Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.
Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.
In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.
Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career. But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too. After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”
I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them. The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity. Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.
Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.
Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility. It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.
The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.
Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.
Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.
Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.
Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.
He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.
Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.
An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.
STUNNED AT THE SCOPE
In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.
“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.
“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”
Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”
Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.
2,300 CHILD PREDATORS
Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.
“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”
In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.
In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.
The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.
At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”
“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.
“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”
Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.
“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”
Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.
Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.
“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”
While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”
For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:
Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.
MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.
In 2010, the commander of Canada’s busiest Air Force Base, Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, confessed to a series of vile, heinous crimes. “Colonel” Russell Williams admitted to murdering a Corporal under his command, 37-year-old Marie-France Comeau and a civilian, 27-year-old Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd. He broke into the homes of two other women (his neighbors) and sexually assaulted them. He also admitted to burglarizing dozens of homes to steal underwear and lingerie from the women living there, some as young as nine years old. He took thousands of pictures of all his crimes, storing them on his home computer.
Williams pleaded guilty to 88 charges and was sentenced to two life sentences for first-degree murder, two 10-year sentences for other sexual assaults, two 10-year sentences for forcible confinement and 82 one-year sentences for burglary; all to be served concurrently at Kingston Penitentiary. He was stripped of his rank and Canadian Forces burned his uniforms, then destroyed his medals and his commission scroll, a paper signed by the Governor General and Defence Minister (with the permission of the Queen) confirming his status as a serving officer.
Col. Williams had a distinguished 23 year career before he started his predatory crime spree. He served as a pilot instructor to Canadian Forces school in Manitoba. He was a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, where he wrote a thesis supporting the pre-emptive war in Iraq. As a pilot, he flew dignitaries in VIP aircraft, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Governor General of Canada, and the Canadian Prime Minister. He also deployed to Dubai as a base commander supporting Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. He assumed command of CFB Trenton, which is where Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan arrive upon returning home. The base is the starting point for funeral processions along the Trenton-Toronto “Highway of Heroes.”
Marie-France Comeau was in her home in Brighton, Ontario on the evening of November 25, 2009. As she was in the basement trying to get her cat to come upstairs when she noticed the cat was fixated on the corner of the basement. Williams entered the basement earlier through an open basement window. He had already broken into her house to make sure she lived alone (While there, he took photos of himself wearing Comeau’s underwear). As Comeau went to see what the cat was looking at, Williams attacked her with a large flashlight attempting to knock her out. He tied her to a pole in the basement and took photos of her there. He took her upstairs, sexually assaulted her, then put duct tape over her mouth and nose and held it there until she died.
He first saw Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd as he peeped into her home on January 27, 2010. He watched her as she ran on a treadmill. He later entered her home while she was away to make sure she lived alone. He then left, leaving her back patio unlocked. He then waited in a field for her to come home and go to sleep. He took photos of her in the clothes she wore to bed, her eyes covered with duct tape. He then took video of himself raping Lloyd. He took Lloyed to his home in Tweed, Ontario. He held her captive in Tweed for almost 24 hours, then walked her out of his house as if he was going to let her go, then crushed her skull from behind with a large flashlight and then strangled her. He took photos before he buried her body 40 feet on the side of a road south of Tweed.
His full confession is cued up in the video below.
America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.
But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.
But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.
Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.
As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.
The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.
” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.
“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”
Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.
Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”
Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.
“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”
Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.
The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.
“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.
In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.
“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.
Released in 2013, the Origin-12 comes standard with a five-round 12-gauge magazine or an optional 30-round drum.
The design of the Origin-12 is made to greatly reduce recoil. The barrel is placed lower than the chamber and butt stock.
“In-line shotguns, when you shoot them, they climb. Pure physics will tell you about this firearm,” Fostech Outdoors executive Judd Foster said at SHOT Show 2016. “When you shoot it, it takes recoil out of it, and it punches you on target.”
According to Fostech Outdoors, there will soon be conversion kits to allow 7.62 and 5.56mm fire coming in 2018. If you’re interested in having a forward grip, check out the Origin-12 SBV. It’s an arm braced, smooth bore, 12-gauge non-NFA Firearm.
“The Fostech Origin-12 is an awesome piece of hardware. As far as I know, its is the fastest cycling shotgun in the world, ” IV8888’s Eric said.
WRITER’S NOTE: I would like to personally thank you, the community, for bringing this beauty to my attention. The inspiration for this post goes to Marc Allen from this Facebook post. Thank you very much for your support. You rock!
Remi Adeleke is having a powerhouse of a year. The Navy SEAL, actor, filmmaker and author has released a new line of inspirational clothing, wrapped production on his directorial debut, and been cast in a recurring role in the upcoming Amazon series Terminal List.
According to Deadline, the series follows Jame Reece (played by Chris Pratt) after his team of Navy SEALs “is ambushed during a high-stakes covert mission. Reece returns home to his family with conflicting memories of the event and questions about his culpability. However, as new evidence comes to light, Reece discovers dark forces working against him.” Adeleke will play Terrell “Tee” Daniels, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team working a domestic counter-terrorism mission.
Terminal List is now in production and is scheduled for an early 2022 release.
Adeleke is no stranger to finding his own motivation and turning hard knocks into transformational life lessons. His memoir Transformed details his journey from African royalty to the Bronx to learning to swim and becoming a Navy SEAL and champion for inner city youths. His activism doesn’t stop there.
Adeleke’s directorial debut comes with a powerful punch as well. The Unexpected is a short film that unearths an elaborate international human trafficking and organ harvesting ring and its link to a terrorist attack. Filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Adeleke will bring The Unexpected to the Cannes Market.
Meanwhile, his new clothing line KEJO is right on brand for Adeleke, with a mission of changing negativity into positivity. With messages like “Solutions > Excuses” and the name itself, KEJO, which means “The 8th” in Yoruba (Remi’s Birth Tribe) and points to the 8th Wonder of the World. To Adeleke that is not a place, but instead “a group of people who have risen up to be the inspiration, motivation, and education to those around them. Adeleke and the KEJO team have designed stylized quotes that will serve as helpful reminders to wearers, but more importantly to those passing by who are unknowingly in need of the words displayed.”
Featured Image: Adeleke on the set of his film The Unexpected with Santiago H. Vasquez and Razan Kaleel. (Remi Adeleke Instagram)
Drinking in the military is rather common (and always in moderation), as anyone who’s served long enough to make it to the barracks knows.
Everyone has their own reasons to imbibe (fun, tradition, bets, etc.), but perhaps the most important reason is for health reasons. Here are five alcoholic beverages with little-known health benefits.
1. Gin and Tonic
Health Benefit: Anti-malarial
The Gin and Tonic was created by the army of the British East India Company to give to soldiers serving in India and other tropical locations where malaria was common. The tonic of the time had large quantities of quinine, a malaria preventative, dissolved in it and thus tasted terribly bitter. To compensate, the soldiers mixed their daily gin ration with sugar and lime into the tonic water to make it more palatable. Unfortunately, the quinine levels of tonic have been severely reduced so Gin and Tonics won’t be making a comeback as a replacement for the dreaded malaria pills.
2. Red Wine
Health Benefit: Anti-Radiation
Well ahead of their time, the Soviet Navy issued a ration of red wine to its sailors onboard nuclear submarines because it decreased radiation absorption (or more likely calmed the nerves and stomachs of sailors being exposed to radiation on their shoddy submarines… remember K-19?) As it turns out, they were correct to give the sailors red wine. The results of a 2008 study show that resveratrol, a natural anti-oxidant in red wine, can protect cells from radiation damage. So talk to your CBRNE NCO to see if he has any anti-radiation medicine stashed in his office.
Health Benefit: Mental Well-Being
Anyone who has ever served aboard a ship at sea knows life can be tough, but todays modern amenities make things much more bearable. For early sailing ships heading out over the horizon, this was not the case. Enter alcohol. Originally the sailors were served beer but it had a tendency to spoil, so it was replaced by spirits, in particular, rum.
To help the sailors cope with the tough life of sailing they were given a daily ration of rum (known to the British Empire as a ‘tot‘). It is also likely that sailors were given the rum to steady their nerves before a battle. Much to the dismay of sailors, rum rations were discontinued some time ago, with the Royal New Zealand Navy being the last to do so in 1990.
Health Benefit: Surviving life in the military
While this may sound like either a no brainer or a stretch, the benefits of beer for troops are numerous. First of all, beer has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. While all the PT troops do helps, the beer helps relieve stress, which is a major cause of high blood pressure and every service member knows the military is a stressful place. Speaking of PT, drinking beer can help prevent fractures and improve bone density, relieve joint pain, and has been shown to be a better post-workout recovery than water. Beer can also help fight colds and infections. Finally, drinking beer has been shown to decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and can improve creativity. But remember: all of this is when consumed in moderation, so take it easy on the case in your wall locker.
Health Benefit: Weight loss
Have you been enjoying the health benefits of beer a little too much, noticed that your run time is suffering and you are having trouble passing height and weight? Have no fear, whiskey is here to save the day! Whiskey, already a favorite of American troops, has many of the same health benefits of beer without the calories or cholesterol. Whiskey also has the added benefit of containing antioxidants, which fight cancer and aging. So if you need to get back into fighting shape, pass on the beer and get some good old fashioned American whiskey.
Whether it kept them entertained in the barracks or inspired them to enlist, there are certain films that every Marine knows and loves.
Just about every Marine can quote Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” The same can be said of the intense courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men” that has Col. Jessup proclaiming, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for Marines. But whether you are in the Corps or a civilian, these movies shed some light on the U.S. military’s smallest service.
Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.
Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.
Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.
Plot: A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
Reason to watch: It has John Wayne. Really, that should be enough. But seriously, it’s a classic war film that shows Marines battling it out on Tarawa and Iwo Jima — site of the famous flag raising in 1945 — which also includes cameos by the three Marines who raised the flag over the island that was captured in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photo.
Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.
Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
Plot: A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.
Reason to watch: In the main character of Gunny Highway, Marines will see the one staple of just about every unit: The crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Clint Eastwood plays Highway, delivering such classic lines as “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters,” and “if I were half as ugly as you, Sergeant Major, I’d be a poster boy for a prophylactic.”
Plot: An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.
Reason to watch: Starting in Vietnam with two Marine lieutenants — played by Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson — a firefight sets them on separate career paths that ultimately see them coming back together after an embassy evacuation in Yemen goes terribly wrong. Col. Childers (played by Jackson) gives the order to fire into the crowd — which he says is armed — and he’s later charged with murder. Besides the intense courtroom drama, the movie shows the strong brotherhood among Marines, with Jones and Jackson picking up right where they left off many years before in the jungles of Vietnam.
Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.
Reason to watch: Again, John Wayne. Another classic from the fifties, this film gives a look at Marine air power in World War II, with Wayne playing Maj. Kirby, a gruff commander who takes over a squadron of fliers before they head into combat at Guadalcanal.
Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).
BONUS: Generation Kill / The Pacific
While they aren’t movies, these two HBO miniseries show Marines in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, respectively. In “Generation Kill,” viewers follow along with the men of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as they battle their way into Iraq in 2003, while “The Pacific” melds together narratives from Marines who took part in the Pacific campaign to tell their story.
While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.
Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.
5. Masada, Israel
On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.
The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.
To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.
Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.
The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.
The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.
What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.
3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland
Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.
The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.
Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.
To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.
While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.
The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.
1. Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.
The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.
For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.
While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.
The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.
The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.
From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.