15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military - We Are The Mighty
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15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

The military is full of interesting lingo. The Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army all have their own unique phrases. Some of these are so good, the civilian world just can’t resist picking them up when it hears them. Here are 17 phrases that jumped from the military ranks to the civilian sphere.


1. “Balls to the walls” (also, “Going balls out”)

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rob Shenk

Meaning: To go as fast as one possibly can.

From military aviation where pilots would need to get their aircraft flying as fast as possible. Their control levers had balls on the end. Pushing the accelerator all the way out (“balls out”), would put the ball of the lever against the firewall in the cockpit (“balls to the wall”). When a pilot really needed to zoom away, they’d also push the control stick all the way forward, sending it into a dive. Obviously, this would put the ball of the control stick all the way out from the pilot and against the firewall.

2. “Bite the bullet”

Meaning: To endure pain or discomfort without crying out

Fighters on both sides of the American Civil War used the term “bite the bullet,” but it appears they may have stolen it from the British. British Army Capt. Francis Grose published the book, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1811 and used “chew the bullet” to explain how proud soldiers stayed silent while being whipped.

3. “Boots on the ground”

Meaning: Ground troops engaged in an operation

Credited to Army Gen. Volney Warner, “boots on the ground” is used to mean troops in a combat area or potential combat area. After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the term saw wide use and has ceased to refer exclusively to military operations. It can now be used to refer to any persons sent out to walk the ground in an area. It’s been employed in reference to police officers as well as political canvassers.

4. “Bought the farm”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: U.S. Navy

Meaning: To die

Thought to date back to 1950s jet pilots, the phrase quickly spread to civilian circles. There is no clear agreement on exactly how the phrase came about. It could be from war widows being able to pay off the family farm with life insurance payments, or farmers paying off their farms with the damage payout they’d receive when a pilot crashed on their land, or the pilots who wanted to buy a farm after they retired being said to “buy the farm early” when they died.

5. “Caught a lot of flak”

Meaning: To be criticized, especially harshly

Flak is actually an acronym for German air defense cannons. The Germans called the guns Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer, abwehr means defense, and kanonen means cannon. Airmen in World War II would have to fly through dangerous clouds of shrapnel created by flak. The phrase progressed in meaning until it became equated with abusive criticism.

6. “FUBAR”/”SNAFU”/”TARFU”

Meaning: Everything about the current situation sucks

All three words are acronyms. FUBAR stands for “F*cked up beyond all recognition,” SNAFU is “Situation normal, all f*cked up,” and TARFU is “Things are really f*cked up.” FUBAR and SNAFU have made it into the civilian lexicon, though the F-word in each is often changed to “fouled” to keep from offending listeners. The Army actually used SNAFU for the name of a cartoon character in World War II propaganda and instructional videos. Pvt. Snafu and his brothers Tarfu and Fubar were voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig fame.

7. Geronimo

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Army Institute of Heraldry

Usage: Yelled when jumping off of something

“Geronimo” is yelled by jumpers leaping from a great height, but it has military origins. Paratroopers with the original test platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia yelled the name of the famous Native American chief on their first mass jump. The exclamation became part of airborne culture and the battalion adopted it as their motto.

8. “Got your six”

Meaning: Watching your back

Military members commonly describe direction using the hours of a clock. Whichever direction the vehicle, unit, or individual is moving is the 12 o’clock position, so the six o’clock position is to the rear. “Got your six” and the related “watch your six” come from service members telling each other that their rear is covered or that they need to watch out for an enemy attacking from behind.

9. “In the trenches”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ernest Brooks

Meaning: Stuck in a drawn out, tough fight.

Troops defending a position will dig trenches to use as cover during an enemy attack, reducing the chance they’ll be injured by shrapnel or enemy rounds. In World War I, most of the war occurred along a series of trenches that would flip ownership as one army attacked another. So, someone engaged in fierce fighting, even metaphorical fighting, is “in the trenches.”

10. “No man’s land”

Meaning: Dangerous ground or a topic that it is dangerous to discuss

“No man’s land” was widely used by soldiers to describe the area between opposing armies in their trenches in World War I. It was then morphed to describe any area that it was dangerous to stray into or even topics of conversation that could anger another speaker. However, this is one case where civilians borrowed a military phrase that the military had stolen from civilians. “No man’s land” was popularized in the trenches of the Great War, but it dates back to the 14th century England when it was used on maps to denote a burial ground.

11. “Nuclear option”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Meaning: A choice to destroy everything rather than give in on a debate or contest

Used most publicly while discussing fillibusters in the Senate, the nuclear option has its roots in — what else — nuclear warfare. In the Cold War, military leaders would give the commander-in-chief options for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons from nuclear artillery to thermonuclear bombs. In the era of brinksmanship, use of nuclear weapons by the Soviets or the U.S. would likely have ended in widespread destruction across both nations.

12. “On the double”

Meaning: Quickly, as fast as possible

Anyone who has run in a military formation will recognize the background of “on the double.” “Quick time” is the standard marching pace for troops, and “double time” is twice that pace, meaning the service member is running. Doing something “on the double” is moving at twice the normal speed while completing the task.

13. “On the frontlines”

Meaning: In the thick of a fight, argument, or movement

Like nuclear option, this one is pretty apparent. The front line of a military force is made up of the military units closest to a potential or current fight. Troops on the frontline spend most days defending against or attacking enemy forces. People who are “on the frontlines” of other struggles like political movements or court trials are fighting against the other side every day. This is similar in usage and origin to “in the trenches” above.

14. “Roger that”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Meaning: Yes

This one is pretty common knowledge, though not all civilians may know why the military says, “Roger that,” rather than “yes.” Under the old NATO phonetic alphabet, the letter R was pronounced, “Roger” on the radio. Radio operators would say, “Roger,” to mean that a message had been properly received. The meaning evolved until “roger” meant “yes.” Today, the NATO phonetic alphabet says, “Romeo,” in place of R, but “roger” is still used to mean a message was received.

15. “Screw the pooch”

Meaning: To bungle something badly

“Screw the pooch” was originally an even racier phrase, f*ck the dog. It meant to loaf around or procrastinate. However, by 1962 it was also being used to mean that a person had bungled something. Now, it is more commonly used with the latter definition.

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This was the anti-aircraft tank more likely to attack toilets than jets

The M247 Sgt. Alvin York was pitched to officials and lawmakers alike as a precision shooter in the same vein as its legendary namesake and the silver bullet that would stop all Soviet aircraft — especially the feared Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter — that dared fly too low and close to ground troops.


Instead, it was an expensive boondoggle that couldn’t fight, couldn’t shoot accurately, and couldn’t tell the difference between a toilet and an enemy aircraft.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Not a great record for a weapon named after one of the Army’s greatest sharpshooters from history. (Photo: Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0)

The M247 came from a requirement for a “Division Air Defense” weapon, a platform that could move forward with armored and infantry divisions and protect them from air-to-ground attacks. But the program was opened when the U.S. was already in the middle of five large weapons programs, and money was tight.

So the military asked manufacturers to keep to a few reasonable rules. Importantly, as much technology as possible needed to come from existing commercial or military surplus sources to keep the weapon relatively cheap to manufacture and maintain.

The winning design came from the Ford Aerospace Communications Corp. and featured two Swedish-made 40mm cannons mounted in a turret and controlled by the Doppler radar from the F-16. The whole thing rode on an M48 Patton tank chassis.

Every part of the weapon had a demonstrated history of performance, and so the anti-aircraft Frankenstein monster was expected to perform. But the F-16’s radar was never designed to deal with the amount of ground clutter that the York would have to deal with. And the M48’s chassis were getting worn out after years of service.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
An M247 sits behind an M108 105mm self-propelled howitzer at Yuma Proving Grounds,Arizona. (Photo: Mark Holloway, CC BY 2.0)

So the first M247s hit the field and performed horribly in tests. They frequently failed to spot targets. Software changes made it more sensitive, but also caused it to start identifying ground clutter as probable enemies.

Second, the old chassis sometimes broke down under the increased weight of the larger York turret and the engines weren’t strong enough to propel the weapon quickly.

In fact, the York weighed 62 tons, 17 tons more than the original Pattons. The extra weight slowed the M247 so much that it couldn’t keep pace with the M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradleys that it was designed to primarily protect.

Third, the awesome Swedish cannons on the York provided their own problems. While capable, they were mounted in such a way that a weapon pointing high in the sky would confuse the already troubled radar.

And finally, the weapon wasn’t even accurate. In some tests, it failed to hit helicopters hovering completely still.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
An M247 Sgt. Alvin C. York Division Air Defense gun on display in Camp Robinson, Arkansas. (Photo: Mark Holloway, CC BY 2.0)

So, it couldn’t keep up with the vehicles it escorted, couldn’t properly find low targets because of ground clutter, couldn’t find high targets because of its own gun, and then couldn’t accurately hit anything it could find.

Army and Ford engineers worked hard to iron out the kinks, but they still had to resort to gimmicks like attaching radar-bouncing panels to targets to get the system to pass basic tests.

In one important display, VIPs from the military and Congress were invited to watch the York perform. The system failed to spot its target and instead locked onto something in the stands. It swung its own gun around to track it and several visitors suffered injuries in the scramble to escape the stands.

After total spending of $1.8 billion, the Army had received 65 unsatisfactory weapons and sent the request to the Secretary of Defense for the funding for $417.5 million for another 117 weapons. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger withheld the funds until an ongoing test was completed.

The York once again failed, and Weinberger canceled the program in August 1985.

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4 weapons a Reaper can drop

With news that the MQ-9 Reaper has gained the ability to drop the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, this unmanned aerial vehicle has gained some new capabilities. But this leads to a big question: What else can a Reaper carry?


Here’s a look at some options:

1. AGM-114 Hellfire

This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (Creative Commons photo)

2. GBU-12 Paveway II

While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 – a laser-guided 500-pounder.

3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Aviation Ordnancemen place a weapons cart of GBU-38 500-pound satellite guided bombs on an ordnance elevator on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

4. AGM-176 Griffin

This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
USS Firebolt fires a version of the AGM-176 Griffin missile. (U.S. Navy photo)

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US Army adds 84mm recoilless rifle to platoon arsenal

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
US Army Special Forces soldiers train with the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle in Basra, Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons


U.S. Army infantry platoons will soon have the 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, a devastating anti-armor system, as a permanently assigned weapon.

Service officials completed a so-called conditional material release authorization late last year, making the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System an organic weapon system within each infantry platoon, IHS Jane’s 360 recently reported.

The service is also working on an effort to achieve Full Material Release of the M3 later this year.

Army light infantry units began using the M3 in Afghanistan in 2011, but only when commanders submitted operational needs statements for the weapon.

The breech-loading M3, made by Saab North America, can reach out and hit enemy targets up to 1,000 meters away. The M3 offers the units various types of ammunition, ranging from armor penetration and anti-personnel, to ammunition for built-up areas, as well as special features like smoke and illumination.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
A civilian instructor coaches two paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Divisions’s 1st Brigade Combat Team on how to use a Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle during a certification class at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. | US Army photo

Special operations forces such as the 75th Ranger Regiment have been using the 84mm weapon system since the early 1990s. The M3 became an official, program of record in the conventional Army in 2014.

The M3 has enjoyed success with units such as the 25th Infantry, 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions in Afghanistan.

The launcher weighs approximately 22 pounds, with each round of ammunition weighing just under 10 pounds. By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds and the Javelin‘s launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit weigh roughly 50 pounds.

The CMR allowed the system to be quickly fielded to operational units before the more exhaustive full materiel release process is completed, Jack Seymour, marketing director for Saab North America, told IHS Jane’s.

The current plan is to equip all brigade combat teams with one M3 launcher per platoon.

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Here’s how Apache helicopters should be used when attacking dragons

The guys over at the Smithsonian Channel war-gamed how an Apache could take down a dragon because curating a museum apparently gets boring.


The dragon in their model is straight out of European mythology with huge wings, thick armor, and fire breath:

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
GIF: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel

The Apache is the same flying merchant of death everyone knows and loves from wars like Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom:

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
GIF: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel

The video goes through a couple of scenarios, looking at how Hellfires and 40mm grenades might affect a flying lizard monster. Check it out below:

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New VA study finds 20 veterans die by suicide each day

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
VA photo


The most comprehensive study yet made of veteran suicide concludes that on average 20 veterans a day are taking their own lives.

The average daily tally is two less than the VA previously estimated, but is based on a more thorough review of Defense Department records, records from each state and data from the Centers for Disease Control, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“One veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better-informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero.”

The VA said in a statement that the report will be released at the end of July.

One finding unchanged from the VA’s 2012 report — which was based on 2010 figures — is that veterans age 50 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to commit suicide. But even here the latest findings adjust that number downward, from just over 69 percent in the VA’s 2012 report to 65 percent.

The study found that veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults in 2014 — a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.

Veteran suicides increased at a rate higher than adult civilians between 2001 and 2014. The civilian rate grew by 23 percent while veteran suicides increased 32 percent over the same period. “After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans,” the VA said.

The study also found that the suicide rates among veterans — male and female — who use VA services increased, though not at the rate among veterans who did not use the services.

Overall, the suicide rate since 2001 among all veterans using VA services grew by 8.8 percent versus 38.6 percent for those who did not. For male veterans, the rate increased 11 percent and 35 percent, respectively. For female vets, the rates increased 4.6 percent and 98 percent, according to the study.

In its last study, the VA noted that its figures probably were underestimated, in part because it relied on state records that were not always complete or accurate. Another shortcoming with the earlier report is that it used information from only 21 states.

“The ability of death certificates to fully capture female Veterans was particularly low; only 67 percent of true female Veterans were identified,” the report stated. “Younger or unmarried Veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate.”

The increasing rate of female suicides prompted Congress to pass the Female Veterans Suicide Act, which President Obama signed into law last month.

The VA’s announcement does not offer an explanation why older veterans are more likely to commit suicide, though Dr. Tom Berger, a Navy corpsman in Vietnam and now executive director of the Veterans Health Council at Vietnam Veterans of America, previously told Military.com that sometimes veterans reach an age where they’re not as active with work or other commitments that may have been coping mechanisms for post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues.

The VA said in its announcement on Thursday that over 1.6 million veterans received mental health treatment from the department, including at more than 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers. Veterans also enter VA health care through theVeterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.

The VA anticipates having 1,000 locations where veterans can receive mental health care by the end of 2016.

Efforts to address the high suicide rates among veterans also include predictive modeling — using clinical signs of suicide — to determine which vets may be at highest risk, the VA said in its statement. This system will enable providers to intervene early in the cases of most at-risk veterans.

The VA is also expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA health care system, hiring more than 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line, and building new partnerships between VA programs and community-based programs.

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Here’s why the Army’s going to buy a lot of missiles and bombs next year

If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.


The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Spc. Alan Yearby, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, makes sketches of the terrain while manning a mortar fire position near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2017. A global Coalition of more than 60 regional and international nations have joined together to enable partner forces to defeat ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.

The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”

As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.

Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.

“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.

The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.

To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.

Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.

The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
The Army’s budget is aimed in part at bolstering defenses against Russia.

The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.

A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.

How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”

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‘Avengers – Age Of Ultron’ lays claim to ‘greatest ensemble in the history of cinema’

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
(Photo: Marvel Studios)


How does director Joss Whedon follow the success of the first Avengers movie, that $220 million budget ensemble cast epic that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide?

“With the smallest thing I can think of,” Whedon said at a recent gathering of the cast at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? It’s never the big picture stuff – although that’s cool too – it’s how can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? I write reams and reams of paper just thinking about the tiniest part.”

But “tiny” is not the first word one might use to describe the sequel, “Avengers – Age of Ultron.” It is a big movie in most ways that picks up where “Avengers” left off, taking the interpersonal and witty aspects of the team to the next level while hurtling full tilt across the screen for the duration.

“I read the script, and I said, ‘This is great; let’s go shoot it,'” said Robert Downey, Jr., who returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man. “It’s a Swiss watch to begin with, and Josh really created some great new situations for Tony to be in.”

James Spader plays Ultron – the evil robot who’s trying to use artificial intelligence to destroy the world – and the actor found the Whedon’s production process a challenge to keep up with.

“I really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very quickly,” Spader said. “I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit and all this gear and I went through a range of motion and within 15 minutes I was watching me on a monitor move around this big room as Ultron. That pace was what it was throughout the entire project.”

Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, a character who many fans felt got short shrift in terms of screen time in the first movie. But that’s not the case in “Age of Ultron.”

“I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” joked Renner. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome, and dive into some killer aspects of the character.”

As Renner’s Hawkeye role grew so too did that of Black Widow, played once again by Scarlett Johansson.

“There some sense of normal in a way at the beginning of Avengers 2,” Johansson said. “But at the end she let her guard down. . . She had this moment of false hope. She put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay off, but she realizes her calling is a greater one. That’s not something she’s necessarily thrilled about, but that’s what’s most heroic about her.”

Johansson (who was pregnant during the shooting of the film) also allowed that her action sequences were the result of a multi-person effort. “There’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and badass motorcycle riding happen. All that work being seamless takes a lot of choreography and team spirit.”

Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Banner who turns into The Hulk when provoked, and when asked what methods he draws on acting-wise to differentiate between the two forms, he joked, “I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that except for the accent I was using, maybe.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige summed up the state of the Avengers brand by reflecting on how far it’s come in the last ten years or so: “It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios, and then it continued with Robert in ‘Iron Man 1’ and having Samuel L. Jackson come in in the end and say, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,’ thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant . . . but the world got it much more quickly than I anticipated.”

Feige pointed down the table at the cast and said, “It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

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CSI Battlefield: 7 ways forensic science is used in war

Forensic science is associated with hit TV shows and catching criminals at home, but it’s also used by the military. Here are 7 ways it is:


1. Crater analysis

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Gross

Crater analysis is the study of holes caused by explosions and incoming rounds. It has two major uses. For decades, experts have looked at craters to determine what caliber weapon an artillery attack used and where it was fired from. Since the invention of IEDs, it has also been used to determine what size and type of explosive charge was used in the device.

2. Swabbing for explosives

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Army Sgt. James Bunn

Determining what type of explosives were used in an IED allows military intelligence to determine what methods insurgents are using to create or smuggle explosives. Tactical site exploitation teams swab IED components and test the residue to learn what the explosive is and how refined it is.

Troops can also swab suspected bombmakers hands or homes to prove insurgent activity, allowing U.S. forces or local military personnel to arrest probable insurgents.

3. Fingerprinting and DNA

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Army SPC Chenee’ Brooks

Fingerprint and DNA collection help commanders track the movement of people around the battlefield and aid in the prosecution of insurgents. Investigators grab fingerprints and DNA from inside known areas of enemy activity, from weapons and material, and from suspected insurgents.

Where each matching sample appears on the battlefield will let commanders know if a known bomb maker is in a certain region and will increase the chance that an insurgent is caught at a checkpoint where troops have a fingerprint reader.

Army scientist can even detect explosive materials in the fingerprints found at a site.

4. Testing for chemical and biological deployments

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Timm Duckworth

When troops come under biological or chemical attack, it’s obviously best if the military can quickly determine what agents were used against them. The U.S. has chemical warfare experts in most units who can quickly determine what threat is in the area with special collection papers that test chemical reactions.

The military has also developed an automated tool that automatically tests the environment all the time. The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (M4A1) alerts troops to the presence of an agent, tells them what level of protection is likely required, and identifies the most likely agent being used against them.

5. Searching combat camera, public affairs, and satellite imagery for clues

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Photo: US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Paul D. Bishop

Investigators and forensic technicians on the battlefield get precious few opportunities to collect data from many battlefields, especially if their side isn’t holding the ground at the end of the day. So they often collect data from military photographs and other imagery.

Photos from during the battle can give up clues like which side was where when a war crime was committed, and satellite imagery has already been used to prove the location and scope of mass killings by ISIS. Digital information collected from ISIS social media postings has given Air Force commanders enough information to target a strike.

6. Searching for hidden graves or other evidence

After massacres and other war crimes, criminals often hide all the evidence they can including the bodies of their victims. To bring closure to families and to aid in prosecution down the line, experts hunt out likely mass graves or other caches of hidden evidence.

Iraqi forensic teams have been following the front line as Iraqi and international troops push back ISIS. In Tikrit and other cities hit hard, they’ve found evidence of large executions and exhumed mass graves.

7. Scanning the atmosphere to detect nuclear detonations and materials

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Detecting nuclear detonations from far away is hard. Detecting them from up close is easy. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration

After nuclear tests by foreign countries like North Korea, America and other countries use particle detectors to see how much nuclear material might have been detonated and to prove a detonation took place. During the Cold War, U-2 flights collected particles to learn what weapons the Cold War had in development.

Research is underway to help detect nuclear materials or weapons in transit to shut down smuggling routes and protect population centers.

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The Pentagon has a new plan to annihilate IS terrorists

The Pentagon has shifted its focus in the battle against Islamic State (IS) and now is aiming to “annihilate” the extremist group’s foreign fighters so they cannot return home to the West, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis says.


Mattis told reporters on May 19 that U.S. President Donald Trump approved a Pentagon recommendation for a “tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS.”

The Pentagon believes that strategy will lead to fewer terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris, Belgium, and elsewhere by IS militants and sympathizers, which killed hundreds of people.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
A line of ISIS soldiers.

“The intent is to prevent the return home of escaped foreign fighters,” Mattis said. “The foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit, wherever.

“Those foreign fighters are a threat. So by taking the time to de-conflict, to surround and then attack, we carry out the annihilation campaign so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” he said.

Though IS has lost 55 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria and over 4 million people have been liberated from its control, much remains to be done to fully expel IS from Mosul, the group’s stronghold in northern Iraq.

Moreover, the battle for Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital, has barely begun.

To further the “annihilation campaign,” Trump made the controversial decision this month to arm Kurdish forces in Syria that have been the most effective U.S. allies in the battle against IS. The decision caused consternation in Turkey, which views the Kurdish forces as “terrorists.”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
A member of ISIS in Syria.

The Pentagon’s move to encircle IS in Syria also appears to have contributed to an incident this week where U.S. forces bombed a convoy carrying Syrian and Iranian-backed militia forces engaged in Syria’s civil war, killing eight of the fighters.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, who Trump reappointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 19, said the Pentagon had made a proposal to Russia to try to avoid such conflicts in areas where both countries are operating in the future.

“We have a proposal that we’re working on with the Russians right now,” Dunford said. “I won’t share the details, but my sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to de-conflict operations and ensure that we continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel.”

Russia reacted with outrage to the U.S. air strike on Syrian and Iranian-backed forces near Al-Tanf on Syria’s border with Jordan, calling it “illegitimate” and a “flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty.”

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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VA chief says he’d stay if Trump wants him

As a new administration prepares to take charge in late January, the man who’s lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through nearly three years of turbulence says if President-elect Donald Trump wants him to stay aboard, he’ll keep working to reform the sprawling agency.


“I haven’t yet received a call,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. “But I would never turn my back on my duty.”

Trump has reportedly looked into several candidates for the post, including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but some are calling for McDonald to stay on.

During a recent “Town Hall”-style meeting at the West Los Angeles VA Jan. 4, McDonald fielded questions from the veteran audience that touched on service lapses and recent scandals, including accusations and fraud within the VA and a perceived lack of accountability.

“A certain employee here lost 30 vehicles and still drew a $140,000 salary,” one veteran and VA employee complained. “There’s no accountability with people in management.”

McDonald agreed he inherited a VA plagued with bad actors, but said most of the local VA leaders who were in office when he took over are no longer employed by the VA.

For McDonald the changes haven’t happened fast enough. Speed, he laments, is his greatest challenge. Future VA Secretaries will feel the need for speed as well.

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. and (left) Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (center) receive a brief on a firearms training driving simulator during a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“One of the things I talk about in my top 10 leadership principles is the need to get the right leaders in place,” McDonald told WATM in an exclusive interview. “I changed 14 of my 17 top leaders, but it’s two and a half years later, and we’re not done yet.”

Many of the veterans at the town hall meeting asked McDonald to address problems specific to them — bad record keeping or missed appointments. While the VA secretary said he’d get those problems fixed, he argued its a good sign the complaints focus on the tactical rather than larger systemic problems.

“Two and a half years ago, many of the comments I got were things like, ‘it’s too hard to get an appointment,’ ” he says. “Now, more and more, we’re hearing about individuals and that individual service.”

When you run a large customer service organization, you want to get from anecdotes to specific situations so you can deal with them,” he added.

Talking to McDonald, you can hear how his time as CEO of Procter  Gamble colors his view of running the VA.

“The brands you like the most, ones you can’t do without, you feel like you have an intimate relationship,” he says. “That intimacy leads to trust. What you want to do is measure the trust and measure the emotion that comes out of the experience that you have.”

Those are the metrics that he says matter.

“The fact that trust of the VA has gone up from 47 percent to 60 percent, it’s not where we want it to be, but the fact that it’s gone up says the veterans are seeing a difference,” he said. “What we’ve seen is ease of getting care has gone up 20 points, and the effectiveness of care has gone up about 12 points. Trust, then, has gone up 13 points.”

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
(VA photo)

While veterans’ trust in the system has gone up, McDonald said, there are still calls for more services to be transitioned to private organizations. Many argue private doctors and specialists are more efficient and provide a quicker turnaround for vets in need, while others say moving toward privatization is a bad idea.

For McDonald, a careful mixture of both is the right way forward.

“Since I’ve been the secretary, we’ve gone from 20 percent of our appointments in private medicine to now 32 percent in the private sector, so there has been some degree of privatization,” he says. “We’ve done that in a very evolutionary way, where if we didn’t have a skill, specialty, or a location, we would send people into the community.”

“As I looked at this, privatizing VA services wholesale didn’t make sense to me,” he added.

He explained what he calls the “three-legged stool” of the VA: valuable medical research (to the tune of $1.8B per year), training 70 percent of doctors in the United States, and providing the “best patients” for clinical work – patients with unique situations.

He also said many veterans organization don’t want total privatization.

“They like the integrated care that the VA provides, and they like having medical providers who are familiar with their unique situations,” McDonald says. “They typically have a number of issues that need to be resolved simultaneously.”

Whether he stays in the job or not, McDonald feels it’s important the next VA secretary has a similar pedigree to his — one that combines military experience with top-line business credentials.

“It’s important to have somebody who’s a veteran, obviously, because they have to have credibility with the veteran population, but somebody who’s also run a large organization,” he says. “I think it’s advantageous to have somebody who’s run a large organization and understands the importance of getting the right leaders in place, of setting the right strategies, of making sure the system’s robust, of setting the right culture.”

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The first aerial refueling was straight-up nuts

Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.


But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.

Three men worked together to pull off the stunt. Mays, the daredevil, was joined by two pilots, Frank Hawks and Earl Daugherty. Mays rode along with his gas can in the plane piloted by Hawks. Then, he climbed out of Hawks’ passenger seat and walked onto the right wing tip.

From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.

The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.

 

The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.

Today, aerial refuelings are usually conducted by specially designed aircraft, though modified fighters and attack jets such as the F/A-18 have been pressed into service when needed. The Navy has even looked at using its unmanned X-47B as an automated tanker, but the two aircraft sit in hangars and have not yet been modified for the test missions.

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8 signs you might be a military brat

Sure, we all know that kids with military parents have to move around a lot. It’s a bummer making friends in school since in a couple years you’re going to be bouncing off to another base and have to start all over again.


So, aside from the obvious fact that you can pack your house up in a day and fit most of it on the roof of a minivan, here are some other signs you might be a military brat.

 

1. You don’t have a hometown

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Having to move every 3 years or so makes it hard to really get comfortable in any one place too long. The military lifestyle exposes military kids to new places and foreign cultures, but it can also be hard to have lasting friendships.

2. You know military time

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Military brats actually know what 1600 hours means. But they need to be careful since using military time could confuse some of their non-military friends.

3. You have MREs in your house

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Military brats have grown up having Meals Ready to Eat in their house. Many actually grow to like them and may even have their favorite meal.

4. The PX/BX is everything

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Marine Staff Sgt. Lawrence Battiste and his son Jonathan, natives of Grand Blanc, Mich., greet Santa during a visit to their local Exchange on Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 23, 2013. (photo by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux, Exchange Pacific Region Public Affairs)

The Post Exchange is where you go when you need new clothes and shoes. Why go to Walmart when you have the PX/BX within walking distance from your house?

5. You wake up early

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
Headquarter U.S. Army Pacific started the Suicide Prevention Stand Down with Reveille followed by a resilience run/walk.  (Photo Credit: Russell K. Dodson)

Military brats don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. The bugle sounds of Reveille, which normally occurs at 0630 on military installations, will get those kids up faster than mom or dad ever could.

6. You know the importance of a promotion

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military
The daughter of Lt. Cdr. Terry Fellows pins a new collar device on her father’s uniform during a promotion ceremony at Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hight)

Unlike other kids, military children get to take part in their parent’s promotion ceremonies. This teaches military brats the value of hard work and makes them appreciate their parents even more.

7. You get to do cool stuff

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Military brats get to do all kinds of cool stuff like ride in military vehicles, learn the basics of military parachuting, fly around in military aircraft and much more. Often this makes them the envy of their non-military friends.

8. It’s hard to say good-bye

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Saying good-bye to your parents when they go on deployment is never easy. You worry about them every day and hope they are alright. You can’t wait to be reunited with them again.

 

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82