We Are the Mighty has partnered with a research firm, Maru/Matchbox, to provide an opportunity for you to share your opinions on how you use and interact with media and technology in your daily life.
This online survey will take about 12 minutes to complete, and can be done on either a computer or mobile device. As a thank you for your time and input, once you complete the survey you will be able to enter our sweepstakes to win one of 5 prizes! Winners will have their choice of either a Playstation 4, a Microsoft Xbox One S, a Nintendo Switch or an Amazon Gift Card for $300! Read the sweepstakes rules here.
Seven Bucks Productions recently announced plans to adapt the critically-acclaimed novel The Janson Directive into a live-action film. Dwayne Johnson is producing the film and John Cena is cast in the lead role, playing Paul Janson. While that alone should be enough to get audiences excited, everything else about the film has it set to be an outstanding spy flick.
The author of the source material, Robert Ludlum, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and, during his assignment to Pearl Harbor, he spent every possible day in the library — learning the craft of storytelling and immersing himself in classical history. His other works include The Osterman Weekend and, most notably, The Bourne Identity.
The script is being written by Akiva Goldsman, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind, and adapted by James Vanderbilt, writer of Zodiac and White House Down.
Originally, Dwayne Johnson was cast as Janson but stepped back to produce it.
The novel is a spy thriller set after the Vietnam War. The protagonist is a former Navy SEAL and covert operative for a fictional spy agency turned corporate security consultancy. After a job to protect a Nobel Peace Prize-winning laureate goes horrible awry, Janson is blamed for their death.
In order to clear his name, Janson must single-handedly infiltrate his former spy agency to earn his freedom, but risks revealing countless government secrets that could shatter world peace in the process.
Outside of the insanely awesome plot, the novel actually delves deep into the psyche of a man living through post-traumatic stress as he struggles to determine whether his own life is worth revealing a placating lie that is keeping the world safe.
Questions consumed Capt. Carlyle S. “Smitty” Harris’ mind in the early days of his eight years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
Harris’ thoughts focused mostly on his pregnant wife and two children back home near Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. Harris also wondered how the POWs could maintain any semblance of leadership and morale without a way to communicate with each other.
For eight long years of captivity, the questions lingered and gnawed at his mind.
Within five months after he’d joined the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Thailand, Harris launched his second F-105 Thunderchief mission on Thanh Hoa Bridge April 4, 1965. After Harris hit his target, his F-105 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to eject. About 20 people from a nearby village immediately captured the pilot, and he was quickly surrounded by almost 50 villagers armed with hoes, shovels and rifles. Just as he was about to be shot, an elderly man stepped in because of the government’s orders to capture American pilots alive. Harris remained in captivity for 2,871 days, much of it at the Hoa Lo Prison, which POWs nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton.
After Louise Harris learned her husband was missing, she remained at their home in Okinawa with their two young daughters, Robin and Carolyn, until after their son Lyle was born. Six weeks after Lyle’s birth, she took her family to Tupelo, Mississippi, where her sister lived. Even before she received her first letter from her husband from Vietnam, Louise believed he was alive and made certain the children kept the faith, too. As Lyle grew older, he’d tell his mother, “There goes Daddy,” when an airplane flew overhead.
Shortly after his capture, Harris was placed in a cell in the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,”with four other POWs, and, at that time, he remembered a conversation with an instructor at his survival school training. The instructor had told him about a tap code Royal Air Force POWs used during World War II, and Harris taught the other four POWs the code. Their captors put them back in solitary confinement a few days later, but that only helped them spread the code throughout the seven-cell area, and ultimately, to POWs throughout North Vietnam.
“As we were moved to other camps away from Hanoi, someone always took the tap code with them and was able to pass it on,” said Harris, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1979 and spent the next 18 years working in business, law and marketing in Mississippi. “So no matter where you went in the POW system in North Vietnam, if you heard a tap, the guy on the other side of the wall would respond with two knocks in return, and you’ve started the communication process.”
At the Hanoi Hilton and other POW camps in Vietnam, the tap code was not only a means to communicate with each other, but it also became a lifeline. In the code, the alphabet was arranged on a grid of five rows and five columns without the letter K, which was substituted with C. The first set of taps indicated which row the letter was on, and the second represented the column. So one tap followed by another tap meant the letter A, and a tap followed by two taps indicated B.
As soon as a POW returned from interrogation, he would begin tapping the wall to communicate what happened. When a prisoner returned from a particularly brutal interrogation, as soon as the guard turned the key and left the block, he’d hear a series of taps that communicated three letters: G, B and U for “God bless you.”
When Harris was being interrogated, for strength to resist demands for information, he thought back to his squadron commander in the 67th TS, Lt. Col. James R. Risner.
“While I was being interrogated the first couple of weeks, when it was pretty darned intense, I thought so much about Robbie Risner,” Harris said. “Mentally, I put Robbie Risner on a stool right beside me. It was my greatest effort to not do or say anything that he would not approve of. That really helped me.”
Risner was later captured, and confirmed the birth of Harris’ son after another POW first relayed the news through the tap code.
As the U.S. began its withdrawal from Vietnam, almost 600 POWs returned home in 1973, and Harris was finally released on Feb. 12. As he looked forward to his reunion with his family at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, one question remained in his mind: the reception with his children after eight years of captivity, especially the 8-year-old son he’d never met.
When Harris stepped into the quarters where his family was waiting, Robin and Carolyn squealed and ran to his arms. “Oh, thank you, Lord,” he said, “they haven’t forgotten.” But when he saw Lyle for the first time, his son didn’t hug him back. However, about a half-hour later, as his father opened his arms, Lyle ran across the room and fell into his embrace.
After eight years, Harris had the answers to all of his questions.
It’s well known that many U.S. service members join the military to protect their country from its enemies and to serve a higher purpose. It’s a calling that’s drawn millions of Americans into uniform over the nation’s history.
But when the bullets start flying, most of those higher-minded motivations are stripped away, and it becomes about protecting that buddy at your side. It’s a bond unlike any other.
While often this camaraderie manifests itself in acts of courage during battle, it can also shine in private moments of tenderness and respect — even under life-threatening stress.
In episode one of National Geographic’s amazing series “Inside Combat Rescue,” there’s a short scene that shows this inseparable bond — one that many might miss as the action of a medical evacuation swirls across the screen.
As Special Forces soldiers load their severely-wounded comrade — the team’s medic — on the Black Hawk MEDEVAC, each takes a second to kiss their fellow soldier before he’s flown to a field hospital.
It’s in those few seconds — barely noticeable by most viewers — that the true bond between combat veterans is on display (the video is cropped to the specific scene).
The Navy will deploy its first underwater drones from Virginia-class attack submarines for the first time in history later this year, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare said Monday.
The deployment will include the use of the Remus 600 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, or UUVs, performing undersea missions in strategic locations around the globe, Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, told Military.com at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space annual symposium at National Harbor, Md.
“Now you are talking about a submarine CO who can essentially be in two places at the same time – with a UUV out deployed which can do dull, dirty and dangerous type missions. This allows the submarine to be doing something else at the same time,” Tofalo said. “UUVs can help us better meet our combatant command demand signal. Right now, we only meet about two-thirds of our combatant commanders demand signals and having unmanned systems is a huge force multiplier.”
The Remus 600 is a 500-pound, 3.25-meter long UUV equipped with dual-frequency side-scanning sonar technology, synthetic aperture sonar, acoustic imaging, video cameras and GPS devices, according to information from its maker, Hyrdoid.
The Remus 600 is similar to the BLUEFIN Robotics UUVs, such as the BLUEFIN 21, that were used to scan the ocean floor in search of the wreckage of the downed Malaysian airliner last year.
The upcoming deployment of the Remus 600 is part of a larger Navy effort to use existing commercial off-the-shelf technology, Tofalo explained.
“We’re using commercial off-the-shelf technologies to do real world missions for the combatant commander. The oil and gas industry uses these things for all kinds of functions. The submarine force will be adapting this. The sensors are similar to the sensors that the oil and gas industry might use. They might be surveying where their oil pipes are, whereas we might want to be looking for a mine field,” Tofalo said.
The Remus 600s will launch from a 11-meter long module on the Virginia-class submarines called the dry deck shelter which can launch divers and UUVs while submerged.
Sonar technology uses acoustic or sound-wave technology to bounce signals off an object and analyze their return to learn the size, shape, distance and dimensions, Tofalo explained.
“It is similar to radar (electromagnetic) except from an acoustic standpoint. Sonar sensors use acoustics to create a picture that a trained operator can use to discern what they are looking at. It has gotten so good that it is almost like looking at a picture,” he added.
Alongside efforts to make preparations for the first deployment of commercially available UUVs from the Virginia-class attack submarines, the Navy is also planning at-sea tests this year of a UUV launching technology which uses the boat’s torpedo tubes. The at-sea test will examine the technological interface between a UUV and the missile tube as a launcher, Tofalo explained.
The Navy has been working on developing an 85-foot long section of the Virginia-class submarines called the Virginia Payload Modules. This would help submarines launch both missiles and UUVs from the submarine.
“For the large diameter UUV itself, what we want to have is an interface that allows it to come out of that Virginia Payload Module tube. To do that we need an arm that can extend itself with a little platform that can extend itself and go to the vertical,” Tofalo said.
At the same time, the Office of Naval Research is preparing to unveil a new autonomous 30-foot UUV prototype called the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, or LDUUV.
The LDUUV is a prototype which may take a variety of different forms in coming years as the technology evolves, said Bob Freeman, ONR spokesman. The LDUUV is being engineered for greater endurance and energy, he added. It will also be autonomous and able to navigate itself through the undersea domain.
Alongside UUVs, the Navy is also experimenting with launching aerial drones from submarines as well, Tofalo said.
The service is testing the Switchblade, which can launch from a small signal injector tube from the side of the submarine. The Switchblade, built by AeroVironment, is a battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicle that can carry three pounds worth of explosives, Tofalo added.
He added that the Navy is also testing a longer-endurance submarine-launched UAV called XFC, an acronym for experimental fuel cell. XFC, which can be launched from a torpedo tube, can stay in the air for nine to ten hours.
“These are ways that a submarine can extend its horizon. They have been tested and we’re continuing to work on making them more definitive programs of record,” Tofalo said.
Here’s the Remus 600 being deployed from a surface ship:
Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.
As the Islamic State group loses its remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is facing a growing chorus of questions from NATO allies and partners about what the next steps will be in the region to preserve peace and ensure the militants don’t rise again.
Heading into a week of meetings with Nordic countries and allies across Europe, Mattis must begin to articulate what has been a murky American policy on how the future of Syria unfolds.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Finland, Mattis said the main question from US allies is: what comes next? And he said the key is to get the peace process on track.
“We’re trying to get this into the diplomatic mode so we can get things sorted out,” said Mattis, who will meet with NATO defense ministers later this week. “and make certain (that) minorities — whoever they are — are not just subject to more of what we’ve seen” under Syrian President Bashar Assad until now.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late October repeated Washington’s call for Assad to surrender control, looking past recent battlefield gains by his Russian-backed forces to insist that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”
Tillerson made the comments after meeting with the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who later announced plans to resume UN-mediated peace talks Nov. 28. It will be the eighth such round under his mediation in Geneva since early 2016.
Mattis said intelligence assessments two to three months ago made it clear that the Islamic State group was “going down.” He said information based on the number of IS individuals taken prisoner and the number of fighters who were getting wounded or were deserting the group made it clear that “the whole bottom was dropping out.”
But while he said the effort now is to get the diplomatic process shifted to Geneva and the United Nations, he offered few details that suggest the effort is moving forward.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
In addition to the diplomatic efforts, Mattis said the US is still working to resolve conflicts with Russia in the increasingly crowded skies over the Iraq and Syria border, where a lot of the fighting has shifted.
On Nov. 3, Assad’s military announced the capture of the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed victory in retaking the town of Qaim on the border, the militants’ last significant urban area in Iraq.
Focus has now turned to Boukamal, the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops —backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.
The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.
Mattis said that as forces close in, the fighting is getting “much more complex,” and there is a lot of effort on settling air space issues with the Russians.
He also declined to say whether the US will begin to take back weapons provided to Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG. The US has argued that the YPG has been the most effective fighting group in the battle to oust IS from Raqqa, but Turkey opposed the arming effort because it believes the YPG is linked to a militant group in Turkey.
The US has pledged to carefully monitor the weapons, to insure that they don’t make their way to the hands of insurgents in Turkey, known as the PKK. The US also considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and has vowed it would never provide weapons to that group.
Turkish officials have said that Mattis reassured them by letter that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back and that the US would provide Turkey with a regular list of arms given to the fighters.
While in Finland, Mattis will attend a meeting of a dozen northern European nations, which are primarily concerned about threats from Russia.
“They are focused on the north,” said Mattis, adding that he plans to listen to their thoughts on the region and determine how the US can help, including what types of training America could provide.
“It is an opportunity to reiterate where we stand by our friends,” said Mattis, “if any nation, including Russia, seeks to undermine the rules of international order.”
During a press briefing later on Nov. 6, Denmark Defense Minister Claus Hjord Frederiksen told reporters that allies must continue to be present in the region because of the risk that IS would rise again.
“We’re not so naive that we think that terrorism is removed from this earth, but of course it is very important to have taken geographical areas from them so they can’t attack or rob or whatever — using the income from oil production to finance their activities,” said Frederiksen. “We foresee therefore years ahead we will have to secure that they cannot gain new ground there.”
This Episode tells the tale of two American pilots of World War II. One, R.T. Smith, was a fighter ace in Burma flying P-40s with the legendary Flying Tigers. He recorded 9 confirmed victories, aiding the Chinese in their conflict with Japan. The other, Al Freiburger, was a bomber pilot in Europe flying B-26 Marauders with his unit, the Silver Streaks. He logged numerous missions in the twin engine, medium bomber including key bombing runs on D-Day. Both men were engaging characters with very unique and dramatic war time experiences.
Six US air strikes on an ISIL desert camp in Libya killed 17 fighters and destroyed three vehicles, the first American attack in Libya since President Donald Trump took office in January.
US Africa Command said in a statement on Sept. 24 that strikes on Sept. 22 targeted a camp 240km southeast of Sirte, a city that was once the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stronghold in Libya.
The camp was used to move fighters in and out of Libya, plot attacks, and store weapons, the statement said.
“ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks,” it said, using another acronym for ISIL.
The strikes were carried out in coordination with Libya’s Government of National Accord, it added.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the air raids were carried out by armed drones.
The last-known US strike in Libya was on Jan. 19, a day before Trump’s inauguration, when more than 80 ISIL fighters, some believed to be plotting attacks in Europe, died in US air strikes on camps outside Sirte.
That attack was led by two B-2 bombers, which dropped about 100 precision-guided munitions on the camps.
Jonathan Cristol of the World Policy Institute told Al Jazeera it is somewhat surprising that it took the Trump administration this long to act militarily in Libya compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who ramped up air strikes in his final few months as president.
“I think [Trump] has been not as eager to get into a fight in Libya, but he will listen to what the military says. I think we will probably see more strikes,” said Cristol.
“It really represents a target of opportunity where it can be done with little risk to the US. But I certainly don’t anticipate boots on the ground or a broader escalation even if one might become warranted.”
ISIL took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into its most important base outside the Middle East and attracting large numbers of foreign fighters to the city. The group imposed its hard-line rule on residents and extended its control along about 250km of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.
But it struggled to keep a footing elsewhere in Libya and was forced out of Sirte by last December after a six-month campaign led by brigades from the western city of Misrata and backed by US air strikes.
ISIL has shifted to desert valleys and inland hills southeast of Tripoli as it seeks to exploit Libya’s political divisions after their defeat in Sirte.
The United Nations launched a roadmap on Sept. 20 for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the country’s 2011 uprising.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord established under a December 2015 deal never fully materialised in Tripoli, leaving Libya with three competing governments aligned with rival armed alliances.
Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.
But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.
We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.
The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.
From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.
Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.
To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.
Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.
SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.
SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.
CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.
Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.
When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.
Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.
The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.
General Frank “Pete” Everest was a record-setting U.S. Air Force Test pilot. As a fighter pilot in World War II he flew over 150 combat missions. He then went on to lead the Air Force flight test program, flying with other legendary pilots like Chuck Yeager and George Welch.
From 1950 to 1956 he flew an average of eight newly designed aircraft a month, setting records like taking the Bell X-1 to an altitude of 73,000 feet and the X-2 to a speed of over 1900 miles per hour, making him the “fastest man alive” at the time. In this episode Pete Everest tells stories of those pioneering days of experimental aircraft and daring test pilots.
Bob Hoover learned to fly as a teenager in Tennessee, flew over 50 combat missions in World War Two and went on to become a legendary test pilot. Hoover was Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew the chase plane when Yeager first broke the sound barrier. In 1950 he joined North American Aviation as an experimental test pilot, an association that would last 36 years. This Episode is Part 2 of the remarkable story of Bob Hoover, one of the history’s greatest pilots.