These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans - We Are The Mighty
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These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

When “6 Certified” was launched in 2015 by veteran advocacy group Got Your 6, the idea was to recognize six entertainment projects that responsibly portray veteran characters.


But a year later, the number they actually recognized was more than twice that.

“Some veterans are true heroes, and some are truly continuing to suffer the consequences of war long after they return home,” said Seth Smith, director of campaigns and programming for Participant Media. “But between those two extremes are a wide variety of experiences and emotions – stories that need to be told in order for the full range of the military-veteran experience to be realized in media. That is the purpose of Got Your 6 and the ‘6 Certified’ committee. I commend the 2016 honorees for their honest, accurate, and full portrayals of veterans and members of the military.”

Those honorees are listed below. As veterans, we should try to reward their dedication to shape public perceptions of our small but important community by checking out the work they’ve done.

1. “Bandstand”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

Set in 1945, Bandstand tells the story of musician Donny Novitski who is about to lead his band of fellow veterans into competition for America’s next swing band sensation. Opening on Broadway April 26, 2107, the writers and producers of “Bandstand” reached out to the Got Your 6 campaign for scripting feedback in order to portray veterans accurately and responsibly.

2. “Cast Me!”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

“Cast Me!” reveals the day-to-day work at LA-based agency DK Casting, owned by U.S. Marine Corps veteran David Kang. As an official partner of the Got Your 6 campaign, Myx TV ensured “Cast Me!” was crafted at every stage of production with positive veteran messaging. In addition to one of the four casting directors on the show being a veteran, this reality series also makes it a point to look to the veteran population for their casting needs. Myx TV

3. “Citizen Soldier”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

“Citizen Soldier” is a film told from the point of view of a group of soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Thunderbirds Brigade. The project tells the true story about their life-changing tour of duty in Afghanistan, offering a personal look into modern warfare, brotherhood, and patriotism. Using real footage from multiple cameras, including helmet cams, these citizen soldiers endeavor to extend their ideals of service into their reintegration at home. Strong Eagle Media

4. “Hacksaw Ridge”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

This is the true story of Private First Class Desmond T. Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWII despite refusing to bear arms on religious grounds. Doss was ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifism, but went on to earn respect and accolades for his bravery, selflessness, and compassion after he risked his life to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa. Doss’ father, played by Hugo Weaving, is a WWI veteran who provides a sobering speech on his personal motivation to serve. Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment 

5. “Hap and Leonard”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

Set in the late 1980s, “Hap and Leonard” is a darkly comic swamp noir story of two best friends, one femme fatale, a crew of washed-up revolutionaries, a pair of murderous psycho-killers, some lost loot, and the fuzz. The series follows Hap Collins (James Purefoy), an East Texas white boy with a weakness for Southern women, and his best friend Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams), a gay, black Vietnam vet. When Hap’s seductive ex-wife Trudy (Christina Hendricks) resurfaces with a deal they can’t refuse, a simple get-rich-quick scheme snowballs into bloody mayhem. Leonard is portrayed as a skilled and resourceful problem solver in this dark comedy. SundanceTV

6. “Invictus Games Orlando 2016”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

The Invictus Games is an international sporting event, created by Britain’s Prince Harry, for wounded, injured, or sick armed services personnel and veterans. The Invictus Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country. Following the inaugural event in London in 2014, the Invictus Games came to Orlando, Florida where 500 competitors from 14 nations inspired the world with their Invictus spirit. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the Opening Ceremony.

7. “Justified”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

“Justified” is an American crime drama based on Elmore Leonard’s novella “Fire in the Hole.” For all six seasons, series regular Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), a former U.S. Army Ranger Sniper, displayed his wry understanding of Deputy U. S Marshal Raylan Givens’ (Timothy Olyphant) unconventional law enforcement methods. FX

8. “Marvel’s Luke Cage”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

Mike Colter stars as former U.S. Marine Carl Lucas/Luke Cage. When a sabotaged experiment gives him super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage becomes a fugitive attempting to rebuild his life in Harlem and must soon confront his past and fight a battle for the heart of his city. Luke is portrayed as a tough, resourceful character whose heart is in the right place despite his flaws. Netflix

9. “No Greater Love”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

This documentary explores a combat deployment through the eyes of a U.S. Army chaplain who carried a camera in Afghanistan, capturing the gritty reality of war as well as the bond that is made among troops. The film depicts the experience of war and, more importantly, helps viewers understand the personal struggles of reintegrating soldiers. The chaplain discusses his own depression after his service and reunites his battalion to examine the reintegration process with the men he served alongside. Atlas House Productions

10. “Power Triumph Games”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

The “Power Triumph Games” is a multi-round sports competition that challenges world-class military veteran athletes who have overcome catastrophic injury to step outside their comfort zones. Their goal is to showcase veteran’s unique ability to adapt, overcome and thrive. With the United States Military Academy as a backdrop, athletes face eight challenges that are required of cadets to graduate. The games challenge all who see it to raise their own bar of gratitude and achievement. The 2016 games are a three-hour miniseries on CBS Sports Network and a one-hour sports special broadcast on CBS Sports, featuring personal stories of service, character, and

triumph. OurVetSuccess and ITN Productions

11. “Reparation”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

Winner of 11 film festival awards, “Reparation” is a psychological thriller that centers around Bob Stevens (Marc Menchaca), a small-town farmer with a three year hole in his memory. When Jerome (played by real life veteran Jon Huertas), his best friend from the U.S. Air Force shows up, Bob’s peaceful existence begins to unravel from the outside in. Co-written by an Air Force veteran, the film takes the audience on a thrilling ride through the mind of a veteran confronting psychological issues, while avoiding the stereotype of the combat-damaged veteran, and echoing the call of duty to watch your buddy’s back. Red Dirt Pictures

12. “Roadtrip Nation: The Next Mission”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

“The Next Mission” showcases the trials and triumphs of post-military transition through the stories of Helen, Sam, and Bernard – three transitioning service members who set off on a road trip across the country to discover their purpose in the civilian world. As they interview fellow veterans who have found fulfilling work beyond service, the team learns that the skills cultivated in the military aren’t limited to the battlefield; they can be applied to any number of exciting careers. Roadtrip Nation, American Public Television

13. “Sully”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Sully” tells the real story of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when commercial pilot and U.S. armed forces veteran Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became a hero after performing an unprecedented forced water landing on New York’s Hudson River. Played in the film by Tom Hanks, Sully puts his military training and experience to good use, saving 155 lives by gliding the commercial plane to safety, but even as he was being praised by the public and the media, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy both his reputation and career. Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures

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UPDATED: Pentagon names SEAL killed in Somalia raid

UPDATED: The Pentagon has named Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, as the commando killed in a May 5 raid near Mogadishu, Somalia. The raid reportedly targeted a propaganda radio operation run by the terrorist al-Shabaab organization. The release said Milliken was a member of an East Coast-based Navy special warfare unit, and many sources report he was a member of SEAL Team 6.


The U.S. military said May 5 a service member has been killed in during an operation against the extremist group al-Shabab as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization.

A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu.

The statement said U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with military.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Members of the Somali Police Force, train with the Carabinieri at the Djibouti Police Academy in Djibouti, Djibouti, Nov. 07, 2016. The Carabinieri is in charge of training mission MAIDIT Somalia 6, which is the mission of training the Somali Police Force in order to promote the stability and security of the entire region of the Horn of Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman)

A CNN report said the service member was part of a special operations task force deployed to the African nation, adding two more U.S. troops were wounded by small arms fire.

“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best SEALs,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Special Warfare Command. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”

Both the United States and in recent weeks have declared new efforts against the extremist group. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern areas of active hostilities.

A Somali intelligence official confirmed the U.S. military operation, saying U.S. forces in helicopters raided an al-Shabab hideout near the Somali capital on Thursday night and engaged with fighters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopters dropped soldiers near Dare Salaam village in an attempt to capture or kill extremists in the area.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans

The official said the fighters mounted a stiff resistance against the soldiers.

new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last month declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which is based in but has claimed responsibility for major attacks elsewhere in East Africa.

Also last month, the U.S. military announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades. The U.S. Africa Command said the deployment was for logistics training of army.

The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to and has carried out a number of airstrikes, including drone strikes, against al-Shabab.

The extremist group, which was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to carry out deadly attacks there, has vowed to step up the violence in response to the moves by Trump and Mohamed.

Pressure is growing on military to assume full security for the country as the 22,000-strong African Union multinational force that has been supporting the fragile central government plans to leave by the end of 2020.

The U.S. military has acknowledged the problem. The AU force will begin withdrawing in 2018, and head of the U.S. Africa Command, Commander General Thomas Waldhauser, has said that if it leaves before security forces are capable, “large portions of are at risk of returning to al-Shabab control or potentially allowing ISIS to gain a stronger foothold.”

Fighters linked to the Islamic State group are a relatively new and growing challenge in the north of the country, which has seen a quarter-century of chaos since dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991.

The United States pulled out of after 1993, when two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and bodies of Americans were dragged through the streets.

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The USMC War Memorial is about to get a $5 million facelift

Some much deserved tender loving care begins August 22 in the nation’s capital. The revered US Marine Corps War Memorial — often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — will get new gilding on its engravings and pedestal, plus a meticulous cleaning and wax of its five immense 32-foot bronze figures, a 60-foot flagpole, and granite base.


There also will be updated lighting, new landscaping for the surrounding parkland, and improved infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

The rehabilitation is a big project. It also uses no taxpayer funds.

The upgrade was made possible through a $5.4 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, a man who believes in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.”

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
David M. Rubenstein. (Photo from Flickr user Jean-Frédéric.)

Besides his many donations to academic, art, or hospital-related institutions, Mr. Rubenstein has donated close to $100 million in recent years for historic preservation projects to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other major sites. Now, it is Iwo Jima’s turn.

“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system,” Mr. Rubenstein said on announcing his donation.

The Marine memorial draws 2 million visitors a year and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. The entire original cost of the statue — $850,000 — was donated by individual Marines, friends of the Corps, and members of the naval service. Again, no taxpayer funds.

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What the Army vet leading ‘The Mission Continues’ can teach you about fatherhood

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo: Youtube


As president of The Mission Continues, Spencer Kympton knows a thing or 2 about leadership, service, and inspiring the next generation. His nonprofit believes that what military veterans “need most is an opportunity to deploy their skills, experiences, and desire to serve in their community.” Getting veterans to serve on the homeland not only keeps them doing what they love, it gives kids a firsthand view of how real heroes act.

Heroic ass kicking is Kympton’s forte. Since graduating as West Point’s valedictorian, he’s served as a Blackhawk pilot, worked with everyone from the FBI to McKinsey Company, and snagged a Harvard MBA with honors along the way. Now that he has a 6-year-old son, Kympton’s determined to teach service (and ass kicking ) the same way his father taught him.

How does your work with The Mission Continues influence you as a father?

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is applying the same core values that we have at Mission Continues to my parenting:

  1. Work Hard — Parenting is hard and you got to work at it. It’s something that takes constant effort.
  2. Trust — Trust is at the center of it. The trust your child has in you is one of the most important things that you establish early on.
  3. Learn and Grow — If you are not walking into parenthood embracing the amount of learning and growing every day, then you’re behind the 8-ball from the start.
  4. Respect — Demonstrate respect for you kid and the struggles, challenges, and things they deal with.
  5. Have Fun — Parenting ultimately is fun, and there’s not a day that goes by — even through challenges and struggles — when there’s not something tremendously fun about my relationship with my son.

Does being a father affect your work at The Mission Continues?

We have quite a few fathers on staff. In fact, even though we are a veterans organization in the people we work with, the reason we exist is to inspire kids. If you listened to some of our internal conversations, the reason we do projects in communities and put veterans into community-facing organizations is ultimately to demonstrate to my son’s generation that service in the military or in the community is what makes this country strong. The more ways that we can get veterans out into communities and those stories in front of children the better. That’s success for us.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo: Youtube

Out of curiosity, how many demerits did you receive as a West Point cadet and why?

At West Point there were things called “hours.” An hour was quite literally an hour of marching back and forth in full uniform with a weapon on the weekend. There were certain infractions that got you lots of hours, and the biggest issue was you weren’t allowed to go anywhere if you had to stay and march hours. I got a little crazy at a tailgate my sophomore year and broke a couple of rules and ended up walking 48 hours over the fall/winter of my sophomore year. I learned a lot from that, and I was taught respect for some of the rules at West Point. Didn’t make that mistake again.

What are some lessons you learned as a Blackhawk pilot that you apply in your work and family today?

One of the things that impacted me most as a Blackhawk pilot was when I was stationed in Honduras in the mid-90s. In one case, we spent a couple of weeks flying doctors, dentists, and veterinarians into the Mosquito Coast of east Nicaragua — villages with no roads that got to them. They quite literally had never seen a car or motorcycle, much less this big hulking helicopter that flew in. When we landed, hundreds of kids ran out fascinated. We watched these doctors and dentists issue inoculations, prenatal vitamins, pull back teeth, or just do basic humanitarian care.

What I took away from that is the magnitude of challenges some kids in this world face. I also realized how important it is to ensure my son knows how fortunate he is. Life shouldn’t be about making his piece of the pie bigger but making sure the pie itself is bigger and more people are able to come to the party to have some of the pie.

That time in Honduras, seeing the conditions that other cultures have to raise their kids in, was very eye-opening.

What did your father teach you that you draw on as president of The Mission Continues?

My dad went to West Point as well. I grew up in a family that places value on service to country, particularly through the military as a starting point. My dad didn’t stay his full career in the military, but I learned service in the military can be the start of the arch of service to country that lasts your entire life. It can show up in various ways: military service, service in the community, school systems, and public service, whether local, municipal, or national government. Service can pop up in a lot of ways throughout your career. It’s the glue that sticks it all together.

How do you inspire your son to follow a similar path?

My wife and I plan to expose him to as many opportunities to serve others as possible. That may involve going to service projects with The Mission Continues, which he’s done. It may involve ensuring every time he gets an allowance a portion goes to some endeavor that helps serve others. He gets to do this because we involve him in that selection process and understanding the organization and the endeavor he’s giving that money to.

One thing I don’t want to do is force my son into anything that doesn’t feel natural or inspiring to him.

More from Fatherly:

This article originally appeared at Fatherly. Copyright 2015. Like Fatherly on Facebook.

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Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans


The reasons why individuals join the US military are as diverse and unique as each person serving.

But, whatever the reasons for why someone joined the military, service members can bond with each other over both the negatives and positives of serving in the armed forces.

In a recent Reddit thread, military members responded to the question, “What is your favorite part of being in the military?”

Predictably, the answers varied greatly, from the steadiness of pay in the military to the sense of belonging to something greater than the individual. We’ve collected our favorite answers below.

For Reddit user terrez, the greatest part of being in the military was the opportunities to see and experience things he would never have had the opportunity to otherwise:

Got to live in Japan, a place I never thought I would see I person. So that’s pretty neat. Occasionally an f16 will be doing loopdy loops and stuff over the flight line (idk why) and it’s like a quick little air show.

This point of view, the fact that the military is an eye-opening experience, was echoed by LordWartooth:

I would honestly have to say, both sarcastically and seriously, that my favorite part of being in the military has to be the eye opening experience about life in general. When you see senior field grade officers who can barely read, or senior enlisted whose uniforms could be painted on, considering how tight they are, and you know that they have found success in life, then I should know that consistently aiming to be better than that will take me where I want to be in life, in the military or outside of it.

Reddit user Esdarke quickly agreed with LordWartooth’s point:

Absolutely this. If nothing else, the military will teach you about yourself.

I for one have resolved to be less of a d— to people. Because now I’ve seen what happens when everyone acts like a YouTube comments section and nobody needs that in their life.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg

And for some, serving in the military was made worth it simply for the camaraderie and diversity that it fostered in the ranks. StonehengeMan writes of his favorite part of being in the military:

The people in the military.

All kinds of backgrounds – but we all work together as one (mostly). The sense of camaraderie and purpose.

Sorry if that comes across as a little earnest but it’s the people you work with that get you through the really bad days and who let you enjoy the good days even more 🙂

This sense of family that the military fosters was a common theme for the Reddit users. User Asymmetric_Warfare noted that the military imbues service members with a support system, adventure, and experiences that someone fresh out of high school might never otherwise experience:

For me first and foremost it has been mentoring my joe’s and watching my junior enlisted soldiers grow and mature and become NCO’s themselves.

Being able to call my deployment buddies up at any time any place anywhere with any issue and they will be there for me and vice a versa.

Making friendships with the people you deploy with that are stronger then your own familial bonds to your siblings and family back home.

Going to war, realizing a lot of sh– back home is just that, white noise, definitely puts life into perspective after.

Being stationed in germany at 18 years old, Donor Kabab’s, them crazy foam parties in Nuremburg. All those lovely German single ladies…I miss you Fräulein’s.

 

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
US Army by Spc. Michelle U. Blesam

And of course, for some, the best part of joining the military are the practical and concrete benefits that the organization imparts. As zaishade writes:

Not worrying about my finances: I don’t have to worry about being laid off tomorrow, or not making enough to cover rent and groceries. As much as I like fantasizing about my separation date, whenever I go visit civilian friends and family I’m reminded of how much the common man still has to struggle.

Reddit user jeebus_t_christ echoes the practical benefits of joining the military by writing simply: “Free college.”

And ultimately, as Reddit user ChumBucket1 notes flippantly, “Blowing shit up and shooting machine guns never got old.”

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Opinion: Why Lt. Gen. McMaster is the right choice for Trump

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.


President Donald Trump just named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his next national security adviser.

The 54-year-old Army officer is the epitome of the warrior-scholar, and he’s as well known for his heroics in battle as he is for his intellectual pursuits.

Also read: Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

Though former national security adviser Michael Flynn was rather controversial — the retired general peddled conspiracy theories and ultimately resigned because of his ties to Russia — I don’t suspect anything other than professionalism and solid advice being given to the president by McMaster.

Here’s why.

He commands a great deal of respect among his troops.

Much like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was revered by his troops while serving as a general in the Marine Corps, McMaster has earned a great deal of respect from soldiers. That’s because his career has been marked by personal heroism, excellent leadership, and his tendency to buck traditional ways of thinking.

As a captain during the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster made a name for himself during the Battle of 73 Easting. Though his tank unit was vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi Republican Guard, he didn’t lose a single tank in the engagement, while the Iraqis lost nearly 80. His valor and leadership that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery.

Then there was his leadership during the Iraq War, during which he was one of the first commanders to use counterinsurgency tactics. Before President George W. Bush authorized a troop “surge” that pushed US forces to protect the population and win over Iraqi civilians, it was McMaster who demonstrated it could work in the city of Tal Afar.

He’s far from a being a ‘yes’ man.

McMaster is the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and will call out a wrongheaded approach when he sees one. That tendency is something that junior officers love, but those maverick ways are not well-received by some of his fellow generals. Put simply: McMaster isn’t a political guy, unlike other officers who are trying to jockey for position and move up in their careers.

In 2003, for example, McMaster criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraq War plan that placed too much of an emphasis on technology. McMaster also pushed back on his boss’ refusal to admit an insurgency was starting to take hold in 2004.

He’s been held back in his career because of it — he was passed over two times for his first star — but it wasn’t due to incompetence. Instead, his fight to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general was seen as pure politics, and McMaster doesn’t like to play. He was eventually promoted in 2008, but that hasn’t made him any less outspoken.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
US Army photo

He’s a strategic thinker with a Ph.D.

McMaster has a lot in common with another famous general: David Petraeus.

In fact, he was one a select few officers that were in the Petraeus “brain trust” during the Iraq War.

McMaster is an expert on military strategy, counterinsurgency, and history. And he, like Petraeus, stands out among military officers, since both earned advanced degrees. McMaster holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation went far beyond the readership of just a few professors.

Titled “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster’s dissertation became an authoritative book on how the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Much of the book’s focus is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were heaped with criticism for failing to push back against President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” reads a review on Amazon.

Whether McMaster can transition well from the Army to the White House is the big question now, but he’s one of the best people Trump could have picked. And like Mattis, he’s not afraid to challenge the president’s views.

“He’s not just a great fighter, and not just a conscientious leader,” one Army officer told me of McMaster. “He’s also an intellectual, a historian and a forward-thinking planner who can see future trends without getting caught up in bandwagon strategic fads.”

That’s exactly the kind of person Trump needs.

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These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

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Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

So it doesn’t seem that the Army or the Marine Corps are in any hurry to explain to Congress why they don’t use a common 5.56mm round.


The final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition for their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines.

The bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate this week before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

This is not the first time Congress has gotten its dander up over this subject. Lawmakers asked both services to explain the same thing last year, but Marine Corps leaders said they need to do more testing of the Army’s M855A1 enhanced 5.56mm round.

These 13 powerful movies and shows accurately depict veterans
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers do not use a common 5.56mm round. Congress wants to know why. (Photo: DoD)

I reached out to the Marine Corps yesterday and the Army today to ask about how they planned to deal with the request. I could almost hear the head-scratching as if neither service had heard anything about it.

According to the provision, the report must be submitted within 180 days after the bill, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year, is enacted.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

OK so here is the back story for those you out there who don’t know it.

The Army replaced the Cold-War era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 enhanced performance round, the end result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, Army officials maintain. It penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855.

The Marine Corps had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed.

Since then the Marine Corps has purchased millions of MK 318 rounds.

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo.

The Army quickly replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems in 2010, Army officials said.

The new Army round also weighs 62 grains and has a 19-grain steel penetrator tip, 9 grains heavier than the tip on old M855 ammo. Seated behind the penetrator is a solid copper slug. The M855A1 consistently penetrates battlefield barriers such as windshields more effectively than the M855, Army officials contend.

What is interesting is that the Corps was supposed to run tests on the current M855A1 round back in 2010. In 2015, Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, then commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, told a congressional panel there were plans to test the M855A1 rounds again.

Military.com would really like to know what those tests show. We are going to continue to follow this story with great interest.

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This video of what employees found at an Arizona VA hospital will freak you out

A patient whistleblower from the Phoenix, AZ Veteran Affairs medical center has captured footage of cockroaches scurrying around the pharmacy room at the medical center.


The whistleblower, who elected to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, took video footage of several cockroaches at the Phoenix VA medical center’s pharmacy, Fox 10 Phoenix reports.

Patients tried to stomp on one of the cockroaches on the pharmacy floor. Another video shows a roach crawling on a doorway.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“I know they’ve had infestation problems for years,” Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower and Phoenix employee, told Fox 10 Phoenix in an interview.

“They’re used to it,” said Coleman of the veterans at the facility. “They’re used to substandard care. I think veterans feel lucky just to get an appointment with the secret wait list going on in Phoenix. A roach is no big deal.”

A hospital spokesman from Phoenix told the local news outlet that a recent inspection of the pharmacy did not turn up any cockroaches.

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VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo from Gage Skidmore via Flickr

“Whenever insects are reported, our environmental management specialists provide immediate action and ensure the external pest control agencies are notified to come on site for complete remediation activities,” the spokesman said.

The problem of cockroaches is not isolated to Phoenix, but has also presented itself at the Hines VA facility in Chicago, where the VA inspector general determined in 2016 that cockroaches had infested the kitchen and were crawling on the food trays and food carts. According to investigators, hospital leadership knew of the problem and did nothing, an issue Coleman suggested may similarly be at play at Phoenix.

“During our unannounced site visit on May 10, 2016, we found dead cockroaches on glue traps dispersed throughout the facility’s main kitchen,” the inspector general report observed. “We observed conditions favorable to pest infestation.”

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US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.


Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.

Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.

“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.

Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.

“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.

The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.

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North Korean anti-air missile on parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.

Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.

In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.

The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.

Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.

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A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Volio)

While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.

Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.

“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”

The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.

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6 reasons Communists were the ultimate movie villain

The 1980s were a great time for movies. Hollywood could make any movie about anyone anywhere and it could feature this one built-in, believable villain: Communists.


No matter what the story was about, Commies could be counted on to try and stop American heroes from saving the day. They were the greatest gift to villainy since the handlebar mustache.

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Which lets you know who the most evil men are.

Not only did we get an all-purpose, worldwide villain, we got a bad guy every red-blooded American could cheer on to take down. A Communist movie villain was the perfect foil for any hero.

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Unless that hero spent most of the series fighting Nazis.

Sure, they weren’t all bad. Most Communist citizens probably just wanted to get on with their lives. But when their governments were bad, they were spectacular. There are many reasons for this.

1. Any wacky plan the Reds came up with was believable.

Whether they were doing something practical like creating a super quiet submarine or something stupid like trying to embarrass the United States by making Rocky Balboa fight Ivan Drago, we believed they would. Because they’re evil, right? Whatever it takes.

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In a way, we legitimately believed they would make that plan, because why not? We’re the center of the Universe and they’re trying to be number one, so they had to constantly one-up America in every way. The Russians are the people who built an actual doomsday device, after all.

2. There was nothing you could do about them.

Because what are you really going to do about it, start a nuclear war? Shut up.

We can’t have an all-out war, that would end civilization as we know it. So America just had to foil all of their insane little plots one by one, or hatch some harebrained scheme of our own, and you knew it would never go too far.

The CIA and KGB would just pretend it never happened.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYh9_QmNwRA

If you’re not familiar with the movie “Firefox,” it was about a jet built by the Russians that could fly six times the speed of sound and had weapons that could be controlled WITH YOUR MIND. Spoiler Alert: Clint Eastwood straight up STOLE IT from a Russian air base, shot down the second prototype, killing the pilot and the Russians didn’t do sh*t.

Only in the Cold War.

3. It made for interesting alliances.

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Everyone’s least favorite Bond, working with the Muj.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend right? The U.S. intelligence community didn’t realize what they were building or how far Osama bin Laden would go with his new network. The entertainment community had no idea either, so we got to see Britain’s most popular spy working with the Afghan Mujahideen.

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The end of Rambo III then (left) and now (right)

Also, Rambo: America’s greatest movie fighting force dedicated the third act of his saga to the Mujahideen. Ouch. Talk about regretting the morning after…

4. It was cathartic.

After spending more than a decade with the struggle and subsequent stigma of the Vietnam War — coupled with the Détante-era perception that the U.S. was somehow losing the arms race, along with every other problem that plagued America – something had to give.

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A win against some commie scum was a welcome respite from the drudgery of real-world geopolitics, especially if you could do it with your high school classmates — which was apparently the mid-80s Gen-X American Dream.

5. The stakes were really high.

The contest is so much more satisfying to win when there’s something on the line. We’re only talking about world domination here.

6. No one could accuse you of being racist.

Being PC is difficult. Let’s face it, we all want to be respectful. There’s just a lot to keep straight.

Being part of a worldwide ideology, bent on taking over the Free World, Communists weren’t limited to Russia. They could be Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Korean, African, or Latin American.

Anyone could be a Commie, it didn’t matter what color their skin was, every Communist was red.

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This also worked for Nazis, Fascists, and pretty much anyone James Bond ever faced — who were all thoroughly evil. Hollywood needs a bad guy, and the Communists were the perfect fit. In America’s current politically correct culture, you can’t use an entire race or religion as the villain, even if Aaron Sorkin says it’s their turn.

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Female midshipmen will wear pants instead of skirts at graduation this year

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(Photo: U.S. Navy/Peter Lawlor)


In keeping with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ recent initiatives aimed at pushing gender integration as far as possible across the entire fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Commandant of Midshipmen announced a few nights ago that this year’s female graduates will wear trousers to the graduation ceremony instead of the traditional skirts.

This decision comes on the heels of Mabus ordering a review of job titles across the Navy with an eye on eliminating those that use the word “man” in them. He has also told the Navy SEALs to prepare to accept female candidates into the rigorous training program.

USNA spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told The Baltimore Sun that the new dress policy will reinforce the idea of “shipmate before self.”

“The graduation and commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy is not about individuals,” he said. “It’s about the academy writ large. It’s about the brigade writ large.”

Mabus introduced his gender-neutral uniform initiative during an address at Annapolis last year.

“Rather than highlighting differences in our ranks, we will incorporate everyone as full participants,” he told the Brigade of Midshipmen. “In the Navy and in the Marine Corps, we are trending towards uniforms that don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”

Female cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt to graduation, and the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point has worn trousers to the ceremony for years.

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This was one of the stealthiest aircraft ever flown by the US military

Imagine an airplane so quiet that it’s virtually impossible to hear it coming and going from the ground. This may seem like science fiction to most, but for the US Army’s YO-3 ‘Quiet Star’ scout aircraft, it was an incredible and unparalleled reality — still unmatched today.


In the late 1960s, the Army put forward a requirement for a small observation aircraft that could fly just above 1,000 feet without being detected by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Navy, Air Force and Marine reconnaissance aircraft were too noisy and easily detectable, allowing for NVA commanders to hide their soldiers well in advance of surveillance flights, rendering such missions useless.

To solve this problem, in 1968 the Department of Defense contracted Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works black projects division to build an aircraft suitable for the job. Skunk Works had, by this time, already developed the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes for the Air Force and CIA, so designing something substantially smaller, slower and cheaper would be a considerably easy task, well within their capabilities.

According to Rene Francillon in his book, “Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913,” the aerospace company had already attempted to build something similar two years earlier using a Schweizer glider fitted with a ‘silenced’ powerplant for quiet flights. Known by the codename PRIZE CREW, this glider was sent to Vietnam for operational testing and was determined successful enough that the concept was worth exploring further.

When the 1968 request appeared, Lockheed was already well-prepared.

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A Schweizer SGS 2-32, the glider which the YO-3 was based on (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

To meet the Army’s needs, Lockheed took another Schweizer glider and modified it heavily, using fiberglass — a fairly novel technology on aircraft at the time — and lightweight metals to reduce weight and increase endurance. The cockpit was redesigned to hold a pilot and an observer/spotter in a tandem configuration under a large bubble canopy for enhanced visibility.

Propeller aircraft aren’t normally known for being very quiet or inconspicuous. The noise of their piston engines and the propeller blades beating the air around it into submission can be heard from a fair distance off. However, Lockheed’s best and brightest made it work.

By connecting a small 6-cylinder engine to the propeller using a belt and pulley system, and by adding fiberglass shielding to the engine compartment, the aircraft became nearly noiseless, even with its engines on at full power. Exhaust from the engine would be ducted and funneled to the rear of the plane using a special muffler, further reducing any potential for sound generation.

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A Quiet Star during a test flight in the United States. Nine were deployed to Vietnam (Photo US Army)

Lockheed finished developing this new stealth aircraft in 1969, dubbing it the YO-3 Quiet Star. By 1970, nine Quiet Stars were sent on their maiden combat deployment to Vietnam, beginning a 14-month rotation to the country in support of American troops on the ground.

Before a typical observation mission, a YO-3 would be fueled up and launched, then flown around the air base it had recently taken off from so that personnel on the ground could listen for any sounds out of the ordinary — note that “ordinary” for the Quiet Star was almost absolute silence.

If any rattles were heard, the aircraft would land immediately, be patched up with duct tape or glue, and be sent out on its mission.

Though the Quiet Star was designed to fly safely at 1,200 feet and above, it was so undetectable that its pilots were able to take it down to treetop level with NVA or VC troops being none the wiser. The effectiveness of night missions was enhanced through the use of a low-light optical system designed by Xerox, the same company known for building copying machines.

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A Quiet Star as seen from a chase aircraft over the US (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

No YO-3 ever took a shot from the bad guys during its deployment to Vietnam, simply because the Communists weren’t able to detect it. With its spindly wings and dark paint scheme, the YO-3 couldn’t be distinguished easily from the darkness of the night, and by the time enemy troops realized something had passed overhead, it was already gone.

Sadly, the Quiet Star arrived in Vietnam far too late to make much of a difference at all. It was pulled out of the country and relegated to testing roles with NASA, though a few of the 11 units produced by Lockheed were acquired by the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game.

The FBI used its Quiet Stars to locate kidnappers, while Louisiana game wardens used theirs to catch poachers.