the short to intermediate ranges from the ship.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) conducts a tomahawk missile flight test while underway in the western Pacific.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)

But the Ticonderogas, and their destroyer sisters, the Arleigh-Burkes, can also carry Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-2s, and Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles. Need to hit something below the waterline? Try out the ships’ Mk. 46 or Mk. 50 torpedoes. Both ship classes can fire the torpedoes via rockets, and the Ticonderoga can fire them directly from tubes.

The Tomahawk is the weapon that really increases the fleet’s range, hitting ships at ranges of almost 300 miles and land targets at over 1,000 miles. As attackers get closer, the fleet could start firing the shorter range weapons, like the anti-submarine rockets and SeaSparrows.

But there’s an overlap between the Tomahawks’ range and that of the fleet’s most powerful and longest-range protection: jets. The carrier groups and amphibious readiness groups have the ability to launch fighter and attack jets. As time marches on, these jets will be F-35Bs and Cs launching from carriers and Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A U. S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Norwegian Sea, October 25, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)

For now, though, its mostly Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets taking off from carriers and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers taking off from the LHAs and LHDs. The Harriers can only reach out to 230 miles without refueling, but the Hornets have a combat radius of over 1,000 miles without refueling.

And both planes can refuel in the air, usually guzzling gas from modified Super Hornets, but the Navy is working on a new, specialized drone tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray.

The Super Hornets pack 20mm cannons as well as a variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, but their greatest ability to cripple an enemy attack comes from another plane: The E-2 Hawkeye.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

An E-2C Hawkeye, assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, approaches the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)

The Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control plane is unarmed and slower than most of its buddies in the sky, but it’s a key part of the Navy’s fleet defense and offense thanks to its massive radar. That radar can see out 340 miles and track over 2,000 targets. It can actively control the interception of 40 targets, helping guide friendly fighters to the enemy.

So, when the Navy’s fleets come under attack, enemies have to either catch them off guard, or fight their way through the concentric rings. Their land-based assets are susceptible to attack from over 1,000 miles from the fleet thanks to ground-attack aircraft and Tomahawks. Their ships are vulnerable at similar ranges from aircraft and 300 miles from the Tomahawks.

As they draw closer, they face SeaSparrows and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and their fighters can come under surface-to-air missile attacks from the Standard Missile-2. If they actually draw within 20 miles, they start facing the Navy’s deck guns and torpedoes. A short time later, the Marine get in on the fight with their vehicles driven up onto decks.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participating in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)

And all of that’s ignoring the possibility that a nuclear submarine is in the water, just waiting for a surface contact to fire their own torpedoes at.

Of course, a determined enemy could use their own large fleet to push through those defenses. Or, a crafty enemy could wait for a fleet to transit a chokepoint and then attack from the shore or with a large fleet of fast attack craft.

That’s the kind of attack the U.S. fears from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. At it’s most narrow point, the strait is only 35 miles wide. U.S. ally Oman is on one side of the strait, but that still leaves any ships passing through within relatively easy range of Iran, even if they’re hugging the Omani shore.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

The expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller transits the Strait of Hormuz, Oct. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)

And so, fast attack craft from Iran would be able to target one or two ships as they pass through the Strait, sending dozens of speedboats against the ships, preferably while those ships armed with Phalanxs and missiles are out of range or blocked by other vessels.

And that’s why the Navy makes such a big deal about chokepoints, like the Straits of Hormuz, or certain points in the South China Sea. Multi-billion dollar assets with thousands of humans aboard, normally well-protected at sea, are now within range of relatively unsophisticated attacks from American adversaries.

So, while the Navy needs to protect its fleets at sea, that’s the relatively easy part of the equation. The scarier proposition is taking an attack near hostile shores or being forced to sail into range of the enemy’s shore-based aircraft, where the fleet’s overwhelming firepower finds a strong counter that could cripple it.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.


“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.

I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’
Chapo Guzman

The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.


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

Articles

This Chinese province may be filled with the descendants of a lost Roman legion

Around 36 BCE, Chinese forces from the Han Dynasty fought a group of rebels called Xiongnu at a fortress in what is now Kazakhstan.


During the battle, the Chinese noticed their enemy employed a strange but distinctive formation. One historian at the battle recalled a unit that formed a unique “fish-scale“-style of protection using their shields.

Some modern historians think that “fish scale” was a Roman phalanx.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

 

The battle took place in a city that was once known as Liqian, now a part of Gansu province in Northern China. And strangely, people living where the old city once stood are known to have interesting genetic traits unlike people in the rest of the country.

Aqualine noses, green eyes, and fair skin are just a few of the features found among the villagers of Zhelaizhai, where the ancient city once stood.

Some historians believe the people of Zhelaizhai are descended from the Roman Legionaries who fought with the Han Chinese.

Just 17 years before the battle in Kazakhstan, Parthians fighting the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (in modern-day Turkey) delivered one of Rome’s most crushing defeats. They captured 10,000 legionnaires and sent the powerful Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus packing (parts of him, anyway).

Parthians were known to use captured soldiers as border guards and sent their POWs to the Far East, where escape was all but impossible. That Far East outpost is thought by some to be the ancient area of Liqian.

Nowadays, the Gobi Desert border regions are full of ethnically Chinese people whose DNA tested 58% Caucasian.

The theory does have naysayers. Some believe the DNA could be the result of contact from Silk Road trading between Rome and the Far East. Others say Caucasian Huns and warriors with other racial backgrounds fought through this area of Asia at the time.

At least one expert believes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to say these Chinese are descended from Roman legionaries.

“For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries,” Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s the story of how Stan Lee cameos started

UrselD: How did the Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel movies thing start?

Born Stanley Martin Lieber almost a century ago in 1922, the man who would become far better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, was born into a family of very modest means with Stan, his brother, and Romanian immigrant parents sharing a single room apartment in New York during the 1930s.

As Lee would recall, “I grew up in New York City during the Depression. My earliest recollections were of my parents, Jack and Celia Lieber, talking about what they would do if they didn’t have the rent money. Luckily, we were never evicted. But my father was unemployed most of the time. He had been a dress cutter, and during the Depression, there wasn’t much need for dress cutters. So I started working when I was still in high school. I was an office boy, I was an usher, I wrote obituaries for celebrities while they were still alive. Lots of jobs.”


Showing an interest in writing from his teens, Lee’s mother was his #1 fan at that time, “She thought I was the greatest thing on two feet. I’d come home with a little composition I had written at school and she’d look at it and say, “It’s wonderful! You’re another Shakespeare!” I always assumed I could do anything. It really is amazing how much that has to do with your attitude.”

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Stan Lee in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

In 1939 at the age of 17, Lee landed a job with a company owned by his cousin, Jean Goodman’s, husband, Martin Goodman. The company was called Timely Publications. While the pay wasn’t much, a mere per week (about 7 today), it was potentially a path to a professional writing gig, though not quite the one he originally envisioned for himself.

He states,

When I got there, I found out that the opening was in the comic book department. Apparently, I was the only guy who had applied for the job. I figured it might be fun. So I became a gofer — there were only two guys, Joe Simon, the editor, and Jack Kirby, the artist. They were the creators of Captain America, and that’s what they were working on at the time. I would fill the inkwells, go down and buy lunch, and erase pages and proofread.

Two years into the job, he was finally granted a chance to write filler text in the 1941 Captain America #3 comic. Called, Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge, the story, along with being warmly received by fans, introduced the idea of Captain America being able to throw and ricochet his trademark shield, now a defining aspect of the character. It was also the first comic in which Lieber, as he was then known, wrote under the pseudonym Stan Lee. According to Lee, he chose not to write under his then real name since he still hoped to one day write “proper literature” and had dreams of writing the “great American novel”. Thus, he didn’t want his name to be sullied by his work in comics.

Plans changed, however, when he randomly got a promotion to head editor of the comic department at just 19 years old.

[Simon and Kirby] were fired for some reason. Martin had no one to run the department. He said to me, “Can you do it?” I was [19]. When you’re [19], what do you know? I said, “Sure, I can do it.” Martin must have forgotten about me, because he just left me there. I loved it. I was so young, it was sometimes embarrassing. Someone would come into the office and see me there and say, “Hey, kid, can I see the editor?”

At this point, in order to give the illusion of a large staff, Lee took to using a variety of other pseudonyms as well.

In 1942, a temporary editor was hired while Lee served in the US Army with the Signal Corps. He never saw combat, instead working at repairing communications equipment and later writing field manuals and military slogans as a part of the Training Film Division. Also in that division were the likes of Frank Capra, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and the creator of The Addam’s Family, Charles Addams.

Despite being in the army, Lee still kept up with his work at Timely as best he could from afar, with weekly letters mailed to him explaining exactly what he needed to produce content for that week. Once he was done, he’d mail it back.

Lee’s service ended in 1945 and he went back to Timely full time.

It was two years later that Lee, with an awkwardness befitting a man who would come to create the characters nerds the world over would grow to love, Lee met and wooed his future wife.

There are conflicting accounts on whether one of Lee’s friends dared him to ask out some red headed model or his cousin set him up on a blind date with said model. Either way, Lee went to her office to see about that date. However, when he arrived and knocked at the door of the modeling agency, the woman who answered was someone completely different — a hat model from England by the name of Joan Boocock. Joan had come to America after marrying one Sanford Dorf, who had been serving in the UK during the war.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Stan Lee in “Doctor Strange.”

Stunned when he saw her, rather than play it cool, instead Lee apparently almost immediately professed his undying love for her, and then followed this awkward exchange up by telling her he’d had her face in his mind and been drawing it since he was a kid… (According to Lee, this wasn’t any sort of cheesy line, but the absolute truth.)

Rather than finding any of this weird or creepy, despite being married at the time, Joan agreed to go out on a date with Lee. As to why, despite by her own admission being in a happy marriage, she found it completely boring. (I guess as you’d expect from marrying someone named Sanford Dorf.)

But Stan Lee, she states, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam [an 11th/12th century Persian poet] when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.”

As for Lee, he said he knew right on his first date he wanted to marry Joan. Two weeks later, not caring in the slightest that she was already married, he proposed and she said yes.

The problem was that she now needed a divorce, which was prohibitively difficult in New York at the time. Where there is a will, there’s a way, however, and she simply moved to Reno temporarily. You see, in Reno, you only needed to live there six weeks before you could file for divorce in the area, and the judges there were much more accepting of such.

However, during her time in Reno, being a beautiful young model and all, suitors flocked to her like the salmon of Capistrano. With Lee back in New York and their relationship not exactly built on a firm foundation, Lee said at one point he got a letter from Joan with the implication being she was thinking of breaking off their whirlwind courtship.

Not going to give her up without a fight, Lee took a trip to Reno and convinced her he was the love of her life and she his. The two then got married in Reno on the same day she got a divorce, and by the same judge who granted it, mere minutes after the divorce papers were signed.

While you might think such a relationship was doomed to end in failure. In fact, the couple spent the next 69 years together, before Joan’s death in 2017 at the age of 95.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Stan Lee in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Said Lee of Joan in their twilight years together, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”

Going back to Stan Lee’s career, as for Timely’s strategy in those days, it was essentially just copy whatever the competition was doing.

Martin was one of the great imitators of all time. If he found that a company had Western magazines that were selling, he would say, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” Horror stories, war stories, crime stories, whatever. Whatever other people were selling, we would do the same thing. I would have liked to come up with my own stuff, but I was getting paid.

This all changed, ironically, from copying someone again

Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes… “If the Justice League is selling, he spoke, “Why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superhereos?”

At this point in his career, Lee had grown weary of writing comics, seeing the medium as stagnant and devoid of interesting characters. He was, in fact, planning on quitting.

That’s when Joan told him he should take the opportunity in trying to copy the Justice League concept to create the character’s he’d find interesting. Lee says she stated, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”

Simultaneously, Lee states, “[My wife] Joan was commenting about the fact that after 20 years of producing comics I was still writing television material, advertising copy, and newspaper features in my spare time. She wondered why I didn’t put as much effort and creativity into the comics as I seemed to be putting into my other freelance endeavors… [Her] little dissertation made me suddenly realize that it was time to start concentrating on what I was doing — to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books.”

Lee then decided,

For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.

While this might all seem pretty normal today, at the time in the superhero genre it was groundbreaking. Said Lee, “That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have until that point. They were all cardboard figures….”

The product of this was The Fantastic Four. The results surpassed his wildest expectations.

We had never gotten fan mail up until that point… Sometimes we might get a letter from a reader that would say, “I bought one of your books and there’s a staple missing. I want my dime back.” And that was it. We’d put that up on the bulletin board and say, “Look! A fan letter!” Suddenly, with Fantastic Four, we really started getting mail…”We like this… We don’t like that… We want to see more of this.” That was exciting! So I didn’t quit… After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes… And we stopped being a company that imitated.

With business booming, Lee states, “[We] realized we were onto something. I figured we needed a new name, because we were not the same company we had been. I remembered the first book Martin published when I started there was called Marvel Comics. It had the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and it was very successful. Why don’t we call the company Marvel? There are so many ways you can use that word in advertising. I came up with catch phrases like ‘Make mine Marvel’ and ‘Marvel marches on!'”

At this point while Martin was open to giving Lee fairly free rein, he still had his limits, which was a problem for Spider-Man, who Lee dreamed up as follows:

The most important thing in those days was the cover. All these books were on the newsstand, and you had to hope your cover would compel somebody to buy the book. And everything depended on the name. A character like Hurricane was a guy who ran very fast. Later on, when I was looking for new superheroes, it occurred to me that somebody crawling on walls would be interesting. I thought, Mosquito Man? It didn’t sound very glamorous. Fly Man? I went down the list and came to Spider-Man. That was it.

The concept of Spider-Man, however, was a little too far out.

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Stan Lee in “Spider-Man.”

[Martin] didn’t want me to do it. He said I was way off base. He said, “First of all, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man, because people hate spiders.’ I had also told him I wanted the hero, Peter Parker, to be a teenager, and he said, “A teenager can’t be the hero… teenagers can just be sidekicks” Then when I said I wanted Spider-Man to have a lot of financial problems and family worries and all kinds of hang-ups, he said, “Stan, don’t you know what a hero is? That’s no way to do a heroic book!” So he wouldn’t let me publish it.Later, we had a book that we were going to cancel. We were going to do the last issue and then drop it. When you’re doing the last issue of a book, nobody cares what you put into it, so — just to get it off my chest- I threw Spider-Man into the book and I featured him on the cover. A couple of months later when we got our sales figures, that had been the best-selling book we’d had in months. So Martin came in to me and said, ‘Do you remember that Spider-Man character of yours that we both liked? Why don’t you do a series with him”
After that, it was much easier… Whatever I came up with, he okayed. After that, came The X-Men and Daredevil and Thor and Dr. Strange… and the rest. The books did so well that I just gave up all thoughts of quitting.

With business booming, Martin decided to sell the company, with Perfect Film and Chemical aquiring Marvel in the late 1960s. Not long after that, Lee got a promotion,

[They] made me the president and even chairman. But I was never a businessman. I remember when the board asked me to come up with a three-year plan for the company. I said, “Guys, I don’t know how to predict where we’ll be in three years. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.” I resigned as president after about a year. I mean, I can add and subtract, but I hate to read sheets of numbers. I like to write stories.

This brings us finally to the cameos and how that whole thing got started.

His first cameo of sorts was text only, occurring in an All-Winners comic in 1941 where various characters petition Lee to add more characters. Next up, Wayne Boring and Hank Chapman decided to put their boss in the 1951 Astonishing #4.

Where the cameos really became a thing though started in 1963, when Lee and his long-time collaborator, Jack Kirby, appeared in The Fantastic Four #10 in which the pair are featured on the cover, as well as inside. On the cover, it shows the duo with Lee saying, “How’s this for a twist Jack? We’ve got Doctor Doom as one of the Fantastic Four!!” With Kirby adding, “And Mister Fantastic himself as the villain!! Our fans oughtta flip over this yarn!!”

4 of the worst things about training in ‘Mojave Viper’

Stan Lee in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Beside them, it also states, “In this epic issue surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story!! Plus a gorgeous pin-up of the invisible girl!”

As for inside the issue, it has Doctor Doom demanding that Lee and Kirby get the Fantastic Four to walk into a trap, which they then do.

Said Lee of this sort of thing, “The artists back then would draw me in as a joke or just to have fun. And I would put some dialogue balloons there and it looked as if I intended it. I didn’t try to do cameos in those days.”

But fans loved it, as well as the chance to get to know the people behind the comics, which were featured in a section of their own as well. The point of all of this, along with the little quips and notes in various areas was, according to Lee, “[For] the reader to feel we were all friends, that we were sharing some private fun that the outside world wasn’t aware of.”

From here the occasional cameo caught on, with Lee stating, “Anything that seemed fun and anything that the readers seemed to enjoy we kept doing and those things brought in a lot of fan mail. And we weren’t doing movies or television, our whole existence depended on comic books, so if you see that something is interesting to the fans you stay with it.”

Since then Lee, and to a lesser extent Kirby (who was notably more camera shy), appeared numerous times across many forms of media. These cameos range from simple background characters in comics bearing Lee’s likeness to full on self-referential roles in Marvel’s numerous works. The most egregious example of the latter is arguably the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon in which Spider-Man is transported to the “real” world via magical comic shenanigans and meets Stan Lee, who reveals that he created Spider-Man and spends some time conversing with his creation before being left stranded on a roof.

Moving on to Lee’s first cameo in video form, this appeared in the 1989 The Trial of the Incredible Hulk where Lee appears in the jury at the trial.

Arguably Lee’s most unusual cameo is one in a property owned by Marvel’s single biggest rival, DC — Superman: The Animated Series. In the episode, Apokolips… Now! Part 2, Lee, along with characters who bear a striking resemblance to members of the Fantastic Four, appear in a brief crowd shot of the funeral of the character, Dan Turpin. Said character’s appearance was largely based on the aforementioned Jack Kirby, who’d sadly died the year earlier. Out of respect for his memory and his contribution to the world of comics, the animators for the episode snuck in a character who looked like Lee along with several other Marvel characters Kirby had helped create. The commitment to accuracy was such that the graveyard shown in the episode was modeled on the one Kirby is buried in, in real life and the crew hired an actual rabbi to read a kaddish that was included in the episode’s audio. Lee’s cameo was removed in the subsequent DVD release of the episode, but he can still be seen in the episode’s storyboards.

Speaking of cameos, a slightly lesser known fact is that Lee’s beloved wife, Joan, who was the inspiration for a few female characters in the Marvel universe, also did voice work for the 1990s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man animated series, as well as a cameo of her own in X-Men: Apocalypse where she appears alongside Stan Lee.

This all brings us to Stan Lee’s final cameo, where he appears as a de-aged hippie alongside a woman who is meant to be a de-aged Joan Lee — very fittingly for them both, this final cameo appeared in Marvel’s Endgame.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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