This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves - We Are The Mighty
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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

The 1970 movie “Waterloo” was one of the most intricately filmed war movies of all time. A story about Napoleon’s famous last stand could not be told accurately without battle scenes on a grand scale. But these were the days before CGI and other computer wizardry, so Dino De Laurentiis had to get the extras — lots of them.


To save on production costs, necessary to build everything seen in the movies – from palaces to artillery – De Laurentiis decided to film the movie in the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War. The USSR agreed to allow the filming of the movie in Ukraine and also gave access to Soviet men and equipment.
The Red Army offered up some 16,000 men to the filmmakers, along with honest-to-Lenin cavalry and civil engineers.  The civil engineers recreated the entire Waterloo battlefield, including roads, thousands of trees, and Belgian farmhouses. They even bulldozed a few hills, cultivated rye, barley, and wildflower fields, and piped in water via an irrigation system to recreate the mud of the battlefield.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk housed the troops in tents near the battlefield and trained them in the infantry tactics and weapons of the time, 1815. The men were able to grow their facial hair and live like Napoleonic-era troops. They were more than just glorified battle re-enactors, they became bona fide Napoleonic Warriors, learning drills as well as saber and bayonet tactics.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

The total price tag of the film came to a whopping $40 million – $247 million adjusted for inflation. The resulting battle scenes are worth every penny. Aside from a few anachronisms, the battles are epic depictions of the French Empereur’s last 100 days.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

Take that, Peter Jackson.

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9 photos that show how the Coast Guard fights fires at sea

Fire trucks can’t reach too far past the coast, and plenty of fires break out on ships and oil platforms off American shores. When the fires happen in America’s territorial waters, it often falls to America’s Coast Guard to rescue the survivors and fight the flames.


Here are nine photos of the Coast Guard protecting lives and property by acting as firefighters at sea:

1. The Coast Guard fights fires in their areas of operations. Everything from small boats like this one …

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Fishing vessel Bigger Dirls on fire in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2016. No one was aboard at the time. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

2. …to huge fires like the one that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew documented the fire while searching for survivors. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes, and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126-person crew. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

3. For smaller fires, it’s often enough to pump water onto them, and the Coast Guard is lucky that plenty of salt water is usually available.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

4. What’s unlucky is that it will often take Coast Guardsmen time to reach the crisis, and it’s their job to rescue survivors. For instance, they pulled four fishermen and a dog from this ship after it exploded.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
U.S. Coast Guard crews rescued four fisherman Thursday after their vessel caught fire and exploded near St. Simons Island Sound. A Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat—Medium crew from Station Brunswick located and rescued the crew and their dog from the 58-foot fishing vessel Predator. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Station Brunswick video)

5. Rescue operations are relatively simple for small vessels, but it takes a lot of planning to be able to rescue people from large ferries, cruise vessels, or industrial ships.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
A Coast Guard Station San Juan crewmember monitors passengers using the marine escape system from the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy ferry vessel a mile from San Juan Harbor, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. The Coast Guard received initial notification around 7:40 a.m. that the ferry was on fire. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station San Juan, Puerto Rico.)

6. Sometimes, the Coast Guard asks for help from nearby, civilian vessels that are commonly known as “good Samaritans.” These vessels assist with rescue, firefighting, and recovery operations.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
A local San Juan, Puerto Rico-based tug crew use a fire hose to cool the hull of the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy ferry vessel that caught fire earlier a mile from San Juan Harbor, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. The Caribbean Fantasy’s engine room caught fire, which began to spread to other compartments forcing passengers and crew to abandon the ferry vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station San Juan, Puerto Rico.)

7. Good Samaritan vehicles can even assist with larger operations, like the extinguishing of this oil platform fire.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Four offshore supply vessels extinguish a fire on an oil production platform fire near Grand Isle, Louisiana, Jan. 5, 2017. There were four people aboard the platform who evacuated into the water and were recovered by the offshore supply vessel Mary Wyatt Milano. There were no reported injuries. (Coast Guard imagery courtesy of Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile)

8. The Coast Guard still maintains oversight and supervises the efforts.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
More imagery from the fire on an oil production platform fire near Grand Isle, Louisiana, Jan. 5, 2017. (Coast Guard imagery courtesy of Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile)

9. When the fire is near other ships or structures, the Coast Guard takes steps to control the burning vessel, preventing it from drifting and catching other vessels on fire.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
A Coast Guard Auxiliary crewmember maintains positive control of a flame-engulfed pleasure craft near Great Neck Creek in Copiague, New York, April 30, 2016. The Copiague Fire Department assisted the Coast Guard Auxiliary crew and extinguished the fire onboard the vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

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The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

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The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

You’d think that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be spending every bit of their time on the job helping America’s veterans. But that may not be case — some of them may instead be working on “union business.”


Worse, there may be no way to know how much time they have spent on their outside work for federal employee unions.

According to a report by Government Executive, the VA has no standardized method of tracking how much “official time” is spent by government employees on union activities like mediation. The Office of Personnel Management website defines “official time” as “paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.”

The report noted that 350 of those employees are working full-time on union activities, and that almost 1.1 million man-hours were spent on official time in Fiscal Year 2012.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
The Tomah, Wisconsin VA hospital.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report done at the request of House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) casts doubt on those reported figures.

The GAO said, “the data VA provided were not sufficiently reliable to determine the amount of official time used by VA employees and the purposes for which it was used for the period of our review.”

The biggest reason for the lack of reliability was due to the fact that the VA had no standardized means to track the amount of “official time” used by employees of that agency.

The report noted that the VA had arrangements with five unions: the National Association of Government Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; National Nurses United; the National Federation of Federal Employees; and the Service Employees International Union.

Government Executive reported that the VA had agreed to resolve the time-tracking issues.

The VA has been hit with a number of scandals, including one case where a deceased veteran was left lying around for nine hours in a Florida VA facility and another case in a Wisconsin VA hospital where a dentist may have infected hundreds of veterans with HIV and hepatitis.

Those cases came on the heels of a VA hospital using “separate waiting lists” to conceal a backlog of cases, a practice that is believed to have lead to over 200 deaths.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida incident drew the wrath of Rep. Gus Biliakis (R-FL), who angrily noted that nobody had been fired over the improper treatment of a veteran’s corpse.

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9 of the most important tweets in military history

Undaunted by the need for a proprietary algorithm and the fact that Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006, a group of military historians were able to dig up these tweets under the third ‘O’ of the HOLLYWOOD sign (just above WATM’s headquarters) after receiving a tip from the ghost of Jimmy Stewart in the American Legion Post 43’s men’s room. Like all important artifacts, these 9 tweets shed light on history (in this case in 140 characters or less):


1.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

2.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

9. 

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

(H/T to WATM’s Logan Nye for helping with these.)

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Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

President-elect Donald Trump could reverse a historic policy change kicked off in 2013 allowing women to serve in direct combat roles, and that has advocates of the change worried.


“We are absolutely concerned,” Kate Germano, a former Marine lieutenant colonel who now serves as COO of the Service Women’s Action Network, told Business Insider.

Also read: Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

SWAN and other groups have long lobbied for a change in the policy excluding women from certain direct combat roles, such as infantry and artillery. They won that fight in 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all military services to lift the ban on women in combat roles, giving them until January 2016 to fully integrate or ask for special exemptions.

Only the Corps asked for that exemption, which was overruled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

However, since Congress never passed a law on the issue, a Trump White House could just reverse the decision made by the Obama administration, or order exceptions to be made for certain services, such as the Marine Corps.

“It’s our earnest hope” the next administration will look at quality of service members rather than gender, said Germano, though some things Trump has said on the campaign trail cast doubt on whether that will be the case.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
US Marine Corps

When asked in October by a former Army colonel what he would do about the “social engineering and political correctness” that had been imposed on the military, Trump seemed to agree that the military’s acceptance of transgendered troops and women in combat roles was wrongheaded.

“You’re right. We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day,” Trump said. “And a lot of the great people in this room don’t even understand how it’s possible to do that. And that’s through intelligence, not through ignorance — believe me — because some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”

Though he added: “I would say I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned to the generals, the admirals, the people on top.”

As it stands right now, there’s at least one person in top leadership who seems to disagree with the policy change — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford— who would be one of Trump’s closest military advisors, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Others in the Republican Party seem to be weighing in ahead of Trump’s transition as well. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer who has been floated as a potential pick for Defense Secretary, on Sunday called for a “counterrevolution” in the military.

“It doesn’t do anything to further our capacity as war fighters,” Hunter told The Washington Times of women being placed in infantry roles. “It doesn’t do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It’s just a distraction. It’s not like there are thousands of women getting into the infantry now. It will never be that way.”

Like Hunter and others, critics of the policy change have referred to it as “social engineering” within the military ranks. But Germano disagrees with that assessment, telling Business Insider it’s not social engineering but instead, expanding the pool of qualified applicants who can do jobs within the military.

“We believe that women who are highly-qualified for the position and can do the job should have the opportunity to do the job,” Germano said.

A reversal in policy wouldn’t just affect women who had planned to go into combat roles in the future. Since the military has been slowly integrating them into the force, some women would have to be taken out of the roles they had trained for alongside men and put back into non-combat jobs.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

In October, the Army graduated 10 new female infantry officers, many of whom are now going through follow-on training before they will be assigned to infantry units. Another woman, Capt. Kristen Griest, transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.

While the Marine Corps has graduated some enlisted females through its infantry training pipeline, no women have been able to graduate its infantry officer course, though more than 30 have tried.

If President-elect Trump decides to change the policy back, he would deal with pushback from the courts. A 2012 lawsuit filed by four female service members who claimed that being excluded from some roles was a violation of their constitutional rights is still ongoing.

The DoD tried to have the suit dismissed after the ban was lifted, but it still remains in litigation — in part because the next president could single-handedly deny those women those rights in the future.

“If we have a Republican president, we may well be in the same position we were when we filed this complaint, a categorical exclusion of all women from combat units,” Steven Perry, an attorney for the four women, told a judge in federal court, according to the Military Times.

The Judge agreed with that assessment and set the next court date for January 12 — eight days before Trump is inaugurated as president.

Regardless of the final status of women in combat roles, it’s clear that women have been involved in combat through the Global War on Terror. Two of the plaintiffs in the 2012 suit were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart medal, and many other women have served alongside male infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan on “female engagement teams.”

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This is why the North Vietnamese were so deadly in jungle combat

Ground combat in the Vietnam War was a lot more than random ambushes in heavy jungle and the Air Force bombing the hell out of jungle canopies. At places like Ben Het, the North Vietnamese Army even attacked in force with tanks and armored personnel carriers. 

After getting into a conventional battle with the United States Army at Ia Drang, the NVA learned to stick to the tactics it knew best: infiltrations, hit-and-runs, ambushes and surprise attacks. Even major offensives relied on surprises in timing and troop strength after that. 

By the time the United States got involved in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had been fighting against colonial-style rule from outsiders since the end of World War II, an astonishing 20 years or so. They were a battle-hardened army with veteran leadership, fighting on their home turf. They knew the jungle like the American troops could not. To top it all off, Communist supporters and sympathizers were all over the “democratic” south – the Viet Cong.

The United States wasn’t just fighting a uniformed, trained force along a united front, it was also fighting the Viet Cong and its brutal campaign of intimidation and violence throughout the south VC fighters could hit South Vietnam and civilian targets in the south, then blend into the crowd of civilians.

That ability to blend into their surroundings and hide in plain sight was also apparent in the jungle fighting outside of Vietnam’s major cities. 

Soldiers in the jungle of Vietnam
Soldiers in the dense jungle of Vietnam.

Small units operating in the jungles had problems fighting that only those who are familiar with that kind of terrain would know. The dense jungles and triple canopies made seeing the enemy next to impossible, from either the ground or the air. 

The Viet Cong also employed complex tunnel systems in areas throughout the country that allowed them to move and hide underground. On those kinds of battlefield, the VC could decide when and where the shooting starts and ends. 

One advantage the U.S. had was in terms of firepower from air support and artillery. North Vietnamese forces had to negate that advantage on the battlefields. The primary way they did that was to hit American infantry units when it was most advantageous for them. Often, the communist forces would wait until the Americans were mere yards away in the least visible sections of jungle territory before opening up on them. Well-hidden and disciplined, the NVA could cause maximum damage and before withdrawing, often using only small arms and mortars, and often at night.

During nighttime raids and ambushes, communist ambushes were extremely difficult to fight against because they were extremely difficult to see. The NVA and VC were both well-versed in cover and concealment, despite what Americans see in movies. The dense jungle made it even easier for them. At night, the Americans could only return fire at vague muzzle flashes and maybe tracer rounds. 

Some Veterans will tell you that they never saw the enemy – even if they were 30 feet away. 

dense jungle in Vietnam
The jungles were so thick, it was nearly impossible to see your enemy.

Conventional tactics were a loser for North Vietnamese forces. Americans won those battles through superior firepower and training. The same can’t be said for small-unit combat in the jungles. In the end, the drawn out war and the communists’ political strategy (along with supplies coming from other communist countries) became too much for the American public. 

American victories in Vietnam were overshadowed by the divisive nature of support for the war at home. Many of the social and societal rifts caused by the prolonged war can still be felt to this day. 

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13 high-value terrorists we’ve killed or captured since 9/11

All eyes are on the Pentagon as it assesses the effects of the strike that may have killed “Jihadi John,” the British terrorist who conducted high-profile executions for ISIS.


The downfall of JJ is an awesome win for the U.S. and U.K. militaries, but it’s just the latest in a list of “high-value targets” that have been brought down. Here are 13 of America and her allies’ greatest hits against terrorism.

1. Osama Bin Laden

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo: Wikipedia/Hamid Mir

You don’t need an intro to this a–hole. He was killed by SEAL Team 6 in a daring raid into Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

2. Saddam Hussein

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo: US Army

Like Osama Bin Laden, you really shouldn’t need an intro for this guy. Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on Dec. 13, 2003 in Tikrit, Iraq where he was hiding in a tiny hole. He was executed Dec. 20, 2006 by hanging after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.

3. Muhammad Atef

The head of military planning and Osama Bin Laden’s security from the late 90s through 2001, Muhammed Atef was killed in an air raid near Kabul in Nov. 2001.

4. Abu Sayyaf

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
On the left, Abu Sayyaf as a mujahideen commander in 1984. Photo: Wikipedia/Erwin Franzen

The Army’s Delta Force led the raid against Abu Sayyaf and killed him when he resisted May 16, 2015. Sayyaf ran ISIS’s gas and financial operations as well as a limited number of military operations.

5. Atiyah Abd al-Rahman

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman became al-Qaeda’s top operational planner and number 2 leader overall after Bin Laden was killed. His tenure near the peak was short-lived and he was killed in a drone strike Aug. 22, 2011.

6. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

An expert at coordinating suicide attacks, a kidnapper, and an executioner, Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq was one of the “proofs” that Saddam Hussein was tied to al-Qeada and had to be taken down. He died Jun. 8, 2006, of wounds sustained in an airstrike.

7. Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi

The top guy in al-Qaeda Iraq and his number two, Abu ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi were killed in a joint-U.S. and Iraqi security operation in Anbar, Iraq in Apr. 2010.

Note: This is not the Baghdadi who leads ISIS. That’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who may have been killed or injured in Oct. 2015.

8. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri

A suspected planner of the USS Cole attack and a number of others, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was captured in an airport in Nov. 2002.  He is currently detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba..

9. Anwar al-Awlaki

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo: Wikipedia/Muhammad ud-Deen

The Youtube imam caught frequenting prostitutes by the F.B.I, Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. He fled the states and eventually took a leadership role in al-Qaeda Yemen. He was killed in Sep. 2011 in a drone strike.

10. Abu Layth al-Libi

The number 3 in al Qaeda at the time of his death, Abu Layth al-Libi got his start in another terror network before becoming a field commander and spokesman for al Qaeda. He was killed in a drone strike Jan. 29, 2008.

11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo: Wikipedia

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured Mar. 1, 2003 by the C.I.A after an informer known as “Asset X” texted his handler, “I M W KSM.” Mohammed is still in custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

12. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid

The head of finance for al Qaeda and possibly the director of operations when he was killed, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was killed by a missile strike in May 2010.

13. Abdul Basit Usman

A leader of a Islamic terror organization in the southern Philippines, Abdul Basit Usman may have been killed by his own bodyguards. They tried to claim a bounty from U.S. and Philippine authorities after Usman was shot to death May 3, 2015.

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This county has the most vets in the USA. Here’s how two women are serving them all.

Despite most public assumptions, Los Angeles County leads the nation with the highest concentration of military veterans calling it home. The female veteran-led Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC), stands ready to serve them.

According to their website, LAVC is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans, service members and military families in LA County. Along with the collaborative efforts of 300 organizations and resources housed under LAVC, the initiative is working towards policy changes that could further positively impact veterans. 

The foundation or backbone for the LAVC is Southern California Grantmakers, which has programming led by two female veterans determined to change the landscape for veterans as they transition or find themselves in need of support. 

Directing LAVC is Air Force Reserves Master Sgt. Aimee Pila-Bravo. But her passion for serving veterans goes beyond her connection as a military service member herself. It started after watching her brother, a Marine, struggle and not receive the help he needed. He eventually attempted to commit suicide while still on active duty.

“There were a lot of incarcerations and hospitalizations and he had a lot of problems that weren’t being addressed,” Bravo explained. Inspired by a social worker that was finally able to help her brother, she decided to become one herself. 

After leaving active service for the reserves to earn her master’s degree in social work, she knew she wanted to impact the lives of those who serve and have served.

“If someone could help my brother through that process then I want to be able to do it for others,” Bravo said. “I just recognize that there is a lot of help that needs to be given. I would prefer that they get that help while they are still in, before they get to us.”

Life after leaving active duty service is a shock to many veterans, with the added confusion of where to go and what’s available, Bravo said. Although each branch offers a class before the member begins terminal leave, she said it leaves many more confused than when they started. LAVC aims to make it as seamless as possible to set them up for success. 

Cristina Garcia is the Director for the Veteran Peer Access Network, which is part of Southern California Grantmakers, as well. The program connects county departments, non-profits, the VA and LA City programs, making navigation simpler for the veteran. It is led by veterans for veterans, giving them a battle buddy as they begin their journey after the military. 

A 24-year veteran of the United States Army, Garcia ended her career in the California Army National Guard working in diversity and immigration, retiring as a 1st Sgt. Her role at the end of her career would create a drive and purpose to continue to find ways to ensure all veterans received the care and resources they needed. 

“It really gave me a sense of worth and satisfaction to help those soldiers, families and the community,” Garcia explained. 

That drive and passion for service led her new role and she hasn’t looked back since. “We, as veterans, we know what’s out there. We get it, but when you hit those bumps and there’s no one to help, you kind of go into a downward spiral from there. That’s why this program is so low barrier,” Garcia said. 

Bravo echoed that sentiment but also knows that what they are doing is only the beginning of what’s needed to truly support veterans. “It’s a great start but it isn’t enough. It won’t be enough until we champion for change within the military itself,” she said. “It’s something that we need to work on and it’s a conversation that just can’t stop.”

Another unique point about LAVC is that the organization works with all veterans regardless of discharge and their families, making them standout as a valuable resource and initiative. “That’s why the program is so important and needed here in Los Angeles County,” Garcia said. 

For an area like LA that has such a large concentration of veterans, Bravo and Garcia hope to set the standard for programming elsewhere in the country. With the Veterans Administration backlogged with needs and the recent uptick in service member and veteran suicides, initiatives like LAVC are an important piece of the solution.

Both women said they are proud of where the program is going and grateful to all of the organizations joining forces to serve and make a difference. 

“We are here to inform, educate and make sure we give them that warm hug like – come here,” Bravo said. “It’s not ‘poor veteran’ either. Instead, it’s we know it’s going to be hard but that’s okay. We’re here.”

To learn more about LAVC, click here.


Feature image courtesy of LAVC’s Facebook page

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4 military fails so awful they’re actually hilarious

1. That one time the Australian Army fought a bunch of emus … and lost

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Pretty intimidating, no? Photo: Flickr


Australia’s known for being a pretty badass country — a worthy reputation when your nation is populated by a bunch of outlaws on one of the world’s harshest continents. What Australia doesn’t want you to know, however, is that in between all that crocodile-wrangling and kangaroo-eating, it got its butt kicked once by a bunch of flightless birds.

The year was 1932. Australian farmers were struggling to save their wheat crops from a fierce, egg-laying pack of scavengers that had migrated into the area. And we’re not talking a pesky flock of chickens, either. This was a battalion of 20,000 emus.

Being Australian, the farmers figured they could probably take out these birds themselves. That plan quickly failed, since there were simply too many birds to handle, though one does wonder how they attempted to solve the problem in the first place (maybe some vegemite traps?).

Regardless, the crops were failing and it was decided reinforcements were necessary. Enter the Royal Australian Artillery. Major G.P.W. Meredith led two regiments of machine-gun wielding Australian soldiers against the bird infestation, figuring the issue would be taken care of in a few days.

He was wrong.

The emus proved wilier than expected. They dodged bullets with shocking finesse, weaving in and out of troops and scattering into the brush before they could be herded together. Many of the birds that were hit still got away — whether because of their dense feathers or sheer force of will, they would not not bend to the Aussie military.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
These guys don’t mess around. Photo: unrealfacts.com

Meredith decided to up the ante, organizing a surprise ambush near a dam where 1,000 emus were gathered unawares. This failed as well. Ego bruised, Meredith decided that the only way to destroy an army of demon emus is to do it yourself. In what no doubt would have made a soul-stirring slow-motion montage, Meredith climbed in the back of a truck and manned its machine gun, firing at the birds as he sped beside them.

The emus outran the truck, leading it through terrain so uneven and wild that the vehicle ended up crashing through a fence in its pursuit. As the emus disappeared into the sunset, the AA had no choice but to accept defeat.

According to Scientific American, Dr. Murray Johnson’s entries in Journal of Australian Studies reflect Australia’s humorous response to the skirmish:

“On 8 November, it was reported that Major Meredith’s party had used 2,500 rounds of ammunition – twenty-five per cent of the allotted total – to destroy 200 emus,” says Johnson. “When one New South Wales state Labor politician inquired whether ‘a medal was to be struck for those taking part in this war’, his federal counterpart in Western Australia, responded that they should rightly go to the emus who ‘have won every round so far’.”

In the end, less than 1,000 of the 20,000 emus were killed, and the farmers were left to weep over their wheat and gather an army of wallabies to fight back. Totally kidding — the government decided to cut out the middleman and give the farmers the ammunition they needed to finally fry the birds, taking the lives of 57,034 emus and restoring peace once and for all.

2. The time Japan deployed a new battleship and flooded Nagasaki

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
There’s no flooding, just go about your business… Photo: Getty Images

The saying “bigger is better” is traditionally an American mantra, but the Japanese Navy tried it on for size in 1940, and the results were pretty hilarious.

Not yet at war with the United States, Japan still wanted to assert military dominance. The plan? Build the biggest battleship it had ever commissioned, and call it the Musashi.

Now, Japan understood that an incredibly large battleship would not be impressive unless it was also outfitted with incredibly large weapons. To remedy this, the Japanese Navy decked out the Musashi with the best of the best. Amongst the weapons on board were cannons that could fire 18-inch shells over 26 miles and 9×450 mm guns — stats that were impressive for any military at the time.

What Japan did not take into account, apparently, was how much this thing would weigh. When the Japanese Navy joyously deployed the ship into the sea, the mammoth watercraft displaced so much water (63,000 tons) it caused a four foot high tidal wave, flooding the riverbank homes of Nagasaki and totally killing the mood.

The Musashi‘s wake capsized nearly all of the ships in the surrounding harbor, and did some serious damage to the shops and houses closest to the water’s edge. Frightened citizens rushed into the streets as water poured through their doors, completely bewildered by the source of the flooding.

They were quickly urged back inside their water-sogged homes by the Imperial Navy, which was too embarrassed to tell the people of Nagasaki what had actually gone down. It makes you wonder what they did blame it on…

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Photo: Flickr

3. A pilot ejects from his plane and watches it fly itself

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

Sometimes in life, things go incredibly wrong. And other times, they just go incredibly weird. 1st Lt. Gary Foust was preparing for the first scenario during a test flight in 1970, when his fighter jet began an uncontrollable flat spin. After struggling to regain control of the F-106 interceptor jet for a few moments, he did the smart thing and pressed the eject button 8,000 feet above the ground.

Or … he thought it was the smart thing. Once his chute deployed and buoyed him up in the air, Foust looked down towards the ground, expecting his plane to light up like the Fourth of July upon impact. What he saw instead was his plane cruising along, as if the spin had never happened and it was being piloted by a very casual, aircraft-savvy ghost.

One of Foust’s wingmen, Maj. Jim Lowe reportedly shouted over the radio “Gary, you better get back in it!” But Gary could not get back in. All he could do was watch with wonder as his plane flew itself in a straight line before landing gently in a snow-covered wheat field.

When police arrived on the scene, the F-106’s engine was still running. Wary of whatever had possessed this thing, the Air Force suggest the cops wait until the plane ran out of fuel, rather than attempt shutting it off. It took a while.

When the plane finally breathed its last it was collected and repaired by the Air Force, and eventually returned to active service. Freaky.

Check out the video below to hear Foust recount the events of that day:

4. Helicopter pilots nosedive into Lake Tahoe for a Facebook pic

Back in 2010, two presumably experienced and level-headed pilots from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41) were flying MH-6OR helicopters over Lake Tahoe. Everything appeared to be normal, when suddenly one of the aircrafts took a dip in the water, like a pelican trying to nab a fish.

Civilian witnesses caught the whole thing on video, and everyone wondered what the heck was going on. Had the engine failed? Were they trying to practice a mock search and rescue mission? The women in the video below seem to think its some sort of elaborate training exercise:

The answer is no. The pilots had the $33 million chopper surface-hover incredibly low over the water to try and get a cool profile picture for their squad’s Facebook page. And no, we’re not kidding.

The pilots allegedly took their hands off the controls to snap photos of one another flying the choppers. Then one helicopter began to plummet through the air, quickly losing altitude and skimming the water. The pilot was able to regain control and bring the chopper back up out of the water, but the stunt cost a cool half-a-million dollars worth in damages to the electronic flying antenna and other expensive equipment.

When they returned to base, the unnamed pair immediately lost flight status — shocker. Let it be a lesson to us all to not do it for the Vine, or the Facebook profile picture.

NOW: 4 amazing military stories that should totally be movies

OR: The 6 scariest military vehicles of WWI and WWII

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Here’s why the maker of the Army’s new handgun is suddenly playing defense

The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.


About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)

The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.

WATM friend Eric Graves at Soldier Systems Daily reports that there are five known incidents of an accidental discharged from a dropped P320 among the over 500,000 sold on the commercial market.

While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.

“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”

Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.

That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.

“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.

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China tests missile that could muscle US out of the South China Sea

Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.


As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Related: Marine F-35 Lightning fighters arrive in Japan

Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US. | dafeng cao via Twitter

“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.

According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”

The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
US Navy E-3 Hawkeyes fly above Japan’s Mt. Fuji. | US Navy photo by Lt. J.G. Andrew Leatherwood

This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.

Also read: Trump picks former Army intel officer to be SecNav

In combination with China’s massive, networked array of multiphase radars across artificial, militarized islands in the South China Sea, these missiles and the coming J-20 strike aircraftshow that China has leveraged multiple technologies to side-step the US’s emerging stealth capabilities.

According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
Older Chinese jets like the J-11s could be devastating with extremely long range missiles. | Xinhuanet

Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”

As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.

“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”

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Russia’s International Army Games are an intense alternative to Rio Olympics

If watching the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio doesn’t suit your taste, you may want to check out this year’s International Army Games, hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry.


Related: The RAF’s ‘Mach Loop’ turns intense fighter training into a spectator sport

Held in Russia and Kazakhstan, this 2-week live-streamed event consists of 23 distinct trials ranging from air, marine, and field operations.

This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves
One of the aviation requirements during the competition. | Russia Ministry of Defense

From sniper competitions, tank biathlons, underwater searches, and aircraft ground attacks, over 3,000 servicemembers hailing from 19 different countries will be competing this year.

According to International Business Times , Russia had reportedly invited 47 countries, including the US and other NATO member states; however, the only NATO country that seems to have accepted their offer has been Greece.

Here’s some clips of the International Army Games:

via GIPHYvia GIPHY

Watch the livestream here.

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