In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. talk with stand-up comedian and Marine veteran Mitch Burrow about a Communist Army cadet and a cannibal dictator, and they make a smooth segue into Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary.
General Idi Amin dethroned the government of Milton Obote and declared himself president of Uganda. During his eight years of ruthless leadership, it’s estimated he massacred approximately 300,000 civilians.
Then it’s rumored the Ugandan president was a closet cannibal and liked munch on human remains.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.
One of the biggest reveals in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” other than Rey’s identity, came at its very end when the character revealed she had her own new lightsaber with a distinctive yellow-orange hue.
What color exactly is the lightsaber and how did the visual effects team land on it?
“A fair number of colors have been used in lightsabers. So there was a design challenge there in terms of what color it should be,” “TROS” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider Monday of the direction given for the lightsaber seen at the movie’s very end.
“There was an optimistic kind of quality to that, but we also wanted [Rey] to have a very unique color,” he added of coming up with the color we see on screen. “We ran some tests and decided in the end what color it would be.”
Rey prepares to slice through Kylo Ren’s ship with Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.
Is there a specific name to Rey’s lightsaber color? We’re going with ‘yellow optimism.’
“That specific color yellow, if you go too pale — this is getting really in the weeds here — if you go too pale and you make it too light, it’s going to look white a lot of times,” Industrial Light Magic (ILM) visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach said of one factor that helped them land on that precise color. “Colors on film, sometimes they bleed away depending on the exposure and the quality of the light in the scene.”
“Making it that more golden yellow gives you that optimistic feeling, and it also allows you to make it supersaturated and still feel like it’s in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” he added.
Yellow sabers aren’t anything new to “Star Wars” lore, but they are uncommon. In the past, yellow lightsabers have mostly been limited to Jedi temple guards, who wielded double-bladed sabers.
Here’s Kanan Jarrus going up against a Jedi Temple guard on the animated series “Star Wars Rebels.”
When asked if they had a specific name for the color, optimism was a word that came up frequently to describe the tone they were going for with the look of Rey’s lightsaber.
“We definitely went for things like golden and sun and optimism,” said Tubach.
“I think the optimism carried that choice,” added Guyett.
“I’m going to paint my house ‘yellow optimism,'” joked creature and makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan.
Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.
Rey’s lightsaber does include a yellow kyber crystal
“Yeah, it’s supposed to be a yellow crystal,” said Tubach.
It was not a clear crystal that changed color after chosen by Rey. Neither was it a purified version of a red kyber crystal as Ahsoka Tano did in the past to create her white lightsabers.
Insider thought Rey’s saber color may have contained a healed version of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s cracked red kyber crystal, but it seems that’s not the case.
Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.
The small detail within Rey’s new lightsaber you may have missed: The hilt of her lightsaber comes from her original staff.
“That was the concept,” said Guyett of the inspiration behind the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber. “The art production design and the art department, we all contribute to the designs of various things… [director] J.J. [Abrams] just thought it was logical that she had the staff, and, therefore, the saber should somehow be linked to that.”
In hindsight, when you go back to “The Force Awakens,” Rey’s staff always looked like it could eventually be transformed into the perfect lightsaber hilt.
Christopher Lee cemented himself as an icon of the silver screen. During his long and prestigious acting career he was in hundreds of films. His most notable roles were Dracula and later the Wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. However, long before his acting career began, Lee had a lesser known, but just as impressive, career in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the British Army during World War II.
Lee enlisted in the RAF in 1940. He worked as an intelligence officer and specialized in decoding German cyphers. In 1943 Lee was seconded to the Army in an officer swap scheme. After this swap he served with the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Infantry Division during the Battle of Monte Cassino.
There is little known about much of Lee’s time in service, as his records remain classified and he was “reluctant” to discuss anything to do with his service. Between the time he enlisted in the RAF and he was seconded to the Army, Lee was attached to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which was the precursor to the Special Air Service (SAS). When pressed about his time serving with the SAS Lee said, “I was attached to the SAS from time to time, but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read into that what they like.”
After his time with the LRDG, Lee was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). During his time with the SOE, he conducted espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in the Axis occupied Europe. During his final few months of service Lee, who was fluent in several languages including French and German, was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals alongside the Central Registry of War Criminals.
When Lee described his time with the organization he stated, “We were given dossiers of what they’d done, and told to find them, interrogate them as much as we could and hand them over to the appropriate authority.” Lee retired from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. Post retirement he was decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslav, British, and Polish governments.
Flying Officer C. F. C. Lee in Vatican City, 1944, soon after the Liberation of Rome. (Wikimedia Commons.)
Not long after his retirement from the RAF, Lee began his film career. It wasn’t long before he proved himself as a true legend of the film industry. This legendary icon of the silver screen, Sir Christopher Lee, passed away in June of 2015 after a lengthy battle with heart problems. His loss was greatly mourned by those who knew him, and those who loved him through his prolific work on screen.
Sir Christopher Lee will always be remembered for his iconic roles in major motion pictures, it can be said that he was one of, if not the, most prolific actors in motion picture history. However, the life he led before his film career is one that should be remembered and celebrated as well. Though details remain unknown and classified, and he never truly spoke of them, his service during World War II was nothing short of heroic. The world will never know what men like Christopher Lee did during the war, but they are heroes nonetheless.
In an interview with a somewhat eager reporter, Lee showed his cheeky yet firm stance on the discussion of his time with the SAS during the war. He leaned forward and whispered to the reporter, “Can you keep a secret?” The interviewer replied with an excited, “Yes!” Lee smiled and leaned back in his chair as he replied, “So can I.”
Not all military jobs are created equal. Some are dangerous, some are highly technical, and most fall somewhere in between.
Here are the 6 brainiest enlisted military jobs (in terms of ASVAB score and training):
1. Navy Electronics Technician Nuclear
These sailors test, calibrate, maintain, and repair reactor instrumentation and control systems on surface ships and submarines.
2. Navy Machinist’s Mate Nuclear
These are the guys who make the ship move. Their main job is to operate, maintain, and repair the steam plant that provides propulsion, electric power, potable water, and service steam to the ship.
3. Navy Electrician’s Mate Nuclear
These sailors operate and perform maintenance on generators, switchboards, control equipment and electrical equipment. They direct electricity to all spaces on the ship.
Navy Nuclear Field (NF) Program
To qualify for the three rates (Navy jobs) above, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations. After qualifying, the sailor is placed in one of the three rates: Electronics Technician Nuclear, Machinist’s Mate Nuclear, or Electrician’s Mate Nuclear.
Upon completion, nuclear sailors move onto their designated “A” school where they get specific with their rate. No matter which rate they get, nuclear sailors must attend Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, South Carolina, where they learn the basics of nuclear power plants and associated equipment. The course is an intense study of nuclear physics and reactor engineering. A nuclear sailor’s average contract length is six years because their training takes about two years. Learn more about the Navy Nuclear Field.
4. Air Force Scientific Applications Specialist
ASVAB Line Score: Air Force line scores of Mechanical 88 & Electrical 85 and above.
These airmen use classified techniques and tools to detect, gather, analyze, and report the use of weapons throughout the world. These include nuclear, chemical, biological, and other weapons. Basically, they’re like the CSI for weapons.
To become a Scientific Applications Specialist, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED with 15 college credits. Their skills are based on mathematics, electronics, physics, data analysis, and careful observation. Learn more about Scientific Applications Specialist.
5. Navy Cryptologic Technician – Networks
To qualify for this rate, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations:
A combined score of 235 in subsections (AR) Arithmetic Reasoning, (MK) Mechanical Knowledge and (GS) General Science.
A combined score of 235 in subsections (VE) Verbal, (AR) Arithmetic reasoning, (MK) Mechanical knowledge, and (MC) Mechanical Comprehension.
These sailors collect, decipher and translate enemy communications. They provide computer network defense, access tool development, and computer network forensics.
In a potentially unprecedented violation of privacy, a Navy prosecutor is suspected of spying on the media in an attempt to find leaks in a major war crimes case.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will soon stand trial for stabbing an unarmed ISIS militant to death in Iraq in 2017, as well as shooting two civilians. The Navy SEAL’s defense team recently brought forward allegations that the prosecution sent emails with embedded tracking software to 13 lawyers and paralegals affiliated with the case.
Emails were also sent to attorneys for Lt. Jacob Portier, who allegedly conducted a re-enlistment ceremony for Gallagher next to the body of the very ISIS fighter Gallagher is accused of murdering.
The emails sent by Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak contained an unusual image of the American flag with a bald eagle sitting atop the scales of justice, an image that had not appeared in previous emails.
While most of the recipients were members of Gallagher and Portier’s defense teams, one of these peculiar emails was sent to a Carl Prine, a reporter at Navy Times who has broken several important stories related to the case. Czaplak, according to Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher’s attorneys, recently admitted to sending the emails before a military judge.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher.
The emails with the tracking software are suspected to have been sent as part of an ongoing NCIS investigation into leaks to the media, as the case is covered by a gag order imposed by Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh. Still, certain sensitive documents have been leaked to the press.
“It is illegal for the government to use [the emails] in the way they did without a warrant,” Parlatore said to Military Times, parent company for Navy Times. “What this constitutes is a warrantless surveillance of private citizens, including the media, by the military. We should all be terrified.”
The Navy explained to Military Times that the media was and is not the target of the investigations. The embedded image in the email sent by the prosecution reportedly contained a “splunk tool,” a kind of cyber tool capable of facilitating external access to a compromised computer and the files stored within, although there is the possibility the tracking software in the emails may have been more benign.
The prosecution is suspected of pursuing IP addresses and other relevant metadata, information which can only be pursued with a subpoena or court order.
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
While such behavior is decidedly unethical in the legal world, the targeting of reporters may be without precedent. “This is the first case I am aware of that something like this has happened,” Gabe Rottman, the director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Military Times. “If a prosecutor sent an email to a reporter with a tracking device intending to identify a leak, that is certainly concerning.”
“If it is true that a government official included tracking software in an email to a reporter surreptitiously to find out who the reporter is talking to, that potentially exposes that reporter’s other sources in totally unrelated cases to government scrutiny,” he added.
In response to the alleged actions of the prosecution, Parlatore is filing a motion to dismiss the case, as well as a motion to disqualify Czaplak from prosecuting the case. It remains to be seen if there will be any legal backlash to deal with the suspected blow to press freedom.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.
In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?
The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.
The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.
As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.
We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.
When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.
At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.
As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.
Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.
The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.
Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.
Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.
In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.
These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.
The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.
(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)
This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.
“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.
When Henry Flipper arrived at West Point, there were already three other black cadets attending the famed Military Academy. When it came time for Flipper to graduate, those three would be long gone, rejected by their classmates. An engineer, he reduced the effects of Malaria on the U.S. Army by creating a special drainage system that removed standing water from camps. Flipper’s life would take him from being born into slavery to becoming the first black commander of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Henry Flipper was born a slave in Georgia in 1856. After he was liberated in the Civil War, he remained in Georgia, attending missionary schools to get a primary education. He requested and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1873 through Congressman Thomas Freeman. When he arrived, he found he was not the only black student there, but the constant harassment and insults forced the other cadets to drop out. Flipper persevered and graduated in 1877. He was the first African-American West Point grad and the first African-American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
Though his specialty was engineering, Flipper was a more than capable officer. He was sent to bases in Texas and the Oklahoma Territory, where he served as quartermaster and signals officer. As an engineer, he was second to none, laying telegraph lines and building roads, and constructing a drainage system known today as “Flipper’s Ditch,” which removed standing water to prevent the proliferation of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. He would fight Apaches alongside his fellow soldiers, as brave in combat as he was competent in peacetime.
But just like the way he was ostracized by his classmates as a cadet at the Military Academy, he would soon find resistance to his service as a Second Lieutenant in the regular Army. In 1881, his commanding officer at Fort Davis would accuse him of stealing ,791.77 from the installation’s commissary fund. In his subsequent court-martial, he was found not guilty of stealing the money, but he was found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. He was then kicked out of the Army after some four years of service.
He would spend the rest of his life trying to restore his name.
The closest he came was when a bill was introduced by Congress to reinstate him into the Army in 1898. He had the full support of some Congressmen, including the Chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs, but it was tabled. As was every subsequent attempt to exonerate himself. He died in 1940, but eventually, step by step, his reputation was restored after his death. In 1976, he was given an honorable discharge by the Army, and in 1999, he was pardoned by the then-Commander-in-Chief, President Bill Clinton.
On Dec. 18, 1944, Pfc. Harry Miller was cold, exhausted, and covered with grease. His hands were numb from the cold and he was bone tired after working all night. He and his fellow Soldiers from the 740th Tank Battalion had toiled around the clock to piece together three American tanks from an ordnance depot in Belgium.
With only the three refurbished tanks, Miller and the 740th was asked to stop the 1st SS Panzer Division, the German spearhead in the Battle of the Bulge.
Even before the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive that December, Miller was not thinking about Christmas. His only thought was on keeping warm, he said. Northern Europe had been gripped by record-breaking cold.
When the German tank columns first approached, Miller and his fellow Soldiers were in Neufchateau, Belgium, but they had no tanks. At the beginning of the battle, the 740th was ordered to proceed to an ordnance depot in nearby Sprimont. Miller was hopeful, as he believed tanks would be issued at the depot. However, upon arrival, there were no functional tanks.
Depot personnel had left town in a hurry, leaving all of their equipment and tools behind. Miller and the 740th worked throughout the night and by morning, three tanks and a tank destroyer rolled out the gate. They were ordered to Stoumont to stop the German advance.
The 740th’s three tanks faced the lead element of Battle Group Peiper and the 1st SS Panzer Division. One M-1 Sherman tank fired and destroyed a German Panther. A second Sherman destroyed a second German tank. A third tank, a restored M-36, destroyed a third German tank. With the three German tanks out of action, and the narrow road blocked, the attacking German column retreated. Thus, a few restored tanks within their first one-half hour of combat had turned the tide of the German attack.
Miller was part of a specialized unit. A few days later he crewed one of six Sherman tanks that formed the Assault Gun Platoon. His tank had a 105mm gun.
Miller remembers the snowfall was especially heavy. Members of 82nd were cold and exhausted. Marching through four feet of snow was laborious. A few lucky Soldiers from the 82nd jumped on his tank to hitch a ride to avoid walking in the deep snow. Suddenly the tank took on enemy fire. When they heard audible dings from enemy bullets hitting the tank, the 82nd Soldiers scrambled off to take defensive positions.
The Battle of the Bulge lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by U.S. troops in World War II.
The 740th Tank Battalion was formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 1, 1943. It had mostly men from Texas and Oklahoma. They trained at Knox and at the Desert Training Center in Bouse, Arizona.
Miller is a veteran of 22 years in the Army and Air Force. The Columbus, Ohio-native had always wanted to serve in the Army and enlisted at the age of 15 in 1944. Besides being a veteran of World War ll, he served in the Korean War with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, in the communications center.
Miller later served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War with the Strategic Air Command. He was in charge of codes and cryptology used for command missions, including bombing runs in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in January 1966 as a senior master sergeant and a communications operations superintendent.
Upon retirement, Miller worked as a private investigator, director of security and safety at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as a safety inspector at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, where he again retired in January 1989. He took up jazz and swing drumming lessons at age 69 to play with Seattle, Washington bands.
Miller, 89, resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. He laments that out of 800 Soldiers from the 740th, only six were able to attend this year’s reunion on Labor Day.
Miller said he is proud of all of his military service and wishes he could do it all over again. He advises Soldiers who are serving today to stay in and retire.
In April of last year — for the third time in two months — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has discovered a major American warship lost during World War II. The Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) was discovered nearly 75 years after she was sunk during the Battle of the Kula Gulf. According to the announcement, USS Helena lies just over 2,800 feet below the surface of the ocean near the island of Vella Lavella.
USS Helena (CL 50) firing her main guns during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The flashes proved to be an excellent aimpoint for Japanese torpedoes.
In 1943, Helena, her sister ships (USS Honolulu (CL 48) and USS St. Louis (CL 49)), and four destroyers attempted to intercept ten Japanese destroyers. The Americans quickly eliminated one of the Japanese vessels, but Helena‘s guns didn’t have flashless powder, making her a perfect target in the night sky for Type 93 Long Land torpedoes.
Francis X. McInerney on board the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena (CA 75) in 1949. McInerney received the Legion of Merit for the rescue of 165 crewmen from the light cruiser USS Helena that had been sunk in 1943.
Three torpedoes hit the Helena and she quickly sank. Meanwhile, the Americans fatally crippled a second Japanese destroyer and damaged two more. The story doesn’t end there.
Most of the Helena‘s crew managed to escape the sinking vessel. Unlike the commander of the USS Juneau (the wreckage of which was discovered by Paul Allen just a month before finding Helena), Captain Gilbert C. Hoover insisted on rescuing any and all surviving crew. Under the command of Captain Francis X. McInerney, the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD 449) and USS Radford (DD 446) turned around to rescue survivors. In the midst of the rescue efforts, two Japanese destroyers came back. McInerney turned to fight, telling the Helena survivors, “Hang on! We’ll be back for you!”
It would take 11 days, but McInerney would eventually fulfill that promise. Eventually, over 700 survivors from the cruiser would be rescued. For his actions, McInerney he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) was named in his honor.
Officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, Florida reported an unusual obstruction on the airstrip this past Tuesday preventing military aircraft from taking off: a laid back alligator seemingly perfectly content to catch some sun on the warm blacktop of the runway.
While alligators are no stranger to Florida, they are an uncommon sight in places like a military flight line, where perimeter fences and frequent traffic tend to make for an unwelcoming area for wildlife–especially the sort that tends to move at a leisurely pace outside of the water. Alligators are, of course, capable of achieving downright terrifying speeds in short bursts on land, but this gator didn’t seem to have speed on its mind as it was approached by MacDill officials.
As luck would have it, wrangling wayward alligators happens to be one of the unusual skill sets I’ve gathered over the years, cutting my gator wrestling teeth in a large animal preserve in Colorado some time ago.
The preserve maintained a sizeable population of wild and rescued alligators, many of which sometimes require medical care for the small wounds they tend to give one another in their sporadic alligator squabbles. Some of the worst gator-on-gator injuries, I came to find, often involved long-term mating pairs going through bad breakups. Despite having the size advantage, it’s often the males that require medical attention after a breakup–and I’ll leave any jokes about the fury of a woman scorned for you to make for yourself.
At MacDill, they were able to get their alligator intruder off the flight line by coaxing it into the bucket of a front loader using a bucket of food, which was probably the safest and most expedient method of dinosaur removal you could come up with on short notice. My experience wrangling alligators was slightly different… as the gators I was after were submerged under waist-deep opaque water and often injured.
Although you can’t see it, there’s an alligator right beneath me here.
Despite the terror associated with wading around in water you know is chock-full of apex predators, alligators can be a surprisingly docile species when approached by humans. Don’t let that fool you. It isn’t a friendly demeanor that keeps them still, but rather a supreme confidence in their ability to manage the threat posed by your squishy, meat-filled body.
Getting a submerged alligator out of the water for treatment is a nerve-racking but surprisingly simple endeavor: you walk barefoot through the water very slowly, being careful not to lift your feet, as a submerged alligator might mistake a raised foot for a swimming fish. As you slowly push your feet forward, you feel for the leathery hide of an alligator resting on the river bed. Maybe it’s their thick skin, maybe it’s their confidence, but alligators rarely react when you nudge them with a toe.
From there, the stress begins: you need to determine which way the head is pointing and step over the alligator’s back, so you’re standing with the submerged gator between your legs, with its head pointing in the same direction as yours. Then it’s as simple as reaching down under the water and carefully looping your rope around the alligator’s neck. Once the rope is secured, you once more very gingerly, step away from the gator with the other end of the rope in hand. Once you’re a few feet away, you’ve got a gator on a leash, and you need to get it to shore: there’s only one way to do that. With one tug of the rope, hell breaks loose. An explosion of water fills the area as the alligator tries to attack with both teeth and tail. There’s nothing left to do now but play tug of war with a dinosaur.
Just like taking your giant, tooth-filled dog for a walk that he really doesn’t want to go on.
Once on shore, the fight has just begun. You pass the rope to your partner to put some tension on it to redirect the alligator’s focus while you circle around. Once you’re sure the alligator has lost sight of you, you move as quickly as you can to get onto the alligator’s back with your feet beneath you, sticking your fingers into its mouth at the rear near the jaw joint and heaving your weight backward as you pull to subdue the monster.
With small alligators, this is a challenge. With big alligators, it’s exactly as scary as you imagine. If the gator bucks you off (as they sometimes do) your partner will need to move quickly to save your life. Alligators attack at angles and with lightning quickness, making their aggressive movements difficult to predict and even more difficult to evade.
Believe it or not, this was still a “small” alligator during training classes.
Once subdued, we used good old fashioned triple antibiotic ointment on small wounds and antibiotic injections for larger injuries before releasing the alligators back into the water.
Fortunately for MacDill, a bucket of food and a bit of heavy equipment did the trick just fine this time… but if these sightings keep up, alligator wrestling could become one heck of a B-billet.
On a flight line shrouded in a constant haze and tortured by Thailand’s relentless sun, the sounds of jet engines and jungle birds fill the ears of Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; a best friend to any 35th Fighter Squadron pilot who puts their trust in crew chiefs like Davis every time they fly.
While executing U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives and U.S. Pacific Air Forces priorities at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Davis and 114 other maintainers from the 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, are operating and will redeploy 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons loaded with full-scale-heavy-weight-munitions supporting exercise Cobra Gold 2019. Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise that promotes regional partnerships to advance security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and is one of the longest-running international exercises.
Behind the Scenes: Air Force Crew Chief Prepping F-16 for Launch
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-16 brake during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Davis and other maintainers quickly adapted to operating in a hot and humid environment alongside their Royal Thai Air Force partners, and as the sun shines, they’re reminded of the winter conditions of home-station.
“I like my job, but there are people who don’t necessarily enjoy it due to extreme cold or hot weather conditions,” Davis said. “Especially when we are busy and breaks are hard to come by, but the mission comes first.”
Davis advises fellow crew chiefs in maintaining, servicing and inspecting the F-16s. His inspector role ensures 8th AMXS Airmen are equipped with the proper tools and skill sets to get the job done as safely and efficiently as possible, while keeping those who fly the jets reassured that they’re sitting in a well taken care of and lethal jet.
“As a crew chief, you need to keep your head on a swivel, and make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing,” Davis said. “You have someone else’s life in your hands, and mistakes can quickly escalate into a life or death situation. We can always replace parts here and there, but we can’t replace a person.”
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, gives the 35th Fighter Squadron’s “Push It Up!” sign during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Consistency is very important, Davis said, and a mistake on a crew chief’s part creates the potential for loss, whether it’s a million aircraft or a precious life.
With no U.S. aircraft maintenance support, Davis and other 8th AMXS maintainers learned to operate in conditions that are similar to a bare base during Cobra Gold 19. Weapons, avionics, and other maintenance specialists assisted crew chiefs in launching aircraft by aiding as a “B man,” and egress technicians supplemented crash and recovery teams to build F-16 tires.
Regular maintenance, inspections, refueling, launch and recovery is a lot of work, said Davis, but combining hands-on efforts across the 8th MXG enabled smoother transitions throughout the exercise.
“Cross utilization of maintainers of different (Air Force specialty codes) and roles is a true embodiment of maintainers making the mission happen,” said Capt. Su Johnson, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. Without (the) Wolf Pack maintainers’ pride and aggressive attitude to succeed, exercise Cobra Gold would not have been successful.”
Davis has averaged about 50 work hours a week, overseeing maintenance operations and inspections so pilots are able to conduct training without delay or complications.
“I’m thankful for the many opportunities this career has given me the last 10 years,” Davis said. “It makes you really appreciate the job, even on the tougher days. During deployments and exercises such as Cobra Gold, you really get to see the bigger picture, and how your work contributes to and impacts the mission.”
In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.
Would-be attackers, however, are not.
Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm
The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.
It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.
Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.
The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.
The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.
Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.
While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.
Arguments are an unfortunate byproduct of any relationship. Even the best of partners will disagree on something from time to time. Of course, there are disagreements that walk the line between minor spat and major throw-down. When it comes to such arguments, a couple must perform a delicate balancing act that keeps the conversation on point while preventing things from escalating to a full-blown war of words. Sometimes a simple turn of phrase, a moment of patience, or a gentle touch is all it takes to cool everyone’s jets and bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution. Here’s what to do to prevent an argument from spinning out of control.
1. For the love of god, don’t interrupt
One of the main reasons an argument falls apart is because one or the other participant can’t get a word in. This never fails to be infuriating. People with a predilection for interruption will often simply wait until their partner is done talking and then jump in with an already formulated response, which is a way of signaling that they wait for their turn rather than listening. In order to keep the argument on message, give your partner the time they need to say their piece. “Even if you completely disagree with their point of view, it’s not healthy to shut them down,” says Maria Sullivan, a relationship expert and the vice president of Dating.com. “Let their voice be heard, just as you would want your partner to do the same.”
2. Mind your tone
When you raise your voice, your partner will begin to mimic your tone. From there, things can quickly escalate, until you find yourselves locked in a battle royale. The key, then, is to keep your tone even and calm. Not only will it keep the argument on track, but it will also help you to keep your thoughts organized. “If you take a deep breath and speak calmly and slowly, your significant other will do the same,” Sullivan says.
3. Keep things solution oriented
When couples argue, very often they tend to hammer at the problem over and over again, outlining what is wrong, why it’s a problem, and who’s responsible. This does nothing but fuel anger and resentment on both sides. Try to state the problem up front and then offer a solution. Saying something like, “I know it makes you angry that I don’t always get to the dishes; what’s a system we can put in place to make sure they’re done?” can diffuse an argument before it gets worse. “What has happened in the past is past. Look for a way to avoid it in the future,” says Susan Petang a lifestyle and stress management coach, and author of The Quiet Zone — Mindful Stress Management for Everyday People. “Asking your partner to come up with a solution or offering a collaborative solution makes it more likely they’ll stick to an agreement.”
When an argument gets heated, both partners tend to retreat into their corners, pulling apart, and avoiding any contact. This can even extend to body language, with crossed arms and legs sending a message to the other person to keep their distance. Before things begin to escalate, reach out for your partner and try to make a connection. You would be surprised how a simple touch can change the emotion in the room. “It is really hard to continue fighting with someone who is being vulnerable and either asking to be held or who takes their spouse’s hand in their own,” says Dr. Miro Gudelsky, an intimacy expert, sex therapist, and couples counselor.
There’s nothing wrong with calling a time-out. In fact, sometimes it’s the best way to cool down a dispute and keep things from rising into the red. Stepping out for a half-hour and taking a walk or doing a calming activity can be just what you need to gather your thoughts and approach the discussion rationally. “The reason we often feel regretful after arguing is because we get caught up in the moment and say things we don’t mean,” Sullivan says. “Take a breather and recollect yourself before continuing the discussion.”
6. Try a little humor
Yeah, you might not be feeling too funny in the moment, but a little laugh can take a lot of the stress and tension out of an argument almost instantly. You could throw out a one-liner like, “I’m sorry, could you yell a little louder?” or make a self-deprecating joke. Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, co-author of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts, even recommends speaking with an English accent (or a different accent for our English readers!). “We have used it in our own relationship many times,” she says. “We find that this healthy habit can transform relationships by increasing awareness of unhealthy behaviors that we automatically fall into when arguing.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.