When retired Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry pinned the Bronze Star on retired Army Maj. Eric Phillips, it provided resolution to a long saga that began in Afghanistan in 2005.
Phillips had waited years to tell Eikenberry his story, and he finally got the opportunity on Sept. 8 when both attended the screening of the National Geographic documentary “American War Generals.”
In July 2005, Phillips was serving as commander of a convoy enroute from Kabul to Gardez when they ran into an ambush, he said. With his troops bogged down and taking fire, Phillips called in for air support.
As it so happened, Lt. Gen. Eikenberry’s helicopter was in the vicinity, so the Apache gunships escorting him were called away to help Phillips’ convoy, he said. With the help of airpower, his convoy was able to push through the ambush and get back to base.
When Phillips got back to base, he was beaming with pride over how his troops had handled themselves, but then the rug got yanked from underneath him. Phillips was told he needed to submit a detailed report of why he requested the air support.
“I was told specifically, ‘You pulled the general’s aircraft off of him and he wants to know, ‘Who was that [expletive] who made that call?” Phillips recounted in a Sept. 12 interview.
That’s not exactly what Eikenberry thinks happened, he told Military Times after the documentary screening. While he doesn’t remember exactly what happened afterward, Eikenberry surmised he probably asked what happened to the troops who needed the air support.
“It wouldn’t have been an inquiry about, ‘I want to know why those Apaches disappeared,’” Eikenberry said in a Sept. 12 interview. “It would have been: ‘What was the result?’ Now, who knows in the world of hierarchy how that finally gets translated down to the unit. The unit might get it and the whisper around the table by the time it gets back is, ‘The commander wants to know why he lost his Apaches.’”
But at the time, Phillips thought his career in the Army was over. Then a miracle happened: His report explaining why he requested the air support was “perfect” and the issue went away, he said. However, when Phillips was later considered for a Bronze Star for his deployment in Afghanistan, it was downgraded to a lesser award.
Then came a twist: Eikenberry, upgraded Phillips’ award to the Bronze Star.
Eikenberry explained to Military Times that he did not recall the Apache incident when he upgraded Phillips’ award, which was for his entire deployment, not just the ambush.
“I occasionally restored awards that had been downgraded (and did so on appeals even after leaving command) when I assessed circumstances, contribution, and norms warranted such action,” Eikenberry said.
Phillips, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, vowed that if he ever met Eikenberry in person, he would let him know that he was challenged for calling in air support but also thank Eikenberry for recognizing his service by upgrading his award to a Bronze Star, he said.
Out of the blue, Phillips was invited to the screening of “American War Generals,” which features Eikenberry. At the event, Phillips showed Eikenberry the Bronze Star and award citation, which his wife kept in her purse.
“I told the general, I said, ‘Sir, I had no intention to take your protection away from you,’” Phillips said. “I told him, ‘When I put in a call for help, you get whoever is available and they bring the appropriate resources to you. You’re not placing an order – I want this strike aircraft – you don’t do that. You’re frantically making a call and then you’re reengaging with the combat situation that when you’re in.’
“When I gave him that perspective, he got emotional – as did I – and he said, ‘I’ll never forget this story that you’ve told me.’ The exact words that I said were, ‘You’ve made my day,’ and he said, ‘You’ve made my year.”
It was an emotional moment for Eikenberry when he pinned the Bronze Star on Phillips’ jacket.
“My late father once told me that all that matters in life is if on your last day you are content with whom you see you in the mirror,” Eikenberry said. “In this regard, Eric’s story helped me greatly.”
Despite continuing, stellar support from America’s high school guidance counselors, the U.S. Military Academy slipped seven spots on this year’s U.S. News Best Colleges rankings for national liberal arts colleges, falling out of a three-way tie for 17th last year and into a three-way tie for 24th with Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Scripps College of Claremont, California.
West Point finished second in the service-academy race, with the Naval Academy ranking 13th (down from 12th last year). The schools also finished 1-2 in selectivity: Annapolis accepted just 7.4 percent of its 2013 applicant pool, according to U.S. News, while West Point let in 9 percent. The Air Force Academy was the 10th-toughest liberal arts college for applicants (15.4 percent accepted) and was 27th in the overall rankings.
The academies took the top three spots among high school guidance counselors, with USMA and USNA tying for first in a nationwide survey and Air Force splitting third place with Williams College of Massachusetts, the overall liberal arts rankings champion. They were also 1-2-3 on last year’s list.
U.S. News explains its methodology here. Its rankings don’t account for tuition costs, which may explain why every school aside from the academies in the top 25 comes with a yearly price tag of $44,724 or higher. A student attending either of the schools tied with West Point on the list would shell out more than $47,000 annually.
The list does not include “national universities,” which U.S. News identifies as “schools that emphasize research and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs.” That list had its usual Ivy-colored top three, featuring Princeton, Harvard and Yale, in that order.
Get the full rundown on West Point, at least from the U.S. News perspective, here. Leave your take on the academy’s spot in the rankings in the comments below.
At first look (and listen), Army football’s slick 2014 introductory video has all the standard fare of preseason hype, including in no particular order:
And that’s where the similarities between Army’s video (scroll down to watch) and others stop. The introductory words — in fact, the only words — spoken in the 90-second clip don’t come from a gridiron star or a hip-hop mogul. They’re from Douglas MacArthur.
MacArthur made the remarks in 1962, about a decade after the five-star general left service, while accepting the Sylvanus Thayer Award, given each year by the West Point Association of Graduates to “an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, ‘Duty, Honor, Country,’” according to the association’s website.
It’s an impressive piece of oratory that goes far beyond the few seconds sampled by the video-makers. MacArthur quotes Plato, discusses the challenges of a military coming to terms with its post-war identity and frightening new technology, paints vivid pictures of the desolation, agony and bravery of combat, and, as with most good speeches, starts with a joke:
As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” And when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?”
The 1903 West Point graduate also discussed his own mortality: “I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille,” he said, “of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.”
“But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.”
He would fade away two years after delivering the speech, which stands as one of many illustrations why “Duty, honor, country” goes far beyond a slogan on the back of the Army football jersey.
Service members who joined up when the first full-length episode of “The Simpsons” hit the air have been eligible to retire for about five years.
And while the long-running animated series rarely dabbles in military-themed humor, it’s tough for any scripted television to go a quarter-century without somebody stealing a tank, somebody else entering into a blood pact over World War II plunder, and somebody else becoming a red-team leader in an Army war game through a series of inexplicable circumstances. It’s simple math.
FXX recently secured the rights to the show’s massive back catalog, and it’s celebrating by airing the whole thing — 552 episodes and a movie, in order, starting earlier today.
Not planning on spending the rest of your August watching cartoons drink beer and jump gorges? Here’s five episodes with a military twist and their expected air times, courtesy of a massive piece of web posting from Uproxx’s Ashley Burns. (All times Eastern)
Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’ (Aug. 24, 12:30 p.m.)
What: Bart’s grandfather, Abe, and evil nuclear plant owner C. Montgomery Burns are the last surviving members of a World War II unit that discovered precious pieces of art during the war’s final days and pledged to keep the treasure hidden until the final Flying Hellfish could reap the rewards. Burns, ever the pragmatist, hires a hit man to speed up the process. Hilarity ensues.
When: The episode aired in 1996. In the first show of that seventh season, viewers left in breathless anticipation by a dramatic Season 6 cliffhanger had learned that Burns was shot by — spoiler alert — baby Maggie.
Why watch: Ever want to see an animated slow-witted private named Ox explain the centuries-old concept of “tontine“? You’re in luck.
The Principal and the Pauper (Aug. 25, 3 a.m.)
What: Springfield Elementary’s principal, Seymour Skinner, is revealed to be an impostor, having taken the place of a war buddy he believed had been killed in action in Vietnam. The real Sgt. Skinner, voiced by Martin Sheen, and the entire plot of this episode have been all but erased from series history.
When: The episode was the second of the show’s ninth season and quickly earned its place on nearly every critic’s worst-episode list.
Why watch: It’s a tough sell — even the voice of the (fake) Skinner, “Saturday Night Live” alum and “Spinal Tap” icon Harry Shearer, has blasted the episode in several interviews.
Simpson Tide (Aug. 25, noon)
What: In one of many familiar story arcs, Homer loses his job at the nuclear plant and needs something else to do. Why not join the Navy and stumble into command of a nuclear submarine? Why not add an officer named Capt. Tennille, a montage set to the Village People’s “In the Navy” and a cameo by “Gilligan’s Island” star Bob Denver? It’s almost like the writing staff played a word-association game with “Navy,” then animated it.
When: Later in the ninth season, which means it predates the Navy working uniform, sparing standard-definition TVs everywhere at the time from processing Homer in blue camo.
Why watch: The one-liners are rapid-fire, including Homer’s supremely optimistic take on the end of his military service — “You can’t spell ‘dishonorable’ without ‘honorable.’” (this quote, and other valuable reference points, provided by the super-inclusive Simpsons Archive.)
New Kids on the Blecch (Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m.)
What: Bart and his friends form a singing group that turns out to be a front for an ambitious Navy recruiter. Somehow, it makes more sense in German:
When: Originally aired in 2001, meaning some members of the current fleet may have been brainwashed into joining by the seductive sounds of “Yvan eht Nioj.”
Why watch: A cameo by pre-mogul Justin Timberlake adds to a fairly well-known episode that takes jabs at both the military and boy bands.
G.I. D’oh (Aug. 29, 9 a.m.)
What: More hi-jinks at recruiters’ expense, as the Army targets elementary-school kids to fill its ranks. Bart, impressed by a short film of destruction, signs up, but when his parents want to get him out of the contract, one of the Simpsons has to enlist. Hint: He will not meet current body composition standards, no matter how hard somebody tries to help.
When: Aired in 2006, when recruiting duty was decidedly not funny.
Why watch: One critic at IGN.com said the episode “crossed the line of good taste” in lampooning the armed forces. On the other hand, Homer does force a crazed officer, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, to surrender during a war game by spiking the Springfield water supply with alcohol, delivering the mother of all hangovers.
Honorable mentions include:
Have a favorite, or have one we left out? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Army Times’ Facebook page.
You’ve probably heard about the distinguished member of the Kennedy family who challenged a prominent politician, one who’s been frequently targeted by the military social media community, to dump ice water over his head as a way to support a worthy cause.
If not, click here to read up, because this is something completely different:
That’s UFC fighter, Texas Army National Guardsman and noted Internet thespian Tim Kennedy, taking what appears to be a cold shower and issuing a challenge to Jesse Ventura to “donate some money to the Heroes Project.” Ventura, whose logic-defying career arc already includes Navy underwater demolition team member, American Wrestling Association tag team champion, fourth male lead in “Predator” and one-term Minnesota governor, added another unusual distinction recently, when he won a $1.8 million defamation lawsuit against the estate of author/special operator Chris Kyle.
Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, wrote in his best-selling memoir “American Sniper” about punching out an individual he identified as “Scruff Face” during a bar fight. The author, considered to be the U.S. military’s deadliest sniper, said in interviews after the book’s publication that Scruff Face was Ventura, triggering the legal action.
Kyle died while the suit was in progress. Ventura didn’t drop his case, resulting in the ex-wrestler suing the widow of a legendary special operator in an effort to protect his reputation. The fact that he won didn’t save him from online outrage.
It’s no accident that Kennedy, a former Special Forces member, brought up the Heroes Project, a charity founded by Kyle to benefit service members suffering from combat stress.
The UFC fighter borrowed the cold-water routine from a different charity: The “ice-bucket challenge” has made its way around social media, raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease — not to mention raising money. Participants undergo the deep freeze, then challenge others to either a cold bath or a donation to ALS research.
First the video, then some backstory. Key quote: “It’s not as black-and-white as they said it was going to be.”
“Camp X-Ray” will hit theaters Oct. 17, and despite multiple stories in the entertainment media praising star Kristen Stewart for this departure from the vampire-vs.-werewolf genre, the buzz hasn’t been particularly kind. The film is batting just above .500 with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with one asking whether stellar efforts from Stewart and co-star Peyman Maadi “outweigh a scenario that feels written by a politically outraged 12-year-old.”
The above trailer, however, has drawn some interest — more than 3.5 million YouTube hits since going online four days ago.
We want to know what you think: Will you be heading to the multiplex to see Stewart don camo and deal with detainees? Or will you pass on Hollywood’s version of Army life at Guantanamo Bay? Let us know in the comments below.
But as part of the organization’s recovery from bullying accusations, suspensions and an 8-8 season, players have penned what The Associated Press called “a credo of togetherness,” which was emblazoned on some of the T-shirts being worn by Dolphins after a recent practice.
As other websites have already pointed out, the credo clearly patterns itself after the Soldier’s Creed, including some passages lifted either directly (“I will never accept defeat”; “I will never quit”) or almost directly (The Army’s “I am a warrior and a member of a team” becomes an “unbeatable team,” which was, one can only assume, the motto of the 1972 Dolphins). It even starts and ends with “I am a Miami Dolphin” — derivative, sure, but a lot less controversial than the the time a player at a nearby college declared himself “a soldier.”
The team has reportedly eliminated rookie hazing this season, and has a host of other new rules instituted by head coach Joe Philbin, who is entering his third season with the Dolphins. (Philbin’s son is an Army officer who was put under the media microscope earlier this year regarding his arrest after a traffic accident.)
“I thought they did a good job,” Philbin told AP regarding the credo. “I thought they gave some consideration and some thought to it and I think it’s good. Probably ‘I’m a professional’ is one of them I like. But I think I like them all.”
Some in the Army may prefer “trusted professional,” but that’s a separate ethic.
What’s your take on the creed-inspired credo: Petty slogan theft, or the sincerest form of flattery? Let us know in the comments below.
Former Capt. Lee Kind has worn many hats — he’s a former Army officer, master jumpmaster, real estate agent, PT guru and author with an MBA from George Mason University — and he wants to use them all to help service members.
His passion for it has yielded five books, which address physical fitness, finance, public speaking, leadership and a how-to guide to becoming a jumpmaster, respectively. He spent six years in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“It doesn’t matter what branch they’re in,” Kind said, taking a break from a recent book signing at the Pentagon. “Unfortunately most folks don’t know the tools that are out there for them to become successful. That’s why I created all my books.”
We asked Kind to give us five of his best tips, and he gave us a bonus tip because he saw that I was fighting a cold: Drink 16 ounces of water when you first wake up. It’s hydrating, which is good for physical training.
1 – Get with a program. That is, a whole body program for PT. Folks who focus on a single exercise or body part, say push-ups, may find they’ve hurt their back because they didn’t balance by strengthening their abdominals and hip flexors. “Never just focus on one muscle,” Kind said. “A couple of core exercise will get you in the shape that you need to be in.”
2 – Don’t spend it all in one place. Rather than spending the $25,000 accumulated on a deployment on a brand new car, Kind suggests investing that money as part of his deployment checklist. Ask your finance officer or S-1 about the Defense Department’s investment programs, which can yield up to a 10 percent guaranteed return. And if you have to buy a car, consider a certified newer car and save as much as $15,000.
“If you leave those investments alone, in the long term, you could have from that one deployment hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kind said.
3 – Use your VA loan. Though most lenders will steer you away from it because it requires a tougher appraisal than a regular mortgage and a little extra work from them, it can save the soldier thousands in interest fees. If you are an active-duty service member with an injury that would qualify you as disabled, there is no requirement to pay a VA funding fee. “That’s thousands of dollars right in your pocket, right up front,” Kind said.
4 – Adjust your leadership style. Most of the time, the best way to lead is as an encourager and a motivator, and the time to yell is only when someone is about to hurt themselves severely or get themselves killed. If you raise the volume all the time, people will tune you out. There is a time to micromanage, but do it all the time, and you will destroy your people’s motivation.
5 – Plan your public speaking. Most people are terrible at it, and worse, they wing it. Better to plan and answer the five Q’s in your talk: Who, what, when, where and why. And consider who is in your audience.
The wait for the next World Cup may be another four years, but international soccer continues, including two upcoming games here in the United States. And for current and retired members of the military, attending these matches can be affordable.
Manchester United, the British Premiere League team, will play AS Roma in Denver on Saturday and Inter Milan in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as a part of the pre-season International Champions Cup tournament. The club announced Wednesday that they are teaming up with govx.com to provide free and discounted tickets to members of the armed services for both games.
Govx.com provides discounted clothing, tickets and a host of other goods and services to military and other government personnel.
The ticket offer is a part of Manchester United’s new “United for Heroes” program, an initiative to “give something back to the local communities that we visit” by recognizing “those people who dedicate their lives to serving their country,” the club’s Managing Director Richard Arnold said in a press release.
Some tickets for each match will be available for free, with the remaining tickets available at a 25 percent discount. They are available through govx.com or at stadiums on matchday with appropriate identification, according to Manchester United.
Two days after being awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House, Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts had the honor of ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Pitts made the most of it.