The Veteran Community Gives 'American Sniper' A Huge Thumbs Up - We Are The Mighty
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The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up


At a recent screening in Hollywood, “American Sniper” received overwhelming praise from the veteran community for “getting it right.”

Also Read: ‘Canadian Sniper’ Is A Hilarious Parody Version Of ‘American Sniper’ 

On Monday, students of the Los Angeles Film School and members of the Veterans in film Television organization were treated to a special screening of American Sniper followed by QA session. Panelists included cast members Luke Grimes, Ricky Ryba, Tony Nevada, and screenwriter Jason Hall.

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.

NOW: Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

AND: Can You Name The Weapons Used In ‘American Sniper’? Take the quiz

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Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.


The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.

So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.

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4 lopsided battles lost because of excessive pride

Leading a massive military force must be a huge ego booster for its commander. Wielding that much military power in one place has to make anyone feel confident of victory. Still, it’s always important to check yourself before you wreck yourself because even history’s greatest leaders can fall victim to hubris. 

In Pulp Fiction, Marcellus Wallace was right when he said “Pride only hurts you, it never helps.” It’s amazing how generally wise and experienced leaders can fail because their own overconfidence undermines that wisdom and experience. Here are four cautionary tales along those lines.  

1. The Battle of Red Cliffs (208 AD)

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
A mural showing chariots and cavalry, from Dahuting Tomb of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (Wikimedia Commons)

This battle is not just monumental for its outcome, but also for who was involved, where it took place and how the battle was won. It happened on the Yangtze River in 208 AD during China’s Three Kingdoms period. It was also one of the largest naval battles in history, if not the largest. It pit legendary Chinese warlord Cao Cao, who wanted to unify China under his rule, against an alliance of two other greats from Chinese history, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. 

The two sides first met at Xiakou, but Cao Cao’s rush to meet his enemies pushed his army too hard and they were forced to retreat to Wulin. There, the two sides met on the water, with Cao Cao’s 250,000 men (who were largely not sailors) aboard a massive fleet of chained-together ships. The allies opposite had a force of 50,000 marines. 

When the fighting started, the allies had replaced the men and material aboard a number of boats with scarecrows, kindling, and fatty oil and sailed right at Cao Cao’s flotilla. His men fired fire arrows at the ships, which set them on fire. When they approached Cao Cao’s ships, they exploded, setting fire to his ships. Half his men were lost and the warlord was forced to retreat. 

2. The Battle of Carrhae (53 BC)

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Relief of a mounted Parthian archer (Wikimedia Commons)

Greed and ego claimed the loser at Carrhae. Marcus Licinius Crassus believed that he could overwhelm the Parthians at Carrhae at the head of 43,000 legionnaires. He was looking for an easy win that would give him the same military glory enjoyed by the other members of his triumvirate, Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, while expanding the Roman treasury. Instead, it was one of the worst losses of all time. 

The Roman legions were literally showered with thousands of arrows from mobile Parthian horse archers. The deadly rain sliced through the Roman lines and when they moved to retreat, they were met by Parthian cataphracts, heavy horse cavalry with long spears. Crassus and the Roman leadership met with the Parthians to discuss surrender terms, but were killed instead. 20,000 legionnaires were killed in the fighting and 10,000 more were taken prisoner. The Parthian losses were so minimal, they weren’t recorded. 

3. The Battle of Morgarten (1315)

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Illustration of the Battle of Morgarten by Johannes Stumpf (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1315, the Habsburgs were divided among two camps for who would claim the title of Holy Roman Emperor. To assert its military dominance over three Swiss cantons who had recently sacked a monastery to assert their own autonomy, Habsburg Duke Leopold I led 9,000 of the family’s best troops to put them back in their place and capture an easy route to Italy. It didn’t work out the way he planned. 

Instead of crushing the Swiss Confederates, who only mustered 1,500 poorly armed peasants, they marched through a bottleneck at Morgarten Pass, which put the army between a mountain and a swamp. As the tightly-packed Habsburgs marched through, the Swiss dropped rocks and arrows at them, devastating the elite knights. When they moved to retreat, they ran into the force of peasants who slaughtered 1,500 of them and scattered the rest to the winds. 

4. The Battle of Hattin (1187)

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
(Wikimedia Commons)

In 1185, crusader Raynald of Châtillon raided a Muslim caravan, violating the uneasy truce between the Crusader States and the Islamic leader Saladin. In response, Saladin assembled the largest force he ever led and laid siege to the city of Tiberias. To relieve the siege, Raynald marched his own massive Crusader army away from its fortified camp near the springs of Sepphoris to meet Saladin – which is exactly what Saladin wanted. 

The Crusaders marched in the heat of the desert by day without enough water to sustain them on their way. They decided to divert south to the springs of Kafr Hattin. There, they found Saladin’s Army standing between them and the water. Parched with thirst the Crusaders settled down for the night, but were harassed by smoke from fires set by Saladin’s forces, exacerbating their thirst. 

When the fighting started, the demoralized Crusaders were decimated by arrows. They formed their army but were swiftly routed. They tried to break for Lake Tiberias but were blocked on that road too. With nowhere to move, no possibility of retreat and much of their infantry deserted, the surrounded Christians were defeated. The 20,000-strong army was annihilated, its nobles were taken prisoner, and Raynald was executed for breaking the truce.

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US may buy its next Air Force One from a bankrupt Russian company

The US Air Force said on Aug. 1 that it is negotiating the purchase of two Boeing 747s that were abandoned by a bankrupt Russian airline with the goal of converting them into the next Air Force One.


The sale could save the Air Force millions of dollars and comes after President Donald Trump had described the estimated cost of building new, specially designed Air Force One planes as “ridiculous.”

Air Force One is actually two planes — one for the president and a spare.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh

The planes had initially been ordered in 2013 by Russian airline Transaero, but the firm fell into bankruptcy in 2015 and never took delivery.

The jets are now sitting idle at an airport in California’s Mojave Desert.

Converting such jumbo jets to luxury command centers for the president by 2022 has been estimated to cost at least $3.2 billion.

Boeing sells unrefurbished 747s for about $390 million apiece.

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Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Even after 340 days in zero-gravity weakened his muscles, astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly successfully returned to Earth strong enough to give a fist pump and thumbs up.


Kelly’s 144 million-mile star trek ended when his Souyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan.

“The air feels great out here,” Kelly reportedly said as he was lifted out of the capsule.

His yearlong stay on on the International Space Station (ISS) gives him more days in space than any other U.S. astronaut. While on board, he worked alongside Russian, European, and Japanese personnel, circling the Earth 5,440 times.

Mars is a 2.5 year round-trip journey. Trouble starts with muscular atrophy.

Maintaining muscle is tough in zero gravity. Astronaut calf muscles compared after a six month mission on the ISS show even after aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and power both still decrease significantly. In one of the more extreme cases, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after two months and had to undergo strength training for a few weeks to re-acclimate to Earth’s gravity.

Kelly is part of a NASA experiment on the effects of extended time in space on the human body. It just so happens his brother Mark is also an astronaut, but more importantly, he’s a genetic twin. Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was the control subject on the ground. Both gave blood, saliva and urine samples, ultrasounds and bone scans, received flu shots and more, to be compared when Scott returned.

While in space, Kelly sent more than a thousand tweets, including beautiful images of Earth.

And he watched as the newsworthy events of the year unfolded from his high perch.

He stood with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though his feet couldn’t reach the ground.

And he saw epic sunrises we on Earth could only dream.

Welcome home, Captain Kelly.

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Abrams tanks to be updated with robotic attack drones

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted a joint air mobility exercise with Airmen from the 21st Airlift Squadron, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Cali. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Grady Jones, 3rd AMCT Public Affairs, 4th Inf. Div.)


Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

Related: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, participated in the annual Summer Heat training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., June 26 to July 2. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeremy Fasci)

Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.

“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.

Related: This Russian war widow bought a tank to fight in World War II

This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.

Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
US Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.

Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.

“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.

Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.

Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.

“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.

Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.

For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.

Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.

Air Force Navy Robotics

The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.

In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Image: Lockheed Martin

These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.

The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.

Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.

At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.

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What happens in the pleasure squad, stays in the pleasure squad (with one exception)

The young women of North Korea’s “pleasure squad” are employees of the state whose work involves — a’hem — “entertainment” services.


In 2010, Mi Hyang, a member Kim Jung Il’s pleasure squad defected to South Korea after her family was accused of treason. She served in the squad for two years before crossing the border and spilling the beans of the group’s activities to the well-known South Korean blog “Nambuk Story.”

“They made a detailed record of my family history and school record, “Mi Hyang said, describing how she was recruited from school when she was 15 by officers in their forties. “I was also asked whether I ever slept with a boy. I felt so ashamed to hear such a question.”

Although rumors suggested that the pleasure squad had disbanded with the death of Kim Jong-Il, it was reinstated under Kim Jong-Un, according to the Independent.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WghZQngZ2Gc

Seeker Network, YouTube

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7 tips to make your free Veterans Day food more epic

On Veteran’s Day, America’s bastions of consumer consumables give back to the defenders of The Republic by conspicuously offering copious amounts of free food. They know the target audience well – no one loves a discount like service members and veterans.


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A pie-eating contest on the USS Maryland, 1922.

So here’s your chance to get out of the house, go dutch with one of the barracks rats, or just take Veteran’s Day for all its worth. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your limited time.

1. Get every last calorie out of it with a “max out meal” on the 10th.

There are a lot of restaurants giving away free stuff. You’ll never be able to make the most of it if you have full meals the day before. At least a day before you start eating is when you have what competitive eaters call the “max out meal.” You are essentially expanding your stomach as much as possible and allowing that food to get through your system in time for Veteran’s Day. This is your last solid food until you arrive at Denny’s at 0030, so keep the water and coffee handy.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
This diet won Michael Phelps 22 gold medals. Think how it could work for you.

Another tip: I did an intense workout the morning I attempted a 72-oz steak and ended up having room for dessert. Try that and you’ll be ready to go all Shock n’ Awe at the Shoney’s on the 11th.

2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Design a battle plan for this. Some places open early, some are open later. Come up with a scheme that maximizes your food intake while limiting the time spent in line. The line might move fast at Wienerschnitzel – pick up your chili dogs on the way to Famous Dave’s and save them for later.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
That’s not D-Day. They’re seeing how far Max Erma’s is from the Bonefish Grill.

If someone offers breakfast all day, counterprogram: have breakfast for a mid-rats snack! Also, Bob Evans will give you free pancakes for signing up for their email newsletter, why waste the time in line on Veteran’s Day when you could be getting French Toast at Friendly’s?

3. Avoid Carbs. That’s how they f*ck you.

As satisfying as those IHOP Red, White, and Blue Pancakes might be, they fill you up too much, too fast. This is why you shouldn’t eat the curly fries that come with Hooter’s unlimited wings night – they’re a distraction (the unlimited wings are not an option for Hooters’ Veteran’s Day menu, by the way. Sorry).

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Also, fats are good before the workout you’ll have… tomorrow.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Try taking the buns off your All-American Burger, avoid the tortillas with the Chevy’s fajitas, and wait a day to get the Chocolate Wave cake from Red Lobster… they’ll let you have it for free on the 12th.

4. Use your medal citation as proof of service.

Some places – like Applebee’s and On the Border Mexican Grill– allow veterans to self-identify using their medal citations. What could be more awesome than dragging out the padded green plastic cover of your ARCOM medal? Not only are you a veteran, now your actions reflect great credit on yourself and the United States Army.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Some medal citations earn free meals year-round and country-wide, along with drinks, hugs, and sometimes the waitress’ phone number. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. David M. Sharp)

5. Shorten the line by hiring an actor.

If there’s one thing post-9/11 veterans love more than free stuff, it’s recording stolen valor videos. Pay someone to walk by  the restaurant wearing a poorly-designed uniform combination from a local thrift store, and you’re guaranteed to cut that long line in half. Pro tip: this may not work at Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, or anywhere else dominated by Vietnam-era veterans. Those guys care more about the food. People used to dress all kinds of stupid in the 60s and 70s.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

6. Hit up the places you can’t afford.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
(FXX)

If you’re hitting up Golden Corral and the Sizzler on the reg because a steak house is just out of your price range, Veteran’s Day is the day to take off your IR flag hat and Ranger Up shirt and slap on a collared shirt to take your battle to McCormick and Schmick’s, Bar Louie, and/or one of CentraArchy’s nicer steakhouses. Running shoes are still perfectly acceptable attire if two of these restaurants are within jogging distance of one another.

7. Deploy to the local Olive Garden.

The VA taught you how to wait all day just to be disappointed. You know how to entertain yourself while waiting around for hours on end. If running around isn’t your thing, the Olive Garden is giving away a Veteran’s Day meal plus unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Bring a laptop to binge watch your favorite show while camping at a booth on FOB Garden all day.

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

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Veteran launches ‘The War Horse’ to tell stories of Iraq, Afghanistan

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up
Cindy Schepers | The War Horse


One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.

Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”

Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.

He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.

In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”

Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.

The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.

Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.

In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.

While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”

Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/

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Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

It all started with a question.

In the summer of 2012, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was wrapping up an onstage conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival conference.


He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.

Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.

He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.

The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.

Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”

In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.

Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.

BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?

SM: That’s exactly what it is.

BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?

SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.

There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.

BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?

SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.

BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?

SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.

Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?

The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?

SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.

We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.

I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.

BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?

SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.

You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.

They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.

BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?

SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

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Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

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Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

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History’s shortest war took place in Africa and lasted only 45 minutes

In 1896, the British-supported Sultan of Zanzibar suddenly died, poisoned by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash, who immediately assumed power. Unfortunately for the new Sultan, the British Empire preferred a different Sultan. This disagreement would lead to a war that took less time to prosecute than the one against Saddam Hussein.


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With considerably fewer casualties.

In the late 19th century the “Scramble for Africa” was in full swing. European nations were invading, colonizing, and dividing up Africa. Most of the continent would be consumed by resource-hungry imperialist powers. By the end of 1914 and the beginning of the First World War, only Liberia and Ethiopia were left as independent states.

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The one time you would never want to be Belgian.

So it was a big deal when the new Zanzibari Sultan was deemed unacceptable to the British, who preferred an Omani, Hamoud bin Mohammed. Since Barghash still had to get the permission of the British Consul in Zanzibar before he could ascend the throne (a condition of a peace treaty signed ten years prior; no one negotiates a treaty like the British Empire), the British demanded he leave the palace and drop his claim to the throne. Instead, Barghash barricaded himself inside.

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Ugh, Zanzibar. Who would want that godawful place?

When the ultimatum ran out, the Royal Navy began to bombard the palace with high explosive shells. There were skirmishes in the harbor and the approaches to the palace, and as the Zansibari flag was shot off its pole in front of the palace, the deposed Sultan fled.

The attackers installed Mohammed as sultan, effectively ending Zanzibar’s independence. Five hundred Zanzibaris were either killed or wounded with one British sailor injured. The entire incident took 45 minutes, the shortest war in history.

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The damage from the Anglo-Zanzibari War

Barghash sought refuge in the German Embassy. He later fled to German East Africa (now Tanzania) before being captured by the British during the East Africa campaign of World War I. They exiled him to St. Helena and the Seychelles.

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This Russian sailor convinced an enemy garrison to surrender – after they took him prisoner

In February 2017, a Russian spy ship was spotted off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. That ship was named the Viktor Leonov, named for one of Russia’s most storied heroes – twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union. He also received the Order of Lenin and two Orders of the Red Banner, all for outstanding bravery.


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Leonov is pictured at right.

As a young sailor, Leonov began his career in the Red Navy’s submarine service. Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union forever altered his career. He became a Naval Scout performing special reconnaissance, a Soviet frogman, sabotaging Nazi ships and troop movements along the coastlines — some 50 missions in the first year of the Eastern Front alone.

Fighting the Nazis, Leonov led missions that covertly took out anti-aircraft batteries, captured hundreds of prisoners, and even led a two-day march overland to capture Nazi gun emplacements and use them against other German artillery positions.

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After the Nazi surrender in May 1945, the Soviet Union declared war against the Japanese Empire in the East and Soviet special operators were first to the theater. That’s where Viktor Leonov browbeat the enemy into submission.

He landed at a Japanese airfield near the Korean port of Wonsan with a force of 140 men, led by a higher-ranking officer. The airfield, supposedly lightly defended, was actually manned by 3,500 Japanese defenders. Horribly outnumbered, 10 Spetsnaz officers were forced to surrender.

The commander of the Russian force asked to speak with the Japanese garrison commander. As the negotiations started, Leonov angrily interrupted, saying:

“We’ve been fighting in the West throughout the war and we have enough experience to assess our situation. We will not allow ourselves to be taken hostage! You will die like rats when we break out of here!”

He then pulled out a grenade and threatened to kill everyone, including his fellow Russian. The Japanese surrendered on the spot. The Russians captured 2,200 troops, three artillery batteries, five aircraft, and a lot of ammunition.

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Leonov in dress uniform, shortly after WWII.

For that outburst, Senior Lieutenant Viktor Leonov received his second Gold Star Medal.

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