This program brings vets closer to home by working the land - We Are The Mighty
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This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

Christopher Brown squats among knee-high rows of green garlic. He grasps a stalk at its base and tugs it from the ground with a satisfying crunch. After popping several plants from the soil, he peels back their papery protective layers, revealing bulbs that are a brilliant, glossy white.


Six months ago, much of this Skagit Valley farmland was a mucky soup of tangled grass, mud and standing water under stormy skies. Today, it’s a pleasant 70 degrees. Rows of produce, from garlic and sugar snap peas to kale and broccoli, spring from the valley’s soft loam.

A three-time Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown struggled to adjust when he returned to the U.S. So, too, did many of the men and women who are now harvesting produce alongside him — military veterans from all branches, of all ages.

Welcome to Growing Veterans, the thriving nonprofit that has transformed the life of Brown, its president and co-founder, and the lives of many of its workers and volunteers.

Together, they use sustainable practices to plant, grow and harvest a rich variety of produce for sale at farmers markets and donation to food banks. It is satisfying work, but there’s a deeper mission at stake: helping veterans reconnect — to each other, and to the communities they serve. And, in the process, tackling the pervasive isolation that underlies many of the issues they face.

In the morning, they park their cars in the gravel driveway of a former dairy farm. They greet each other with hugs. As they work, they share stories — funny stories, sad stories, terrifying stories — from their time in the service. They talk politics. Medications. Family. Civilian life.

Brown has a story of his own. In 2008, he returned from his final tour of duty. “There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration and anxiety,” he says. He also had to cope with a mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His struggles were not unique. Along with PTSD, many returning veterans face depression. Substance abuse. Unemployment. Homelessness. And suicidal thoughts.

There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety

Brown’s Marine battalion, the 2/7, has a suicide rate four times that of all young male veterans. At least 15 men from the battalion have taken their own lives since he left the military.

“When I went back to get my undergraduate degree,” he says, “I made a commitment to myself that I would pursue an education and a career where those losses would not be in vain.”

Brown also began working on his own mental health. He spent over two years in group and individual counseling, processing his traumas and learning coping strategies. Following the advice of his counselor, he started growing plants as a way to reconnect with life.

Soon, he was harvesting food from his own garden for dinner, and he was feeling better and better. “I realized that there really is something to working with food and growing plants,” he says.

And then, just before he turned his thoughts to graduate school at the University of Washington, he says, it clicked: Why not combine food and sustainable agriculture with helping veterans?

For the past four years, he has done just that. Along with counselor-turned-farmer Christina Wolf, who serves as operations manager, Brown co-founded Growing Veterans on a 3.5-acre site north of Bellingham. The organization has since leased its expansive Skagit Valley location and a half-acre spot in Auburn, and continued to deepen its connections with regional farm agencies, veteran service providers and nonprofits.

Brown, who just completed his master’s in social work at the UW, and Wolf have also deepened their organization’s focus on mental health. Each of Growing Veterans’ nine employees has completed a peer-support training program designed to tackle veteran isolation and prevent suicide.

And beyond providing life-sustaining social support at its farms, Growing Veterans helps people connect with as many meaningful opportunities as possible: through other local and national veteran organizations, business and community networking, and educational projects.

There’s plenty of excitement cropping up for Growing Veterans. More community partners. More acreage planted. More people receiving healthy, sustainably grown produce. More veterans beginning the journey to healing.

But there’s also tremendous power in the present: The warmth of the sun. The fertile soil that gently gives way under each step. And the rhythm with which dirt-covered, callused hands pick and peel bunches of garlic, set them aside, and then begin anew.

When Growing Veterans was just getting off its feet, Christopher Brown embarked upon another journey: He took on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington.

Now a newly minted graduate, Brown recently transitioned from executive director of Growing Veterans to president of the board of directors — freeing up time to launch his career as a PTSD counselor for veterans.

Brown says the UW’s flexible M.S.W. extended degree program gave him much more than just the tools and credentials he needed to be a counselor.

His professors supported him as he focused many of his research projects on furthering the mission of Growing Veterans. And, though his concentration was in integrative health and mental health practice, Brown also learned about leadership and community building.

“Many of my professors also ran their own foundations and brought their worldly experience to the classroom,” he says. “They helped challenge and refine not only my understanding of how to work with others, but my view of the world, too.”

For more on Growing Veterans visit their website here.

Articles

How to not be a dirtbag CGO

Officers in the military don’t always have the best reputation.


Company Grade Officers, or “CGOs,” might have it worse — at least there’s some heft behind a full-bird; lieutenants are like wee babes in the wood.

In the four or five years we’re training and partying at frat houses earning degrees, our enlisted peers go on multiple combat deployments and conduct real mission operations.

Related video:

So when you show up as a brand new elle-tee with them shiny butterbars, that is decidedly not the time to pull rank; it’s the time to earn the respect the rank commands.

Here are a few ways to do that without being a dirtbag:

1. Be cool, man. Just…be cool.

You do not need to swagger. You do not need to throw that commission around. If you show up barking orders, you will be resented. The ideal goal is for there to be mutual respect, and it starts with you.

2. Find a mentor.

Probably someone in the E-4 to E-6 range. These guys know the ropes, they’re experts in their career field, and they’ve been taking care of personnel issues since you were a cadet singing your way to chow.

Learn from them. Take their advice into consideration. Everyone needs a Yoda.

3. Know your people (and their jobs).

There’s a fine line between stellar leadership and stalking. (Image via 20th Century Fox)

You should know the name, marital status, secret hopes and dreams, and blood type of everyone you are responsible for. If they have an injury, you need to know it.

If Private Jones gets shin splints, don’t make him do parade practice — make him go to the doc. It’s your job to keep your people mission qualified, and to do that, you need to know the best and worst of them.

You also need to know their mission. You’re probably not going to know all the details they know, but you need to understand what they’re doing every day and you need to be able to communicate it up the chain.

4. Ask questions.

If you don’t know something, don’t bluff your way through it. Acknowledge the information gap and go find the answer. This demonstrates that you are willing to learn and grow, but more importantly, it demonstrates that you are trustworthy.

5. Be a sh*t shield.

Back to Pvt. Jones and his shin splints. It’s your job to recognize that Jones’ medical treatment is more important than a Change of Command ceremony — but that doesn’t mean the commander will see it that way.

It’s on you to convey the needs of your people up the chain of command, and to shield those below you from any backlash.

This is rarely a simple task, but luckily you’ve already proven yourself to be true to your word and earnest in your desire to grow (right? RIGHT??) — the commander will see that, too.

Not being a dirtbag is appreciated up and down the chain.

Articles

Is the OV-10 poised for a comeback?

OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


After the Cold War, the United States discarded a number of weapon systems. Politicians sought to cash in a “peace dividend” to placate voters who were happy to see the fall of the Soviet Union. With “the end of history,” we could afford those cuts, right? Less than ten years after the Soviet Union dissolved, we were proven wrong on 9/11. Our troops arguably paid the price for those cuts.

One of the systems that was retired very hastily was the OV-10 Bronco. It looks kind of funky – not attractive in the traditional sense – especially with that tail arrangement and the over-sized cockpit that looks a little bit like a greenhouse. But it was used as a platform for American forward air controllers from 1969 to 1995. The plane is still in service in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Venezuela. The Bronco can carry up to 3,600 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles, and originally came with four 7.62mm M60C machine guns.  With a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of almost 1,400 miles, an OV-10D can stick around for a long time.

That upgrade is probably one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the current wars. While the Department of Defense gained a lot of plaudits for the way the MC-12 was developed and deployed to Iraq, suppose the DOD instead had kept enough Broncos around? The Philippines, who are in no great shakes militarily, have adapted their OV-10s to carry smart bombs.

The Bronco could very well make its comeback. SOCOM tested two OV-10G+ versions under the COMBAT DRAGON II program in recent years, actually conducting a few strikes against Taliban targets using SEAL Team 6 personnel. Those airframes were formerly Marine Corps birds that were briefly operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  Proposals for an OV-10X have surfaced as well. Among the proposed upgrades are replacing the M60 machine guns with M3s, faster-firing versions of Ma Deuce, as well as giving it the ability to carry a dozen Hellfires.

Last year, two Broncos were pulled from service with NASA and the State Department and sent to Iraq to fight ISIS.  They flew 82 sorties, and reports about their performance were very favorable. (And to think that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to pull the plug on the COMBAT DRAGON II program.)

Now military experts are wondering if the decision in the 1990s to retire them from the Marine Corps and Air Force was short-sighted, saying that having a plane with the MC-12’s surveillance abilities with some GBU-12 or GBU-38 smart bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles would have been very effective in supporting our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now watch:

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Pilots from the 317th Airlift Group, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly a C-130J Super Hercules at Polk Army Airfield, La. The 317th AG delivered U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Polk Army Airfield during a Global Force Readiness Exercise. The exercise exhibited the partnership between the Air Force and Army and their ability to execute personnel airdrop from a large formation.

Senior Airman Peter Thompson/USAF

The MC-130P Combat Shadow team performs the final checks before takeoff on Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 17th Special Operations Squadron sent off the final two Combat Shadows in the Pacific Air Forces to retire to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

Photo: Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel/USAF

NAVY

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (April 22, 2015) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight.

Photo: Liz Wolter/USN

Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) participate in a swim call. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci/ USN

ARMY

Congratulations to the 2015 Best Sapper Competition winners, 1st Lt. Daniel Foky and Sgt. Brandon Loeder, assigned to 127th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Pictured below,Foky andLoeder in the lead during the poncho-raft swim event, April 21, 2015, on the first day of the competition. The 2015 Best Sapper Competition, held at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. took competitors across 50 miles in 50 hours of back to back events. The 46 teams came from as far as Alaska and Hawaii to compete.

Photo: US Army

Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, load munitions onto an AH-64 Apache helicopter during an aerial gunnery exercise April 22, 2015, at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, in Pocheon, Republic of Korea.

Photo: Sgt. Jesse Smith/US Army

MARINE CORPS

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California – Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone. The Marines, students of the Basic Reconnaissance Course, took turns being hoisted into the air by helicopter during the SPIE portion of their Helicopter Rope Suspension Training. During the course of HRST the students learn SPIE rigging, rappelling and fast rope techniques.

Photo: Lance Cpl Asia J. Sorenson/USMC

ZAMBALES, Philippines – ZAMBALES, Philippines – Amphibious Assault Vehicles land ashore during a bilateral amphibious landing by the Philippine and U.S. Marine Corps, April 21, on North Beach at the Naval Education Training Center in Zambales, Philippines, as part of exercise Balikatan 2015

Photo: Cpl. Matthew Bragg

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer Jon Emerson helps three survivors out of a helicopter at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. Earlier today, the men were rescued from a life raft 57 miles off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska, after their fishing vessel sank.

Photo: USCG

Rough week? Here’s a dose of “Aloha” from Base Honolulu to get you through the rest of it!

Photo: USCG

NOW: Legendary Gen. James Mattis has an inspiring message for all Post-9/11 veterans

OR: Watch JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’:

Articles

These Are The Best Pictures From The Military This Week

Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:


Also Read: These Are The Most Incredible Photos The Air Force Took In 2014

AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

Photo: Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/USAF

A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.

Photo: Roland Balik/USAF

NAVY

SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto/USN

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper/USN

ARMY

An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.

Photo: Sgt Edward F French IV./USARMY

Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.

Photo: Sgt. Brian Kester/USMC

MARINE CORPS

ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.

Photo: Sgt. Melissa Karnath/USMC

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.

Photo: Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara/USMC

COAST GUARD

A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.

Photo: USCG/Twitter

USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.

Photo: USCG/Twitter

ALSO: The 4 US Presidents With The Craziest War Stories

AND: 21 Jaw-Dropping Photos Of The US Coast Guard In Alaska

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US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

Articles

These photos show how eerily-similar Russian and US special ops look and operate

The best-of-the-best in the US and Russian militaries look eerily similar to each other both in appearance and in tactics.


The US Army Special Forces has some of the smartest and most lethal fighters in the world, which could explain why Russia has increasingly modeled its own Special Forces — or Spetsnaz — off its American counterparts.

Also read: Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

Those Russian Special Forces most recently infiltrated and took over Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and they are now operating on the ground in Syria. And according to a US military official who spoke with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, they are practically indistinguishable on the battlefield.

That’s not an accident. According to the Journal, Russia’s military chief used a meeting with US Special Operations Command to learn more about how the US operates, in order to more closely mirror his force in Russia. Moscow has also benefited from a framework of understanding signed between the two nations that offered military-to-military exchanges and operational events, orientation at the West Point military academy for Russian cadets, and sharing of ideas among both countries’ combined arms academies.

We decided to look at photos of Spetsnaz in action, along with US Special Forces. It’s sometimes hard to spot the difference.

After US Army soldiers finish their roughly year-long training to become Special Forces-qualified, they don the distinctive green beret for the first time.

US Army Photo

Their counterparts in Russia do much the same, though their head gear is crimson. Russia’s Spetsnaz unit modeled their competition for the crimson beret from the US, after a former commander read a book by a former US special forces soldier.

RT/screenshot

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines

The resemblance between the two nations’ special forces don’t stop there. This US Special Forces soldier looks pretty similar…

US Army

… To his Russian counterpart, right down to the helmet, tactical gear, and camouflage uniform pattern. The two nations do, however, use different weapons systems, with the US favoring the M4 rifle, and Russia going with its AK-style.

The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

“From the helmets to the kit, they look almost identical,” a US military official told the Wall Street Journal recently, of Russia’s special forces.

Special Operations Command

Source: WSJ

It’s kind of eerie.

Russian Ministry of Defense

Here are US Special Forces soldiers doing a room-clearing exercise.

US Army

And here are Russian special forces soldiers doing the same thing.

Russian Ministry of Defense

Here’s US Special Forces securing the area after a helicopter insertion …

US Army via BlackFive

… Which Russian special forces know how to do as well.

Russian Ministry of Defense

Both train for what’s called “high-altitude, high-opening” parachute jumps …

US Air Force

… Where soldiers jump from a plane from miles above the Earth so they can basically fly into and parachute to their objective without an enemy knowing.

Russian Ministry of Defense

The US gives some of its special forces soldiers advanced training as snipers.

US Army

Russia does the same, teaching its soldiers the art of stalking and shooting.

Russian Ministry of Defense

They also learn how to rappel down a wall …

Pfc. Steven Young/US Army

… And jump through a window to surprise an adversary.

Russian Ministry of Defense

It’s worth pointing out that US Special Forces trains with allied nations’ own special ops, who wear similar uniforms and learn similar tactics.

US Army

But it seems that Russia has, in some ways, made its special forces indistinguishable from its American counterparts.

Russian Ministry of Defense

Articles

Army Special Operations switching tactical kit from Android to iPhone

U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. | US Army photo by Spc. Joseph A. Wilson


U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.

The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.

The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.

When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.

“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”

Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.

They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.

The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.

The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.

Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.

This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.

Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.

We received the following mail response:

“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.

The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.

As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.

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Warrior Wednesday: The Badass Who Drove Right Into Blistering Gunfire To Crush An Enemy Ambush


This is Warrior Wednesday — a new, ongoing series where we’ll highlight military members who performed heroically in combat but are relatively unknown in the broader community. Put simply, these are stories of bravery that need to be told.

During the initial invasion of Iraq on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh responded to an enemy ambush on his convoy in a way most would expect to see only in a Hollywood action movie. After being attacked by Iraqi forces with mortars, automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades — and caught in the kill zone — Chontosh directed his driver to go straight toward the enemy position as his .50 cal gunner fired.

Also Read: Medal Of Honor: Meet The 16 Heroes Of Iraq And Afghanistan Who Received The Nation’s Highest Honor 

But wait, there’s more. From his citation for the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award:

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

“I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective,” Chontosh told Marine Corps News at his award ceremony.

When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. Still, he didn’t want to take all the credit — instead commending the Marines with him that day for saving his life.

“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”

Do you know someone we should highlight for the next Warrior Wednesday? Email us info [at] wearethemighty.com with their name, rank, award received, and any other information you think is relevant.

NOW: These 3 Soldiers Fought Their Way Back To The Front Lines After Losing Legs 

OR: This Remarkable Video Shows What It’s Like For Medevac Crews To Rescue Troops Under Fire

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The 12 most iconic roles in military movie history

We’ve all served with the zealot, the screamer, the wild man, the badass, the strange agent, and other signature personalities, but have we seen them accurately presented in movies? Well, sometimes. And in some cases when Hollywood has tackled military topics they’ve gone beyond simply “getting it right” and moved into the arena where icons are forged. Here are 12 examples of when movie makers got it absolutely right and then some:


1. Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in “A Few Good Men”

Col. Jessup is as badass as grunts come . . . right up to the point where he gets his ass handed to him by a weenie JAG officer. With classic lines like “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous,” and, of course, “You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s reading of this somewhat psycho colonel is among the best military characters Hollywood ever created.

2. Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts in “The Great Escape”

Arguably the late Steve McQueen’s best work, Capt Hilts of the Army Air Corps is known around the stalag as the “cooler king” because of all the time he’s logged in solitary confinement following his escape attempts. In the climactic scene he jumps a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle (the only stunt McQueen didn’t perform himself in the film) but gets caught up in a second fence and is recaptured. The final scene shows him being thrown back into the cooler, but his attitude shows that it’s only a matter of time before he tries to escape again (because he’s an American fighting man).

3. Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now!”

In a high-budget blockbuster full of stars like Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, Duvall steals the show with his portrayal of Army helo squadron skipper Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore. As Sheen’s character muses, Kilgore “had that light in his eye . . . you knew he wasn’t going to get so much as a scratch on him in Vietnam.” And Kilgore cements his military movie icon status with lines like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” Cue “Ride of the Valkyries” and go win some hearts and minds.

4. R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket”

Before “Full Metal Jacket” came out in 1987 the pop culture standard for a DI was Sergeant Carter from the TV comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” That changed in a big way with Ermey’s brilliant portrayal of Gunny Hartman, as tough as he is doomed (oops, spoiler alert for any of you maggots who haven’t seen this Stanley Kubrick-directed masterpiece). Hartman remains the cinematic boot camp standard by a mile with lines like “did your parents have any children that lived?” and “choke yourself, Pyle!” Ooh-rah, Devil Dog!

5. Gregory Peck as General Frank Savage in “12 O’ Clock High”

Peck plays General Frank Savage, a B-17 driver who inherits a shitty command in the middle of high-tempo ops. Loses have been high and morale sucks, and Savage’s initial attempts to square the unit away are met with stiff resistance. In time his superior leadership techniques take hold and things improve. Peck does a great job of capturing the nuances surrounding the age-old facts that life is lonely at the top and being in charge is no popularity contest. There’s a reason this movie is shown in military leadership courses.

6. John Wayne as Captain Rockwell “Rock” Torrey in “In Harm’s Way”

Some fans of “The Duke” may argue that “The Green Beret” or “Sands of Iwo Jima” are his signature military roles, but he brings a lot more to the role of Capt. Rock Torrey. “In Harm’s Way” was a groundbreaking (and shocking with subplots that tackle themes like adultery and professional misconduct) film in its day and still holds up in many respects for how it presents the complexities of Navy life during wartime. “In Harm’s Way” allows Wayne to do more than just swagger; he stretches his talents as an actor. And because of that it’s his best military work.

7. George C. Scott as General George S. Patton in “Patton”

Everything the nation knows about General George S. Patton is a function of this movie and George C. Scott’s amazing performance in it. “Patton” presents the general as the flawed genius he was, as brilliant as he was self-destructive and reckless. The opening soliloquy alone is total money:  “No damn bastard ever won a war by dying for his country,” he says in front of a giant flag backdrop. “He won it by making the other poor damn bastard die for his country.”

8. Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicolson in “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Before he was in “Star Wars” as Obi-Wan Kenobe urging Luke Skywalker to use the force, Sir Alec Guinness played Lt. Col. Nicolson, the senior ranking officer among prisoners held by some nasty Japanese troops. Guinness’ Nicolson is tough and resourceful and good at messing with his captors, especially when it comes to figuring out ways of keeping the construction of the Bridge on the River Kwai from proceeding. His performance is as good a cinematic example as there is for why the Brits make great allies.

9. Robert De Niro as Staff Sergeant Michael Vronsky in “The Deerhunter”

Staff Sergeant Vronsky is ballsy-as-pozz, especially during the Russian Roulette scenes. And good luck not yelling “hell yeah!” at the screen when he overpowers his VC captors and escapes. De Niro’s performance is moving and feels authentic, and he does the special forces community proud while at the same time showing the sometimes tragic impact of war on a small town.

10. Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan”

“Saving Private Ryan” did much toward dispelling the myth that World War II was somehow cleaner than the wars that followed, and that cinematic landscape is made all the more real by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Capt. John Miller, a school teacher-turned-war-weary-warfighter who knows the meaning of duty and leads by example. His on-screen sacrifice is truly felt and is a worthy representation of what earned The Greatest Generation their label.

11. Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove”

This Cold War satirical masterpiece about B-52s gone wild by the orders of a lunatic wing commander is made pitch perfect by Sterling Hayden’s performance as General Jack D. Ripper (get it?). From his musings about post-coitus epiphanies (“loss of essence,” as he calls it) to his fears about the commie plot that is fluoridation, Hayden’s Ripper should be funny enough to scare us all that he might actually exist (and have his finger on the button).

12. Jürgen Prochnow as Captain-Lieutenant Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in “Das Boot”

The U-boat war was a little-explored part of military movies until “Das Boot” was released in 1981. Jürgen Prochnow does an amazing job playing the captain of the submarine toward the end of the war. The crew is beat down and the Nazi rhetoric has long since rung hollow, but there is still a mission to carry out and a war to survive. Lehmann-Willenbrock is as good a leader as military movies have ever created, and his courage, skill, and empathy are timeless. Watch this one and find yourself routing for the other side. (“Das Boot” is best viewed in German with English subtitles, by the way.)

Now: The 16 best military movies of all time

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Ailing Korean War vet gets a lesson in Semper Fi from his fellow Marines


“Marines will low crawl through a thousand miles of barbed wire and broken glass to help a brother Marine or a member of his family – even when they have never met.” – MSgt Andy Bufalo, USMC

On January 24th, Marine Corps veteran Bobby Donald Diaz suffered a major stroke. Diaz, 79, has been receiving treatment at The Woodlands Hospital in Texas for swelling of the brain. He has lost some function of his left side and some of his vision.

On Saturday, he asked his immediate family to call on his Marine family to visit him.

“He was getting depressed on his back for so long,” Diaz’ wife of 40 years, Marilyn, said. “He wanted to talk to one of his brothers, so my son-in-law put the word out.”

Within hours, Marines – many of whom Diaz had never met — came running. The former sergeant, who served for four years in the Korean War, has received a steady stream of visits and calls from Marines of all ages, from all over.

“I’ve lost count,” Marilyn said. “I’m overwhelmed; it’s unbelievable, and the stories [they share] are unreal.”

Marine vet Adam Blancas shared this about his visit with Diaz on his Facebook page:

I had the extreme honor of being able to show love and support to a Marine brother in need. Bobby Diaz had a bad stroke a few weeks back and had told his son/daughter in law he wanted to see a couple of his brothers (Marines). This was two days ago. When I saw him today the family said over 100 people have been by, not a single one knowing anything about Bobby other than his shared service with us.

About 45 minutes in Congressman Brady stopped by to visit. He couldn’t have been nicer and made sure the focus stayed on Diaz. Bobby’s reaction to being surrounded with brothers was amazing. He started talking and laughing while sharing old corps stories with anyone eager to listen, and we all were.

The oldest Marine on deck visiting was 82, I was the youngest at 26. Seeing that kind of love in action was an experience I’ll never forget.

“It just goes to show you that in the Marine Corps: once a brother, always a brother, no matter what,” Diaz told a KHON reporter. “When you feel bad, you can’t feel bad because all your brothers are here.”

In true joint military fashion, the Marine visitors discovered there was an Air Force veteran two rooms down from Diaz, and many of them visited him as well.

Watch video coverage of Marines visiting Diaz here.

Contribute to the gofundme campaign set up to assist with Diaz’ medical care costs here.

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A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Peter Oakley was a British pensioner and widower from Bakewell, Derbyshire, England.


On the Internet, he was known as geriatric1927, or “the Internet Grandad,” a YouTube personality whose long-running show Telling It All consisted of five to ten minute autobiographical videos, including his service as an 18-year old Royal Navy radar mechanic during World War II.

Though an aging (Oakley was 79 when he began his show) man telling old stories about his life may seem dry, his YouTube page was the #1 most subscribed page of 2006, just one year after the page’s launch. By the time Google purchased YouTube, Oakley had 30,000 subscribers.

“It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “What I hope I will be able to do is to just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person … and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments.”

While that may not seem like a lot by todays standards (Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s current top channels, has more than 15 million subscribers), in the early days of social media, Oakley’s stories were beating YouTubers signed by large networks and other brands. People were interested in watching Oakley muse on how the world had changed. His first video, called “First Try” now has almost 3 million views.

Oakley’s discussions on life, war, motorcycles, and more led to a YouTube stardom which allowed the widower to avoid the lonely life of a traditional aging pensioner, traveling all over the world, earning extra income. He was even asked to weigh in on other YouTube phenomena.

Oakley would be diagnosed with untreatable cancer in 2012. By that time, he had made more than 350 videos. His final video, the 434th on the page, was posted on February 12, 2014 and he died on March 23 that year.

His final words to his audience: “In conclusion, I would say my possibly final goodbye. So goodbye.”

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Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will be allowed to stay in the Army after the service reversed its decision to kick him out. Martland was being forcibly discharged over a 2011 incident in which he confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.


Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland (Photo: Duncan Hunter)

Late Thursday night, Martland won the fight against the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which gives the boot to soldiers with black marks on their records. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the Green Beret’s performance history and pulled his name from the QMP list.

Martland admitted that Capt. Dan Quinn and he assaulted the Afghan official during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play” — an Afghan practice where young boys in sexual slavery are often dressed up as women and forced to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but experienced a rebirth after the Taliban’s ouster by NATO forces and U.S. troops were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. When the Afghan confessed to raping the boy and beating the child’s mother for telling local authorities, Quinn “picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his official statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”

The line removed from his Army record read: “Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member. Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”

Hundreds of veterans and other concerned citizens wrote letters and started petition drives in Martland’s defense. Even actor and Marine veteran Harvey Keitel got involved and urged California Congressman Duncan Hunter to intervene.

Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and San Diego-area congressman, immediately came to Martland’s defense, calling the Army’s actions “totally insane and wrong,” and adding that Martland’s case “exemplifies the problems with the Army.”

Martland (second from left) during a visit with General David Petraeus

An Army spokesman confirmed to Fox News that Martland will no longer be forced out.

“In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,” Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said.

Quinn, now a civilian, said, “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks.”

“I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,” Martland told Fox News.  “I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, did for me.”