Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.
Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.
But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…
Yeah, he became an actor.
And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.
Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.
“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”
To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.
Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.
In early May, 2018, Tech. Sgt. Chance Cole, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight line expediter, came up with an idea – and it’s going to save the Air Force a lot of money.
“We were wrapping up a twelve-hour shift, and two of my guys just spent nearly an entire day replacing a single part on the MQ-9 Reaper,” Cole said. “It was frustrating, because we knew there had to be a more efficient way of doing this job.”
Cole described the issue, saying the part they were replacing actually didn’t need to be replaced at all. The real culprit was just a $53 sub-component held within, named the “spline insert.”
According to Cole, each time maintenance personnel were unable to replace the insert, they actually had to remove and replace a much larger and more complex assembly, the Permanent Magnetic Alternator. This process had been accomplished multiple times in the past due to an inability to remove a damaged insert and it added unnecessary time and expense.
Cole asked co-worker Staff Sgt. Hermann Nunez, 386 EAMXS crew chief, to stay after his shift to help him create a solution. Mere hours later, they brought their idea to life and fabricated what they described as a crude prototype designed to remove the damaged insert.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
Although the prototype was functional, Cole and Nunez concluded they needed assistance in creating a more-refined product to be used the next time the need arose. The next morning, they decided to bring the tool to the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Combat Metals Flight. There, Senior Airman Alex Young and Senior Airman Elio Esqueda, aircraft metals technicians, decided to take action.
“They brought their prototype to us and asked for some advice,” Young said. “One look at the tool and we knew exactly what to do – so we got to work.”
According to Young, the tool initially provided was simply a long bolt that matched the insert threads, which the crew chiefs used to extract the insert. However, use of the tool required a decent amount of strength – as the user had to physically pull the crude tool to remove the insert from the PMA.
Young and Esqueda fabricated something called a slide hammer, which provides the user a counter-weight to slide along the tool’s shaft in order to hammer the piece out with ease.
The device, which the four Airmen named the “Spline Insert Extractor,” was completed May 5, 2018. The four Airmen then routed the product through their chain of command before implementing its use. After passing multiple inspections and approval from their leadership, the tool was put into service locally.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
According to the maintainers, the finished product prevents at least four hours of maintenance each time they use the tool to replace the insert instead of replacing the PMA. Use of the tool is projected to save more than $123,000 annually – and that’s just at the 386th EAMXS.
According to Cole, the tool is currently in the process to be approved for use throughout the Air Force on all MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers. Once adopted by the enterprise, he expects the tool will be modified and adapted for usage on the MQ-9 Block 1, as well.
“When we first started the process to create the tool, we only had the intention of fixing a problem we were having here locally,” Cole said. “Thanks to Airmen like Staff Sgt. Nunez, Senior Airman Young and Senior Airman Esqueda helping me with this simple fix, we now have the opportunity to make a lasting impact for our peers across the globe.”
Last week, the John Q. Public blog published an open letter written by a female Airman under the nom de plume ‘Kayce M. Hagen,’ who recently attended her annual mandatory Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) training.
“A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing.”
She was disgusted at the idea of the female Airman being at once a victim and the catalyst for unit degradation, for being both untouchable and a target, and for being empowered but fragile.
“I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right?,” she writes. “Of course I am, you made me that way.”
She saw the training as taking the respect she might earn and instead forcing her male counterparts to see her as an object of their potential destruction.
“You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim,” Hagan wrote. “I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore.”
Obviously very strong words, whether one agrees or not, but perhaps worth consideration. This is her letter verbatim:
I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.
You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.
You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.
“He sexually assaulted me.”
I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.
Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.
You never think a medical emergency is going to happen to you, but what if it does? And what if you are on a flight, two hours from your destination and over the Atlantic Ocean?
Hopefully, when the flight attendants ask for medical personnel on the flight to come forward, someone like Rob Wilson, Dental Health Command Europe Patient Safety Manager, is on board.
Wilson, who is also an operating room nurse in the Army Reserves, was recently on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Orlando, Fla., when another passenger began having difficulty breathing. When medical personnel were asked to come to the back of the plane, he didn’t hesitate.
“We were over the ocean,” Wilson said, “when they asked for medical personnel. Without any hesitation I went back. I figured there would be a lot of other people and they probably wouldn’t even need me, but when I got back there it was myself and an American doctor.”
Wilson said the passenger who needed help was an older gentleman, who was pale, had clammy skin and was breathing shallow. After a quick assessment, Wilson determined the man’s Pulse oximetry — or oxygen level in the blood — was 60 percent and his heart rate was in the 80s.
Prior to Wilson and the doctor arriving, the flight attendants had already given the man an oxygen mask, however he wouldn’t keep it on. Wilson said with the oxygen mask his “oxygen readings would come up, but as soon as he took it off they would go back down.”
“He did not speak English, and his wife only spoke a little German,” Wilson said.
It turns out when the man was taking off his oxygen mask, he was asking his wife for his emergency inhaler.
“We finally figured out that he was asking his wife to get his emergency inhaler,” Wilson said. “But he wasn’t using it properly so the medication wasn’t getting to his lungs.”
Because the man’s vitals were not improving, Wilson and the doctor began getting ready to intubate, or place a flexible plastic tube into the trachea to maintain an open airway.
“I started getting everything together to do the intubation,” Wilson said, “and at the same time a German provider came back and spoke with the other doctor and they decided to give the man a steroid medication and valium to help calm him down, [rather than intubating].”
After about 30 minutes, the medications began working and the man was feeling well enough to go back to his seat for the rest of the flight.
Wilson’s work wasn’t done yet, however. He helped the flight attendants complete the paperwork to give the paramedics when the plane landed — that included annotating was what was given and when.
As a nurse in the Army Reserves, Wilson said his military training “definitely helped when it came to being able to work on the fly. Having been in the Reserves my whole Army career, we don’t typically have fixed facilities when we do our training, so I think that helped me stay calm and collected.”
Wilson added, “I think that’s my attitude in life too — get it done.”
That attitude has helped him progress since he joined the Army in 1993 as an operating room technician.
“I didn’t want to be in a medical field,” Wilson said. “I wanted to be an architect. I got into a school in Kansas City, but when they sent the bill, my parents said, ‘don’t look at us,’ so I joined the Army reserves to help pay for college.”
Because Wilson was looking to pay for college through his military service, he chose operating room technician for his military occupational specialty because they were getting some of the largest bonuses at the time. “So that is what I went with,” he said.
“Once I got into the field I loved it, and I never ended up going to school for architecture.”
Instead, he was sent active duty for 14 months to become a licensed practical nurse. He continued his education earning his associates degree and finally his bachelor’s degree. Once he had obtained his degree, he transitioned from the enlisted side and was commissioned as an operating room nurse in the Army Reserves.
Wilson said that one of the reasons he enjoys being a nurse is the “satisfaction of helping people and being part of something bigger than yourself.”
Currently, Wilson serves as the patient safety manager for all of the Army dental clinics in Europe. He said his focus is ensuring safe, quality care. That means “making sure we have the right patient, we are doing the right procedure, and on the right tooth,” he said.
Wilson hopes that in sharing his story he can encourage others to step up and help when needed.
“Do something. There is always something you can do. Even if it’s just holding the oxygen tank or reassuring the person. You don’t have to be an expert and do everything perfect, but do something.”
The Air Force is launching a next-generation airborne surveillance and command and control technology intended to successfully synchronize air, ground, drone, and satellite assets onto a single, seamless network, service officials said.
The emerging system, planned to reach full maturity in the 2040s, is called Advanced Battle Management and Surveillance (ABMS). It was introduced in the recently released Air Force 2019 budget.
“The budget proposes to change the way we execute battlefield management command and control in the multi-domain environment,” an Air Force official explained to Warrior Maven.
This initiative, carving out a new innovation-based short and long-term plan, articulates a much-deliberated Air Force path forward regarding the future of its Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) platform. The emerging plan represents the manifestation of lengthy Air Force considerations about whether the large and “not-so-stealthy” JSTARS platform would remain functionally useful in a high-threat, high-tech, modern environment.
ABMS seeks to harvest the latest ISR-oriented technologies from current and emerging systems as a way to take a very large step forward — and connect satellites, drones, ground sensors, and manned surveillance aircraft seamlessly, in real time, across a fast-changing, dispersed combat area of operations. ABMS is described by Air Force officials as more of a “system” than platform-specific application. This technical approach is of great significance amid anticipated future threat scenarios wherein electronic attacks, cyber intrusions, and GPS “jamming” weapons are both emerging and proliferating.
Over the longer term, the advanced ABMS suite of sensors and ISR technologies could integrate on a number of current and future air platforms, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.
At the same time, the service is also identifying a near-term “bridge” or “interim” solution to meet combat commands while ABMS develops. This plan includes an immediate effort to modernize E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and upgrade the current JSTARS fleet through the mid-2020s.
“We propose to modernize 7 E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and keep the current E-8C JSTARS operational through the mid-2020s, as we develop and transition to an advanced battle management system,” the Air Force official said.
Air Force developers further specified to Warrior Maven that integrating advanced communications, networking, and sensor capabilities onto an E-3G aircraft will “mitigate operational risk prior to the arrival of ABMS in the early 2040s.”
The JSTARS mission
The Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.
Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.
JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.
The current Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.
JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force officials explain.
Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.
Air Force officials say the current ongoing competition to recapitalize JSTARS will continue alongside a commensurate or greater focus upon ABMS. The plan sheds some light on recent lingering questions about whether the service would continue its recap effort or replace it with something designed to operate more successfully in a high-tech modern threat environment.
Service developers have emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.
JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.
JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.
Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the Pacific theater, Southcom (U.S. Southern Command), and Central Command areas of responsibility.
The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.
Air Force plan adjusts to advanced threats
While Air Force officials did not elaborate much on the various future threat conditions currently informing the calculus of decision-making, there has been much discussion of a broader need for air surveillance assets to operate in a more contested, high-threat, near-peer type warfare environment. Given these dynamics, broadly speaking, it makes sense that a larger, and therefore more detectable platform, like JSTARS, could be a more vulnerable target against adversaries with sophisticated weapons and sensors.
Accordingly, while JSTARS functions with great effect in lower threat combat circumstances, such as Afghanistan, where the US maintains air supremacy, its size, configuration, and radar signature are such that it could potentially be more vulnerable to advanced enemy air defenses.
At the same time, the platform is known to add tremendous value in combat scenarios — and advances in aircraft defenses, countermeasures, electronic warfare, and newer sensor technology, it seems, could potentially enable JSTARS to operate successfully against sophisticated enemy air-to-air weapons and ground-based air defense systems. Clearly, the aircraft is not intended to fly at the edge of combat, unprotected, against enemy fighter jets and air defenses — the question is what kinds of assets, emerging systems or supplemental technologies might be leveraged to expand its mission functionality in more contested areas?
An ability to address a high-threat electromagnetic warfare environment, by any estimation, is a likely focal point of the calculus regarding how best to equip large sensor platforms — such as JSTARS —for future combat environments. While many details regarding these kinds of technologies are, naturally, not available, engineering and upgrading an aircraft such as JSTARS with EW countermeasures or systems designed to minimize its electronic “signature” could indeed be fundamental to an ability to operate in sophisticated near-peer types of warfare scenarios.
It may be that other kinds of advanced countermeasures and aircraft protections, including the use of nearby unmanned drones as protection, could prove useful with respect to upgrading JSTARS to operate against advanced enemies.
There are other potential considerations or likely reasons why an upgraded current JSTARS aircraft might be positioned to operate with some success against sophisticated modern enemies; attack aircraft or stealth bombers could eliminate air defenses before a JSTARS enters a high-threat area of operation, thus enabling it to operate with great effect — electronic jamming aircraft such as the EA-18 Growler equipped with a high-tech Next-Generation Jammer, also, could potentially detect and jam radar signals from enemy air defenses — and semi-autonomous drones operated from a JSTARS cockpit in the future might test enemy air defenses or assess the threat environment while the surveillance aircraft operates at a safer distance.
Moving into the future, there may be emerging assets able to perform these missions more effectively against extremely advanced enemies; newer EW and sensor technology, for instance, are rapidly evolving such that smaller, better-protected platforms might have occasion to track wider areas at increasingly longer ranges — all while maintaining a lower radar signature. Faster computer processing speeds, enabling a smaller hardware footprint — coupled with more “hardened” networks and data links — might enable smaller, new platforms to gather, organize, analyze, and disseminate crucial, combat-relevant information in near-real time.
In short, command and control technology is evolving so quickly, that the Air Force might wish to ensure it can consistently identify and leverage the best emerging technical solutions able to perform the requisite surveillance and command and control functions currently executed by legacy JSTARS planes.
Would emerging drone surveillance technology, historically thought of as providing a “soda-straw” view of areas below, be able to survey wide-swaths of dispersed terrain across a combat area of operations? Perhaps stealthy platforms, increasingly equipped with advanced sensor technology, could perform some of the wide-area command and control missions currently taken up by the JSTARS. It may be that a new JSTARS platform could operate in tandem with other systems, networks and aerial platforms able to assist the mission in higher-risk environments. In fact, this kind of cross-domain connectivity seems to be at the heart of what ABMS seeks to accomplish.
The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.
The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.
The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was the greatest single loss of American lives in the history of the U.S. Navy. The story of how it ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean started with the Manhattan Project and wouldn’t end until her captain, Charles B. McVay III, was exonerated in a court-marital.
In the first official trailer for “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” (directed by Mario Van Peebles!) we see Nicolas Cage as the skipper of the Indianapolis, given a highly classified mission and then surviving the sinking of his ship. We also see his court-martial, which, as mentioned, is part of the ship’s real world story. In fact, much of what we see in this trailer really did happen to the ship’s crew.
The Indianapolis served with campaigns in New Guinea, the Aleutians, and the Gilbert Islands. As the flagship for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, she not only supported the Gilbert invasions but also Tarawa, Marshall Islands, Western Carolines, Saipan, Okinawa, and fought in the famous “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”
Her most famous mission sent her from San Francisco to Hawaii, carrying the bomb components for the atomic bomb Little Boy which would be dropped on Hiroshima. The ship also left port with half the world supply of Uranium-235. It departed San Francisco on July 16, 1945, delivering the parts ten days later. Because of its top secret mission, the Indianapolis had no escort and few knew the ship’s location.
On its way to join Task Force 95 for its next assignment, it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk in 12 minutes, with the loss of 300 of the 1,196 crewmen. The rest were adrift in the open water. The ordeal wasn’t over for the crew. For days, they fought exposure to the elements, dehydration, and extreme shark attacks – the most in human history. Only 321 of the surviving 880 were recovered alive.
In November 1945, Captain McVay was court-martialed and convicted for hazarding his ship with his failure to follow the Navy’s guidelines for avoiding submarines and torpedoes. McVay said he moved the ship in a zig-zag pattern, consistent with those guidelines. The star witness at McVay’s trial was Hashimoto Mochitsura, the commander of the submarine that sank the Indianapolis. He testified that zig-zagging would not have saved the ship, whether McVay followed the regs or not. McVay was the only captain in World War II to be court-martialed for the loss of his ship.
Some families still blamed McVay for the deaths of their sailors. McVay retired in 1949, but the guilt of losing the sailors stayed with him until the end of his life. He committed suicide in 1968 at age 70, found on his front lawn with a toy sailor in his hand.
Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.
But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.
Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.
“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.
Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.
But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.
These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.
“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.
However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.
“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook
“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.
But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.
“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
The U.S. Army‘s new uniform may look a lot like the iconic pinks-and-greens worn during World War II, but senior leaders decided to drop the pinks and go with Army Greens as the official name.
Pinks and greens “was a World War II nickname given to it by the soldiers because one of the sets of pants had a pink hue to them. So that is where it came from,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said recently.
The current blue Army Service Uniform, or ASU, will become the optional dress uniform and undergo a name change of its own, Dailey said.
Officials are working on the wear regulations for both uniforms. Once Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley approves them, the service will release All Army Activities, or ALARACT, messages online so soldiers can “click and see the updates to the new regulations,” Dailey said.
Prototypes of the Army Greens uniform, shown above. Initial fielding of the new uniform is expected to occur in the summer of 2020.
(US Army photo by Ron Lee)
“So basically, we are dusting off old regulations. We will take a look at them. We have a few more decisions we have to present to the chief of staff before we can publish those,” he said, adding that the regulation on the ASU will include a new name for the uniform. “It will not be called the Army Service Uniform anymore. It will probably go back to the dress blues.”
The ASU became mandatory for wear in 2014, replacing the Army dress green uniform, which saw 61 years of service.
The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Troops will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform at that time.
Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news. Over the last year, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by an unexpected source: The presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.
Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:
1. Chris Mintz
Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.
According to a student witness Chris “ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”
While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn’t exactly something covered by the VA. That didn’t stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin’.)
2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone
Image courtesy of mmc-news.com.
The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.
“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.
Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.
“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos.
In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant’s incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, “Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country’s highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur medal.
3. Kendrick Taylor
Image courtesy of wordondastreet.com.
In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.
“What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That’s when I ran over to help her,” Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. “When I looked down I didn’t know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help.”
DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor’s intervention. Taylor’s act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.
4. Andrew Myers
Screenshot via Youtube: Mr. Wrong House – “Burglar meets Paratrooper”
It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, “Hey, what’s up?”
“I live here,” said the hooded man.
“You definitely do not live here,” Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,
“I do live here, buddy.”
A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?” That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.
It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit’s beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to Youtube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.
In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up “Home Alone” style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I’d say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.
5. Eddy Peoples
Screenshot via ABC news.
Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn’t expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn’t expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.
During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, “If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it.”
I’m guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.
“To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That’s all it was for me. You know, you don’t point weapons at children.”
Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.
When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, “Daddy, did you get that bad man?” to which Peoples replied “Yeah, I got that bad man.”
6. Devin McClean
Screenshot from Youtube via CBS News.
Not every story ends the way you’d like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store’s employees.
One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there… but it didn’t.
The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain’s, “Zero Gun Policy” when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.
Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,
“I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?”
Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn’t. He’s still fired. I’m just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah’s goin’ to O’Reilly’s.
7. Earl Jones
Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn’t like being woken up. He especially doesn’t like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.
When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.
“Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no,” Jones told CBS News.
When asked why he didn’t dial 911, Jones replied:
“What? I’m a military man now. I ain’t gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin’. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn’t a shot him, he’d a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That’s seconds. That ain’t no damned hours.”
Old man, you’ve made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I’m just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.
Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It’s seconds. It isn’t hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can’t always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.
When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.
Heroism isn’t about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.
There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.
Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They’ve been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.
Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans’ welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.
As we endure the long wait for titles like “No Man’s Sky,” “Battlefield 1,” and “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” We Are The Mighty decided to dust off some old games in the archives.
“Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” is the re-mastered version of the 2006 game known for its chainsaw kills, ‘roided up characters, and brutal gameplay. It allows players to fight as Delta Squad soldiers against the dreaded Locusts, an army of bug-like monsters, in H.D. Players control Marcus Fenix or Dominic Santiago in a mission to map Locust tunnels and deploy a Lightmass Bomb – imagine a cross between napalm and a nuclear bomb.
For most of the game, Delta squad consists of four members which the player can give simple orders to as they face off against Boomers – massive infantrymen who fire explosive grenades, Berserkers – unstoppable linebackers who will charge players, Locust Drones – standard infantrymen, and others.
The fights progress from the ruins of major cities and through underground tunnels and mines before culminating on a moving train. Features of the different areas, such as whether or not the area is exposed to satellites or is lit by the sun, change the combat mechanics and keep the player on their toes.
The main antagonist, General RAAM, is the head of all Locust forces and is known for his ruthlessness. He executes one human after another in brutal ways and is able to control a flock of krill, bat-like creatures that will attack Delta soldiers en mass and tear them apart.
Considering how far out the game’s plot and enemies are, it features surprisingly realistic combat mechanics. Players need to maneuver carefully and use cover to bring down the Locust grunts and massive monsters. In two-player mode, players can support each other during attacks, even when the map forces them to use two different routes.
Players have to endure a number of different scenarios in the main game, everything from defending a stranded outpost like they’re on a firebase being overrun to assaulting an enemy strongpoint defended by elite warriors.
Players need to support each other in multiplayer mode. Despite the small teams, the fighting is still intense. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)
In multiplayer mode, modern gamers may be surprised that most game types support four versus four multiplayer, and one only supports two versus two. But, these smaller teams make the fighting feel less hectic and more personal, creating less chaos and supporting tactical play.
Of course, the re-mastered graphics make everything in “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” look more realistic and prettier than in the original. While this breaks from the aesthetic of the 2006 version, a notoriously gritty experience, it still feels like Delta Squad is in the suck.
For gamers who haven’t gotten into “Gears of War” yet or who want a refresher before the release of “Gears of War 4” in October, the Ultimate Edition is great fun.
R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, has had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and is also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:
A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.
Ermey lends his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”
In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny plays a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, his stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also says some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.
4. Life-long Commitment
In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talks about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he says “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”
His talks about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he gets. His commitment to serve is still seen today by troops. Ermey makes numerous appearances on bases all over the world helping boost morale and motivation. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.
5. Don’t give up
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talks about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.
In the interview, he said “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”
6. Embrace your talent
The former Marine is definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven“ or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny uses his acting chops, quick wit, and background to make each character unique. His willingness to harness this talent led the 72-year-old actor to a very successful career. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.
7. Don’t forget your roots
Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actress, Ermey seems to be very humble and doesn’t forget where he came from. To this day, Ermey’s military roots are strong and he still embraces the “Gunny” nickname, especially in his latest show on the Outdoor Channel called “Gunny Time.”