In 2014, actor Steven Lang took a trip around the world to tell the stories of America’s bravest troops to their brothers in arms — a one-man road show that artfully recounted the stories of eight servicemembers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who were bestowed with America’s highest honor for valor.
During the trip — which saw Lang perform in front of troops in Afghanistan, at bases in the U.S., and aboard ships at sea — Lang documented his time before the audience and tells that story in his new film Beyond Glory.
Combining the intimacy of stage with state-of-the-art computer graphics, Beyond Glory is a synthesis of cinema and theater, giving moviegoers the experience of watching a live performance from the best seat in the house.
Lang brings alive the heroism, bravery, and courage of past war heroes in a way few artists have been able to capture on stage.
Written by Steven Lang and produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau, Jim Carpenter and Ross Satterwhite, Beyond Glory is set for release October 4.
He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.
Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.
His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):
This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.
With a twist.
Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.
It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.
When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.
Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.
A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.
Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.
Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it.
It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.
It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:
1. The “American Sniper” controversy
The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.
As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.
2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa
In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.
“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial
The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.
In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.
4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record
Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:
“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”
The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”
5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again
In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.
6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train
In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.
As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.
7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs
The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.
8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War
In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.
9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units
The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart
The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.
The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.
11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.
12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017
They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.
The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.
13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data
In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.
One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.
14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.
Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.
15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS
In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor
More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.
A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.
A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.
The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.
The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.
An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.
Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team. One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.
The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.
There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.
“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.
“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.
The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.
When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.
Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.
That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.
Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.
“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.
He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.
The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.
Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.
Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.
When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.
Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.
And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.
At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.
But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.
The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.
They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.
There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.
The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.
After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.
The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.
A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.
The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.
When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.
The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.
The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.
The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.
The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.
The F-15 Eagle has been around in one form or another since entering service with the United States Air Force in 1973. It has an excellent combat record of over 100 air-to-air kills with very few combat losses.
But at the same time, the world’s not been standing still. Russia has developed the Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-35 family of Flankers, and they are proving very deadly. China has the J-11/J-15/J-16 family of Flankers as well.
Boeing, though, hasn’t thrown in the towel. The F-15SE, or F-15 Silent Eagle, is a stealthier version of the legendary Eagle. This is accomplished by putting the many weapons that the F-15E Strike Eagle can carry into conformal bays, thus eliminating their radar signatures.
With reports that the Air Force is planning to retire the F-15C/D Eagles, the air superiority mission could now fall almost entirely on the F-22 Raptors — and with the production line stopped at 187 of those planes, the Silent Eagle could help fill the gap. In any case, the F-15SE could be an option for folks who can’t afford — or don’t want to wait for — the F-35.
Take a look at this video from FlightGlobal on the F-15SE, an Eagle that could be around for a long time.
Jeff Slater was an Army small weapons expert who served in Iraq. He later volunteered for route clearance duty where his job was to intentionally run over IEDs.
On his return home, Slater struggled with depression and feelings of isolation. But he stayed focused on the goal of finding his own enlightenment.
Slater has many striking tattoos, including one on his chest of a hand grenade with wings and the word “Serenity” above it.
“I see the world as a balance between beauty and hate,” Slater says. “Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm. It’s finding peace amidst the storm.”
Slater’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada. It was a “no-notice” invasion for the U.S. troops that deployed there. Here are eight facts about this small but potent combat operation.
1. Urgent Fury avenged the death of Grenada’s Marxist Prime Minister.
Maurice Bishop came to power after a coup in 1979. His revolutionary government banned other political parties and was led by a Marxist committee. When Bishop refused to share power four years later, he was arrested and executed.
2. The U.S. was invited to intervene.
The Governor-General of Grenada, Paul Scoon, was also arrested during the coup and held under house arrest. When Bishop was executed, Scoon understandably freaked out a little. As Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s appointed representative, he had little real authority, except for a constitutional provision that allowed him to appeal to other nations for help. He soon asked the U.S. to intervene. When the invasion began, Navy SEALs came to his aid.
3. It was a Coalition invasion force.
The invasion was led by the United States, of course, but other Eastern Caribbean countries were also in the invasion force. the Regional Security System was formed from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines all assisted in the takeover of Grenada’s government. Grenada was also a member of the OECS before the 1983 coup.
4. Rangers led the way in Grenada.
The 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions along with special operations troops and Air Force Combat Controllers captured Point Salines on Oct. 25, 1983 in a large-scale combat jump. By Nov. 3, the invasion was over and hostilities ended.
5. U.S. troops faced Cuban soldiers for the first time.
Cuban-American relations soured after Fidel Castro’s Communist takeover. Events like the 1962 Missile Crisis and Cuban support for Communist ventures abroad only exacerbated the relationship, but the two forces never engaged each other in direct combat – until Grenada. Of the 772 Cuban troops deployed there, Havana suffered 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 captured.
6. Only one military movie features Urgent Fury.
The story of surrounded U.S. troops on the island who called back to the States to get some artillery support was not only true, it was retold on the silver screen. In “Heartbreak Ridge” it was Gunnery Sgt. Highway’s Marines who called back. The SEALs say it was one of theirs, while others believe it was an Army officer.
7. The UH-60 saw action for the first time.
Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters prepare to touch down next to the Point Salines Airport runway during Operation Urgent Fury. (DoD photo)
It was a trial by fire for the UH-60, as the now-iconic Black Hawk helicopter was first introduced by the Army in 1979. Urgent Fury would be the first operation use of the aircraft against an enemy in combat. The new aircraft was “faster and quieter” than previous transports and was found to be a “more reliable platform than the UH-1.”
8. It was the first joint operation since Vietnam.
As the story of a U.S. troop calling for air support with a payphone demonstrates, the “joint” aspect of the operation did not go well. The operation was a success despite the failures of service interoperability. Failures in command and control highlighted the need for changes. The Goldwater-Nichols Act restructured the U.S. military based partly on the Grenada invasion’s “deficiencies in the planning and preparation for employment of U.S. military forces in times of crisis.”
The logistics of moving supplies, equipment, and civilian first responders into a disaster area while the storm rages require long, sleepless nights, Herculean effort, and no room for error. And the evacuation of victims before, during, and after the storm passes is dangerous at times.
During Hurricane Matthew, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen all stepped up to help those affected by the devastation. Here are 16 photos that show these brave folks in action:
A GOES-13 satellite image of Hurricane Matthew as it passes over the Bahamas. (U.S. Navy photo)
A South Carolina National Guard’s CH-47F Chinook, heavy-lift, helicopter assigned to Detachment 1, Company B, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion, 59th Aviation Troop Command, lands at the Whale Branch Early College High School and delivers water and food supplies to the community of Seabrook in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 9, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)
Imagine the two most ballsy but also kind of dimwitted members of your squad — the Pvt. Snuffys and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatellis of the world.
Now imagine them in civilian clothes with millions of dollars. Take it one step further and imagine that they have those millions of dollars because they’ve become international arms dealers who sell to the Department of Defense.
That’s what the Warner Bros. movie, “War Dogs” is like. It follows Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two civilians who desperately want to be rich and live the good life. Diveroli is a stoner and the heir to a modest family business re-selling weapons bought at police auctions online. Packouz is his pothead buddy.
These two kids find a way to act as middlemen for the U.S. government when it purchases arms for Iraqi, Afghan and other allied militaries. They go on to fedbizopps.gov — a real website where the government lists available contracts — and try to outbid defense corporations for contracts to provide light bulbs, ammunition and any other supplies the military needs.
Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, party with Packouz’s wife at a company event to celebrate the arms dealers’ successes. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
As their business, AEY Inc., grows, they bid on larger and larger contracts. Without giving any of the movie’s big surprises away, the two gun runners get in over their heads the same way Pvt. Snuffy and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli would. The guy who directed The Hangover, Todd Phillips, also directed War Dogs — and it shows.
Diveroli and Packouz’s misadventures in international arms dealing are a lot of fun to watch as they alternate between partying, firing powerful weapons and getting caught in dangerous jams by their inexperience. In one memorable scene, they’re left racing through the Iraqi desert with a smuggler as insurgents attempt to kill them and steal their cargo — a literal truckload of Beretta pistols.
For obvious reasons, a movie about gun runners during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s spends a bit of time with the U.S. military. While the film doesn’t get everything exactly right, it does seem to capture the spirit of bored soldiers pretty well. A mounted patrol saves the gun runners at one point, but the first driver immediately flips the bird at the stupid civilians he just had to pull out of a jam.
The crux of the movie is a $300-million deal to arm the Afghan security forces for years, a real contract that AEY won in January 2007. That’s where the film gets tense as the bumbling dealers attempt to buy millions of rounds, thousands of missiles and grenades and tons of other equipment from former Soviet Bloc mobsters.
Despite the serious nature of arms dealing, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are funny and enjoyable as Diveroli and Packouz. The movie provides an entertaining look at what goes on behind the scenes to arm both U.S. troops and allies around the world, and delves into the shady underbelly of that world while being fun instead of preachy.
The Pentagon is using more equipment and technology from the civilian sector, but service members have been finding ingenious uses for civilian items for a long time.
1. Detecting tripwires: Silly String
Tripwires have been a problem for centuries, but a modern toy has provided a solution. Silly String can be sprayed through open doors, windows, and other choke points to check for booby traps before soldiers and Marines move through.
2. Stopping bleeding: tampons
Tampons are known for stopping a certain kind of bleeding, but deployed service members realized that small tampons can plug a bullet hole, quickly controlling bleeding while the injured awaits a medical evacuation.
3. Marking bombs: flour and ear plugs
Once a mine or IED is found, its location has to be communicated to others. Some units will draw on the ground with flour from a squeeze bottle, making symbols that say the type of danger and its location.
Flour doesn’t work well in wet environments or anywhere the ground is a light beige or dirty white. There, disposable ear plugs can work better. Mine clearance will find a mine and drop a brightly colored ear plug on it. Soldiers following behind them know to watch out for these markers.
4. Cleaning weapons: baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers
Weapons maintenance is important, but good materials can be hard to find. Still, some of the best cleaning can be done with baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers. They’re used to wipe down surfaces, get to hard to reach areas, and remove burnt on carbon, respectively.
5. Sewing: dental floss
When uniforms rip, soldiers away from a base have to personally fix them. Dental floss is strong, easy to work with, and available to troops at the front. To make a sewing kit, troops throw floss in a cleaned out mint or dip can along with a couple of sewing needles.
6. Waterproofing: Soap dish or condoms
A service member’s poncho should keep their gear dry, but even recruits in boot camp know better. Wallets, maps, and notebooks are better protected in a soap travel dish. When a dish isn’t available or an awkward items needs protected, condoms can be unrolled over them. This technique works well for waterproofing boots before crossing a stream.
7. Cleaning radio contacts: pencil eraser
This one is so effective, it’s become official Army doctrine. The contact points where microphones or antennas meet with a radio can become tarnished and dirty. Erasers can get these spotless quickly, something which has been incorporated into Army manuals such as Field Manual 44-48, “Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Sensor Platoon.”
8. Making terrain models: marking chalk
Marking chalk is that chalk contractors use with string to mark exactly where a wire should run or a cut should be made. The chalk doesn’t come attached to the string though, it comes in 5-gallon jugs. The military, which has to build sand tables that represent the terrain in their area of operations, realized they could use different colors of this chalk to make different colored sand. Water can be represented with blue, vegetation with green, and hazardous areas with red or yellow.
It’s probably a tale as old as the military itself, but even the anonymity of the online marketplace couldn’t keep these alleged military conspirators from getting nabbed by the feds for pinching combat gear for resale on the outside.
The United States Attorney’s Office for Middle Tennessee indicted six Fort Campbell soldiers Oct. 6 for allegedly selling more than $1 million worth of military equipment they’d stolen from the base to buyers on eBay. The feds say the soldiers stole sensitive items, including body armor, sniper optics and flight helmets and sold them to anonymous bidders — some they say were in foreign countries.
“Homeland Security considers the national security interests of our nation among our top priorities,” said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer, who helped with the investigation. “It’s especially disturbing when we identify corrupted members of our military who undermine the welfare of this this country, so we, along with our law enforcement partners, shall continue to aggressively investigate this type of criminal activity.”
The indictment charges each defendant with conspiring to steal or receive U.S. Army property and to sell or convey U.S. Army property without authority. The civilian defendants were charged with additional counts of wire fraud, money laundering and violating the Arms Export Control Act. One was also charged with three counts of selling or conveying U.S. Army property without authority.
“Those who compromise the safety of the American public and our military personnel in the interest of greed will be held accountable for their actions,” IRS investigator Tracey D. Montaño said.
The Justice Department says each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy charge. The civilians face up to 20 years for each for wire fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act and an additional 20 years on the money laundering charges. The defendants also face forfeiture of the proceeds of their crimes.