Meet The ‘Godfather of Top Gun’

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Top Gun USVM May Issue 2022 cover story collage of images

By Brady Rhoades

Mention Top Gun and most everyone thinks of Tom Cruise. But did you know there’s a real Top Gun program for fighter pilots? It’s safe to say most naval aviators do; most civilians don’t.

Dan Pedersen, 86, a veteran of numerous missions in the Vietnam War, is considered the real life “Godfather of Top Gun,” which he likens to a graduate school for aviators.

In the original Top Gun movie, those guys became the now-iconic and beloved Maverick, Ice Man, Goose and others. After three years of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-awaited sequel’s Memorial Day release will mark 36 years since the original movie debuted.

Goose and Maverick fans have been ravenous.

There’s been a buzz about the movie ever since Cruise announced that it was in the works, and Val Kilmer, the original Ice Man, started promoting it.

In “Maverick,” Cruise reprises his role as U.S. Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. The Joseph Kosinski-directed sequel also stars Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm.

One thing seems to be agreed on, however: the film, featuring what Cruise calls unprecedented flying scenes, is best seen on the big screen.

What better film to celebrate open theaters this summer?

In the Dogfighting Business Maverick and company, though based on true fighter pilots, were glitzed up a bit, and that’s just fine. Pedersen credits the 1986 blockbuster film with helping the military.

Dan Pederson poses with fighter jet in early Vietnam era
Dan Pedersen, author of Top Gun: An American Story, used his experiences as a fighter pilot in Vietnam to train talented, young pilots in a program that would later inspire Top Gun starring Tom Cruise. Photo: Navy Historical Foundation Pederson

“The movie was excellent,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine. “They motivated us and increased recruiting.” But Hollywood is in the storytelling business. Pedersen was in the dogfighting business. When he spearheaded Top Gun, he focused on pilots, in the air, in dogfights. “The only thing they have to rely on is their professional experience and senior guidance,” he said. “The guys that were with me were far more professional and serious,” he said.

Before Top Gun, which formed in 1969 with Pedersen and eight other elite Airmen honing their skills in Miramar, pilots in that war were achieving a 2 to 1 “kill ratio,” meaning they killed two enemies for every one American lost. “Totally unacceptable,” Pedersen said. And the “Godfather of Top Gun” ought to know. He was there when 11 American pilots were killed in 17 days.

Fast forward a couple years into the graduate school crash course for the one percent of elite fighters of that era, and the kill ratio was 24 to one. So, what does it take to be in that one percent? “The guys have got to really love what they’re doing every day…you’ve got to do a lot of air time, and that’s when you get really good and unbeatable.”

Tom Cruise in original Top Gun movie pictured riding motorcycle with fighter jet in background.
The movie Top Gun, directed by Tony Scott. Seen here, Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell riding a Kawasaki GPZ 900 R. Initial theatrical release May 16, 1986. Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: CBS via Getty Images.

Pedersen, who has been married for nearly 30 years after reuniting with his teenage sweetheart, likes to keep things simple. He credits his own success as a pilot to skilled mentorship, some of it from seasoned Word War II veterans. That was a bottom-line principle of Top Gun: teach advanced tactics to young, talented pilots. And pay it forward by, in turn, passing on that knowledge to the next generation.

At the Top of Their Game
The techniques and tactics that Pedersen and others taught in the Top Gun program are still used today, even with vastly more sophisticated technology.

Why has it stood the test of time?
“These are principles that evolved from experience and winning,” Pedersen said. Not to mention, the world’s greatest pilots. The Top Gun program has since moved to Fallon, Nev., and the technology has advanced but one thing hasn’t changed from air warfare in the 20th century to today, according to Pedersen.

“The pilot, the human, will always be the key factor in a win in aero combat,” he explained. Of the current one percent of naval aviators at Fallon, Pedersen said: “You look at these young pilots, and boy are they good.” Great pilots need great planes. Pedersen loved the Grumman F9F-2 aircraft that he flew dozens of missions in during Vietnam. “You could shoot the eyes out of a cat with it,” he said.

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis pictured together in original Top Gun movie.
Tom Cruise and co-star Kelly McGillis in original Top Gun movie. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Archive Photo/Getty Images.

The military continues to deploy incredible planes, but two things concern Pedersen:
1) Some of the uber-expensive ones have too many bells and whistles inside the aircraft (He prefers simple and reliable.)
2) The United States needs to produce more to keep up with China, Russia and N. Korea.

“We have these nice, big aircrafts and not enough planes,” he said. “We do not want to be numerically outnumbered… if you get mosquitos in a phone booth, one fly swatter won’t do.”

An American Story
The release of Top Gun 2: Maverick roughly coincides with Pedersen’s release of his national bestselling book, titled Top Gun: An American Story, 50 years after the original Top Gun program was formed. In the 320-pager, Pedersen tells the inside story of how he and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat. Hachette Books published Top Gun, and it’s an intriguing read.

Following is an excerpt from the promo on the book’s website:
“… the most interesting parts of the book are the discussions on how he became the man assigned to creating the school. Many today can reflect on similar situations with the War on Terror. The bureaucrats and many high-ranking generals thought they knew best until the candid USS Coral Sea Commander Frank Ault spoke out. Already in line for admiral and with nothing to lose the World War II attack pilot put his gripes on paper in 1968 and sent them to the Pentagon. He listed in detail the problems and the solutions with aerial engagement in Vietnam, in what became known as the Ault Report, and recommended the formation of a school specializing in aerial combat.

an Pederson's Top Gun book cover
Photo Credit: Hachette Book Group.

“Some of the problems included pilots fighting in Vietnam receiving limited training, having faulty Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles and not learning the skills they needed to outmaneuver the enemy. This became abundantly clear with the kill ratios: In World War II, the kill ratio was approximately 14-to-1, during the Korean War about 10-to-1, but in Vietnam — before the Top Gun program — it was as low as 2-to-1.

“Capt. Pedersen (then a lieutenant commander) was the first officer in charge of Top Gun. He was chosen because of his experiences in the air battles over Vietnam where he received first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of American tactics and equipment. The ‘high tech’ weapons failed about 90 percent of the time, and the latest fighter plane didn’t even have a gun!

American fighter pilots were being shot down by a third-world air force using Soviet aircraft — MiGs. The Navy moved toward radar-guided missiles and aircraft to fire them instead of dogfighting.

“The Top Gun School ended up being very successful. The 2-to-1 ratio changed to a 24-to-1 ratio. It became, and still is, run by people with combat experience. It is obvious that Top Gun saved lives and turned the air war around.”

Pedersen, who calls the original Top Gun pilots “real patriots,” said he is pleased with his legacy in the military, which is chronicled in his book. “Anyone willing to defend their country should have a voice in combat and should have some control over their own destiny,” he said. “I am very proud that my lasting military contribution was Top Gun, where the trainees became unbeatable.”

Click here to view the exclusive Dan Pedersen interview video!

Great Jobs for Veterans You May Not Have Considered

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air traffic controller looking out tower wimndow with headphones on

Law enforcement, IT management and the medical field are all career fields that you’ve been told are great for veterans. And while these jobs are fantastic for transitioning veterans in almost every way, they are far from the only options veterans can pursue in their post-military life. Suppose you’re looking for a career different from the “veteran norm” while still providing job security and reasonable salaries. In that case, one of these unique career profiles might be for you:

Dental Hygienist

Job Description: Dental hygienists examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventive care, including oral hygiene.

They also educate patients about oral health. Their job tasks usually include teeth cleaning, taking x-rays, assessing oral health and documenting patient care.

Desired Skillset:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Dexterity

Education: Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree in dental hygiene; they may also get a bachelor’s degree. Programs usually take three years to complete and offer laboratory, clinical and classroom instruction. Areas of study include anatomy, medical ethics and periodontics — the study of gum disease.

Annual Salary: $77,810

Air Traffic Controller

Job Description: Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing and monitor aircraft as they travel through the skies.

Desired Skillset:

  • Communication
  • Multi-tasking
  • Decision-making skills
  • Math proficiency

Education: Candidates who want to become air traffic controllers typically need an associate or bachelor’s degree, often from an AT-CTI program. Bachelor’s degree fields vary; examples include transportation, business or engineering. Other candidates must have three years of progressively responsible work experience, have completed four years of college or have a combination of both.

Annual Salary: $129,750

School Principal

Job Description: Elementary, middle and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily activities. They coordinate curriculums, manage staff and provide students with a safe and productive learning environment. In public schools, principals also implement standards and programs set by the school district and state and federal regulations. They evaluate and prepare reports based on these standards by assessing their school’s student achievement and teacher performance.

Desired Skillset:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication

Education: Principals typically need a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These master’s degree programs teach prospective principals how to manage staff, create budgets, set goals and work with parents and the community. Principals also need teaching experience.

Annual Salary: $98,870

Wind Turbine Technician

Job Description: Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain and repair wind turbines. They are usually responsible for inspecting wind turbine towers’ exterior and physical integrity, performing maintenance and repairs and collecting turbine data.

Desired Skillset:

  • Physical strength
  • Physical stamina
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Detail-oriented

Education: Most windtechs learn their trade by attending technical schools or community colleges, where they typically complete certificates in wind energy technology. However, some workers choose to earn an associate degree. Windtechs usually acquire knowledge in mechanical systems, computers, electrical and hydraulic maintenance, first aid, rescue and safety and CPR.

Annual Salary: $56,260

Railroad Workers

Job Description: Railroad workers ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains and others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.

Desired Skillset:

  • Customer-service skills
  • Hearing and visual ability
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Leadership skills

Education: Rail companies typically require workers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, employers may prefer to hire workers with postsecondary education, such as coursework, a certificate, or an associate or bachelor’s degree. Locomotive engineers and conductors must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Annual Salary: $64,150

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trade-schools.net

How ABC’s Stephanie Ramos Built Her Journalism Career While Serving In The U.S. Army

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ABC’s Stephanie Ramos sits in her anchor chair smiling

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a reporter. I started watching the news around 10th grade, and I was a big fan of WNBC. I learned that you could make so much of an impact on people’s lives as a reporter, and that really motivated me.

So, as soon as I got to college, I declared my major as broadcast journalism. While I was still in undergrad, 9/11 happened. As a native New Yorker, I wanted to do something for my country; I wanted to be a part of something bigger, and I was drawn to the military.

I initially planned to join the Marines, but I ran into an Army recruiter before my decision was final, and they were able to offer me a schedule that worked better for pursuing my education and military service at the same time. I started as an enlisted soldier; then, after completing basic training and receiving my master’s degree in mass communication and media studies, I was commissioned and became a public affairs officer. I started out as a private; now, I’m a major in the Army Reserve.

I moved my way up the ranks while moving around the country: in South Carolina, I worked as an assignment editor for WIS-TV; in Kansas, as a television news reporter for WIBW-TV; in Missouri, as an anchor for KMBC; in Washington, D.C., as a multi-platform reporter for ABC.

During that time, I remained in the Reserve, reporting to units that corresponded with each new location, participating in training exercises and taking military courses. In 2008, while I was in Kansas, I deployed to Baghdad for the first time for a year, serving as a historical ambassador at Camp Slayer in Victory Base Complex.

Initially, finding out I was being deployed was a shock, but I also knew that that’s what I signed up for. I had about a month to pack everything up, tell my employer, then take off. My employer was very understanding; we even did a lot of stories about me leaving: the process and the steps you have to take to put your civilian life on hold before deploying to another country.

Being away from home was hard at first; it was lonely. What I tried to keep in mind during that year was not to become complacent. While deployed, I volunteered with the Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, which was the most meaningful experience to me; they were so aware that they were in the middle of a war—they knew why we were there—and still, they just had so much joy. I could never get over that.

A lot of the luxuries that we have here, you don’t have over there. I realized that I don’t need much, as long as I have my health and my routine.

Eventually, when I returned home, I settled into my current role as an ABC News national correspondent, covering stories that range from military issues—including the murder of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old U.S. soldier who went missing in April 2020 and was later found to have been killed by fellow solider Aaron David Robinson inside an armory at Fort Hood, Texas—to mental health crises in Latinx communities to Miss USA cheating allegations.

Balancing two careers at the same time has been challenging, but my time in the military is also what helped me in the news business. Anything can be thrown my way, and I’m just like, “Everyone calm down, we can do this. It’s okay.”

Read the complete article originally posted on Women’s Health Magazine here.

U.S. Veterans Magazine Wins Two Awards in One Week

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Tonya Kinsey smiles while holding award in her hands

U.S. Veterans Magazine, the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families, has been awarded two prestigious awards in just one week.

The first award was received on November 7th from Veterans Legal Institute (VLI). Each year, VLI reviews the contributions given by their partners and chooses a group to recognize for their continual support of veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine was the recipient of VLI’s Community Partner of the Year award for its dedication and contribution to veterans.

The second award was received just a few days later, on November 9th from the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC). Every year, the Board of Officers at NVBDC reviews the activity of their corporations, members, certified veterans and partners, and recognizes individuals and groups for their dedication to going above and beyond to support veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine and its Partnerships Division Lead, Tonya Kinsey, were the recipients of the Media Partner of the Year Award.

“I am extremely proud of the work U.S. Veterans Magazine is doing through important organizations that value our veterans and give them vital resources when they most need them,” Kinsey stated of the honor, “I have worked closely with both organizations to help them expand their platform and highlight their stories.  We truly value their partnerships and are honored to have received recognition from both organizations!”

“We are so honored to receive these awards from these two veteran-focused organizations,” U.S. Veterans Magazine Publisher and Founder, Mona Lisa Faris, said of the awards. “Our partnership with each of these organizations works so well because our mission statements align. We were created to help veterans advance and both VLI and the NVBDC have the same goal.”

About U.S. Veterans Magazine

U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM) is the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families. USVM is the link between the qualified students, career and business candidates from the ranks of our nation’s veteran organizations, educational institutions, corporate America and the federal government. We provide our readers with relevant and timely information about employment, recruitment, supplier diversity, education, wellness and benefits. We recognize the immense value veterans offer as employees, and link job seekers with companies eager to hire them. Our publication connects entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their businesses, and for those seeking educational prospects and scholarships, we share the information they need to support their academic success. Visit our official website at https://usveteransmagazine.com/

About Veterans Legal Institute (VLI)

Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) is an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, disabled, at risk and low-income service members with opportunities for healthcare, housing, education, employment and more. VLI is dedicated to help current and former service members foster a sense of self-sufficiency for the future. To learn more, visit their official website at https://www.vetslegal.com/

About the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is the original Veteran-Owned Business Certification organization developed by veterans, for veterans. The NVBDC is dedicated to providing credible and reliable certifying authority for veteran-owned businesses of all sizes to ensure that valid documentation exists for veteran status, ownership and operational control. The organization even offers a FASTRACK process, allowing businesses who are already certified with other certifiers to qualify for Veteran-Owned Business Certification in as little as 30 days. To learn more, visit their website at https://nvbdc.org/

A Letter From the Editor–What’s Your Legacy?

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Retired Marine Paul Masi pauses by the name of his high school classmate, Robert Zwerlein.

By Danielle Jackola

As we honor the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I had the privilege of speaking with Jan Scruggs and learning about “The Story Behind the Wall” (page 12). Our conversation prompted some introspection, and I considered my legacy.

As a MilSpouse, I have dedicated my time and treasure to serve our military and military families. My husband retired five years ago. I have continued as a mentor and volunteer by connecting veterans and their spouses to employment opportunities.

There are many ways people are called to a life of service.

In our Veterans Day issue, we celebrate you and commend your service to our country. Many of you continue to serve our military, veteran organizations and your communities in various capacities, working to improve the world.

As The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley has had an enduring impact on music and his fans. When Presley was drafted into the Army in 1957, he was eager to prove to naysayers that he could make it as a Soldier. He was “proud of his service” and continues to be the most famous veteran. In our cover story, we reflect on Presley’s time in the Army on page 86 and recognize other “Famous Veterans Throughout History” on page 64.

In this issue, we share Hot Jobs on page 10 for those seeking employment or a career change. For business owners taking the “First Steps on the Road to Certification” to expand their business, visit page 60 to get started. The “PACT Act Passed,” and we share everything you need to know on page 126, including how to file a claim.

On Veterans Day and throughout the year, U.S. Veterans Magazine honors you. We stand in gratitude for your commitment, bravery and the sacrifices you have made in service to our country.

— Danielle Jackola
Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine
Sr. Manager of Veteran Affairs

Image caption: Retired Marine Paul Masi pauses by the name of his high school classmate, Robert Zwerlein.
Photo credit: Tom Williams/Cq-Roll Call, Inc. Via Getty Images

FOX Nation’s 4th Annual Patriot Awards Ceremony Benefitting the American Red Cross is Tonight

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Fox Nation Patriot Awards

By Kellie Speed

FOX Nation is hosting its fourth annual Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, tonight. You can catch the patriotic show live at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Nation, and it will also be offered in a repeat presentation on FOX News Channel on Sunday, November 27, at 10 p.m. ET.

Each year, the awards show honors standout Americans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in support of this great nation. The event gives true American heroes the recognition they deserve.

“It is the awards show that America needs and that America deserves,” said FOX & Friends Weekend co-host and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth, who will return for his fourth year as the emcee.

Hegseth will join FOX News Media personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, Judge Jeanine Pirro, the cast of The Five, Harris Faulkner, Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Dan Bongino, John Rich, Mike Rowe, Nancy Grace, Lawrence Jones, Johnny Joey Jones and Abby Hornacek.

This year’s Patriot Awards include the Most Valuable Patriot Award, Heroism Award, Service to Veterans Award and Back the Blue Award. Additionally, The Five (weekdays, 5 p.m. ET), Tucker Carlson Tonight (weekdays, 8 p.m. ET) and Gutfeld! (weekdays, 11 p.m. ET) will present live shows at the venue.

Last year’s Patriot Award recipients included “Most Valuable Patriot” Olympic Gold Medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock; Award for Heroism recipient Lt. Col. (Ret.), Former Green Beret Scott Mann for his work in Afghanistan with Task Force Pineapple; “Modern Warrior” recipient Army Sergeant First Class John Goudie, and the “Courage” award recipient posthumously awarded to Todd Beamer in United Airlines Flight 93 (accepted by his parents David and Peggy Beamer).

They also paid a humbling tribute to the nation’s 13 fallen heroes killed on August 26, 2021, during the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan – Marine Corps Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan C. Knauss, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem M. Nikoui, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared M. Schmitz, Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Marine Corps Corporal Daegan W. Page.

Keep an eye out in the next issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine for a full feature on the event.

For more information, be sure to visit nation.foxnews.com

Famous Veterans Throughout History

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Elvis Presley holding company battalion sign

Celeb Elvis Presley was far from the only person of fame to have served in the U.S. military. In fact, several people who are known for their accomplishments in other fields got their start in the armed forces. Meet some of the other well-known veterans throughout history that you may not be aware of:

 

 

 

 

The Apollo 11 Team

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins comprised the historic Apollo 11 Team that successfully landed and walked on the moon in 1969. While they will always be remembered as the first men to go to the moon, all three of them served in the military. Armstrong served as a Navy pilot and saw action in the Korean War, Aldrin was among the top of his class at West Point before serving in Korea with the Air Force and Collins was a member of some of the most prestigious flight programs as a fighter pilot for the Air Force. All three men used their experiences from the military to eventually become astronauts with NASA, leading to the first-ever moon mission that marked their names in history.

Johnny Cash

At the ripe age of 18, before his musical career took off, Johnny Cash was a staff sergeant for the U.S. Air Force. Serving from 1950-1954, Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the U.S. Air Force Security Service at Landsberg, West Germany where he worked as a morse code operator intercepting Soviet Army transmissions. In fact, Cash was officially the first American to know about Stalin’s death when he decoded a message while monitoring Soviet Morse Code chatter in 1953. Cash was then tasked to tell the critical information to his superiors. Cash began his musical journey during his time in the military, having formed his first band during service: The Landsberg Barbarians. After his service and into his thriving musical legacy, Cash continued to show his appreciation for his roots by participating in concerts and events designed to support our nation’s troops.

Bea Arthur and Betty White

Long before they were your favorite Golden Girls, Bea Arthur and Betty White served in the U.S. military. At just 20 years old, Bea Arthur enlisted with the Marine Corps’ Women’s Reservists, becoming one of the first people to do so. She served as a typist at Marine Headquarters 

in Washington, D.C. and later transferred to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to become a driver and dispatcher. Arthur was honorably discharged at the end of the war in 1945 with the title of staff sergeant. White served with the American Women’s Voluntary Services; an organization dedicated to providing support to the war effort. She also worked as a PX truck driver delivering military supplies to the barracks in the Hollywood Hills and regularly attended farewell dances for departing troops hosted to boost troop morale.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

One of the most beloved figures in the veteran community, Chuck Norris wouldn’t be who he is today if it wasn’t for his service in the Air Force. In 1958, after graduating high school, Norris became an Air Policeman and was stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. It was there that Norris began studying martial arts and earned his first black belt in Tang Soo Do. Once Norris was discharged from service in 1962, he went on to participate in martial arts competitions, became the World Middleweight Karate Champion from 1968 to 1974 and launched his  acting career. Though it’s been 60 years since Norris was discharged from the Air Force, he still dedicates his projects, time and money to veterans’ efforts. He has worked with organizations such as the USO and the Veterans Administration National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans  and was the spokesperson for the U.S. Veterans Administration. He received the Veteran of the Year award from the Air Force in 2001 and was even made an honorary Marine in 2007.

Harriet Tubman

Everyone knows Harriet Tubman and her brilliant work with the Underground Railroad, but  many people often forget her military history. After escaping slavery and rescuing over 70 other  slaves working for the Underground Railroad, Tubman worked with Colonel James Montgomery  and the Union Army as a nurse and spy. Her work consisted of tending to the wounds of soldiers  and escaped slaves, but mostly entailed gaining intel on the Confederate soldiers for the Union  Army. Tubman created a spy ring in South Carolina, paid informants for intel that would be useful  to the Union Army and was one of the leaders that helped to plan and execute the Combahee  Ferry Raid. The raid successfully caught Confederate soldiers off guard, allowing a group of Black Union Army soldiers to free more than 700 slaves. Her contributions made her the first woman in American history to lead a military assault.

Tammy Duckworth

Before her career as a senator for the state of Illinois, Tammy Duckworth was a combat veteran of the Iraq War. Joining the Army Reserves in 1990 and transferring to the National Guard in 1996, Duckworth served as a helicopter pilot while stationed in Iraq. In 2004, her helicopter was hit by a rocket￾propelled grenade resulting in the loss of both of her legs and limited mobility in her right arm. Despite being the first female double amputee of that particular war, Duckworth obtained a medical waiver that allowed her to continue her service in the National Guard for another 10 years. She retired in 2014 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Duckworth has worked relentlessly to advocate for the needs and wellbeing of the veteran community. With her high ranking position with the Department of Veterans Affairs and her status as  a U.S. senator, Duckworth has created government-sponsored programs to help veterans with PTSD, advocated for the needs of women and Native American veterans, created initiatives to bring an end to veteran homelessness and helped pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Clint Eastwood

Before Clint Eastwood was an actor, musician, director and your favorite gun-slinging cowboy, he served in the U.S. Army. In fact, without Eastwood’s Army service, he may have never become the iconic figure he is today. Before he got the chance to enroll in college, Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He served as a lifeguard and swim instructor at Fort Ord in California where he met future co-stars Martin Milner and David Janssen. Upon discharge from the Army, Eastwood used his GI Bill benefits to study drama at L.A. City College and soon after landed his contract with Universal Studios. The rest is history.

 

 

James Earl Jones

An iconic actor with a distinctive voice, James Earl Jones is best known for his work throughout Hollywood and as the voice of one of Hollywood’s most notorious sci-fi villains, Darth Vader. But before he ventured into the world of Hollywood, Jones served with the Army during the Korean War. A member of the University of Michigan’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, Jones was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and assigned to Headquarters Company, 38th Regimental Combat Team. Jones served his first and only assignment at the former Camp Hale, where he helped establish a cold weather training command. His battalion became a training unit and Jones was promoted to first lieutenant before being discharged soon after. He went on to begin his acting career straight out of the service at the Ramsdell Theater in Michigan and has since made significant contributions to the world of the arts.

 

Is the MIlitary “Too Woke” to Recruit?

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A drill instructor gives instructions to new soldiers

The Army missed its recruiting goal by about 15,000 new soldiers in 2022, coming up 25% short of its goal at a time when each of the services were struggling to meet their benchmarks.

Military officials worry that all of the branches have had to reach deep into their pools of delayed entry applicants, a move that puts them behind in recruiting for the new year.

Military recruiters have leaned on tried-and-true factors to explain the challenges, including low unemployment and a dearth of applicants up to physical, educational and behavioral standards.

But the truth is, no one keeps detailed data on what’s stopping America’s youth from signing up. Experts and senior military leaders point to the perennial factors of competition from the private sector and a dwindling number of young Americans both qualified and interested in military service. But what they don’t have much information on is why that propensity is going down, and whether the country is undergoing an ideological shift in attitude toward military service.

Read the Fulll Story on Army Times

Navy Gold Coast Conference 2022 – Event Wrap Up

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Event floor with large screen and people watching the speaker facing away from the camera - NDIA Gold Coast 2022

This year’s Annual Department of the Navy Gold Coast Conference, held September 6-8, 2022, focused on Thriving as a Department of the Navy Small Business in a World of Global Challenges.”

In its 34th year, the Navy Gold Coast Conference is the nation’s premier Navy-centered small business procurement event and the only procurement event co-sponsored by the Department of the Navy’s (DON) Office of Small Business Programs. The Navy’s primary purpose in co-sponsoring the event with the San Diego Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) is to educate, guide and assist businesses in providing vital goods and services to meet government needs, particularly in the Navy and Department of Defense.

Navy Gold Coast Conference event photo of a small business defense contractor at a table with a woman who works for the navy to help grow his businessThis year’s Navy Gold Coast Conference attracted over 1,700 defense industrial base attendees, and almost 250 booths lined the exhibit hall with representatives from government acquisition offices and small, medium and large businesses. Many of these are owned and operated by service-disabled veterans (SDVOSBs) or participants in the federal government’s 8(a) Business Development Program. The federal government’s goal is to award at least 3 percent of all federal contracting dollars to SDVOSBs and 5 percent to disadvantaged businesses each year, and the Navy Gold Coast Conference

This year’s Navy Gold Coast Conference sponsors included Bank of America (Platinum), Unanet and Deltek (Diamond), Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, L3 Harris, BAE Systems, Raytheon Technologies (Gold) and over 40 small business sponsors.

Navy Gold Coast Conference photo of a large group of people standing and talking to each other in the event islesnavyNavyThe Keynote presentation was from the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), the Hon. Carlos Del Toro. Additional presentations included a discussion on Small Business and the Future by the Hon. Isabella Casillas Guzman, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA); a briefing on Getting Started in Government Contracting from Mr. Michael Sabellico, Senior Procurement Advisor of the San Diego Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC); and a round table discussion on DON Supply Chain Readiness including Mr. Jimmy Smith (SES), Director, DON Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) and RADM Peter Stamatopoulous, Commander of Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP).

In addition to professional networking and small business matchmaking, a wide variety of issues affecting small business federal contracting were covered, including Exporting, Accounting Requirements, Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), Mentor Protégé Programs, Racial Equality and Support for Underserved Communities, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and How to do Business with the DON and Other Government Agencies

Navy Gold Coast Conference is also the venue for the NDIA San Diego Chapter’s Twice a Citizen Award. This award is given to Reserve Service or National Guard members from the San Diego Area. Nominees demonstrate leadership, self-sacrifice, commitment to service and outstanding overall performance. Nominees must also have provided exceptional professional performance while participating in contingency/support activities outside drill weekends. This year’s winners are Chief Petty Officer Joshua R. Berman, Chief Petty Officer Joseph A. Pisano, Chief Melanie A. Maldonado and Commander Ron Giusso.

Next year’s Gold Coast is scheduled for 26-28 July 2023 in San Diego.

Focusing on ‘What Is Real’

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Annie Nelson and Seth Griffith stand in front of Aerial Recovery Group sign

By Annie Nelson

Sitting across the table from him, you see a handsome well trained, dark-haired dark-eyed, well-built man. Staring off into the windows with a gaze I could tell was of a land far away. Former Air Force TACP officer Seth Griffith is at dinner with friends, but his heart and thoughts are back in Ukraine, where he just returned from. I have the honor of calling this veteran hero —  friend and wanted to share his story, especially since he and so many of his brothers in arms are still serving as civilians in the war zone of Ukraine. Serving not in the fight but in the humanitarian rescue of the children caught up in this war. Saving the orphans. However, to understand how Seth got to the front lines of Ukraine, you should first know his journey.

Seth grew up in the suburbs of St Louis, Mo. He chose the military path because he was in a place where he felt he needed to grow up. As an athlete, the military offered him a way to use his athletics and teamwork mentality to excel in a team environment.

His stepfather was in the Air Force and had always told him there were some unique jobs the Air Force could offer him, and he should investigate them. He did just that, and the TACP job excited him. For those not familiar, a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) officer directs lethal and nonlethal joint firepower anywhere, anytime battle calls for it. They are also the primary Air Force advisors to the U.S. Army, joint multinational and special operations ground force commanders for the integration of air, space and cyber power. They are considered Special Warfare Airmen. Seth felt he could go to Army schools and work alongside the combat arms side of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps — all of which got his blood pumping!

He served for just over 20 years before he retired, serving seven deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2002 and 2012.

His transition away from this military into civilian life was a struggle. A struggle until now. Where he has landed into a new team! He struggled to connect with a lot of people in corporate America. “I met some great people, don’t get me wrong, but the mentality was a very different ‘team’ environment or lack thereof than I was used to. I excelled in each position but spent several years in the construction and homebuilding industry bouncing around, trying to find the right fit. Turns out if it wasn’t the fit, I just had other passions of serving.

Finding my current position with the Ariel Recovery Group has truly filled a void and brought fulfillment back into my professional life.”

Our conversation continued, and I decided to cross the bridge of PTS and ask if he had any challenges with it. Seth’s response was very candid.

I do. Triggers hit us all differently, and I do not use any PTS as an excuse for behaviors and dislike any victim mentalities. I knew what I was signing up for — volunteered. My triggers are centered around emotional numbness and past alcohol consumption. Deployments and crazy schedules, once you get home from deployments to keep you proficient for your next deployment date (that you sometimes knew before your current deployment was even complete), is a hard pace for someone who is struggling with PTS, mental or financial issues or adjusting to a divorce. And we do not want to miss the next deployment, so we underplay injuries so that we can go do our jobs when we are counted on.

I try to focus on “what is real” to power through. My amazing wife Jenna taught me that phrase and has provided me with a far better understanding of trauma and trauma-related responses than I had before. Living with PTS is very doable; you are newlywed with a new RIGHT job and thriving just proves you can succeed. You just have to keep the never-quit mentality and keep doing the work.

Now to Ukraine, how did you get there? Please tell me about the Ariel Recovery Group.

Aerial Recovery Group is comprised primarily of retired or separated special operations vets who are highly skilled, trained and have the outside-of-the-box mindset to rapidly deploy into sometimes very dynamic situations and be the ultimate humanitarian operators to deploy at a moment’s notice. We deployed to natural disasters like the earthquakes in Haiti last year, the flash flood in Waverly, Tenn., Hurricane Ida, the tornadoes in Mayfield, Ky. and anything we had the bandwidth to respond to.

We also respond to manmade disasters like the Afghanistan crisis that occurred late summer last year (we were very involved) and Ukraine. I’m currently back for my second deployment to rescue orphans and refugees from areas under attack and evacuate them into safe zones in the country where we can keep them secure and move them again quickly if the ground situation changes drastically from where it currently is.

What specifically is your role with the organization? I understand this organization is a nonprofit.

I am the Director of Disaster Response for Aerial Recovery Group/Aerial Recovery.

Seth, how did you guys decide to get involved in Ukraine?

Anytime there is an event in the world, we immediately look at how our company can go and serve. We have some very strong NGO partners, and we mutually support each other. In Ukraine, it was a no-brainer, just like Afghanistan was, to rapidly deploy and start saving lives. We already knew we would be getting involved in the crisis. Preexisting partnerships gave us an additional reason to be there so we could get in with the government and start rescuing orphans and anyone who wanted to be immediately evacuated from areas currently in high threat.

Last but not least, what is next for you?

Personally, I would love to travel more with my wife and family and unwind and unplug from the world a little bit. I love my job and have found a renewed purpose for me. In general, my family and friends have become my hobby, and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. When your free time is limited, you make the most of it or at least try to after you’ve had a cool-off period.

So, if a buddy wants to go shooting, I go shooting. Hiking, count me in. Family dinner — that’s the priority hobby for that moment! But other than that, my hobbies are pretty much anything outdoors, or enjoying on, in or under water sports during the warm weather months or in the part of the world we are in at that minute. Lastly, and this is the one thing I really do just for me, football. I love the sport, and it’s a way for me to unplug from everything else for around three hours and be a big kid again.

Photo: Annie Nelson and Seth Griffith

‘A True Profile in Courage’

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Celebrity and former Army Ranger Noah Galloway poses for a portrait during the Tough Mudder's

By Kellie Speed

If ever there was a true profile in courage that is Noah Galloway’s story to tell.

While the U.S. Army veteran lost both his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee to an IED attack during Operation Iraqi Freedom, that hasn’t stopped him from pushing his own limits becoming a nationwide inspiration as a result.

Although his injuries certainly posed many unforeseen challenges and his life was forever changed, the Purple Heart recipient believes now he is mentally and physically stronger than ever.

“My mother always told me to join the military, but I never joined until I wanted to,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I told her if something happens, I chose this. I’ll never forget that conversation. When I got injured and I went through my depression that was the worst shape I had ever been in in my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself and that was a reflection of my whole life — I wasn’t being a good father; I wasn’t being a good husband or anything. It was my children who were the motivation for me to get back and start taking care of myself.

The first thing I did was change the way I was eating then I joined a 24-hour gym because I was embarrassed, and I think a lot of people can relate to that if they have never been into fitness. It’s hard to walk into a gym for the first time. I would go in at 2:00 in the morning because there were no books, magazines or anything on the internet that told you how to work out missing an arm and a leg. Actually, I would say that was a benefit because it motivated me, and I had to figure it out. I kind of fed off of that and I have met amputees from all over the world who told me they have seen my videos and pictures and that’s how they got into fitness. For me, that’s pure motivation to know that something I did inspired them, and it drives me to just keep wanting to do more and more. Getting back into shape was so critical with my recovery in accepting myself.”

In 2014, the Alabama native became the first amputee veteran to appear on the cover of Men’s Health. “When I was in the military, I used to say I wanted to be on the cover of Men’s Health because fitness has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old,” he said. After earning the magazine’s “Ultimate Guy” title, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and later became a finalist on Dancing With The Stars.

Noah Galloway Book Signing For
Noah Galloway attends his book signing for “Living With No Excuses” at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/FilmMagic)

“Once I went on Ellen, things just took off,” he told us. “As soon as that episode aired, I got phone calls from Survivor, which I was excited about, but I couldn’t do that because I have three kids who were young at the time, so I turned it down. When Dancing With The Stars called, I told them I had no dancing experience and had to stay in Alabama. They didn’t even hesitate. They said they would send a dancer to Birmingham where we would rehearse then they would fly me back and forth to LA for the live show. Then, I didn’t think I’d last long, but halfway through the season, I was still there. The fifth week, I did a dance to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” and I did a one-arm lift and I got a standing ovation from all of the judges and the studio audience; it was incredible. I had veterans start reaching out to me, and that changed everything. But I didn’t become a better dancer.”

On September 16, Galloway’s No Excuses Charitable Fund is hosting their second annual charity golf tournament at Timberline Golf Club in Calera, Ala. with proceeds this year benefitting Homes for Our Troops.

“I know there are people who are more inspirational, but people reach out to me and say they got into fitness because of me,” Galloway said. “To know that you have done something, even if it’s for one person to improve their life, is just so motivating.”

To check out his book, Living With No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of An American Soldier, visit noahgalloway.com.

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