This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51 - We Are The Mighty
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This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed. 

All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.

“Sir, this ID is cardboard and your name is clearly written in crayon…”(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zachiah Roberson)

Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.

If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one. 

It would be a lot of ground to cover for said roving execution squads (Wikimedia Commons)

Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources. 

So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there. 

Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.

Area 51
“Target is wearing an ‘X-Files’ t-shirt, staggering and complaining that they’re thirsty…” (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities. 

At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is manufacturing weights in the U.S.A.

Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.

Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.


Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.

Broggi jumped into action.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.

Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.

“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.

He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.

Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.

“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.

They just got creative.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.

Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.

“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.

One workout at a time.

To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.

Articles

Marine Reservist protects family from attacker

Gabriel R. McInnis, a sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, thought he was on a routine drive to serve on a funeral honors detail Dec. 27.


While passing through a residential area in Tempe, Arizona, he heard a woman scream.

“I was approaching a light, when I heard some screaming and yelling,” said McInnis, an engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.

As he turned to figure out what the commotion was, he said, he saw a wide-open doorway and a large man physically assaulting Tia Simpkins and her family in her home.

Rapid Response

“I knew I had to act,” McInnis said. “I threw my car into park and ran over to try to stop it.”

He tackled the attacker despite being outclassed in height and weight. Soon the pair was on the ground exchanging blows. Although McInnis took a lot of punches, he prevented the attacker from getting to the family.

“Finally, I catch a lucky break,” McInnis said.

The attacker threw a punch, missed, and fell to the ground. McInnis used the opportunity to perform an arm-bar takedown, a martial arts move, to subdue his opponent. After restraining the attacker, he dialed 911 and the police responded within minutes.

By putting his own welfare on the line, McInnis was able to prevent the assault against Simpkins and her family.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel R. McInnis, engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, poses for a photo after receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 7, 2017. McInnis received the medal for his actions in preventing an assault of a family in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 27, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

A ‘True Hero’

“I know he is a true hero, because there is no way he could have had time to consider his own safety,” Simpkins said.

McInnis credits the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program with providing him the training to react.

“I’m an MCMAP instructor, and I spend a lot of my personal time training my Marines,” McInnis said. “The Marine Corps teaches right from wrong, and a bigger guy attacking a smaller woman is definitely wrong. I saw that and knew I needed to put an end to what was happening.”

The Marine leadership in his unit also recognized McInnis’s heroics and awarded him the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions.

“He is one of the Marines I really look up to,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Logan M. Tucker, an automotive maintenance mechanic with Company C who trained under McInnis for MCMAP. “He is always improving himself and the Marines around him. What he did embodies Marine Corps ethos. If someone needs help, it’s our duty to take care of people.”

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel R. McInnis, center, engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, receives a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 7, 2017. McInnis received the medal for his actions in preventing an assault of a family in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 27, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

Helping Others

This is not the first time McInnis has used his Marine Corps training to help others. A few years ago during a flight to Hawaii, McInnis used the knowledge he gained from the Combat Lifesaver Course to help a diabetic woman who had passed out during the flight. “I joined to help people, and I’ve had a few opportunities to do it,” McInnis said.

“He acted with the honor, courage and commitment that we always hear about our Marines having,” Simpkins said. “He risked his own life and welfare in order to protect people that he barely even knew.”

Articles

This missile could make the Army’s grenade launcher more deadly

Everyone who’s fired one knows that the M320 grenade launcher isn’t the most accurate weapon in the infantry arsenal.


Propelled with a standard charge, the 40mm grenade follows a ballistic arc that forces a trooper to lob the projectile onto its target rather than shoot it straight in.

But new technology has allowed some weapons makers to miniaturize the same guidance systems housed in air-dropped missiles into ones that can be easily carried by ground troops.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
The Pike™ munition measures 40 mm in diameter, only a half-inch larger than the 25 mm rounds fired by some military machine guns. (Photo from Raytheon)

That’s resulted in a missile small enough to be fired from an M320 or FN Mk-13 grenade launcher but with near pinpoint accuracy up to two miles away.

Built by defense manufacturer Raytheon, the Pike missile is only 16 inches long and weighs less than two pounds. The missile is guided to its target by following a laser pointed by a second shooter.

“Pike uses a digital, semi-active laser seeker to engage both fixed and slow-moving, mid-range targets,” said J. R. Smith, Raytheon’s Advanced Land Warfare Systems director. “This new guided munition can provide the warfighter with precision, extended-range capability never before seen in a hand-held weapon on the battlefield.”

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
The Pike munition is the world’s only hand-launched precision-guided weapon. (Photo from Raytheon)

The missile ejects 10 feet from the shooter before the rocket motor ignites and is smokeless in order to reduce the missile’s signature and keep the shooters concealed.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 and weapons experts in the Army and special operations units are looking hard at using the system in combat, documents show.

Raytheon says future developments include giving Pike the ability to network with other missiles so more than one can ride the same laser, and company officials say the missile is being adapted for UAVs and small boats.

“Pike will become smarter and smarter as we continue to develop its capabilities,” said Smith. “In the current configuration, the warfighter will enter programmable laser codes prior to loading Pike into its launcher. Spiral development calls for multiple-round simultaneous programming and targeting with data link capabilities.”

Articles

Israeli air strike hits huge Hezbollah weapons stockpile in Syria

A stockpile of weapons for the terrorist group Hezbollah was hit April 27 by the Israeli Defense Force, resulting in a huge explosion in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.


According to a report by Reuters, propaganda from Syrian state media placed blame squarely on the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel reserved the right to act in order to prevent Hezbollah from receiving “advanced weapons” from Iran.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah,” the British news agency quoted Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz as saying in an interview with Army Radio, even as the Israeli military declined to comment on the apparent air strike.

Israel has apparently launched other strikes against stockpiles of weapons that are allegedly en route to Hezbollah — albeit the only truly confirmed strike was one this past March that resulted in the first confirmed kill for the Arrow missile defense system. According to Bloomberg, another depot was targeted late last week. The terrorist group is backing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, alongside their Iranian sponsors. A BBC compilation of suspected Israeli strikes – and the one from last March that was confirmed – include some that have killed Hezbollah terrorists and in one instance, an Iranian general.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
An Israeli F-15I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ

Iran has a history of providing terrorist groups and rebels with support. During the Iraq War, Iran allegedly provided explosively-formed penetrators to Shiite insurgents in Iraq, while also reportedly passing them on to anti-Afghan forces as well. Iran’s support for the insurgents is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran also supplied Noor anti-ship missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who launched multiple attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). The United States eventually responded by launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites controlled by the Houthis. An Iranian-supplied anti-ship missile was fired on the Israeli corvette INS Hanit that did minor damage during the 2006 Lebanon War.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things to have in your home when you live off base

When a newlywed troop moves off base and bids a bittersweet farewell to the debauchery of barracks life, there are changes to the day-to-day routine. While one must still fulfill the responsibilities of their rank, there are other challenges a married troop will have to tackle.


The more obvious ones are waking up earlier to fight traffic, no more access to a meal card, and administrating bills that didn’t exist before. To make your transition to a quasi-civilian life easier, there are a few essential items to have in your home that will help you focus more on mission accomplishment, enjoy quality time with your sweetheart, and maintain peace of mind while in the field or deployed.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

‘Rah

A pull-up bar and dumbbells

There are plenty of pull-up bars on base and you’ll more than likely have an opportunity to hit the gym because you’re two hours early to formation to avoid a UA or AWOL charge because of bad traffic. However, you may not have the opportunity to work out in the mornings because of a hot-ticket task that requires the use of your otherwise-scheduled workout time. It’ll devolve into a vicious cycle, resulting in no PT and the consequences that come with it.

You’ll most likely be cut from work when rush hour hits and you’ll have to make a decision: work out or work on your marriage. Luckily, if you have a pull-up bar at home, you can PT when you get there and do both. Dumbbells are another staple to have at home for a complete workout.

Package thief caught by bad ass neighbor

www.youtube.com

Security cameras with network capabilities 

Although the majority of troops have a properly calibrated moral compass, it doesn’t mean your civilian neighbors share your altruistic ideals. Security cameras are a good investment because you can check on your home from your mobile device at work or, if you have internet access, in the field. Peace of mind is expensive, but your odds of bringing a thief to justice increase exponentially with video footage.

Smart lightbulbs 

Imagine you’re sitting there on your pack waiting for the trucks to pick you up on base when you suddenly have a realization: I left the lights on. If you have smart lightbulbs installed, you can turn them off using your phone remotely. I highly advise doing your brand research before you buy these bulbs because not all brands are safe to connect to your network at home. To put it simply, some companies do not want to invest in cybersecurity software for their products, and this can leave your network vulnerable to attack.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

Robot vacuum cleaners

Replacing good, old-fashioned cleaning with technology is not immediately viable, but it’s getting closer by the day. A robot vacuum cleaner can be set on a schedule to sweep up dust and light debris and will buy you some more precious time to prioritize on another task. You’ll be able to give your home a thorough cleaning when you deem necessary. They work best on floors without carpet, but they can also operate well on short-length, fiber carpets.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

Jody doesn’t have sh*t on this.

Pexels

A formal civilian wardrobe

We warriors love our comfortable clothing when we don’t have to wear the uniform of the day. Your favorite shirt and jeans may cut it for most occasions because who cares what other people think? You’re paying for the price of freedom and, dammit, you want to enjoy some of it from time to time.

While this line of thinking is admirable in most circles, there is a time and a place for everything. You don’t necessarily have to have a closet full of suits, but a few slacks, button-up shirts, a sports coat, and a pair of dress shoes will go a long way for when you have to be somewhere important. Your wife will appreciate you taking the time to look nice when you have to be at an event that’s important to her. Think about it, at your formal events, she always does her best to look her best — return the sentiment.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

The people have spoken

Honorable mention: Stockpiled alcohol

The last time I made an article like this, I received some constructive criticism. I am a man who believes in giving the people what they want. So, here ya go.

Articles

That time Los Angeles fought off an imaginary Japanese bombing raid

In February 1942, Army units defending Los Angeles launched a devastating barrage of anti-aircraft fire into the sky, sending up 1,433 rounds against targets reported across the city in the “Battle of L.A.”


Fortunately for the occupants (but unfortunately for the egos of everyone involved), the City of Angels wasn’t under attack.

In the months after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the American Navy was largely in retreat across the Pacific, and the West Coast was worried that it was the next target of a Japanese attack.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
Army gun crews man a Bofors anti-aircraft gun in Algeria in World War II. (Photo: Library of Congress)

In reality, the chances of a Japanese attack on the West Coast were low since the Navy was pulling back from far flung outposts in order to secure ground they knew they had to hold, like California, Oregon, Washington, and vital bases on Pacific islands.

But LA was overtaken by fear and uncertainty in the early months of 1942. Then, on Feb. 23, a city in California was attacked by the Japanese. A long-range submarine surfaced near Santa Barbara, California, and shelled an oil refinery there.

The very next night, a light was spotted over the ocean off the coast, possibly a signal flare sent up to guide Japanese planes or carriers to their target. Then, a few hours later, blinking lights were spotted and an alert was called. When no attack materialized, the alert was called off.

But in the early hours of Feb. 25, radars picked up activity at approximately 12,000-feet. Lookouts reported dozens of aircraft closing on the city. “The Great Los Angeles Air Raid” was on, and the city residents and their Army gun crews knew exactly how to respond.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
American anti-aircraft gun crews firing in World War II. (Photo: Flickr/U.S. Army RDECOM)

Army Air Force crews rushed from their beds to await launch orders and gun crews ran to their stations. Volunteer air wardens fanned across the city to enforce the blackout.

At 3:06 a.m., the first gun crews spotted their targets and began firing into the sky. For the next hour, a fierce barrage lit up the night as searchlights and shells looked for targets. In all, 1,433 rounds would be fired by gun crews.

Citizens drove through the street against orders and caused three auto fatalities while two others were lost to panic-induced heart failure. Fuzes failed to detonate some rounds in the air and they crashed back to earth where they destroyed property while luckily causing no fatalities.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

But the embarrassing reality started to become clear at headquarters. With no reports of bomb damage and few reports of downed aircraft — none of which could be confirmed — either both sides were engaging in the least effective battle in the history of war or there were not actually any Japanese bombers.

The alert was suspended at 4:15 a.m. and later lifted entirely. Soon, the entire country heard that the reported attacks in Los Angeles were actually just a case of the jitters.

A 1983 military investigation of the incident found a possible explanation. A swarm of meteorological balloons had been released that night with small lights attached to aid in tracking. It’s possible that the gun and radar crews saw these balloons and, in the nervous atmosphere, mistook it for an attack.

Articles

Former US Navy vessel attacked by Yemeni rebels in Indian Ocean

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51


HSV-2 Swift came under attack off the coast of Yemen this past weekend and suffered serious damage from what appears to be multiple hits from RPG rockets. Photos released by Emirates News Agency show at least two hits from rockets that penetrated HSV-2 Swift’s bow, in addition to substantial fire damage.

According to media reports, HSV-2 Swift is being assisted by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Nitze (DDG 94) as well as USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The vessel is currently being towed away from Yemen.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

HSV-2 Swift was acquired by the Navy from Incat, a shipbuilder in Tasmania, in 2003, where it served for a number of years in Pacific Command, European Command, and Southern Command until 2013, when the first Joint High-Speed Vessel, USS Spearhead (JSHV 1) replaced it. During its deployments, HSV-2 Swift primarily carried out humanitarian missions, including for relief efforts in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. The vessel also took part in a number of deployments, like Southern Partnership Station while in U.S. service.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
HSV-2 Swift in happier times. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2013, the vessel was returned to Incom, where it was refitted and then acquired by the National Marine Dredging Company in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship was used to deliver humanitarian aid. HSV-2 Swift was on such a mission to not only deliver medical supplies but to extract wounded civilians when it was attacked this past weekend. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed to have sunk the vessel.

HSV-2 Swift displaces 955 tons of water, has a top speed of 45 knots, and has a crew of 35. The vessel can carry over 600 tons of cargo on  nearly 29,000 square foot deck.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

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Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

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Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

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Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

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Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

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US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

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Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

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US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

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Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

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As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

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US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

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Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

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Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

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Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

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Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

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Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

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Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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Here’s how Hollywood turns actors into military operators

Filmmakers would love just to pick up a camera, press record, and film the most realistic performances from their hired actors. In many cases that is considered possible (after a few takes), but not when you’re dealing with military-based movies. Winning over the veteran audiences is a struggle; comments about how Hollywood “got it wrong” tend to start flying as the end credits roll.


Veterans critique the hell out of any movie that contains our troops — most of the time they have issues with uniforms and tactics. Face it — we have every right to.

Check Out: 7 reasons why ‘Top Gun’ made you want to become a fighter pilot

However, there are a few films out there (like “Platoon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Blackhawk Down”) that, for the most part, won over even those tough-to-reach veterans. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of issues, but they had well-written scripts supported by research and outstanding technical advisors.

Since replicating the real-life grittiness of war is next to impossible, it’s the technical advisor’s job to train the actors on how to make their combat maneuvering authentic and feel like they’re really in the thick of battle. That means putting the cast through some extreme training scenarios before heading to set.

So check out how these advisors turned their actors into military operators:

1. “Platoon”

In 1986’s “Platoon” directed by Vietnam Veteran Oliver Stone, retired Marine Captain Dale Dye took his cast of actors into the jungle, 85 miles away from all communications with only an entrenching tool so they could acquire a thousand yard stare.

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Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of “Platoon” deep in the Philippines jungle (Source: Orion Pictures | Screenshot)

2. “Saving Private Ryan”

Capt. Dye would repeat a similar practice for director Steven Spielberg in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” as he led the A-list cast on a six-day field training exercise, conducting land nav, physical training, and weapons training just to name a few.

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Tom Hanks (left) stands with Capt. Dye (right) on the set of “Saving Private Ryan” (Source: Dream Works | Screenshot)

3. “Black Hawk Down”

Not all movies use this method to nail the combatant mind-set.

In 2001’s “Black Hawk Down,” producers chose a different approach by sending actors such as Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, and Orlando Bloom on a civilian mission to Fort Benning to attend a crash course orientation class of intense physical training, intro to demolition, and ground fighting led by the elite Army Rangers.

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The cast of Black Hawk Down receives a few some words of instruction before raiding an M.O.U.T. or Military Operations Urban Terrain. War Games! (Source: Sony | Screenshot)

The cast also got to listen to words from the veterans of the Mogadishu raid, including Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Durant, who is famously known for piloting one of the Black Hawks that was shot down during the raid and was taken prisoner but was released 11 days later.

Comment below on how you’d like to see Hollywood represent your branch of service.

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Marine vet’s inspirational New Year’s Eve post turned out to be his last

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(Photo: Matthew DeRemer’s Facebook page)


On New Year’s Eve millions turned to social media to share final thoughts for the year. Marine Corps veteran Matthew DeRemer was no different – except his last post of the year would also turn out to be the last post of his life.

That day he wrote this:

Last day of 2015!!!! For me I’ll be meditating through all I do, on this entire year. I’ve lost, I’ve gained, family is closer and tougher than ever before, loved ones lost, and new friends found. There has been many times where I’ve been found on my knees in prayer for hours (relentless) and other times leading a group of people in prayer, my faith (that I love to share) is an everyday awakening (to me) that people, lives, and circumstances can change for the better OVER TIME. I look back at 2015’s huge challenges that I’ve overcome, shared with others, and have once again found myself … To say thank you and BRING ON 2016, much works to be done!

And I really don’t know where I’ll end up tonight but I do know where I wind up is where I’m meant to be.

Matthew paired his words with a meme of author Gayle Foreman’s quote: “We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

Hours later, while riding his motorcyle, the 31-year-old surgical technologist was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver.

Since his death, DeRemer’s post has been shared over 15,000 times inspiring hundreds of comments:

“RIP, my condolences go out to his family an friends, this post is amazing an says a lot,” one wrote. “I don’t know you but this post definitely has me thinking…”

Another wrote: “This is both disturbing yet incredibly poignant and beautiful.”

During his time in the Corps DeRemer served in Iraq and was stationed in California.

“We called him “Jiff.” He had an incredible love for peanut butter,” said close friend Line Bryde Lorenzen. “He was a sergeant-at-arms, and he took that role very seriously. He helped me a lot with my faith, and was always there when I needed him.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help the family with their funeral expenses.

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Looks like the A-10 will battle the F-35 for CAS dominance after all

Despite Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s assertion that a head-to-head competition between the A-10 Warthog and the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be “silly,” Department of Defense officials tell the Washington Times there are now exercises in the planning stages to test the F-35’s close air support (CAS) capabilities.


Now that the Air Force has figured out why some F-35 jet engines ignite on takeoff, it’s ready to retire its A-10 fleet. Over it’s 30-plus years of service, the A-10 has become a beloved platform and a welcome sight and sound to troops on the ground who love to hear the distinctive sound of it’s nose cannon projecting freedom and 30 mm rounds on America’s enemies.

The Air Force wants to retire the Warthog for what it calls “budget cuts” — but most suspect this is to help pay for the development of the F-35. With a total price tag of $1.5 trillion, the F-35 is set to be the most expensive weapons program ever developed by any country ever. And for that price you get stealth and other high-tech gee-wizzary, but no BRRRRRRRRRRRRRT.

Retiring the A-10 is controversial to some members of Congress and the military who accuse the Air Force of planning to mothball the Warthog without providing a CAS replacement. Gen. Welsh claims the F-35 was never intended to replace the A-10’s CAS capability but that the F-35 was designed “with the whole battle space in mind.”

The tests are currently set to be held in 2018, which doesn’t really make sense because the software for the F-35’s guns isn’t scheduled to be delivered until 2019.

In the meantime the heated discussions will rage.

What do you think? Do we need to keep the A-10 or go all-in with the Joint Strike Fighter? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

 

NOW: The Air Force’s Trillion-Dollar Jet Lost a Dogfight to An Aircraft From the 70s

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4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

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Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51
As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

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A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.

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