US to arm Syria's Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests - We Are The Mighty
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US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

The Trump administration announced May 9 it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.


The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Also read: Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.

The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.

Related: Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

Articles

Here’s what the US military’s future helicopter fleet could look like

In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.


The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.

The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.

During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
The Sikorsky X-2. (Courtesy photo)

The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.

For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.

At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.

Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.

The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.

Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.

Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.

The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.

Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”

“We need new platforms,” he said.

Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.

Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”

To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.

Articles

Marines are testing boots that will prevent injuries

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to create a boot insert prototype to help improve Marines’ health and performance.


The Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation, or MoBILE, technology is handmade by the bioengineering staff members at Lincoln Labs with the Marine in mind. MoBILE helps to detect changes in mobility and agility, which will help MCSC make informed decisions on material composition and format of athletic and protective gear.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Marine Corps-MIT Partnership

“Partnering with MIT has allowed us to create a groundbreaking research tool that will help inform future acquisition decisions and performance of Marines in the field,” said Navy Cmdr. James Balcius, Naval aerospace operational physiologist with the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team.

The team has partnered with MIT since 2012 and coordinates the integration and modernization of everything that is worn, carried, used, or consumed by the Marine Corps rifle squad. It conducts systems engineering, and human factors and integration assessments on equipment from the perspective of the individual Marine.

Also read: The Army will soon have fire proof uniforms made out of this retro fabric

MIT Lincoln Labs is one of 10 federally funded research and development centers sponsored by the Defense Department. These centers assist the U.S. government with scientific research and analysis, systems development, and systems acquisition to provide novel, cost-effective solutions to complex government problems.

Load Sensors

MoBILE has flat, scale-like load sensors that are placed within the boot insole to measure the user’s weight during activities such as standing, walking, and running. The insert sensors are positioned in the heel, toe and arch, and they are capable of capturing data at up to 600 samples per second. When the sensors bend with the foot, the electronics register the bend as a change and send the information back to a master microcontroller for processing.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad members test the Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation, or MoBILE, technology at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 27, 2016. Army photo by Spc. Nathanael Mercado

MoBILE will help users gauge how they are carrying the weight of their equipment and if their normal gait changes during activity, Balcius said. The sensor data provides information on stride, ground reaction forces, foot-to-ground contact time, terrain features, foot contact angle, ankle flexion, and the amount of energy used during an activity.

Ultimately, the sensors will provide operational data that will help Marines gather information on training and rehabilitation effectiveness, combat readiness impact, and route and mission planning optimization.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
The Marine Corps is also testing its own version of a jungle combat boot. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Technology Leads to Healthier Marines

“MoBILE has been compared to a force-sensitive treadmill which is a gold-standard laboratory measurement,” said Joe Lacirignola, technical staff member in the Bioengineering Systems and Technologies Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “Because MoBILE has a high sampling rate, the accuracy does not degrade with faster walking or running speeds. In the future, this accurate data could help provide early detection of injuries, ultimately leading to healthier Marines.”

Balcius said MoBILE will be tested this summer in a controlled environment on multiple terrains during road marches and other prolonged training events over a variety of distances.

“This tool is basically a biomechanics lab in a boot, which allows us to gather data at a scale we have not had until now,” said Mark Richter, director of MERS. “The resulting data will be useful to inform decisions that will impact the readiness and performance of our Marines.”
Articles

About 8,400 US troops to remain in Afghanistan next year

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson


President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.

The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”

Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.

In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA needs Arizona veterans to tell their stories in Tucson

The Make the Connection team is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking support for mental health challenges and take part in a national mental health campaign.


The same obstacles that may at first seem insurmountable to an individual are much less daunting when faced by a team. More than 500 Veterans and military family members have already stepped up to be that team for their brothers and sisters by sharing their stories in videos on MakeTheConnection.net, a mental health website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Make the Connection helps Veterans and their loved ones realize that reaching out for support and seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength, and thousands of Veterans have found help to overcome their challenges.

The Make the Connection team will be conducting more on-camera interviews in Tucson, Arizona on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 and is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking help and overcoming mental health and other challenges. Veterans who participate in the video shoot will receive a stipend to offset their expenses for time and travel. When the videos are posted on the Make the Connection website, only the first names of participants are used.

Since its launch six years ago, the Make the Connection campaign has spread positive stories about Veteran mental health via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Veterans featured on the website and in social media have served in every branch of the armed forces and in every U.S. conflict since WWII through today’s current military engagements. They also represent the full diversity of the military community. Each Veteran has coped with conditions such as addiction, anxiety, depression, serious mental illness, PTSD, and the effects of military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury.

Veterans who want to tell their stories to help fellow Veterans should email their name, phone number, and email address to outreach@maketheconnection.net or call our outreach team directly at 1-520-222-7518 by Friday, April 13th in order to be considered.

To learn more, please visit www.MakeTheConnection.net/Outreach.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only an idiot would render a  salute in a combat zone

It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.

Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.

But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.


US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
There’s a time and place for a salute. Remember, the respect the salute is meant to convey is more important than the act itself. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Miller)

 

First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.

It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
If you’re going to salute in combat, you’re wrong. If you’re going to salute with a rifle and it doesn’t look like the above photo, you’re even more wrong. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Martinez)

 

Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.

But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Yeah. Jokingly saluting an officer and saying “sniper check, sir!” suddenly became a little less funny, huh? (National Archives)

 

Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.

While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.

Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.

You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.

 


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Erik Cardenas

MIGHTY CULTURE

See the military’s awesome tribute to Stan Lee

As a child, Maj. Scotty Autin loved reading Marvel comic books. One of his favorite characters was Gambit, a fictional quick-handed, card-playing thief from New Orleans.

“Considering I’m from Louisiana, I was always drawn to Gambit,” said Autin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “I read all the comics that featured him and watched the X-Men animated series just to see him. I remember as a 10-year-old, I would practice throwing playing cards just to be like him.”


So when Autin was invited to participate in “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” Jan. 30, 2019, at The Creative Life, or TCL, Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Prior and active-duty military service members with the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, Los Angeles; 311th Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserves, Los Angeles; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; the 300th Army Band, Los Angeles; American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, California; and American Legion Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, pose for a picture prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The event was a memorial tribute to Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics, who died in November 2018.

But it wasn’t just because Autin grew up reading Marvel comic books that made participating in the ceremony so important to him; it also was a way to honor Lee’s service to the nation as a fellow Army veteran.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Crowds start to gather Jan. 30, 2019, in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. While in the service, he started out as a lineman, before the Army realized his writing skills and moved him into technical writing for training manuals, films and posters with a group that included the likes of Oscar-winner Frank Capra and Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel, where he served as the editor and co-creator for decades.

He was proud of his military service, said Lee’s longtime friend, Karen Kraft, an award-winning television producer, Army veteran and the chairwoman of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, or VME, Board of Directors.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

An artist sketches a drawing of Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee with actor, producer and director Kevin Smith during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He was very proud to have enlisted and was hoping to serve overseas, but his skill set was quickly discovered as a writer, illustrator and storyteller,” Kraft said.

Lee’s appreciation for his military service carried over to his civilian role at Marvel Comics, where it can be seen in the patriotic themes of “Captain America,” she said.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Paul Lilley, an Army veteran, actor, producer and member of Veterans in Media and Entertainment, center, helps fold a flag to present to “Agents of Mayhem” “Legion M” and “POW! Entertainment!” during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Organizers of the event, which included VME, wanted to ensure that piece of Lee’s life wasn’t lost during the tribute ceremony. So they organized a color guard. A bugler was brought in to play, “Taps.” An Army band was asked to perform. Autin brought American flags he had flown in Iraq on Veterans Day to present to Lee’s daughter, J.C., and the sponsors of the event. American Legion’s Post No. 43, Hollywood, and Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, got on board to help with a wreath-laying ceremony.

First encounter with Lee

Growing up in Rochester, New York, Kraft was drawn to the comic book creations of Lee.

She and her older brothers would go to the comic book store once a month, where she soon fell in love with Marvel Comics — the artwork, the words, the lettering, the coloring.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Jimmy Weldon, World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, takes in all of the activities prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“No two comic books are the same,” she said. “It so captivates you that you don’t realize you’re reading a comic book. Your mind is filling in the gaps between the boxes and the pages because you’re so enthralled by it. That’s a power; that’s a storytelling magic.”

Kraft first met Lee at a comic book convention when she was young. After the convention and at the recommendation of her mother, Kraft wrote Lee a “thank you” letter, and he wrote a “thank you” letter back. From there, the two kept in touch, she said.

Later, when Kraft worked for the Discovery Channel, she interviewed Lee and other comic book talents for the documentary, “Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City.” The documentary entailed traveling around New York City to the locations that inspired Lee and other comic book artists.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

A military service member salutes the U.S. flag during the playing of “Taps” at “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

After she left Discovery Channel, Kraft worked with Lee on various projects. Their initial chance encounter and continued correspondence developed into a decades-long friendship.

In Kraft’s eyes, Lee had his own superpower — the ability to connect with people.

“Stan was marvelous in the use of his vocabulary and the way he created these characters you can relate to,” she said. “He created this entire world with all of these different artists … Every character he created is a co-creation. That’s also pretty stunning — including all of these people and inspiring all of that creativity from artists and writers.”

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Jere Romano, post commander of the American Legion No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, left, along with his wife, Martha, place a wreath by a cement plaque of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee’s signature.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was known for a process called the “Marvel Method,” a creative assembly-line style he used in comic book-making. Lee would write in the captions, another artist would sketch the scene, another would color it and a different artist would finish the lettering. Some credit Lee’s process to his Army experience, where everyone had a job, or Military Occupational Specialty.

Throughout the years, Kraft said, Lee always opened his home and office to her and allowed her to bring veterans over to visit, where he would share his World War II stories. The two both joined the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, together and Lee became an advisory board member of VME.

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Members of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment present a U.S. flag to a Legion M representative during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He would talk to veterans about his military service … he loved to share his story,” she said. “His superpower is people. He’s extremely generous, very open with his time, very kind, very funny and very positive. And, he was very proud of his military service. We bonded over that.”

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Crowds of people gather in the TCL Chinese Theatre Courtyard in Hollywood during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Kraft recalled one time when Lee spoke to about 300 military veterans with VME.

“I remember in the last meeting, he was very emotional when he said to the veterans in the audience, ‘You’re the real heroes in my world,'” she said. “It was very, very touching.”

A legion of fans

The tribute to Lee at the TCL Chinese Theatre was nothing short of honoring his legacy of bringing very diverse groups together. Directors, producers, military service members and veterans, artists, writers, comic book fans and celebrities packed the theatre courtyard on the day of the event.

The diversity of the crowd didn’t surprise Kraft, who said Lee made everyone feel like they were a part of his family.

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A cosplayer dressed as Spiderman holds a single red rose while listening to friends and fellow colleagues of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee pay tribute to him during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

On a small stage on the left-hand side of the courtyard, a military color guard posted the flags, while a bugler played “Taps” in the background. Army band members played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Those who worked closely with Lee approached the microphone one-by-one to give testimonials of how he impacted their careers and their lives, including actor, director and producer Kevin Smith. A wreath was placed near a stone plaque engraved with Lee’s signature. Folded flags encased in wooden boxes were presented to the sponsors of the event, which included Agents of Mayhem, Legion M and POW! Entertainment. A flag was later presented to Lee’s daughter on the Red Carpet.

Following the courtyard tribute, celebrities, military members and others walked the Red Carpet leading inside the theatre, where celebrity panelists and others also paid tribute to Lee.

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Actor, producer, writer and director Kevin Smith addresses the crowd to pay tribute to his friend, Stan Lee, during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The diversity of the crowd, the presenters and the celebrities at the event spoke to Lee’s impact and reach across not only generations, but ethnic and social lines, Autin said.

“During the ceremony, I stood next to a gentleman who was about my age,” he said. “I was in my military dress uniform, and he was dressed as Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four). To the outside observer, that had no context of the situation, the sight would have looked like it was straight from a Marvel movie script. However, to us, we were both there to honor a man in our own way. The man that had an impact on us individually, as well as our entire generation.”

Lee loved a crowd and would have loved the ceremony and all of the military representation, Kraft said. He would have snapped off a smart salute to all of the men and women in their dress blues, said a quick-witted phrase, and there would be lots of hugging and smiles.

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From left to right, actors Titus Welliver, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Duke, along with a guest, pose for a picture on the Red Carpet during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“I’m proud that he touched so many lives and inspired so many people to come together,” Kraft said. “People with very different passions, but yet they all share this passion for super heroes — people pushing themselves beyond what they think possible to do what’s right and to be good in this world.”

Finding solace

For Kraft, looking up into the Hollywood Hills, it’s hard to imagine Lee not being there anymore, but she finds solace in his legacy and what he taught her — the power and importance of storytelling to human nature.

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Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, reflects in the background of a wreath honoring the late Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“Every culture cherishes its legends, its myths, it’s identity through storytelling,” she said. “Storytelling done truly well really uplifts you … It helps carry you through tough times; it pushes you to do bigger and bolder things. His signature was ‘Excelsior,’ which in Latin means ‘upward to greater glory.’ It means keep pushing yourself, keep moving on, keep trying.”

“I think that’s the power of these superheroes that Stan Lee created,” Autin added. “They each speak to us directly for different reasons, they each show us that it’s OK to be flawed or struggling, but also push us to lean on our strengths and help others.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea has a meltdown over South Korean military drills

North Korea’s top negotiator called South Korea’s government “ignorant and incompetent” on May 17, 2018, in the latest installment of Pyongyang lashing out at the US and Seoul for essentially carrying out business as usual.

Ri Son Gwon, the North Korean negotiator, slammed South Korea for participating in military drills with the US, following up a series of statements on May 15, 2018, when Pyongyang canceled talks with Seoul and threatened to cancel a planned summit with President Donald Trump.


While North Korea commonly complains about US and South Korean military drills, which it sees as a rehearsal for invasion, the timing of the recent complaints struck many as odd.

The drills in question, called Max Thunder, have been going on since May 11, 2018. North Korea endured four solid days of the drills before saying anything about them. In fact, one day into the drills, North Korea announced it would invite foreign journalists to cover the destruction of its nuclear test site.

But on May 15, 2018, that all changed with North Korea slamming the drills and their inclusion of the US’s B-52 nuclear-capable bomber, something which regional media had reported. The Pentagon told Business Insider that the B-52s were never scheduled to take part in the drills.

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B-52
(Photo by Michael Weber)

Before Max Thunder, two other massive drills had taken place in April and May 2018, with hardly a peep from Pyongyang.

In past months, Kim, who reportedly said he “understands” why the drills were going on, had gone forward with peace talks without asking for them to be toned down.

Nevertheless, North Korea cited the drills as its main reason for canceling talks with South Korea.

“Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of South Korea,” Ri said, according to Reuters.

In a separate statement from North Korean media, Pyongyang said it couldn’t open up its country or work with others.

“It is a lesson shown by the past history that it would never be possible to write a new history of opening up the prospect of the country and nation even though we may sit with those without trust and confidence and without manners,” it wrote.

Kim, what are you doing?

Kim Jong Un began and led his country toward peace and diplomacy with South Korea and the US beginning in his 2018 New Years’ address. Since then, he’s put on a spectacular diplomatic offensive and made history by leaving his country for the first time since taking power to meet at least twice with China’s President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

But since May 15, 2018, North Korea has begun a marked backslide towards the old rhetoric of hostilities, and it all kicked off with a meltdown over days-old military drills.

As for why North Korea may have went back to tough talking points, read here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet chef shows how to turn MREs into a remarkable Christmas feast

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Featured at the dinner table are USMC veterans James P. Connolly, Drea Garcia, and Donna Callaway and USAF veteran Christopher Allen.

 

Music courtesy of JinglePunks:
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson
Madridista-JP – The Beards
Faded-JP – Shota Ike
History Pitcha-JP – Serval Attack
Thug Piano-JP – Pailboy
Sunset Drive-JP – FINE LINES
Articles

Bombs away! Here are the 13 worst military movies in Hollywood history

Not all war movies are created equal. While box office returns don’t necessarily mean the movie was good or bad (for example, Iron Man 3 is the 10th highest grossing movie ever), they are an indication of what does or doesn’t pique people’s interest – although you might personally find a correlation between the two in this list.


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You can blame Colin Farrell for both. (Warner Bros.)

Here are 13 military movies Hollywood probably wishes it could take back in order of the least to the worst offenders. (Loss estimates include marketing costs and adjustments for inflation.)

13. Battleship (2012)

Box Office Loss: $60 million

How could Director Peter Berg have known casting Rihanna was not the best idea? When the audience and critics think the movie is “not fun,” “crushingly stupid,” and would prefer to spend the time actually playing the game instead. And word of mouth didn’t save it at the box office.

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Somebody thought this was a good idea. (Photo: Universal)

Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that his 2013 film “Lone Survivor” would allow him to “buy back his reputation.”

12. Gods and Generals (2003)

Loss $61 million

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These are actually Civil War reenactors… and probably the only people who paid to see the movie. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Roger Ebert called “Gods and Generals” a film “Trent Lott would enjoy,” referring to the Senator’s praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Noted author Jeff Shaara, whose Civil War-based books are highly praised and widely read, said the movie is nothing like his book and he has no idea how he could “let them butcher the book like that.” (But that didn’t keep him from holding onto the money he was paid for the film rights to the book).

11. Revolution (1985)

Loss: $62 million

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Pacino is seen here being escorted off of the ship and out of movies altogether. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

This movie is so bad, Al Pacino quit acting for four years.

10. Aloha (2015)

Loss: $65 million

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Which is worse: Chris Kyle at the Democratic Convention or Chris Kyle in an Air Force uniform? (Columbia Pictures/20th Century Fox)

Air Force movies don’t do well at the box office. No one has expressed a desire to see an Air Force movie since Gene Hackman and Danny Glover in “BAT*21,” and that was 1988. Someone should have told Cameron Crowe to make this movie about Marines … and not to cast Emma Stone as an Asian woman.

9. The Finest Hours (2016)

Loss: $75 million

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If everyone in the Coast Guard bought a ticket, then bought the DVD twice, they might make another Coast Guard movie. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This movie was a true story, so just making the Coast Guard into Marines wouldn’t work. But traditionally, Coast Guard movies aren’t a box office draw either. Ask Ashton Kutcher.

8. K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Loss: $88 million

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They really don’t belong on this list. (Paramount)

This might be the exception on this list. “K-19” was actually well-received, even by Russian submariners who were part of K-19’s crew. The only thing the Russian Navy veterans didn’t like was being portrayed as a bunch of drunken, incompetent Russian stereotypes.

7. Alexander (2004)

Loss: $89 million

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Awkward family photo. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Like the great general himself, “Alexander” enraged people from Greece all the way to India. Historians and critics both agree that this movie is both way too long and needs more fighting — unless those critics and moviegoers are American, in which case, the biggest concern seems to be that Alexander the Great might have been gay.

6. The Great Raid (2005)

Loss: $91 million

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You know, this movie is also too good to be on this list. (Miramax)

This is the story of the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII. General Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought.”

Of course, Ebert was never a general, he’s just referring to the realistic depiction of combat in the film. He also said, “it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost.”

5. Inchon (1982)

Loss: $100 million

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And the movie poster looks like a bad Choose Your Own Adventure book or a good Atari game.

There’s no movie magic like a Korean War epic funded by a cult. The film’s star told the world he did it for the money, the actress portraying the love interest decided to quit being a movie star after shooting wrapped, and the movie’s Washington, D.C. premiere was picketed by anti-cult activists.

“Inchon” was never released on video or DVD. When Ronald Reagan screened it at the White House, all he could say was “For once we’re the good guys and the Communists are the villains.” It’s the little things.

4. Windtalkers (2002)

Loss: $107 million

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This is how you feel watching this movie. (Photo: MGM)

Called one of the most inaccurate war movies ever made, “Windtalkers” also tries to tell the story of WWII Navajo code talkers through the eyes of a white guy. (Come to think of it, it’s actually surprising that here’s only one Nicolas Cage movie on this list).

3. Stealth (2005)

Loss: $116 million

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A robot plane (stop laughing) is based in downtown Rangoon (which hasn’t been called that since 1989). After it’s hit by lighting, it becomes more alive (stop laughing, this is serious) and one of the pilots trying to stop it gets shot down over North Korea. Some more stuff happens, and then they discover the plane has feelings.

2. The Alamo (2004)

Loss: $118 million

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Donald Trump’s vision (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

The marketing for this movie used the line “you will never forget.” And you won’t. You’ll remember how great this movie could have been if every character had been played by Billy Bob Thornton. “The Alamo” is number 2 on this list, but number 1 in terms of epic disappointment.

1. Hart’s War (2002)

Loss: $125 million

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He the one behind the fence, but the viewer is the one who feels trapped during this movie. (MGM/Fox)

Colin Farrell strikes again. Even Bruce Willis couldn’t create any interest in this WWII movie. Basically, a captured American officer is punished in the POW camp by having to bunk with the enlisted. The prisoners use a trial to distract the guards from a coming attack on an ammo factory.

Articles

This is General Nicholson’s vow to annihilate ISIS in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s security forces, with the help of US and NATO ground and air support, will annihilate the Islamic State group affiliate in the country and crush remnants of al-Qaeda, General John Nicholson, the top US general in Afghanistan, vowed August 24.


Nicholson also had a message for the Taliban: “Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms and join Afghan society. Help build a better future for this country and your own children.”

Nicholson and Hugo Llorens, the US Embassy’s Special Chargé d’Affaires, told reporters in the capital Kabul that President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, announced August 21, was a promise to Afghans that together they would defeat terrorism and prevent terrorist groups from establishing safe havens.

“We will not fail in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said. “Our national security depends on it, as well as Afghanistan’s security, and our allies and partners.”

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Incoming Resolute Support Commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., addresses the audience during the change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was defiant in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: “We are not giving our guns to any one and our Taliban are fighting until the last US soldier is no longer here in Afghanistan.”

Senior US officials have said that Trump may send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately. Nicholson did not offer a timeframe for deployment, however, saying only that “in the coming months, US Forces Afghanistan and NATO will increase its train, advise, and assist efforts in Afghanistan. And we will increase our air support to Afghan security forces.”

Nicholson had particular praise for Afghanistan’s commandos and special forces known as Ktah Khas, saying they had yet to lose a battle and plans were being made to double their size.

“The Taliban have never won against the commandos and Ktah Khas,” he said. “They never will.”

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests
Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

Nicholson told reporters that the losses among Taliban foot soldiers have exceeded those of the Afghan National Security Forces, though he didn’t offer figures.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in its latest report released July 31 said 2,531 Afghan service members were killed in action in just the first five months of this year and another 4,238 were wounded.

Nicholson said efforts were being made to tackle corruption within the Afghan security force, an issue that was flagged in the same July Inspector General report that identified more than 12,000 Afghan Ministry of Defense personnel that were “unaccounted for,” fearing some could be so-called “ghosts” who exist only on paper.

Trump too addressed the need for reforms by the Afghan government in his August 21 speech.

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Photo by Michael Vadon

“The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited,” Trump said. “We will keep our eyes wide open.”

Reporters questioned both Nicholson and Llorens about how the US would force Pakistan to close Taliban sanctuaries in its territory. Trump was uncompromising in his demand that Pakistan close the safe havens that the US and Afghanistan have repeatedly accused them of allowing on their soil.

“For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror,” he said. “That will have to change, and that will change immediately.”

Nicholson said discussions with Pakistan would be held in private, adding “it has already started” without offering more details.

Articles

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

You wouldn’t think a heist movie set during the Iraq War would provide a particularly accurate look at military life. But while the 1999 movie “Three Kings” has a lot of problems, it gets a surprising number of Army-life details right.


Here are seven times the filmmakers nailed it:

1. Troops waste key resources by having a water bottle fight in the middle of the desert:

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Ask your First Sergeant if it’s a good idea to waste life-giving water in the middle of a desert.

Yes, the ceasefire ending the war had just been announced, but this is still bad resource management.

2. An American officer communicates with Iraqis by speaking at the exact same time as his interpreter:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

We’re sure the Iraqi soldiers who can understand English are glad that you’re yelling it over the guy speaking Arabic. And your troops are probably enjoying the two loud audio streams washing over them all day.

3. A group of soldiers finds a secret document in a guy’s butt and it immediately falls to the junior soldier to pull it out:

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That glove is about to see some stuff.

This is literally the only time that it makes sense for a specialist to pull rank.

4. A Special Forces major is trying to get the story of what happened with the secret butt map and everyone on the base tells him a different rumor:

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The map may have been in a guy’s butt, his penis, or possibly stitched to the back of his head. (GIF: GIPHY)

Seriously, when did you ever get the truth on your first try from a base rumor mill?

5. A junior enlisted soldier is given the chance to ask questions about an upcoming, risky mission and he wastes it:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Yeah, the Special Forces selections process is the most important thing to learn about before you conduct a four-man raid against an Iraqi bunker filled with gold.

6. A guy clearing his first bunker tries some stupid stuff that he saw in a movie and immediately regrets it:

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You shot a deadbolt. The deadbolt is still in the door. Your shoulder is not as strong as the iron holding that door in place. Moron.

7. When the group’s escape is ruined because the junior guy can’t find his gas mask that is supposed to be strapped to his leg.

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Notice that while he doesn’t have his mask — which is essential to surviving the gas weapons that have already been used in this war — strapped to his person, but his survival knife is easily accessible. Because he’ll definitely need that knife.

8. A blue falcon immediately dimes out the group to the senior brass, even though no one has asked him a question:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Seriously, Private Falcon, no one asked you. Just stand there quietly.

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