In April 2003, the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines entered Baghdad, headed for the Iraqi Intelligence Ministry. Sergeant Jesus Vindaña, a radio operator, was relaying orders from his command when a sniper’s bullet tore through his helmet from behind.
His buddies tried to revive him, but the company corpsman declared him dead at the scene.
Except he wasn’t dead — Vindaña’s heart was beating, but it was so weak it didn’t register a pulse.
Nearby, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was working as a reporter for the cable news network.
Gupta was embedded with “Devil Docs,” a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and others who operate out of medical tents called “Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suites” in some of the most dangerous combat zones in the world. It was in this FRSS that Gupta found Vindaña – and his pulse.
Luckily for the wounded Marine, Dr. Gupta is a member of the staff and faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He is the associate chief of Neurosurgery there, and routinely works in its operating rooms.
As the FRSS team worked frantically to save the Marine (who had twice been declared dead already), they asked Gupta for his Neurosurgery expertise, he later recalled in an article on CNN. Turns out, the military didn’t send many brain surgeons to the front-line FRSS units.
They also didn’t have the medical equipment necessary to open skulls during surgery. Not a problem for the resourceful doctor. Gupta borrowed a set of tools from the Marines there and used a Black and Decker power drill to open Vindaña’s head.
Vindaña shows Dr. Gupta the helmet he wore the day he was shot. (CNN/YouTube)
Within an hour, Gupta removed the bullet in Vindaña’s brain and the Marine was in the recovery room.
“In all the years I have worked in hospitals, I have never seen resources mobilized so quickly and health care workers move with such purpose,” Dr. Gupta wrote just three years later. “And, remember, it was a tent in the middle of the desert by the dark of night in the most dangerous place on Earth.”
Vindaña now advocates for health care reform and maintains contact with Dr. Gupta. (CNN/YouTube)
Years after the surgery, Gupta met with Vindaña again in the Marine’s native Los Angeles. The only noticeable remnants of his bullet to the brain was a “slight limp and weakness in his left hand.”
During his time in the Corps, Hackman was demoted three times for leaving his post without proper authorization.
After Hackman had been discharged, the San Bernardino native went on to study journalism and TV production at the University of Illinois. By 30, he had broken into a successful acting career and would be nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two for his roles in “The French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Hackman is credited with approximately 100 film and TV roles and is currently retired from acting.
The Army in April will begin sending hand-picked female soldiers through its physically demanding Ranger school, where some may earn the Ranger tab as part of an overall military assessment of the fitness of women for the combat arms.
About 60 female soldiers will take part alongside male soldiers in the program that begins April 20 – Ranger Course 06-15, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Benjamin Garrett said in a statement.
“Those who meet the standards and graduate from the course will receive a certificate and be awarded the Ranger tab,” he said.
About half the volunteers – 20 noncommissioned officers and 11 officers – will serve as observers and advisors. Females who successfully complete the course will not be awarded associated Ranger skill identifiers because the law does not currently allow it. The additional skill identifier is added to a soldier’s military occupational specialty.
“The decision to change that or not … will be made by the Secretary of Defense no later than Jan. 1, 2016 when he determines if women will be permitted to become infantry soldiers and serve in other closed military occupational specialties,” the Army said in September.
The historic trial pilot program and assessment comes amid increasing demand in recent years to open up to women all military specialties, including infantry. Army leadership is open to the idea, but insists there will be no lowering of standards.
“We’re just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said during a virtual town hall meeting with soldiers earlier this month. “The main thing I’m focused on is the standards remain the same. In order to earn that tab, you have to do all the things necessary to earn that tab. We want to try a pilot to let women have the opportunity to do that.”
The training is physically grueling, with soldiers required to pass a fitness test that includes 49 push-ups within 2 minutes, 59 sit-ups, a 5 mile run within 40 minutes and six chin-ups. Additionally, would-be Rangers must be able to remove their gear in water and then swim 15 meters in their uniform and boots.
Army statistics show that only about 45 percent of those attending Ranger school graduate, and about 60 percent of those who wash out do so in the first four days.
How female students will fare remains to be seen, but past studies have indicated they are likely more often to sustain injuries associated with combat training and combat than their male counterparts.
The problem is simply body size and mechanics, according to Department of Veterans Affairs’ doctors who have dealt with and studied injuries, including the kind most often sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – musculoskeletal.
These are incurred simply by carrying heavy loads during long patrols over rugged country, while getting down from a vehicle or simply falling.
“I don’t think there is a way now to say exactly what the experience will be, but I expect as more and more women go into these physically demanding roles, we may see an increase in [these] injuries,” Dr. Sally Haskell, deputy chief consultant for women’s health services and director of comprehensive women’s health at the Veterans Affairs Department told Military.com a year ago.
The VA’s national director of physical medicine and rehabilitation said in April 2013 that he “was certain the majority of women doing this [combat arms specialty] won’t be physically able to do it as long as the men. It’s a matter of body size and body mechanics.”
One study found that between 2004 and 2007 about a third of medical evacuations from the Iraq and Afghan theaters were due to musculoskeletal, connective tissue and spinal injuries, Dr. David Cifu told Military.com.
Troops may carry 80 pounds or more of gear in theater. Cifu said women carrying the same loads as men will be more at risk of these kinds of injuries.
The pilot Ranger School program has been made open to enlisted women from grades E-4 up to Warrant Officer 02. Additionally, the Army drew on female volunteers in grades E-6 to E-8, Warrant Officer 2 and 3, and first lieutenant through major to serve as observers and advisors.
All the volunteers will be required to take the Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, before the assessment course, the Army said when it announced the program in September.
The course observers will be required to pass a fitness test, land navigation, a combat water survival assessment, an operations order test, 12-mile road march with 35-pound rucksack, and review boards. As observers they must be able to keep up to the Ranger School students and instructors, the announcement said.
What you’re looking at above is the biggest asset for, and the biggest argument against, the A-10 Warthog. You can plainly see how the massive, 4,000 pound (including ammo), almost 20-foot long GAU-8 Avenger dwarfs the classic VW bug next to it. The firepower of that gun has become the stuff of legend over the last decades.
But that’s the problem; this picture was taken in the late 1970s. As big and awesome as this gun is, much has changed in aviation, in the battle space, and in the world since it was first fielded. Case in point — you just don’t see VW bugs on the road anymore.
So while the A-10 still holds the title of best and biggest gun, the close air support of the future makes different demands on a weapons system. Even though it may still have useful days ahead, the A-10’s days at the top are numbered.
Current selective service rules say all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This is not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where conscription would be necessary.
“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee .
The Supreme Court’s 1981 decision in Rostker v. Goldberg upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from the draft, saying “training would be needlessly burdened by women recruits who could not be used in combat.”
In order for women to be drafted, Congress would have to update the provisions of the Selective Service Act of 1948.
Henry Hughes deployed twice to Afghanistan as an airborne infantry officer and is now hoping his debut short film, “Day One” will bring home an Oscar on February 28.
Day One, which follows a female Afghan-American interpreter named Feda on her first day of patrols in Afghanistan, is Hughes’ first movie.
“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” Hughes told WATM about being nominated for an Oscar for his first film. “It’s a wonderful, serendipitous, golden ticket-type thing.”
In the film, the interpreter and the infantry platoon she works with go to the home of a suspected insurgent. At the house, the mission quickly gets complicated as the insurgent’s pregnant wife goes into labor. The interpreter, the platoon leader, and the insurgent all have to navigate the needs of the mother, the child, and the social and religious customs of Afghanistan.
It’s complicated stuff and very intense.
The story is inspired by real events, and most of the details come from Hughes’ experiences in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He decided to focus on the interpreter instead of the platoon leader so the movie would feel fresh to audiences used to seeing things from a soldier’s point of view.
“On my second tour I had a female interpreter,” he said. “She is an American, an Afghan-American. And I kind of just realized that if I was going to tell a story about our community, about our experiences, we needed a new way to get into it.”
Following this woman who was new to the war gave him a chance to show the dual nature of combat.
“I thought, maybe we hadn’t seen something that was as enlightening as some of the moments in combat felt to me,” Hughes said. “Very sublime, hyperbolic. Where things are beatiful and kind of harsh at the same time. And I thought a way to do that would be to go through this woman who has to deal with both these gender issues and the culture issues.”
Learn more about the movie at its website and check out the trailer below. “Day One” will be available as a streaming movie for rental or purchase March 15th on Vimeo.
Washington wants NATO to assume responsibility for Iraqi troops once the Islamic State forces are defeated, a top military commander said on Wednesday.
A top US military commander has floated the idea of the Washington-led NATO military coalition to assume some responsibility for training troops in Iraq after Islamic State group militants are defeated there.
The 28-member Atlantic alliance “might be uniquely posturing to provide a training mission for an enduring period of time” in Iraq, General Joe Dunford told reporters during his flight back to the US from Brussels, where he attended a planning meeting ahead of next week’s NATO summit.
“You might see NATO making a contribution to logistics, acquisitions, institutional capacity building, leadership schools, academies – those kind of things,” Dunford, who is Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
The issue is at the top of the agenda for next week’s summit, with US President Donald Trump pushing the allies to take on a greater role in combatting terrorism.
After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadi force is now largely isolated in Raqqa, over the border in Syria.
A change in who leads the training mission would likely also mean revamping the nature of the effort, Dunford said.
“We are not talking about NATO doing what we are doing now for combat advising in places like Mosul or Raqqa,” the general said.
“I don’t think we are at the point now where we can envision or discuss NATO taking over” all missions of the anti- IS coalition in Iraq, he added.
NATO’s top brass said on Wednesday they believed the alliance should consider joining the anti- Islamic State group coalition put together by Washington to fight IS in Syria and Iraq.
General Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s military committee, told reporters after chiefs of defense staff met in Brussels that it was time to look at this option.
“NATO members are all in the anti- IS coalition. The discussion now is – is NATO to become a member of that coalition,” he said.
This past weekend marked the 71st anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day landing at Normandy, France, which ultimately led to the liberation of France from Nazi control.
But what if the Allies had never launched their seaborne invasion, leaving Europe in the hands of Hitler and Nazi Germany?
Amazon Studios provides the answer with “The Man In The High Castle,” a new original series that was recently greenlit by Amazon for a full season after becoming the most watched show since Amazon’s original-series development program began. The show is smart, fun, and polished, and it sports a five-star user rating.
Produced by Ridley Scott, the show is based on a 1962 Philip K. Dick novel about a world in which the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II. Of all of Dick’s classics, it was the only one to win science fiction’s preeminent Hugo Award. Scott, who directed another Dick adaptation in “Blade Runner,” started developing in 2010 what would surprisingly be the book’s first screen adaptation.
It takes place in 1962 in a conquered America that has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich, from the Atlantic to the Rockies, and the Japanese Pacific States, on the Pacific Coast.
The opening scene shows a propaganda film about life in America, which chillingly demonstrates how Americans might come to accept Nazi overlords.
“It’s a new day,” the narrator says. “The sun rises in the east. Across our land men and women go to work in factories and farms providing for their families. Everyone has a job. Everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong and safe. So today we give thanks to our brave leaders, knowing we are stronger and prouder and better.”
Only the end of the film explicitly references the Nazi takeover:
“Yes, it’s a new day in our proud land, but our greatest days may lie ahead. Sieg heil!”
Here’s a look at Nazi Times Square:
Here’s Japanese San Francisco:
As the propaganda film suggests, aspects of life in Nazi/Japanese America are not bad, even as the overlords brutally repress all resistance. The winners of the war — particularly the Germans, who in the show’s alternate history developed the first atomic bomb — are living in a technological and economic boom as great as anything America saw in the real postwar era.
Given this rosy portrayal, it’s all the more shocking when there’s a reminder of how inhuman the Axis powers could be. In one scene, a volunteer for the resistance is driving through the middle of the country for the first time. He is talking with a Nazi police officer, who helped him change a flat tire, when ashes began falling like snow.
“Oh, it’s the hospital,” the cop says. “Tuesdays, they burn cripples, the terminally ill — drag on the state.”
Even though he was 73 years old and serving as President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan received a letter from the Marine Corps asking him if he would like to enlist in 1984.
It may have been a clerical error or just a practical joke from the service to its commander-in-chief, or in the words of Reagan in his response, the result of “a lance corporal’s overactive imagination.” In any case, on Tuesday the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company shared on its Facebook page the letter he sent back to then-Commandant Gen. Paul X. Kelley on May 31, 1984, and well, it’s classic.
“I regret that I must decline the attached invitation to enlist in the United States Marine Corps,” Reagan writes on official White House letterhead. “As proud as I am of the inference concerning my physical fitness, it might be better to continue as Commander-in-Chief. Besides, at the present time it would be rather difficult to spend ten weeks at Parris Island.”
With his trademark wit, Reagan noted the Democrats would probably appreciate it if he left The White House, but had to pass since his wife Nancy loved their current residence and Reagan himself was “totally satisfied with his job.”
“Would you consider a deferment until 1989?” Reagan wrote. (It’s worth noting that Reagan served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force’s first motion picture unit during World War II).
Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.
In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?
Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?
According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.
The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.
The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.
When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.
If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.
A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.
Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.
According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.
“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.
Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).
Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.
So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.
Just a few years ago, Americans were stunned at the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by the British Petroleum-leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon. On April 20, 2010, a blowout during the drilling of an exploratory well caused an explosion visible from 40 miles away that killed 11 of its crew.
Over nearly three months, the spill from the Deepwater Horizondumped 210 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Now a film about the disaster, “Deepwater Horizon,” is set to hit theaters Sept. 30.
Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an electrician and Deepwater Horizon survivor, in a film that takes an in-depth look at the people who were working on the rig that night. Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, and Kate Hudson round out the ensemble cast.
We Are The Mighty met up with the cast – and the real Mike Williams – at the film’s premiere in New Orleans and talked with them about the film and the motivations behind it.
In 2009, during some of the heaviest fighting of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Marine Corps was involved in a number of operations in western Iraq. However, things got tougher as Taliban lookouts were typically posted to provide a warning of the Leathernecks’ approach.
The Taliban also figured out to time the helicopters when they left, allowing them to get a rough idea of when the Marines would arrive.
So, when a Taliban warlord was using poppy proceeds to buy more weapons, the Marines wanted to take him down, but they were worried that it could turn into a major firefight, since this warlord had taken over a village about 100 miles from Camp Bastion, a major Marine base.
Even at top speed, it would take a helicopter like the CH-53E Super Stallion about a half hour to get to that warlord’s base – and to do that, it would have to fly in a straight line. That sort of approach doesn’t help you catch the Taliban warlord by surprise.
But by 2009, MV-22 Ospreys were also available in theater. The tiltrotors weren’t just faster (a top speed of 316 miles per hour), they also had much longer range (just over 1,000 miles). In essence, it was hoped that the Ospreys could not only evade the Taliban lookouts, but they’d also get to the location before the enemy could react.
On the day of the raid, Marines boarded four MV-22s. The tiltrotors took off, evaded the Taliban, and the Marines were delivered into the center of the village – catching the Taliban by surprise.
In roughly five minutes, the warlord was in cuffs and on one of the Ospreys. The Marines then made their getaway, having pulled off a major operational success.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see a recreation of that raid.