The special event included behind the scenes footage that showed the magic behind moviemaking and the experience of working on such a riveting story.
“This was my first big roll on a big major film, so for me it was an amazing experience,” said Navy veteran-turned actor Ricky Ryba. “You’d actually be really surprised with the similarities in the military and how things are run on set. To me, that relates to the chain of command. I was used to that, and just the professionalism that you get in the military. You bring it over to the set and they love it.”
Most of the veterans who attended the screening loved the movie, and the QA that offered a behind-the-scenes view into the moviemaking process.
“The QA was amazing, for me as a veteran and how it relates to my experience, I got a lot out of it,” one veteran said.
“The Hurt Locker” is a classic American war film, an Academy Award winner, and an entertaining tour de force that wowed civilian audiences when it hit theaters in 2008.
Keyword: civilian audiences. For many military viewers, the film was rife with glaring technical errors. From just about every angle — dialogue, storylines, and uniforms — the problems with the movie made it very hard for soldiers to watch without cringing nearly every minute. Of course, it’s Hollywood, and they can’t get everything right.
But it’s still fun to look back and see just how many things were wrong. We watched it and compiled a massive listing of everything (with some extra help from some real-live Army EOD techs we talked to). Maybe this could be a fun drinking game. Or, as you’ll see by how many problems there are, a very dangerous drinking game. On second thought, let’s put the beer down.
Here we go (with timestamps):
The movie starts off by introducing us to soldiers of Delta Co., with no further specifics on the exact unit. Army EOD companies aren’t called by phonetic names like “Alpha,” “Charlie,” and “Delta.” They are numbered, usually with a number in the 700s.
:30 U.S. Army soldiers are wearing the digital ACU (Army Combat Uniform) that wasn’t used until at least Feb. 2005. The setting is Baghdad in 2004. Thirty seconds in and already a really big one. Great start.
1:00 Multiple soldiers are seen with sleeves rolled up over their elbows. This is totally against Army regs, but soldiers are seen throughout the film like this.
4:20 The wagon carrying the explosives to blow the IED in place breaks down. Instead of using the claw on the robot to pick up the charges, Staff Sgt. Thompson suits up and goes to hand carry it. Not even the dumbest EOD tech would do this.
5:39 No reticle pattern is seen when Sgt. Sanborn looks through his scope, which is a Trijicon ACOG sight.
6:30 An Iraqi man gets extremely close to a soldier standing security. Moments before this, the street was bustling with onlookers and there were other soldiers and Iraqi security forces around. Now it’s totally empty, which begs the question: Why are only three soldiers left guarding this bomb?
10:28 Sgt. Sanborn seen with cuffed sleeves.
10:45 Sgt. Sanborn’s collar is popped. That’s not the style around here, man.
11:05 Sgt. 1st Class James’ dog tags are hanging out of his shirt. He’s supposed to be a staff non-commissioned officer, not a private just disregarding the regulations.
12:00 This is Baghdad 2004, when the insurgency is really starting to get rough, and we have a single Humvee rolling through Baghdad all alone. Seems a bit far-fetched, although an EOD tech did tell us it’s possible.
13:40 Sgt. 1st Class James is wearing an old green Battle Dress Uniform camouflage helmet and body armor. Every other soldier wears the matching ACU gear (although this is still incorrect for the time period). He also has both his sleeves rolled up past his elbows.
13:45 Sgt. Sanborn is wearing silver designer sunglasses. Glasses are required to be brown or black, and non-reflective.
14:40 A bunch of soldiers just abandon their Humvee in the middle of Baghdad? And it’s still running? What the hell?
15:28 James greets other soldiers with “morning, boys” to which one responds “Sir.” Soldiers only say “sir” or “ma’am” to officers, not enlisted ranks. There’s also a soldier seen wearing shoulder armor, which wasn’t introduced until 2007/2008.
15:45 A soldier asks James if he wants to talk to an informant who apparently knows the location of the IED and more details about it. But he doesn’t care to talk to him. Why would an EOD tech ignore having more information about what he’s dealing with?
18:15 James pops a smoke grenade to “create a diversion.” Smoke grenades are to cover movement, not to create a diversion. If no one was looking at you before, they are certainly looking at you now.
18:22 I know he’s supposed to be a “rebel” but when fellow soldiers are screaming frantically over the radio and asking you what is going on, you should probably answer.
18:38 He finally responds over the radio.
18:55 Seven to eight soldiers are all standing around this Humvee in the middle of the street, not providing any security or looking for potential threats.
18:56 A soldier in the turret is not even covering his sector of fire and doesn’t even have the .50 caliber pointed down the main alleyway.
19:05 Another soldier is seen wearing designer sunglasses.
19:06 An Iraqi-driven car just drives right through a bunch of soldiers who don’t attempt to stop it, fire warning shots, or do anything other than jump out of the way.
19:19 The car doesn’t stop for seven soldiers pointing M-16 rifles at him, but it does stop because James points his pistol at him. Makes sense.
20:30 James fires shots around the car, hits and destroys the windshield, then points his gun at the Iraqi’s head and tells him to get back. You would think he would want to search this guy or his car before sending him right back into seven soldiers who could be potentially blown up by a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED).
24:40 Yes, ok. Let’s just pull up on the big red wires holding together six bombs (and does this even make sense from an enemy perspective? Why would you daisy-chain all these huge bombs to potentially kill one guy? One bomb is gonna do it).
27:14 Spc. Eldridge is seen playing “Gears of War” on an Xbox 360. The Xbox didn’t come out until 2005, and “Gears of War” didn’t come out until 2006. But the setting is supposed to be Baghdad in 2004.
29:02 A soldier is seen walking by with sleeves rolled up over his elbows and with a white or silver watch. Very tactical.
29:59 Oh, of course! Another soldier with rolled-up sleeves.
31:39 Five soldiers just stand out in the middle of street and open fire on an enemy sniper. Instead of, you know, getting behind some cover first.
32:31 James uses a single fire extinguisher to put out a car that is fully engulfed in flames. He’s like Rambo with unlimited ammo here. And why are you sticking around a car that is probably rigged with explosives that is on fire?!!?!
34:50 James puts on a headset that is supposedly a radio. It doesn’t have a microphone or is even connected in any way to a radio. It’s basically a big set of ear muffs (and no, it’s not connected to a throat mic). Also, he’s defusing bombs that could be set off by, well, radios. Most EOD techs won’t even wear radios while they are working on bombs.
36:26 Another scope view, but with no reticle pattern.
40:05 Scope view, no reticle pattern.
40:11 Sanborn waves at Iraqis with his left hand. This is a sign of disrespect in the Arab world, since the left hand is associated with dirtiness.
42:59 Sanborn punches James in the face. He would be court-martialed or at least receive an Article 15 for this. Or, maybe, James could react in some way, shape, or form?
43:30 A full-bird colonel is walking around Baghdad with his eye protection dangling off his body armor, instead of on his face. If anyone is going to be wearing eyepro (and setting an example for junior troops), it’s this guy.
43:45 A colonel praising a sergeant first class for being a “wild man” and operating like he did is highly unlikely. Instead, a colonel would probably be jumping on him for not only his insane behavior, but his out-of-regs appearance, to include sleeves, not wearing a helmet, and not having eye-pro.
44:55 As James smokes a cigarette on the forward operating base, “left, right, left, right” cadence can be heard in the background. Who the hell is calling marching cadence on a FOB in Iraq?
46:55 Oh, now there’s a colonel with rolled-up sleeves.
48:25 The team does a controlled detonation. James is exposed, as is Sanborn. None of them wear earplugs or even plug their ears with their fingers. James is actually wearing iPod headphones. Just to let you know: The big boom is freaking loud.
49:00 James drives away from the team. They aren’t on the FOB, so where the hell are their weapons?
49:45 The two soldiers discuss “accidentally” blowing up James as he goes close to the controlled det site and how all that would be left would be his helmet. Luckily, James isn’t wearing his helmet. Because really, why would he?
50:43 Again, you’re in the middle of Iraq, and rolling in just one Humvee.
51:20 They see armed men so they pull over and then Sanborn and James both get out from behind cover and start walking forward yelling for them to put their guns down. Wouldn’t you want them to do that part before you expose yourself?
55:48 The Brit contractor gets handed the Barrett to try and find the enemy sniper. On this ledge, with the kickback from the gun, he would be guaranteed to be pushed back and fall right on his back after firing.
57:54 The Brit gets shot while manning the Barrett. The enemy sniper uses a Dragunov, which has a maximum effective range of 800m. He’s shooting from more than 850 meters away (according to James, who calls the range later in this scene).
57:55 After the Brit is shot while manning the Barrett, Sanborn and James go up and get in the exact same spot. That seems like a bright idea. Further, why are two soldiers who would be unfamiliar with this weapon jumping on it, instead of another contractor?
58:15 How does an EOD guy just get up and get behind a complicated sniper rifle anyway? It’s not a video game.
1:01:00 An insurgent takes up a laying down on the side firing position with zero cover. LOL/WTF?
1:02:00 Sanborn hits this same insurgent after he starts running away. Not only does he hit a moving target, but he hits him in the head. At 850 meters. It’s quite obvious that Sanborn got his sniper training uploaded directly to his brain via The Matrix.
1:07:40 Eldridge takes out an enemy insurgent by firing half of his magazine in rapid succession. What happened to well-aimed shots?
1:08 The team gets drunk together in their room and fights each other. This is a big fraternization no-no? Also, U.S. troops are not allowed to drink or have alcohol in Iraq or Afghanistan, and one alcohol-related incident could mean an EOD tech loses their badge (and gets kicked completely out of the job).
1:14:37 The team stumbles around the FOB drunk. That’s not abnormal or anything, and an officer, senior enlisted leader, or even fellow soldiers wouldn’t find that weird or get them in trouble. Nothing to see here, move along.
1:16:50 The team heads outside the wire again. Why is Eldridge basically the only soldier ever wearing his eye protection?
1:17:00 An EOD team is clearing buildings now?
1:29:45 James asks a Pfc. about a merchant. The Pfc. addresses a Sgt. 1st Class as “man.”
1:31:33 James dons a hoodie, carries only a pistol, and hijacks the merchant’s truck, telling him to drive outside the base. This is quite possibly the biggest WTF of the entire movie. At this point, every soldier watching this movie is face-palming.
1:32:25 Did I mention that James has now jumped over an Iraqi compound wall, all alone in the middle of Baghdad? With just a pistol.
1:34:53 James starts running through a busy Iraqi neighborhood. He puts on his hoodie to be less conspicuous. As if his camouflage pants don’t give it away.
1:35:00 After a tense exchange at the front gate to the FOB, James is searched and then the soldiers guarding the gate just let him back in. He’s shown at his room a short time later, so I guess he’s not getting in trouble for going outside the wire without authorization.
1:41:00 The team decides to leave the blast site and go search for the bomber in the dark. They have night-vision goggle mounts on their helmets, but they don’t use NVG’s. Their natural night vision must be superhuman.
1:50:06 If the guy has a bomb on him, it would probably be a good idea for the seven soldiers standing out in the middle of the road to take cover behind something.
In the first Democratic Primary debate of 2015, former Senator Jim Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam, was asked about the enemies he made in his political career of whom he’s most proud. Webb alluded to a Vietnamese solider who threw a grenade at him. Webb doesn’t say it explicitly, but that guy is probably dead.
Webb wasn’t kidding. He was awarded the Navy Cross for that action. His citation is up on the Military Times’ Hall of Valor.
“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant James H. Webb, Jr. (MCSN: 0-106180), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb’s platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker. By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”
The former senator from Virginia is a understandably a longtime supporter of the military-veteran community. He was the chief architect of what would become known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
With at least five littoral combat ships needing time in the repair yard after engineering problems, and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) suffering her own power plant problems, the Navy took another hit when USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) ended up on the binnacle list as well.
According to a report by USNI News, the 16,000-ton destroyer suffered a seawater leak in an auxiliary system for one of the ship’s propeller shafts. The destroyer is currently undergoing repairs at Norfolk Navy Yard. The repairs are expected to take up to two weeks.
The Zumwalt has had other issues – the new integrated power system caused extensive delay – and was cut from a planned purchase of 32 destroyers to three. Each ship in the class is armed with two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, the largest guns to see Navy service since the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships. The vessels also carry 30-millimeter Mk 46 Bushmaster II chain guns, and twenty four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems. They have a top speed of over 30 knots.
The three vessels being built with cutting-edge technology will cost a total of $22 billion, including $9.6 billion for RD. Each of the three hulls, therefore, is bearing $3.2 billion in RD costs. Had the original 32 ships been procured, the per-ship RD burden would have been only $300 million per ship.
The cut in program size nearly led to the entire cancellation of the program under Nunn-McCurdy, which requires that the Department of Defense notify Congress if unit cost exceeds estimates by 15 percent. When the unit cost exceeds estimates by 25 percent, Nunn-McCurdy requires that the program is to be terminated unless DOD can certify that certain conditions have been met.
In a release about the incident, the Navy noted, “Repairs like these are not unusual in first-of-class ships during underway periods following construction.”
Last year Wing Nut Wick published a compilation of the best Naval aviation footage captured from the cockpits of Navy jets called Hornet Ball 2014. This year a similar video compilation surfaced from Navy West Coast squadrons published by Joe Stephens.
In similar fashion, some of the most incredible Hornet footage was captured in HD and paired with some of the sickest EDM beats (Electronic Dance Music). The latest version features precision video editing and could stand on its own as a music video. Too bad MTV no longer plays that sort of stuff; it would surely give any artist in the top 20 list a run for their money.
It opens with a breathtaking flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) that perfectly displays the might of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. There’s nothing like a floating fortress of freedom that projects power over any horizon.
It follows the Aviation Ordnancemen (AOs) — the sailors in red jerseys — loading the Hornets with bombs.
The plane captain — sailors in brown jerseys — gives the pilot a greeting salute before the officer proceeds to his final plane check before climbing into the cockpit. It is the plane captain’s responsibility to have the jet ready to fly. These men and women are usually some of the youngest in a squadron.
After all of the preflight inspections, the Hornet is handed off to the ship’s aircraft handlers in yellow jerseys for launch positioning.
Final flight systems check.
Full afterburners and FIRE!
The footage is awesome! Here’s a screen grab from the cockpit.
Refueling in mid air.
Refueling up close.
Super slo-mo firing.
You’ll never see a sunset quite like this.
Approaching the flight deck.
A breakaway into the sunset.
A missile launch from a destroyer.
A daring landing in thick fog.
An incredible flyby viewed from the air.
A view of Mount Fuji.
From the flight deck to the insane aerial acrobatics from our finest men and women, this video truly captures the Navy fighter experience. The video is 13 minutes long but it’s worth watching.
In order to combat versatile enemies who are not only able to acquire US weapons and vehicles but emulate tactics as well, the US military needs to take advantage of the latest advances from the defense industry.
But just as the military and its branches all have unique missions, the individual units within the military are also issued equipment geared towards fulfilling their respective jobs.
One such unit from the special forces community may very well be receiving the latest offering from SkyRunner, a company that specializes in utility vehicles and light sport aviation.
This all-terrain vehicle has the ability to take off from indigenous runways and transform into a light-sports aircraft using a parafoil wing. Reaching ground speeds of up to 70 mph and flight speeds of 40 mph, the SkyRunner can transport 2 occupants 240 miles, or 120 nautical miles, at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The latest model of SkyRunner, equipped with a carbon-fiber body, will cost about $139,000.
After receiving FAA approval in June, a SkyRunner representative explained in an interview with Business Insider that they received interest and a verbal commitment from the US special forces community.
“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” said SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell. “Going off of a loading dock 4-5 feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”
Rather than being offensively oriented, Mitchell explained that a military-grade SkyRunner would be primarily used for surveillance or recovery missions.
SkyRunner could not comment on what the commitment specifically entailed, or which branch of the military expressed interest in their vehicle.
Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.
But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?
1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.
2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.
3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.
4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.
5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.
6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…
7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.
8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.
9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …
10. …and long hikes.
11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.
12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.
13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.
14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.
15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.
16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.
17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.
Whenever the Pentagon sends troops abroad it’s about demonstrating resolve, reassuring allies or confronting potential opponents – or some combination of all three. But for the A-10 Warthogs and their crews in the Philippines, their biggest message might be one for critics back home.
On April 16, the U.S. Air Force announced that four of the venerable ground attack jets would remain in the Philippines after taking part in the annual Balikatan training exercises with Manila’s forces. Three HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and an MC-130H Combat Talon II tanker would round out the new air contingent at Clark Air Base.
“The Air Contingent will remain in place as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem necessary,” MSgt. Matthew McGovern, the Operations Division Manager for the Pacific Air Force’s public affairs office, told We Are the Mighty in an email. “Our aircraft, flying in and around the South China Sea, are flying within international airspace and are simply demonstrating freedom of navigation in these areas.”
The deployment at Clark is one part of a deal between Washington and Manila called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Signed on April 28, 2014, the arrangement opened a number of Philippine military bases to American troops and outlined plans for increased cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces.
The EDCA would “help strengthen our 65-year-old alliance, and deepen our military-to-military cooperation at a time of great change in the Asia-Pacific,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told reporters during a visit to the Philippines on April 14. “In the South China Sea, China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”
As Carter noted, Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea is the major concern for the Philippines and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Effectively claiming the entire body of water as its sovereign territory, China policy has brought it near close to skirmishing with Manila’s ships.
In 2012, the Philippines found itself in a particularly embarrassing stand-off with unarmed Chinese “marine surveillance” ships near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, less than 250 miles west of Manila. While Beijing’s vessels ultimately withdrew, they blocked the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar – an ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutter and the largest ship then in the Philippine Navy – from moving into arrest Chinese fishermen.
Since then, Chinese authorities have used their dominant position to harass Philippine fishermen in the area. More importantly, Beijing began building a series of man-made islands – complete with air defenses, ballistic missile sites and runways able to support fighter jets and bombers – throughout the South China Sea to help enforce its claims.
“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter added in his comments in Manila. “We’re continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
So, it’s no surprise that the A-10’s first mission was a show of force over the Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island and claims as its own. With plans to develop the narrow strip of land into a tourist destination, Beijing was incensed to see the Warthogs fly by.
“This threatens the sovereignty and national security of the relevant coastal states, as well as the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement according to People’s Daily, an official organ of the country’s Communist Party. “We must express our concern and protest towards it.”
Though originally built to blast hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, the blunt nosed attackers are a threat to small warships and other surface targets. The aircraft’s main armament is a single, massive 30-millimeter cannon that can fire up to 70 shells per second.
On top of that, the straight-winged planes can carry precision laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles. On March 28, 2011, Warthogs showed off their maritime skills when they destroyed two Libyan patrol craft during the international air campaign against the country’s long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
After the Pentagon announced the Warthog would stay in the Philippines, the Air Force released shots of the jets sitting at Clark, each loaded with targeting pods, training versions of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod has a laser designator and a powerful infrared camera that can also double as a surveillance system if necessary.
Over Scarborough, the A-10s sported a LITENING on the right wing and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic jamming pod on the left. All four Warthogs, along with two of the Pave Hawks, went out for the initial maritime patrol.
But the Warthogs made an even bigger statement just by flying the mission at all – and not to officials in Beijing, but to critics back home. The deployment comes as the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to retire the low- and slow-flying planes without a clear replacement available.
To hear the flying branch tell it, the aircraft are inflexible, dated Cold Warriors unable to survive over the modern battlefield. Unlike multi-role fighter bombers like the F-16 or up-coming, but troublesome F-35, the A-10 is only good at one thing: close air support for troops on the ground.
The A-10 “is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane,” then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in February 2014. “There’s only so much you can get out of that airplane,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, chief of Air Combat Command, declared more than a year later.
The Warthogs’ trip to the Philippines stands in stark contrast to these claims. According to the Air Force itself, the A-10s and HH-60s will fly missions providing air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery, combating piracy and otherwise keeping anyone from denying access to “the global commons” in the South China Sea.
The flying branch didn’t randomly pick the A-10 for the job either. “Selecting the A-10C and HH-60Gs for this mission was strategically and economically the right decision,” Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF’s director of air and cyberspace operations, told Air Force reporters after the detachment stood up at Clark.
“PACAF considered multiple options for what aircraft to use, however, the A-10Cs were the right choice for a number of reasons,” McGovern explained further. “A-10Cs also have a proven record operating out of short and austere airstrips, provide a flexible range of capabilities, and have a mission profile consistent with the air and maritime domain awareness operations the air contingent will conduct.”
The Warthog’s ability to stay airborne for long periods of time was another point in its favor. Of course, the fact that the jets were already in the Philippines for Balikatan didn’t hurt.
Still, the A-10 is cheap to operate in general. Compared to around $20,000 per flying hour for the F-16 or more three times that amount for bombers like the B-1 and B-52, the Air Force has to spend less than $20,000 for every hour a Warthog is in the air.
“With a relatively small investment we were able to deepen our ties with our Philippine allies and strengthen our relationship,” McGovern added. “The aircraft involved in subsequent deployments will be tailored to airfield capability and capacity and desired objectives.”
In February, the Air Force announced plans to start retiring the A-10s by 2017 and have the entire fleet gone by the end of 2022. Hopefully deployments like the one to the Philippines will show both the Chinese and the Pentagon that the Warthogs still have a lot of fight left in them.
To oust a dictator as terrible as Liberia’s Charles Taylor, some warlords committed even more heinous crimes. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in the UK after being convicted of 11 war crimes in the Hague in 2013.
Joshua Milton Blahyi went by a different name when he controlled the streets of Liberia’s capital of Monrovia during its 14-year civil war. Going into urban combat wearing nothing but sneakers and a crazed look, he earned the title “General Butt Naked.”
Warlords in the streets of Liberia from 1989-2003 were given names based in popular culture. It spawned such nicknames as “General Bin Laden” and “General Rambo.”
While “General Butt Naked” may sound laughable as a nom de guerre, the warlord’s methods were anything but funny. Of the 250,000-some Liberians killed in the conflict, Blahyi estimates he is responsible for at least 20,000.
The crimes he freely admits to don’t stop there. He recruited children to act as his street enforcers, teaching them that killings and mutilations were all part of a game. And so they would also fight naked in the streets of Monrovia. Blahyi himself was a teenager when the conflict broke out.
Anecdotal evidence of the atrocities committed by “General Butt Naked” is numerous and graphic.
When Taylor was finally ousted in 2003, the man once known as “General Butt Naked” began a new life as a pastor. These days, when he isn’t preaching, he visits the families of his victims and begs for forgiveness — complete forgiveness. He doesn’t want lip service; he wants the biblical forgiveness that comes from the victim’s heart.
Those victims don’t want any part of it. Only 19 of the 76 families he has visited heard him out. The remainder goes about as well as one might expect.
At least one former soldier will attest to the work of Blahyi’s NGO, “Journeys Against Violence.” Luke Barren told Reuters that he earned his job as a mason because of Blahyi’s effort. Other say Blahyi’s whole enterprise is a farce combined with a cash grab.
The former warlord walks free where Taylor is imprisoned because of jurisdictional rules in The Hague. The court can only prosecute war crimes committed after its founding in 2002. There was never a special tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in Liberia, as there was from Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.
Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”
“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.
“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”
Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)
The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.
The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.
Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.
But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.
“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”
Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.
“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”
“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”
Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.
5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies
Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.
On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.
Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.
3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors
When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.
Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.
The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.
2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm
The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.
The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.
1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal
Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.
The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.
Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.
He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.
In the 1950s, America’s nuclear bomber pilots had a very valid concern about firing their weapons. In many cases, an aircrew that fired a nuclear weapon would be hard-pressed to outrun the blast when the warhead detonated.
Operation Upshot-Knothole was a series of nuclear tests in Nevada. In the detonation named “Encore,” a group of three homes were tested against a 27-kt nuclear warhead. One house had old paint and trash in the yard, one house had new paint and trash in the yard, and a third house had new paint and no trash. In the test, the trash set on fire and burned down the first home. The second house experienced small fires on its most weathered areas that eventually grew and consumed the house. The third structure, with new paint and no trash, was scorched but survived the test.
The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.
The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.
“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”
Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Walsh, like many officials across the Defense Department, emphasized that multi-domain battle is how future wars will evolve — through electronic warfare, cyber attacks and drones. And he said adapting to these concepts is a must in order to match near-peer adversaries.
Marines, for example, are likely to first see the use of drones within the infantry corps.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last month said he wants every Marine grunt squad downrange tocarry an unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance by the end of 2017.
“At the end of next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad had got their own quadcopter,” Neller said. “They’re like 1,000 bucks,” he said last month during the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia.
Walsh on Tuesday accelerated that premise. During a talk with reporters, he said he had been ordered to equip four battalions with small UAS as an experimental measure before the end of the year, but did not specify the system.
From previous experimentation, Walsh said, “Having a small UAS — quadcopter-like UAS — that was an easy one. We’re going to do that. We probably want those across the entire force, but what we want to do, as we see this technology change so rapidly, we’re going to first buy four battalions’ worth, and see how that operates.”