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Left of Boom | A Military.com Podcast

News & Politics Podcasts

In Left of Boom, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck talks to legends and pathfinders who made U.S. military history; gets the ground truth on military myths, rumors and legends; and decodes the big ideas shaping the military of the future.


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In Left of Boom, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck talks to legends and pathfinders who made U.S. military history; gets the ground truth on military myths, rumors and legends; and decodes the big ideas shaping the military of the future.




Why Failing to Help Our Afghan Interpreters Would Be a Disaster

They served beside U.S. troops and wore the very same uniform. But now 18,000 Afghan interpreters fear for their lives as the American government completes a military withdrawal from the country. How we treat our closest allies tells a story about who we are as Americans: the meaning of "no man left behind," and the value of friendship, loyalty and honor. Steve Miska, a retired Army officer and the author of Baghdad Underground Railroad, joins Left of Boom to discuss what it will take to stay true to our interpreters.


4 Years After the Marines United Scandal, What Has the Military Learned?

It took a national scandal over a Facebook group called Marines United to force a true reckoning within the Marine Corps about its cultural problems with sexual harassment and misogyny. Four years later, how far has the service -- and the military at large -- come in putting an end to this toxic behavior and creating a safer and more equal place for all troops to serve? Scott Jensen, a former leader of the Marines' Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, joins Left of Boom to give the military a report card on its progress.


How Many Ships Does the Navy Really Need?

The U.S. Navy's fleet is one of the most impressive on the planet -- but officials and strategists are desperate for even more ships to accomplish the service's global mission. The future fleet that planners want has up to 500 ships and includes drone ships, corvettes, light carriers and other innovative platforms. Does the Navy really need all that, and, more importantly, can the Navy afford it? Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute takes us behind the scenes on planning for future maritime warfare.


21: The Untold Story of the Hunt for Osama bin Laden

It has been 10 years since May 2, 2011, the night a top-secret SEAL raid took out notorious terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. You may think you know the story of bin Laden and the ten-year manhunt that ended in his death, but you've probably seen it like this before. In Revealed: The Hunt for Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Museum and the History Channel team up to present never-before-seen interviews and previously classified material. Film co-producers Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen join Left of Boom to explain why every American should know this story.


20: The Wildest Technologies Changing How the Military Fights

Warfighting has come a long way from machine guns mounted on the back of horse-drawn carriages. New technologies can allow militaries to create and replenish weapons and ammunition on the run; train in virtual environments that they can touch, taste and smell; and command hordes of tiny drones that swarm enemy combatants on command. In many cases, what's standing between the U.S. military and effective implementation of these technologies is trust -- and a thorough understanding of how they work and how they transform the battlespace. That's where Peter W. Singer and August Cole come in. These two military futurists bring new warfighting technologies to life in gripping novels. And their books sometimes inspire generals to take action.


19. The Five Biggest Things for Veterans in 2021

Military veterans are emerging from the pandemic into a new world in 2021, and a lot has changed -- some things decidedly for the better. On this episode, host Hope Hodge Seck is joined by Air Force veteran Blake Stilwell of Military.com and Marine Corps veteran Jeff Daly of the American Legion's Tango Alpha Lima podcast to discuss the five things that every veterans should know about in 2021 -- and how the world is beginning to see military veterans and their potential in a different light. Editor's Note: Since this episode was recorded, a new law passed allowing all veterans and spouses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the VA.


18. So What Is a 6th-Generation Fighter Jet?

While the U.S. military's fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets are still rolling off the production line and deploying across the globe, work has already begun on a futuristic 6th-generation fighter -- an aircraft that may have increased stealth, drone companions, boosted artificial intelligence and even the ability to heal itself when damaged. Richard Aboulafia from the Teal Group breaks down what we can expect from a 6th-gen fighter jet.


17. Meet the Man Who Puts Movie Stars Through Boot Camp

Dale Dye has been an adviser on many of the generation's most iconic military films and shows -- from Platoon to Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. But he didn't grow up in showbiz. He's a retired Marine who decided that the movies he saw weren't doing right by America's service members, and he decided to do something about it. On this episode, host Hope Hodge Seck and Military.com writer Blake Stilwell ask Dale Dye about the worst military movie he's ever seen, his thoughts on Space Force and his advice for other veterans who want to make a career in showbiz.


16: What We Got Wrong in Afghanistan

Bing West has been called "The Grunt's Homer." After serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Vietnam and then going on to be an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon, he has devoted his time to long embeds with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling their stories and bearing witness to the wars in a series of nonfiction books. His new novel, The Last Platoon, is a cautionary tale about America's "Forever War." He joins Left of Boom to talk about co-writing Jim Mattis' memoir, the real people who inspired characters in his book, and speaking truth to power at the Pentagon. Find The Last Platoon here.


15: What It's Like to Be a Medal of Honor Recipient (ft. Kyle White)

Receiving the Medal of Honor -- the nation’s highest honor recognizing bravery in combat -- means joining an elite fraternity: there are only 69 living recipients, spanning conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan. At 33, Kyle White is one of the youngest. And now, six years after receiving the medal, he’s making a point of telling his whole story, including his fight to overcome personal demons from battle and his adjustment to the unexpected fame that comes with the medal. He joins Left of Boom to talk about life after the Medal of Honor, and his new mission to help veterans. Read Kyle White’s first two columns for Military.com below: After I Received the Medal of Honor, the Hardest Battle of My Life Began This Holiday Season, You Have the Chance to Be a True Hero


14: Is the US Losing the Fight for Arctic Dominance?

Things are heating up in the Arctic -- literally and figuratively. As ice melts and new sea lanes open, the region is the site of intense new military competition between the world’s largest power players: the U.S., Russia and China. While the U.S. Coast Guard is working hard to protect American interests in the Arctic, including the wellbeing of those in remote regions of Alaska, it has to operate aging equipment on a tight budget. Rear Adm. Matthew Bell, commander of Coast Guard District 17, joins Left of Boom to discuss a rare winter deployment to the Arctic for the nation’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, and how the Coast Guard defends U.S. sovereignty without inflaming international tensions. Read more about the Russian exercise discovered by fishermen and reported to the Coast Guard here. NOTE: This podcast was recorded before the Heavy Icebreaker Polar Star deployed in early December.


13. Did 10 Army Bases Get Named for Traitors?

We’re in the middle of a national reckoning over racism and representation, and it has thrown new attention onto the fact that 10 of the U.S. Army’s bases, including some of the largest ones, are named for generals who fought against the Union in the Civil War -- men who by definition are traitors to the nation and who in some cases passionately defended racist ideas and segregation. How did this happen, and why are some people fighting hard to keep these bases from being renamed? We’ll dive into the history behind the controversy with Dr. Richard Kohn, distinguished military historian and professor emeritus of History in Peace, War and Defense at UNC-Chapel Hill, and talk about who in the military’s storied history might be more deserving as an installation namesake.


12: The Wild Science of Military MRE Meals

It’s hard to think of a more beloved -- and sometimes hated -- cultural touchstone in the military than meals ready to eat, or MREs. They’ve been around since the C-Rations of World War II and beyond, and have for decades offered a touch of comfort and a taste of home -- albeit a highly engineered one that can last for years at high temperatures without spoiling. You can find MRE cookbooks that will tell you how to turn drink mix and generic toaster pastries into gourmet desserts, and there are scores of YouTube videos dedicated to taste-testing chili mac and the prized jalapeno cheese spread. Well, it turns out there’s a lot of science that goes into each one of these compact rations packs, and sometimes the development of a new MRE menu item -- such as the coveted pepperoni pizza slice -- requires actual technological breakthrough. Today, we’ll talk to two people from the Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts: Lauren Oleksyk, team leader for food engineering, who holds two patents in revolutionary food science, and David Accetta, an Army military historian and public affairs officer at the directorate.


11. All Your Space Force Questions Answered

It wasn’t so long ago that the notion of a military Space Force conjured up images of Star Trek and other fictional future worlds. But our own world is changing, and with a lot of work behind the scenes and a very public push from President Donald Trump, U.S. Space Force became the 6th military service on December 20, 2019 -- the first new military service since the creation of the U.S. Air Force 72 years prior. There’s no roadmap or guide book for creating a new military service’s character and values, and a thousand choices have yet to be made, from uniform design to what to call these new space operators. And at the heart of all those decisions is Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman, senior enlisted leader of the Space Force. He joined the fledgling service after a distinguished 30-year career in the Air Force that saw decorated service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He talked with us about the logistics of building a military service from the ground up.


10: Meet the First Mom with a Ranger Tab

At 37, Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was not only one of the first women to graduate the Army’s grueling Ranger School, she was also 15 years older than most of the students who went through. Six months after getting a buzz cut and entering a course that had never had a female graduate, Jaster would become the Army’s first mom with a Ranger Tab. She talks about her new “Delete the Adjective” campaign, her obsession with strength and fitness and what she still wants to accomplish in her military career. And be sure to learn all about her Ranger School achievement at Military.com.


9. Why the Military Helps Hollywood Make Movies

Ever wondered how big blockbuster movie productions are able to feature real tanks and fighter aircraft -- or, in the case of the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, actors actually launching off an aircraft carrier? Turns out the U.S. military gives many movies a major helping hand, from providing access to bases and ships to actually recruiting troops to serve as background actors. But first, scripts have to get vetted to make sure they're in line with the DoD's core values. In this episode, we'll talk to Glen Roberts, the Pentagon's liaison to Hollywood, who reads those scripts and works with studios to make military-themed productions as realistic as possible.


8. Meet the Real Charlie from 'Top Gun'

Sometimes truth is more interesting than fiction. Christine Fox was a defense analyst working at the Navy's legendary fighter school in Miramar, California when a Hollywood producer decided she'd be the perfect inspiration for Tom Cruise's love interest in the 1986 blockbuster "Top Gun." But that was just the start of Fox's incredible career -- she'd go on to become the most senior woman at the Pentagon, serving under multiple defense secretaries. In this episode she talks about her role in the "Top Gun" legacy, and what it means to her to have been a trailblazing woman in national security.


7. Super Soldiers Part 2: The Dark Side (Ft. Edward Barrett and Peter Pfaff)

If Episode 6 left you scared about the terrifying Cyborg military future that awaits us, this sequel may offer a small dose of comfort, in that there are thoughtful people thinking through the major problems that this future presents, and how we might solve them. Last episode, we talked about the technology itself, from smart body suits with implants to bionic eyes and Cyborg brain enhancements. Today, we're going to follow that up by diving deep into the new world of ethical concerns that these technologies open up for the military, and talk about just how prepared America is to handle warfare that involves not just man-machine teaming, but man-machine hybrids. To guide us through what will no doubt be a mind-bending and at times frightening discussion, we have two of the leading experts in the field. Dr. Edward T. Barrett is the Director of Research at the US Naval Academy's Stockdale center for Ethical Leadership and an ethics professor in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law. And Dr. Tony Pfaff is currently the research professor for Strategy for the Military Profession and Ethic at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. He's also a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. Resources on Super Soldiers and the ethics of bioenhancements: The Ethics of Acquiring Military Disruptive Technologies A Persistent Fire: The Strategic Ethical Impact of World War I on the Global Profession of Arms (chapter on bioenhancements) The Ethics of Acquiring Disruptive Technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weapons, and Decision Support Systems


6. The Future of Bioenhanced Super Soldiers, Pt. 1 (Ft. Peter Emanuel and Diane DiEuliis)

Steve Rogers was just an ordinary young man who tried to enlist to fight in World War II but was turned away due to health problems. Until, that is, he was approached by a Defense Department scientist who injected him with a special serum that turned him into the perfect specimen of military strength and stamina: Captain America. When Marvel’s beloved comic book hero was first introduced in 1941, such a biological upgrade was strictly in the realm of fiction. But now, some say it’s the next chapter in warfare, and one that will be here sooner than you might think. The field of biological enhancements for the warfighter encompasses everything from dietary supplements and neural stimulation to bionic limbs and brain augmentation, and it raises a horde of new questions about ethics in the military and society. Increasingly, the dominant questions on the threshold of military technological development are becoming not, what can we do, but what should we do, and what happens if we go too far. On this episode we’re joined by Dr. Peter Emanuel, U.S. Army Senior Scientist for bioengineering and Dr. Diane DiEuliis, Senior Research fellow at National Defense University. In 2019, they co-authored a paper on the Cyborg Soldier -- the result of a Secretary of Defense red team task force exploring the future of man-machine enhancements and the warfighter of 2050. Learn much more about cyborg soldier technology and current research at Military.com.


5. Adding Women to the Military Draft (Ft. Brig. Gen. Joe Heck)

It has been 50 years since the last Americans were drafted, but the nation continues to require men ages 18 to 26 to register with the Selective Service, an insurance policy in case the nation faces and unforeseen security crisis requiring mass mobilization. This spring, a congressionally appointed commission completed a multi-year study of military and national service that addressed, among other questions, whether America should still have a draft system, and whether women should be required to register for the draft for the first time in history. To talk about all that, we're joined by Dr. Joe Heck, an Army Reserve brigadier general and the chairman of the National Commission on Military, National and Public service. Among the questions the commission tackled: whether, for the first time in history, women should be required to register for a possible draft. Learn much more about the commission's findings and the draft at Military.com.