Show cover of American Warrior Radio

American Warrior Radio

Telling the stories of our men & women in the military and those who support them.


“Damn the Valley” – Will Yeske
“Damn the Valley” was written by Will Yeske and describes his deployment to the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan. The valley has seen its share of conflict. From Alexander the Great up to the Russians – and now Americans. To US troops it became known as “the meat grinder”.  Will was posted there with Bravo Company of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.  During their time there, his unit suffered a 52% casualty rate. Damn the Valley has an interesting “origin” story.  Will was inspired to write it in response to another book by Ben Kesling titled “Bravo Company: An Afghanistan Deployment and Its Aftermath.”  Many of Will’s comrades who saw conflict in that valley felt that Kesling’s book fell short in telling the full story of their deployment. Kelsing was supportive of Will undertaking the project. Damn the Valley does an excellent job of communicating the hardships of being stationed in such a remote location over and above the combat. This includes basic issues like staying clean. Sometimes patrols would even be routed through shallow rivers just so the soldiers could rinse off. In addition to the Taliban, wild life like mountain lions and bears also posed a threat. Will gives credit to our opponents in that valley. He says they were very shrewd about adapting their tactics, including “assembly” line methods of planting improvised explosive devices that took advantage of the US troops’ strict rules of engagement.  Helmand province was considered the “silicon valley” of IED manufacturing. Readers will get a firsthand accounting of the “fog of war”, the brutality of this conflict and the second order effects upon those who fought there.  Will says that he experienced real struggles upon returning to civilian life and for a while engaged in high risk behaviors to address the “numbness”. TAKEAWAY:  “If any Freedom was won, it was providing sleep and security to those who had never had it before”
39:52 2/18/24
Behavioral Science Unit – Jana Monroe
Jana Monroe wanted to be a law enforcement officer ever since she was 13. She would go on to become the first woman to join the FBI’s elite Behavioral Science Unit.  She says her motivation is the fact that she loves the freedoms granted by our country and she hates bullies. Jana began her law enforcement work as a probation officer and then joined the Chino California police department.  Women in law enforcement were still rare, and she says she was given a lot of “babysitting” jobs. It took a class action lawsuit to get FBI to change their policies and allow women to become field agents. When Jana applied, her husband told her it was either him or the FBI. Jana chose the FBI. Her first assignment was in the Albuquerque office and many of her cases were on the reservation. This created some challenges as tribal officials at the time would not accept a woman as being in charge. When Jana joined the Behavioral Science Unit, there were only 12 agents working those cases. She says BSU’s job is “to search for reason amidst the debris of awful violence”. During her time with the Behavioral Sciences Unit, Jana consulted on more than 850 cases, including those involving some of the worst serial killers. She shares some insights on working with some of these killers. Jana emphasizes that programs like America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries have played a very beneficial role in helping to solve cases. Jana was selected to consult Jodie Foster on her academy winning role in “The Silence of the Lambs.” She said Jodie was very professional and even suggested changes to the director based upon Jana’s feedback. Jana chronicled the story of her time with the FBI in the book “Hearts of Darkness: Serial Killers, the Behavioral Science Unit, and My Life as a Woman in the FBI.’ TAKEAWAY: “I did a lot of kicking to break through the glass ceiling but I tried to do the kicking professionally and with my heels on.”
39:52 2/11/24
“Dead Man’s Hand” – Brad Taylor
“Dead Man’s Hand” is Brad Taylor’s 18th installment in the Pike Logan series. Brad served more than 21 years in our nation’s military, 8 years as a member of the elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, more commonly known at Delta Force. He holds a Master’s of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, with a concentration in irregular warfare. His previous 17 novels have all been ranked on the New York Times best seller list. His latest novel is titled “Dead Man’s Hand”. He wasn’t intending to write about Ukraine & Russia, but in preparing his research he was reminded of the Russian “Perimeter System”. The Perimeter System was created by the Soviet Union in response to the US ”Star Wars” initiative. It was an early form of artificial intelligence that would automatically launch their nuclear missiles if it was determined that the US had decapitated Soviet leadership with a successful first strike. NATO called the system the “Dead Hand”. His novel “Ghosts of War”, published in 2014 was about Russian invading Ukraine.  “Dead Man’s Hand” centers on a Ukrainian plot to assassinate Putin and the potential for triggering the Dead Hand system. Brad says it is always a risk to write in a theme that reflects current events. In this case there were three main risks that might happen before publication; the Ukrainian war would be over, Sweden’s NATO membership would be approved, and the potential that Putin would be removed from power before publication. Brad prides himself in actually exploring the locations that are featured in his book. He says he was not about to get shot at in Ukraine and go traipsing across Russia. However, he did discover some interesting features in Sweden and Denmark that made their way into the book. During our conversation I also take the opportunity to pick Brad’s brain about the current world events taking place in Ukraine and Israel/Gaza. His informed answers may surprise some listeners. TAKEAWAY: “One of the best traits for a special operator is someone who is a problem solver.”
39:53 2/4/24
Warrior Surf Foundation – Stephanie Dasher
The Warrior Surf Foundation uses the calming and spiritually regenerative power of the ocean to help Veteran families deal with the difficult transition to civilian life.  The organization was established on Folly Beach, South Carolina in 2015. The Foundation addresses post service transition challenges like PTSD, moral injury, survivor’s guilt and traumatic brain injuries through surf therapy. Warrior Surf Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Dasher knows the challenges first hand. She was raised by a Veteran, served five years in the Navy and married a Veteran. She was introduced to the Foundation’s programs after her husband had several disturbing episodes. While her husband was initial resistant, she says the change was almost immediate. Their programming consists of three core elements. The surf program is a 12 week course that provides up to three surf lessons per week.  In the words of co-founder Andy Manzey  “The ocean pushes people and it keeps you humble. You learn a lot about yourself out in the ocean.” The surf program is reinforced by wellness and yoga coursework. A professional mental health counselor, Stephanie says it is amazing to see how the ocean immediately breaks down barriers in their clients. Wellness sessions are often conducted on the beach, a significantly less threatening environment than the typical clinical setting. She says the surf sessions also help rebuild the loss of comradery and “tribe” felt by so many transitioning Veterans. An important element of the Warrior Surf Foundation’s programming is that it integrates the entire family in the healing process. It was this approach that convinced Stephanie to join the staff. While they can refer clients to other surf therapy programs that are geographically more convenient, their services are provided free of charge to Veterans from anywhere in the country. They also organize overseas surf trips as well.
39:52 1/28/24
Distinguished Flying Cross – Loadmaster Jim Lopez
Jim Lopez flew an amazing one thousand combat missions. For perspective, World War II bomber crews were required to fly 25-35 missions before they rotated out. Even in today’s high paced combat, the 1,000 mission threshold is still rather rare. Jim joins us as part of our educational partnership with the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. Jim and all six of his brothers served in the military. When one brother was wounded in Korea, Jim decided it was his duty to enlist. He served three years in the Marine Corps but didn’t see any potential to fly so he transferred to the Air Force. He began his Air Force career in aerial photography. Jim recalls one mission that was classified as top secret at the time.  They were ordered to fly out of Iceland and photograph a submarine. It wasn’t until years later when he saw the photo in LIFE Magazine that he realized they had photographed the USS Nautilus submarine on one leg of its historic transit under the North Pole. Jim says he didn’t even know what a “Loadmaster” was when he was transferred into that duty.  He flew C-130’s from 1964 to 1968. He finished his career flying C-5’s. Jim was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for one of the resupply missions he flew in support of the besieged Marines at the Battle of Khe Sahn. Because any aircraft that landed became a “mortar magnet”, they employed low attitude parachute extraction systems where the pilot flew just above the runway while the supplies were pulled out the back with a drogue parachute. Over 12,400 tons of supplies were delivered in 1,100 missions. Jim also participated in resupply missions during the Yom Kippur war. They flew tanks directly from California to Tel Aviv. Years later he met an Israel Defense Forces Veteran who said “If it wasn’t for you guys we would have never survived.” We spend some time talking about the importance of the educational mission. Jim encourages his fellow Veterans to speak at local schools about patriotism as much as possible. “Preserving democracies is our mission. Nobody loves America more than those countries that don’t enjoy the freedoms we do.”
39:51 1/21/24
Joe Lowrey – A Green Beret’s Recovery
Joe Lowrey was deployed with the 7th Special Forces Group in Afghanistan. In July of 2014 an enemy machine gun round pierced the front of his helmet, traveled across the top of his skull and exited the back of his head.  He was given an 11% chance of survival and his Green Beret teammates gathered by his bedside while Joe was administered the Last Rites. After thirty days in a coma, Joe DID survive with all his mental faculties but paralyzed on the entire left side of his body. Many of us would have given up, but not Joe Lowrey. He set goals, and with the help of several friends, organizations and technologies he is now walking. Joe says one of the initial challenges was what doctors call “confabulations” where the mind tries to fill gaps with fabricated memories.  Because he had been given a tracheotomy he also could not speak, eat or drink. He credits technologies like the exoskeleton and transcranial magnetic stimulation used during rehab with helping learn to walk again. Given his experiences and all the support he received during recovery, Joe decided he wanted to pay it forward. Along with fellow Veteran Steve West, he founded United Wings of Liberty. Their mission is to link other Veterans with vetted physical recovery, spiritual, recreational, employment and educational opportunities. Joe admits he was a “dirt bag teenager” without any goals in life.  But his father’s philosophy was “if you aren’t in college or working when you turn 18, you are out of the house.”  So when the Army recruiter visited, Joe enlisted. While assigned to Fort Carson he crossed paths with a Green Beret recruiter and decided that was the route he wanted to pursue. He has written a book about his recovery and is currently seeking a publisher. All proceeds from the book will benefit United Wings of Liberty programs. TAKEAWAY: Joe describes Special Forces as similar to when he was a hockey goalie. “You want to be the first string starter so you get more playing time. Operators also compete for the best missions.”
39:50 1/14/24
“Hot Mics & TV Lights” The AFVN
“Hot Mics and TV Lights: The Armed Forces Vietnam Network” is the latest work from Marc Yablonka. The book provides the first person perspective of thirty seven individuals who served with the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN).The AFVN was the military broadcast network that served American service personnel during the Vietnam War. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bryan Arbuckle is considered the “father” of AFVN. He put it together in 1962 over a matter of weeks employing used equipment and borrowed record albums. Marc says that without collaborator Rick Frederickson it would have been a completely different work. Frederickson was a newsman at AFVN Saigon.  He conducted many of the 37 interviews featured in Hot Mics, including Adrian Cronauer whose story inspired the movie “Good Morning Vietnam”.  The film was the brainchild of Ben Moses, who worked with Cronauer. Ben said the movie was “Half Adrian, half me, and half made up.” When he first began pitching the idea he had trouble finding purchase.  One TV executive even told him “How dare you proposed doing something funny about Vietnam.” Not all the stories are humorous. During the Tet offensive, nine members of the Hue AFVN station found themselves holding off attackers for five days. Three were killed, five were taken prisoner and one escaped. Another DJ was broadcasting when a rocket attack struck the studios. He may be the only DJ to be awarded a Purple Heart while on the air. Project Jenny entailed putting TV/Radio broadcasting “stations” into three Lockheed Constellation aircraft. They would fly over the country providing TV broadcasts and psyops. In one incident they were running the wrong soundtrack for a TV program causing South Vietnamese officials to think the plane had been commandeered by the enemy. They sent up jet fighters to shoot them down. Thankfully, the broadcasters were able to straighten things out before that occurred. TAKEAWAY: “Thinking of them as only in the rear with the gear does not apply to what the AFVN staff members really went through in Vietnam.”
39:50 12/31/23
Holiday Separations – Col. Jose Cabrera
Holiday separations are an unfortunate but necessary part of military service. As civilians we should recognize that the reason we are able to spend our holiday peacefully and safely with friends and family is because members of our military and first responder communities have volunteered to be apart from theirs. This burden is particularly heavy upon those forces who, by the nature of their work, have a higher than normal deployment tempo. The Air Force Pararescue community falls into this category. Col. Jose Cabrera, Commander of the 563rd Rescue Group, joins us to discuss holiday separations and some suggestions to make it easier on military families. Col. Cabrera has served our nation for over two decades, most of it with the Pararescue forces. The units under his command include an HJ-130J rescue squadron, two HH-60G rescue squadrons, three Guardian Angel rescue squadrons and an Operations Support squadron. Col. Cabrera shares some details about the nature of the Pararescue mission and the training required to join these elite forces and fulfill their motto "These things we do that others may live.” Separated families can experience stress, depression, guilt and even anger. Witnessing the realities of war can also cause mental health issues that impact families as well. For this reason, Pararescue forces embed chaplains with all deployed units. Col. Cabrera emphasized that reintegration also presents challenges when military members have been apart from their family for so long and miss important milestones. We discuss several suggestions for military families. These include pre-recording some of the children’s favorite bedtime stories, establishing new “traditions” that incorporate the separation and getting out of the house for new experiences and socializing as a family. In the tight knit Pararescue community, new spouses are prepared for the challenges of deployment by unit spouses with a bit more experience under their belts. TAKEAWAY: “The first deployment is probably the toughest deployment for a family. You do get used to it over time but it is NEVER easy.”
39:50 12/24/23
Green Beret Foundation – Anna Richardson
Green Beret Foundation Director of Programs and Services Anna Richardson joins us for an update on their programs.  The mission of the Green Beret Foundation is to provide Special Forces soldiers and their families with emergency, immediate and ongoing support. Since inception, the GBF has provided support for over 14,000 families. For Anna, her work with the Green Beret Foundation is “personal”. She served as a mental health and drug and alcohol counselor in the Army and is a Green Beret spouse. Green Berets sustain one of the highest casualty rates in the Special Forces. Anna emphasizes something unique about their mission in that they could be providing education or building communities on one day and fighting the next. The GBF takes extra precautions to assure that recipients of their support did indeed serve in the Army Special Forces.  Many of their emergency and casualty support requests come directly from US Special Operations Command. Their programs are also available for pre 9/11 Veterans. Anna says that many of the support requests they are currently receiving come from post 9/11 Veterans who need help navigating their benefits. Request for support links may be found at their website. We also discuss some of their health and wellness support programs including funding for special treatments that are not covered by soldier's insurance. Collaboration is one of the core values of the GBF. For example, their emergency support packs include backpacks provided by GORUCK, a company founded by a former Green Beret. Their website also lists numerous “gifts that give back” links. Anna is also active with the “Steel Mags” support group. The chapters consist of Green Beret mothers, spouses and daughters.  They consider themselves the “keepers of the brave.” TAKEAWAY: “You do not have to know exactly what you need. That’s our job. I know the questions you should be asking even if you don’t.”
39:51 12/17/23
Rick Kaiser – “Frogman Stories”
Rick Kaiser always had a fascination with the sea, so at the age of 17 he visited the Navy recruiter with the intention of joining the submarine service. However, while sitting in the office, he picked up a pamphlet about the SEALs and decided that was the course he would rather follow. Rick would go on to serve with both SEAL Team 2 and SEAL Team 6. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the National Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce Florida. He recently published a book titled “Frogmen Stories: Life and Leadership Lessons from the SEAL Teams”.  We spend this episode talking about some of his service stories and takeaways from the book. During this time with SEAL Team 2 he spent a great deal of time in winter combat training. He says it was a training exercise in Greenland that taught him to never make an important decision about your military career until ten days after returning home. Rick emphasizes that when SEAL’s aren’t fighting they are training to fight. He shares one story of a near miss with a freighter during an underwater training mission in Little Creek Harbor that could have been fatal. Rick fought in the Battle of Mogadishu and was involved in the planning for the Maersk Alabama (“Captain Phillips”) rescue. He also shares a humorous story involving a communication lesson he taught his daughter and her friends during a sleepover. There are only approximately 2,500 active Navy SEALs at any period of time and only 16,000 Navy SEALs or predecessor units have been commissioned since 1942. Stolen Valor is a common issue with SEALs being perhaps the most common claim among impersonators. Rick says they run into this problem every single day at the Navy SEAL Museum. The Navy SEAL Museum was established in Ft. Pierce because that is where the original WWII Frogmen were trained. In addition to the museum itself, they provide a number of programs in support of Navy SEAL families.
39:50 12/10/23
Wreaths Across America – Karen Worcester
Wreaths Across America plans to lay more than three million fresh wreaths at the graves of Veterans in more than 4,000 locations this year. Co-Founder and Executive Director Karen Worcester joins us to explain more about the organization and their initiatives. This year’s event will take place December 16. Karen’s husband Morill visited Arlington National Cemetery as a young man and was taken with scope and solemnity of what he saw. In 1993 the family decided to donate 5,000 wreaths from their Worcester Wreath Company to be placed in an older portion of the cemetery. They continued to do so without fanfare until 2004 when a photo of the snow covered, wreath adorned headstones went viral.  Acting upon positive feedback from Gold Star families, the initiative was formalized into a non-profit organization in 2007. There are three pillars to their mission; remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach the next generation the value of freedom. They have year round programs including a traveling exhibit and museum to support these programs. Families also have the opportunity to place a memorial dog tag on the trees from which the wreaths are harvested. They also have a wonderful internet radio station that broadcasts a variety of military based programs. American Warrior Radio is proud to be part of their programming. Karen is grateful to their 3 million volunteers across the country and is proud that about half of them are children. This includes many truckers to donate their services to deliver wreaths to locations all across the country. She jokes that their 700 mile delivery trip from Maine to Arlington is “the longest Veteran’s Day Parade in the nation.” Listeners may sponsor a wreath for only $17. There is also an opportunity for civic organizations to sell wreath sponsorships as a fundraiser. So far over $22 million has been raised by organizations using this program. TAKEAWAY: “When people are vested in something they believe in, things happen.”
39:50 12/3/23
Electronic Combat Over Vietnam – Alex Underwood
Electronic Combat crew member Alex Underwood has several achievements during his Air Force career, including being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. We talk with Alex as part of our educational partnership with the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. The mission of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society is to honor, preserve and teach the legacy of heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight for which the DFC is awarded. Alex’s father was a bugler who served in France during WWI and his high school history teacher was a naval aviator that served in the Pacific during WWII. He honed his love of flying by joining the Civil Air Patrol. The next obvious choice was to join the Air Force right out of high school. His path from a maintenance crew chief on a B-66 to an electronic combat crewman was somewhat of a fluke. Alex was posted in France during one of the coldest winters on record. The aircraft engines had to be run on a regular basis but the pilots didn’t want to come out in the cold. Alex took it upon himself to how to run engines on the B-66. When his crew chief learned this fact he was soon assigned to the 42nd Electronic combat squadron. Alex was pretty excited when he was told to pack his bags for temporary duty in a “tropical location”. After a series of secret flights west he finally learned that the assignment was to fly in the Vietnam War. He says he doesn’t remember all the missions he flew but certainly his first mission, a mission where he was called “up front” to fix equipment on the fly, and the first attack mission on Haiphong Harbor. (The is the mission for which he was awarded the DFC.) He would become the only African-American enlisted man to complete 100 missions over Vietnam.  He also took his oath of enlistment in flight during a 1966 mission over Vietnam – the only person to ever do so.
39:50 11/26/23
Havok Journal Update – Charles Faint
Havok Journal owner Charles Faint joins us for another update from my favorite website for all things military and first responders.  Charles served 27 years in the Army, including seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan attached to various special operations units. We being with the article “Give Your Flowers to the Living”. The crux of the article discusses the importance of honoring people and sharing how much you care while they are still living rather than just at their funeral.  “It is said that time is the coin of the realm, you can’t earn any more of it, and you never know just how much of it you have left, so spend the coin wisely, with love and joy. Spend it not on flowers for the dead, but rather spend it on the ones you love, that are living.” Next we move on to an article by Scott Faith titled “Hamas, the Invisible Gorilla and What the Media-Political Complex is Doing to America.”  The “Invisible Gorilla” is a metaphor for what the media-political complex’s sleight of hand to keep people from focusing on what is really important.  We discuss how quickly misinformation spreads and the negative ramifications of this hyper-environment. Charles makes an annual trip to Israel as part of the Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative, so this situation is deeply personal for him. They had just visited some of the areas that were attacked last May. “Know Your Role, Seven Rules for Supporting Special Operations” by Michael Kane has a lot of lessons that also apply to our civilians lives. Charles shares his personal experiences with support personnel who wanted to be operators rather than fulfilling their support roles. He emphasizes the importance of mentoring EVERYONE on your team and allowing subordinates to fail. We wrap up with an article by Ayman Kafel named “The Life of Duality”. Ayman writes about the challenges faced by first responders balancing their “wolf” side and human side. Ayman has also published an excellent book named “The Resolute Path” through the Second Mission Foundation. I highly recommend regularly visiting The Havok Journal whether you are a Veteran, First Responder or civilian.
39:50 11/26/23
USAA Veteran’s Day Special – VADM John Bird
USAA recently conducted a poll of Veterans, active duty personnel and the general population. The survey centered on the topic of Veterans Day.  The results were surprising.  John Bird, USAA’s Senior Vice President of Military Affairs joins us to share more. Some of the results were disturbing; 28% of the civilian respondents didn’t know or were unsure why we recognize Veteran’s Day.  Others shed light on generational disparities between Veteran populations. Seventy percent of younger Veterans said they felt uncomfortable hearing “Thank You for Your Service” whereas only 24% of Veterans sixty five and older felt similar. John says that early on his career he also felt uncomfortable until he realized that people were just expressing their appreciation that he volunteered to serve. The survey has inspired a new USAA initiative; the “Go Beyond Thank You” campaign which encourages people to do more than just thank Veterans for their service. John shares examples such as having a deeper conversation with a Veteran, volunteering & contributing to non-profits that support Veterans and helping Veterans make the transition to the civilian workforce. We also discuss the USAA “Face the Fight Foundation” which seeks to address the scourge of Veteran suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among post 9/11 Veterans. Their aspirational goal is to cut the suicide rate in half by 2030. Their website is a great resource for both Veterans and civilians to engage in addressing this important issue. USAA is also donating new exercise equipment centers in American Legion Posts to address the important connection between physical & mental health. John is a 1977 graduate of the Naval Academy. He “double volunteered” to serve in the submarine fleet, retiring at the rank of Vice Admiral. USAA was founded in 1922 by Veterans to serve other Veterans. They offer a variety of services including insurance products and financial services. They employ 37,000 persons across the country and last year donated $47.5 million to military family resilience programs. TAKEAWAY: “The best thing I ever did, short of my wife and kids, was joining the Navy.”
39:52 11/12/23
The Brandon Act – Teri & Patrick Caserta
Brandon Caserta always dreamed of being a Navy SEAL. He was well on his way when a series of tragic events led to him taking his own life. As a legacy to his memory, his parents fought for new rules that will help other military members who are struggling.  By all accounts, Brandon was a happy go lucky young man and always ready to help others.  Patrick is a Navy Veteran and he and Teri were not excited about Brandon’s decision to join the Navy. However, they helped by getting him everything he needed to succeed. While in BUDs training Brandon accused some of the training staff of engaging in illegal behavior. Later, he was injured but was not able to get proper medical attention. While he was initially told he had bad shin splints, an x-ray would show that his leg was broken in three places. When his father told him that he could get rolled back to the next class, Brandon refused to go back because of what he had witnessed. He transferred to the East Coast and selected to be an air crew rescue swimmer. However, a series of toxic leaders led him into a darker place. Brandon took his own life on June 25, 2018. Inspired by correspondence Brandon left behind, Teri & Patrick began an arduous campaign to help other military members who might find themselves in a similar situation. They talked to all 535 members of the House and Senate over the course of two years. The Brandon Act allows members of the military to confidentially seek out medical help for any reason, at any time, in any location – without going through their chain of command. It was signed into law on December 27, 2021. It would take another two years before the branches incorporated the new rules into their systems. His parents have also established the Brandon Caserta Foundation to address the epidemic of suicide in the Armed Forces.
39:50 11/8/23
Joe Sciarra – World War II Veteran
Joe “Peppy” Sciarra was 16 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was drafted into the Army the day after he graduated high school. He had planned on enlisting anyway. Sciarra was assigned to an 81 mm mortar squad of the 25th infantry division under General MacArthur. After 9 months training in New Caledonia and a stop for supplies on Guadalcanal, he and 68,000 men landed at Luzon in the Philippines. He would spend the next five and half months involved in terrible jungle fighting, capturing 47 different ridges from 100,000 Japanese. “My mortar tube was 45 pounds and my pack was 50 pounds, plus my weapon.   That made for some difficult climbing.” Despite the fact that he had many comrades killed to the left and right of him, Sciarra says his only injury was nearly knocking out his front teeth when the hit the ground a little too hard during shelling. After being ordered to venture ahead of the company in order to draw enemy fire, Sciarra vented his anger at the Lieutenant after the patrol. “I didn’t care if he court martialed me, I had to tell him off”.  Sciarra and that Lt. would become close friends. Following the Japanese surrender he was assigned as part of the mainland occupation forces. He says it was surprising how courteously the Japanese people treated him. Sciarra suffered from the effects of malaria for a long time after returning home and faced numerous challenges securing his Veteran benefits because many of the records had been destroyed. He finally had to personally travel to Hawaii in order to secure proof of his service. TAKEAWAY: “I want these messages about what our guys went through to be known all across the country. Even though it has been 80 years I still think about all the men in my platoon who didn’t make it.”
39:50 10/29/23
Bob Willis – God and Country Living History Event
Bob Willis may not be a Veteran but his heart beats passionately for those who have served. He has organized ten living history events that allow Veterans to share first hand stories with the rest of us. The whole endeavor began when Bob and his boys watched the “Band of Brothers” series. His boys asked if it would be possible to meet some of the surviving members of Easy Company.  When an opportunity came up to attend an Easy Company reunion in Norfolk, Bob and his boys jumped at the chance. Bob gave gifts to each of the 35 surviving members. When asked how they could return the favor, Willis hosted ten of them for a dinner in his hometown of Kingston, New York. The “God and Country Veterans Living History Event” was born. This year will be the 10th event that Willis has organized.  The event always features an amazing group of Veterans who tell their stories during the daylong conference and closing dinner.  This year’s events will feature Veterans from World War II on up to the Afghanistan war. He tries to focus on combat Veterans but occasionally will feature others who have unique stories like Irene Perbal, a member of the Dutch Resistance.  All proceeds from the event benefit the Hudson Valley National Center for Veteran Integration. He also emphasizes the importance of sharing these stories with younger generations. Bob takes conference participants also pay visits to the local schools to share their stories. Bob and I share our thoughts on the importance of documenting these stories so they can be shared and remembered. We all have Veterans in our community that are literally “living history”. TAKEAWAY: “I had a choice. I didn’t have to go to war. All those men and women who fought wars before me gave me that choice.”
39:50 10/25/23
Veteran Powered Films
Veteran Powered Films was the brainchild of accomplished actress and Navy Reservist Julia Ling. Julia has starred in over twenty independent films and is best known for her roles in the NBC series “Chuck”, “E.R.”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House”. The mission of Veteran Powered Films is to empower Veterans and service members to create and tell their stories through film. 2016 was a rough year for Julia. She lost a couple of shipmates and knew several other Veterans who were struggling just like she was. Julia came to the conclusion that doing pushups to raise awareness of Veteran suicides was not sufficiently impactful. She and her partner Micah came up with the idea of helping Veterans get more involved in the film industry. Their first project was “Tango Down” and used Veterans both in front of and behind the camera. Hiram Murray is a Marine Corps Veteran who has also pursued a career in acting. He recently played a role in the film adaptation of Jack Carr’s “The Terminal List”.  Hiram began his career in the television drama “Now and Again”. While attending film school, he worked with NYPD. When the 9/11 attacks occurred “in his back yard” he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.   He was recruited by Julia to play a role in “Tango Down”.  He describes the support of other Veterans in the film industry as “One Team, One Fight”.  Julia adds that having some many Veterans working on a film project is advantageous because the crew automatically gels because of their shared military experience. Julia emphasizes the organization required for making a film is very similar to military structures.  “We all take pride in accomplishing the mission.” She adds that one of the most rewarding parts of this journey has been hearing from Veterans from all around the world telling her that Veteran Powered Films inspired them to make changes in their lives. Veteran Powered Films latest projects is a film called “Homestead”. TAKEAWAY:  “There is nothing special about me. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
39:50 10/17/23
Andra Kniep – Two DFC’s in Two Days
When Andra Kniep entered the US Air Force Academy, women were prohibited from flying in combat. Two months before she graduated, the rules were changed and she became the third woman assigned to fly the A-10 attack fighter.  Andra was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross medals on two consecutive days and joins us as part of our partnership with the Distinguished Service Cross Society. She chose the A-10 because her brother was a West Point graduate and she appreciated the ground support fighter mission. “When you shoot that 30 millimeter Gatling gun there is nothing like it.” Andra was trained as an Airborne Forward Air Controller. Their role is to take control of the airspace, de-conflict airborne aircraft, communicate with ground controllers and pair aircraft with targets on the ground. She was deployed as part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group in Kuwait as part of Operation Southern Watch. On March 5th, 2002 she was assigned to fly into Afghanistan in support of Operation Anaconda. It took her flight four and a half hours and two aerial refueling stops to get to the target area. Upon arriving at night in the target area, she found friendly forces on one side of a steep ravine and enemy on the other side. Because the target was difficult to spot and the proximity to friendly forces, she tucked in right behind her wingman and guided him to make the first drop on the target. She made a second pass to deploy her weapons. Following the attack they landed in in a blacked out airfield in Pakistan. The very next day she flew to her target area and, despite being only a Captain, was given responsibility for the entire airspace. She took control of eleven different airborne platforms to make sure there were no “blue on blue” accidents and directed all air support during a very violent battle. The mission ended with Andra helping to keep a “lost” convoy from being engaged by friendly forces.
39:50 10/10/23
“The Wingmen” – Adam Lazarus
Wingmen are an aviation term used to describe a pilot who is positioned behind and outside a leader in a formation, allowing them to watch for threats to the primary aircraft. It can also refer to a person who helps, guides or supports another. Adam Lazarus’ new release “The Wingmen: The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship between John Glenn and Ted Williams” is a book that both military and sports history fans will enjoy. Adam was once told to write about what he is passionate about and is the author of four other books in the sports vein. Ted Williams is considered by many to be one of the greatest persons to play Major League Baseball. He is the last player to bat over .400 in a season and a nineteen time all-star. John Glenn began his military career as a stand-out pilot during World War II.  He became the first American to orbit the earth and would serve as a US Senator. The two men met while flying combat for the Marine Corps in Korea. Their missions in Korea were principally ground support missions, often referred to as “Blow and Go.”  Glenn developed a reputation for coming around after a bombing run and looking for other targets to engage. This made him very unpopular with his wingmen but Williams didn’t seem to mind because he felt he could learn a lot from Glenn. Williams flew 8 missions as Glenn’s wingman. Adam’s book sheds quite a bit of light on the controversy that seemed to surround the life of Ted Williams. He debunks the myth that Williams was a draft dodger and shows that he was actually quite the patriot. “The Wingmen” also delves quite a bit into the continuing relationship between the two men after their initial careers were over.
39:50 10/4/23
“The Pledge to America” – Drago Dzieran
“The Pledge to America” author Drago Dzieran grew up under the oppressive socialist/communist government in Poland. The book describes his journey from political prisoner to a Navy SEAL. Drago says that “The Pledge to America” was not intended to be a “SEAL book”. Rather, his reasoning for writing the book was to provide a lens for fellow Americans to recognize how special our country is. Drago had a rough upbringing in poverty and soon turned to violence as a survival mechanism. He even extorted the children of wealthy party members to bring extra food to school for the children who had nothing to eat. Visits from the secret police were not uncommon. Drago cites an example of how government controlled everything. When his father deserted his family, his mother sought to move closer to her relatives. She had to get permission from the government to make the move. After being thrown in prison for his involvement in an underground anti-government newspaper, he was eventually released and applied for political asylum in America. When he finally arrived in the United States, all he had was a bag of clothes and ten cents in his pocket. He has high praise for the church members who took him in and supported his transition. He cites this kindness as the inspiration that made him want to be the best American citizen he could be. When the U.S. was attacked, Drago felt compelled to join the military as a way of repaying the freedoms that America had granted him. He served 20 years in the Navy and developed new breaching methods that are used to this day. He also founded the Navy SEALS Fund. The Pledge to America is a great read with the perfect combination of humor, inspiration and cautionary tales. TAKEAWAY: “My chance to live as a free man is ONLY possible because of the ideals the founding fathers fought for and have been carried forward to this day by Americans. I would like to say thank you to all Americans for my freedom.”
39:50 9/24/23
SecureIt – Tom Kubiniec
SecureIt Founder and CEO Tom Kubiniec had planned to be a rock star – literally. He started playing guitar at 12 and was performing regularly in local nightclubs by the age of 16. He moved to Hollywood to pursue a music career. Guitar Player Magazine has just done a feature article on Tom when he developed tendonitis, ending his guitar career. He took a job marketing computer printer supplies and then started his own company. He branched into selling racks to store computer tapes and built the company into one of the largest in the country.  In 2002 he got a phone call asking if he could make racks to store MP-5 machine guns. The caller was with the FBI. He did some research and found that armories across the country were failing – they had not kept up with the changes in weapon systems.  Tom called his partner that was making the computer racks and found the HE had just received a similar request from the Canadian military. He became aware of a government solicitation to review the status of their armories so Tom arranged for a meeting with a commander at Fort Bragg. Tom says that even though “None of us knew what we were doing”; he introduced himself as the leading authority in small arms storage and armory design. They won the contract and he spent the next 18 months visiting Special Forces armories all across the country. He launched his open architecture system in 2008 and by 2011 SecureIt was the largest supplier to the US military. Government budget sequestration hit his company hard and convinced Tom he had to diversify into the consumer market as well. Tom shares some of the most common misconceptions about gun safes and the importance of what he calls “decentralized storage”. TAKEAWAY:  “No matter how good we were, if Congress turned off the faucet, we were dead in the water – we were not in control of our own destiny.”
39:50 9/18/23
Artificial Intelligence – Paul Scharre
Artificial Intelligence and the impact it is having on modern combat is the subject of a fascinating new book by Paul Scharre titled “Four Battlegrounds; Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.  In his book, Scharre argues that four key elements will define this struggle: data, computing power, talent & institutions. Scharre is a former Army Ranger who also worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he played a leading role in establishing policies on unmanned and autonomous systems and emerging weapons technologies. He currently serves as Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for New American Security. His award winning Book “Army of None; Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War” was selected by Bill Gates as one of the top five books of 2018. Much of Paul’s book deals with the potential dark sides of Artificial Intelligence.  One example is the growing sophistication of voice replication technologies that are being used to conduct scams. Another is China’s use of facial recognition technology to subjugate their people. Like any tool, AI can be used for good purposes or evil. China’s embrace of Artificial Intelligence research and deployment is the subject of much of our discussion. China produces more AI scientists than any country in the world but many come to the US. If China were to move on Taiwan it would significantly disrupt the world economy. Personally, I always want to have a human being in the command chain somewhere. However, Paul says we are rapidly moving toward completely autonomous weapons systems.  AI tools can be powerful, but they are also still very brittle. Paul cites a somewhat humorous example of how several Marines defeated a “battlebot”.  He also warns about a “race to the bottom” in regard to safety of AI technology. TAKEAWAY:  One of our greatest disadvantages in this technology race is government bureaucracy. Paul calls it “lethal to innovation.”
39:50 9/13/23
Vinnie Montez – Cop Turned Stand-Up Comedian
Vinnie Montez knew he wanted to be a law enforcement officer from a young age. He grew up watching the Ponch and John characters on the CHIPs TV show and loved the way they were pictured interacting with the public in a respectful way. Vinnie joined the law enforcement cadets program as soon as he could and became a deputy in 1998. He has now served over two decades as a Deputy Sheriff with the Boulder County Sheriff’s office.  Early in his career he says he was very “gung ho” and was warned by his fellow officers about burning the candle at both ends. Like many law enforcement officers he compartmentalized the trauma he encountered because he didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t capable of performing his duties. In 2008 he came across a vehicle accident and, despite desperate efforts to save the life of one of the passengers, he failed. That experience “flipped a circuit breaker” and made him re-examine his mental health. Vinnie encourages fellow officers to seek counseling if they need it but emphasizes the importance of speaking to professionals who specialize in working with law enforcement officers. Vinnie turned to stand-up comedy as a way of dealing with the stress and trauma of his job. He is now a nationally touring comedian and has shared the stage with the likes of Gilbert Gottfried & Paul Rodriguez. His Dry Bar Comedy special “Armed & Hilarious” debuted in 2019. Cop stories and his Mexican heritage underpin much of his routine because “truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.” Many of his performances are fundraisers for law enforcement & military charities. Vinnie is active with the Humanizing the Badge initiative. His Facebook post “You don’t know me” encourages civilians to get to know their local law enforcement and has received 3.2 million views and 11,000 comments. TAKEAWAY:  “Just like stand-up comedy, if you want to be a good law enforcement officer you have to invest the time and dedicate yourself to the craft.”
39:50 9/3/23
Silencer Central – Brandon Maddox
Silencer Central owner and CEO Brandon Maddox joins us to address the most common misconceptions about weapon suppressors. He is a nationally recognized thought leader on Class-3 Firearms. Brandon began his professional career as a pharmacist. A marriage moved him from the Southeastern US to South Dakota and he soon found himself hunting varmints. Because the animals would scatter upon hearing the first shot, Brandon decided to purchase a suppressor. The process was so difficult that it lead him to founding Silencer Central. While the technical name is suppressor, most persons refer to them as “silencers” so Brandon decided to keep that name for his company. We discuss the most common misconceptions and benefits of using suppressors.  They are an important safety device for members of the military and law enforcement who shoot on a regular basis. Silencer Central sells approximately 100,000 units annually. Many of their first customers were farmers and ranchers. Because suppressors are federally regulated, they have expanded to have locations/representatives in each of the 42 states were suppressors are legal to own. (It is illegal to purchase/use a suppressor in CA, HI, IL, NY, NJ, MA, RI, DE & the District of Columbia) Brandon takes pride in the fact that they make the process as easy as possible for their customers. From start to finish, the process takes about 6 months. As a pharmacist, Brandon was trained to pay attention to details and he had to be certified both on the state and federal regulations. This experience proved beneficial as he expanded Silencer Central’s footprint to other states. When got to branches in 21 states, he received a “free invitation” to visit with the ATF. During the meetings they added some additional requirements including the need for Brandon to meet personally with ATF representatives in every state which he operates. All of their products are manufactured in the United States. Silencer Central will also providing barrel threading for their customers in order to facilitate installation of the suppressor.  They also support numerous military & law enforcement with charitable donations.
39:50 8/20/23
Historical Officer & Artist Joe Winslow
Historical Officer Joe Winslow served 21 years in the US Marine Corps. Part of his duties included a posting in the Marine Corps History Division. The mission of an artifact and historical officer is to accompany assault units in combat zones and record what they are doing. This includes recording first person oral histories and gathering relevant artifacts. For example, if a Marine was awarded a Medal of Honor, it would be Joe’s job to track that Marine and record items like the serial number on their rifle, uniforms, vehicles, etc.  At the height of the Global War on Terror there were only 8-9 officers serving in these roles. Joe brought considerable artistic talent to the Corps. Much of the information he recorded in combat were “old fashioned” charcoal and pencil drawings in accordance with the Marine Corps Combat Art Program’s simple mission; “Go to War, do art”. Joe fought in Operation Phantom Fury – the second battle of Fallujah. He emphasizes that even though he was there to record history, “every Marine is a rifleman first”.  During the 71 straight days of combat, he literally conducted interviews and made sketches under rocket and sniper fire. He witnessed “bravery in the extreme.” He shares his own moment of serenity under fire while serving as a Historical Officer. During the battle approximately 32,000 individual rooms needed to be cleared, sometimes more than once. Nine Marines were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions in that battle and Army SSgt David Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor. When Joe retired from the Marines, he decided to continue to use his artistic ability to honor heroes. The first itineration was the Tripoli Gift Company which produces inspirational gifts for our nation’s heroes and those who support them.  Some of his artwork resides in the White House, the National Cathedral & the National Museum of the Marine Corps. TAKEAWAY: “We still grow ‘em and we can still put them in field like we did in World War II, Korea and Vietnam as young people who can defend America’s interests and take the bayonet forward.”
39:50 8/13/23
ZeroEyes CEO & Co-Founder Mike Lahiff
ZeroEyes CEO and Co-Founder Mike Lahiff joins us to share the story behind their Artificial Intelligence technology for detecting weapons. ZeroEyes is the only AI-based gun detection analytics platform with a Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act designation. They have contracts with schools, military bases and both government and private sector organizations all across the country. Mike’s transition out of the SEAL teams was not an easy one. While earning his MBA at Wharton Business School, he would talk with other former SEALs enrolled at the college. They shared a frustration with feeling a “loss of mission”. Following a disturbing conversation with his daughter where she described the active shooter drills at her school, Mike and his comrades decided to do something about it. When it came to initial funding Mike says “we literally burned the boats”. He and his partners liquidated every asset they had, took out second mortgages and maxed out their credit cards to get the company to the point where they could pitch the concept for additional funding. His team initially scraped the internet for every image of weapons they could find. However, initial testing proved less than effective. They finally resorted to filming themselves carrying weapons in various locations under different conditions. It took two years to develop a working prototype. Situational awareness is critical in reducing response times in order to save lives. ZeroEyes monitors existing security camera feeds and can identify/evaluate a threat is as little as three seconds. The alert is then reviewed by ZeroEyes Operational Center staff to eliminate false positives. A notification is then immediately sent to the facility and local law enforcement. Staff continues to monitor the feeds and provides real time updates to responders so they know precisely where to find the active shooter. ZeroEyes now employs 150 persons, 80 percent of whom are Veterans. They also have grant writers on staff that will help potential clients identify funding to install the system. TAKEAWAY: "Without risk there is no reward. You have to take that leap and just believe in yourself. If you  get knocked down, figure out your lessons learned and apply it to your next venture."
39:50 8/6/23
The Hunter Elite – Leon Wagener
The Hunter Elite; Inside America’s Secret Force Against Terror by Leon Wagener describes the transition of the Secret Service from being a strictly defensive organization to a proactive one. One could be fooled into thinking the book is a work of thriller fiction but it describes real people and situations. Leon says that getting inside the Secret Service was a difficult task. “They take the secret in the title very seriously.” Finally he found two agents willing to talk as long as their identities remained secret. Their code names are Ranger and Laredo. Laredo is a chemical/biological specialist and shared some very frightening stories. Our President receives an average of 6-8 threats every day. All these threats are investigated and prioritized. Those deemed to be a sufficient and real threat are assigned to the Hunter Elite. The origin of the Hawkeye CAT (Counter Assault Team) traces back to Nancy Reagan. After President Reagan was shot by Jonathan Hinckley, she exercised her considerable influence to get the group established. Hawkeye CAT is a heavily armed group that travels with the President everywhere POTUS goes. Their mission is to use overwhelming firepower to neutralize the threat – they are not there to make arrests. Leon shares a number of stories about incidents I have never heard. They include the time a man broke into the Reagan’s private home seeking to kill them. Another involved a cartel assassin who was tracked down and intercepted by the Hunter Elite just before attacking President Obama on a golf course. In his book Leon also shares interesting insights into the differences in the relationships between various Presidents and the Secret Service. President Biden even attempted to dissolve the organization but was unsuccessful. Wagener is the author of bestselling biographies of Neil Armstrong and Jodie Foster. He also contributed to eight political books about the Clintons and Obamas which became New York Times bestsellers.
39:50 7/30/23
Special Forces Legend Rick Lamb
Special Forces Veteran Rick Lamb is somewhat of a legend in the community.  He has led soldiers in operations spanning across 49 countries and 5 continents. He was involved in almost every major battle from Operation Eagle Claw to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rick is a member of the SOCOM Commando Hall of Honor, the Ranger Hall of Fame and was 2015 recipient of the Bull Simmons Award for soldiers who embody the true spirit, values, and skills of a Special Operations warrior. One could say that joining the Special Forces was in Rick’s DNA. He says “every man I knew or loved carried a weapon to work, either in the military or law enforcement.” He joined the National Guard right out of high school. College “didn’t take” so his Uncle suggested he make a career of the military. His “first smell of cordite” was Operation Eagle Claw, the mission to rescue US hostages being held in Iran. Regrettably, an accidental collision resulted in a fire that killed eight service members and cancellation of the mission. However, it led to the birth of joint Special Forces operations. On November 23, 1984 Rick was part of quick reaction force posted on the Korean border when Soviet defector Vasily Matuzok rushed across the border. This led to North Korean forces crossing the DMZ and a fire fight. The unit commanders were not present so four staff sergeants led the response. Rick’s unit surrounded the North Korean soldiers, killed several and forced them to surrender. Rick was also involved in the 1993 “Blackhawk Down” action. He says he will never forget the look on soldier’s faces when they were told they had to go back out – but they did their duty. Rick’s vehicle got so shot up they had to abandon it. Rick received shrapnel wound in that battle that is still in his head. Rick also shares his perspectives on the challenges our military is currently having with recruitment. He remains involved with the Round Canopy Parachuting Team & the Global SOF Foundation. He is one of the warriors featured in the With Them Frontlines video game. TAKEAWAY: “If you train your troop, and you trust them, then you don’t need to be over their shoulder.”
39:50 7/23/23
Havok Journal Update – Charles Faint
Havok Journal Owner Charles Faint provides us with an update on some of the issues being reported on their website. The Journal publishes 4-5 new articles daily in addition to reposting some of the “evergreen” content. Ayman Kafel, an immigrant who served in the Special Forces and is now a police officer, has published “A Resolute Path” through the Second Mission Foundation. Ayman had written so many articles that Charles suggested he compile his stories in a book. The book has already sold 100,000 copies. Havok has started to receive a great number of article submissions from the Army Sergeants Major Academy. “Social Media and Search Engine’s Impact on Retaining Talent” is a very insightful article written by MSG Eladio Tirado. The internet has created a double edged sword; talent is easier to identify but one bad employee review can severely damage recruitment. We discuss the challenges currently faced by military recruiting in the context of this article. Charles shares an important quote from his time in the military -“People don’t quit jobs, they quit leaders.” Dave Chamberlain wrote an interesting article about Chat GPT/Artificial Intelligence examining whether this software will eventually replace human writers. Dave proposes that human qualities like empathy, intuition & unique personal perspectives are likely to never be replaced by AI. We discuss the potential dark sides of bad players using AI. Registered Nurse Wendy Arena published a heart wrenching article a “Combat Stress Control Units: Who Takes Care of the Caregivers”. In the article she shares the challenges faced by her military husband who was a member of a Combat Stress Control Unit in Afghanistan. She shared the toll that PTSD, TBI and other afflictions faced by our military takes on their caregivers & spouses. Often professionals feel like they have to just carry their own burdens rather than seeking help. On average a civilian may experience 3-4 genuinely traumatic experiences in their lifetime. A police officer will experience 700 over the course of a 20 year career. TAKEAWAY: “My main measure of success for Havok Journal is how many people write in to share how some of our articles have made a difference for the Veteran and first responder communities.”
39:50 7/16/23