The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.
There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.
This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.
Know what’s fun? Troops surprising their families and friends. Know what’s more fun? When they surprise their loved ones with engagement rings. Check out these 8 troops who managed to pull off amazing surprise engagement proposals:
(Use the links embedded in each description to see the full videos.)
1. This sailor asks his pastor for the chance to propose in front of the entire congregation
The Marine then got down on his knee in his full dress uniform and proposed in front of three floors filled with spectators.
5. This soldier proposes in the middle of the airport.
The Army trooper had just made it through the gates when he kissed his girlfriend. After he interrupts the kiss to get down on one knee, she senses what’s up and says, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” But she eventually says yes (when she gets her voice back).
6. This airman proposes during a “Welcome Home” ceremony
8. This sailor proposes to a soldier on Independence Day in front of the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.
There are quite a few “Merica!” sentences on this website, but this one might take the cake: A sailor went with his soldier girlfriend to the Lincoln Memorial in uniform to stage a special proposal video on Independence Day. The soldier says yes and the crowd congratulates them both.
If you want to create a magical moment like these 8, check out engagement rings on Shane Co.
Charles L. Phillips was a 26-year-old Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, piloting B-29 bombers in the Pacific theater during the final years of WWII. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroics during the strategic bombing campaign over Japan. One of Phillip’s last missions was on August 6, 1945, the same day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. During the air battle he was forced to ditch his B-29 into the sea. We interviewed Charles Phillips in 1991 and he told us remarkable stories, from his early training in Texas to the firebombing of Tokyo.
Hours before the Allied Forces hit the beaches of Normandy, courageous British and American soldiers entered France with parachutes and gliders to secure key bridges and enemy artillery positions. Their dangerous missions led the way for the D-Day invasion and ultimate victory in Europe. Wally Parr, Terance Otway and Bill True recount their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.
Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict. All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.
Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:
The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.
Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.
Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.
The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.
At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.
Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.
Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.
Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.
For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.
The training to carry oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray) or a Tazer generally requires that a military police officer experience the sting of their weapon before they can carry it. Some troops are even required to recertify and be sprayed and Tazed every six months.
Here are 17 photos and one video that show what the training is like:
1. Pepper spray, training opens with the service member getting a blast straight to the face.
2. The spray forces the eyes closed and irritates the skin.
3. In most cases, the students have to complete certain tasks and training lanes after being sprayed.
4. Part of the training lane is fighting against a simulated aggressor while still blinded.
5. Students may be required to fight with batons or riot gear.
6. Trying to use weapons while under the spray’s effects is especially challenging.
7. But the soldiers are expected to force their way through.
8. Near the end of the training, the students will usually have to subdue a subject.
9. Once they finish the lane, they can rinse out the spray.
10. Removing the chemical agents is a welcome step.
11. It takes a lot of water to get the oleoresin capsicum off.
12. Even after rinsing, the eyes and face will likely be sore and inflamed for a while.
13. Tazers are an entirely different beast.
14. The shock of the Tazer can immediately incapacitate a trainee.
15. The faces of those being shocked are usually pretty funny.
16. Other troops will support the students during the shock so they won’t hurt themselves as they fall.
17. Attempting to resist the 50,000 volt shock is useless as the Tazer overwhelms the nervous system.
To see Marines going through pepper spray, Tazer, and riot control training, check out the video below:
This episode tells the dramatic story of an Army veteran who served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Al Ungerleider’s first taste of combat came on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He went on to march towards Germany, liberating a Nazi concentration camp along the way. Brigadeer General Al Ungerleider retired from the Army after 36 years of service. His final active-duty assignment was commanding the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Al Ungerleider is a true American hero.
Some time ago, when movies were still black and white and Second World War themes were frequently used in screenplays, seeing a soldier with the cigarette both on screen and in public wasn’t a rare occasion. The war was actually the moment when the relationship between the US military and tobacco industry has been established, mainly through advertising. Furthermore,cigarettes were a part of army rations and often used as a valuable trading currency.
After the war, the connection between armed forces and tobacco did not end as many young recruits started smoking soon after they joined the service. Besides being a matter of tradition and way of bonding, smoke breaks were sometimes used in “boot camps” as a form of reward and punishment system. Meanwhile, as it was proofed that smoking influence troop’s readiness and raise health costs, as predicted, the tobacco use was restricted in military facilities not designated as “tobacco use areas”. What could’ve not been predicted was that after 2011 the statistic will change and vape mods will be used rather than tobacco among military personnel.
Statistics and policy changes
According to the Department of Defense report presented in the year 2011, 24 percent of active duty personnel were smokers compared with 19 percent of civilians and 38 percent of the servicemen and women started smoking after enlisting. In the year 2015, studies showed that the number of troopers who are occasional smokers dropped by nearly half, since 2011 — down from 24 percent to 13.9 percent. Overall, the statistic also showed that since 2009 tobacco use rates have decreased in the US army, although it is possible that these numbers are also closely connected with the increased use of vape mode kits.
There are several reasons why these figures are going down, slowly but firmly. The decision to ban tobacco use entirely during recruit training, which was done at most training centers, was an important step in starting to modify the surrounding in order to change military-driven behavioral patterns and reduce tobacco use among service members. It also helped a higher percentage of smokers to quit at a rate higher than would be expected without the ban.Restrictive smoking regulations in military facilities seem to have a significant effect on cigarette consumption too. Enlarged efforts involving educational, motivational, and social changes such as stronger educational messages, including ones orientated toward changing social norms regarding smoking in the military, resulting in a decreased number of new smokers among recruits.
Some military policies which tolerated tobacco use to some point came under the spotlight and their alterations are taken under consideration.For example, starting October 2019 all Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities, which historically permitted smoking in designated areas, will be completely smoke-free, and this new policy will cover all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping. The policy change ends the use of designated smoking areas at VA hospitals and applies to everyone at VA facilities, including patients, visitors, volunteers, and staff. The fact that this and similar decisions cover vaping as well, shows that the number of army personnel who use e-cigarettes and vape mods significantly increased over the last few years.
Is vaping a new trend in the US army?
The rise of vaping among US troops occurred quickly. According to some researches, made since 2015, 11 percent of service members said they were daily e-cigarette users, while nearly 20 percent of junior enlisted ranks are current e-cigarette smokers. The Marine Corps and Navy have the highest percentage of those vaping among the service branches, at 16 and 14 percent,despite restrictions on e-cigarettes imposed by the Navy a few years ago.
Based on a study of 105 U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers made by University at Buffalo it seems that daily users often see e-cigarettes satisfying or even more satisfying, and less harmful, than cigarettes. According to researchers L.T. Kozlowski and G.G. Homish, perception of danger from e-cigarettes decreased as the frequency of use increased. One finding, related to the perception that participants have had toward vaping products showed that articles which were considered much more satisfying than cigarettes were also perceived as less dangerous than cigarettes.
Financially speaking, switching from smoking to vaping has probably a lot to do with prices of tobacco in military stores. As a result of increased efforts to encourage troops to quit, prices became higher and the sales of traditional tobacco have fallen. As opposed to that, starting with the year 2018, sales of vaping products nearly doubled. A chart that represents these numbers in sales, starting with the year 2013, has a very interesting line: from 2013 it was an upward trend with the peak in 2015, then sales decreased by nearly half till the end of 2017, and was trending up again in 2018.
Judging from the personal experiences shared anonymously by the military personnel vaping has been used to reduce stress while overseas, and after returning home. For some of them, it is a way of relating to flavors of being home which ease their mental strain and helps them to reduce the tension. In some units, smoking is forbidden so using e-cigarettes and mod vape is the only way to cope with the smoking habit.
It is important to underline that in most US army facilities vaping falls under the same rules as all other tobacco products, meaning vaping is only allowed in designated smoking areas. Also, it is necessary to point out that although the health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known, they can contain chemicals that may cause harm to users and those exposed to secondhand vapors
About the author: Christina Matthews, the journalist who studies the latest news in the health industry. Now she studies the effects of smoking and vaping on health and reasons for such its popularity.
The top US admiral in the Middle East said on Sept. 18 that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise and far-reaching.
Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping to fuel one side of the war in Yemen, in which rebels from the country’s north, Al Houthis, ousted the government from the capital of Sana’a in 2014.
The officer, Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining Al Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines, and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border. The US, the Yemeni government and their allies in the region have retaliated with strikes of their own and recaptured some Al Houthi-held coastal areas to help blunt threats to international shipping, but the peril persists, the admiral said.
“These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict,” said Donegan. “It’s not rocket science to conclude that Al Houthwis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them.”
Donegan gave his assessment in an hour-long telephone interview from his 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain as he prepared to conclude his two-year tour, and take a new assignment at the Pentagon.
In the wide-ranging interview, Donegan said that the bitter rift between Qatar and many of its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who accuse Qatar of financing militants and having overly cozy relations with Iran, has not yet hindered coalition efforts to battle terrorism, piracy, or other mutual maritime scourges. Donegan’s most pointed accusations focused on suspected Iranian assistance to Al Houthi rebels. The US and other Western governments have provided vast quantities of weapons, and other forms of military support, to the embattled Yemeni government and its allies in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, contributing to violence that the UN says has caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties.
The admiral’s charges appear supported, at least in part, by findings in a report late last year by Conflict Armament Research, a private arms consultancy. The report concluded that the available evidence pointed to an apparent “weapon pipeline, extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.”
For years, Iran has been under a series of international sanctions prohibiting it from exporting arms. The US has frequently claimed that Tehran has violated the sanctions in support of proxy forces in many conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories.
Between September 2015 through March 2016, allied warships interdicted four Iranian dhows that yielded, in total, more than 80 anti-tank guided missiles and 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns and almost 300 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to data provided by the US Navy.
Donegan said that while there have been no seizures since, he said he suspects Iran’s hand in Al Houthis’ apparent ability to replenish and improve their arms stockpiles. “It is not something that was a one-time deal and stopped,” Donegan said. “It appears to be progressive.”
The tunnel rats were courageous soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War. American and Australian troops uncovered the enemy’s intricate network of tunnels while conducting larger operations. Tunnel rats were tasked with gathering intelligence within them, and killing or capturing their occupants–often in conditions of close combat. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps.
During the Vietnam War, all too often the chaos of battle found Allied forces trapped and facing annihilation in hostile territory. The situation called for courageous men to rise above their fears and carry out some of the deadliest missions in the history of warfare. Forward Observers, often alone, moved ahead of the Allied forces to secure vital vantage points. They served as the eyes of the artillery gunner in delivering rounds on enemy targets. In this episode, Medal of Honor recipients Barney Barnum and Brian Thacker tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.