An aging reporter ruminates on covering the military over two decades

Jeff Schogol Asks The Pentagon About Top Gun

It's time for your friend and humble narrator to have a mid-life crisis. Should I, for example, post a video of myself doing the 22 Pushup Challenge whilst clad only in a thong? Probably not.

On Sunday, this reporter turns 40, the pinnacle of midlife. It's a moment where God looks you in the eye and says: "It's all downhill from here. From diapers you came and to diapers you will soon return."

For nearly half of my life, I've covered the military: First as a local reporter in Easton, Pennsylvania, and then full time in Washington, D.C. In that time, U.S. troops have been stuck in a never-ending nightmare of wars without end, made all the worse by an indifferent Congress, which ceded any authority it had over the use of military force in 2001 and never looked back.

If wisdom comes with age, then one thing this reporter has learned from covering troops for years is this: There are no turning points. That means anyone who claims Afghanistan has "turned the corner" or "a dark and painful era" in Iraqi history has ended either doesn't grasp the nature of the post 9/11 wars or is too afraid of failure to tell the truth.

When U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein, my assignment was to observe the family of a service member deployed to Iraq as they watched President George W. Bush's television address, in which he proclaimed, "All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq."

They didn't, but I was naïve enough at the time to hope things would get better.

Back when I was a teenager, my father told me about the time he wrote a similar story as a reporter during the Vietnam War. He was with the family of a service member who was missing in action as they watched a televised speech by President Richard Nixon. They thought Nixon was going to say the war was over, but instead he announced an escalation in the conflict.

When the war finally ended, the family's son was not among the prisoners of war who returned. A local politician held a ceremony to present missing service member's father with his son's medals. My dad recalled how the man said: "I don't want the f***king medals. I want my son."

"It was a terrible time," my father said, trailing off. "Terrible."

He was trying to tell me something. I was too young to hear him.

But life is too short to dwell on the sad times and over the past two decades, your friend and humble narrator has enjoyed asking military officials about lighter topics, such as whether the Air Force will buy the hydrogen-powered iPlane that Kayne West recommended President Donald Trump use.

Just recently, this reporter received a beautiful response from George Lucas' spokespeople declining to respond to a question about whether the U.S. military's interest in space could lead to the types of conflicts he portrayed in the original "Star Wars" movies. (The prequels do not exist.)

"Outside of a few passion projects that Mr. Lucas is otherwise committed to since retiring, he has scaled back considerably on speaking engagements, interviews and public appearances and will not be available to participate," a spokesperson said via email. "While your request was given proper consideration, we do hope for your understanding."

If only defense officials could pretend to care like that.

Despite writing about troops for nearly 20 years, yours truly has never been a true "war correspondent," defined as someone who looks suave in a mix of tactical gear, personally tailored cargo pants, and tight-fitting T-shirts.

No, your humble Pentagon correspondent looks more like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when kitted out with body armor, a helmet, and green duffel. This reporter also showed up to Iraq in the summer of 2009 with a massive gut that was the envy of FOBBITs everywhere.

Since we've established that wars no longer end, you can expect this reporter to continue covering the military and its misadventures for the foreseeable future, because every time the U.S. government decides to liberate some oppressed people, it's the men and women in uniform along with their families who answer the call. Their stories need to be told.

For me, writing about those who go to war isn't just a job. It's an honor.

Make sure you are subscribed to the Pentagon Run-Down for all the latest news.

SEE ALSO: Inside The Splendor And The Glory Of The Pentagon's Secret Fighter Pilot Bar

WATCH NEXT: Mattis' Knife Hand

Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

QUANTICO, Virginia -- They may not be deadly, but some of the nonlethal weapons the Marine Corps is working on look pretty devastating.

The Marine Corps Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate is currently testing an 81mm mortar round that delivers a shower of flashbang grenades to disperse troublemakers. There is also an electric vehicle-stopper that delivers an electrical pulse to shut down a vehicle's powertrain, designed for use at access control points.

"When you hear nonlethal, you are thinking rubber bullets and batons and tear gas; it's way more than that," Marine Col. Wendell Leimbach Jr., director of the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, told an audience at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.

Read More Show Less

RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) - UFO enthusiasts began descending on rural Nevada on Thursday near the secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, with local authorities hoping the visitors were coming in peace.

Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to "storm" Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel's only business - an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A'Le'Inn - parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.

Alien enthusiasts descend on the Nevada desert to 'storm' Area 51

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

Attendees arrive at the Little A'Le'Inn as an influx of tourists responding to a call to 'storm' Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019

One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.

"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."

Read More Show Less

OAKLAND, Calif. — A United States Coast Guard commander was charged with illegal importation of controlled substances Wednesday, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

Read More Show Less

Tom Delonge has been speculating about aliens for years. According to Vulture, he quit Blink 182, the band he founded, years ago to "expose the truth about aliens," and he founded To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences "to advance society's understanding of scientific phenomena and its technological implications" — or, in simpler terms, to research UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

Read More Show Less

A tentative plan to build 20 miles of extra border wall in Arizona, on top of the already approved 100-plus miles, was put on hold Monday by the Pentagon.

Federal officials hoped to build the extra 20 miles of wall in the Border Patrol's Tucson and Yuma sectors. The Army Corps of Engineers said late last month that funds would come from other wall contracts that might cost less than expected. But those savings did not materialize, according to documents filed Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less