What the heck is an Azimuth Marker?





So I’ve known this concrete tube was near the house I grew up in all my life but I really never gave it a second thought.  Growing up near a Minuteman II ICBM (cool wikipedia read) seems strange now but it was as normal as tractor ownership among the residents of Meade County, South Dakota.

We knew they were bad and we knew we never wanted to see them leave the bunker but besides Air Force guys driving too fast around on the gravel roads and a few war games here and there in our pastures, life around these quarter acre fenced in rocket launch pads was as normal as it could be to a grade schooler.

I believe I was 12 when they took old H-7 out, dismantled it and imploded the silo after the first START treaty was signed but the fence still stands to this day along with an odd cement cylinder about 200 yards away still capped with rusting steel lid with the paint flaking away still containing barely visible writing warning any who may encounter this cold war relic that “Under Penalty of the US Government, Do Not Remove”

This lonesome sentinel still guarding the prairie and reminding us a bygone era of paranoia and mutually assured destruction rekindled my attention on a recent trip home.  With some research and a friend in very high places I was able to learn that what we were dealing with here is called an Azimuth Marker.

After reading about Azimuth on Wikipedia I have more questions than answers but here is what i found.

An azimuth, meaning “a way, a part, or quarter is an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. The vector from an observer to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane; the angle between the projected vector and a reference vector on the reference plane is called the azimuth.

An example is the position of a star in the sky. The star is the point of interest, the reference plane is the horizon or the surface of the sea, and the reference vector points north. The azimuth is the angle between the north vector and the perpendicular projection of the star down onto the horizon.

Simple right?

But basically if you are looking to launch a missiles from one side of the globe to the other (spherical navigation) Azimuth is pretty damn important.

To further expound on the purpose of the concrete azimuth markers, the early Minuteman and Minuteman II systems included an actual sighting tube located down in the silo equipment room area. 

The early Minuteman of which this one was, was aimed, or aligned with Polaris (The North Star) and also pointed North towards it’s then intended target. (Not Canada) 

The azimuth (or alignment markers as they were commonly called) were located from 1,000 to 1,500 feet from a missile silo. This distance was the optimal distance to reduce optical error.  The monuments were constructed of reinforced concrete, averaged 4 feet to 10 feet above ground, and were buried at least 10 feet in the ground.  

To properly align, or sight-in the missile, a very accurate surveying instrument called a theodolite was used, which measured azimuth, degrees, minutes, seconds, arc, etc.

So before we all had GPS on our phones (and missiles) our country had the ability to launch a spaceship sized rocket from Western South Dakota out of our atmosphere, over the North Pole bringing three 500 kiloton warheads each down into Russia undoubtedly bringing unimaginable destruction and the end of modern civilization with it and they were aiming it with a scope.

And the scope looks like this. (pictures below)

There are still 450 of these bad boys buried around the great plains, I wonder if the air force even has that many Theodolites left?

If you didn’t happen to grow up playing cowboys and indians around a Nuclear missile silo and would like to find out more information about the Minuteman II or the history of the biggest, baddest part of our Nuclear Triad you can visit the National Historic Site off Interstate 90 Exit 131 in Western South Dakota near Badlands National Park, or visit them on the web at http://www.nps.gov/mimi/index.htm

* Parts of this post totally plagiarized from people who understand this stuff. 

* Photos taken with iPhone 5 near Hereford, South Dakota





New feature on this blog “This is why consultants exist”


It’s true that sometimes political consultants get a bad rap.  But let there be absolutely no doubt that they are necessary.  Left to their own devices, wonderful and well meaning men and women regularly do some of the craziest things when running for office.  I have nearly a decade of examples and I’m planning to begin trickling them out.

I have resisted posting many of these but what I saw today changed my mind.  I now have an  obligation to generations of candidates to come to showcase common mistakes.

*Disclaimer – Please be respectful to these folks, rookie campaign mistakes are not uncommon.

For our first ever entry I give you the announcement 10 minute and 13 second announcement video from Georgia Congressional candidate Brian Slowinski.  Please kids, watch this and don’t ever try to run for congress alone.

Manc-Asian 2012 (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia) with highlight reel


The ManCation Trustees and I (plus one rookie) packed our backpacks last month and once again went abroad for Thanksgiving 2012.  We took opposite paths to get there (DCA->Detroit->Seoul->BKK for me, while the rest of the guys went through Doha, Qatar en route to Southeast Asia.  We visited Bangkok, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia over 9 days.

We spoiled ourselves this trip staying almost exclusively at very high end hotels from the Sofitel brand and took short flights between the cities.

As far as travel videos go, last year I took along my Flip Ultra HD but this year it stayed home, I wanted to finish the video in 1080p in Final Cut Pro X (I am getting better and better at it) so I packed my recently purchased a Canon T3i DSLR with a new 40mm Canon pancake lens (that I love).  The canon footage (which is too shaky for the most part (because i shot in 24 fps instead of 30 / Rookie Mistake) and iPhone 5 video is pretty good now, so armed with a DSLR and 5 iPhone’s we documented the trip very well and brought back around 150 minutes of raw footage from the 9 day trip, a lot of great moments wound up on the cutting room floor but below is what we thing is a fantastic 5 minute highlight video of our trip.  You will not be bored.  Turn up your speakers and Enjoy.

Next Year will be South America, Africa or New Zealand/Australia.

Safe travels.


DIY Attitude Helps Republican Strategist Stand Out


DIY Attitude Helps Republican Strategist Stand Out

In its first election cycle, Casey Phillips’ RedPrint Strategy produced ads for the NRCC’s independent expenditure arm

Kyle Trygstad/CQ Roll Call


Casey Phillips was listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall, 264 pounds, on the University of Wyoming football roster a dozen years ago, so it wasn’t difficult to spot him last week as he strolled through the revolving door of a restaurant in Arlington, Va.

The former offensive lineman, who just turned 32, is the owner of RedPrint Strategy media firm and is among the vanguard of young Republican strategists looking to steer the GOP on a path of electoral success in the 21st century. In his first cycle as a media consultant, Phillips earned a coveted spot in the stable of consultants for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s independent expenditure arm and produced ads in top races in California and Nevada.

In 2011, rather than join an established firm after spending the previous two cycles as a regional political director at the Republican State Leadership Committee and as an NRCC field representative, Phillips veered onto the road less traveled and struck out on his own.

“I had some good offers at some very good firms to be a junior partner, but I sort of wanted to do it a little differently,” Phillips said. “That’s the decision I made — to really do it my own way.”

Phillips is conservative, but not particularly ideological. He’s competitive, yet easygoing. He’s relatively new to the ad-making game, but he dived headfirst into the 2012 cycle and is now aiming to expand his congressional clientele for the 2014 midterms.

Cattle Rancher

Sporting a red flannel shirt, dark jeans and brown cowboy boots, Phillips spoke softly between sips of iced tea as he ran through his bio. His roots are unique, even in a town filled with folks from everywhere else.

Phillips grew up on a South Dakota cattle ranch that’s been in his family for more than 100 years. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, sometimes commuting on horseback, until his parents decided he needed to attend a high school in town to fully realize his athletic ability. They bought a small house 50 miles away in Sturgis, where he lived during the school week.

After two years as a walk-on at Wyoming, Phillips transferred back in-state to Augustana College in Sioux Falls on a scholarship, started at center and served as team captain. Phillips, then with locks falling below his shoulders, also played bass guitar in a rock band.

After attending a meeting one day with the College Republicans, Phillips volunteered on former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby’s gubernatorial campaign, and later that year he scored a gig as a South Dakota Victory field representative, assisting then-Rep. John Thune’s first Senate campaign.

“That’s where the bug really bit me that made me want to get into politics,” Phillips said. “I met so many great people on that campaign and understood how a campaign worked and that it was a way for me to have my competitive outlet continue even after sports was over.”

In the Trenches

The bug delayed his graduation date by a couple of years, as Phillips took semesters off to work on campaigns. The first was in 2004 as political director on the Texas congressional campaign of Lyle Thorstenson, where he put together his first get-out-the-vote operation.

After the unsuccessful primary, media consultant Sonny Scott recommended Phillips move to southwest Virginia to serve the same role in Kevin Triplett’s congressional campaign for the general. Afterward, the NRCC asked him to help with now-Rep. Charles Boustany Jr.’s runoff in Louisiana.

Phillips finished his degree in spring 2005 before GOP operative Ward Baker asked him to run Anne B. Crockett-Stark’s campaign for Virginia delegate — his first race as campaign manager. On a shoestring budget, Phillips lived in an abandoned gas station, and the campaign was run out of a condemned house, where he laid down a linoleum floor and painted the walls.

The Red Jeep

As Phillips crisscrossed the country for campaigns, followed by field work for the NRCC and RSLC, the one constant was his 1999 red Jeep Grand Cherokee. After a dozen campaigns and nearly 200,000 miles, the SUV has been through a lot — it’s on its second engine, transmission and driver-side bucket seat, and the ceiling is completely covered in campaign stickers.

As he regularly does, Phillips had to jump-start the Jeep last week when he took CQ Roll Call on a quick spin. The engine’s screeching moan leaves the impression it might be suffering through its final days, but after his rookie season as a media consultant, Phillips is just getting started.

“I wasn’t going to be able to pitch against [GOP consultant heavyweights] Mike McElwain and Scott Howell and Fred Davis for congressional clients, but I could sure go to Mississippi and pitch against whoever was doing stuff down there for state Senate clients,” Phillips said.

RedPrint’s first ad ever, in 2011, was for a Mississippi agriculture commissioner candidate. It earned the firm a Pollie Award, which led to work for the NRCC and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Phillips’ home-state congresswoman.

The Jeep made a cameo in an NRCC ad against Rep.-elect Steven Horsford, D-Nev. An actor playing Horsford crashed a car into the Jeep and then drove off, part of an ad campaign arguing that Horsford played by his own rules.

Another NRCC ad Phillips produced against a few California Democrats riffed on John Hancock ads that featured no talking — just people texting or chatting online to convey the message. The format allowed Phillips to shoot the ad before the Supreme Court ruled on the health care law in June, then slide in the text based on whatever happened. The court upheld the law on a Thursday, Phillips finished the ads in a few hours, and the NRCC launched the inexpensive campaign the following Monday.

“In a world that’s filled with consultants and vendors, he’s found a way to stick out amongst the crowd very quickly,” said Brian O. Walsh, president of the American Action Network and a friend of Phillips. “He’s part of this universe of the next generation of folks that are stepping into the marketplace.”

Team Effort

Phillips has no formal filmmaking training, so he read textbooks and attended film expos and even the Sundance Film Festival. He bought a high-powered RED Scarlet camera, and he’s currently working on a screenplay as an exercise to improve the dialogue in his ad scripts.

“I’m not some sort of genius by any stretch of the imagination,” Phillips said. “I’m a country boy from South Dakota. I think that I understand politics a little bit and I’ve certainly paid my dues in the trenches, but these ads are huge team efforts, and a lot of people are involved.”

Phillips relied on strategic partnerships, including with 8112 Studios, which is known for music videos, not political work. The partnership fit into Phillips’ effort to stand out. In that vein, he’s also hoping to help the GOP reach the next generation of voters, which Phillips believes is fundamental to its problem attracting minority voters.

“We have a marketing problem, which is something that I want to try to fix and I’m excited about,” Phillips said. “Because politics of division just don’t work anymore. And it’s too bad that they ever did.”

When he wasn’t on the road, Phillips worked out of a bedroom in his Arlington, Va., apartment. The lack of overhead helped the fledgling firm stay “light and nimble,” he said, but he’s looking to open an office and get some of the “bells and whistles” of a traditional media firm.

“This year,” Phillips said, “I’m going to certainly be more confident going into pitches against those established media firms, because I have a reel that’s sellable even against the best. I didn’t have that two years ago.”


Campaigns And Elections Magazine 2012 “Rising Stars” – Casey Phillips


Casey Phillips RedPrint 2012

Casey Phillips, 31, Republican

Founder, RedPrint Strategies

Anne Crockett-Stark was just the scrappy, upstart challenger that Casey Phillips gravitated to early in his career. During her first race for the Virginia House of Delegates the flame-haired Republican, who boasted a distant relation to frontiersman Davy Crockett, was considered a long shot. “I totally threw everything I had into that race. I actually lived in a gas station,” says Phillips, chuckling. “An abandoned gas station.” The South Dakota native, who started in 2002 with Sen. John Thune, rolled into Wytheville in his sticker plastered Jeep Cherokee and got to work recruiting volunteers. At the time, Phillips’ bass player-length long hair was a hit at campus parities.

“We had a very robust GOTV effort,” he recalls. In the heart of Virginia coal country, Phillips helped put Crockett-Stark over the top. The victory was dubbed a “Southern Surprise” and earned Phillips some notoriety. In fact, it’s what got him hired to manage Van Taylor’s 2006 race against then-Waco Rep. Chet Edwards (D) in the Texas 17th.

The NRCC came calling after that. They wanted him for a senior field position, but didn’t have the budget to hire him until the following year. Instead of waiting by the phone, Phillips went south to Mississippi. There he took charge of Delbert Hosemann’s secretary of state campaign and took Hosemann from third place to first with a brilliant TV ad that featured an old lady sitting on a bench messing up the name Delbert. “It opened my eyes to the power of a really good, creative political ad,” he says.

Video production was something Phillips had an interest ever since “Dances with Wolves” was filmed near the century-old family ranch where he grew up. “One of my earliest memories is being on that set,” he says. “Fast forward 20 years and I go to work at the NRCC as a regional field director.” He worked the 2008 cycle as a kind of Mr. Wolf of the political world, standing up House challenger campaigns around the country. Two years later, he spent 200 nights on the road for state-level candidates on behalf of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

As Phillips moved to establish himself as a media consultant, many of those ambitious politicians became his clients. “I concentrate really hard on writing and producing top quality ads that tell a story,” he says. “Every time you do a good ad you get more phone calls.”

Beyond The Chair “The Story of One Man’s Extrordinary Journey”


Beyond the Chair

We attended the world premier of “Beyond The Chair” hosted by the Christopher Reeves foundation in Hollywood last month and I urge you to pick up your own copy as soon as possible, this film is more than the sum of it’s parts, Beyond the Chair is a truly inspiring documentary about Andrew Shelley, his fight against Muscular Dystrophy and his desire to actually live his life on his terms.  Against the urging of his doctors but with the support of his family Andrew takes off on a once in a lifetime trip, traveling backpacker style across Oceania and Asia with the help of his souped up wheelchair and friendly strangers who turn into friends along the way.  Through the eyes of filmmakers Dustin Duprel and Rachel Pands we are treated to both beautiful images of off the beaten path destinations and are witness the struggles, temptation, logistics, emotion, human nature and ultimately life changing triumphs of one man with extraordinary challenges living his life on his terms.  This is a must see film for anyone who has ever said “I can’t”.

The film is being distributed by Intention Media LLC follow (this link) to pick up your copy or find a showing.


Turkey for Thanksgiving a Travel Log


The guys and I packed our backpacks last month and headed to Istanbul, Ephesus, and Izmir, Turkey for Thanksgiving.  I took along my Flip Ultra HD and brought back around 110 minutes of raw footage from the 9 day trip, a lot of great moments wound up on the cutting room floor but below is the 6 minute short video of our trip.  Enjoy