'This is War' is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know - We Are The Mighty
Podcast

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know


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What is it like to fight in combat? What toll does it take on someone, emotionally, physically, and mentally? What toll does the personal aftermath take on the relationships in the life of an American troop?

Most American Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen join the military at a very young age. Turning 18 and then going off to war will affect them for the rest of their lives. Even officers, who first get a college degree or graduate from a service academy, will be only as old as 23 when their military career begins.

What comes next? That’s what This Is War is about. This Is War is a new podcast from the Wondery Podcast Network. This Is War is full of first-hand accounts of what it’s like to fight and survive combat while protecting our freedoms, the bonds that form between our nation’s fighting men and women, and the psychological toll it can take on a human being.

Today on Mandatory Fun, we give you a preview of This Is War. Today’s story is about Ian Mearns, who joined up in the deferred enlistment program in August 2001. We all know what happened just one short month later. Ian was just 17 and starting his senior year of high school. His life would never be the same.

“Telling stories of the American combat veteran gives us the chance to look at heroism, honor, and duty through the lens of real lives,” says the opening of This Is War. “To see the practical influence of a life of service to one’s country.”

Listen to Ian Mearns tell the story of his first days in Iraq and much more.

Mandatory Fun is hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Podcast

These are the weapons you need to know about at AUSA 2016


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The Army’s hard-charging chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley is making big changes to the Army, and this year’s annual Association of the U.S. Army conference features the weapons and technology to make his vision a reality.

From kamikaze drones to dream vehicles, here’s our favorite gear from AUSA 2016.

Related: Why a new sidearm replacement is a big deal to the troops

Hosted by:

Guest:

  • Christian Lowe: Executive Editor at We Are The Mighty
    • Christian is a veteran reporter and digital editor with nearly 20 years of experience covering the U.S. military at home and abroad. He deployed six times to Iraq and Afghanistan as an embedded reporter and has covered all the services in the conflict zone, on base and in halls of Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. Christian worked previously at Army Times and Military.com as well as a stint in the firearms industry as Editor in Chief of Shooting Sports Retailer and Tactical Retailer magazines. He’s a competitor in IDPA, USPSA and 3-Gun Nation.

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

Music license by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
Articles

10 things that will change the way you look at grunt officers




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Grunt officers get a bad wrap when they arrive to their first unit. Like any newbie, “Butter Bars” — military slang for 2nd Lieutenants — have to earn the respect of their men despite their rank.

Related: These legendary military officers were brilliant (and certainly crazy)

But it doesn’t stop there, there’s added pressure from the other officers higher in the chain. When Chase Millsap a veteran officer of both the Army and Marine Corps infantry got to his first unit, he received a warning call from the other Os.

 

“There wasn’t even like a welcome to the unit,” said Millsap. “It was like, ‘you are a liability, you are going to screw this up for the rest of us. If you think you have a question, don’t ask it.’ ”

 

It was a well timed warning and every new officer needs that grounding advice. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure coming out of the infantry officers course and these guys are ready to fight — “they are gung-ho,” according to Millsap.

 

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast Tim and I ask Millsap everything we ever wanted to know about Grunt officers.
Here are 10 questions we asked:
  1. How do you get into the Naval Academy? How do you get your congressman to vouch for you?
  2. What are some popular tattoos with grunt officers? Do you guys also get moto tattoos?
  3. What kinds of nicknames do officers give each other?
  4. Do experienced officers mess with new officers? Do you haze each other? Spill the dirt.
  5. How did you know when you’ve earned the respect from the men you lead?
  6. Do officers make stupid purchases after deployment?
  7. What is it with officers and safety briefs?
  8. Do officers get extra attention from the enlisted troops at the base gate?
  9. Do officers rely on the intelligence of the Lance Corporal Underground — the E4 Mafia?
  10. What’s the Lieutenant Protection Association (LPA)? Is that like the officer version of the E4 Mafia?

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

  • Twitter: @tkirk35

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

  • Twitter/Instagram: @orvelinvalle

Guest:

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

  • Twitter/Instagram: @cmillsap05

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
Articles

‘Terminal Lance’ creator talks about the Marine Corps and the future of his comic


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‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
The creator of the military counter-culture comic strip “Terminal Lance”—Max Uriarte—is the guest for this week’s podcast.

Max leads a busy life these days. He just published his much anticipated graphic novel “The White Donkey,” he’s working on building an animation studio, and he continues to publish his wildly popular comic strip.

This episode delves into the origins of the Terminal Lance universe, Max’s film aspirations, and his reasons for getting serious in the “White Donkey.”

As usual, the show is hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

Terminal Lance website

Terminal Lance Facebook

Terminal Lance Twitter

• [00:40 ] Rip it energy fuel

• [01:10] “The White Donkey” graphic novel

• [02:30] Kickstarter

• [06:00] Terminal Lance comic strip origins

• [09:00] Veteran revolution on Social Media

• [11:40] Meme War with Untied Status Marin Crops

• [14:20] WATM interview with Max regarding “The White Donkey”

• [15:40] Max’s inspiration for Terminal Lance, Penny Arcade

• [17:30] Max’s film aspirations

• [18:00] World War II propaganda cartoons made by Walt Disney. See them on The Best Film Archives channel on YouTube.

• [21:00] Max on American Sniper film

• [23:50] Dealing with politics on social media

• [26:30] Caitlyn Jenner comic strip

• [28:00] The future of Terminal Lance

• [29:45] Planning and writing the Terminal Lance comic strips

• [32:00] Max’s artistic origins

• [36:25] Max’s favorite movies

• [41:10] Scary superiors in the military

• [48:55] Shiney Things – Max’s comic strip about Marines saluting anything that shines

• [50:45] Moving to Los Angeles

• [52:10] Max’s goal behind “The White Donkey”

Music license by Jingle Punks

  • Drum Keys 001-JP
  • Heavy Drivers
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the slave who survived the Alamo

The attack on the Alamo in 1836 was not a 13-day siege and slaughter as often portrayed in film and television. Don’t get me wrong – the defenders of the mission-turned-fortress were killed en masse as Mexican troops stormed the structure. It’s just that not everyone inside the Alamo died that day.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Maybe standing in the open wearing the brightest clothes isn’t the best idea.

That’s how we came to know of Joe — just Joe, any other names he had are lost to history now. Joe was the slave of William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo during Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s siege of the Texian fort. But no one knows exactly how Joe got there. No matter how he ended up there, he was one of many slaves and free blacks who fought or died at the Alamo.

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Joe was a stalwart defender alongside Travis and other Texians. When the din of the fighting died down and the Mexicans firmly controlled the fort, Joe was shot and bayoneted, only to be saved by a Mexican field officer. Because Joe could speak Spanish, he was able to be interrogated afterward.


All that is known about Joe after the Alamo is that he was questioned by Santa Anna and then later questioned by the Texas Cabinet. A little more than a year later,
Joe escaped to Mexico on two stolen horses.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
One supposed photo of Joe, the slave and survivor of the Alamo.

That’s where attorney-turned-author Lewis Cook picked up the story. His first book, called
Joe’s Alamo: Unsung, is a fiction-based-on-history account of what came next, after the Alamo, and after Joe escaped.

Cook was waiting to go to medical school when he discovered Joe’s story and was compelled to write about the Alamo. Cook discovered the Alamo was more than a bunch of white, male landowners fighting for Texas. The fort was full of women, minorities of many color, and followers of many religions. So, he set out to tell the story of the Alamo, a story that, he believes, belongs to all of us through the diversity of its defenders.

In his book, Cook tells a different story from what is commonly told in textbooks, film, and TV shows. It includes recently discovered facts about William Travis, Susana Dickinson, Davy Crockett, and Joe himself.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsor

Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

About Mandatory Fun

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

MUSIC

How Taco Bell influenced a rapper to become a Marine


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.

“I joined the military because I was working at Taco Bell and ironically as a [taco] wrapper,” TMR recalls. “I wanted more, so I became the manager. I [wanted to go] the same route as the [Taco Bell] founder did and become a Marine.”

Related: How to kidnap Marines — according to a combat training role player

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”

Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.

After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.

Also Read: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

The Marine Rapper ‘s Action Figure is a bouncy, hyper, fast-paced journey that chronicles the making of his identity. Each song is accompanied by a music video that will be released weekly on YouTube starting Sept. 29.

TMR’s Action Figure will be available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and everywhere where digital music is sold Sept. 29. In addition, a limited run of signed physical copies and merchandise will be exclusively available on TMR’s website: themarinerapper.com

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
The album cover. (Source: TMR)

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s video below for a taste of what you can expect when his record drops Sept. 29 for yourself.

YouTube, The Marine Rapper

Hosted By:

Podcast

How post-9/11 vets are bringing new life to the American Legion


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with Army veteran Jennifer Campbell who is currently the Second Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, Ca.

Recently, Jennifer and the commander of Post 43, Fernando Rivero were featured in a Wall Street Journal article about how they engineered a plan to bring some fresh energy to the post.

The young veterans of the post managed to fuse and honor old military traditions with the new generation of combat veterans.

Related: The real-life dictator who ruined his country and became a cannibal

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

[1:05] Jennifer states why she decided to join the Army after growing up in a Navy family.

[4:00] We talk about the path on how to join the leadership of an American Legion.

[9:50] Insightful advice for other post-military organizations that are struggling to stay afloat.

[11:23] Jennifer briefly explains “Operation the First Reformational Congress” is all about.

[15:30] We get an update on the modern and exciting renovations legendary Post 43 is getting.

[17:00] The new post modifications features a new state of the art one of these…

[18:30] Jennifer makes a list of all the film productions and celebrities associated with the post.

[20:20] Jennifer tells us the spooky inside history that happened in the historic legion.

Also Read: How to see those never-before-published ‘Terminal Lance’ comics

Hosted By:

Podcast

How Navy corpsmen and Army medics work together on deployments


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Rivalries are nothing but tough brotherly love between military service branches. Sure, we give each other a hard time. But put us on any mission together, and we become an unstoppable force.

Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpmsen

Army medics and Navy corpsmen are a perfect example of service branch cooperation. When they work together, they save lives.

For this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we invited former Army medic Ruty Rutenberg to chat with our resident Corpsman about deployment responsibilities. Tune in to learn the differences between their jobs on the field and in garrison.

Disclaimer: Let’s be honest — we only work so well together because we’re secretly trying to outdo the other side.

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Guest:

Ruty Rutenbert: Army veteran

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
Podcast

5 of the biggest changes coming to the US military


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, the gang comments on some of the biggest challenges the U.S. military will face in the coming days.

Because external challenges are easy for a fighting force like ours, the internal struggles are the ones we really want to talk about. These affect not only the troops themselves, but potentially their families, friends, and morale as well.

1. New physical standards for all

The recent years have been huge for the military community in terms of change. The most important changes include who can join, who can serve openly, and how they can all serve. Even the service chiefs are trying to understand how this will affect everyone.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Chief Petty Officer Selectees from Yokosuka area commands stand in ranks after a physical training (PT) session (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ben Farone)

Related: Mattis just finished his review of transgender troops

But at a junior-enlisted or NCO level, we know we’re just going to deal with it, no matter what. Women are going to be in combat, along with transgender troops serving openly. What will the new fitness standards look like? Should there be a universal standard?

2. Mattis is cleaning house

The Secretary of Defense, universally beloved by all service members of all branches, wants the military to become a more lethal, more deployable force. To this end, he wants to rid the branches of anyone who is not deployable for longer than 12 months.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis hosts with Montenegro’s Minister of Defence, Predrag Bošković, a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2018. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Those numbers are significant, too. Experts estimate up to 14 percent of the entire military is non-deployable in this way, which translates to roughly 286,000 service members. It’s sure to make any military family sweat.

3. Okinawa’s “labor camp”

The Marine Corps’ correctional custody units want to open a sort of non-judicial punishment camp on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The purpose is to give commanders a place to send redeemable Marine who mess up for the first time in their career.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Brig Marines simulate hard labor during a Correctional Custody Unit demonstration Jan. 12 in the Brig aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)

In the military, we joke (sometimes not so jokingly) about the idea of “turning big rocks into little rocks” when we talk about getting caught committing a crime while in the service. Don’t worry — no one actually commits the crime they’re joking about. But what isn’t a joke is hard labor imposed by a military prison sentence. Now, even troops with Article 15 can be forced to turn big rocks into little rocks.

4. A new military pay raise

Yes, the military gets a raise pretty much every year. Is it ever enough? No. Do service members make what they’re worth? Absolutely not. Is Congress even trying? Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Well, this year they’re getting the biggest bump yet after nine years of waiting. Are they worth more? Of course they are.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
President Donald Trump lands at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee on Jan. 8, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Cornelius)

5. Marine Corps blues face a real challenge

For years (actually, decades), the Marines’ dress uniform has been the uncontested, drop-dead sexiest uniform in the American armed forces. Now, they face a usurper that really does have a shot at challenging their spot at the top of the rankings.

Now read: 5 reasons the USMC Blue Dress A is the greatest uniform of all time

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey salutes the Anthem pre-kickoff during the Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field. SMA Dailey displayed the Army’s proposed ‘Pink and Green’ daily service uniform, modeled after the Army’s standard World War II-era dress uniform. (U.S. Army photo by Ronald Lee)

The Army is reverting to one of its classic uniforms from the bygone World War II-era: the pinks and greens. The decision was met with near-universal jubilation from the Army (it was a golden age for the U.S. Army in nearly every way).

Now, former airman Blake Stilwell demands the Air Force develop its own throwback jersey.

Mandatory Fun is hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Eric Mizarski: Army veteran and Senior Contributor

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Articles

How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsors

Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

About Mandatory Fun

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Podcast

Listen as Rob Riggle tells us his most awesome Marine Corps sea stories


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Marine Corps veteran Rob Riggle joins us for a hilarious conversation about his transition to acting, what he thinks about celebrities at the Marine Corps Ball, and how he advocates for veterans.

Guest: Rob Riggle

Rob retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after 23 years of service, departing as a lieutenant colonel, but was recently promoted to full-bird colonel by virtue of his role as Colonel Sanders in the KFC commercials. (See what we did there?)

Outside of his movie roles — “The Hangover”, “The Other Guys”, and the “Jump Street” movies, to name a few — as well as appearances on Fox NFL Sunday — Rob is best-known from his time on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

The Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic:

The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families.

The tournament will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016. During this exclusive golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-911 wounded, critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance to veterans and their families. Semper Fi (“always faithful”) is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps. Semper Fi Fund’s goal is to always be there faithfully helping Heroes in need.

Hosted by:

• Logan Nye: Army veteran and Associate Editor

• Tracy Woodward: Benevolent smartass and Social Media coordinator

• Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Related: How some famous military celebrities spent their time in service

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [01:50] 20 different ways Rob Riggle can kill everyone on “The Daily Show.”
  • [03:00] How Rob Riggle spent his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • [08:00] Rob Riggle’s roots in improv comedy.
  • [11:00] That time Rob Riggle was an Iraq corespondent for “The Daily Show.”
  • [17:00] How the Navy Blue Angels made Rob Riggle pass out during his “Top Gun 2” audition video.
  • [21:00] It turns out that Rob Riggle had his pilot’s license before he joined the Marine Corps.
  • [23:30] How Rob Riggle’s InVETational Golf Classic helps veterans.
  • [29:50] Rob Riggle’s advice for inviting a celebrity to the Marine Corps Ball.
  • [36:55] Rob Riggle sets the record straight about being a pilot.

Music licensed by Jingle Punks:

  • Cheval Vapeur
  • Goal Line
  • Slick It Instrumental
Podcast

PODCAST: Were these military leaders brilliant or crazy?


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The thin line between brilliant and crazy cliché couldn’t be truer than for the military leaders in this entertaining episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast. While they accomplished incredible feats and heroics on the battlefield, they have another side the history books leave out.

Army general giving a speech. The podcast discusses several leaders like him
Some generals are saner than others.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

Music licensed by Jingle Punks

  • The Situation 001-JP
  • Heavy Drivers-JP

Originally published in 2019. What would you like to hear on the podcast next?

Podcast

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

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You might think that, somewhere along the way, someone in the staff of a senior senator from Kentucky would have figured out what Duffel Blog really was. Instead, in 2012, a concerned constituent actually had the Senator’s office send a formal letter to the Pentagon concerning Duffel Blog’s report of the VA extending benefits to Guantanamo Bay detainees.


What Duffel Blog is, on its face, is a satirical news website that covers the military. At the very least, we all laugh. We laugh at the brave Airman who sent his steak back at the DFAC and the Army wife who re-enlisted her husband indefinitely using a general power of attorney. We laugh because the stories’ absurdities are grounded in the reality of military culture.

Duffel Blog and its writers are more than brilliant. What it does at its best is play the role of court jester – delivering hard truths hidden inside jokes. In the case of Senator McConnell’s office sending a letter of concern to the Pentagon over a Duffel Blog piece, the site was hammering the VA, equating using its services to punishing accused terrorists in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.

We laugh, but they’re talking about the VA we all use – and we laugh because there’s truth to the premise.

Paul Szoldra is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Duffel Blog, former Military and Defense Editor at Business Insider, and was instrumental in the creation of We Are The Mighty. He’s now a columnist at Task & Purpose.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Szoldra speaks the the Got Your 6 Storytellers event in Los Angeles, Calif.
(Television Academy)

Speaking truth to power is not difficult for Szoldra, even when the power he speaks to is one that is so revered by the American people that it’s nearly untouchable by most other media. We live in an age where criticizing politicians is the order of the day, but criticizing the military can be a career-ending endeavor. You don’t have to be a veteran to criticize military leadership, but it helps.

“If you go back on the timeline far enough, you’ll find a lot of bullsh*t,” Szoldra says, referring specifically to comments made by generals about the now 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. “And I have no problem calling it out, highlighting it where need be.”

Szoldra doesn’t like that the top leadership of the U.S. military exists in what he calls a “bubble” and can get away with a lot because of American support for its fighting men and women — those fighting the war on the ground. Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2010, was one of those lower-enlisted who fought the war. When he writes, he writes from that perspective.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Szoldra as a Marine in Afghanistan
(Paul Szoldra)

“If we’re talking about sending troops into Syria… I wonder what does that feel like to the grunt on the ground,” Szoldra says. “I don’t really care too much about the general and how he’s going to deal with the strategy, I wonder about the 20-something lance corporal that I used to be trying to find IEDs with their feet.”

His work is thoughtful and, at times, intense, but always well-founded. Szoldra also does a semi-regular podcast with Terminal Lance creator, Max Uriarte, where they have honest discussion about similar topics. Those discussions often take more of a cultural turn and it feels more like you’re listening to Marine grunts wax on about the way things are changing – because that’s exactly what it is, with just as much honesty as you’d come to expect from Paul Szoldra and his ongoing body of work.

‘This is War’ is a raw look at the combat vet experience few will ever know
Szoldra and Max Uriarte record their podcast.
(After Action with Max and Paul)

If you liked Szoldra on the show, read his work on Task & Purpose, give After Action with Max and Paul a listen, and get the latest from Duffel Blog. If you aren’t interested in the latest and just want the greatest, pick up Mission Accomplished: The Very Best of Duffel Blog, Volume One at Amazon.

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