Mike Durant is a prime example of an individual who took a terrible situation and turned it into a positive life experience.
He’s the real “Black Hawk Down” pilot shot down and captured during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Today, he credits his harrowing ordeal for his success in business and his personal life.
Durant — a young chief warrant officer at the time — was part of a Special Operations aviation unit deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S. forces during the peacekeeping mission there. The country was ripping itself apart by clans and militia groups vying for power after strongman, Mohamed Siad Barre’s downfall.
His unit’s objective was to capture Somali clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid and to provide security to relief organizations trying to aid the starving locals. As a result, Durant’s team had several successful operations, capturing about two dozen warlords.
But everything went pear shaped on October 3, 1993, while providing air support to the troops hunting Aidid’s senior militia leaders. A man on a rooftop fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Durant’s slow-moving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter causing it to spin toward the earth from 70 feet in the air.
“In my mind, I died,” Durant told National Geographic. “When we crashed, I was knocked unconscious, and I think psychologically that was the end for me.”
Durant had been trained at survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but nothing could compare to the real experience. He’s thankful to Delta Force operators and Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for sacrificing their lives while attempting to rescue him. He almost suffered the same fate but was taken prisoner instead.
“I have tried to raise the bar on myself, elevate my game, do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that experience,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that stray outside the lines for me, but I did them because I realize I already have a second chance, I’m not going to have a third. So, I’m going to take full advantage of what’s been offered to me.”
Watch Durant explain his mission, captivity, and how it turned his life around:
Although Moscow has the world’s second-largest air force, which includes strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons thousands of miles around the world, its fleet is old. Constructed almost entirely during the Soviet era, the aircraft fleet is now largely aging and dwindling in numbers, reports Reuters.
To compensate, Russia is rapidly attempting to modernize its air force. Dmitry Gorenberg, a research scientist writing for the blog Russian Military Reform, notes that the Kremlin is allocating $130 billion for modernization efforts through 2020.
As part of this multi-billion modernization plan, Gorenberg notes Russia will acquire “more than 600 modern aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters, as well as more than 1,000 helicopters and a range of air defence systems.”
According to Gorenberg, Russia has been successful so far in terms of replacing its combat aircraft with newer variants. As of January, Moscow has introduced 28 Su-35S, 34 Su-30, and 20 Su-34 aircraft. In addition, the Kremlin hopes to acquire a new fleet of MiG-35 fighters as well as its own T-50 PAK FA fifth-generation jet.
The T-50, also known as the Su-50, is being produced by Russian manufacturer Sukhoi. The final version of the T-50 is expected to be introduced by 2016. Upon completion, the Kremlin envisions creating a string of Su-50 variants for both export and domestic use.
These variants include two models designed in conjunction with the Indian Air Force, as well as variants for Iran and South Korea.
Russia’s drive to modernize its air force is in keeping with the country’s overall goal of overhauling its armed forces. Russia’s total military budget for fiscal year 2015 stands at approximately $29.5 billion (1.8 trillion rubles). This budget is 20% higher than in 2014, when it stood at 1.7 trillion rubles.
The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:
1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948
The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.
2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic
America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.
3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression
After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.
4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe
The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.
It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.
5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact
The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.
6. NATO has a science program
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.
Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.
7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war
While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.
The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.
In the early days of the Atomic Era, American scientists were fascinated by the idea of sending an entire colony of humans to Mars using an engine propelling a ship with a series of controlled atomic bomb blasts behind the craft. They called the project Orion, after the constellation featuring man in the stars.
The project itself, led by physicists Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, began in 1958 at General Atomics and was ended only after the United States signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 with the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.
Taylor was the leading nuclear weapons designer at Los Alamos. His idea for the Orion engine protected the capsule from the explosions by a large, flat “pusher plate,” that was 1,ooo tons, 100 feet in diameter, and one foot thick.
The Orion project required a high-thrust and high efficiency impulse engine, expected to be gained from the nuclear explosions. Chemical-fueled engines of the time produced high thrust but had low efficiency. Electric ion engines are the opposite, producing low thrust, but are very efficient. Scientists felt the Orion engine provided the best opportunity for travel to another planet.
The bigger the rocket, the more fuel it needs to lift off. Many are mostly fuel tanks attached to a small ship. The ship would ride like a saucer, on top of the bomb’s mushroom cloud. Atomic bombs give a million times more energy than rocket fuel. If a ship could survive the blast, it would be easy to lift it into space.
“The space exploration of those days was looking at the universe through a keyhole,” Dyson said in an interview in the 1990s. “We wanted to open the door.”
The size of the vehicle used would be directly proportionate to the bomb yields. The smallest proposed diameter was 17-20 meters in size with the largest having a mass of 8 million tons, the size of a small city.
Dyson’s designs for the thermonuclear powered Orion proposed a top speed of 3-5 percent of light speed, which would require 44 years to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own.
In the earliest versions, scientists proposed the ship take off from the ground, causing significant nuclear fallout, radio active dust and ash blown into the atmosphere and left to fall back to Earth. Excessive fallout was one of the driving reasons for the signing of the Test Ban Treaty.
From homemade tanks to nuclear land mines kept warm by chickens, war brings out the engineers in people. When a weapons system works, it’s made by the thousands, and sometimes used for decades. But when it doesn’t, it’s quickly added to the dustbin of bad ideas. Many of these ridiculous, odd, and exceptionally weird weapons were developed by militaries all over the world, but either proved impractical, or never even got past the prototype stage.
These spectacularly ridiculous weapons systems, vehicles, and concepts all made it at least to prototype, though whether they proved to be effective is up for debate. Most of these strange weapons are from World War II, when desperate countries threw together whatever they had to rally their people. The United States, Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union all had their fair share of oddball ideas they each thought could help win the war. In all historical fairness, there were also no shortage of stupid weapon ideas during The Civil War. A few items on this list are modern weapons that are actually in use today.
What are the weirdest military weapons ever built? From weaponized animals to square bullets, engineers and weapons designers have come up with some crazy stuff over the years. Some of these weapons are so absurd, it’s funny to think that anyone ever thought they could work. Other weapons, while impractical, were inventive and innovative attempts to give soldiers a unique advantage. Either way, these weapons are strange. But what were the strangest weapons made? Read on to find out!
On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.
When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.
The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.
But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.
A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.
The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?
Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”
According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.
“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.
The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”
You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.
Last week, the Marine Corps released a summary of results on a nine month study on gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. All-male units were faster, stronger, and had less body fat. They were also more accurate with every standard individual weapon, like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The sh-tstorm started as soon as the preliminary results were announced. Accusations of gender bias and counteraccusations of political motivations were fired between the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a proponent of opening combat roles to women, disagreed with what he saw as gender-biased results of the study.
“At the end, they came out in a different place than I do,” said Mabus. “because they talk about averages, and the average woman is slower, the average woman can’t carry as much, the average woman isn’t quite as quick on some jobs or some tasks… we’re not looking for average. There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things – training and leadership.”
Capt. Phillip Kulczewski, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps says the study, which was overseen by George Mason University with physiological tests conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, was not politically motivated or an experiment to discriminate against women. The Corps says it was the first step to creating a gender-neutral standard for combat jobs.
“Before he left office, [former Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta said we are opening up all jobs to all genders and that the new policy will be gender neutral,”Kulczewski says. “There were a lot of questions about how to go about changing the standards to be gender neutral. Secretary Panetta said we need concrete scientific data to back up the new standards, so this was our first step in our marching orders.”
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, a Coral Springs, Fla., native, speaks to a teacher about the day’s lesson plan at a local school. Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Colby Brown. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
“The aim was to break down each task to find out what factors affect the Marines in combat,” Kulczewski continues. “Then ultimately, we want to take gender out of the equation and look for ideal physical traits that help all Marines perform these tasks, male or female.”
The study’s summary noted the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.” But Capt. Kulczewski says the nature of combat is different from a ground combat MOS and the two are separate ideas.
“Anyone close to the front can be in combat. We know men and women both have the same mental capacity and the capacity for courage. When its an everyday job, everyone in an MOS has to perform certain everyday tasks and we want Marines who can do that.” That’s where the study came in. The Marines took physiological data with the help of the University of Pittsburgh to help determine what those Marines will have to do for their respective job, to ensure “they’re in the right job for their career.”
Meanwhile, some female Marines think they’ve found the right job. An article in the Washington Post found female Marine participants who believe the Navy Secretary’s comments were insulting when he said the women probably should have had a “higher bar to cross” to join the task force, even though Marines in the study, men and women, were trained to the same standard before it started.
“Everyone involved did the job and completed the mission to the best of their abilities,” Sgt. Danielle Beck, an anti-armor gunner, told the Washington Post. “They are probably some of the most professional women that anybody will ever have chance to work with, and the heart and drive and determination that they had is incomparable to most women in the Marine Corps.”
The same Post article found that women in the study performed better than men on the Marine Corps-wide physical-fitness test. The average score for the men was 244 out of 300 while women’s was 283. The average all-male infantry unit scores in the 260s. Both men and women who volunteered for the study had to fulfill all requirements and pass the service’s MOS school, be it infantry, armor, or artillery schools, before qualifying for the study.
The study, was not without its problems. The Washington Post also found Marines involved could drop at any time and many did throughout the experiment because they were promised an assignment to any unit in the Marine Corps just for participating. For this reason, the gender-integrated company shrank considerably from its initial strength.
The current gender-neutral employment policy in the Defense Department requires military specialty areas to request an exemption to the policy. The exemption has to be signed off by the Defense Secretary and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Corps infantry, Navy SEALs, and all other combat jobs in the Navy Department (which includes the Marine Corps) will be open to women by the end of 2015, and no exemptions would be granted, according to Mabus. Neither the Navy’s SEAL units or Marines asked for such an exemption.
The complete results of the study have yet to be released.
Pin this to your refrigerator for summer fun planning, military families.
Summer means baseball action, and many minor league baseball teams across the country are making an effort to honor those who serve the nation. Here’s the WATM list of minor league baseball Military Appreciation games:
*Scroll all the way down to view list of teams with season-long discounts.
Fort Myers Miracle – Free pre-game picnic for veterans and their guests (up to 100 attendees). Pre-game ceremony for veterans. Veterans and active military personnel admitted free of charge for all games.
Lakeland Flying Tiers – Free admission to all veterans and one (1) guest. The event features honoring veterans and local recruits, a JROTC Pass and Review, welcome home soldier ceremonies and much more.
St. Lucie Mets – They will wear custom military appreciation jerseys, which will be auctioned off during the game. The local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 566 will be selling tickets, and a portion of those ticket sales will go to the Health and Welfare fund of the VVA. Military receives a $4 discount for all games.
Hickory Crawdads – Salute to Troops Night offering free parking for military. Two free tickets for military members and one (1) guest for all games.
Salt Lake Bees – Free admission to all military members and ½ price tickets for their families.
South Bend Cubs – May 29th May 30th: Any former or current military member will receive 2 free tickets to either game with proof of service.
Biloxi Shuckers – Discount to all active and retired military personnel and their families in the box level and the reserved level seating locations.
Louisville Bats – Free admission to all active duty, reserve, guard and family members with valid ID. Tickets may be obtained in advance or the day of the game at the Louisville Slugger Field box office. Free admission to all veterans – VFW, DAV, AMVETS, American Legion, Ladies Auxiliary and all other veterans with ID or DD Form 214.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Players will wear specialty camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit WGU Scholarships Fund for Indiana National Guard members.
Toledo Mud Hens – Military families will receive free tickets to this game.
Bowie Baysox – Fort Meade Appreciation Night. Free tickets to military personnel at Fort Meade. Military discount $2 off general admission and $3 off reserved seat tickets for every home game during the season. Additional Military Appreciation nights: June 22, July 6, August 10, September 3 – show current or past proof of service to receive half price ($8) box seat ticket.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Free admission for all military personnel (active and veteran). Pregame performance. First 1,000 fans will receive a Khris Davis bobblehead.
Palm Beach Cardinals $3 discount for family members of active and retired military. Veterans and active military personnel with valid military ID are admitted free of charge for all games.
Tampa Yankees – Free admission for all military personnel. Active and retired military receive a free upper reserved ticket with valid ID on all Saturday home games.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Indians to wear specialty Stars Stripes jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit Indiana National Guard relief fund.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes – Military personnel honored on the field will receive complimentary box seats for them and their family.
Lowell Spinners – Vietnam Veterans Night. July 28th – Military Night/Camo Jersey Giveaway first 1,000 fans. All active/retired military and their families receive free standing room tickets to any Spinners home game with valid military ID.
Midland RockHounds – Military members can redeem a voucher for a free picnic for 4 people. Military members receive $1 reserved seats on all normal game days.
Princeton Rays – Dedication of Military Honor Seat at H.P. Hunnicutt Field. Free tickets for active duty and retired military and $4 tickets for up to four additional tickets for family/friends.
Durham Bulls – Military Appreciation Night. Active duty military receive free admission for all normal Durham Bulls games.
Missoula Osprey – and July 25th. $5 reserved tickets for all active retired military personnel with valid military ID.
Vermont Lake Monsters – Free tickets for active and retired military and their families along with Digital Camo and $5 Dunkin Donuts gift cards. Free tickets available to first 40 military members at each home game.
New Orleans Zephyrs – $5 ticket with presentation of ID for active or retired military. No cap on tickets purchased.
Rochester Red Wings – Free admission to military personnel with valid ID. Custom game-worn jerseys are auctioned off to benefit Children of Fallen Soldiers Foundation.
Damascus and Moscow have denied they were behind the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, an account Britain dismissed at an emergency U.N. session called in response to the attack.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the U.K. had seen nothing that would suggest rebels “have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday.”
Russia said it would submit information from its Defense Ministry to the Security Council debate.
A resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the U.S. stresses the Syrian government’s obligation to provide information about its air operations, including the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on the day of the attack.
Diplomats were also meeting in Brussels for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region. Representatives from 70 countries were present.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on April 4, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies.
Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s six-year conflict.
The Turkish Health Ministry said three victims of the attack died while being treated in Turkey, and that 29 people wounded in the attack were still being cared for in hospitals in the country. Syrian opposition groups had previously reported 72 dead.
Turkey set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay following the attack, where the victims are initially treated before being moved to hospitals.
Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.
The World Health Organization and the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.
In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”
Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and that he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”
Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Councilresolution condemning the attack.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”
Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on April 4, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.
Renewed airstrikes on April 5 hit near the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following the April 4 attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among those killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun, said his group has recorded 70 deaths.
He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.
Israeli defense officials said on April 4 that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.
The officials said Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on April 5 as they are not allowed to brief media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.
A top Syrian rebel representative said he held U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura “personally responsible” for the attack.
Mohammad Alloush, the rebels’ chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said the U.N.’s silence “legitimizes” the strategy.
“The true solution for Syria is to put Bashar Assad, the chemical weapons user, in court, and not at the negotiations table,” said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army rebel faction.
Syria’s rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.
Associated Press writers Philip Issa in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Once in a lifetime, there comes a motion picture which changes the whole history of motion pictures. A picture so stunning in its effect, so vast in its impact, that it profoundly affects the lives of all who see it. One such film is, yes, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And while I lifted that copy (which was originally intended to be tongue-in-cheek) straight from the trailer, the film’s legacy has proven the trailer correct.
Even those who don’t think they’ve heard some of the most memorable lines from the movie likely have, whether they smell of elderberries or they’ve heard of the knights who say “ni.” Perhaps the most memorable scene, however, is the one where Arthur is forced to fight the Black Knight guarding a small footbridge, one who refuses to accept defeat.
The story that exposes all of the historical narratives and false legends about the chivalry and bravery of Medieval knights through vicious mockery turned history on its head even further in the encounter with the Black Knight. On the Wired podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” Monty Python member John Cleese spoke about the inspiration for the Black Knight scene in a memory of his time at school, where he was taught by a two-time World War veteran.
“There was a lovely guy named ‘Jumper’ Gee who died at the age of 101, and who managed to fight in both World Wars—I never came across anyone else who did that. He was a good teacher of English and I liked him enormously, and he would go off on these wonderful excursions where they were nothing to do with the subject he was teaching, and he told this story about a wrestling match that had taken place in ancient Rome. … There was a particularly tough contest in progress, and one of the wrestlers, his arm broke—the difficulty of the embrace was so great that his arm broke under the pressure—and he submitted because of the appalling pain he was in. And the referee sort of disentangled them and said to the other guy, ‘You won,’ and the other guy was rather unresponsive, and the referee realized the other guy was dead. And this was an example to ‘Jumper’ Gee of the fact that if you didn’t give up you couldn’t lose, and I always thought this was a very dodgy conclusion…”
Pictured: The Eleans crowned and proclaimed victor the corpse of Arrhachion.
The story “Jumper” was trying to relate is that of Arrachion of Phigalia, an athlete in ancient Greece who was skilled at the pankration event. Pankration was an event similar to today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship, where the winner must force his opponent to submit, through some kind of brute force. Arrachion was fighting for the championship. One ancient historian described the hold that not only killed Arrachion but caused his opponent to submit to the then-deceased Arrachion’s own hold.
It seems Arrachion’s opponent choked the life from the great wrestler as Arrachion wrapped part of his body around his opponent’s foot. Arrachion yanked the man’s ankle from his leg as the undefeated wrestler died in his opponent’s chokehold, and his opponent was forced to tap out from the pain. Arrachion, now dead, remained undefeated.
He got a statue for his efforts, the stupid bastard.
In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.
On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.
It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.
At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.
Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.
In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)
By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”
For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.
The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.
Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.
The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.
2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division
The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.
4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.
4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division
This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.
5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division
You see it. You know you do.
6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps
Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.
7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division
Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”
8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division
Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.
The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.
10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division
The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.
Video of a suspected terror attack at an office building complex in Nairobi, Kenya, may have captured a US Navy SEAL on a secretive mission to combat Islamic militants in Africa.
The attack, which left 14 dead, has been claimed by the al-Shabab terror group and may have come as retaliation for Kenyan troops, who along with other forces brought together by the African Union, have been fighting the terrorist insurgency in Somalia.
Meanwhile, the US has kept secretive forces strewn across Africa. In 2017, a US Navy SEAL was killed in a battle fighting alongside Somali forces against al-Shabab in Mogadishu.
In 2018, an ambush by militants in Niger claimed the lives of four service members.
From left, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, Fla.; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga. All four were killed in the Niger ambush in 2018.
But even in Kenya, one of Africa’s more stable countries, the US has a small presence at Camp Simba, where they reportedly train naval special forces. Kenya, like its neighbor, Somalia, has trouble with pirates and has seen some US Navy SEAL presence over the years.
Look for this patch, used by Navy SEAL Team 3, on the unidentified man’s pack.
In the video of the Nairobi terror attack, a white man wearing a US military-style backpack with a patch that’s used by US Navy SEAL Team 3 can be seen at the 30-second mark rescuing civilians and then returning to the scene of the fighting in a state of alertness.
Gun attack underway after explosion at upscale hotel in Nairobi