The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West - We Are The Mighty
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The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West

On July 4th, 2015 two separate instances of Russian long-range bombers closing on U.S. airspace prompted interceptions by U.S. Air Force F-22 and F-15 fighter aircraft off the coasts of California and Alaska. The bombers, Tupolev TU-95 “Bear” bombers, were intercepted at 10:30 and 11 a.m. Eastern Time.


The bombers did not enter U.S. airspace, and an interception does not mean the destruction of the intercepted aircraft. Around the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama to wish him a happy Independence Day.

Expert trolling, Mr. Putin.

Russian bombers did the same thing on July 4, 2013.

In January of this year, two Russian nuclear-capable bombers found their way into air defense zones near Alaska, but were not intercepted. That same month, A Russian Bear bomber was intercepted in the English Channel, flying without its transponder (making it invisible to civilian aircraft) prompting the UK government to summon the Russian Ambassador. In February, Russian Bear bombers were intercepted by an RAF Typhoon near Cornwall, England. Russian media released a video of bomber interceptions from the Russian point of view, featuring British Typhoons, a French Mirage, and a German Eurofighter.

In May, two Russian Tupolev Tu-22Ms were intercepted by Swedish fighters over the Gulf of Finland, “provocatively close” to Swedish airspace. While Sweden is not a NATO ally, it is still in the Western sphere of influence, a sphere President Putin considers weak and decadent while Sweden and Finland are warming up to the idea of joining the alliance. This is the latest in a string of incidents between Russia and Sweden, the others occurring in March 2015 and September 2014. The Russians were similarly intercepted by Latvia, Norway, Turkey, and Portugal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc07bMb4cKA

Displays of bomber capability are not uncommon, even from the U.S., which recently flew B-52 bombers from Nebraska to Australia and back to demonstrate the long range capability of the aircraft. What is uncommon is Russia’s constant provocation of approaching air defense zones.

In 2013, Canadian and American fighters scrambled to meet the Russians six times, with ten more sightings of Russian bombers in air defense zones. NATO says allied fighters scrambled more than 400 times in 2014 (100 times in the UK alone) to intercept Russian military planes. The U.S. Air Force reported 50 air-to-air intercepts by the U.S. since 2006.

NOW: A 78-year-old German man was hiding a full-size tank in his basement

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2500 more US troops will deploy to fight ISIS

The U.S. is sending 2,500 additional forces to Kuwait to serve in a reserve capacity in the fight against the Islamic State, Army Times reports.


The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The forces will largely be drawn from the 82nd Airborne division and will be used at the discretion of ground commanders in the ISIS fight. The announcement is the latest in a series of escalations by the Trump administration in the war against ISIS which could signal a prolonged U.S. presence in Syria and Iraq.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command would not comment to The Daily Caller News Foundation on the role these forces may play in Syria. The additional personnel will be “postured there to do all things Mosul, Raqqa, all in between,” Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson told Congress Wednesday.

U.S. conventional forces could be used in stabilization operations in Syria after the initial local force assault on ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, Army Gen. Joseph Votel intimated to Congress Thursday. The Trump administration is also significantly increasing the number of U.S. personnel inside Syria to support the assault.

The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday it deployed nearly 400 additional troops to Syria to serve in a support capacity for the Syrian Democratic Force’s assault. The troops include U.S. marines to provide artillery support who will set up a firing base just 20 miles away from the terrorist group’s headquarters.

The additional personnel to Syria and Kuwait, are likely part of a larger facet of a new Pentagon plan to “eradicate” ISIS. Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to defeat the terrorist group and ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to deliver a series of options to the White House to get rid of the group.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February it would be “a political-military plan.”

“The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed,” Dunford continued.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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First female Marine recruit signs infantry contract

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
Two sergeants take cover while maneuvering to conduct an enemy counter-attack during a pilot test at Range 107, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 2, 2015. | Photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders


The first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps with an infantry contract is headed to boot camp later this year.

A 19-year-old female applicant had contracted into the Marines’ delayed entry program, selecting to enlist in the infantry, Jim Edwards, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told Military.com.

The contract means that she will enter the 0300 community, with her specific military occupational specialty to be determined according to the needs of the Marine Corps at School of Infantry training in Camp Geiger, North Carolina, he said.

The poolee is set to ship to recruit training between October and December of this year, Edwards said. At this point, she has not been publicly identified and she has opted not to conduct any interviews, he said.

There will be numerous physical hurdles to cross before she gets to an infantry unit in the fleet.

In order to qualify for the infantry contract, the recruit had to pass an enhanced initial strength test including a mile-and-a-half run, three pullups, an ammunition can lift and crunches, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com.

She will have to pass this enhanced IST again after she reaches boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Non-infantry recruits, on the other hand, take a strength test with no ammunition can lift requirement and the option for women to conduct a flexed-arm hang, instead of pullups.

About 45 days into boot camp, the recruit and all other recruits slated for infantry jobs will need to pass a physical fitness test that includes a six-pullup requirement, Kulczewski said.

If a recruit fails to pass any of these tests, they risk being reclassified into a non-infantry job.

And that is proving to be a stringent requirement.

According to data obtained by Military.com and first reported by the Associated Press, seven female recruits have attempted to pass the enhanced strength and physical fitness tests since January. One has passed, and six have been reclassified to different jobs.

Among male recruits, 1,457 have taken the tests and 46 have been reclassified.

Kulczewski said the female recruits who were counted in this data were attempting to enter one of 11 ground combat jobs that the Marine Corps opened to women in 2014, ahead of the mandate at the start of this year to allow women into every combat specialty. These previously opened jobs include low-altitude air defense gunner, field artillery radar operator, and repairer/technician for a variety of combat vehicles, among others.

Before getting assigned a specific MOS, men and women entering the infantry field also must pass a range of job-specific physical skills tests administered once they reach the School of Infantry.

Applicants for all infantry jobs must demonstrate the ability to conduct a casualty evacuation of a combat-loaded teammate, scale a wall, and conduct an MK-19 machine gun lift. Other job-specific skills include breaching a door with a battering ram, conducting a 20-kilometer ruck run, lifting a tank towbar, and more.

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Interview with SSG Kenneth Lepore, Ohio Army National Guard Recruiter

SSG Ken Lepore joined the Army National Guard post-high school to help pay for college and because he loves his country. Through his service in the Army National Guard, he has grown immensely as a professional and as a person. He credits his time on deployment and serving the U.S. in making him a more mature, educated and driven citizen. He now serves as a recruiter for the Army National Guard in Central Ohio and interacts with high schoolers looking for a challenge and the opportunity to serve. Lepore discusses his life experiences, insights and tips on joining the Army National Guard.

1. How long have you been in the Army and what have your experiences been?

I have been in about 15 years overall with about a 3.5-year break in service. My three tours were as a tank crewman and cavalry scout to Kosovo in 2004-2005, then Iraq 2006-2007, and again to Iraq in 2009-2010. I also deployed to support the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina 2005.

2. When did you become an Army Recruiter?

I became a recruiter in 2015. Before that, I worked as a teacher, in college admissions and now work as an adjunct professor of history at Marion Technical College.

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore after enlisting a recruit in the Ohio ANG. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

3. What are some of the obstacles that come up during the recruitment process?

The most notable obstacles for recruits to overcome are COVID, of course, their ASVAB score, physical things, legal issues and negative perceptions.

Overall, the answer to this really does depend on the areas where one recruits as well as knowing one’s recruiting area. But remember, it is always about being physically, intellectually and morally qualified. So, there is always the potential that the ASVAB can become an obstacle. For example, I rarely had issues with kids who could not pass the ASVAB, but I recruited out of suburban and exurban schools that have pretty highly ranked education programs. 

Again, that does not mean that everyone I met and worked with passed the ASVAB, but it does mean that, based on how ASVAB scoring works, the vast majority of kids I worked with could read and do the math on at least an 11th-grade level. Again, a passing score is a 31 or above, and this is not a percentage, but a percentile.

The physical things are a different kind of obstacle, but even though we ask some questions with that APPLE-MDT process to try to discover any potential medical or physical issues early in the recruiting process, it is typically when conducting a thorough medical questionnaire that any physical/medical issues will become known. This does not necessarily mean that someone will be disqualified – we are recruiters, not doctors, so it is not our place to tell someone if they are disqualified, although we may have a pretty good idea.

But, it identifies the need for more documentation, typically medical docs, which are submitted to MEPS. For example, if someone tells me they had surgery on an ACL, I know that we are going to need documents, so we know they will be okay at training and doing their jobs without that ACL becoming an issue. Then, based on the questionnaire and any accompanying documentation, the doctors at MEPS can make a preliminary determination on if someone is physically qualified or not – if they say no, then we request a waiver.

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore (third from right) with his company of recruiters. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

So, let’s say that nothing is wrong or that there was something like the applicant had braces and the accompanying documents from the dentist show when the braces will be off, and we get preliminary approval, this means we can schedule them for a face-to-face physical at MEPS. This is not like a physical fitness test, but it is more like a sports physical at high school or college – makes sure everything bends the right way, height/weight standards, checks vision/hearing, urinalysis, etc. This is the point where the doctors at MEPS will officially stamp that paperwork as physically qualified, but if anything requires more documentation or is a disqualifier, they will let you know. If that happens, we either try to get the necessary documentation or request a waiver, if possible. There are some things, for example, that we cannot plan for or necessarily know beforehand too, like say astigmatism or a high cylinder in the eye or heart arrhythmia, but that is exactly why it is that two-part process. 

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore on deployment to Iraq. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

Other obstacles are legal obstacles, and this does not just mean having felonies, but even having an unresolved parking ticket – those need to be paid. Again, this was not something I had much of an issue in my former recruiting area, but for others, like with the ASVAB, it can be a real problem, whether drug charges, or a DUI, theft, violent crimes, etc. We have regulations that will let us know what is okay and if a moral waiver and suitability review needs to be initiated.

But this is where that bit of common sense comes into play as well, because members of the military are expected to hold themselves to a high standard and because we need that trust with the public as well. Essentially, I was not afraid to tell someone to get out of my office because of their legal background. My old office partner was doing a sex offender check in the online registry (we do it for everyone), and the guy he was working with came up – process over, dude, we’re done here. 

Another time, he and I were at the Franklin County Courthouse, getting court documents on someone as part of a background check, and a lawyer or a social worker came running up to us telling us that her client was perfect for the military and how the military could help him (it is illegal for recruiters to get involved to get charges dropped in order to allow someone to enlist); anyway, my old office partner calmly asked her if her client was someone she would want armed to the teeth, which made her pause. She replied that he was not. Bad choices will derail enlistment – this is not and cannot be the last resort, but rather a first choice.

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore in Iraq on deployment. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

So this is where the public perception can become a benefit or an obstacle to recruiting. I am someone who very much hates being lumped in as one of McNamara’s boys, and I do get annoyed with the aforementioned perspective that military service is for poor people and stupid people with no prospects in life. This obviously is not true at all – again, I have a graduate degree, and I chose to join twice, one of those times after I had my college paid for. But where this can become an obstacle is, for example, when some parents carry that military service is beneath their child, which I have experienced a couple of times, typically in some of the more affluent areas I recruited in. 

I had a kid I was working with whose parents bought him a brand new Mercedes to stop talking to me. I said, “I don’t fault you, dude, that’s a $60,000 car, I don’t think you learned a positive life lesson, but I don’t fault you at all.” Another time, I was taking a young lady just to take her ASVAB, and only do that – nothing else. She just wanted to take it as a career exploration tool, and I told her I will be glad to help. 

It was her grandparents who came on the attack, crying when they saw me in uniform, letting me know I was a monster, and they knew people who went to Vietnam and begging their granddaughter not to do this. Again, she was not going to enlist (ever), and I knew that – that’s why her guidance counselor contacted me out of all the recruiters. But I did take great offense to their behavior, and I tactfully reminded them that, among other things, I was/am better educated than both of them. Nonetheless, there does seem to quite often be an uncle or a family member or someone who had a bad experience with a recruiter or with the military, and that becomes a difficult obstacle — overcoming perceptions — particularly entrenched ones.

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore with a group of his recruits for the Ohio Army National Guard. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

4. Are there any ways to combat these things, and if so, how?

So, combating the aforementioned obstacles really comes down to the obstacle itself. Something like a recruit being over height and weight standards is actually one of the easier things because I can supply them with a workout plan and make some dietary recommendations, but it is on them to follow it and make it happen. This is actually nice because it shows early on in the process how much someone wants to be in. I had a young man who lost 180 pounds to join, and that said everything I needed to know about his dedication, character, motivation, etc., and I knew that he’d do fine at training and in his unit. 

Some of the other medical stuff does become more of a challenge, though, particularly because you don’t want someone to be a liability to themselves or others. But, as mentioned earlier, we can always try to request a waiver – it will get either approved or denied, but at the end of the process, you’ll know why. I worked with a young lady who had a penicillin allergy – we got all the medical documents, submitted them with the questionnaire to MEPS, and she was marked preliminarily as not qualified. So, we submitted a request for a waiver, which did get approved; then she took her physical, passed, and joined. The process took about a week and a half long, but that’s okay, as it shows that even with an allergy to a medicine, we took the right steps and she was taken care of.

Combating the legal obstacles is a little more cut-and-dry because in AR 601-210 and the National Guard’s accompanying documents, the Accessions Options Criteria and the Annex A as well as other regulatory guidance that comes out, it lets us know what we can work with, as far as having a legal background and what we cannot. However, I found that I never really had many problems with interested individuals having legal backgrounds beyond anything more than traffic violations, an occasional single DUI or drug charge – and yes, you can have a whole bunch of traffic tickets and still be able to enlist as an 88M Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), although I tended to steer bad drivers away from that MOS (no pun intended). But, I knew that pretty much anything beyond that, I probably was not going to work with that person anyway because I knew I would not want someone with multiple assaults, theft or domestic violence charges in my squad, so I wouldn’t bother. I cannot speak for other recruiters or other branches of the military, but as a student of history and of languages, I tend to pay attention to the patterns.

The Russian Air Force keeps trolling the West
SSG Lepore after enlisting one of his recruits. Photo courtesy of Ken Lepore.

It is combating that obstacle of public perceptions that is the most difficult, but I found that I dealt with it two-fold – as a member of the military, and as a recruiter. This is one reason why we, as recruiters, need to be judicious about who we enlist and also not deceive or lie to people we work with. So, this essentially comes down to trust, as it ties into public perception. For starters, one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life was from an undergraduate philosophy professor at Ohio U, who told me that I dispelled every pre-conceived notion he had about people in the military. But because of my relative size (I’m 5’6” and 145 lbs), I do not exactly come off as that hard-charging, flag-waving recruiter, which is good, because that has never been my style. 

Instead, I tried to make myself an example, to my soldiers, to my students and now to my recruits. When working with parents and teachers and guidance counselors, it is a similar thing. One soldier’s dad told me in an initial interview (he was prior service) that I was completely unlike any recruiter he had ever met. Several of my teacher and guidance counselor friends at my old schools have echoed similar things. They and my old boss told me that I recruit different kinds of people/soldiers than what they anticipate – actually, a lot of my old recruits have contacted me too and told me that they never could have seen themselves in the military or never even considered it until they met someone just like them – bookish, athletic-ish and trying to figure out how to pay for college. 

And as I said, this was not really on my radar until my senior year of high school, so I get it. For me, it felt like I had the chance to show people that there should be zero stigmas from being an enlisted person in any branch of the military (but especially the Army National Guard) because before I turned 28, I had completed nine years in the Guard, three overseas tours, a graduate degree, no student loan debt, a myriad of languages and had a lived a fairly full life before I had attended my 10-year high school reunion. The little things that we can do to get rid of McNamara’s stigma and tip the hat to the importance of disciplined initiative drilled into my head at training. Besides, after you graduate from basic training and job training, you really do feel like you can accomplish anything – all obstacles become surmountable. 

Full YouTube interview here on The Samurai Pulse:

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6 tips to live the best life ever from USAF vet Bob Ross

With his soothing voice and famous catchphrases, Robert Norman “Bob” Ross inspired many Americans to pick up a paintbrush and put it to canvas.  


The famed oil painter brought “Happy Little Trees” and “Mystic Mountains” to our television screens for many years with his show “The Joy of Painting”, which aired from 1983 until 1994 on PBS. What many people may not know about Ross is that prior to being an instructional painter, he was a military man.

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Bob Ross before and after…

In fact, Mr. Ross served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, 1961-1981, where he would achieve the rank of Master Sergeant. Ross held main leadership positions, which included serving as a first sergeant.

Ross said in a 1990 interview with the Orlando Sentinel that he had jobs in the Air Force that required him to be “tough and mean;” however, it did not fit his personality and he vowed to change when he left the service.

“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work,” he said. ”The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”

While some aspects of military life could be rough and not appealing to him, it did play a part in his success following his post-military career.

Unfortunately, the world lost Bob Ross way too soon in 1995 after a long battle with lymphoma. He was only 52 years old.

Along with his paintings, Bob Ross left us so many incredible life lessons that we can all learn from. Here are 6 of those lessons:  

1. Inspiration can come from anywhere

It was his time while stationed in Alaska that inspired much of his work. Many of his paintings feature mountains covered in snow as well as open landscapes. While he may have not always liked the military lifestyle, he found peace living in the “Last Frontier.”

Along with his time in Alaska, the rapid speed in which he painted was also inspired by his military background. Ross leveraged his work pace in his military career to translate it to his painting technique. Aspects in your everyday life can serve as moments of inspiration.

2. Do not set limitations

Bob Ross was never one to set rules when he was painting. He would typically tell his viewers “paint what you want,” or “do what you feel.” Many art teachers may follow the traditional rules of painting but Bob Ross likes to throw out the rule book.   

3. Staying calm

Bob Ross was one cool individual. He never seemed to get stressed out or frustrated when he was painting. His tone was always so relaxing, and he always seemed to put life into perspective when his was painting. Ross remained calm on a consistent basis, which had a direct link to his performance. This cool demeanor allowed him to complete thousands of paintings throughout his career making him not only a great painter but a successful TV personality and businessman.

4. Follow your passion

Following his military career, Bob Ross could have easily taken the conservative route working a regular job. Instead he took a risk by following his passion for painting, and he devoted his life to it. In the process of following his dreams, he helped others discover a love for the arts. It is an accomplished that only a few of us dare to do because many of us have a fear of failure.

5. Stay positive

Having a great attitude in life is not always easy. Let’s face it life is hectic. However, Bob Ross always seem to have an optimistic viewpoint. Even when he made a mistake, he would say “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents”

6. Believe in yourself

At the 2:29 mark of this clip Bob Ross gives us his best advice saying the following “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” If you ever start to doubt yourself just remember these words.

Bob Ross’ influence and legacy is enduring to this day. Luckily for us, Netflix announced this past June that it is now streaming his other show “Beauty is Everywhere” on its service giving a whole new generation of people the chance to discover his great work, positive vibes and of course his glorious afro.

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How The Screenwriter Behind ‘American Sniper’ Got It Right

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The first time screenwriter Jason Hall met Chris Kyle and his posse – Hall’s first-ever visit to Texas – he was the only one in the room wearing tennis shoes instead of cowboy boots.

“I could feel the war on him when I shook his hand,” Hall recounted. “It was a visceral reaction.”

Also Read: ‘American Sniper’ Just Got Nominated For 6 Oscars — Here’s Why It’s A Must-See War Film 

Hall had heard about the legendary sniper – the man with a record number of kills and a 2,100-yard shot to his name – from another SEAL friend based on the west coast. He read Kyle’s autobiography and found it written in the “blustery, chippy voice of a guy just back from the war.”

But once the screenwriter met the SEAL in person he knew that a straight reading of the autobiography would result in a movie that didn’t tell the whole story. There was a lot more to the man than a guy who knew his way around a rifle.

“He was 37, but he looked 57,” Hall said. “The war had taken a toll.” Hall noted how Kyle had trouble crawling around with his kids because his knees were shot.

Kyle’s wife Taya – who’d weathered four war deployments on the home front – added another dimension. Hall studied her reactions to her husband, her concerns when his mood went south and how her face lit up when he was with their children.

“It was the idea of war at home and a marriage reeling in the wake of prolonged war,” Hall said. “In that I saw a film.”

So Hall came up with a proposal that he pitched to a few studios. In time he landed a deal with Warner Brothers that included Bradley Cooper in the lead role. Upon their first meeting, Kyle said to Cooper, “I need to drag you behind my truck and knock the pretty off of you.”

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Bradley Cooper with Jason Hall. (Photo: Jason Hall)

For his part Cooper said he was willing to do whatever it took to get it right. The actor started working on his Texas drawl, learning the weapons of a SEAL sniper, and gaining weight, ultimately putting on 44 pounds for the movie.

Hall worked on the screenplay for over two years, closely communicating with Kyle as he honed the various elements. Over that time the two developed a close friendship.

“I’d call him on his cell phone, but being the special operator he was he’d never answer the first time,” Hall said. “He’d text back: ‘What’s up?’ and then we’d talk for hours.”

Hall discovered an Iraqi sniper named “Mustafa” while reading The Sheriff of Ramadi, and after a series of discussions with Kyle he added the enemy shooter to the plot. “Mustafa was Chris’ doppelganger,” Hall said. “He’s an integral part of the story.”

Kyle’s state of mind was also an integral part of the story, but Hall was very guarded about falling into the trap that Hollywood’s clichéd portrayal of post traumatic stress over the last 10 years or so has become.

“Chris saw a lot of combat and took a lot lives and lost brothers,” Hall said. “He felt strongly that he should still be over there, even after his fourth tour. It haunted him.”

Eventually Hall had a script Kyle and he were happy with. The day after he delivered it to the studio he received a phone call from one of Kyle’s teammates, a fellow SEAL. The teammate’s words will forever be burned into Hall’s memory: “Chris was just murdered by another vet.”

Hall attended Kyle’s funeral unsure of the future of “American Sniper,” the film. He felt out of place. The SEALs in attendance treated him as an interloper. He described his presence at the reception following the memorial as “showing up to a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ party in a white Izod.”

Later Hall found himself sitting around a pool with a group of SEALs. None of them seemed interested in talking to him, so he kept his distance, fearing that whatever trust he’d built over the previous two years with Kyle was gone. Finally one of them looked over and said, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here.”

But Hall didn’t leave, sensing he was at a crossroads of sorts. Instead he challenged the guy who’d told him to leave to a wrestling match. The SEAL took him up on it, and the two grappled on the concrete pool deck, drawing blood on knees and elbows in the process. Hall, who’d wrestled in college, wound up winning the scrap.

The ice was broken; trust was reestablished. “I realized the guys were hurting,” Hall said. “They’d lost a brother.”

During those sad days Hall also got an ultimatum from Taya Kyle, who knew that a major motion picture would play a big part in how her children remembered their father: “If you’re going to do this you need to get it right.”

The widow and the screenwriter established a line of communication much like he had maintained with the her husband during the writing of the screenplay, which proved to be invaluable in actress Sienna Miller’s performance in the film and how the couple’s relationship is portrayed.

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Actress Sienna Miller plays Taya Kyle, the sniper’s wife. (Photo: Warner Brothers)

Taya Kyle’s input also informs how Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle. “If you want to know a man ask his wife,” Hall said.

The last element in “getting in right” in Hall’s opinion was having Clint Eastwood as the director of “American Sniper.” After he signed on Taya related that Chris had said that if he had his pick, Eastwood was the guy he wanted to direct the movie.

“Clint is a jazz musician who brings musicality to the imagery as he tells stories,” Hall said. “And he also has the western mythology down. He’s part of it in America.”

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That sensibility was important in bringing art out of the otherwise barren and unpopular landscape of the Iraq War, according to Hall.  “Iraq wasn’t a pretty war,” he said. “It’s ass-hot; you’re thirsty and dirty. Clint found beauty in the truth of that.”

The movie crew also underwrote the movie’s realism by involving veterans in the production, most notably Navy SEAL vet Kevin Lace who started out as a stuntman and wound up playing himself and the wounded vets who appear in the target practice scene toward the end.

“American Sniper” had a limited run in theaters during the holidays, and the box office results were very encouraging and quelled studio execs’ fears surrounding the track record of movies about the Iraq War. (Even the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” didn’t do that well, money-wise.)

But Hall feels that the journey he’s been on with “American Sniper” – shaped by having to deal with the loss of his friend Chris Kyle – created something distinct and more universal than others have managed on the topic.

“‘American Sniper’ started as a war movie,” he said. “But it wound up being a movie about war.”

Watch WATM’s exclusive one-on-one interview with “American Sniper” screenwriter Jason Hall:

More on this topic: ‘American Sniper’ Is A Must-See Film That Brilliantly Honors The Memory Of Chris Kyle

And this: Can You Name The Weapons Used In ‘American Sniper’?

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‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

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When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.

I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.

She had always been a fan of World War II nose art (on the nose of the plane), so decided to use this creative passion of hers to create calendars that could be donated to veterans and raise money for VA hospitals. Now it is a reality, and Gina not only produces the calendars, but brings a group together and goes to donate the calendars at VA hospitals, dressed as the pinups. The organization has donated over $50,000 worth of rehab equipment for VA hospitals nationwide, and has visited over 7,000 ill and injured veterans.

As you would imagine with a group that visits VA hospitals, the stories Gina had to share were touching. She mentioned a man who was in the hospital for a traumatic injury, and how they were talking with him and he responded. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that afterward they were told that this man had not spoken in over a month.

Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a return volunteer for these groups that go to VA hospitals, and shared with me the story of an elderly Navy veteran who cried because she was so happy to have this visit. The video of this touching moment is below:

Jennifer had the following to say about her volunteer experience with Pinups for Vets:

Volunteering with Pin-Ups for Vets means so much to me. On every visit, we see veterans that have not had visitors in days, weeks, or even months. Reconnecting with my brothers and sisters, regardless of era served or branch, is a unique and often beautiful experience. No veteran should ever feel lonely or go without visitors while hospitalized. I do it because not only do I value our veterans, but it makes me feel good as well. I love connecting with other vets and I think volunteer work is essential for anyone who would like to make the world a little brighter.

She also had the following experience to share, which reminds us of the need of young veterans as well:

A visit that sticks out in my mind was when we walked into a room and there were two very young veterans in their late 20s to early 30s. At the hospital, they were surrounded by elderly vets and did not really have anyone to talk to. We spent a lot of time in that room just talking and reminiscing about the service. They were so happy to have company that was around their same age, and it was a really great bonding experience. We signed their calendars and took photos to remember the day by. I still think about that visit often.

Jennifer told me she feels that, through such visits, along with the organizations active social media presence, “people are able to see that there are still veterans who not only appreciate but need the companionship.”

The website for the organization includes thank you letters from the hospitals these volunteers have been able to visit, and reading these was an inspiration in itself. One line from these letters that helped me understand the importance of the visits said their visits make “every day Veterans Day” for their residents.

We don’t want anyone to end up alone in a hospital, especially anyone who dedicated themselves to serving our country. We are fortunate that Pinups for Vets is making an effort, and can see this first hand in the commitment these men and women make to showing these veterans that they care. An example below shows Gina dancing with a veteran, a touching moment that may not change the world, but certainly shows that veteran and the others who see this that people appreciate our service and are making an effort to ensure we are not alone.
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12 leadership lessons in the words of Robert E. Lee

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee didn’t want to fight the Civil War. He thought the dissolution of the Union would bring about the end of the American experiment.


Yet he led the Confederate Army through all four years of the American Civil War.

For many, Lee’s decision to resign from the U.S. Army and fight for his home state of Virginia demonstrated a flaw in his character.

Some see him trading the principles of American freedom to fight to uphold the institution of slavery. But where Lee saw secession as an act of democracy, the North saw it differently, and Lee chose to fight for that reason alone.

“If Virginia stands by the old Union,” said Lee, quoted in Smithsonian Magazine, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

No matter how one may feel about Lee’s service or legacy, he was a towering figure, a hero of the Mexican war, and one of the best leaders to come from West Point.

There are many books that provide key lessons in leadership from his life that we can apply every day.

1. The importance of ambition.

“It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint.”

2. Know what you’re up against.

“It behooves us to be on the alert, or we will be deceived. You know that is part of Grant’s tactics.”

3. Your confidence in yourself and the confidence others have in you are both key to success.

“No matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue.”

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4. Courage is remembered.

“I recollect the distance [Lee traveled] amid darkness and storm… traversed entirely unaccompanied. Scarcely a step could have been taken without danger of death; but that to him, a true soldier, was the willing risk of duty in a good cause.”

– Gen. Winfield Scott, remarking on Lee’s action in the Mexican War

5. Always finish what is expected of you.

“Duty… is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things, you cannot do more – you should never wish to do less.”

6. Plan for the long term.

“The life of humanity is so long, that of the individual is so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

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Colonel Robert E. Lee

7. Expect to fail at times.

“We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.”

8. Integrity above all else.

“I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.”

9. Hire the right people, then inspire them to greatness.

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Lee in 1869, the year before his death.

“You must inspire and lead your brave division that it may accomplish the work of a corps… our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led.”

10. Be magnanimous in competition. Anything less breeds contempt.

“Madame, don’t bring your sons up to detest the United States. Recollect that we form one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans.”

– Lee in a letter to a Confederate widow after the war

11. Loyalty begets loyalty.

“Lee was a phenomenon… the only man I would follow blindfolded.”

– Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

12. Reward discipline in subordinates.

“In recommending officers and men for promotion you will always, where other qualifications are equal, give preference to those who show the highest appreciation of the importance of discipline and evince the greatest attention to its requirements.”

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Robert E. Lee’s death mask (Museum of the Confederacy)

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Japan bombed the US mainland during World War II hoping to start a forest fire

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Japan conducted a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 that ultimately brought the United States into World War II.

What most people don’t know is that Japan conducted two surprise attacks on the U.S. mainland less than a year later, with the goal of starting wildfires. Now known as the Lookout Air Raids, beginning on Sep. 9, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Oregon, assembled a seaplane, and pilot Nobuo Fujita took off toward the Oregon forests.

Here’s what happened next, according to the Los Angeles Times:

At 6:24 a.m. Mr. Howard Gardner, a forestry service observer on Mt. Emily reported seeing an unidentified seaplane come from the west, circle and return toward the sea. He described the plane as a single-motored biplane with a single float and small floats on the wing tips. The plane appeared to be small and of slow speed. It had no lights, no distinct color and no insignia was visible. It is possible that a plane of this type might have been carried on a submarine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the best time to start a fire since the area was so damp. While Fujita did successfully drop his bombs and start a small fire, it didn’t turn into the hoped-for wildfires that would take valuable resources away from the war effort.

Three weeks later, Fujita gave it another try with two more bombs, and once again, he was unsuccessful.

In his obituary in 1997, The New York Times wrote:

A quiet, humble man who in his later years was deeply ashamed of his air raids on the United States, Mr. Fujita eventually forged a remarkable bond of friendship with the people of Brookings, the small logging town whose surrounding forests he had bombed. Last week, as he lay dying, the town council of Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of good will” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

His mission was unsuccessful but he was hailed as a hero back in Japan. And Fujita did earn his place in history as the pilot flying the only enemy aircraft that has ever bombed the U.S. mainland.

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This is how coal absolved the negatives of the industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution, which spanned over the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, was a pivotal period in history. It brought Europe and the United States into modern times. It is defined by its technological advancements, which revolutionized the means of industrial production and had a deep and long-lasting impact on the demography of the countries it touched.

New technologies

The faster and more economical production processes led to lower prices, which meant more widespread access to commodities that were previously considered a luxury. The technological discoveries also encouraged the thirst for new knowledge, leading to groundbreaking innovations such as the lightbulb, the telephone, and the X-ray. The wave of discovery also spread to medicine and hygiene, which in turn led to improved health and quality of life, leading to a sharp rise in the population during that period.

The Industrial Revolution also introduced a major shift in energy consumption. Steam power quickly became the main source of power used by machinery or even for the production of electricity. Although it was first produced by burning wood, that resource was eventually replaced by coal.

America controlled energy

The American coal industry became a major player in the Industrial Revolution. It went on to shape the face of the USA in the most profound ways. Until the 18th century, the production of coal in Europe and the USA was marginal. It was a source of power only the wealthy could afford. But with the development of technology and industry, coal quickly became the primary material used to power up industries throughout the two continents. Thanks to the expansion of the iron, steel, and textile industries, the demand for coal rose sharply to fuel steam engines. Coal was also used to power up steamships and steam trains, leading to the development of the transportation system. Coal powered up the machines and allowed them to transport even greater quantities of coal through regions that were previously difficult to service.

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The first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, linking East Coast to West. (National Park Service)

The development of the various industries and the transport system caused a sharp increase in the need for manpower, leading to the creation of many factory, mining, and construction jobs, and a burgeoning blue-collar class. It led to a massive demographic exodus that saw a mostly rural population migrate towards the cities, where jobs were widely available, as well as the rise of wage labor.

Interventionism

The working conditions for miners were extremely difficult. The lowering of production costs and the increase in distribution should have led to an improvement in these conditions, but mine owners refused to follow the general trend. The numerous strikes led by coal miners led to discontent in the population. The country had grown completely dependent on coal. In turn, those worries led to reforms in the working laws that still have an impact to this day. President Roosevelt‘s interventionist attitude in the American economy was partially inspired by the coal miners’ plight. Thus, the coal industry helped to shape both the bureaucratic corporation that came for profit-bent owners and the progressive reforms that stemmed from the wish for humane treatment of the American workforce.

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The Union defeating the Confederacy in the Civil War was ultimately a matter of resources, and coal was chief among them (U.S. Army)

Yankee coal won the war

Another major impact of the coal industry was felt during the Civil War. At that time, most of the coal production was located in the north of the country. In fact, the North was producing 38 times more coal than the South. It gave the Union’s war industries such as iron, steel, and weapons. It was a massive advantage over the Confederacy, eventually leading to the Union’s victory.

Despite the environmental and humane controversy stirred by the coal industry, its lasting impact on Europe and the USA is undeniable. The smoke of the coal-powered factories has been the mark of a century that brought about a worldwide transformation so deep that it clearly defined a “before” and an “after.” The coal industry played an important role in shaping the western world as we know it.


Feature image: Library of Congress

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Here’s how the military takes civilian tech and makes it more awesome

The military has given the civilian world some great technology like satellites, GPS, and the internet. But, in other cases the services have adopted civilian tech and taken it to the next level of awesomeness in the process. Here are 7 examples:


1. Tow trucks

Military tow trucks need to do things like picking up M1 Abrams tanks that weigh 62 metric tons. Plus, they have to be able to defend themselves in hostile environments. Enter the M88A2. It can tow up to 70 tons, has a .50-cal. machine gun, and can survive direct hits from 30mm shells.

2. Backhoes

Like the M88 above, the WISENT 2 operates in combat zones while doing the hard job of digging and bulldozing. The WISENT is based on a Leopard 2 battle tank. It has different attachments including a bulldozer blade, a mine plough, and an excavator arm that can dig feet 14 ft. deep with a 42 cubic ft. bucket.

3. Four-wheelers

The first four-wheeler was the Royal Enfield quadricycle in 1898. Unsurprisingly, when World War I broke out, Royal Enfield sold dozens to the British government for war use. Today, paratroopers and special operators are using the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, basically a Polaris Razor with better tires and shocks as well as weapons, antennas, and litter mounts strapped to it.

4. Bridges

Battlefield commanders need bridges that can go up quickly, survive direct attacks, and be moved rapidly. The military has multiple solutions to this problem, including the Armored, Vehicle-Launched Bridge. The launcher is mounted on an M60 tank platform, and engineers can launch the bridge without ever getting out of the vehicle.

5. Stethoscopes

The noise immune stethoscope is designed to help medics hear a patient’s heartbeat around machine gun fire or in a helicopter. It works by sending a signal into the patient’s body, reading the return signal, and playing the information into a headset.

6. Prosthetics

Until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prosthetics had essentially remained the same since the first known artificial limb. The number of wounded warriors and the nature of their injuries has caused agencies like DARPA to change all of that, bringing prosthetics into the 21st Century in the process. The new devices allow for greater dexterity, greater range of motion, and even a sense of touch.

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Duncan Hunter petitions Mattis to approve Medal of Honor for fallen Marine

Congressman Duncan Hunter is urging the new secretary of defense to re-examine the case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Marine who died in house-to-house fighting during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah.


In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Republican congressman wrote that it is his hope “that we can finally give Sergeant Peralta the recognition he deserves.”

Also read: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

In 2008, the Marine Corps recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor after fellow Marines told investigators the 25-year-old sergeant jumped on a grenade and shielded them from the blast after he was mortally wounded by insurgent fire. The recommendation went all the way up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who initially approved it, before rescinding the decision amid an inspector general’s complaint.

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Marine Corps Portrait of Rafael Peralta

An independent review panel later found that the grenade did not detonate beneath Peralta’s body. Peralta’s award was downgraded to the Navy Cross. And years later, in 2014, a number of witnesses came forward to The Washington Post to say they had embellished the original story.

Still, Hunter has been fighting for years to get the Pentagon to upgrade the award to the nation’s highest honor. Two other defense secretaries, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, declined to overturn Gates’ ruling.

“Multiple eyewitnesses conveyed that from their respective fields of view, Peralta initiated several movements toward the grenade and pulled it into his body,” Hunter wrote. “In the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor, these eyewitness accounts are exceedingly sufficient, but they were overridden based on questionable forensic evidence assembled by Pentagon bureaucrats.”

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Hunter is optimistic that Mattis, the former commander of 1st Marine Division, will look into the case. Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune Mattis had originally signed off on the Medal of Honor award recommendation before it went up to Gates.

“I believe you have the right perspective and familiarity with the facts to make an informed judgment on this matter,” he wrote. “Even more so, you have the courage to do what’s right where others have been too sensitive to internal Pentagon politics.”

The public affairs office for the defense secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Call it ‘Ma Deuce’ or 50-cal, the Browning M-2 machine gun is one bad mother of a weapon

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The Browning M-2 heavy machine gun has served U.S. soldiers since the 1930s. (Department of Defense photo.)


It’s one of the longest-serving weapons in the U.S. arsenal, packing a punch that few forget whether they are firing the weapon or on the receiving end of its tremendous firepower.

The Browning M-2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun casts a long shadow over U.S. military history – and it holds a special place in the hearts of many soldiers.

Nicknamed “Ma Deuce” by World War II G.I.s, some who have fired the weapon consider it the mother of all machine guns.

“Witnessing the down-range effects of the .50-caliber bullet is an eye-opening experience,” writes Gordon Rottman, author of Browning .50-Caliber Machine Guns.  “There are few who can say they were wounded by a .50-cal. Those hit seldom say much more.”

First conceived during World War I, the Browning M-2 has been in production since 1933. Since then, it’s made history in the hands of some extraordinary fighting men.

A wounded Audie Murphy, one of America’s most decorated soldiers, fired one atop a burning tank destroyer and held off six Panzer tanks and 250 German soldiers for more than hour during a battle in Eastern France, an act of bravery that won him the Medal of Honor.

The long-range firepower of the Ma Deuce combined with its single-shot ability convinced legendary Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock that he had an unusual but effective weapon. In 1967, Hathcock mounted a 10-power scope on an M-2, which he later aimed at a Viet Cong guerilla that he killed 2,500 yards away – a nearly one-and-a-half mile shot that remained the world record for longest sniper kill until 2002.

In 2003, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith climbed on top an armored vehicle and fired the 50-cal at more than 100 enemy soldiers that pinned down his platoon, saving the lives of his men. Killed during the fire fight, Smith received the Medal of Honor posthumously, the first awarded in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The technological terrors of World War I with its use of armor and airplanes convinced American Expeditionary Force commander Gen. John Pershing that the Army needed a heavy machine gun if it was going to keep pace with world militaries. Both the French and British possessed large-caliber machine guns like the Hotchkiss, but during World War I the U.S. inventory of machine guns only fired rifle-sized calibers.

Eventually, American weapons genius John Browning experimented with his existing M1917 .30-caliber machine gun design to develop a heavy machine gun that fired the .50-caliber round. By 1921, the Army adopted an experimental, water-cooled .50-caliber machine gun based on the Browning design that was the “father” of the Ma Deuce.

After Browning’s death, other weapons designers corrected flaws in the M1921 such as its lightweight barrel.  During the 1930s, the Colt Co. took over production of the weapon – but it was still essentially Browning’s original design and it gained the familiar designation of Browning M-2.

The classic configuration of the Ma Deuce is a belt-fed, air-cooled, recoil-operated machine gun. Its size alone makes it look formidable: It is nearly six-feet long and weighs 84 pounds without its tripod, 128 pounds when tripod mounted.

It fires up to 550 rounds per minute, but it can be set to fire single shots. Because of the weapon’s design, the ammo belt can be fed from either the right or left after a few adjustments to the gun.

What’s more, the 50-cal has the potential to let the gunner “reach out and touch someone.” The weapon’s effective range is 6,000 feet, but its maximum range is four miles.

Both the Army and the Navy loved the M-2 and by World War II it was everywhere: Mounted on tanks as a coaxial gun, placed in aircraft to shoot down enemy fighters, mounted on a tripod so GIs and Marines could lay down suppressive and covering fire, and placed on board naval vessels as an anti-aircraft gun.

There was even a holy terror nicknamed “the Kraut Mower,” the M-45 Quadmount. Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, it was four Ma Deuces in an armored housing mounted on a halftrack.

But as the war progressed, innovative soldiers discovered it was a hellishly effective anti-personnel weapon.  For example, if a machine-gun nest or a sniper pinned down Allied troops and the M-45 was nearby, they would have it open fire on the German position.

The barrage of .50-caliber rounds would simply mow down the building or tree and its German threat – hence, the weapon’s nickname.

The Browning M-2 has its weaknesses. If the gun’s barrel overheats a new barrel needs to be installed on the weapon. The gun will malfunction violently if a barrel change is not performed exactly right, and the task was often a finicky and time-consuming job.

M-2 malfunctions caused by improperly performed barrel changes injured dozens of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan before the Pentagon approved adoption of a “quick change” kit in 2012 that allows a barrel replacement without manually resetting the weapon, according to a Department of Defense report for Congress.

Its weight and tendency to vibrate the gunner’s body can make it awkward to use. But it is a powerful weapon that can dominate any tactical situation.

And that’s why the ‘Ma Deuce’ will be on battlefields for years to come.

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