“We’re hoping to show that language is a powerful tool, that self-expression is a powerful tool — it’s just as valuable as any rifle you carry or any tool you can put in your pack,” said Marine Corps veteran-turned-actor Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) while introducing a military audience to a performance.
In this VICE News video, Driver and his fellow actors (including Joanne Tucker, Natasha Lyonne, Eric Bogosian, Peter Scolari, Sasheer Zamata, and many more) are followed to bases across the country, and overseas as they perform for military audiences. He also explains his motivation and reasons for giving back to the military community.
Watch this short four-minute video for a quick synopsis:
Or, if you have time, watch the entire 30-minute video:
The SSK .950 JDJ is an absolute beast. Made by SSK Industries, each bullet is over four inches long, weighs over half a pound and costs about $40. There are only three rifles ever made that can fire the round. The weapons weigh between 85 and 120 pounds and produce a recoil capable of injuring its shooter.
Nestled between high mountains on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan, the Korengal Valley has been one of the hardest fought over patches of ground in the War on Terror. 54 Americans have been killed and four Medals of Honor were earned in the valley — or it’s immediate vicinity — while the case for a fifth is under review. One was that of the first living recipient of the award since Vietnam: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta.
Today, the American military rarely moves into the valley, but handpicked Afghan commandos, some trained by the CIA, fight constantly with militants there. The Afghan government maintains offices at the Pech River Valley, the entryway to Korengal. Their police execute raids and patrols in a continuing attempt to shut down or limit the shadow government operating there.
When the American military was there, they faced the same challenges the Afghan forces do today. Some of these dangers are common across Afghanistan, while some only existed in Korengal Valley and the other branches of the Pech River Valley.
The terrain is a nightmare.
Steep mountains, loose shale, thick forests, and open patches of land made the area a nightmare for an occupying force. Combat outposts were built in relatively open areas so that defenders could see approaching militants. However, this meant patrols returning to the base had to cross the open ground, sometimes under heavy small arms fire from nearby wooded areas and houses. The thick trees in the area allowed fighters to attack U.S. forces from cover and concealment.
The attackers would then hide their weapons in the forests and return to the civilian population. The steep hillsides allowed snipers to climb above outposts and fire into the bases as soldiers slept. Loose rock on the steep land led to injuries from trips and falls.
Building new bases — and keeping them resupplied — presented constant challenges.
Tied to the problem of the terrain, engineering in the valley has historically been difficult. To build the infamous Restrepo outpost, soldiers slipped up the hilltop in the night and frantically dug ditches in the dark. Working until dawn, they were barely able to create shallow trenches to lay in before sunlight exposed them to enemy fire. They created the outpost over the following weeks and months, chipping away at the rock and throwing the fragments into bags or Hesco barriers to create walls and fighting positions. Everything in the valley had to be made this way as the hills were too steep to move heavy equipment and there was little dirt or sand to put in the bags and barriers.
Supply was similarly constricted as many vehicles couldn’t make it into the hills. Trucks would move through washed out roads to deliver supplies to positions near the bottom of the valley. Getting food, water, and gear to the tops of the hills required either helicopter lifts or infantry carrying it up on their backs.
Its proximity to Pakistan gives the Taliban a cross-border sanctuary.
The Korengal Valley is located on the border with Pakistan in steep mountains and thick forests where it has served as a major conduit for smugglers for decades, especially during Soviet occupation. The Pakistan side of the border is in the tribal region which has historically served as a recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The valley itself is so inaccessible that the Afghan government temporarily gave up on trying to control it, even before the people began a strong resistance.
The civilian population is largely confrontational toward outsiders.
The Americans in the valley found that the Korengalis were even less hospitable to U.S. and NATO forces than those in most of the war torn country. Most of them follow a sect of Islam known for its particularly conservative and hardline attitudes. They also all speak a dialect that not even their neighbors in the Pech River Valley — which Korengal Valley intersects — can understand. In addition, the Korengalis have a history of lumber smuggling and bad blood with other tribes. Meetings between U.S. and Afghan military leaders and tribal elders were generally tense if not confrontational.
The U.S. faced multiple insurgent groups, along with criminal elements.
Most NATO units faced opposition from multiple factions in their regions, but the Korengal Valley was a high priority for both the Jamaat al Dawa al Quran, or JDQ, and Al Qaeda. JDQ is suspected of having connections to Pakistani intelligence and both groups are certainly well-funded. In addition, local insurgencies cropped up under former timber barons who lost family members and money when the Americans moved in.
The Taliban often used human shields in battle.
Though civilians were used as shields in much of Afghanistan, it was constant in Korengal Valley. Women and children were nearly guaranteed to show up on the roof of any house that came under attack from US forces. Vehicles filled with civilians tested checkpoints, forcing soldiers to choose between firing at potentially unarmed civilians or leaving themselves open to a potential suicide vehicle attack. This drastically limited the ability of U.S. forces to engage the enemy.
In his last few weeks in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the U.S. Embassy in Havana was shut down.
On Jan. 4, 1961, three U.S. Marine security guards were there, lowering the American flag for the last time over the embassy grounds. After 54 years, these same Marines will be with Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the flag once more on Friday.
The re-raising of the flag comes after President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island nation, a historic deal that would reopen the embassy and bring home an American government contractor who had been imprisoned since 2009, The New York Times reported.
In a video produced by the Department of State, the three Marines talk about serving in Cuba on that day, and how they felt about the Cuban people.
“That was a touching moment,” said Gunnery Sgt. F.W. Mike East. “To see ‘Old Glory’ flying the last time in Cuba, that just didn’t seem right. It just seemed like something was wrong, something was missing.”
Air Force Special Operations Command is taking the mantra of “you can never have too much firepower” to heart.
The AC-130 — a modified cargo plane-turned-close air support platform outfitted with a deadly array of weaponry — is about to get a big weapons upgrade, to include another 105mm cannon added to the rear of the plane.
“I want to have two guns,” AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said at a recent Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla, while also calling it “the ultimate battle plane,” according to the Air Force Times.
AFSOC plans to add a 105mm cannon to the rear of the plane. That is in addition to the weapons the aircraft is already slated to carry — dual electro-optical infrared sensors, a 30mm cannon, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, all-weather synthetic aperture radar and GBU-30 small diameter bombs. The package was developed to let the gunship identify friendlies and targets at night and in adverse weather.
The upgraded AC-130J “Ghostrider” is currently in the test phase and is slated to replace the AC-130H “Spectre,” AC-130U “Spooky,” and the AC-130W “Stinger II.”
With sophisticated sensors and electronics, the plane is a favorite among ground troops in need of close air support. The AC-130 was used extensively over the skies of Fallujah in 2004, where a reporter embedded with the Marines there remarked: “It’s the air power that really [tipped] the balance towards the Marines.”
The idea of chowing down on some insects doesn’t sound too appetizing, but when you’re on the brink of starvation, it might be your best option. When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, food sources can get pretty scarce. On top of all that, even if you were to catch a small game animal while enduring the elements, you’d still have to start a fire and cook that sucker to avoid ingesting any nasty parasites.
On the contrary, if you find a source of edible insects, you can just pop them into your mouth and get some lifesaving nutrition. Keep an eye out for these bugs if you find yourself in a bind.
These are probably the most popular insects to munch on. In fact, you’ve probably had a few crawl into your mouth while camping without even knowing it — don’t worry, it happens. You can efficiently collect these nutritious little bugs from their hills. Sure, you’re invading their personal space, but you have to eat, too.
Just make sure they’re not the painful kind first.
That’s good eatin’!
No, we’re not referring to young individuals who are learning martial arts. We’re talking about those little ugly things that jump from seemingly nowhere and land on your arm.
Packed with the protein you need to sustain yourself until you can find help, grasshoppers can be easily collected and stored for a quick snack throughout the day.
Though their name may have you believe otherwise, you can actually eat these suckers if you’re super desperate. Although they don’t look all that enjoyable, like most insects, they’re packed with the energy-providing protein you need to push yourself out of a desolate area.
It’s dinner time!
Another excellent source of protein and energy, termites can be found devouring large pieces of wood. These six-legged pests aren’t know for being filled with parasites, which means they’re good to eat. Once you find a log that’s been hollowed out by these eager eaters, give it a shake and watch them crawl out.
Also known as the “potato bug,” this little thing isn’t technically an insect — it’s actually a terrestrial isopod crustacean. Sure, maybe it doesn’t belong on list of bugs, but it does tastes similar to shrimp. They can be boiled in hot water just before being enjoyed by a struggling camper that’s to hold on for dear life.
Maybe we’re exaggerating a bit, but they do taste better than they look. Trust me.
Shot by First Lt. Mike Scotti on his home camera,and told through the journal entries of Kristian Fraga, “Severe Clear” is a first-person account of the Marines who were on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
“Here is the truth about being a Marine that you won’t find on the local news,” Scotti says behind a jiggling, hand-held camera. “We’re loud. We drink too much, fight too much and swear too much. Truth be told, our rifles are the only things we think about more than sex.”
Watch this brief clip that captures some of the ups and downs of this roller coaster documentary:
After winding down their day at Mojave Viper, these bored Marines did what they do best (besides shooting things): Make fun of their leaders.
This Marine lance corporal made sure his brief was one worth remembering by parroting every dumb cliche from every safety, libo, and release brief ever. Check it out below, but be warned that there is a lot of profanity.
After touring Iraq, Army vet Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.
Tylek told Buzzfeed he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at University of Masssachusettes, Amherst because of his military experience.
justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlay text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls.
Tylek juxtaposes these images with photos of servicemen and women serving overseas, and the results are sometimes hilarious, but more often sobering.
Once a leader of soldiers under fire in Afghanistan, Daniel Rodriguez is now a leader on the football field.
He earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his heroics in Afghanistan, and his story aired on many national shows and programs. Now Rodriguez is in his second season with the Clemson Tigers, attending on the G.I. Bill since 2012.
His 2011 recruiting video attracted the attention of Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, who allowed him to join the Tigers as a walk-on wide receiver. “Like a lot of people, I was mesmerized by the video, his work ethic, and his drive to chase a dream,” Coach Swinney said in the video.
His dream to play college football started with a pact he made with his squad buddy, Pfc. Kevin Thompson, who also aspired to play. But Thompson was killed in the same fight against the Taliban for which Rodriguez earned his awards. Out of the 38 American troops who fought that day, eight were killed and 22 were injured, including Rodriguez. Rodriguez is fueled by this experience and the promise he made to his buddy.
Hosted by Katie Pavlich, “Safe Haven: Gun Free Zones in America” features interviews with a number of experts on self-defense, victims of gun violence, and educators to shine a light on why so-called “gun-free” zones don’t always stay that way.
“It appears that [criminals] are seeking a spot that will keep them from being prevented in accomplishing their mission,” J. Eric Deitz, a homeland security researcher at Purdue University’s College of Technology, says in the documentary. “And if their mission is mass casualties, they’re going to want to be undisturbed in that process until they’ve completed it.”
Deitz provides a computer model that shows the use of armed resource officers along with some citizens with concealed-carry firearms, can often result in fewer people being killed by an active shooter. As others mention in the film, the researcher talks about police response time not being fast enough to stop a shooting in progress.
It’s not just a pool of pro-gun advocates, however. There are some interviewees who think arming people in schools may not be the best approach. Via Guns.com:
The problem with hiring more guards in schools across the country is that “you’re starting to look another $15 billion a year,” said Steven Strauss, a Weinberg/Goldman Sachs visiting professor of public policy at Princeton University.
Strauss said that the amount of school shootings is so small thatthe probability someone’s child will be killed over the course of a year is one in several million.
“Shooting incidents at schools is so low that you run into a real risk that the cure is going to be worse than the disease,” Strauss said.
Although a large part of the documentary focuses on high-profile mass shootings such as in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo., it also features a heartbreaking interview with Amanda Collins, who recounts being raped while she walked to her car after class at the University of Nevada-Reno.
“My story is not that uncommon,” Colins says. “I could have defended myself.”
Grabbed from behind in a parking garage less than 100 yards from the classroom she just left, Collins didn’t have her licensed firearm at the time because her university was a gun-free zone. She was worried about expulsion from school and jail time, she says, but her rapist did have a gun.
“I’m not saying I could have prevented the rape from starting with the way that I was grabbed,” she says. “But I know that I would have been able to stop it.”
The Nazis had plans to blow up the Hoover Dam during World War II, in an effort to cripple aircraft manufacturing in Los Angeles.
Born out of the Great Depression and completed in 1935, the dam was the largest ever built and stood as a symbol of America’s ability to overcome adversity. It fueled Southern California’s incredible growth – its large cities, its industrial base, its massive agricultural industry, and the nation’s biggest defense plants, according to the National Archives.
This video from American Heroes Channel gives an idea of what happened:
Fortunately, the government was tipped off to the plot and upped security in the area. But it kept fears of the plot secret for more than 60 years, until a historian unearthed documents while doing research at the National Archives, according to Mental Floss.