Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up - We Are The Mighty
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Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Across our great country, proud Americans display their patriotism by attending military ceremonies, volunteering at veterans’ gatherings, and hoisting flags outside of their houses. But, in the case of one brave Medal of Honor recipient, a homeowner association attempted to block his right to fly America’s colors outside of his front doorway.

Here’s what happened.


In the summer of 2009, Colonel Van T. Barfoot (retired), a man who defeated three Nazi tanks in World War II, was ordered by his HOA to take down the American flag he had hoisted outside his home near Richmond, Virginia.

 

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
A German Panzer tank, similar to the onesu00a0Barfoot single-handedly took out.

The highly decorated war-fighter never surrendered to the Germans; he certainly wasn’t about to surrender his right to fly the flag to his HOA.

Barfoot was well-known within the veteran community as being one of the most significant Native American heroes in military history. Assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment, he was involved in several amphibious landings in Italy before he made his way to a small town called Carano in 1944.

During an intense firefight, Barfoot requested to take out the left flank before the Germans could advance. The brave soldier then took out several enemy positions and spearheaded the capture of 17 prisoners.

But his badassery was far, far from over.

Soon after that firefight came to a close, Barfoot spotted three enemy tanks closing in on his unit’s position — he needed to take them out. He grabbed a rocket launcher, took up an offensive position, and took the enemies’ lead tank out of the fight— halting their advance.

The other two tanks quickly changed course, fearing what they thought was a massive and unseen opposition.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

The rules of Barfoot’s neighborhood states that no building structures, fences, or flagpoles are allowed on the property without the association’s approval.

As a proven warrior, Barfoot continued to exercise his freedoms and continued to raise his flag. Once this issue made headlines, public officials rallied around the war hero.

In the end, Barfoot once again won his fight. The HOA claimed they didn’t have a problem with the flag, just with the flagpole.

Seriously people? ‘Merica!

Articles

Air Force experimenting on a 6th generation fighter to come after the F-35

The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.


“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.

While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.

Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.

Related: The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
Northrop Grumman

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.

Also read: This is the fastest American bomber that ever took to the skies

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
Northrop Grumman

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

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?


Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

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.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

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.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Austin is now officially home to the new Army Futures Command

After months of tedious searching, top U.S. Army leaders on July 13, 2018, announced that Austin, Texas, will be the location of its new Futures Command, which will lead the service’s ambitious modernization effort.

Army Secretary Mark Esper, surrounded by other key leaders, said that Army Futures Command will “establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. It will turn ideas into action through experimenting, prototyping, testing.”


Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018, that the Army chose Austin for a variety of reasons.

“Not only did it possess the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and the cost of living they can afford,” he said.

The announcement comes after the Army scoured the country searching for major cities with the right combination of an innovative industrial presence and academia willing to work with the service in creating its force of the future.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank

The effort began three months ago with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed down to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Army announced its plan to build a future force in October 2018. It named six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the service.

If all goes as planned, the Army’s new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its “Big Five” combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter, and Patriot air defense system.

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

Articles

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.


Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.

(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.

(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.

(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.

(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)

(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.

(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.

(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.

(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.

(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)

(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
F-14 A Tomcat cockpit. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.

(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.

(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.

(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.

(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.

(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.

(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.

(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.

(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)

(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.

(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.

(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.

(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.

(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.

(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.

(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.

(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.

(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .

(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.

(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.

(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.

(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.

(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”

(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.

(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.

(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?

(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.

(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?

(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.

(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).

(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).

(57:49) More fuel dumping.

(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.

(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.

(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?

(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.

(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.

(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”

(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.

(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.

(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.

(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?

(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.

(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.

(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.

(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.

(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.

(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.

(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.

(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.

(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.

(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.

(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.

(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the Army plans to conquer Japan

The U.S. had laid a lot of plans for late World War II. After the fall of Italy and then Germany, America wanted to finally crush the empire of Japan and get final payback for Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the infantrymen and other troops slated to die against a determined Japanese defense, the empire surrendered after two atomic bombs and Russia deploying troops. Here’s what the U.S. Army had planned in case that didn’t happen.


Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

U.S. plans for the invasion of Kyushu in Operation Olympic, the first phase of the planned invasion of Japan.

(U.S. Army)

The assault on Japan was expected to take 18 months, starting with an intense blockade and air bombardment of Japan. Basically, stop Japan from pulling any more men and equipment back to the main islands and bomb the sh-t out of all equipment and forces already there.

While America had already captured or isolated many of the Japanese troops in the Pacific, there was the ongoing problem of Japanese forces in China that could slip back to Japan if the blockade wasn’t firmly in place for months ahead of the invasion.

It was hoped that the blockade and bombardment would weaken the defenses on Kyushu Island, the southernmost of the main islands and the first target. This assault was Operation Olympic, the first phase of Downfall. The Army wanted to land on Kyushu with soldiers and Marines from the Philippines, the Nansei Islands, and others. A total of 14 divisions were scheduled to take the beaches and push north.

This was slated to take months starting in November 1945. Wartime realities would push the date to December 1, and there was pressure to push it even further amid concerns that the blockade needed more time.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

U.S. plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands via two amphibious landings, one at Kyushu Island and one at Honshu.

(U.S. Army)

But that invasion through Kyushu was just phase one, a way of preparing for a second, larger invasion through the Tokyo Plain on Honshu Island, the largest island in Japan and the home of the capital. This was Operation Coronet, and it was thought to require 25 divisions just for the initial assaults, not counting the Air Force’s Pacific divisions held in reserve for additional bombardment and resupply.

The tentative date of March 1 was set for the Coronet invasion, but some officers pushed for a later date as soon as March 1 was announced. They wanted to delay the invasions to allow for a much larger air and sea bombardment as well as all sorts of preparatory operations. This group wanted to hit multiple points on the Chinese coast, in Korea, the Tsushima Strait, and other places.

Worst case scenario, this would’ve made the invasion of Japan much easier, though it would have used a lot of valuable resources. Best case scenario, it might have so crippled the Japanese war machine that it couldn’t hold its territory, allowing America to force a surrender without an invasion.

But these preparations would have required a massive supply of troops and machines, and that would have necessarily delayed Operation Downfall. Worse, the operations in China could have entangled America into the civil war there, preventing them from invading Japan for months or years.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

An Army graphic showing the organization of forces for Coronet, the invasion of Kyushu Island.

(U.S. Army)

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, voted for the full invasion of Japan as soon as logistically feasible. For him, this was the third proposed course of action, and he said:

I am of the opinion that the ground, naval, air, and logistic resources in the Pacific are adequate to carry out Course III. The Japanese Fleet has been reduced to practical impotency. The Japanese Air Force has been reduced to a line of action which involves uncoordinated, suicidal attacks against our forces, employing all types of planes, including trainers. Its attrition is heavy and its power for sustained action is diminishing rapidly. Those conditions will be accentuated after the establishment of our air forces in the Ryukyus. With the increase in the tempo of very long range attacks, the enemy’s ability to provide replacement planes will diminish and the Japanese potentiality will decline at an increasing rate. It is believed that the development of air bases in the Ryukyus will, in conjunction with carrier-based planes, give us sufficient air power to support landings on Kyushu and that the establishment of our air forces there will ensure complete air supremacy over Honshu. Logistic considerations present the most difficult problem.

Nimitz agreed, and the two top commanders began to assemble their forces for the largest amphibious assault ever planned. They relied on all troops, ships, and heavy equipment in the Pacific as well as a steady flow of troops from Europe after the victory there.

And, if the fighting continued past June 1946, they would need to pull an additional four divisions per month from the U.S.

Japan, for its part, dragged its feet in preparing to counter a ground invasion. Even as late as March 1945, there had been little planning and troop buildup for the defense, but Japan finally addressed it. By July 1945, they had 30 line divisions, 2 armored divisions, 23 coastal defense divisions, and another 33 brigades of various types.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

The Japanese plans for troop deployment to throwback or slow an American invasion of the home islands in 1945.

(U.S. Army)

Those 39 U.S. divisions for Olympic and Coronet are suddenly looking like they’ll struggle, right? Like they could take heavy losses and would require those reinforcements from Europe and America?

Luckily, Japan decided to surrender instead. There are some arguments about whether this was predominantly because of the Russian invasion of Japanese islands to Japan’s north or if it was because of the atom bombs that America dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but either way it allowed America to shelve Operation Downfall and execute Blacklist instead, the plan for the peaceful, unopposed occupation of Japan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

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This Spanish hero defeated an invading Muslim army — as a corpse

When your reputation as the greatest warrior in Spain precedes you, the sight of your lifeless corpse armored and atop a warhorse at full gallop can be enough to send the enemy running away in terror. Take the case of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, for instance.


Díaz de Vivar was born into the Spanish nobility in 1043 and raised in the court of King Ferdinand the Great. He eventually became the standard-bearer of Castile for Ferdinand’s son, Sancho II. He led military campaigns against the younger king’s brothers as well as the Moorish (Muslim) kingdoms in Andalusia was renowned for his military skill and strategy. He never lost a battle and was never beaten in combat.

 

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
And here I thought combat veterans grew awesome beards these days. Wow.

 

Rodrigo became legendary in Europe, known by his nickname throughout the Christian and Muslim lands of the Middle Ages. While fighting King Sancho’s brothers, he earned the moniker that would echo through history when the Muslims began referring to him as just El Cid – The Lord.

The battle lines of this time weren’t as easy as Christian vs. Muslim or brother vs. brother. City-states fought one another with Christian and Moorish allies as well as allied city-states. The Iberian “Reconquista” – the series of wars that pushed Muslims out of Spain ­– was in full swing and the peninsula was full of different tribes, ethnicities, religions, and races, all with different alliances.

 El Cid’s future father-in-law slapped around El Cid’s patron – so he took the man’s head and then his daughter.

When King Sancho was assassinated, his brother Alphonso, whom Rodrigo expertly crushed in battle on more than one occasion, came to power in Castile. El Cid suspected Alphonso was responsible and dragged the new king from his bed to the city cathedral. He forced Alphonso to swear he had nothing to do with Sancho’s death. The new king professed his innocence, but never forgot the humiliation.

 

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
This painting makes the scene look way less violent than it really was.

Regardless of El Cid’s acceptance of Alphonso’s reply, the embarrassing incident didn’t sit well with the new king. Eventually, El Cid found himself exiled and working for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza. In 10 years serving the Emir of Zaragoza, El Cid built a good life for himself, including owning his own lands. But he was soon called up to serve Spain again.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
El Cid executed everyone who helped the Moroccans take Valencia. (It was just what you did back then.)

 

In 1086, the Almoravids, Muslims from Morocco, invaded Spain and advanced quickly throughout the peninsula. Alphonso was thoroughly beaten while trying to repel the invaders (he wasn’t very good at the whole “war” thing) and begged El Cid to return to meet the Almoravids. El Cid did return, but not for Alphonso – it was time for him to win some glory for himself.

El Cid and his troops struck back, taking the Muslim city of Valencia in 1091 and devastating the Almoravid army. They tried to recapture the city just three years later, but El Cid again sent them packing. Though it took another 400 years of fighting to expel the Muslim invaders from the Iberian Peninsula, they would never advance past Valencia while El Cid was still alive.

And one occasion, even dead.

El Cid stayed in the city and in 1099, the hero and his beloved Valencia found itself again under siege by the Almoravid army. El Cid, age 56, died from the famine caused by the siege. Legend has it his wife Jimena ordered El Cid’s corpse be armored and strapped on top of his horse to lead one last cavalry charge to break through the siege.

When the Almoravid army saw El Cid leading a counterattack at the head of his men, they broke ranks and fled as the Spaniards cut them down.

Valencia did eventually fall to the invading army after El Cid’s death and would not be recaptured by Christians for another 125 years. Jimena took the dead legend’s body to the nearby city of Burgos, where he was buried in the city’s cathedral – in one piece, and eventually, next to his wife.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

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5 of the best shoulder exercises you should be doing in the gym

Nobody wants to be the weakest troop in their unit. Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to put on layers of muscle quickly, while others spend hours in the gym to grow a single fiber.


However, natural ability aside, many newbies who go to the gym don’t know how to properly lift a weight or how many reps they should be doing in each set.

In general, certain muscle groups are easier to bulk up than others. One common problem area is the shoulders. Considered a weak joint, properly developing definition in the shoulder is best done by emphasizing form over heft.

There are a lot of advanced exercises in the workout vault, but beginners can get away with doing a few of these basic weighted movements to get those healthy-looking shoulders.

 

Seated overhead dumbbell press

The exercise allows you to use all three of your shoulder muscles at once. As an added bonus, this compound movement also works out your triceps. Sit down, grab some weights you’re comfy with and settle into a position with the weights lifted to about your ears, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, push up.

Make sure that you don’t lock your elbows out at the top of the rep. That’s bad for your joints and we want to avoid injury. So, always keep a slight bend in your elbow. After the rep, don’t use gravity to lower the weights. Instead, use your shoulder muscles to slowly lower the weight back to the original position.

Cool? Now go and do eight to twelve more, followed up by two to three more sets.

 

Plate press out

This one doesn’t requires a barbell, just a weighted plate heavy enough to challenge you. All you need to do is grab onto a weighted plate, usually gripping around 9 and 3 o’clock, and hold it close to your chest. Then, extend your arms out parallel to the deck and slowly bring it back in.

Cool? Now go and do eight to twelve more and follow it up with two to three additional sets.

 

Lateral raises

For a lateral raise, you’re not going to need a lot of weight, so don’t use this movement to impress any girls or guys at the gym. Begin by sitting or standing up straight whiling holding a workable weight in each hand down by your sides (near your hips). Once you’re ready to start the rep, raise your hands up and away from your body to each side until your arms are parallel and lower slowly.

You’ll want to do two to three sets of eight to twelve.

Easy day!

 

Shoulder shrugs

You know when your first sergeant gives a lousy order and you shrug your shoulders out of silent, out-of-sight protest? It’s the same thing, but this time you have a manageable weight in your hands.

Cool? Now go and do eight to twelve more of those f*ckers and follow it up with two to three more sets.

Moving on!

 

Rear delt flys

Now it’s time to bend over and work the rear shoulder muscles, also known as your posterior deltoids. While using those same manageable weights, start in a static position, kick the weight back by rotating your thumbs downward like you’re pouring Patron into a shot glass, then slowly return to the starting position.

Got it? Good. Now go and do eight to twelve more, followed up by another two-to-three sets.

Remember, control and form are everything while trying to build muscle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops on the border practice nonlethal riot control

Active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are increasingly bracing for confrontations rather than just running razor wire to deter their entry in the US, images published by the US military show.

In November 2018, US troops have been conducting non-lethal riot control training at bases in Arizona and California, and tactical training is expected to continue.


Soldiers and Marines were also apparently present on Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, a busy port of entry where border agents clashed with migrants, using tear gas against those who rushed the border.

Watch US troops engage in tactical training in preparation for violence:​

This is how US troops are training for confrontations at the border.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, finish non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Marines attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7 join Customs and Border Protection at San Ysidro Point of Entry, California, Nov. 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jesse Untalan)

Active-duty military personnel with riot shields were present at the San Ysidro port of entry Nov. 25, 2018, when CBP agents used tear gas and tactics to drive back migrants who rushed the border, some of whom threw rocks at US agents. Some critics have called the CBP response an overreaction.

US troops are authorized to provide force protection for border agents, but are barred by law from law enforcement in the US.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, take cover to conduct non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Soldiers from the 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, conduct non-lethal riot control training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

300 active-duty troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona were shifted to California.

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

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Camp Pendleton is home to Marines, Navy hovercraft and…a herd of bison

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is the home of the 1st Marine Division. The base also hosts the Marine Corps School of Infantry West. Spanning over 125,000 acres, it is one of the largest bases in the Marine Corps. Moreover, the base’s large training area serves as a natural resource preserve. A base sign seen from Interstate 5 famously reads, “Camp Pendleton U.S. Marine Corps Base Preserving California’s Precious Resources.”

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
A Camp Pendleton sign that can be seen from the interstate (U.S. Marine Corps)

Indeed, Camp Pendleton preserves many natural resources that might otherwise be lost. In fact, the base is home to 19 threatened or endangered species. There is, however, one unique species that calls Camp Pendleton home that is no longer threatened or endangered.

In the 1800s, the bison was nearly hunted to extinction. Throughout the century, an estimated 50 million bison were killed. By the end of the century, there were only a few hundred left. Luckily, preservation and breeding efforts have since brought the species back from the edge of extinction. Federally protected lands like Yellowstone National Park now serve as safe havens for these incredible animals. What many people don’t know is that Camp Pendleton is one of these protected lands.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
The Camp Pendleton bison herd (U.S. Marine Corps)

In 1973, the world-famous San Diego Zoo introduced the plains bison to Camp Pendleton as a gift. Between then and 1979, a total of 14 bison were brought to the base. Since then, the bison population has multiplied. Last surveyed in 2015, the Camp Pendleton herd now numbers approximately 90 bison. Incredibly, this is one of only two wild conservation bison herds in California. The other is on Santa Catalina Island off the southwest coast of Los Angeles.

Today, the bison is categorized as near-threatened. This is an amazing achievement considering that the species nearly went extinct just over 100 years ago. Thanks to conservation efforts and protected lands like Camp Pendleton, the bison population now exceeds 500,000 and continues to grow.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up
The Camp Pendleton herd is part of the wild bison population of 15,000 (U.S. Marine Corps)
MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier is finding his dream job through the US Army

Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.

“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”


Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.

(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)

“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”

The first 5,000 miles

“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”

It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.

“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”

But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.

Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”

And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.

Return to Georgia

For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.

“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”

Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.

There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”

Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.

Homecoming, part II

When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.

“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”

Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.

“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”

Desire, meet destiny

Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.

“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”

Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.

In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.

Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.

Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”

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

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