MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ghost stories as told by your platoon sergeant

Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.


He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)

1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.  

It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.

What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.

The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.

When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant

Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.

The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.

He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.

Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)

3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant

Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.

First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.

The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.

Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.

Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.

(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)

4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower

He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.

He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.

Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.

Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)

5. The King of Negligent Discharges

It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.

But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.

Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.

He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Criticism of trailer for ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ caused design change

Making Alita, the humanoid main character in “Alita: Battle Angel,” work next to live-action characters onscreen was the biggest challenge for the visual effects team to bring to life in the film.

You may not have realized it, but a lot of work went into making the character’s big, bright brown eyes look just right, especially after the film’s first trailer.


“We had our original design, all based on the original artwork and [producer] Jim [Cameron]’s artwork and [director] Robert [Rodriguez]’s artwork, and even after the first trailer that came out, we got some criticism online about, ‘Hey, the eyes are too big. They don’t look right. Uncanny valley,'” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon told Insider during a visual effects press day for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot.

Here’s how Alita looks in the first trailer released for the film.

(20th Century Fox)

Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” the film follows a female cyborg, Alita, who has trouble remembering her past.

Saindon said the visual effects team spoke with Cameron and Rodriguez after the trailer came out in December 2017 to see what they thought of the criticism and whether or not they should change Alita’s look at all as a result.

“‘Do we want to shrink the eyes?'” Saindon said. “They came back and both said, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to go bigger on the eyes.'”

“We didn’t actually go bigger on the eyes, but we did enlarge the iris,” Saindon continued. “We reduced the amount of sclera, the white around the eyes, and it sort of just popped everything back together. It popped her to be that manga character, but to be able to sit next to a live-action character. You never questioned it.”

You can see how Alita changed from that first trailer to the final film here. It’s a subtle change you may not have noticed:

Alita’s face is also softened a bit more in the final film. The lighting in this scene is a bit brighter on her face now.

(20th Century Fox)

Why Alita’s eyes were the most important to get just right

For the team, it was important to get the eyes right because not only is that the first thing you see when you meet Alita, but they believed that was going to be one of the main things that helped sell the believability of the character to audiences.

“Eyes are really critical in an actor’s performance,” said animation supervisor, Mike Cozens. “That’s why, you know, as shots get more intimate, we cut in closer and closer… Eyes are sort of what are telling you what’s going on inside the head, keeping that performance alive in the eyes, beyond the design and into performance was really critical, a critical part of the storytelling.”

Here’s how Alita looks when she opens her eyes for the first time in the films first trailer versus the final film.

(20th Century Fox)

“Truly, the eye size shouldn’t matter,” added visual effects supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment, Richard Baneham. “Ultimately, when we look at a screen, I think it’s point-four of a second for us to read whether there are eyes onscreen or not. We immediately, as humans, go to that, because we want to understand how somebody is emotionally, what their state is. It’s what we do when we meet people, it’s how we read the room.”

Baneham said that regardless of the eye size, you can usually tell a person’s emotional state almost instantly through posture and their facial expression. That’s why it was important to get Alita’s eyes just right.

“So long as you communicate properly the emotional state of the character, the eye size, not that it’s irrelevant, it shouldn’t be the thing that’s in the way,” added Baneham. “We often say on our side, you don’t smile with your face, you don’t smile with your mouth, you smile with your eyes… As soon as you, you can cut to a pair of eyes and tell whether somebody’s smiling.”

If you covered up everything but Alita’s eyes in this image, you would be able to tell she’s smiling.

(20th Century Fox)

This isn’t the first time a trailer’s criticism has resulted in changes to a film.

After the release of the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film in April 2019, the video game character’s design sparked criticism and jokes online.

As a result, the film’s director, Jeff Fowler, said Paramount and Sega were going to redesign the character and the movie was moved back four months to February 2020 “to make Sonic just right.” In November, a new and more recognizable design for the character was revealed, satisfying fans.

The image on the left shows Sonic’s original design. The image on the right shows how Sonic looks after the redesign.

(Paramount Pictures)

How does the “Alita” visual effects team feel about receiving audience criticism right away after a trailer’s release?

“I didn’t mind hearing input from the outside world. It really solidified us, though,” said Saindon of reactions to the first trailer. “It kind of got everybody together and the real choices that were made beforehand kind of held. There was hardly any change, if you will, because I remember having, we had various different sizes and stuff out there and we were pretty big on the trailer, and it just kind of stayed there. It just made everybody reconsider what they were doing.”

“Whether she had big eyes or not, towards the end, I think all of us realized it was worthwhile worrying about it, and certainly it’s all about this expression that’s getting through or not getting through and worrying about that.”

Most of Alita’s design comes directly from the performance of actress Rosa Salazar who embodies the character.

(20th Century Fox)

Baneham added that it’s about making sure the audience invests in the character and comes along for the journey.

“That’s what you care about first and foremost, is making sure when the audience watch the movie, they’re not thinking about the technical aspects of the movie in any way, sort or form. They go on this, hopefully, immersive journey with the character,” said Baneham of what he wants viewers to get out of watching “Alita.”

“All the changes that happened afterward were not about, you know, pandering to the noise in any way. It was about bettering the character,” Baneham added.

“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of 10 finalists in the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced Monday morning.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY MOVIES

Every Marvel movie ranked from worst to best

After 11 years, 21 movies, and billions of dollars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down.

“Captain Marvel” hit theaters March 2019 and is breathing new life into what has been a lackluster box office so far in 2019. “Avengers: Endgame” is also projected to break records at the box office when it’s released next month, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes to theaters in July 2019.

But a lot will change for the MCU after this year.


Disney, which owns Marvel, will own the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after merging with Fox. The producer Kevin Feige has said he expects that to happen within the first six months of 2019, at which point he’ll get the green light to develop projects with those characters.

It comes at a good time, as “Endgame” marks the end of this era for the MCU, and veteran actors like Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) are expected to retire from their roles.

But before the MCU faces a big shakeup, we ranked all 21 movies — including “Captain Marvel” — from worst to best.

Here’s every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, ranked:

(Marvel Studios)

21. “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau

After the highs of “Iron Man,” it didn’t take long for the MCU to plummet to its lowest.

If the “2” in “Iron Man 2” meant that everything had to be doubled — the villains, the characters, the number of MCU movies Gwyneth Paltrow is in that she didn’t watch— then “Iron Man 2” succeeds. But it’s just too overstuffed for its own good in an attempt to get audiences ready for “The Avengers” two years later.

The MCU has since become a well-oiled machine that knows how to balance it all. But in 2010, it was still working on that.

(Marvel Studios)

20. “Thor” (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

There’s nothing particularly horrible about “Thor,” but there’s nothing memorable either. It’s impressive that the movie works at all, considering that Thor, an alien god with daddy issues, was such a little-known character at the time, and Chris Hemsworth was not the superstar he is now. But James Gunn managed to turn even lesser-known and weirder characters into MCU standouts in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would take a while for Thor to really come into his own.

(Marvel)

19. “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Directed by Louis Leterrier

We now know Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but in the second MCU movie, Edward Norton was in the role.

Out of all the MCU movies, “The Incredible Hulk” feels the least connected to the universe. Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, has never appeared again, and neither has Tim Blake Nelson, who was teased as the Hulk’s archnemesis, the Leader.

But even with that tease, a sequel never happened, and the only character besides the Hulk to have any meaningful connection to the MCU has been General “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt, who popped up again in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

(Disney / Marvel)

18. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Directed by Alan Taylor

It’s almost pointless to compare the first two “Thor” movies, as they’re both toward the bottom of the MCU barrel. But “The Dark World” is a tad more fun than “Thor,” and it’s integral in introducing one of the Infinity Stones (the Reality Stone) that Thanos ends up using to destroy half of humanity.

But Marvel still hadn’t realized that Hemsworth’s best attribute in the role is his humor, and the character — and the first two movies — suffer because of it.

(Marvel Studios)

17. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

“Doctor Strange” is the most overrated movie in the MCU. By 2016, movies like the Russos’ “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” had progressed the MCU into new territory, but “Doctor Strange” felt like a step back. Sure, the magic was cool, but it also relied on a formulaic plot with a forgettable love interest. (How do you not give Rachel McAdams more to do?!)

(Marvel)

16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Directed by Joss Whedon

This “Avengers” sequel made the same mistake as “Iron Man 2”: cramming too much into its plot to serve the future of the franchise.

The movie features some cool action sequences, notably the Iron Man-Hulk battle. But it fails to distinguish Ultron, the Avengers’ biggest enemy in the comics, from other two-dimensional MCU villains, and it spends too much time setting up future movies. (What exactly is Thor doing?)

(Marvel)

15. “Ant-Man” (2015)

Directed by Peyton Reed

“Ant-Man” is a fun little Marvel movie, but not much else. Paul Rudd is charming in the lead role, and Evangeline Lilly is more than just a love interest as Hope van Dyne (the future Wasp). But the movie still falls into familiar territory, including a lackluster villain in Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket.

(Disney / Marvel)

14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Directed by Joe Johnston

“The First Avenger” is arguably the first movie that “mattered” in the MCU. While “Iron Man” is better, “The First Avenger” sets up “The Avengers” better than “Iron Man,” which basically acts as a prequel to the big team-up movie.

“The First Avenger” would prove essential to the movies that came after — even “Infinity War” with the unexpected return of a character thought to be dead.

(Marvel Studios)

13. “Iron Man 3” (2013)

Directed by Shane Black

“Iron Man 3” is the most divisive movie in the MCU, and for good reason. It takes some wacky turns, with a major twist that ruined the movie for plenty of people. But I admire that Black just went for it with this movie and delivered something that fans still argue over.

(Marvel Studios)

12. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

Directed by Peyton Reed

While it’s not necessarily an “essential” MCU movie, it improves on the first “Ant-Man” in nearly every way, with plenty of heart and humor.

Reed came back to direct after replacing Edgar Wright at the last minute on the first movie, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as if he was more adjusted to the job, with some well-polished action sequences and a great handle on the characters.

(Marvel)

11. “Captain Marvel” (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Maybe in time “Captain Marvel” will inch higher on this list. But for now, it’s a solid entry into the MCU, but not a fantastic one.

Boden and Fleck are at their best in the character-driven aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s the action the movie is lacking, which hurts it by the end.

Brie Larson is perfect in the title role, though, and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes the movie. There are also some surprising twists that elicited plenty of reactions from theater audiences. If anything, this is a worthy appetizer for “Avengers: Endgame.”

(Marvel Studios)

10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts

I didn’t have a strong positive reaction to “Homecoming” when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. Peter Parker’s motivations throughout the movie to be a hero — impressing Tony Stark — rubbed me the wrong way at first. But it’s hard not to like Tom Holland’s spot-on portrayal of the character, and the movie knows exactly what it wants to be: high-school ’80s classic meets modern superhero flick. And Michael Keaton is truly menacing as Adrian Toomes/Vulture in what began a hot streak for villains in the MCU.

(Marvel)

9. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Directed by James Gunn

Though “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a step back from the first movie, it’s still the most underrated MCU movie. The “Guardians” movies are unique entries in the franchise, and it’s a shame Gunn was given the boot from the third movie, which is in limbo.

(Marvel Studios)

8. “Iron Man” (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

The first movie — and still among the best — “Iron Man” kicked off what has become the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. But in 2008, it was just a fun superhero origin movie that defied the odds.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have embodied the role with so much of the necessary charisma to sell a character who casual audiences hadn’t cared about.

(Marvel Studios)

7. “The Avengers” (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Four years after “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” proved that Marvel had what it takes to pull off a connected universe of movies. It’s even more impressive considering that the early MCU movies, like “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” are some of the worst in the franchise. But “The Avengers” course-corrected, delivering a bona fide blockbuster that hadn’t been achieved before.

(Disney / Marvel)

6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

2014 marks the point when the MCU really got it together. There have been minimal low points since, and it’s because Kevin Feige and crew finally had the machine running smoothly with low-profile directors who could deliver surprising superhero movies.

Among those filmmakers were the Russos, who have become somewhat of the architects of the universe. After “The Winter Soldier,” an expertly crafted espionage thriller posing as a superhero movie, they went on to direct “Civil War,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame.”

(Disney / Marvel Studios)

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the most absurd movie in the MCU, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. This is when Marvel finally realized that Chris Hemsworth is an extremely funny guy with loads of charm and built a movie around that.

It’s also probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Hulk movie in the MCU.

(Marvel Studios)

4. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Civil War” is loosely based on a 2007 comic-book event of the same name that pits Marvel’s superheroes against one another over the ethics of a registration act making it illegal for any superpowered person to not register their identities with the government.

The MCU version is obviously more contained, but that’s what makes it so good. It takes a huge storyline and successfully tells it through Captain America’s perspective, making it even more personal.

(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

3. “Black Panther” (2018)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

“Black Panther” is a lot of firsts: the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture, the first movie to win Oscars for Marvel Studios, the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.

It was more than just an MCU movie — it was a cultural event. And its box office reflects that. It was the highest-grossing movie in the US in 2018, breaking barriers and riding its success all the way to Oscar gold.

(Disney)

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Infinity War” is an order of magnitude bigger than “Avengers” or “Civil War.” With a cast of over 20 characters, “Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of universe-building.

The Russos pulled it off, and they’re not done yet. After the most shocking ending in an MCU movie, the story will continue in “Endgame.”

But on its own, “Infinity War” is an impressive balancing act, and Josh Brolin’s Thanos lives up to the hype.

(Disney)

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Directed by James Gunn

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was the first MCU movie that really felt disconnected from the rest of the universe, but not in a negative way like “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s an important entry in the franchise from a story standpoint — but it’s also just a hilarious, fun, self-contained movie that turned an unknown group of characters into fan favorites.

It’s the most rewatchable movie in the MCU, with a brilliant soundtrack, but it’s the characters that really make it, from the dynamic between Rocket and Groot to the oblivious Drax. They don’t like each other at first, but the audience loves them as soon as they’re introduced.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just fired up its Mars spaceship prototype for the first time

With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.

The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.

The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.


“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.

A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:

FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS

www.youtube.com

The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.

“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.

She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.

First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019

www.youtube.com

“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”

The lone road to SpaceX

SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.

During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.

Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.

SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.

(Maria Pointer (bocachicaMaria)

On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.

When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.

Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.

“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

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

popular

Huge changes coming to the Corps will affect every Marine

Tradition has long been an essential part of the United States Marine Corps. It’s tradition that’s responsible for instilling a Corps-wide expertise with rifles. It’s the reason why a Marine squad has always been a baker’s dozen — and it’s why those thirteen personnel can put some real hurt on the bad guys.


Well, according to a report by Stars and Stripes, the Marines are going to be making big changes in how their ground combat units are organized, and even the traditional rifle squad is going to see change.

Every Marine in a fire team will be packing a M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The traditional rifle squad had three four-man fire teams. Each fire team was made up of one Marine with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, another Marine with an automatic rifle (formerly the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, now the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle), a third Marine to assist the automatic rifleman, and a fourth packing just a regular rifle.

The new squad will consist of an even dozen Marines and will be comprised of three-man fire teams. Bad guys shouldn’t think that this makes things easier, though. Every member of the fire team will pack an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of rock and roll inbound for the bad guys.

Big changes are coming in the shoulder-launched weapons area: The SMAW is out, and Carl is in.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

There will also be a change to the squad command structure. It used to be that there was a squad leader and that was it. Now, there will be an assistant squad leader (a second-in-command, if you will), as well as a new position for a “squad systems operator.” This Marine will operate quadcopter drones, with which each squad will be outfitted. One other thing: The Marines are leaving open the possibility of adding a rifleman to the new fire team organization should a mission call for it.

Other changes include replacing the shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapon (SMAW) with the latest multirole anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system (MAAWS), also known as Carl Gustav. Each battalion loses two 81mm mortars and four BGM-71 TOW missile launchers, but will have a total of 12 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Every Marine squad will have a quadcopter drone.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

There will also be a host of other improved technologies.

In short, the Marines of 2025 will still be able to kick a lot of ass — they’ll just look a little different doing it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New protective gear saves soldier’s life

Less than a week after receiving his new Integrated Head Protective System, or IHPS, the neck mandible saved the soldier’s life in Afghanistan.

The armor crewman was in the turret manning his weapon when a raucous broke out on the street below. Amidst the shouting, a brick came hurdling toward his turret. It struck the soldier’s neck, but luckily he had his maxillofacial protection connected to his helmet.

The first issue of this mandible with the IHPS helmet went to an armored unit in Afghanistan a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for soldier protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.


The neck protection was designed specifically for turret gunners to protect them from objects thrown at them, she said. She added most soldiers don’t need and are not issued the mandible that connects to the IHPS Generation I helmet.

A new Gen II helmet is also now being testing by soldiers, said Col. Stephen Thomas, program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at PEO Soldier.

A new generation of Soldier Protection System equipment is displayed during a media roundtable by Program Executive Office Soldier during the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

About 150 of the Gen II IHPS helmets were recently issued to soldiers of the 2-1 Infantry for testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. The new helmet is lighter while providing a greater level of protection, Whitehead said. The universal helmet mount eliminates the need for drilling holes for straps and thus better preserves the integrity of the carbon fiber.

The new helmet is part of an upgraded Soldier Protection System that provides more agility and maneuver capability, is lighter weight, while still providing a higher level of ballistic protection, Thomas said.

The lighter equipment will “reduce the burden on soldiers” and be a “game-changer” downrange, Thomas said at a PEO Soldier media roundtable Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

It will allow soldiers flexibility to scale up or scale down their personal armor protection depending on the threat and the mission, he said.

The new soldier Protection System, or SPS, is “an integrated suite of equipment,” Thomas said, that includes different-sized torso plates for a modular scalable vest that comes in eight sizes and a new ballistic combat shirt that has 12 sizes.

The idea is for the equipment to better fit all sizes of soldiers, he said.

The ballistic combat shirt for women has a V-notch in the back to accommodate a hair bun, Whitehead said, which will make it more comfortable for many female soldiers.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center) holds the Ballistic Combat Shirt.

(US Army)

The modular scalable vest can be broken down to a sleeveless version with a shortened plate to give an increased range of motion to vehicle drivers and others, she said.

The new SPS also moves away from protective underwear that “soldiers didn’t like at all” because of the heat and chafe, Whitehead said. Instead the new unisex design of outer armor protects the femoral arteries with less discomfort, she said.

PEO Soldier has also come out with a new integrated hot-weather clothing uniform, or IHWCU, made of advanced fibers, Thomas said. It’s quick-drying with a mix of 57% nylon and 43% cotton.

In hot temperatures, the uniform is “no melt, no drip,” he said.

Two sets of the IHWCU are now being issued to infantry and armor soldiers during initial-entry training, he said, along with two sets of the regular combat uniform.

The new hot-weather uniform is also now available at clothing sales stores in Hawaii, along with those on Forts Benning, Hood and Bliss, he said. All clothing sales stores should have the new uniform available by February, he added.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane way the first cosmonaut got back to Earth

The very first man to go to space was a Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who rose to the top of his class thanks to his stunning memory, quick reactions, and poise during emergencies. That poise would come in handy since his spacecraft couldn’t survive re-entry, used compromised design components, and ultimately took the astronaut through an 8g spin cycle on his way back to Earth.


Vostok 1

www.youtube.com

Vostok 1

The first manned space mission was launched with Vostok 1, and Yuri Gagarin at the helm. Gagarin had trained for years to be the first human to leave the atmosphere and had gotten the mission because his peers in cosmonaut training had voted that he was the best choice.

But it was a dangerous honor. After all, only animals had entered space before, and the U.S. and Soviet Union had less than stellar records of getting mammals back alive.

And the plan for getting Gagarin back wasn’t one to inspire confidence. First, while Gagarin had been selected partially based on his reflexes, he was locked out of the controls. And it wasn’t certain the spacecraft could slow itself down during re-entry. Instead, it relied on Gagarin ejecting at almost 4.5 miles above the Earth, right after he dealt with all the tumult of hitting the atmosphere.

As a bonus, there was a chance that the controls would simply fail in space, so Gagarin flew with 10 days worth of food in case he had to wait until his orbit decayed naturally.

Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and first man to orbit this beautiful blue orb.

(NASA archives)

The actual launch on April 12, 1961, went well. The rocket made it into space, the launch vehicle broke away, and Gagarin rode through one orbit of the Earth. So far, so good. But then, the service module failed to separate from the spacecraft.

When the two-module spacecraft hit the atmosphere, the modules tumbled around each other and began to burn up.

“I was in a cloud of fire rushing toward Earth,” he later said.

After about 10 minutes, the cable burned up and Gagarin’s spacecraft re-oriented itself slowly. Freshly drained from a trip around the Earth and an 8g flaming tumble through the atmosphere, Gagarin had to pull himself together and get to work quickly or else he could die on impact like some animals in prior tests.

Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule sits in a museum.

(SiefkinDR, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Because, again, the capsule had little protection for the cosmonaut, and he couldn’t be certain he would survive the capsule’s impact with the Earth. So he had to activate his ejection seat almost 4.5 miles up. Gagarin and his capsule traveled separately from there. Gagarin landed near a farm and walked up, in full orange spacesuit and helmet, to the farmers for help.

He was quickly named a Hero of the Soviet Union and put on a high shelf where he couldn’t be broken. He was able to lobby for a potential return to space though, but a tragic training accident ended his life while he was still preparing for the mission.

On March 27, 1968, he was piloting a MiG-15, entered a steep dive, and crashed into a forest. An investigation in 2010 concluded that a vent was left partially open. This vent was supposed to be closed as the plane entered high-altitude flight so the pilots would have enough air in the cockpit. The investigator supposed that Gagarin and his co-pilot entered a steep dive to get back to a safe altitude to close the vent, but passed out and could never pull out of it.

(As a fun side note, Gagarin asked the bus to stop for him to piss while he was on the way to Vostok 1. Cosmonauts today remember him by taking a leak on their way to the launchpad.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch police stop the world to salute troops coming home from Afghanistan

Police officers and the military share a special bond in the United States. Many police officers are former military members themselves, and many of those officers have deployed to support various military operations. But even if they aren’t veterans, no one in America can come close to understanding what it means to serve quite like the people who make up the thin blue line.

Both professions are dangerous and difficult. Police officers all over the country know theirs is a job that could cost them their lives. Who better to understand the courage and sacrifice military members make all over the world? So, when a cop stops his or her duties to take a moment and show respect to a returning troop, it’s meaningful.

When a line of cops stop — and stop traffic — to do it, it’s downright heartwarming.


(Rhea Ramsey Taylor)

A line of police officers on motorcycles stopped their lives and their duties while in uniform to stand and render a sharp salute to buses full of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Colorado Springs cops stood at attention next to their bikes, blocking oncoming traffic, as they saluted.

It was a small gesture, but it allowed the buses carrying the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division to make and immediate left-hand turn, rather than waiting those excruciating last few minutes to turn before going onto the base and getting the troops back to their loved ones.

It’s not known how long this group of Fort Carson soldiers were away from their families, but the extra time it would have taken for a long line of buses to turn left across a divided highway was ten more minutes longer than necessary. The video above was captured by Coloradan Rhea Ramsey Taylor, who was coming home after helping a friend move. She was overcome with emotion while recording the moment.

When they got off the bikes and saluted, I was in tears,” she told CBS News. “It’s a great, positive way to recognize our police officers and welcome home our troops.

The buses of the returning soldiers were also escorted by local police officers, a small indicator of just how important the military is to the relatively close-knit community around Fort Carson.

Humor

4 of the top reasons Chuck Norris is dead to me

Why do we worship Chuck Norris anyway? What has he ever done besides getting whopped by Bruce Lee in a bad sequel to Enter the Dragon?


When, exactly, did he become downright holy? I wish I could give you all the answers because he really grinds my gears!

Here are my top 4 reasons why Chuck Norris is dead to me:

Disclaimer: I am an Air Force veteran who spent the entirety of his 13 years in uniform as a Security Forces member. The following is written — and intended to be taken — in jest. I love Chuck Norris and I’ve actually been to his first Tae Kwan Do school. Also, we share a common duty unit (Osan, ROK).

Pictured: The last ass-whipping Chuck Norris ever took. (Image from Golden Harvest’s Return of the Dragon).

Related: 5 of the best moves from Air Force Combatives

4. The Chuck Norris meme phenomenon

Where did this come from? Did he start them himself? Who decided he was so cool? He’s literally the master of life, according to the internet and I need answers!

I just don’t understand it, and we all hate things we don’t understand, right?

Don’t forget to look away — Chuck Norris once beat the sun in a staring contest.

3. Total Gym? Yeah… it bites!

Have you ever actually tried to use a Total Gym?

Did you pinch parts of yourself in the nest of cables and pulleys all while getting exactly no workout from the supposed ‘gym,’ too? If so, then you know what I’m talking about.

It supposedly offers 80 different exercises, but you’d have to be a pretty clever f*cker to figure out more than three.

Pictured: Chuck Norris doing all 80 of the proposed exercises available on the Total Gym. (Image from Total Gym Direct)

2. He thinks he’s a Marine

I guess, he is a Marine — technically. He was made an honorary Marine back in 2007. That’s fine and dandy, but there’s one problem with that… he was already a veteran of the U.S. Air Force!

If you happen to be one of those few people who knew Chuck Norris was a veteran going into this article, it is likely that you thought he was a Marine. Just based on the sheer number of photo ops, he seems to love having wearing Marine Corps uniforms!

Chuck Norris sharing a laugh with his fellow Marine. (USMC photo by Sgt. Sheila Brooks).

Also read: 5 best reasons why the Air Force doesn’t need warrant officers

1. Chuck Norris is omnipotent

If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then Chuck Norris is all-powerful and unstoppable — where’s the fun in that?

In fact, Chuck Norris is actually controlling my hands to write this piece because… well, Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris never takes no for an answer. (Image from Cannon Films’ Invasion U.S.A.).

Podcast

Combat poetry reveals what life is like on the Afghan front lines

Justin Eggen had some things stuck in his head for a long time during — but especially after — his two deployments to Afghanistan. These thoughts became poems and short stories that reflected his feelings and personal experience as a Marine in Marjah and in Afghanistan’s Sangin Valley. They are Eggen’s way of handling the overwhelming series of emotions from and memories of his time there.


In this episode of Mandatory Fun, We Are The Mighty’s Blake Stilwell talks to Justin Eggen on what it was like to write poetry as a Marine Corps combat veteran — and why every U.S. troop needs some creative outlet for thoughts and feelings like his.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

“When I was younger I wrote a bit of poetry,” Eggen says. “And I realized this is a good outlet for releasing a lot of pent up memories and aggression.”

That was then, this is now.

Eggen wrote up a few poems for “shits and giggles” after he returned from his deployments with the Corps, but the response was better than he ever imagined. He sent it to people who said he needed to share it with the world.

Initially, however, he wasn’t apt to publish his works and share them with the world. At first, it was just a way to release the mental anguish. Eggen didn’t really take poetry or writing seriously, especially as a way to cope with what he describes as his mind “still living over in Afghanistan.”

“Ten years ago, I didn’t even think I would deploy to Afghanistan,” Eggen says, describing the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan while he was entering the Marine Corps. “When I joined, Afghanistan wasn’t even in people’s minds. Our Drill instructor said if we’re lucky, we’d go to Iraq.”

But don’t expect Justin Eggen’s work to look like anything a stereotypical beret-wearing beatnik might write. Eggen was a .50-cal machine gunner on a route clearance platoon, searching for IEDs in the roads around his area of responsibility.

Eggen at PB Alcatraz, Sangin 2011.

The enemy was like a ghost: They were very good at making IEDs that were hard to detect because they were composed of very few metal elements. His second book, which is currently being written, will be about fighting such a ghostly enemy.

His first book is about the struggle of having your mind stuck back over there.

“A huge part of being home after the Marine Corps is trying to face what happened,” he says. “You get blown up and you’re never the same, regardless of if you’re in a vehicle or on foot. You hit an IED and that rattles you to an extent and you’re changed for the rest of your life. I have friends who are not the same. I am not the same person.”

For Eggen, writing down a lot of what happened is a powerful thing. Not just for him but for anyone who is struggling emotionally or mentally from a traumatic experience in their life.

He enjoys his work a lot and even enjoys reading them. Each one tells its own little tale. While the longer stories and poems are deeper to him, he also revives the ancient art of the warrior writing haiku. They’re just as deep, but short and sweet and he loves the challenge of writing them.

“You get 17 syllables to portray a story,” he explains. “if you can build something that makes people think in 17 syllables, that’s a huge challenge. That’s what Japanese warriors used to do after battle, write haikus. That’s how they dealt with a battle. So that’s what I did for three weeks straight, counting syllables on my fingers.”

For more of Justin Eggen, catch the rest of the show and then check out his book of poetry and short stories, Outside the Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems and Short Stories on Amazon.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia quietly admits defeat with its new ‘stealth’ F-35 killer

Russia announced in July 2018 that the Su-57, its proposed entry into the world of fifth-generation stealth-fighter aircraft, would not see mass production.

“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on Russian TV on July 2, 2018, as reported by The Diplomat.

But despite Russia’s nonstop praise for the plane and dubious claims about its abilities, Borisov said, per The Diplomat: “The Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft.”


Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that Borisov’s comments “could be charitably described as an unreasonably optimistic reason why they stopped production.”

Basically, Borisov said the plane is so much better than everything out there that Russia doesn’t need to build it — a claim Bronk finds unlikely.

Instead, Russia will stick to what it’s good at, with upgraded fourth-generation aircraft in service instead of the Su-57, which was originally meant to replace the older fighters.

The Su-57, a plane designed to function as a killer of US F-35 and F-22 stealth jets with an innovative array of radars, saw a brief period of combat over Syria, but the deployment lasted only days and didn’t pit the jet against any threats befitting a world-class fighter.

F-22 Raptors

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Initially proposed as a joint project with India, the Su-57 hit trouble when neither side could agree on how to split the production and technological development. After 11 years in the program, India withdrew, leaving Russia to go it alone with a weak economy.

Now, India has been discussed as a potential buyer of the F-35 in another blow to Russia’s dream of developing its own fifth-gen fighter.

The Su-57 was never really 5th-generation — and never really stealth

A senior stealth scientist recently told Business Insider that though the jet claimed a stealthy profile, it had glaring and obvious flaws. A 2016 report from IHS Jane’s said the jet was fifth-generation “in name only.”

But the Su-57 carries a massive payload and was expected to one day carry nuclear weapons. Like the Su-35 before it, had super maneuverability beyond that of any US jet.

By all means, the Su-57 appeared a next-level dogfighting jet capable of taking out the US’s best fighters in close combat, but its failure to integrate stealth made getting in close with an F-35 or F-22 an unlikely bet.

Bronk said Russia must have looked at the program and realized that it didn’t have the potential — even with upgrades and maturation — to ever work out to be worth the price. At about million a unit, Russia’s Su-57 is less than half the price of an F-35, but considerably more expensive than its other jets.

“Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter,” Bronk said.

For that price, according to Bronk, Russia can just put the fancy radars and missiles on its older planes in greater numbers, as the Su-57’s airframe was never really stealth in the first place.

Russia is working on new tanks, submarines, and nuclear weapons, all of which tax its already large defense budget. With other projects going forward, it appears the Su-57 has become the first casualty of a budget crunch.

As the US’s F-35 starts to come online in significant numbers and China’s J-20 stealth jet deploys in earnest, it looks as if Russia is getting left behind in the world of top-class militaries.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

15 terrible military stock photos we can point and laugh at

If there’s one thing that ruins anything targeted toward the military, it’s messing up the uniform. It may seem like a small detail to people who were never in the military, but that’s kinda the whole f*cking point – details. Everything starts with paying attention to details. This is how veterans know who served and who’s out there just getting a half-price dinner at Chili’s.


So look, if you’re targeting the military-veteran community for anything, be it a new TV show or movie, a 3M lawsuit, or a reverse mortgage or whatever, we know immediately how much effort you’re putting into caring about actual veterans. Some of these are so bad, they popped my collar.

Nothing says “AMERICA” like a death grip on the flag.

You can tell he’s really in the Army because he wears two Army tapes instead of his name. Promote ahead of peers.

Do not leave unsupervised.

Stop laughing you insensitive bastards.

That’s my reaction too.

That hat tho.

Call the cops.

Is that his family in the background or just some family? As for this poorly positioned hat, that is not what is meant by “cover.”

No hat, no salute zone, bruh.

Most bedrooms are.

You had two chances.

They had two different opportunities to use camo and they couldn’t come up with even one the U.S. actually uses.

Made you look.

… At my shirtless chest.

This is real.

Lieutenant Congdon is clearly a Hulkamaniac.

Nothing say ARMY like a boonie hat.

Especially when ARMY is emblazoned across the front of it.

Maybe not use a 12-year-old model.

Is he 12 or 60? I can’t tell. Nice boots.

Time for PT?

Clearly, the answer is no.

I never took off my uniform, either.

“Just hanging out in my ACUs in my living room with my family, as all military members do.”

Stealing valor for a lifetime.

Why do stolen valor veterans always want to add an extra American flag patch?

Just use any medals, no one will notice. 

That 50-year-old is wearing a 20-year-old winter uniform and i’m pretty sure Boris on the end there is sporting American, Soviet, and Russian medals.

Mommy’s a liar, Billy. 

Where would you even get BDUs with an arm sleeve pocket?? Mommy’s been lying for a long ass time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things only siblings of military personnel know

We learn from our siblings. We watch them. We copy them. We accidentally erase the save on their Pokèmon game when we’re 10 years old and they still, to this day, think the game file was “probably ruined from leaving it in the sun too long.”

Maybe siblings of construction workers know why it takes so long to fill in city potholes. Maybe siblings of newscasters know why they all talk in that really creepy rhythm. Maybe siblings of chess masters know the actual names of the “horsey” or the “castle” or the “boob-shaped thingie.”

Then, there are some things that all siblings of military personnel know…


​​​​​Actually knowing how to mail a letter

On base, deployed, or on a ship — we send our love in envelopes. Now look to your left. Look to your right. Neither of those people can properly address an envelope without Google… unless they are both over the age of 70, in which case, you are 100% at a community center playing bingo and should pay better attention to that.

(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall/173rd Airborne Brigade)

You do not need to set out a sleeping bag… or blankets… or anything at all

You know how military personnel sleep after coming home. They sleep like astronauts without gravity. They don’t need blankets or pillows. Hell, they barely need a floor.

(Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom)

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

You celebrate the men and women throughout time who have served our country in any capacity on Veterans Day. But you also know that some men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones, and they’ve got a day, too.

The many functions of a styrofoam cup

It turns out this can do much more than hold an .89 cent future-diarrhea-slushie from the gas station. Apparently, they can also: hold dip spit, sunflower seeds, and make a cell phone speaker louder…. Alright, it’s mostly for dip spit.

Why they might not tell a drunk dude at the bar that they served

Besides blabbering two inches away from your face for 45 uninterrupted minutes about their real estate failures and how quick their fastball was in high school, drunk dudes at bars can pose a lot of really uncomfortable and, frankly, dumbass questions. Much like college baseball scouts did to them in the 1980s — it’s best to ignore them.

Why you should willingly answer 3 a.m. calls from some random, 999-999-9999 number

Your civilian homies probably let anything outside their immediate area code go straight to voicemail. If your brother or sister is on deployment, though, you know you can get some calls at any hour of the night from some weird numbers. It’s worth it to stomach the pleas for help from a phony Nigerian prince if it means every 5th one is the resolute voice of your sibling, hundreds of miles away, asking what the new J. Cole album sounds like.

You have traded your soul for a spaghetti MRE

Once your lips have tasted the eternal glory of it, there can be no going back. Chef Boyardee will taste like blasphemy on the tongue. My soul is currently screaming silently from a jar in the pocket of my brother’s BDUs. I traded it long ago, and it was worth every dehydrated, calorie-packed ounce.