Meet The ‘Godfather of Top Gun’

LinkedIn
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!

Senate passes historic bill to help veterans exposed to burn pits during military service

LinkedIn
Senate passes a bill that will help veterans exposed to burn pits during military service

By Ali Zaslav and Jessica Dean, Cnn.com

The Senate on Thursday passed historic legislation that would help millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service.

A wide bipartisan majority approved the long-awaited bill by a vote of 84-14. It will now go to the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to move quickly and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill is an amended version of the Honoring Our PACT Act that passed the House earlier this year.

“Today is a historic, long awaited day for our nation’s veterans,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a floor speech on Thursday ahead of the vote. “In a few moments, the Senate is finally going to pass the PACT Act, the most significant expansion of health care benefits to our veterans in generations.”

Schumer continued, “The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God.”

Burn pits were commonly used to burn waste, including everyday trash, munitions, hazardous material and chemical compounds at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan until about 2010.

A 2020 member survey by the advocacy organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins. The VA has denied approximately 70% of veterans’ burn pit claims since 9/11, according to previous statements by Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican and ranking GOP member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The legislation is years in the making, and, once signed into law, would amount to a major bipartisan victory.

Click here to read more on cnn.com

Biden nominates Marine general as next commander of US forces in Africa

LinkedIn
US Marine appointed commander of US forces in Africa

By Bryant Harris, Defense News

President Joe Biden on Thursday nominated Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley to lead U.S. forces in Africa, teeing him up to become the first Black four-star Marine Corps general.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision to nominate Langley as head of AFRICOM. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command and is the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

Langley has served in Afghanistan, Somalia and Okinawa. He also has worked at the Pentagon and CENTCOM, which oversees US forces in the Middle East. Should the Senate confirm Langley, he will replace Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. AFRICOM oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including in conflicts zones such as Somalia, where Biden recently reinstated troops to expedite airstrikes for counterterrorism operations. The command is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration briefly sought to scale down the U.S. troop presence in Africa while merging AFRICOM with European Command (EUCOM), which is also based in Stuttgart. However, the plan stalled amid strong bipartisan rebuke in Congress.

The New York Times first reported last month that Langley would receive the nomination, and quoted former Defense Secretary James Mattis — himself a former four-star Marine general — effusively praising him.

“He’s a Marine’s Marine,” Mattis told the Times.

Click here to read more on Defense News.

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ breaks longtime Memorial Day weekend record with $156-million opening

LinkedIn
Top Gun Maverick soars into Memorial Day with highest opening ever.

By Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times

“Top Gun: Maverick” soared to the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend opening by raking in an impressive $156 million at the domestic box office in its first four days of release.

The updated estimates from measurement firm Comscore released Monday pushes Paramount’s highly anticipated “Top Gun” sequel past the previous record-setting Memorial Day total set by Disney’s 2007 “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” The third film in the “Pirates” franchise earned $153 million over the extended holiday weekend.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Top Gun: Maverick” sees Tom Cruise return as his iconic Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell 36 years after he first charmed audiences in the original “Top Gun.” This time around, Cruise’s Maverick is sent back to the Top Gun program as an instructor charged with training the next generation of elite fighter pilots.

In his review, Times film critic Justin Chang described the film as “ridiculous and often ridiculously entertaining.” “As a rare big-budget Hollywood movie about men and women who fly without capes, it has a lot riding on it,” Chang wrote of the film. “Once set for a summer 2020 release but delayed almost two years by the pandemic, it arrives bearing the hopes and dreams of a tentatively resurgent industry that could use a non-Marvel theatrical hit.”

Variety reported that approximately 55% of the movie’s audiences were 35 years or older, indicating appeal to demographics that have been most reluctant to return to theaters.

“Top Gun: Maverick” has smashed early box-office expectations, which predicted the sequel would earn $130 million over the four-day weekend. The film also marks Cruise’s biggest domestic launch ever. Overall, “Maverick’s” estimated global box office haul is $252.7 million for its opening weekend.

Click here to read the full story from the Los Angeles Times.

Young ‘Top Gun’ fan grows up to become Jacksonville pilot, airport director.

LinkedIn
Top Gun Fans becomes pilot 36 years after first movie release

By Renata Di Gregorio, Fire Coast News

Here’s a guess for what you may have done this weekend: go to the movies!

The new “Top Gun” hit theaters, 36 years since the first one. That means it was 36 years ago that some little kids were watching and now some of those kids are adults working in aviation.

Matt Bocchino was a young boy when he watched the first “Top Gun” movie and got inspired. Now he’s the one in the sky.

“I don’t think my mom knew that I saw it at that age,” Bocchino laughed.

After that, the path, or you could say the runway, was laid out for Bocchino’s future.

“‘Top Gun’ was definitely a huge part of my reason for getting into the aviation industry,” he said.

Now Bocchino is a pilot and the director of Cecil Airport and Spaceport.

The action, the adrenaline, the airplanes, the loud noises, which is kind of how I ended up at Cecil,” Bocchino said. “A lot of stuff you see in the movie there happens out here.”

In 2019 Tom Cruise’s fighter jet from the movie was at Cecil Airport and Spaceport.

“It flew into Cecil and then Boeing converted it into a Blue Angel,” Bocchino said.

Now decades after “Top Gun” debuted, the kid with the popcorn has become the man in aviator sunglasses flying the plane.

“It’s freedom,” said Bocchino. “There’s a famous saying, ‘a mile of runway will take you anywhere.'”

The first stop: to the movies.

If the original movie helped inspire Bocchino to become a pilot, could Hollywood help the pilot shortage?

“Partially because of this movie, I wanted to be in the military or fly for a living or both,” Bocchino said. “I’m Type 1 diabetic so that’s how we ended up in this path.”

Click here to read more on firecoastnews.com

Top Gun Then And Now

LinkedIn

By Danielle Jackola, Editor U.S. Veterans Magazine

As we countdown the days to the long-awaited release of Top Gun: Maverick on Friday, May 27 in time for Memorial Day weekend, we reflect on the film’s origin story. U.S. Veterans Magazine sat down with the ‘Godfather of Top Gun,’ Dan Pedersen as he shared the history of the program, why it’s creation came at a pivotal time and how it has impacted our nation’s approach to dogfighting.

Read more about the Top Gun program, Dan Pedersen and the eight other Airmen who brought this unparalleled program to fruition before you sit in theaters with popcorn in hand to be swept away by the cinematographic delights of Top Gun: Maverick.

The actors who brought this tale to life attended a premiere on the USS Midway in San Diego, Calif. on May 4 in celebration of the film and the rich history of the Top Gun program.

Photo caption above picture: Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Jay Ellis, Lyliana Wray, Bashir Salahuddin, Miles Teller, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Jake Picking, Tom Cruise, Lewis Pullman, Jean Louisa Kelly, Greg Tarzan Davis, Kara Wang, Raymond Lee, Jack Schumacher and Manny Jacinto attend the Global Premiere of Top Gun: Maverick on May 04, 2022, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun USVM May Issue 2022 cover story collage of images

We all look forward to viewing Top Gun: Maverick and honoring the Airmen who made it all possible with their dedication to service as elite fighters.

Read more…

More enlisted airmen, guardians are eligible for bonus pay as staffing needs grow

LinkedIn
airman jumping out of an airplance with two other airmen looking on

by Rachel Cohen, Yahoo News

Enlisted airmen and guardians in more than 60 career fields can earn some extra cash this year by extending their time in the service — a much broader retention push than in 2021.

The Department of the Air Force will dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus pay to troops who reenlist by Sept. 30 to work in 63 specialties with particularly high turnover or exorbitant training costs, from Chinese and Russian language experts to satellite and radar operators.

After seeing unusually high retention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Air Force is beefing up its incentives for people to stay. Bonus pay dried up between 2016, when the Air Force offered extra money to 117 career fields, and 2020, when just 37 specialties were eligible. Forty fields were eligible under the program’s most recent update in 2021.

Members of the Air Force and Space Force can earn up to $100,000 in each of four periods of time over the course of their careers: when they have served between 17 months and six years; six to 10 years; 10 to 14 years; and 18 to 20 years. They’re allowed a total windfall of $360,000 over the course of their career. Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear

Bonuses are tallied by multiplying one month’s base pay by the number of years an airman chooses to reenlist, and multiplied again as much as fivefold depending on how urgent a career’s staffing needs are.

This time, service officials have added jobs like cyber warfare, Farsi language analysis, cyber intelligence and fighter maintenance, while others — including human intelligence — have dropped off the list.

Special operations airmen are still in high demand, from pararescuemen to combat controllers, as well as explosive ordnance disposal crews.

Click here to read the complete article on Yahoo News.

Can soldiers consume CBD energy drinks?

LinkedIn
U.S. Soldier drinking Rockstar beverage with hemp leaves in the background

by Sarah Sicard, MilitaryTimes

Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.

But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.

“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.

“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.

Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.

“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.

“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”

So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.

Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.

Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.

Nebraska teen accepted to all five military academies; sets out to serve America

LinkedIn
Noble Rassmussen holding military hats

By Angelica Stabile, FOX News

High school senior Noble Rasmussen intends to serve his country well — and all five U.S. military academies seem to agree.

The Nebraska teen joined “Fox & Friends” on Friday to celebrate his acceptance to all five academies.

He then announced on the program that he’ll be attending the United States Air Force Academy in June.

Rasmussen, a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, said that his interest in applying to each school was sparked from a desire to represent and serve the United States as a whole.

“I want to serve my country the best I can,” he said. “So applying to all academies [presented] the option to serve anywhere.”

“I feel like it’s my duty to serve my country.”

VIDEO: Watch the interview on FOX & Friends

While the “noble” sentiment of military service complements Rasmussen’s first name nicely, his mother, Cheri Rasmussen, said that was his parents’ exact intention when they named him.

“Our prayer for him his whole life was just to have that noble character of honor, honesty and integrity,” she said. “Just to kind of rise above and have that high moral principle.”

“God has blessed us with that, and we see those qualities of leadership and maturity in Noble.”

Continue to Fox News to read the complete article.

Arkansas veterans honored as motorcyclists travel cross country

LinkedIn
motorcyclists honor veterans in Arkansas

By Jade Jackson, THV11

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — A large American flag hung by the local fire department blows with the wind as motorcyclists ride over a hill to the River Valley Veterans Memorial Park in Russellville.

They are riding as part of ‘Run for the Wall’, and are stopping to rest and eat at the memorial park along their journey. ‘Run for the Wall’ is an annual motorcycle ride in the United States that features parades around the country supporting Veterans and patriots traveling from Ontario, California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

They ride across the country to remember those Veterans missing in action, killed in action, or others who are prisoners of war.

Their ride through Arkansas counts as day 5 for them traveling from the West Coast to the east. While resting, they also honored the veterans remembered at the memorial.

“It’s the longest and hardest ride through the entire journey. We have a lot of miles to put in,” said Christina Roulston, the Arkansas state coordinator for ‘Run for the Wall’.

Roulston said the stop in Russellville is a new one. They usually stop for lunch in Coal Hill, Arkansas but the usual organization they work with has veterans who are aging and dealing with health problems. So unfortunately they weren’t able to feed them this year.

Click here to read the full article on THV11.

Retired Army captain runs 44 miles in effort to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health

LinkedIn
Kyle Butters crosses finsish line carrying a U.S. flag

By Bradley Bennett, Cincinnati News

In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.

More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.

I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.

Read the complete article here.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Leidos Video

lilly

Alight

Alight

Heroes with Hearing loss

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. San Diego Unified Construction Expo 2022
    July 13, 2022
  5. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022