MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

A man who lost his wife in Iran’s January 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet says he fled the country after being pressured by authorities for criticizing the way the government handled the tragedy.


Javad Soleimani’s wife, Elnaz Nabiyi, was among 176 people killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) missile attack against the civilian airliner.

He says he was summoned by Iranian intelligence agents for “insulting” state officials.

“I decided to leave the country as soon as possible because I wasn’t the person to go to their office and apologize for my criticism, so I decided to leave Iran immediately and be the voice of the victims and their families,” Soleimani said in a January 30 interview with Canada’s CBC News Network.

Soleimani, a postgraduate student at the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says Iranian authorities also interfered in his wife’s funeral to prevent potential protests.

“They didn’t let us have our own funeral. They controlled everything because they were afraid of any protest against the government,” Soleimani said, adding that his family tolerated the pressure “because our first priority was to bury my wife.”

The IRGC admitted three days after the tragedy that it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, saying the incident was the result of a “human mistake.” Iran says an investigation has been launched and that arrests have been made.

But so far, no official has resigned over the tragedy — which occurred just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq as retaliation for the January 3 assassination of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike.

Tehran’s admission after three days of persistent denials spawned protests in the Iranian capital and other cities, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Javad Soleimani says senior officials, including Khamenei, should be held responsible for the crash. He says many Iranians were upset that Khamenei did not personally apologize for the loss of innocent lives.

“When you kill someone intentionally or unintentionally, the first thing to do is to say, ‘I apologize.’ But [Khamenei] didn’t say it, and he made people in Iran angry and more upset,” Soleimani told CBC News.

He says he also was upset that Iranian authorities referred to his wife as a “martyr.”

“They said the victims are martyrs and they wrote down congratulations,” he complained. “It was terrible.”

Alireza Ghandchi, whose wife, daughter, and son were killed in the plane crash, said those responsible should face justice.

“We would not accept it if [authorities] find an individual and say he mistakenly pushed the button” in order to end the case, Ghandchi said in a January 10 interview with the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

persian.iranhumanrights.org

“It’s my right to know [who was responsible] and ask for them to be put on trial,” Ghandchi said.

Ghandchi said regime agents were present at his family’s funeral at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery.

He said authorities have neither pressured his family nor provided any support.

“The government didn’t give us any support, except for using the term ‘martyr’ and creating somewhat better conditions for us during the burial. That is all,” he said.

Ghandchi said the term “martyr,” which is used in Iran to describe soldiers killed during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, should not be used when referring to the victims of the plane downing.

“The term martyr is used for people who are [killed] in a war in conditions when there’s an enemy. But it’s not correct to use it when referring to my children, who were returning [to Canada] from their trip,” he said.

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash, said officials at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport harassed the relatives of victims when they left Iran to attend memorial services in Canada.

“Let the family members leave to attend the funerals with ease. It is none of your business if Canada has easily issued entry visas within hours for the relatives,” Esmaeilion said on Facebook on January 27.

Esmaeilion did not provide more details about why he thinks relatives of the victims are being harassed.

Other reports suggest some relatives of victims were told by authorities not to speak to Farsi-language media based outside the country but were encouraged to speak to Iran’s tightly controlled media.

“They said, ‘Come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,'” one mother who lost her son in the tragedy told the news site Iranwire.com on January 15.

“I said, ‘You want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash [this for] you’.”

Khamenei on January 17 accused Iran’s “enemies” of using the Ukrainian airline tragedy to question the Islamic republic and the IRGC, which he said “maintained the security” of Iran.

In his first public remarks about the incident, Khamenei said on January 17 that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was a “bitter accident” that “burned through our heart.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Sub thriller ‘Hunter Killer’ might be banned in Russia, Ukraine

The Russian and Ukrainian release of a Hollywood action film in which U.S. soldiers rescue a Russian president during a coup attempt has been postponed, and some reports suggest it could be banned in both countries due to its content.

Released in the United States in October 2018, the movie Hunter Killer, starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler, tells the story of a team of U.S. Navy Seals that rescues a Russian president taken hostage by his rogue defense minister — thus averting World War III.


Russian distributor Megogo Distribution asked cinemas not to show the thriller ahead of the scheduled premiere on Oct. 31, 2018, saying it had still not received a screening license.

The Culture Ministry, which issues licenses, said the company had provided an incomplete package of documents.

There was no official explanation for the delay of Hunter Killer in neighboring Ukraine, where the movie failed to open as scheduled in October 2018.

Megogo Distribution said in a letter “we still do not have any response from the [Russian] Culture Ministry” about the screening license, according to a report by industry publication Film Distributor Bulletin.

Hunter Killer (2018 Movie) Official Trailer – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common

www.youtube.com

This is despite the fact that all the materials and documents regarding Hunter Killer have been submitted in advance and the ministry previously had no objections to the film’s release, the distributor added.

The Culture Ministry told the AFP news agency that it had withheld a screening license for the film because Megogo Distribution did not show confirmation that it “transferred the film for permanent storage in the Russian state film fund [archive]” — a key prerequisite for obtaining a screening license.

The only copy the ministry received from the company was “of an insufficient quality,” it also said.

In a Facebook post, former Duma deputy and opposition figure Dmitry Gudkov wrote that the ministry could be blocking the movie for suggesting that President Vladimir Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999, could be ousted.

In 2018, the Culture Ministry banned The Death of Stalin — a satirical British movie about the Soviet dictator — from cinemas, describing it as extremist, mendacious, and insulting to the Russian nation. The decision provoked international ridicule and heated debates in Russia over freedom of expression.

The Death of Stalin – Trailer

www.youtube.com

In Ukraine, an unidentified representative of film distributor Kinomania told AFP that Hunter Killer, which was initially due to open on Oct. 25, 2018, “fell under some law and was banned.”

‘Saving Private Putin’

A representative of the State Film Committee (Derzhkino) said the decision was “being reviewed and will be published soon.”

Reports cited a Ukrainian law that bans films that give a positive image of the Russian security forces and their representatives.

Social media commentators in Ukraine also saw parallels between the movie and real life.

“Saving Private Putin,” one of them wrote mockingly on Facebook, referring to Steven Spielberg’s 1998 epic war film Saving Private Ryan.

Ties between Moscow and Kyiv have dramatically deteriorated since Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014.

Russia is also backing separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?

Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.


Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.

Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.

The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”

Staff Sgt. Christian King-Lincoln tries on a headset that is providing neurostimulation from a wireless transmitter behind him. The stimulation is not going through his ear pads, but instead through an array of small flexible inducers along the adjustable headband.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)


Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:

— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.

— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.

— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.

— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.

“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.

“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”

Creating high performers

Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.

The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.

“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.

Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.

The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.

Dr. Aaron Gardony, cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, points out the type of headset that is normally used for neurostimulation research.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)

Innovative partnership

The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.

The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.

About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.

The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.

The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.

Special ops interest

The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.

Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.

In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.

Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States moves to block its oil exports, the Foreign Ministry says.

“If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the government news agency IRNA on July 24, 2018.

The United States has told countries that they must stop buying Iranian oil or face consequences.



The warning came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

The deal with six world powers provided Iran with some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rohani’s suggestion that Iran may block oil exports from the Persian Gulf if its own exports are stopped.

President Hassan Rohani

Tensions have increased between the two countries in past days.

Trump warned Rohani on Twitter earlier this week to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The tweet appeared to be in response to Rohani saying any conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”

Tehran dismissed Trump’s warning on Twitter, which he wrote in capital letters.

Mimicking Trump’s tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied, “UNIMPRESSED … We’ve been around for millennia seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Speaking on July 24, 2018, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump’s tweet did not deserve a response, saying his comments were “undiplomatic and demagogic.”

“The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Larijani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Humor

9 weapon fails that will make you shake your head

Shooting a weapon is an incredible experience that you never forget. Squeezing that trigger can make any gun owner smile from ear-to-ear.


On the other hand, many gun owners have no freakin’ clue how to hold the weapon and accurately fire it at a target without getting hurt.

Properly handling weapons is not that hard, but for some reason, lots of people just don’t get it. They forget the first rule: safety is key.

There are safety rules put in place for a reason, but countless people throughout the globe treat their weapons as if they were toys — and many end up having accidents in the process.

Related: This is the upgrade M2 Browning fans have been waiting for

1. We wish all enemy forces were a dumb as this guy.

How long have we been at war with these guys? (Image via Giphy)

2. And the award for best shooting position goes to…

We call this is the “rock squat.” (Image via Giphy)

3. What an excellent way to hold a rifle.

We are curious what the hell he was aiming at. (Image via Giphy)

4. He should have worn cargo pants.

At least he was wearing underwear. (Image via Giphy)

5. A good reason why it’s important to properly stow all of your weapons safely.

Everyone is a badass until shit gets real. (Image via Giphy)

6. Pointing your weapon down range is one of the most important aspects of hitting your target. You don’t become a marksman by shooting the damn ground.

Pew pew pew. (Image via Giphy)

7. When your dog handles a weapon better than you do.

This isn’t a weapon fail, it’s just freakin’ funny. (Image via Giphy)

8. Do we really need to reinvent the electric toothbrush?

Introducing the airsoft powered toothbrush. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

9. Well, at least that soldier almost threw the grenade three feet.

They take training for war to the next level. (Image via Giphy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD making steady progress on Space Force plans

Space is a crucial domain that the United States must continue to exploit and lead in, said Vice President Mike Pence at the fourth meeting of the National Space Council at Fort Lesley J. McNair on Oct. 24, 2018.

“Space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Pence said. “And America will be as dominant there as we are, here on Earth.”

This is the basis for President Donald J. Trump’s creation of the United States Space Force, which would be the sixth branch of the military, the vice president said.


Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called this “the next and natural evolution” of America’s military. The new service “is absolutely necessary to ensure American supremacy in space,” he said. “The U.S. military is the best in the world in space, but our adversaries have taken note and are actively developing and fielding capabilities to potentially deny our usage of space in crisis or war.”

Space Force

Also pushing this is the growth in capacity and capabilities of the commercial space industry, which has moved forward in ways never imagined, Shanahan said. “President Trump has directed that a response to the threats from adversaries and the opportunities of commercial space be combined to generate a solution — the Space Force,” he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

The department will submit a legislative proposal in the coming weeks, and the deputy secretary called that “a significant lift.”

“The legislative proposal will embody our guiding principles, speed and effectiveness,” he said. “Speed in leveraging commercial space technology and resources. Speed in escaping red tape. Speed in fielding capabilities sooner. It will reflect our drive to be more effective — effective in maximizing how we are more integrated technically to unlock our ability to be united in our space operations. Effective in creating a solution, and then together — not singularly — leveraging the solutions across the enterprise. Effective in how we structure the Space Force.”

DOD is considering the cost of the venture.

Space Development Agency

The department is also working on the Space Development Agency. The agency will leverage technology, standards, and architecture to enable unparalleled integration, he said. “The effort now is on reconciling capabilities prioritized by the National Defense Strategy with the readiness of technology, anchored by our assumptions on how quickly we can scale,” Shanahan said.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the council that all members of the Joint Chiefs support the stand up of a combatant command for space. The command will focus DOD activities and the department’s development of doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures in the domain. The command will also focus discussions on “the authorities, responsibilities, and rules of engagement for conduct in space, for the conduct of defensive and offensive operations to protect our constellation, to fight our constellation, and to support our war fighters in all domains, and across all domains, as we protect our ability to deploy civil, commercial, and military space, to the benefit of the nation,” Selva said.

Seeking strategic advantage

This is needed, said Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence. “The intelligence community applauds the redoubled emphasis on ensuring and protecting our strategic advantage in this domain that is so necessary to our national interests,” she said. “But it’s a strategic advantage that our adversaries and competitors would seek to diminish.

Intelligence analysts believe Russia and China continue to focus on establishing operational forces designed to attack U.S. space systems. “Space is a priority warfighting domain for them, as demonstrated by the creation of dedicated space organizations over the past several years,” she said. “Russian and Chinese destructive antisatellite weapons will probably reach initial operating capability in the next few years. And both these countries are advancing directed energy weapons technologies for the purpose of fielding anti-satellite weapons that could blind or damage our sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”

Russia and China also continue to launch experimental satellites to advance counter-space capabilities. “If a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would probably justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new combat-ready unmanned warship

China has launched a new “world-leading unmanned warship” that is supposedly ready for combat, Chinese media reports.

The JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, a new product of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is 50 feet in length and displaces 20 tons. Chinese media reports that this ship is capable of conducting the same missions as China’s Type 052 destroyers, namely air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions.

Chinese military observers refer to China’s latest development as a “mini Aegis-class destroyer” because of its radars, vertically-launched missiles and torpedoes, the Global Times reports, referencing the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, many of which are equipped with powerful Aegis radars, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.


“This is [People’s Liberation Army] vaporware,” Bryan Clark, a US defense expert and former naval officer, told Insider, referencing technology that is a bit more conceptual than meaningfully applicable.

“The boat is very similar to commercially-available unmanned harbor patrol vessels,” he said.

“Like those boats, there is a mount on the forward deck that would normally carry a machine gun. It may also have some vertically-launched rockets or small missiles in cells on the rear deck or behind the gun.”

China has yet to say what type of missions this vessel might conduct. “This boat doesn’t have the range for operations very far from Chinese territory. Therefore, it may only be good for patrolling around China’s islands in the South China Sea or around Chinese ports,” he said.

China first revealed a model of the JARI unmanned warship last year in South Africa at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, where a China industry representative explained to Navy Recognition that the medium-sized vessel is propelled by a single water jet, has a maximum speed of 42 knots, and has a maximum range of 500 nautical miles.

The model showed a 30mm main gun with eight vertical launch systems behind the cannon and two light torpedo launchers on each side of the superstructure.

Another model was again showcased at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi back in February, where Defense News noted that the vessel included an electro-optical sensor, a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, and a rocket launcher, among the previously-mentioned features.

It is unclear how many of these features have been effectively incorporated into the final design. There are actually quite a few uncertainties surrounding this technology.

Seth Cropsey, a seapower expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that China is getting better and better at technology but said there are questions of “how soon the Chinese can field this, what its real capabilities are versus what its advertised capabilities are and, this is important, how many of these things they are going to put out to sea.”

The JARI can, the Global Times reports, be controlled remotely or operate autonomously, although more testing is required before it can fully do the latter. Chinese military analysts have talked about this vessel being used with other drone ships to create a swarm.

The US military has experimented with small crewless swarm boats, as well as medium-sized unmanned surface vessels like the Sea Hunter.

Earlier this month, the US Navy expressed an interest in the development of a large unmanned surface vessel, “a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”

The Navy has said that it is pursuing “a balance of high-end, survivable manned platforms with a greater number of complementary, more affordable, potentially more cost-imposing, and attritable options.”

Expert observers suspect the new revelation is a response to US Navy plans. “I believe one of the drivers for this rollout from the PLA is the US Navy’s recent announcement of its proposed Large USV,” Clark told Insider.

Cropsey explained that “this is a start” for the Chinese, but added that “it doesn’t really compare to what we’re planning.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The stakes are high for American veterans fighting ISIS

People enlist in the military for a number of reasons, ranging from anywhere between the insane, “I love shooting stuff” to the more pragmatic, “I need the college money.” Many of us also join because it’s the right thing to do — at least, in our minds. Many who joined the U.S. military in the days following the September 11th attacks are looking down the barrel at their 20-year anniversary. Others joined because the rise of ISIS gave a clear picture of what evil looks like in this world.

Some needed a more direct route to the fight against ISIS. So, they traveled through Iraq or elsewhere to get to Syria, where they could join the Kurdish YPG, the People’s Protection Units, and the YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, to form the front line against ISIS onslaught in Syria.

You can now actually watch the struggle to liberate the people of Iraq and Syria from the grips of the Islamic State. Hunting ISIS is on History every week on Tuesday at 11pm and it is a no-holds-barred look at the Westerners with the Kurds. Watch the pain and horror of those who suffer under ISIS as well as the elation of civilians and children as their homes are liberated.


The series follows a lot of vets around, but features primarily PJ, a Marine Corps veteran, and his team of Western volunteers as well as Pete, from New Jersey, who leads a team of medics supporting Peshmerga fighters in Iraq.

The lives of American combat veterans fighting ISIS in Syria was documented by camera crews who followed them through checkpoints and training and into their front-line lives in Syria. They came from all over America and all walks of life. Some picked up where they left off as veterans of the Iraq War and others simply wanted to stop the reign of terror, theft, rape, extortion, and violence that comes with ISIS occupation.


It takes a lot of ammo.
(History)

But they’re risking a whole lot more than their lives — they could be risking their own freedom.

United States law says anyone who “enlists or enters himself, or hires or retains another to enlist or enter himself, or to go beyond the jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or entered in the service of any foreign prince, state, colony, district, or people as a soldier or as a marine or seaman … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

But that all depends on the interpretation. In the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Wiborg v. United States, the Court held that it was only illegal if the American was recruited into a foreign service. In the case of Wiborg, Americans armed themselves and made their way to Cuba to train and assist Cuban rebels fighting Spain while the U.S. was at peace with Spain.

The Kurds don’t actively recruit Western fighters, but they also don’t have a state. The Kurds are the world’s largest ethnic minority without a country of their own. Before the ISIS war, there were some 23 million Kurds in the region. But that all depends on how the Kurdish armed forces act on their own. The Peshmerga in Iraq is a pro-Western fighting force. But the Kurdish YPG in Syria – home of the International Brigades – is considered a terrorist organization by America’s NATO ally, Turkey.

(History)

You may remember the name John Walker Lindh, an American captured fighting with the Taliban in the days after 9/11. One of the key components to his defense was that he was in the armed forces of another state – the Taliban were the recognized government in Afghanistan – and that he personally didn’t attempt to join al-Qaeda or attack the United States.

The exact number of Americans and other western volunteers fighting ISIS isn’t known for sure, but the Kurds know most of them are military veterans. Though considered terrorists by Turkey, the United States considers all Kurdish forces to be an essential part of the fight against ISIS.

The one thing that is clear is that they can expect no direct help from U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The military and State Department are not obligated to aid volunteers in the two countries (American volunteers have, in fact, been turned away by the U.S. military). If they were caught at the checkpoints on their way back, they would go straight to a local jail.

Articles

How to bring down an AT-AT with an A-10

If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.


And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?

Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:

Strategy 1: Punch out the walker’s teeth

The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the “head” will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.

This won’t take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.

Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker’s fuel slug

An A-10 fires an AGM-65 Maverick missile in training. (Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine)

The walkers use a solid “slug” of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.

To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker’s 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.

Even if the missile doesn’t make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.

Strategy 3: Cripple its feet

On Agamar, Jedi brought down an Imperial walker by blowing up relatively small explosives near its vulnerable feet. (GIF: YouTube/Super Star Wars)

Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the “feet” to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren’t particularly strong.

In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.

While A-10s don’t have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.

Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.

Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm

(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.

This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don’t get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.

Strategy 5: Cut its head off

Watch out for falling debris. (GIF: YouTube/Cervisia Spark)

In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT’s flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.

Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn’t known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there’s no reason to think that an A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger couldn’t punch through this vulnerable section.

To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army veteran Nathan Goncalves

On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.

While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.


Rough transition

However, Goncalves’ transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys–involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.

But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.

Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income veterans.

Equal Justice Works Responds to Veteran Crisis

www.youtube.com

Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Punisher is so beloved by the military

The Marvel Comics universe has such a wide and diverse assortment of characters that there’s a superhero for everyone. Within that vast collection of characters, there are many heroes who have military backgrounds, each of which represents a different aspect of military service. Captain America, for example, is remisicient the soldier who’s willing to lay down his life for the betterment of mankind. Falcon is the airman who’s always going to help his fellow veteran. Even the Coast Guard gets a champion in Spectrum, who’s always going to protect the homefront.

But you don’t usually see Cap’s shield spray painted by troops onto the sides of Hesco barriers while deployed — but you’ll definitely see the Punisher’s skull. It doesn’t matter which branch a troop serves in; universally, troops find more in common with the vigilante anti-hero whose only real power is shootin’ real good than they do with some morally-unwavering, genetically-enhanced super soldier.


The rest of the heroes can handle all the big superhero fights. The Punisher is after all the scum the caped heroes won’t touch and he’ll make sure they stay down.

(Marvel Comics)

Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher, is a very deep character. In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, he was actually an antagonist pitted against our favorite wall-crawler. He’s hired to kill Spider-Man by a villain seeking revenge for the death of Norman Osborn (known as the Green Goblin by most), which was pinned on Spidey. Castle puts up a good fight, but eventually has a heart-to-heart with Parker. He reveals his frustrations with being a vigilante killer, but it’s something, in his mind, that has to be done sometimes.

Many writers have penned fantastic stories for the Punisher since his 1974 debut, but throughout them all, the heart of the character remains the same. He’s a highly-skilled Marine Corps veteran who lost his family to criminals and is forced into taking extra-judiciary measures to ensure the killers can’t strike again. From storyline to storyline, Castle dons his infamous white skull on black gear and puts a bullet into the worst of the worst of the Marvel universe.

He’s not a typical hero — he definitely commits countless crimes for the sake of good — but he’s also not a villain. He will go out of his way to not harm the innocent. He’ll gather information on whoever he’s going after to know if they’re really evil, he’ll spare any low-level bad guy who wants to surrender, and (perhaps the most prominent piece of evidence against villainy) he never enjoys killing.

He’s comfortable with it, and his mind is at ease knowing someone innocent is safe because of his actions, but he has never been shown, in all of his 45-year-long comic history, enjoying the act of killing. That’s what separates him from the psychotic villains he encounters. It’s his duty to protect the innocent. It’s his burden to have to do terrible things to make it so. That’s something many troops can get behind.

It also helps that he truly encapsulates the rest of the minor moments that come with being a veteran. Like his monologue in Daredevil season 2.

For all intents and purposes, Chris Kyle was the real-life Punisher. No ifss, ands, or buts.

Another key element of the Punisher that’s enjoyed by fans is the famous skull logo. You can’t drive around a barracks parking lot without seeing a lifted Ford F-150 with adorned with a Punisher decal modified to have either the U.S. flag pattern or the “Back the Blue” stripe incorporated.

Related: Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Though the skull has its origins in comic book, it’s taken on an entirely new meaning with the troops. It’s now a brand for anyone willing to stand for what’s right. Sure, Captain America’s shield might be a more apt symbol for that, but the Punisher’s skull has more of an impactful meaning easily caught by the viewer.

Chris Kyle explained his use of the skull best in his autobiography, American Sniper:

“Our Comms guy suggested it before the deployment. We all thought what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him. That’s what we were all about. So we adapted his symbol  — a skull — and made it our own, with some modifications. We spray-painted it on our Hummers and body armor, and our helmets and all our guns. And we spray-painted it on every building or wall we could. We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to f*ck with you… It was our version of PsyOps. You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us. Because we will kill you, mother f*cker. You are bad — we are badder.
MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s the story of how Stan Lee cameos started

UrselD: How did the Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel movies thing start?

Born Stanley Martin Lieber almost a century ago in 1922, the man who would become far better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, was born into a family of very modest means with Stan, his brother, and Romanian immigrant parents sharing a single room apartment in New York during the 1930s.

As Lee would recall, “I grew up in New York City during the Depression. My earliest recollections were of my parents, Jack and Celia Lieber, talking about what they would do if they didn’t have the rent money. Luckily, we were never evicted. But my father was unemployed most of the time. He had been a dress cutter, and during the Depression, there wasn’t much need for dress cutters. So I started working when I was still in high school. I was an office boy, I was an usher, I wrote obituaries for celebrities while they were still alive. Lots of jobs.”


Showing an interest in writing from his teens, Lee’s mother was his #1 fan at that time, “She thought I was the greatest thing on two feet. I’d come home with a little composition I had written at school and she’d look at it and say, “It’s wonderful! You’re another Shakespeare!” I always assumed I could do anything. It really is amazing how much that has to do with your attitude.”

Stan Lee in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

In 1939 at the age of 17, Lee landed a job with a company owned by his cousin, Jean Goodman’s, husband, Martin Goodman. The company was called Timely Publications. While the pay wasn’t much, a mere per week (about 7 today), it was potentially a path to a professional writing gig, though not quite the one he originally envisioned for himself.

He states,

When I got there, I found out that the opening was in the comic book department. Apparently, I was the only guy who had applied for the job. I figured it might be fun. So I became a gofer — there were only two guys, Joe Simon, the editor, and Jack Kirby, the artist. They were the creators of Captain America, and that’s what they were working on at the time. I would fill the inkwells, go down and buy lunch, and erase pages and proofread.

Two years into the job, he was finally granted a chance to write filler text in the 1941 Captain America #3 comic. Called, Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge, the story, along with being warmly received by fans, introduced the idea of Captain America being able to throw and ricochet his trademark shield, now a defining aspect of the character. It was also the first comic in which Lieber, as he was then known, wrote under the pseudonym Stan Lee. According to Lee, he chose not to write under his then real name since he still hoped to one day write “proper literature” and had dreams of writing the “great American novel”. Thus, he didn’t want his name to be sullied by his work in comics.

Plans changed, however, when he randomly got a promotion to head editor of the comic department at just 19 years old.

[Simon and Kirby] were fired for some reason. Martin had no one to run the department. He said to me, “Can you do it?” I was [19]. When you’re [19], what do you know? I said, “Sure, I can do it.” Martin must have forgotten about me, because he just left me there. I loved it. I was so young, it was sometimes embarrassing. Someone would come into the office and see me there and say, “Hey, kid, can I see the editor?”

At this point, in order to give the illusion of a large staff, Lee took to using a variety of other pseudonyms as well.

In 1942, a temporary editor was hired while Lee served in the US Army with the Signal Corps. He never saw combat, instead working at repairing communications equipment and later writing field manuals and military slogans as a part of the Training Film Division. Also in that division were the likes of Frank Capra, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and the creator of The Addam’s Family, Charles Addams.

Despite being in the army, Lee still kept up with his work at Timely as best he could from afar, with weekly letters mailed to him explaining exactly what he needed to produce content for that week. Once he was done, he’d mail it back.

Lee’s service ended in 1945 and he went back to Timely full time.

It was two years later that Lee, with an awkwardness befitting a man who would come to create the characters nerds the world over would grow to love, Lee met and wooed his future wife.

There are conflicting accounts on whether one of Lee’s friends dared him to ask out some red headed model or his cousin set him up on a blind date with said model. Either way, Lee went to her office to see about that date. However, when he arrived and knocked at the door of the modeling agency, the woman who answered was someone completely different — a hat model from England by the name of Joan Boocock. Joan had come to America after marrying one Sanford Dorf, who had been serving in the UK during the war.

Stan Lee in “Doctor Strange.”

Stunned when he saw her, rather than play it cool, instead Lee apparently almost immediately professed his undying love for her, and then followed this awkward exchange up by telling her he’d had her face in his mind and been drawing it since he was a kid… (According to Lee, this wasn’t any sort of cheesy line, but the absolute truth.)

Rather than finding any of this weird or creepy, despite being married at the time, Joan agreed to go out on a date with Lee. As to why, despite by her own admission being in a happy marriage, she found it completely boring. (I guess as you’d expect from marrying someone named Sanford Dorf.)

But Stan Lee, she states, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam [an 11th/12th century Persian poet] when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.”

As for Lee, he said he knew right on his first date he wanted to marry Joan. Two weeks later, not caring in the slightest that she was already married, he proposed and she said yes.

The problem was that she now needed a divorce, which was prohibitively difficult in New York at the time. Where there is a will, there’s a way, however, and she simply moved to Reno temporarily. You see, in Reno, you only needed to live there six weeks before you could file for divorce in the area, and the judges there were much more accepting of such.

However, during her time in Reno, being a beautiful young model and all, suitors flocked to her like the salmon of Capistrano. With Lee back in New York and their relationship not exactly built on a firm foundation, Lee said at one point he got a letter from Joan with the implication being she was thinking of breaking off their whirlwind courtship.

Not going to give her up without a fight, Lee took a trip to Reno and convinced her he was the love of her life and she his. The two then got married in Reno on the same day she got a divorce, and by the same judge who granted it, mere minutes after the divorce papers were signed.

While you might think such a relationship was doomed to end in failure. In fact, the couple spent the next 69 years together, before Joan’s death in 2017 at the age of 95.

Stan Lee in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Said Lee of Joan in their twilight years together, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”

Going back to Stan Lee’s career, as for Timely’s strategy in those days, it was essentially just copy whatever the competition was doing.

Martin was one of the great imitators of all time. If he found that a company had Western magazines that were selling, he would say, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” Horror stories, war stories, crime stories, whatever. Whatever other people were selling, we would do the same thing. I would have liked to come up with my own stuff, but I was getting paid.

This all changed, ironically, from copying someone again

Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes… “If the Justice League is selling, he spoke, “Why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superhereos?”

At this point in his career, Lee had grown weary of writing comics, seeing the medium as stagnant and devoid of interesting characters. He was, in fact, planning on quitting.

That’s when Joan told him he should take the opportunity in trying to copy the Justice League concept to create the character’s he’d find interesting. Lee says she stated, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”

Simultaneously, Lee states, “[My wife] Joan was commenting about the fact that after 20 years of producing comics I was still writing television material, advertising copy, and newspaper features in my spare time. She wondered why I didn’t put as much effort and creativity into the comics as I seemed to be putting into my other freelance endeavors… [Her] little dissertation made me suddenly realize that it was time to start concentrating on what I was doing — to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books.”

Lee then decided,

For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.

While this might all seem pretty normal today, at the time in the superhero genre it was groundbreaking. Said Lee, “That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have until that point. They were all cardboard figures….”

The product of this was The Fantastic Four. The results surpassed his wildest expectations.

We had never gotten fan mail up until that point… Sometimes we might get a letter from a reader that would say, “I bought one of your books and there’s a staple missing. I want my dime back.” And that was it. We’d put that up on the bulletin board and say, “Look! A fan letter!” Suddenly, with Fantastic Four, we really started getting mail…”We like this… We don’t like that… We want to see more of this.” That was exciting! So I didn’t quit… After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes… And we stopped being a company that imitated.

With business booming, Lee states, “[We] realized we were onto something. I figured we needed a new name, because we were not the same company we had been. I remembered the first book Martin published when I started there was called Marvel Comics. It had the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and it was very successful. Why don’t we call the company Marvel? There are so many ways you can use that word in advertising. I came up with catch phrases like ‘Make mine Marvel’ and ‘Marvel marches on!'”

At this point while Martin was open to giving Lee fairly free rein, he still had his limits, which was a problem for Spider-Man, who Lee dreamed up as follows:

The most important thing in those days was the cover. All these books were on the newsstand, and you had to hope your cover would compel somebody to buy the book. And everything depended on the name. A character like Hurricane was a guy who ran very fast. Later on, when I was looking for new superheroes, it occurred to me that somebody crawling on walls would be interesting. I thought, Mosquito Man? It didn’t sound very glamorous. Fly Man? I went down the list and came to Spider-Man. That was it.

The concept of Spider-Man, however, was a little too far out.

Stan Lee in “Spider-Man.”

[Martin] didn’t want me to do it. He said I was way off base. He said, “First of all, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man, because people hate spiders.’ I had also told him I wanted the hero, Peter Parker, to be a teenager, and he said, “A teenager can’t be the hero… teenagers can just be sidekicks” Then when I said I wanted Spider-Man to have a lot of financial problems and family worries and all kinds of hang-ups, he said, “Stan, don’t you know what a hero is? That’s no way to do a heroic book!” So he wouldn’t let me publish it.Later, we had a book that we were going to cancel. We were going to do the last issue and then drop it. When you’re doing the last issue of a book, nobody cares what you put into it, so — just to get it off my chest- I threw Spider-Man into the book and I featured him on the cover. A couple of months later when we got our sales figures, that had been the best-selling book we’d had in months. So Martin came in to me and said, ‘Do you remember that Spider-Man character of yours that we both liked? Why don’t you do a series with him”
After that, it was much easier… Whatever I came up with, he okayed. After that, came The X-Men and Daredevil and Thor and Dr. Strange… and the rest. The books did so well that I just gave up all thoughts of quitting.

With business booming, Martin decided to sell the company, with Perfect Film and Chemical aquiring Marvel in the late 1960s. Not long after that, Lee got a promotion,

[They] made me the president and even chairman. But I was never a businessman. I remember when the board asked me to come up with a three-year plan for the company. I said, “Guys, I don’t know how to predict where we’ll be in three years. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.” I resigned as president after about a year. I mean, I can add and subtract, but I hate to read sheets of numbers. I like to write stories.

This brings us finally to the cameos and how that whole thing got started.

His first cameo of sorts was text only, occurring in an All-Winners comic in 1941 where various characters petition Lee to add more characters. Next up, Wayne Boring and Hank Chapman decided to put their boss in the 1951 Astonishing #4.

Where the cameos really became a thing though started in 1963, when Lee and his long-time collaborator, Jack Kirby, appeared in The Fantastic Four #10 in which the pair are featured on the cover, as well as inside. On the cover, it shows the duo with Lee saying, “How’s this for a twist Jack? We’ve got Doctor Doom as one of the Fantastic Four!!” With Kirby adding, “And Mister Fantastic himself as the villain!! Our fans oughtta flip over this yarn!!”

Stan Lee in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Beside them, it also states, “In this epic issue surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story!! Plus a gorgeous pin-up of the invisible girl!”

As for inside the issue, it has Doctor Doom demanding that Lee and Kirby get the Fantastic Four to walk into a trap, which they then do.

Said Lee of this sort of thing, “The artists back then would draw me in as a joke or just to have fun. And I would put some dialogue balloons there and it looked as if I intended it. I didn’t try to do cameos in those days.”

But fans loved it, as well as the chance to get to know the people behind the comics, which were featured in a section of their own as well. The point of all of this, along with the little quips and notes in various areas was, according to Lee, “[For] the reader to feel we were all friends, that we were sharing some private fun that the outside world wasn’t aware of.”

From here the occasional cameo caught on, with Lee stating, “Anything that seemed fun and anything that the readers seemed to enjoy we kept doing and those things brought in a lot of fan mail. And we weren’t doing movies or television, our whole existence depended on comic books, so if you see that something is interesting to the fans you stay with it.”

Since then Lee, and to a lesser extent Kirby (who was notably more camera shy), appeared numerous times across many forms of media. These cameos range from simple background characters in comics bearing Lee’s likeness to full on self-referential roles in Marvel’s numerous works. The most egregious example of the latter is arguably the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon in which Spider-Man is transported to the “real” world via magical comic shenanigans and meets Stan Lee, who reveals that he created Spider-Man and spends some time conversing with his creation before being left stranded on a roof.

Moving on to Lee’s first cameo in video form, this appeared in the 1989 The Trial of the Incredible Hulk where Lee appears in the jury at the trial.

Arguably Lee’s most unusual cameo is one in a property owned by Marvel’s single biggest rival, DC — Superman: The Animated Series. In the episode, Apokolips… Now! Part 2, Lee, along with characters who bear a striking resemblance to members of the Fantastic Four, appear in a brief crowd shot of the funeral of the character, Dan Turpin. Said character’s appearance was largely based on the aforementioned Jack Kirby, who’d sadly died the year earlier. Out of respect for his memory and his contribution to the world of comics, the animators for the episode snuck in a character who looked like Lee along with several other Marvel characters Kirby had helped create. The commitment to accuracy was such that the graveyard shown in the episode was modeled on the one Kirby is buried in, in real life and the crew hired an actual rabbi to read a kaddish that was included in the episode’s audio. Lee’s cameo was removed in the subsequent DVD release of the episode, but he can still be seen in the episode’s storyboards.

Speaking of cameos, a slightly lesser known fact is that Lee’s beloved wife, Joan, who was the inspiration for a few female characters in the Marvel universe, also did voice work for the 1990s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man animated series, as well as a cameo of her own in X-Men: Apocalypse where she appears alongside Stan Lee.

This all brings us to Stan Lee’s final cameo, where he appears as a de-aged hippie alongside a woman who is meant to be a de-aged Joan Lee — very fittingly for them both, this final cameo appeared in Marvel’s Endgame.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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