Archive for movies

Top Gun – Still Flying High after 30 Years

Posted in Current Affairs, Leadership, Naval Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

 

I was 17-years-old and a junior in high school in the first half of 1986. The United States was at the height of the Cold War.  President Ronald Reagan’s strategic plan to improve the capabilities of naval forces, known as the 600-ship Navy, was gaining momentum.  And, the nation came together to mourn the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger, mission STS-51-L, as its crew of 7 astronauts perished, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.  Being proud to be an American in the strongest, most spirited nation in the world was common back then.

During that same time, while most of my classmates were taking SAT’s and planning their future, I was taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB); the test used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces.  Influenced by my uncle, Thomas Aulenbach, a 1963 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, my ambition was to join the United States Navy.

It was a deep sense of pride, and a desire to be part of something greater than myself, that drove me to make the best and most important decision of my life; to join the world’s greatest navy, and to reach out to live my dreams.  I entered into a Naval Reserve program known as The Naval Reserve Sea Air Mariner Program (SAM).  This program allowed me to be one of very few to ever join the Navy in my junior year of high school, go to basic training in the summer after my junior year, then drill one weekend a month at a local Naval Reserve center during my senior year of high school.

There were a few other things that further stoked my pride and ambitions to join the Navy back in those days.  I remember sitting in my recruiter’s office hearing Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA,’ which was rapidly becoming the country’s unofficial national anthem.  It seemed like it was playing on repeat, ringing in my ears over and over again.  Or, maybe it was just a clever recruiting tactic; one that was working.  I still get an overwhelming emotional feeling each time I hear it; no different from hearing any other patriotic tune.  To this day, that song remains near the top of my list of all-time favorites.

One month before I left for boot camp, on May 16, 1986, the iconic movie, Top Gun, opened in theaters.  Starring Tom Cruise, playing the role of Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Top Gun would become one of the most endearing military movies of all time.  From its opening scene (may I opine: The best opening scene to a movie ever!), to it victorious ending, this movie is jam-packed with great action and music.

Top Gun is about the former United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, at what was then called Naval Air Station Miramar, located north of San Diego, California; Fightertown U.S.A.  The film glamorizes the life of naval aviators by portraying them as cocky, highly competitive hotshots driven to be the best of the best among all Navy fighter pilots.

* Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar is now known as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar). The United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) was merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, and is now known as the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program (SFTI program). The program is intended to teach fighter and strike tactics and techniques to selected Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers who return to their operating units as surrogate instructors.

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Related Content:  Top Gun 30 Years Ago via The Sextant (U.S. Navy History)

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Have Some Fun:

Which ‘Top Gun’ Character Are You?

Quiz #1          Quiz #2          Quiz #3          Quiz #4

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Call Sign Generator

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Top Gun puts viewers into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat for the thrill and adrenaline rush of flying one of the Navy’s most maneuverable fighter jets.  The film has had a cult following in its 30 years since it’s release, and continues to motivate anyone who has been in or around the Navy, particularly those who aspire to become fighter pilots.  Last year, it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, joining only 675 other films for that designation.

The movie’s music, with songs on the original soundtrack like Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), Mighty Wings (Cheap Trick), and other songs featured in famous scenes, such as Great Balls of Fire and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin, remain as timeless as the movie itself.  When they’re played on the radio, there’s no question that they came from Top Gun.

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Related Content:  Top Gun at 30: A Retrospective from Two Naval Aviators via War on the Rocks

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The Pentagon Goes Hollywood

It was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture. The producers paid the military $1.8 million for the use of Miramar Naval Air Station, as well as four aircraft carriers, about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, and a few F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks; some flown by real-life top-gun pilots.  The dogfight scenes were carefully choreographed by experienced military pilots, and a some of the movies most memorable scenes were meticulously researched for their realism and authenticity.  The movie’s Navy and Hollywood connection made real history.

Then, there are those scenes that would just never happen.  For example, Maverick’s tower fly-by (aka buzzing the tower).  This became the symbolic statement by Maverick of his commitment to being a, well, maverick.  But, doing this is not recommended.  You’ll lose your wings, get a boot permanently stuck up your posterior, and you’ll certainly find yourself flying a desk until your court-martial.  So, the answer will ALWAYS be, “negative ghost rider, the pattern is full.”

Soon after the movie came out, there was a boost in Navy recruitment.  Although Pentagon regulations prohibited the Navy from promoting the movie in its recruitment efforts, Navy recruiters could be found setting up recruiting tables in many of the theaters where the movie was being shown.  In 1987, the Navy cleverly released a Top Gun-themed recruitment commercial with “Danger Zone”-sounding music to continue the successful recruiting trend.

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In addition to its excellent music and its action-packed scenes, the movie’s dialogue is immortal.  Comical, hard-hitting and full of power and meaning, Top Gun is full of unforgettable lines, like these:

Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” ~ Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan

“Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team.  They are not flexible, nor am I” ~ CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Commander, U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School – Top Gun)

“A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned” ~ Viper

These, and many other lines, certainly capture the strict discipline and protocol that you would expect from the military.  And, then there are lines that you might use at work just to annoy your co-workers, such as the infamous, “I feel the need … the need for speed.”  Or, there are lines like the ones listed below that are suited for everyday use and have particular meaning (click on image to be taken to larger image via its web link ):

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*Courtesy: The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man (Facebook), aka Doctrine Man (Twitter)*

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Out of the movie also comes leadership wisdom.  Top Gun is referenced often when discussing leadership and team dynamics; a sort of leadership ethos.  This was extensively explored by Bob Jennings and J. Israel Thompson in a series of posts that were written as fictional “interviews” with key characters from the movie.  Links to each of those posts are listed below:

Often in the movie, however, there are those times when a butt-chewing was necessaryThe fine art of delivering corrective action is sometimes garnished with some colorful language.  As the movie evolves, you notice Viper’s style becomes the textbook example of how to deliver negative feedback.  There is, obviously, a right way and a wrong way.

‘Top Gun’ still soars at 30, while shooting for that sequel, which will again star Tom Cruise.  And, although the F-14 Tomcat is no longer part of the Navy’s arsenal, and pilots are becoming more like gamers sitting in sophisticated theater-like consoles flying drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), no one has lost that loving feeling for Top Gun.  It’s popularity continues to fly high after 30 years.  For some of us, it will never get old.  In fact, Top Gun Day is celebrated every year on May 13th.  Why do they celebrate it on that day, when the movie was released on May 16?  Good question.  Here is your answer.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the movie, I highly recommend it.  If you have, I would be surprised if you don’t feel the same way I do every time it comes on television, or when Kenny Loggins comes on the radio with “Danger Zone.”  It’s a movie where the pilots and the viewer are both on the edge of their seat experiencing the exhilaration of life as a naval aviator.  One thing is certain, the movie puts into perspective our need to call the ball; to know, and be absolutely certain, that we are on the correct approach path to catching the wire in life, career, business, etc.  If we are gliding off the path, we need to know how to correct our approach.  This is the lesson … the moral of the story … that Top Gun provides.

 

 

Chief Tecumseh’s Words of Wisdom (from Act of Valor)

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Act of ValorAct of Valor is a very powerful movie.  From the personal side of the lives of those in the military, to the fight they face on the front lines in today’s dangerous World, Act of Valor takes you on suspense-filled missions of today’s Navy SEALs.  Although the movie is fiction, you cannot come away from it thinking that the scenarios presented could never occur; they very well could occur.  The members of our military put their personal life on the shelf to go fight our wars.  They leave the ones they love, and the safety of their homes, to go to all points around the World to take the fight to our enemy, so that the enemy never brings the fight to our shores.  The movie reveals the sacrifices of our men and women, who respond when called, to dedicate themselves to the profession of arms, and the courage it takes to do so.  A very good quote from the movie captures all of this very clearly: “If you’re not willing to give up everything, you’ve already lost.”  Our country was founded on this principle, and our military fights for our freedoms and liberties according to it, and damn few choose to make the sacrifices to fight for their fellow-man.  Those who do certainly give up everything for us.

When I was driving home from the movie, it was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies.  Although there was a chill in the air, it certainly looked like a spring day.  The movie had certainly put my mind into a different perspective, and I found myself embracing what we take for granted as citizens.  Of course, on the road with me were people in their hustle and bustle to get to wherever their lives were taking them; for most, I am sure, not a care in the World.  I assure you that I was paying attention to the road, but I couldn’t help day dreaming about the things we take for granted.  Here we are, on such a splendid day, enjoying our freedoms; freedom to go to the mall, to church, to school.  While there are men and women facing the grueling challenges of fighting our enemy, we’re enjoying life.  My mind split between the image of that day’s beauty with that of the images from the battle scenes of Act of Valor.  I thought to myself, “At this moment, there is a soldier somewhere in this World attempting to gain entry into a dilapidated shack in Afghanistan (or anywhere) to eradicate an insurgent who wants nothing else but to destroy our way of life, uncertain of what he might find on the other side of the door.  And, here I am…driving to my home on a beautiful sunny day in my home town.”  Meanwhile, the men and women of our military have put their sunny days aside so that we can enjoy ours.

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At the very end of the movie, the narrator speaks the words from a poem written by Chief Tecumseh, a Native American of the Shawnee tribe.  As I did research on Chief Tecumseh, I found a few other poignant quotes:

“A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.” (teamwork)

“Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.” (courtesy)

“Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.” (common bond for a common cause)

The words of the following poem, spoken at the end of the movie Act of Valor, have deep meaning, and I wanted to share it with you.  As was stated in the Williamsburg Military Insider, the poem is “truly amazing and I hope that it inspires you to make this life count, to pursue noble undertakings, and live to the fullest  having used all your talents and have no regrets.”

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So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

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Related Articles –

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh Created a Confederation to Oppose White Encroachment

Act of Valor

Act of Valor ~ (Navy SEALs – Sea, Air, Land…Hollywood)

Prints Tecumseh Poem from Act of Valor Movie

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

Act of Valor ~ (Navy SEALs – Sea, Air, Land…Hollywood)

Posted in Miscellaneous, Video of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood’s history.  A fictionalized account of real life Navy SEAL operations, Act of Valor features a gripping story that takes audiences on an adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-their-seat journey.

Act of Valor follows a Navy SEAL squad on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, which unexpectedly results in the discovery of an imminent, terrifying global threat.  An elite team of highly trained Navy SEALs must immediately embark on a heart-stopping secret operation, and in the process takes down a complex web of terrorist cells determined to strike America at all costs.

Act of Valor combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the-minute battlefield technology, and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure film–showcasing the skills, training and tenacity of the greatest action heroes of them all: real Navy SEALs.  The filmmakers had unprecedented Naval access resulting in never-before-seen military operation scenes which are composited from actual events in the lives of the men appearing in the film and their comrades.

Here is the Extended trailer for the movie –

The Navy SEALs in Act of Valor

Behind the scenes of Act of Valor

Oh, and did I mention that they’re using REAL BULLETS????

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Related links discussing The United State Navy SEALs –

Inside Navy SEALs Team Six, Training

An Inside Look at the SEAL Sensibility

The True Undercover Boss

Act of Valor

Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals

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