The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

A good, stout door will protect people from a lot of dangers. It will not, however, save enemies of the U.S. from America’s armed forces. While troops can usually open a door with a swift donkey kick or a battering ram, they also have more violent ways of making an entrance.


1. Rifle-fired grenades

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmRxCGskdAI

The Simon grenade rifle entry munition, or GREM, is mounted on the end of a M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine. The weapon’s standard 5.56mm round is fired, striking the grenade and sending it 15-30 meters to the target door. Once the grenade’s standoff rod strikes the target, the grenade detonates and opens the door — violently.

2. Standard breaching charges

When firing a grenade isn’t an option, troops can just plant an explosive on the door.

3. Water charge

A modification of the standard explosive charge, water charges reduce the risk of injury to the breachers or the people on the other side of the door. Standard explosives sandwiched between containers of water are placed on the door and detonated. Water bottles are commonly used, but this video was filmed using IV bags.

4. Shotgun

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmt8NyvcJgY

Of course, service members who are already carrying a shotgun would probably prefer to just use it. Troops press the barrel against the frame, aiming for hinge points or where bolts pass through the frame. Once the round rips through the wood, the door can be quickly kicked or pushed open.

5. Blowing out an entire wall

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to go through the door at all. In that case, there are a few ways to rig explosives to make a new opening in a wall. In this video, det cord was placed on a marksmanship target to create a large, oval-shaped explosive and the whole thing was stuck to the wall. When detonated, it makes a hole big enough to run through. To go straight to the explosion in the video, skip to 2:20.

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This is why the MRE is more than just a meal

The military’s standard individual field ration, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), is the well-known and much-discussed bag of food eaten by service members of the U.S. military when deployed in combat, to remote locations, or when training in the field. The purpose of the MRE is simple; it serves as nourishment for troops.


The MRE can be divisive. Some like them, some hate them but most handle them when we have to. There are ways to deal with a diet of this prepackaged manna. Troops figured this out a long time ago. Creative recipes were conjured to make them taste better and there are literally hundreds of videos about them online. Ask any veteran about them– each will have their own methods.

At face value, the MRE is just a brown plastic bag filled with food, spread packets, and a flameless heater. The individual self-contained meal, however, has emblematic qualities that many may not realize. It is able to withstand cold and hot temperatures. It’s durable for long periods of time in the harshest conditions… The MRE is very much a representation of the military veteran.

The MRE is also an unlikely tool used for diplomacy and international relations, where military members from two different nations can establish a friendship by simply exchanging MREs after a long day of combined training.

The MRE is also a symbol of hope. It gives optimism for people of a foreign nation such as Haiti after a devastating earthquake or residents of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina. The MRE brings a smile to the face of a child that sometimes can be overlooked, but it represents a beacon of hope when all hope was lost.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Two Haitian children run back to their families after receiving packages of MREs, while Marines and Sri Lankan United Nations forces hand out food to Haitians Jan. 24, 2010 as part of recovery efforts following a 7.0 earthquake. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michele Watson)

The MRE brings a sense of family where brothers and sisters in arms can enjoy a meal together even if it’s only for a few minutes.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

MREs also bring a mix of emotions. Feelings like satisfaction, envy, and sadness.

The satisfaction of eating after a long day of training or following a combat patrol. The feeling of envy because your battle buddy’s MRE came with a packet of M&Ms or Skittles and you got the gooey energy bar. Sadness stems from the fact that you are eating an MRE on a summer day in a faraway land instead of being home for a poolside BBQ with your family and loved ones.

The MRE serves as a component of business and negotiation skills. Servicemembers learn the aspects of supply and demand via trading MRE contents with a fellow trooper. The MRE is much more than a meal packaged in strong, flexible plastic, it is a simile of military service.

Forrest Gump would always say “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” The classic comparison to life instilled to him by his mama.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

For veterans and their military service, “Life is like an MRE. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, you will certainly not miss them but you will miss the people you shared them with.”

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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10 things to look forward to about military retirement (and 5 things not to)

Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.


First, 10 things you can look forward to:

1. Higher pay

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.

2. Stability

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.

3. PT on your time

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.

4. Networking

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: Starbucks)

This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.

5. Health insurance

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.

6. Hobbies

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: Wikimedia)

Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.

7. Joining the “old farts” organizations

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Army vet, actor, and American Legion member Johnny Jenkinson. (Photo: We Are The Mighty)

The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.

8. Running into old friends again

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …

9. Reliving old tales

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo.

Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.

10. Facial hair

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Gen. George Crook. (Photo: Civil War archives)

Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.

Now, five things not to look forward to:

1. Loss of camaraderie

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain during an Adaptive Sports Camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.

2. Lack of respect from young bucks

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.

3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.

4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: Greenbrier Historical Society)

Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.

5. Dental insurance

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
(Photo: Department of Defense)

For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS

President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.


The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.

According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.

That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.

Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanner King, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Boston, is underway aboard a 45-foot response boat during a security escort in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 21, 2016. The station’s crew escorted the Norwegian-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF SUEZ Boston into a terminal in Boston. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”

Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.

Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.

His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”

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4 support aircraft you didn’t know had killer combat variants

Troops under heavy fire often look to the skies for rescue, praying for an something like an Apache or A-10 to materialize and destroy the enemy. But sometimes help comes in less expected and more unusual forms:


1. MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator

The humble Blackhawk helicopter is a great utility aircraft, but the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment looked at it and thought, “Could use more guns.” They fly a modified Blackhawk, the MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator. Instead of carrying troops, it carries a Light Armament Support Structure to which weapons can be mounted. Weapons used on the DAP include miniguns, 30mm chain guns, rocket pods, Hellfire missile launchers, air-to-air Stinger missiles, and a three-barrelled .50-cal gatling gun.

2. Guns A-Go-Go, the Chinook attack helicopter

The Chinook is a beloved aircraft, but it’s the manatee of Army aviation and is only thought of as threatening because it can carry dozens of combat-equipped troops. In the 1960s though, four of them were modified into attack helicopters. Re-designated as ACH-47As, each bird had a 40mm grenade launcher in a turret, two 20mm cannons, a spot for either a 2.75-inch rocket launcher or 7.62mm rotary minigun, as well as five crew stations that were usually outfitted with .50-cal. machine guns.

All four were eventually sent to Vietnam where they got the nickname, “Guns A-Go-Go.” One was lost in a runway accident, one experienced a mechanical failure and crashed, and one was shot down during the Tet Offensive. Since the helicopters worked in pairs, the survivor was sent back to America as a training tool for maintainers. It has since been restored and is on display at Redstone Arsenal.

3. V-22, but with missiles

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: Bell Helicopter

America’s first tilt-rotor serves in raids, medical evacuation, troop transport and supply missions, but in its heart it wants to kill things directly.

That’s why Bell Boeing has tested V-22s with rockets and missiles at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, though they haven’t gotten any purchase orders yet.

4. KC-130J Harvest Hawk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERzT8KoVY7k

Most people know about the AC-130 gunship, but there is actually another C-130 variant that can rain down death and destruction. The KC-130J Harvest Hawk can carry four Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles which it fires using the same sight sensor that is on the AH-1z Cobra attack helicopter.

NOW: Watch a C-130 pilots terrifying view of a combat landing

OR: This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

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‘Squad’ drops you right back into anti-terror combat (in a good way)

“Squad” is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.


Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.

These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”

All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.

This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.

The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.

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Watch USMC footage of artillery strikes on ISIS in Syria

US Marines have been on the ground in Syria since March, when a detachment from an amphibious task force arrived in the country, where they joined US special-operations forces to support US partner forces.


The Marine units deployed to Syria included elements of an artillery battery that can fire 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers.

The military has already released footage and photos of Marines in Syria firing their howitzers in support of local coalition partners during their advance on Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital in northwest Syria.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

“The Marines have been conducting 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Coalition’s local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the Defense Department said at the time that footage was released.

During the first week of July, the US military released the first footage of Marine artillery units striking an ISIS target on May 14, destroying what the Defense Department called an ISIS artillery position in support of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The M777 howitzer has a range of 15 to 25 miles, and the artillery units in Syria have moved at least once to support the ongoing fight against ISIS there, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in April.
“The fight evolves, so they’re moving to where they can best provide support based on the capability of the weapons system,” Neller said. “The commanders there understand the capability, and they’ll reposition them as required in order to provide the fire support and other effects they need to do to make the campaign successful, ultimately.”

Marine artillery units previously deployed to Iraq to support the fight against ISIS there were set up in a fixed position — though they came under fire just hours into their deployment in March 2016.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.)

US forces in Syria are aiding local partner forces in what Defense Secretary James Mattis has called an “annihilation campaign,” seeking to surround and destroy ISIS fighters — foreign fighters in particular — “so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” Mattis told reporters in May.

Mattis “asked me and the military chain-of-command to make a conscious effort not to allow ISIS fighters to just flee from one location to another,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Defense News in June.

“Our commanders on the ground have tried to meet that goal of annihilating the enemy in order to mitigate the risk of these terrorists showing up someplace else.”

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

Fighting to retake Raqqa has already begun, and over 2,000 ISIS militants are thought to remain there.

US special-operations forces are already working with Arab and Kurdish partners to vet and train a force to secure the city during and after the effort to oust ISIS. Questions remain about how Raqqa and the surrounding area will be secured, as well as about how territory wrested from ISIS around Syria will be divided among the various factions operating in the country.

The US-led coalition and its partner forces have already come into conflict with Syrian pro-regime forces, which are backed by Iran and Russia. Southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders has been a flashpoint for these confrontations, though a local ceasefire has recently gone into effect there.

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Iraqi woman becomes Marine on eve of Mosul invasion

As 600 more U.S. troops are headed to help retake Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State group, a young woman who escaped that city’s violence is celebrating her new title as a United States Marine.


Amanda Issa escaped with her family from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, because of the rising threat of the Islamic State group. The Issas stayed in a refugee camp in Turkey for almost a year before moving to Michigan in 2011 — a move made for the promise of better education and more opportunities for the three Issa children.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Pfc. Amanda H. Issa prepares for a graduation ceremony Sept. 30, 2016, on Parris Island, S.C. Issa, 21, from Madison Heights, Mich., grew up in Mosul, Iraq, and moved to the U.S. in May 2011. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Amanda, a teenager when she moved to the U.S., remembered the Marines she saw in Mosul during Operation Iraqi Freedom as heroes. Now, a Marine private first class herself, she wears the same Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and has the potential to be a hero for another little girl in her original homeland. She graduated in the top 10 in her high school and went on to earn an associates degree in global studies from Oakland Community College before enlisting in the Marine Corps.

But her journey to become a Marine wasn’t easy. In January she stepped on Parris Island’s iconic yellow footprints only to be injured a month later on a conditioning hike. The injury was bad enough that doctors told her she could be medically separated. Undaunted, she fought back and returned to training and eventually graduated with Platoon 4034, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, on Sept. 30.

“Now, to be called a Marine is unbelievable,” she said shortly after making the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. “Yeah, being a U.S. citizen is great, but I came here to be a Marine.”

It is unclear when Marines and other U.S. troops will join Iraqi forces in the invasion of Mosul, one of the last major cities held by ISIS. Defense officials say its up to Iraqi leaders to launch the operation, with several top generals saying Baghdad’s troops will likely be ready by October.

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How Easterseals helped this veteran build a life after service

This post is sponsored by Easterseals.


When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.

With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.

While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.

The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.

That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.

“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”

Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”

Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.

Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.

The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.

Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.

The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.

The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.

Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.

“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”

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19 photos of the crazy fire training military police go through

Lots of troops complain about the gas chamber. It’s stuffy, it’s hot, and trying to see anything through the mask sucks.


Know what’s worse? Trying to see through a riot mask while you are literally on fire. That’s what military police have to do to pass fire phobia training. Here are 19 photos of MPs getting hit with Molotov cocktails and other incendiaries in training:

1. The training is done to help military police learn how to control riots

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Angela Parady

2. A major tool of rioters, violent protestors, and others is the Molotov cocktail

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Cody Barber

3. Since improvised incendiary devices are so easy to make, police around the world have to be ready to combat them at all times

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Pfc. John Cress Jr.

4. Fire phobia training helps the MPs learn to not fear the fire, and to move as a unit when confronted with it

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

5. This keeps the unit from breaking down at the first sign of fire, allowing police to maintain control

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

6. Personnel hit with fire move from the flames as a group under the command of a squad or platoon leader

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

7. Once they get away from the main flames, they reform their line and stomp out any fire on their gear

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

8. Sometimes fire is thrown to restrict police movement, in which case the MPs have to advance through it as a unit and reform on the opposite side

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

9. The training can be done with units of varying size and in different formations

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

10. Soldiers can face the heat alone …

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

11. … or entire squads and platoons can work together.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Melissa Parrish

12. The military police often line up in multiple rows, so one force backs up the other during an attack.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Angela Parady

13. The U.S. and partnered nations train together, sharing best practices

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Pfc. Lloyd Villanueva

14. The training is especially valued in Europe where certain military forces are more likely to face off against actual rioters or protestors

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Tracy R. Myers

15. The trainees where the same riot gear they would have on for actual operations, including shin guards that extend below a riot shield

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

16. MPs keep their legs tight when being attacked, reducing the gaps the fire can slip through

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

17. But multiple attacks can still be overwhelming

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East

18. This is when the unit commander will order an advance or a short retreat, allowing the officers to get away from the flames

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

19. Firefighters and medics are on hand to assist students and prevent burns

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joshua Stoffregen

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Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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8 US Navy ship names better than ‘The Deplorables’

In December 2016, a petition on the White House’s official petition site, “We The People…” called for naming the next “major U.S. Navy ship” the “USS The Deplorables.


The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
The Navy’s newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, USS Detroit (LCS 7) is commissioned. (U.S. Navy photo)

Related: The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship

The suggestion is a reference to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s remark at a September campaign event about putting “half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

If the petition gets more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House will have to give an official statement on the status of the petition. After 10 days, the petition had only 5,070 signatures – a rate that won’t hit the desired goal for a response from the White House.

Maybe the name suggestion is the issue. “The Deplorables” just doesn’t seem to resonate with enough potential petition signers, so we came up with these alternatives, the petitioners – and the U.S. Navy – might want to consider.

1. “USS Rob Ford”

Donald Trump is reminiscent of this oft-misunderstood foreign government executive. The Navy once named a ship after Winston Churchill, so there’s even a precedent for it.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
He also supports Israel. (Photo by Flickr user John Michael McGrath)

2. “USS Seinfeld”

As Patty and Selma Bouvier once noted, it’s easier to be popular by leeching the popularity of others. So we also suggest changing the name of the next ship to “Seinfeld.”

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

3. “Trump Ship”

Why not? Trump names most of his business ventures after himself. Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Mortgage… you get it.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

4. “USS Carlos Danger”

The Navy is overhauling a cargo ship, the Cragside, for a floating special operations base. Why not name it the Carlos Danger, for those times when your real identity needs to be a secret.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
He’s definitely deplorable. Also, he should post this screengrab on a wall as a reminder. (YouTube/Sundance Selects)

5. Ask Mountain Dew Drinkers

When you crowdsource the names of seagoing vessels to the general public, they come back with names like “Boaty McBoatface.” But this is a name for a ship in the U.S. Navy. There’s no room for cute.

So, limit the pool of respondents to people who drink Mountain Dew, by putting a code under the bottle that allows them to make a suggestion.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Drinkers of Mountain Shoutin, Moutain Lion, Mountain Explosion, and Mountain Frost could also be accepted. But not Surge. (Flickr photo)

The potential responses are guaranteed to not be cute.

6. “USS Bloodsport”

One of President-Elect Trump’s favorite movies is the Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts classic “Bloodsport.” We think he would love to name a ship after this, and probably thinks it would strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. Frankly, we couldn’t agree more.

7. “USS Steven Seagal”

It’s not a secret that Trump’s win could bring the United States closer to Russia. Why not bestow the honor of naming a ship after one of Russia’s favorite stars and newly-christened citizen, Steven Seagal.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
He also cooks.

8. “USNS Hillary Clinton”

This might anger Trump supporters at first — they were, after all, the target of the “deplorables” comment in the first place. But remember that it’s important to be a gracious winner.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Hillary and the Dry Cargo Ship USNS Lewis and Clark have something in common. Neither were ever under sniper fire in Bosnia. (U.S. Navy photo)

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Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.


Some of these characteristics may have been on display earlier this year when Northrop Grumman’s SuperBowl AD revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet. Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right.

Also read: Here’s what the people who fly and fix the F-35 have to say about history’s most expensive weapons system

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
Lockheed Martin

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors
An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefieldinformation.Thenew aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot.

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

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