This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly - We Are The Mighty
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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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This lone Gurkha rifleman stopped three Japanese tanks in their tracks

It takes a Gurkha to save a village.


In 1944, the Japanese were still advancing into British-dominated Burma-India theater. Their progress was slowed due to dense jungles, steep mountains, and the fact that they were trampling all over the backyards of the world’s best soldiers.

One of those was 19-year-old Ganju Lama. Lama was a Rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, an anti-tank unit. This training would soon come in handy. They were part of an effort to recapture the city of Imphal in eastern India, along the Burma border.

The Japanese rolled into the area with 37mm guns mounted on Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Early model Chi-Ha tanks, like the kind Ganju Lama used to eat for breakfast.

In his first contact with the Japanese outside of Imphal, he used a projectile, infantry, anti-tank (or PIAT) rifle to disable one of the tanks. The Gurkhas then fell back, with Lama covering their retreat. Three weeks later, Ganju Lama met another company of Japanese tanks.

That fight would go a very different way.

Japanese artillery opened up on the Gurkhas in the morning of June 12th and rained death on them for more than an hour. As soon as the rain let up, enemy infantry supported by three tanks tore through the British lines near Lama’s position. The Gurkhas counter-attacked but were soon bogged down.

That’s when Ganju Lama picked up a PIAT and went to work.

Bleeding from one leg, as well as his left arm and right hand, he crawled within 30 yards of the enemy tanks. He took out the first tank and then the second, using one round apiece.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
This is a photo of the actual destruction Lama wreaked on the Japanese tanks. (UK Army Museum photo)

As the tank crews abandoned their vehicles, he launched a furious grenade attack, using only his teeth to pull the pin and his good arm to throw.

According to the Guardian, Lama wouldn’t allow himself to be evacuated until he killed or wounded the last of the enemy crewmen.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Lama also earned the Military Medal for covering his unit’s fall back three weeks prior.

Ganju Lama was awarded the Victoria Cross, the UK’s highest award for gallantry, for his actions that day. He would survive his wounds and the war, living to the ripe old age of 77.

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15 GIFs that sum up your military experience

1. This military thing seems like an interesting idea.

2. Mom and dad: I’ve decided. I’m joining the military to serve this great nation.

3. I can’t wait to get to basic training and finally achieve my dream.

4. Oh no. These people are yelling at me and making me do push-ups.

5. I graduated and I’m in the best shape of my life!

6. Guaranteed pay on the 1st and the 15th, baby!

7. Good thing all of my medical needs are taken care of.

8. And I get to serve with some of the best and most dedicated people in the world.

9. Although there’s a lot less cool stuff like this …

10. … and way more than I expected of this:

11. At least there is some time for fun.

12. Those briefs from the 1st Sgt., Sgt. Maj., or the Chief aren’t all that interesting. If I hear “behoove” one more time …

13. Well, I’ve done my time. It’s time to get out of the military and do something else.

14. Just got my DD-214 and so happy to move on …

15. … But I’ll always be proud of my experience.

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This little-known disaster was the first to be called the ‘Second Pearl Harbor’

Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.


This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
The LST-742 loads supplies in Korea in October 1950. The ship design was created in World War II to allow the ships to rapidly deploy tanks and other supplies on landing beaches. (Photo: National Archives)

At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.

Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Navy ships continue to burn on May 22, 1944, following the West Loch disaster the previous day at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The center plume of smoke is coming from LST-480 whose wreckage is still present at West Loch. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.

Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.

The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.

The flames consumed LST-353 and five other ships. The Army unit that was removing the mortar ammunition from LCT-963, the all-Black 29th Chemical Decontamination Company, lost 58 of its men. In total, 163 service members were killed and 396 wounded by the fires and explosions that raged for most of the day.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
The LST-39 burns on May 21, 1944, during the West Loch disaster at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.

The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.

A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.

One ship, LST-480, still rests on the beach at West Loch. The Navy and Army has worked in recent years to remember those lost and call attention to the sacrifices of those killed and wounded.

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Ecstasy to treat post traumatic stress? The FDA says MDMA research is a go

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Molly, the powdered form of MDMA, was a popular street drug in the 80s and 90s. Soon, it could be used to treat PTSD. Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.

MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the “euphoria-inducing traits” and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.

His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.

Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA’s approval of the new study, Marmar is “cautious but hopeful,” according to The New York Times.

“If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use,” Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a “feel good drug” and prone to abuse.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit founded in 1986 to explore the medicinal and societal value of psychedelic drugs and marijuana, funded the six small-scale studies that lead to the approval by the FDA.

According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.

The studies treated a total of 130 PTSD patients, most of whom could no longer be classified as meeting the “criteria for having PTSD.”

According to The New York Times, the researchers involved in the study have applied for “breakthrough therapy status” with the FDA.

If the FDA approves that request, and the studies continue to show similar results, Ecstasy could be a viable treatment for veterans with PTSD by 2021.

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This female veteran says they’ll have to pry her uniform out of her hands

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


Young Amy Forsythe was champing at the bit to get into the military and continue her family’s tradition of military service. Her grandfather had been a Marine and her grandmother had been an Army nurse, and the two of them met while serving in on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II.

To please her parents, Forsythe attended junior college for a few years, but she couldn’t suppress her desire to serve. She enlisted in the Marines in 1993 as a combat correspondent and spent her first year as a radio broadcaster stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Amy Forsythe (right) in Iraq in 2006 with her then-boss Megan McClung who was later killed in Ramadi.

 

“I ended up serving about eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps and then I went into the reserves before 9/11,” she explained. “After the attacks, it was inevitable that I would be mobilized.”

She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a public affairs chief with an Army Civil Affairs Task Force in 2002 and 2003, the period when insurgent IED attacks were just starting to heat up. In 2006, she deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Al Anbar province, Iraq.

During the 2006 deployment in Fallujah, things started to really heat up,” Forsythe remembers. “We had a lot of close calls — rocket attacks, mortars — we were moving this huge satellite dish around Ramadi and Fallujah trying to avoid heavy engagements. My boss was also a female Marine, Major Megan McClung, and she was killed in Ramadi, which gives you the sense of what was happening.”

Forsythe saw a lot of women serving in combat zones and fighting alongside their male counterparts, regardless of billet or MOS.

“Women in combat isn’t anything new,” she says. “In the Marines, every Marine is a rifleman at the basic level. During Desert Storm, people said Americans weren’t ready for women to come home in body bags, but every person in a forward deployed area is susceptible to injury or death. Women serve and take just as much risk as men. If women can meet the standards, then everyone else can adjust.”

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Forsythe in Afghanistan in 2013 with a member of the Afghan National Police.

In 2006, Forsythe and her teammate, then-Cpl. Lynn Murillo took a lot of risks shuttling a satellite dish around Anbar Province, connecting Iraqi military and civic leaders with the pan-Arab media for the first time during the Iraq War. Since much of the success of the American mission in Iraq depended on controlling information, it was a critical mission.

She and Murillo spent most of their time out with Marines on foot patrols covering the Iraqi army training and connecting service members with hometown news stations and national news outlets. After a year in Anbar, she redeployed but was right back there a year later, astonished at the changes in the area.

“I couldn’t believe how things changed in Haditah and Ramadi,” she recalls. “There were still attacks to the base and personnel, but it was amazing to see the improvements to the infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. In 2006, the insurgency was at its worst and out of control. By 2008, Anbar Province was seeing security improvements and new construction underway.”

Her 22-year career spans changes for the U.S. military and for the women who serve. “I’ve seen so many changes through the years, but the wars helped prove women are willing to shoulder the burden of serving in combat zones. After her two tours in Iraq, she returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and also served with U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2014.

Of all her assignments and risks, one the most harrowing events of her career occurred when she was on temporary duty assigned to the public affairs office at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013.

“It started like any other ordinary day, until the Navy Yard Shooter put us in lockdown mode,” Forsythe remembers. Our office was next to Building 174, the scene of a mass-shooting incident. “It was surreal, tragic and beyond belief. After surviving four combat tours, there we were in Washington, D.C., losing all those people.”

After her first three combat tours, Forsythe accomplished what she set out to do in the military. Serving about 18 years in the Marines on both active duty and in the reserves, Forsythe was looking forward to retiring from the reserves until the Marine colonel for whom she worked encouraged her to apply for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officer program.

“I didn’t know this program existed,” Forsythe says. “But accepting a commission with the Navy is a continuation of my desire to serve. When you go from enlisted to officer, you can look forward to a 35 or 40-year career and retire at age 60.”

Her education and experience as a military journalist allowed her land a job as a reporter and occasional anchor for a local television station. And these days, when not activated, she runs a media company in the San Diego area.

“I love seeing veterans transition out of the military and end up owning their own businesses,” says Forsythe. “It’s so encouraging to see vetreprenuers who have certain skill sets and want to own their own business. Putting a dollar price on your services isn’t easy. It’s hard to determine your own value because you don’t want to under-sell yourself.”

She doesn’t consider herself special, but makes it a point to inform anyone, especially female service members, that anything is possible if you are aware of your own potential.

“I would tell other female service members and veterans to be curious. Be creative. Be confident. In other words, keep learning and seeking knowledge, use creative problem-solving techniques and believe in yourself.”

Serving as enlisted and as an officer, on active duty and in the reserves, in both the Marines and the Navy, Forsythe encourages others to seek opportunities in the reserves.

“It’s been a struggle to balance a civilian career,” she says. “But it’s like having the best of both worlds. Cutting ties with the military too abruptly can cause regret for some service members. Plus, the extra monthly pay and camaraderie with other ‘weekend warriors’ is a great way to stay connected with others who have similar experiences.”

“I’m sure they’ll have to pry the uniform out of my hands when that retirement day comes,” says Forsythe. “But I will always advocate for veterans. The service has been such a part of my life, I will continue to serve in uniform for as long as I can.”

Now: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

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The Air Force says Space Marines are not happening… yet

The latest Air Force Chief of Staff’s world is a complete departure from his predecessor’s – one where things are not “pretty darn good.”


General David Goldfein is no stranger to agression. He’s a trained fighter pilot who flew missions during Desert Storm and over Serbia in Operation Allied Force.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
General David Goldfein being sworn in as the Air Force’s 21st Chief of Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott Ash)

Goldfein’s Air Force has 12 core functions and one of those is space defense. The top air officer says space is no longer going to be considered a “benign environment.” Instead, the Air Force will see it as a “war-fighting domain”– but space doesn’t need foot soldiers just yet, according to Goldfein.

“Anything that separates space and makes it unique and different, relative to all of the war-fighting missions that we perform that are reliant on space, I don’t think that will move us in the right direction at this time,” he told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill..

His comments come in response to Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and two subcommittees for readiness and strategic forces.

Rogers wants to create a “Space Corps” — a new military branch for operations in Earth’s orbit.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Rogers Congratulates Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins outside the Pentagon. (Mike Rogers photo)

Despite the Air Force being a “world-class military service,” space should not be led by people who “get up each morning thinking about fighters and bombers…you cannot organize, train, and equip in space the way you do a fighter squad,” Rogers said at the 33rd Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs.

The Alabama Congressman went on to note that of the Air Force’s 37 newest one-star generals, not one had extensive space experience – they are predominantly pilots.

Rogers called for a Space Corps within the Air Force that would one day break off to form its own branch, much like the Army Air Corps broke from the Army in 1947.

The Air Force is currently undergoing major organizational changes to address the concerns about which Rogers is most concerned, a change that Goldfein says will be significantly affected by the formation of a Space Corps.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

“Whether there’s a time in our future when we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we probably ought to keep that dialogue open,” Goldfein said. “But right now, I think it would actually move us in the wrong direction.”

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Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

Yazidi women who were enslaved and terrorized by ISIS have formed a military unit known as the Sun Brigade to hunt down the fighters and condemn them to Hell.


This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
A military trainer teaches Yazidi and Kurdish women how to fire machine guns during basic training. Screenshot: YouTube/BBC News

ISIS fighters believe that they will not be allowed into Paradise if they are killed by a woman, a fact the Yazidi women of the Sun Brigade are happy to exploit.

ISIS fighters brutally committed a campaign of forced conversion and genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. After overrunning a Yazidi village, ISIS killed the men and took able-bodied women and girls as sex slaves. When one Yazidi slave gave birth, she was not permitted to feed her newborn son, according to Fox News. When the baby cried, the woman’s ISIS master beheaded him.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Xate Shingali shows other Yazidi women how to handle firearms during a display for visiting CNN journalists. Screenshot: YouTube/Hiwa Marko

Some Yazidi women want to punish ISIS for what they did to their people. Xate Shingali, a 30-year-old folk singer, leads the Sun Brigade. The Sun Brigade is part of the Women’s Protection Unit, abbreviated as the YPJ, an all-female branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

Many volunteers have friends and relatives kidnapped by ISIS. One of the unit members told CNN, “We are Yazidi. We are women. And we will destroy you and anyone who touches our women and dirties our lands.

The Yazidi women share the sentiment of the Kurdish women. CNN interviewed a 21-year-old Kurdish YPJ commander, known as Tehelden – the Kurdish word for ‘revenge.’ ‘They believe if someone from Daesh [IS] is killed by a girl, they won’t go to heaven. They’re afraid of girls.’

The Sun Brigade has been manning observation posts and training in small unit tactics on Sinjar Mountain, the site where IS killed many Yazidi civilians who sought refuge there in 2014.

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Copy of Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
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This White House plan for the Afghanistan war might surprise you

The Trump administration is considering the ramifications of paring back the US presence in Afghanistan as part of its ongoing strategy review in America’s longest war, The Wall Street Journal reports.


Trump’s national security cabinet is bitterly divided on the future US role in Afghanistan. Senior national security officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are reportedly pushing Trump to allow a surge of approximately 4,000 troops into Afghanistan, while White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has lobbied against the effort.

“It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question,” a senior administration official told WSJ of any plan to increase US troops. “It is becoming clearer and clearer to people that those are the options: go forward with something like the strategy we have developed, or withdraw.”

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (left). DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Trump is reportedly deeply skeptical of increasing US troops in Afghanistan and sent back McMaster’s final version of a plan to his national security council in late-July. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military leaders in charge of the war in Afghanistan say they need a few thousand more US troops to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.

The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in US assistance and a 16-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices. US military commanders admit that any surge in US troops will need to be sustained for years to come in order to build up the Afghan National Security Force’s indigenous capabilities.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the US invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The US backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.

Former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller described officials asking the same fundamental questions about US strategy in the region in 2017 as they were 4 years ago, in a recent interview with Politico Magazine. “Here we are two full presidential terms and into the start of a next one later; there are no peace talks,” Miller lamented.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt secretly talked to Edward Snowden to prepare for a movie

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly


In a profile piece on Joseph Gordon-Levitt from The Guardian, the actor revealed that he flew to Russia for a secret meeting with Edward Snowden in preparation for playing the NSA whistle-blower in the upcoming movie “Snowden,” directed by Oliver Stone (opening in 2016).

Gordon-Levitt said the motivation behind the meeting was to “understand this person that I was going to play, observing both his strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

The two met for four hours and though the actor wanted to tape record the meeting, it was advised that he did not.

In fact, according to piece, Snowden’s lawyers didn’t want Gordon-Levitt to admit the meeting had taken place.

The actor said that what he took most from the meeting with Snowden was he completely agrees with the actions he took.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Edward Snowden receives the Sam Adams award for Intelligence Integrity in Moscow. Photo: Wikimedia

“I left knowing without a doubt that what [Snowden] did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do. That he believed it would help the country he loves,” said Gordon-Levitt.

“Now, as he would say, it’s not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That’s really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don’t want to be the actor guy who’s like, ‘You should listen to me! What he did was right!’ I don’t think that’s my place. Even though that is what I believe — that what he did was right.”

“Snowden” is based on Luke Hardin’s book “The Snowden Files” and Anatoly Kucherena’s “Time of the Octopus.”

Along with Gordon-Levitt, the film stars Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald, and Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras. Greenwald was the journalist and Poitras the filmmaker Snowden leaked the classified documents to.

Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, and Timothy Olyphant also star.

Gordon-Levitt will next been seen in the Robert Zemeckis film “The Walk,” in which he’ll be playing another real-life figure, Philippe Petit. The film recounts Petit’s infamous tightrope walk across New York City’s World Trade Towers in 1974.

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This is how the Navy’s air-to-air kill of that Syrian MiG went down

New details have emerged from the downing of a Russian-made Su-22 by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet over Syria.


The Pentagon said that after Syrian jets had bombed US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria and ground forces headed their way with artillery and armored vehicles, US jets made a strafing run at the vehicles to stop their advance.

But then a Syrian Su-22 popped up laden with bombs.

“They saw the Su-22 approaching,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on June 21st, as CNN notes. “It again had dirty wings; it was carrying ordnance. They did everything they could to try to warn it away. They did a head-butt maneuver, they launched flares, but ultimately the Su-22 went into a dive and it was observed dropping munitions and was subsequently shot down.”

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez

A US F/A-18E off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean then fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile at the Syrian jet, but the Su-22 had deployed flares causing the missile to miss. The US jet followed up with an AIM-120 medium range air-to-air missile which struck its target, US officials told CNN.

The pilot ejected over ISIS territory, and Syrian forces declared him missing in action.

The focus of the US’s airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own. Before the Su-22, the US had not shot down a manned enemy aircraft since 1999.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
A Polish Su-22 Fitter at the 2010 Royal International Air Tattoo. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

Since the downing of the Syrian jet, Russia has threatened to target US and US-led coalition jets flying over Syria west of the Euphrates river.

Both Syria’s Su-22 and the US’s F/A-18E Super Hornet are updated versions of 1970s aircraft, but Russia and the US both have much more advanced systems to bring to bear. Fortunately, an air war seems unlikely between major powers in Syria.

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19 photos that show what Army sappers do

Sappers are the Army’s experts in mobility on the battlefield. They stop the enemy from moving around and clear obstacles that inhibit the U.S. infantry and other ground troops. To do these jobs, they have to know how to fight an enemy, construct infrastructure like bridges and fences, and destroy enemy obstacles with explosives and tools.


Here are 19 photos that show their mission:

1. Engineers clear routes through enemy territory for maneuver forces.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

2. To do this, they detect enemy mines, IEDs, barbed wire, trenches, and other obstructions.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

3. If an obstruction or explosive is detected, the engineers ‘interrogate’ (sapper speak) the obstacle and decide what to do.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Adam Simmler

4. Once they identify a threat, they may mark it so infantry units know where the safe path is.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

5. But they often decide to blow the obstruction up. Sappers are known for their skill with explosives.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

6. When the enemy is hiding in a building, the sappers can cut through the walls or doors to get to them.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

7. They could also just blow the door off the hinges or a hole in a wall. Again, sappers blow up a lot of stuff.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

8. Once the building is open, they can force their way inside but will often leave the task of searching the building to the infantry or other maneuver units.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Roger Ashley

9. When the enemy protects the objective with barbed wire and other obstacles, the engineers use Bangalore torpedoes to blow open a path.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

10. Another specialty of engineers is getting themselves and equipment to hard to reach places. Here, sappers create improvised rafts to cross a lake.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

11. They also have proper boats, like the Zodiac, that they’ll use to cross the water.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

12. Sappers can even drop directly into the water with their equipment and boats via a helicopter.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

13. They’ll climb up cliff faces or repel from ledges to open a route or block an enemy.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

14. Sappers use many different explosives, including missiles, to complete their missions.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

15. Javelin Missiles are most commonly used to destroy enemy armored vehicles.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

16. Engineers may aim to hit an enemy tank or armored vehicle while it’s in a choke point, preventing other vehicles from crossing there.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army 251st Engineer Company

17. Enemy ground units can be stopped or slowed with mines. Claymores fire a barrage of steel bearings at enemies.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army

18. For more security, the sappers and other engineers can put up fences or other obstacles.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

19. This prevents enemy soldiers from getting to friendly forces as easily.

This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford