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Sand Castle – Chris Roessner

Sand Castle

Photo Credit: The Pat Tillman Foundation

The screenplay for Sand Castle was inspired at sunrise in an abandoned Iraqi palace.

Chris Roessner was guarding the palace and during his down time he watched the movie Platoon, a classic depicting the experience of young men during the Vietnam War.  Chris decided to write a screenplay about what it was like for HIS generation in the Iraq War.

Chris joined the Army to help pay for college tuition – film school to be precise.  Then 9-11 happened. He found himself part of civil affairs unit in Iraq during which he says he was able to witness both our mission successes and failures.

Sand Castle tells the fictional story of an inexperienced Army Private who, along with his fellow soldiers – is ordered to repair a water pumping station destroyed by US bombs.  Sand Castle debuts April 21 on Netflix.

Sand Castle was the first screen play he has written.  He remembers advice given by directing great Robert Zemeckis “If you want to do this job, you can..but it’s going to cost you your twenties.”

As a Tillman scholarship recipient, Chris credits the Pat Tillman Foundation for much of his success.

Chris shares his two most important motivations for this film; showing the shared sacrifice of US and Iraqi soldiers and his insistence that the actors look and be young. “It is crucial that the American populace not be corrupted in their image about what an American soldier looks like. If we are going to send people to war, the image of who we are sending better be abundantly clear.”

TAKEAWAY:  “Obviously serving in a war time military is the toughest thing you can do – it is clearly emotionally taxing. But the difference is that in the military you are serving alongside people who are focused intently on a common goal that is bigger than themselves. You don’t realize how rare that is.”

 

Innovative Readiness Training Program

Innovative ReadinessThe Innovative Readiness Training Program is a unique initiative that provides high quality, mission essential training for active duty, guard and reserve personnel while contributing to domestic public and civic needs.

Four members of our armed services phone in to American Warrior Radio to share more information about this great program and their personal experiences during “Arctic Care” in Kodiak , Alaska.

In 2016 the Innovative Readiness Training program carried out 30 projects across the US with Secretary of Defense Support – these led to another 12 independently supported projects.  Of the 30 funded projects, 14 were construction projects, 15 medical projects and 1 was a transportation project.

Major Anna Hill, the IRT Program Manager for Air Force Reserve Command shares some history and background on IRT and Arctic Care exercise.  150 military personnel representing every branch of the military are providing dental, medical, optometry and veterinary services to underserved populations in and around Kodiak.  Arctic Care is the “capstone” of IRT this year  involving nine months of planning and all the logistics that would normally be involved with a deployment.

Senior Master Sergeant Amy Stultz (940th Aerospace Medicine Squadron) shares the logistical challenges of setting up programs that assist not only the residents of the town of Kodiak but also the five teams establishing clinics in remote villages in the region.  She emphasized that the exercise also provides excellent training opportunities for logistical support personnel like communications, air lift crews, etc.

Captain Anna Cruz (624th Aerospace Medicine Flight) is a nurse practitioner who volunteered for Arctic Care.  She shares the story of one man who had not seen a doctor in 10 years but was experiencing chest pain.  Captain Cruz identified a serious issue and the patient was airlifted immediately to a hospital for potentially lifesaving heart surgery.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Kiara Schuster (Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes Det. Oscar) is participating in her first Innovative Readiness program.  Her current civilian job is in child care but after her experiences during Arctic Care she is considering entering the dental field.  She is confident that the training she is receiving during this exercise will definitely make her a better corpsman when she is deployed.

TAKEWAY: “ The commitment you make when you put the uniform on is a commitment to something greater than yourself.”

 

The Early Days of the Drone – Col. John Dale

drone

Col John Dale

Colonel John Dale had an adventurous 32 year Air Force career including involvement in the very first drone programs. Many of the programs with which he was involved were just recently declassified.

John graduated high school during the Korean War and wanted to fly but hadn’t earned a college degree so he joined the Aviation Cadets program. He earned his wings in 1954 and was hoping to become a “hot shot jet pilot” but the end of the Korean War meant he would be assigned to C-119 troop carriers, which he considered a “real let down”.

However, he was soon recruited for the Project Genetrix reconnaissance program which launched high altitude camera carrying balloons that would drift over Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union. John and his fellow crew members would recover the balloons over the Pacific Ocean in specially designed C-119’s.  “You could actually say I was in balloon reconnaissance, I’m pretty old.”

Next, he began flying the then new C-130 and even flew with the “Four Horsemen” – the world’s only four engine aircraft demonstration team.

John was testing and developing the Parachute Low Altitude Delivery systems out of Japan during the early stages of Vietnam when his commanding General told him he would be sent to Tucson to fly DC-130’s – he had never heard of the place OR the aircraft!

The “Buffalo Hunter” mission involved “Firebee” and “Lightning Bug” drones that flew over North Vietnam, Cambodia, China & North Korea.  These drones proved a particular frustration for the enemy, particularly when drones were simultaneously launched from both sides of the country at once. John recalls one mission when 19 MIGs were chasing one drone! He also credits the drones for five kills, as MIGs chasing drones were often hit by their own anti-aircraft fire or ran out of fuel.

He hadn’t ever flown the U-2 but learned when he was assigned command of the squadron. When he first took over the squadron, there were only 11 U-2 pilots in the Air Force.

Only 1 of 25 volunteers qualified for the U-2. “When they graduated we had a big party with lots to drink. We wanted to make sure they were the kind of people that wouldn’t shoot off their mouth when drunk.”

 

Afghan Interpreter Hamayon

Afghan interpreter

Hamayon with Major Mike Kelvington

Thousands of Afghan interpreters served with the US Military.  They were promised safe conduct to the US. However, the process has not met the promises. Thousands find themselves stuck in bureaucratic red tape, often waiting years. While waiting, they are being hunted by our enemies.

Hamayon learned English in high school and also spent six months in the US at the Defense Language Institute. Despite returning to a comfortable job in Afghanistan, when he learned the US was looking for interpreters he volunteered. “When I came to America, the people in America treated me very well so I had it in my mind that if Americans ever needed help, I would not hesitate.”  He worked with 13 different military units, including Major Mike Kelvington’s Rangers.

On his first mission, Hamayon’ s convoy hit an IED. Even though there were no casualties, his fellow interpreter quit immediately. Ironically, Hamayon felt safer on Ranger missions than he did at home. “Working with Americans is ALWAYS dangerous in Afghanistan – a lot of bad people are looking for you. When I returned home on leave, I would spend the entire time in hiding. It was like I was in a cage.”

In August of 2014, Hamayon was the last Afghan interpreter released from duty with his Army unit. He had to change his home every 3 – 4 months. Jihadists put a “hit” out on him. One of his friends was beheaded the same night he received his VISA.

Major Mike Kelvington, a highly decorated Army Ranger made it his mission to help bring his Afghan interpreter Hamayon safely to the US.  Mike enlisted the help of No One Left Behind, The Havok Journal, fellow soldiers and wrote/called over 53 Congressional offices across 17 states.  After three long years Hamayon and his family safely arrived in the US.

TAKEAWAY: It took Hamayon four years to receive his VISA even with all the help he received.  He asks us to consider the difficulties experienced by those still left behind and work to fulfill our promise to all the Afghan interpreters who bravely served.

 

Pearl Harbor w/ Author Craig Nelson

Pearl HarborPearl Harbor, From Infamy to Greatness by best-selling author Craig Nelson is a real page turner!

Five years of research and over 1 million pages of documents expose perspective and details that even well-read fans of World War II history will find enlightening.

Craig delves into highlights from his book including the chaos in Japan that led to the ultimate decision to attack Pearl Harbor.  From conflicted military leaders to a revolving door of prime ministers, one gets the impression that war with the US was an unfortunate but natural result of decisions made in both Japan and the US.  We also get to meet some intriguing characters such as Finance Minister Okinori Kaya; a real thorn in Prime Minister Tojo’s side who insisted that no one should go to war without first making a budget.

We also learn that warnings about the attack were plentiful. From a direct warning from the Peruvian Ambassador that Japan would attack Pearl Harbor if negotiations broke down between the two countries to the fascinating story of Serbian triple agent Dusan Popov ( upon whom the James Bond character was based) whose warnings were ignored by J. Edgar Hoover because Popov was a notorious playboy.

Craig also shares both heartbreaking and heartwarming stories direct from the personal recollections of military personnel on both sides of the conflict.  Unrecognized heroes such as the salvage and shipyard workers that had most of the fleet considered “destroyed” during the Pearl Harbor attack back in the war before its end.

His book also provides very touching accounts of the battle’s participants after  the war; from a Japanese pilot inspired to go into missionary work by one of the Doolittle Raiders to Kenji Abe, a dive bomber pilot who spent much of his post war years trying to make apologies and amends to US Pearl Harbor survivors.

Takeaway:  It was the attack on Pearl Harbor that led the US into its status as the premier global superpower, a position we have maintained for seven decades.

 

Buffalo Soldiers & The Punitive Expedition – Dr. Michael Engs

Punitive Expedition

Dr. Michael Engs (Left)

It has been a century since conclusion of the Punitive Expedition into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa.  Elements of the Buffalo Soldiers played a critical role in many of the Punitive Expedition actions.

Dr. Michael Engs is an Army Veteran and amateur historian focusing upon the history of African-Americans in Arizona. During this show, Michael shares his research into the Punitive Expedition and the Buffalo Soldiers during the period 1916-1918.

Buffalo Soldiers were posted along the southwest border during Mexico’s civil war to protect against bandits and maintain the US “Neutrality Laws”.  While there were numerous incidents and even a massacre of US citizens in Mexico, it was Villa’s attack against the town of Columbus, New Mexico on March 9th, 1916 that caused President Wilson to order an expedition into Mexico to capture Villa.

General John Pershing was appointed to lead the expedition and purposely requested the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. Pershing had led them during the Spanish-American War and respected their capabilities.

The Battle of Agua Caliente featured the first cavalry charge by US troops since 1898. The charge was led by Major Charles Young and resulted in a rout of the Villa rebels without a single US casualty.  Young was born into slavery and became the 3rd African American to graduate from West Point.  Eager to lead his troops in the First World War, the 53 year old Young rode his horse 497 miles from his home in Ohio to the War Department Washington, DC in order to prove he was still fit for combat.

The Battle of Carrizal nearly plunged the US and Mexico into all-out war when troops searching for Villa instead found themselves fighting Mexican federal troops. Negotiations that followed effectively brought an end to the Punitive Expedition.

The Buffalo Soldiers were established through an Act of Congress in 1866. In nearly 30 years of frontier service, Buffalo Soldiers took part in almost 200 major and minor engagements, including the last battle of the Indian wars in 1918.

 

The Weapon Hunter – Paul Shull

WWeapon Huntere’ve got Paul ShullThe Weapon Hunter on same day as his second season debuts on the Smithsonian Channel!

Paul’s fascination with military history began as a young child when his great grandfather used to tell him stories about his service in the First and Second World Wars.  His passion for adventure and collecting military artifacts led the rock & roll promoter to create and host The Weapon Hunter.

Paul travels all over finding and helping to restore military artifacts, very often with the help of Veterans who used these weapons themselves in combat.  “I don’t just want to read about the past. I want to hold it, touch it..I want MY history lesson to leave a mark!”

From civil war cannon to the awe inspiring flame thrower, The Weapon Hunter fires them all.  But most importantly, Paul says it is about educating the population about this history and preserving it for future generations.  The program isn’t just about the weapons but the added value of having Veterans participate. One example he shares is firing an M-1 Garand with a Veteran who last used one at the Battle of the Bulge.  “We are NOT gaining Veterans of World War two Sir! And when they are gone, they are gone.” He says that if viewers are asking more questions at the end of each show, his job is done.

Paul’s passion for supporting Veterans also carries over into his charitable work. He shares the great work being done by Operation Restored Warrior. This program uses 97% of donated funds organizing and hosting programs that help Warriors deal with combat related stress. One of their programs is a 5-day “Drop Zone” where Veterans work with fellow Veterans to address their challenges.

Takeaway: “I have a great life today because of those who went before and didn’t. For those who CHOOSE to put down the plow and pick up the sword to defend my interest and the interest of my family and friends – I owe them a debt of gratitude that I could never possibly repay.”

 

Help Us Tell These Great Stories!

Veterans both past and present.  Award winning historians and writers. Musicians, Movie Stars and organizations that support our military. The first responders that keep us safe on the home front.

American Warrior Radio produces some very unique and in-depth discussions with all of these people.  Would you like to join in helping us spread these important messages?

For as little as 50 cents per broadcast, you CAN by becoming a Patron of American Warrior Radio!   Simply click on the Patreon link.

As a reward, you will receive some very cool swag related to some of the guests we have had one the show;

 
Autographed copy of the Rowdy Johnson Band’s CD that features “Unwanted Man”, a stirring song inspired by an encounter with a homeless Veteran.

 

 

Autographed copy of “The Friday Pilots”, a compilation of recollections by several Veterans featured on our program.

 

 

 

 

Your very own American Flag Bottle Breacher, a great Veteran owned and operated company founded by Navy SEAL Eli Crane.

 

Havok Journal Update – Scott Faith

Scott Faith, editor of Havok Journal makes his semi-regular appearance to update our listeners on the latest at their website.

We pay tribute to Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a member of SEAL Team 6 killed in action during the January 28th raid on an Al-Queda headquarters in Yemen. Chief Owens had wanted to serve his country since he was in high school.  He was a father and San Francisco Giants fan and had earned three Bronze Stars before the January 28th mission.

We also discuss Ranger Medic Leo Jenkins recommendations on which military support charities deserve of your attention. All of thes organizations use 90 percent or more of their donations in direct support to their mission. They include;

Team Red White & Blue whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

Gallant Few, an innovative program that seeks to prevent Veteran isolation by connecting them with hometown Veteran mentors.

Red Circle Foundation, a rapid funding force that provides emergency assistance to the families of current and former Special Forces Operators.

Team-5 Foundation, a program that recruits former military medical personnel to provide assistance and training in the most overlooked and remote areas of the globe.

The show wraps up with helpful tips from Scott and Havok Journal authors on how Veterans can successfully transition from the military to civilian lifestyle.

Takeaway:  There are lots of organizations available to help Veterans but individuals themselves must also take ownership and lead themselves through the transition process.

 

The Silent Service – Kevin Peppe

Silent ServiceIt’s called the Silent Service.  I have learned the phrase does not only apply to the stealthy nature of the mission but also to the tight knit families of the submarine community and how little the general public knows about these implements of war.

Our guest is retired Navy Captain Kevin Peppe. He served on 5 submarines, commanding one and later served as Commodore for a squadron of 8 submarines. After retiring from the Navy, Kevin was an executive with Raytheon’s Naval Warfare Systems.

Kevin shared what service onboard a submarine is like and the particularly challenging burden the Silent Service can place on the families.  Very often submariners are away with very little contact for months at a time. In a typical 18 hour submarine “day”, sailors may only have 6 hours when they aren’t on watch, performing their duty or training.

We also discuss the diverse mission set of fast attack submarines in particular; fleet protection, intelligence/reconnaissance, direct attack and Special Forces support.  An example of the kind of havoc that can be brought to bear by a single submarine came during the 1982 Falklands War, when the British expended over 203 anti-submarine weapons in a vain attempt to sink a single Argentine submarine.

While all US submarines are nuclear powered in order to facilitate their ability to deploy anywhere in the world with minimal supply support, many other countries field fleets of modern diesel powered submarines that can also pose a very real threat.  The US submarine fleet is aging and replacements like the Virginia and Columbia classes must be brought online quickly. Kevin expressed his confidence that the young persons in the Silent Service are the best trained in the world and work with some of the most advanced equipment.  He also praised the dedicated workers in private industry who are personally dedicated to assuring that our service personnel have the best tools.

Takeaway:  Kevin is confident that the Silent Service will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s defense and emphasized that