The story of Atos, a heroic K9 killed in action - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of Atos, a heroic K9 killed in action

Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.


Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.

Atos was the first military working dog he trained.

Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.

It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.

Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.

“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.

On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.

Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.

“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.

Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.

Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.

“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.

Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).

The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.

Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.

Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.
MIGHTY TRENDING

DIA reports on China’s military, says it’ll eat Taiwan

China’s military rise is well-planned, and Chinese leaders are following a strategy they believe will lead to greater power and influence both regionally and globally, according to an unclassified report released today by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The 125-page report, “China Military Power — Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win,” details some of the efforts made by the world’s most populous nation to build a military force that will allow it to back up plans for “great rejuvenation.”


“As we look at China, we see a country whose leaders describe it as moving closer to center stage in the world, while they strive to achieve what they call the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,'” said Dan Taylor, a senior defense intelligence analyst with the DIA. “This ambition permeates China’s national security strategy and guides the development of the People’s Liberation Army.”

People’s Liberation Army troops prepare for a parade in September 2017 commemorating the PLA’s 90th anniversary.

(Photo from Defense Intelligence Agency 2019 China Military Power report)

Taylor pointed out that the PLA is not actually a national institution in China, but rather the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party. About 3 million serve on active duty in the PLA, making it the largest military force in the world. Additionally, it’s thought the PLA receives about 0 billion a year in funding — about 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product — though lack of transparency means exact numbers can’t be determined.

Comprehensive national power

Communist party leaders in China, Taylor said, are looking to build “comprehensive national power” over the first few decades of the 21st century, and a key component of that is enhanced military power.

“China is rapidly building a robust, lethal force, with capabilities spanning ground, air, maritime, space and information domains, designed to enable China to impose its will in the region, and beyond,” Taylor said.

Economic growth in China has enabled it to spend significantly to modernize the PLA, and continued development is expected, Taylor said.

“In the coming years, the PLA is likely to grow even more technologically advanced and proficient, with equipment comparable to that of other modern militaries,” Taylor said. “The PLA will acquire advanced fighter aircraft, modern naval vessels, missile systems, and space and cyberspace assets as it reorganizes and trains to address 21st century threats farther from China’s shores.”

According to the DIA report, Chinese efforts to advance the PLA have been informed, at least in part, by what it has observed of the U.S. military during past military operations — including both abilities and gaps in capability.

“The Gulf War provided the PLA stark lessons regarding the lethal effectiveness of information-enabled weapons and forces, particularly mobility and precision-strike capabilities, that had become the standard for effectively waging war in the modern era,” the report says.

The Chinese also have adapted their forces and doctrine to exploit perceived gaps in U.S. defenses.

China’s Chengdu J-20 5th generation stealth fighter.

Following the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders perceived a period of strategic opportunity, the report says.” Convinced they would not see a major military conflict before 2020, China embarked on a period of economic and military development.

The Chinese increased the PLA budget by an average of 10 percent per year from 2000 to 2016, for instance. They additionally reformed the way the PLA bought weapons, and instituted several broad scientific and technical programs to improve the defense industrial base and decrease the PLA’s dependence on foreign weapon acquisitions.

Realistic training

The PLA saw the capabilities U.S. and Western forces fielded. Those forces used realistic training scenarios, and the Chinese adapted that to their forces as well. Leaders also implemented personnel changes to professionalize the PLA.

“The PLA developed a noncommissioned officer corps and began programs to recruit more technically competent university graduates to operate its modern weapons,” the report says. “PLA political officers assigned to all levels of the military acquired broader personnel management responsibilities in addition to their focus on keeping the PLA ideologically pure and loyal to the CCP.”

Professionalization of the PLA, with an increased push to focus on an ability to “fight and win” — a goal that mirrors U.S. doctrine — has been a hallmark of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent military strategy, said one defense official speaking to reporters on background.

Key takeaways from the DIA report include the Chinese emphasis on cyber capabilities, the defense official added. “It’s clear to us it’s a very important area to the Chinese,” the official said. “But it’s hard to know exactly how effective a cyberattack capability is until it’s actually used.”

China’s focus on Taiwan also is a focus of the DIA report.

“Xi Jinping has made it clear that resolving or making progress, at least, on resolving … the Taiwan situation is a very top priority for him,” the defense official said.

C. Todd Lopez of Defense.gov contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

When thinking of countries that have the strongest militaries in the world, giants like the US, Russia, China, and the UK come to mind. In Asia — and Southeast Asia in particular — China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand are usually mentioned.

But the country that boasts the best air force and navy in the region, and a military that is considered one of the most powerful in the world, is a tiny island city-state with a population of only 5 million — Singapore.


Strong since independence

The concept of a strong military has been ingrained in Singapore since it gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.

“Historically, Singapore had rather tumultuous relations with its immediate neighbors, namely Indonesia and Malaysia,” Collin Koh Sw ee Lean, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Maritime Security Programme, told Business Insider. “This was quite the case back in the early decades of Singapore’s independence.”

As a result, Singapore needed to invest in its security forces. “There was a sense in Singapore that they were extremely vulnerable to coercion being so small,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But with a small population and hardly any territory to train on let alone fight, it became clear that the only way they could secure their country was by out-competing their potential rivals through high-end technology.

‘A poisonous shrimp’

A Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Formidable-class Frigate.
(Singapore Ministry of Defense photo)

Singapore’s air force boasts 60 US-made F-16C/D and 40 F-15SG that were designed specifically for the the Singapore Air Force. They also operate 20 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, one of the best gunships currently in service.

Singapore’s navy has six Formidable-class stealth frigates, licensed Singaporean-made versions of France’s La Fayette-class frigate, a number of high-end submarines both in service and in development, and five Endurance-class landing platform docks than can carry 18 tanks and hundreds of troops.

The army is small compared to some of its regional rivals, with only 72,000 active personnel. But it has some of the best equipment in service, and much of it was either entirely produced or improved on by domestic companies.

This includes the Leopard 2SG, Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle. The country also has compulsory military service, and can quickly mobilize its army for war at a moment’s notice.

All of this high-end equipment is, unsurprisingly expensive. But despite its small size, Singapore has managed to become a global economic and military powerhouse.

Singaporean soldiers dismount a Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle, February 23, 2013.
(Singapore Army / Facebook)

In 2017, Global Finance magazine ranked Singapore as the 4th richest country in the world in terms of GDP, and it has been able to stay high on that list for decades.

The city-state has historically had a high defense budget, usually hovering around three to four percent of its GDP, though it has gone as high as 5% in the past. The 2018 military budget, $14.76 billion, makes up 18% of Singapore’s annual budget.

But what really sets Singapore apart from its neighbors in the realm of technology and equipment, is the fact that it is all integrated into a single cohesive fighting force.

“Not only do they have high-end equipment, they know how to operate it in a very high level of capability. It’s integrated as opposed to all the other country in Southeast Asia,” Brian Harding, the deputy director the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Southeast Asia Program, told Business Insider.

“They focus on making sure their systems work together, they have interoperability between the services. They are highly professional military,” Harding said. “A poisonous shrimp is the analogy that is made.”

Geographic difficulties

Leopard 2SGs from the Singapore Armed Forces Mobile Coumn at the Singapore National Day Parade, August 9, 2015.
(154th Media Entertainment / YouTube)

But Singapore’s military does have a a big problem — geography. There simply isn’t enough room on the island to train its fighting forces.

“If you’re in a fighter jet that is taking off at three or four hundred miles an hour, you very quickly leave Singaporean airspace,” Harold said.

As a result, Singapore has sent some of its soldiers and much of its equipment overseas. Its military has personnel and air squadrons in the US, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, and Taiwan to name a few.

While the main purpose for these deployments in for training, it does offer another advantage — the ability to stage an effective counter-strike.

“The idea of distributing manpower and assets abroad … also provide a recessed type of backup reinforcements, a form of insurance, in case forces deployed within Singapore got wiped out in an enemy onslaught,” Koh said.

“These assets could therefore be mobilized as a follow-on force, possibly reinforced by friendly partners,” he added.

Singapore’s relations with its immediate neighbors have actually improved remarkably. In Koh’s words, they “have never been as good as now.”

Singapore has also contributed to international operations like Afghanistan and disaster relief missions to affected nations.

But Singapore is still cautious. Chinese actions in the South China Sea have not been encouraging, and its continued support of a US military presence in the region is not popular with some.

“Singaporeans are the ultimate realists and understand that things can change quickly,” Harding said. “They know that they need to be prepared for the future and not just hope for the best.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this video of Russian gunships in action

Aviadarts is an yearly Russian all-Army competition attended by units of the Aerospace Forces, four military districts and the Northern Fleet (and invited foreign air arms, such as China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force – PLAAF, that took part in the previous editions). During the games, the best aircrews compete on different military specialties and conduct live firing exercises “to reinforce international military and technical military cooperation of the Contest participants; to raise the prestige of military service; to raise the level of training of the Contest participants; to demonstrate combat capabilities (military performance) of modern models of equipment, of weapons and military equipment.”


Once the qualifying rounds (or “preliminaries”) are completed, Aviadarts contest is carried out in three stages:

  1. Physical training: with main and backup crews involved in physical exercises, pull-ups, freestyle swimming etc.
  2. Visual aerial reconnaissance, that also includes formation flying
  3. Combat employment against ground targets: during which combat planes and helicopter engage ground targets while military transport aircraft conduct cargo airdrops.

The All-Army Stage of the Aviadarts 2019 Competition is currently underway in Crimea. From May 24 to June 9, 2019, Aviation crews of the Aerospace Forces, 60 crews flying MiG-29SMT, Su-27SM3, Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-34, Su-24M, Su-25, Tu-22M3, Il-76MD and Mi-24, Mi-35 as well as Ka-52 and Mi-8 helicopters will take part in the drills.

A Russian Air Force MiG-29SMT.

Dealing with the helicopters, crews of Ka-52 Alligator, Mi-8 AMTSH Terminator, Mi-35 and Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters perform ground attacks using 80-mm unguided missiles and firing 30-mm cannons at more than 70 targets (divided into 12 types for various types of weapons) at the Chaud range in Crimea.

The following video, released by the Russian MoD, shows some of the Russian gunships in action during Aviadarts 2019. The gunner seat view is particularly interesting.

Боевое применение авиации на всеармейском этапе конкурса «Авиадартс-2019»

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a better way to open North Korea to the world

International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.

In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.

Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.


But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.

North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots

“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.

In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.

North Korea’s most carrot-looking missile, the Hwasong-14.
(KCTV)

Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.

No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.

Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.

Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.

Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”

North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.

President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)

Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.

“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.

A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.

This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.

Also, Kim seems to genuinely want infrastructure help, reportedly telling South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” in his country.

The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.

Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the US used an island-hopping campaign in World War II

In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.

This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.

In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.


The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.

Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.

(US Navy)

Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”

There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.

Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

(USAF)

The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.

While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.

John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.

(US Navy)

The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happened when a C-130 and a C-17 had a baby

The C-130 has a long legacy of getting troops and cargo from point A to point B. However, while the Hercules is versatile (from a gunship to wielding the powers of the Shadow) and a legend, let’s face it, it does have limitations. Part of it is the fact it can carry 22 tons at most in the C-130J-30 version.


So, Airbus decided to try to address that shortcoming. The result is the A400M Atlas, and like Japan’s C-2 transport, it is intended to fit in the niche between the C-130 and the C-17.

The difference is that while Japan chose to build a scaled-down C-17, Airbus decided that the answer involved giving the C-130 a “steroid” boost, just as Japan did with the F-16.

The 58 foot by 13 foot by 13 foot cargo bay of the A400M. (Wikimedia Commons)

The result is a plane that lists more (37 tons compared to 22), has more endurance (4,800 nautical miles to 2,100), and which can still land on rough fields like the C-130. The C-17, according to an Air Force fact sheet, needs a 3,500 foot runway.

So, what exactly does this mean? The cargo hold is 58 feet long, 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. Airbus says the plane can carry an NH90 or CH-47 helicopter, or most infantry fighting vehicles.

And we’re not talking a Stryker — we’re talking a heavy infantry fighting vehicle like Germany’s Puma.

Two of the A400M’s engines turn clockwise, two turn counter-clockwise. (Wikimedia Commons)

The A400M will also be able to haul troops, and unlike the C-2 or C-17, it is also capable of being used as a tanker. Yeah, like the C-130, the Atlas is capable of topping up fighters on a ferry run or when they are headed out to carry strikes.

Below, you can see the Atlas do a move that few transports can do. But ultimately, this transport’s going to be doing a lot of hauling. Already, 46 are in service, with a total of 174 ordered.

Articles

This is why there are no urinals on the Navy’s newest supercarrier

The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.


According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.

Tugboats maneuver the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) into the James River. | US Navy

The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.

Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) | US Navy photo

“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.

“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.

USS Gerald R. Ford in the drydock. (WATM archive)

The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.

The ship will carry out its first deployment in 2020, according to a report from USNI News and incorporates almost two dozen technological improvements over the Nimitz-class carriers currently in service,

MIGHTY MOVIES

Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ sees Chris Hemsworth kick butt without a hammer

Chris Hemsworth may be best known for his recurring role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his new movie set to premier on Netflix called Extraction sees the leading man trade his magic hammers in for a different sort of nail driver: an M4.


i.ytimg.com

The story, as depicted in this first trailer, seems to parallel plot points from the 2018 film Sicario: Day of Soldado, with Hemsworth playing a similar role to that of Benicio Del Toro’s “Alejandro.” Hemsworth is a mercenary tasked with rescuing the child of a drug lord from an unnamed (but desert-looking) city seemingly hell bent on the boy’s death.

As the trailer comes to a climax, Hemsworth’s character (named Tyler Rake) is presented with a choice: he can either desert the boy to be killed in order to escape the city, or choose to stay and continue protecting him with no clear way out. While the trailer doesn’t specifically show Hemsworth making a decision, the trailer (or movie tropes in general) make it pretty clear that he makes the good-guy call and sticks with the young man.

In another strange plot parallel with the Sicario sequel, Hemsworth’s character is depicted as a man with a death wish and singular purpose, broken inside over the loss of his own son years ago. In Day of Soldado, Alejandro spends the film saving a drug lord’s daughter–despite being broken inside over the death of his own family (which was ordered by the girl’s father).

So sure, the story may not be all that original, but when was the last time you saw an action flick break new ground in the plot department? This movie may have a lot in common with another tactical thriller, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a blast to watch.

And in truth, the vibe of this movie seems pretty far off from the Sicario approach of leveraging darkness and quiet to create suspense. Instead, Hemsworth is shown fighting his way through a city in an action packed three minutes that managed to sell me on watching this movie despite that apparent re-tread of a plot.

That action and lighter tone may be credited to the movie’s producers: the Russo brothers that helmed some of the most successful Marvel films, like Avengers: Endgame and Captain America: Winter Soldier. The Russo brothers have mastered the art of delivering gut wrenching scenes in films that are otherwise little more than action-extravaganzas, and it seems likely that we’ll see more of that in Extraction.

Netflix’s Extraction starts streaming on April 24.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why an award for military dogs is long overdue

Military working animals are just as much troops in the formation as their bipedal handlers. They go through rigorous training, like the Joes. They get weeded out through selection, like the Joes. And they even hold rank, like the Joes. Military working animals, especially the military dogs, are trained in a wide array of specializations, from drug sniffing and explosives detection to locating survivors in wreckage and providing emotional support to our wounded service members at countless hospitals.

These dogs give just as much as everyone else in the formation — yet, unlike the Joes, they didn’t have official recognition by the United States Armed Forces for their their gallant deeds. That could change with the recently proposed “Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal.”


Fun fact: The first organization to care for military working animals was called “Our Dumb Friends League” — which is still a less agitating way to refer to an animal than when people call their Pomeranian their “fur baby.”

(Imperial War Museum)​

Currently, the Dickin Medal is given to military working dogs of all allied nations — but this is not an American award nor is it even officially from the military. It’s from the UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Despite that, the current Dickin Medal means a great deal to the handler because it doesn’t just mean a printed certificate and a tiny medallion for a creature that’d much rather play with a tennis ball — the medal also comes with benefits and care for the dog.

Physical proof that a military working dog is, in fact, a very good boy gives handlers the evidence they need to back up their requests for help. Handlers currently have little support from Uncle Sam when it comes to ordering new supplies, like harnesses, training aids, etc. With recognition, which, to this point, has meant the Dickin Medal exclusively, the animal is pampered with all of the dignity and respect it earned.

The Dickin Medal also allows the animal to be buried, with full military honors, at the Ilford Animal Cemetery in London. Non-decorated working animals don’t have that right, but the Department of Defense has been taking steps in the right direction. Now, military working animals are allowed to be buried next to their handler at certain national cemeteries. Additionally, the DoD decided (finally) that it was a terrible idea to just leave working dogs on the battlefield or euthanize them when their service isn’t required anymore.

Military working dogs have proven time and time again that they’re patriots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal would give nearly all of those same benefits — along with official recognition by the United States Government — to the animals that have bravely served their country.

This medal, which costs nothing more than a few bucks and a commander’s recommendation, will help showcase the heroism of our military working animals and give them more than just a pat on the head and an extra treat.

As of December 31st, 2013, 92 military working animals have lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 29 of those dogs suffered gunshot wounds, and another 31 were killed by explosions. The other 32 have fallen due to illness. Another 1,350 dogs have suffered non-combat-related injuries or illnesses.

The award will probably mean little to an animal that doesn’t comprehend why everyone’s applauding, but it’s a step in the right direction — and it will give the handlers that extra push they need to get the care our military working animals deserve.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.

Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.


About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.

Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.

Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)

Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”

At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.

This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.

However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.

Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.

(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)

In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.

And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.

It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.

Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.


So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.

Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.

Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.

Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.

Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.

The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.

How?

By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.

One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.

Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).

Seriously how fun is this:

For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.

For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.

Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. Right now, they have 45 kids paired with 45 veterans. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.

The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Cajun Navy’ are Louisiana’s homegrown heroes

Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters. Long before Hurricane Katrina destroyed the levees in New Orleans, the area we know as Louisiana today has endured many, many catastrophes. Since 2000 alone, the state has been hit by 28 tropical storms and cyclones.

The people of Louisiana stopped sitting around to hope someone would come to rescue them from the rooftops some day. A group of private boat owners formed their own rescue flotilla to help in search and rescue efforts. They’re called the “Cajun Navy.”


Since 1965, these storms have caused more than $116 billion in damages to Louisiana, at the cost of countless lives. The earliest recorded deadly storms date back to 1856, where storms devastated the islands of Louisiana’s coast and reformed its landscapes forever.

Today, Louisiana is particularly vulnerable to storms and some places are more vulnerable to others. In New Orleans, for example, the city is protected from the water by a system of levees and pumps that remove rainwater that otherwise would not drain on its own. Low lying areas of the state are prone to flooding, which will only get worse as climate change exacerbates the issue by rising seas levels on the coast. Heavy rainstorms in the state have increased precipitation levels by 27 percent in the last 50 years, sending excess rainwater into the Mississippi River and the river delta.

You get the idea. Louisiana is prone to flooding. So when it happens, the Cajun Navy comes to the rescue.

Formed in the days following the devastation of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Cajun Navy has reactivated following major storms and tropical depressions ever since. They rescued thousands of people in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the Hidalgo County flood, Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Gordon, and Hurricane Michael.

The Cajun Navy is an informal group of boat owners, whether they’re using oar-powered kayaks, flat-bottomed fishing boats or their dad’s bass boat, these private citizens form in the flooded areas to help whomever they can.

Their mission:

1. Rescue
Our first plan of action in any disaster is to complete our rescue missions and save lives. This means going out on the front lines while disaster is still striking and saving all the lives we can.

2. Relieve
Our second plan of action is to bring relief to those who have been affected by tragedy. That means making sure everyone has clean water, fresh clothing, hot meals, and everything they need to feel comfortable and safe.

3. Rebuild
Our third plan of action is to help people rebuild their lives after a disaster. From demolition, clean up, organizing and distribution of supplies, we want to make sure every family has a place to call home again.

Ben Theriot of Prairieville, Louisiana was assisted in 2018 by the Cajun Navy. The next year, he was out in his own boat with the Cajun Navy. They set up a mobile command post in a privately-owned RV and communicated via walkie-talkie-type app. They coordinated rescue calls to citizens trapped in and on their houses, moderating communications and prioritizing rescues.

All as Hurricane Harvey blew around them.

Any time high waters threaten the lives of the people of Louisiana and there are lines of cars driving to make their way out of the dangerous areas, you can be sure to see a line of trucks trailing boats trying to make their way in. All with Louisiana license plates.