Here's the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.

The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.

It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.


Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.

(Google maps)

The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.

In Ukraine people have already seen the consequences of such an attack. Hackers plunged thousands of people into darkness when they compromised parts of the electric grid in 2015 and 2016.

The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.

The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.

(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.

Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.

“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.

“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”

Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.

That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.

(DARPA)

Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.

Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.

“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.

With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.

Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.

“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Taliban agree to the ‘framework’ of a peace deal

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.

Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.


In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.

That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”

In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”

The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”

“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.

Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.

The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.

“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”

He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”

Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.

Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.

Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These rugged grooming products were field tested by the military in some of the worst environments on earth

Think back to your poncho liner (or woobie, if that’s what you called it). For many of us, it was our most valuable piece of gear. Why? It kept us warm when it was cold and cool when it was hot. Many a veteran still has their poncho liner or bought one after they got out because they know it’s the best blanket out there — it did the best job under the worst conditions.

When we, the members of the military community, buy stuff, we fall back on if we used that item (or something similar) back in service and base a lot of our purchasing decisions on that.


When you buy work boots, you think of what worked best on all the forced marches, boots and utes runs, and standing around all day. When you buy a utility knife, you think of what worked best when you had to improvise fixing something outside the wire and all you had was the knife on your flack. Anytime you get a watch, belt, cold-weather jacket, backpack, workout gear — the list goes on — a lot of us think of similar items we used in Iraq, Afghanistan, on ship, during a training exercise, or when we were out in the field.

BRAVO SIERRA uses the principle of “agile product development” when it comes to designing their products. This company is founded by leading experts and operators across the consumer products and technology industries — a team of veterans and civilians — and they are using software to build a fast-response, product development platform.

You can, too.

BRAVO SIERRA calls their software, “BATTALION,” and it’s likely the future of consumer culture. They use a research, development, testing and manufacturing model that integrates the tester community throughout each step of the process, while engaging them through design and interaction.

Currently, the program and software allows BRAVO SIERRA to ensure the quality, relevance and performance of their products among their core community. The long-term goal is to constantly iterate product development, so the product you get tomorrow will be an upgrade from the one you purchased today. That’s a lot better than getting ‘military-grade’ products that were only tested in a lab, leaving you wondering which military they were graded for.

We looked at some of BRAVO SIERRA’s products and picked out the ones we think you should have when you’re out in the field, deployed, on ship, or outside the wire. We threw in real feedback from military members and veterans so you can see how well BRAVO SIERRA develops their personal care products.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Antibacterial Body Wipes

Body wipes come in handy when you need a quick shower alternative, need to clean your nether regions, wash your face, scrub your hands, or wipe down anything dirty. We’ve all had the wipes that easily fall apart, make you smell more like ass, or simply don’t do a good job. These wipes are on a different level. They are biodegradable, which makes them ideal for the field. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds and are 4x thicker than baby wipes.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Hair and Body Solid Cleanser

We have all done it while deployed: Taking a Navy shower, where you only have 30 seconds (maybe a minute, if you’re lucky) to lather yourself up as much as possible. BRAVO SIERRA’s Hair and Body Solid Cleanser is perfect for washing every part of your body (including that glorious low-reg you have going on). BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use traditional harsh cleansing agents that strip your skin. The hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp, even when you only have 30 seconds.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Hair/Body Wash & Shave

When you are out in the elements, the space in your ruck is invaluable. This is the ultimate space saver — soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. 2 out of 3 of the ‘three S’s are covered by this awesome product!

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Face Sunscreen SPF 30

It’s happened to most of us — even those of us who tan. You have a bunch of layers — a flak, combat load, Kevlar and sunglasses — on while you spend all day outside the wire, in the turret during a long convoy, or walking on a really long patrol. You get back to your outpost or FOB, take off your gear… and you’re sporting a very clear, very pink outline of where your sunglasses once sat. Sunscreen is key when out and about and BRAVO SIERRA makes sunscreen that is geared toward enduring rugged terrain. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky and best of all; fragrance-free.

Taking care of your body is important, whether you are in the roughest of environments or working a 9 to 5. Make sure you use the products that have been tested by, tweaked for, and proven to work for the military.

This article is sponsored by BRAVO SIERRA.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best ways to survive falling out of a plane with no parachute

Peter E. asks: What could I do during freefall after falling out of a plane to maximize my chances of surviving?

According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva, between 1940 and 2008 there were 157 people who fell out of planes without a parachute during a crash and lived to tell about it. A full 42 of those falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet (above 3,000 meters), such as the tale of 17 year old Juliane Koepcke who not only survived an approximately 10,000 foot free fall, but also a subsequent 10 day trek alone through the Peruvian rain forest with no real supplies other than a little bag of candy.

Now, while you might think surely nothing like that could ever happen to you, it turns out whether falling from 30,000 feet or a much more common 30, the same basic strategies apply. And for reference here, approximately 30 feet or about 9 meters is around the height at which you begin to be more likely to die from your injuries than survive. At heights as little as about 80 feet, only about 1 in 10 people survive and it pretty much all goes to hell from there.


So what can you do to increase your chances of survival if you ever find yourself doing your best impression of Icarus?

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Giphy

To begin with, if you find yourself plummeting to the Earth at heights above around 1,500 feet, the higher you are the better, at least to a certain point. You see, at a mere 1,500 feet, you will reach your terminal velocity before you hit the ground, which is around 120-140 mph for a typical adult human who is trying their best to fall as slowly as possible. The problem for you is that starting your fall at around 1,500 feet is going to only give you approximately 10-12 seconds before you go splat. Not a whole lot of time to do anything useful.

On the other end of things, falling from, say, 30,000 feet will see you initially having to endure extremely unpleasant temperatures in the ballpark of -40 C/F and air rushing all around making it all the more frigid. You also may well briefly lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. So why is this better? Well, on the one hand if you never regain consciousness, you at least are spared the terrifying few minute fall. But, for most, you’re likely to regain consciousness with around 1-2 minutes or so to execute your survival plan.

Sure, you’re probably going to die anyway, but, hey, having something — anything — to do will help distract you from the truth that your adventure here on Earth is about to end and, no matter who you are, the fact that you ever existed will soon be forgotten — for most, in a shockingly short amount of time…

But do not go gentle into that good night my friends. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So to begin with, to give you the maximum amount of time to execute a plan and reduce your speed as much as possible, you should first spread out in the classic X/W belly down skydiver pose. This is shockingly effective at slowing you down. For example, in the most streamlined of free fall cases, it turns out it’s actually possible to reach speeds well over twice the aforementioned 120-ish mph that is more typical in this X pose.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

There is a way to slow down significantly more, but it’s not yet time to try this trick. For now, once position assumed, your first priority is to look for any object to cling to — bonus points if the object is falling slower than you. It turns out so called “Wreckage Riders” are about twice as likely to survive such a fall vs. those who have nothing to cling to but the knowledge that they wasted so much of their lives worrying and seeking after things that didn’t actually matter and now can do nothing about it.

As for why Wreckage Riders have such a significantly higher survival rate, this is not only because of the potential for the object to slow one’s terminal velocity a bit in some cases, but also potentially to use as a buffer between them and the ground.

As noted by professor Ulf Björnstig of Umeå University, when at speeds of around terminal velocity for humans, you only actually need about a half a meter or so distance to decelerate to make surviving at least theoretically possible. Every extra centimeter beyond that counts significantly at increasing your odds.

On that note, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on this one — just as having a person by your side when you find yourself being chased by a bear can potentially be a huge advantage (changing almost certain death to almost certain survivability if you are a faster runner than said person), in free fall, the body of another passenger who is likewise about to bid adieu to the world and promptly be forgotten is also a major asset — in this case via placing said person between yourself and the ground before you hit it. Bonus Survivability points if you can find a morbidly obese individual. Sure, the terminal velocity will be slightly higher in such a case, but that extra padding is going to go a long way.

Just be sure that the other passenger doesn’t have the same idea.

Pro-tip for avoiding your last moments being spent cartwheeling through the air trying to elbow drop a person from low orbit — go in like you’re wanting to give them a loving hug; to shed this mortal coil in the arms of another. As if to say, it’s going to be OK, we’re in this together. Then shortly before striking the ground, quickly rotate to have their body beneath you. They’ll never see it coming.

And don’t underestimate the power of a group hug forming in this scenario. All those soft, soft bodies to put between you and the ground…

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Giphy

On the other hand, should you want to be selfless for some weird reason, and say, save your child or something, a couple of parents stacking themselves with child on top face up not only would give the child the greatest chance of surviving, but also maybe even a genuine decent one as kids, particularly under the age of 4, are noted as being significantly more likely to survive falls from any height anyway, let alone when you give them a nice thick buffer of two bodies who have spent way too much of their lives eating delicious KFC.

Regardless of whether you manage to find some wreckage or another human to ride all the way down, continuing the theme, you want to do your best to aim for the softest thing you can see. And the target doesn’t even have to be that close per se. For those who know what they’re doing, traveling a horizontal distance of even as much as one mile for every mile they fall is fully possible without any special equipment. It turns out this is actually how you can shave another 20-40 mph off your decent rate via what’s known as tracking — essentially positioning your body in such a way that you will gain speed in the horizontal direction as you fall; for a good tracker able to achieve horizontal speeds approximately equal to their vertical speed.

Unfortunately there is no exact consensus as to what the best position is for tracking with maximal efficiency, as different body types respond differently and the like, but the general method is to straighten your legs rather than bend and bring them together. At the same time, bring your arms to your sides, with hands palms down, and then make your body fairly flat with head angled slightly lower than your feet.

Of course, someone with no experience maneuvering around while free falling is going to do a poor job at actually doing any of this, let alone then at some point managing to hit even a huge target. And as for the benefits of reducing vertical descent rate a bit in favor of increasing horizontal, it’s not really clear whether this would be worth it in the vast majority of cases. For instance, just imagine jumping out of a car going 100 mph and how that would work out for you. Now add in also dropping at around 100 mph at the same time… You’re going to have a bad time.

As for aiming at a soft target, this is definitely valuable. So if you find yourself plummeting towards the Earth, be sure and make a mental note to have past you go ahead and practice maneuvering while free falling at some point.

Moving swiftly on, what are the best soft things to try to hit? Well, when looking at the records of the people who have managed to survive such falls, deep snow is almost always going to be your best bet if there’s any around.

For example, consider the case of British Tail-gunner Nick Alkemade. In 1944, with his plane going down, he chose to jump from his burning aircraft despite the tiny insignificant detail of his parachute having been rendered useless before he jumped. While you might think his subsequent fall of over 18,000 feet would surely be his end, in fact, thanks to the magic of tree branches and deep snow, his most significant injury was just a sprained leg, though he was quickly captured by the Germans. More impressed by his near death experience than his nationality, they released him a couple months later and gave him a certificate commemorating his fall and subsequent survival.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Snow also has the huge advantage of the fact that, thanks to it more or less being everywhere when it’s present, you don’t really need to know what you’re doing to hit it.

Now, if it’s not the dead of winter, but any of the other seasons, a freshly tilled farm field or one with ultra thick vegetation will probably be your next best bet — both providing at least some deceleration buffer while also giving you a big target to aim for that you can see while still quite high in the sky.

For example, in 2015, veteran of over 2500 sky diving jumps, Victoria Cilliers, managed to survive a fall from about 4,000 feet by landing in a freshly plowed field. Granted, she did suffer broken ribs, hip, and fractured some vertebrae in her back, but she lived. As for her husband, who had intentionally tampered with both her main parachute and reserve so that they wouldn’t work properly (and previously attempted to kill her by creating a gas leak in their house), well, he got to move out of their house and into prison.

As for vegetation, even thorny blackberry bushes are better than nothing, though any chance of actually aiming and hitting them in reality is probably poor. But for whatever it is worth, in 2006 professional skydiver Michael Holmes managed just this, though not intentionally, when both his main chute and backup failed to deploy correctly. In his case, he suffered a concussion, a shattered ankle, and a slew of more minor injuries, but was otherwise fine.

Now you might at this point be wondering why we haven’t mentioned water, perhaps thinking it a great choice as a soft target to try to hit, and in some respects you’re not wrong. The problem is that at high velocity, water isn’t exactly soft- think belly flopping from a diving bored. That said, as many an extreme cliff diver has demonstrated, water can be a hell of a lot more forgiving than a cement sidewalk if you hit it properly.

The problem being most people aren’t exactly practiced at this sort of diving and even for the pros, at terminal velocity you’re almost certainly going to break a lot of bones, among many other issues. And don’t even get us started on the fact that hitting the water at those speeds can potentially cause said water to shoot into your anal orifice with enough force to cause internal bleeding.

Whether that happens or not, even if by some miracle you survive, you’re probably going to be rendered unconscious or unable to swim properly. So unless David Hasselhoff happens to be nearby, not a great choice.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Giphy

Now, lacking something soft to land on or the Hoff to rescue you, you want to look for something — anything — to break your fall before you hit the ground. Illustrating just how valuable this can be, consider the case of Christine McKenzie who, in 2004, found herself plummeting to the ground from 11,000 feet. Just before impact, she first hit some live power lines. While you might assume that would have sliced, diced, and fried her, in fact, she walked away from the whole thing with nothing more than a couple of broken bones and bumps and bruises.

Once again illustrating just how valuable hitting just about anything before hitting the ground can be, in 1943 New Jersey native Alan Magee was at about 20,000 feet when he decided to jump from his B-17 bomber, which had recently had a wing partially blown off. Unlike the aforementioned Nick Alkemade who made a similar decision, Magee actually did have a parachute. Unfortunately for him, he blacked out after being thrown from the aircraft and never deployed it.

He eventually fell through the glass ceiling of the St. Nazaire train station in France, which slowed him enough that he managed to survived the impact with the stone ground below. Not exactly unscathed, when treated he was found to have a couple dozen shrapnel wounds from the previous air battle, then many broken bones and internal injuries as a result of the aftermath of falling 20,000 feet. While he was subsequently taken captive, he came through alright and lived to a whopping 84 years old, dying in late 2003.

As another example of a ceiling striker, we have the 2009 case of cameraman Paul Lewis whose main chute failed on a dive, at which point he cut it away and deployed his reserve chute… which also failed, resulting in his descent being little slowed. He ended up hitting the roof of an airplane hanger after about a 10,000 foot fall. Not only did he survive the incident, but his only major immediate injury was to his neck, though he apparently made a full recovery.

From the limited data at hand, a better choice of something to break your fall than power lines and roofs appears to be a thickly wooded forest. Not only is this easier to aim for, while trees can potentially skewer you, their branches have saved many a free faller in the past, such as Flight Lieutenant Thomas Patrick McGarry who fell from 13,000 feet and had his fall broken by a series of fir tree branches.

This all brings us around to what position you should be in when you actually hit the ground. As you might imagine, the data set we have to work with simply isn’t big enough to definitively answer this question, and for some weird reason randomly dropping thousands of people out of planes and asking them to try to land in various positions over various surface types isn’t a study anyone has ever done.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

However, we do have some indications of what’s best thanks to, among other sources, data collected by the Federal Aviation Agency and countless experiments conducted by NASA who, when they’re not trying to keep the world ignorant of its flat nature and keep people away from the ice wall that keeps the oceans in (yes, there are actually people who believe this), has done their best to figure out the limits of what G-forces humans can reasonably survive and how best to survive them on the extreme end.

So what’s the consensus here? It’s almost universally stated that regardless of how high you fall from, you should land on the balls of your feet, legs together, all joints bent at least a little, then attempt to crumple slightly back and sideways (the classic 5 point impact sequence — feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder). In this recommendation, you should also have your arms wrapped around your head to protect it and completely relaxing every muscle in your body, lest everything just snap instantly instead of using the surprisingly extreme elasticity of your various bits to slow things down over some greater unit of time.

Something to keep in mind in some cases, however, is that NASA’s research indicates this so called “eyes down” impact (where the G-forces are such that your eye balls get forced downwards — so the widely recommended position here) actually maximizes your chance of injury and death in their studies of extreme G force effects on the human body. Their data instead shows that “eyes in” (so G forces pushing you back into something — think like accelerating in a car where you’re pushed back into the seat) is the way your body can take the most force and survive.

The problem, of course, is that the forces involved in free falling from great heights are too extreme in most cases for your body to survive in this eyes-in position. Thus, while you might receive a lot more injuries from the upright position landing, the whole point is to sacrifice your feet, legs, and on up in an attempt to reduce the ultimate G forces felt by your organs and, of course, impact force when your head hits the surface.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Giphy

That said, from this there is some argument to be made that perhaps falling back instead of sideways may be superior, assuming you can manage to properly protect your head with your arms.

Whether that’s true or not, presumably there are some scenarios, such as landing in super deep, powdery snow, where landing face up in a bit of a reclined position with head tucked in and arms protecting said head, might actually be superior for similar reasons why stuntmen, trapeze performers, daredevils and the like will generally choose this reclined position for their landings onto soft things.

We should also probably mention that if you do hit the ground with a horizontal speed as well, the general recommendation, besides protect your head with your arms, is to quite literally attempt to roll with it and not try to fight that in the slightest. Resistance is futile in this case and attempts towards this end will only increase the odds of you being injured and dying.

Bonus Fact:

  • The current world record for surviving a free fall without a parachute is held by one Vesna Vulovic, who managed to survive a plummet of about 33,330 feet on January 26, 1972. On that day, Vulovic found herself in such a situation after the commercial airline she was on was blown up mid-flight, with it presumed to be the work of Croatian nationalist. Whatever the case, everyone aboard the plane died but Vulovic, who not only benefited from being an accidental wreckage rider, but also had her wreckage hit some trees and land on snow on a slope- — literally all best case scenarios. While she did break many, many bones in her body, among a variety of serious injuries, and ultimately wound up in a coma for some time, it’s noted that when she woke up, pretty much the first thing she did was ask a doctor for a cigarette. We’re not sure if this makes her a stone-cold badass or just someone who really needed to think about the severity of her nicotine addition.

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

popular

This is what would happen if German and British tanks did battle today

During World War II, the British and Germans had some epic tank battles — perhaps the most notable at the African battle of El Alamein.


Germany had some of the finest tanks, but British designs weren’t slouches – and some were modifications of American designs that added firepower (like the Sherman Firefly).

Fast forward to today and the matchups are about the same. Germany has the Leopard 2 main battle tank, while the United Kingdom has the Challenger 2. The two tanks reflect the difference in the preferred tactics of the Germans and British, even though both have 120mm main guns.

 

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Leopard 2 main battle tank. (Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

 

The German gun is a 120mm smoothbore cannon, Early versions of the Leopard 2 had the same gun used on the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams main battle tank. The Brits, though, installed a gun 25 percent longer on the Leopard 2A6. The British have gone with a rifled 120mm gun known as the L30 for the Challenger 2. This is a marked improvement over the L11A5 used on the Challenger 1, which set the record for the longest kill shot against another tank.

The Germans have chosen mobility, and the Leopard 2 can go 45 miles per hour with a maximum range of 342 miles. The Challenger only reaches 37 miles per hour, and has a range of 280 miles. That said, the Challenger is very well-protected, and its gun makes it one of the toughest tanks in a defensive role.

 

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

 

In essence, it is likely that the winner of a fight between a Challenger and a Leopard will come down to which tank is able to use its strengths. The tank that is thrown off its game, on the other hand, will likely be heading back to a repair yard.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 20

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

It’s time to be real. The world isn’t looking so great at the moment. That’s just the cold hard reality. The coronavirus is spreading and everyone’s losing their minds. But there’s always a bright side to everything. Us veterans should already understand exactly what to do.

Stuck in your house without any way to make money? That’s just like a 45 & 45. Having to make do with just what little bit of toilet paper you had before the panic hoarding? Time to conserve like you’re in the field. Bored out of your mind with absolutely nothing to do? Tell yourself you’re going to start doing online classes before procrastinating to go play video games!

And hey! Another bright side is, from what I’ve seen, people are focusing on buying out all of the foods and leaving all of the beer and liquor! So, just kick back, enjoy your unofficial Quarters slip, and get down on some much-needed you time until this all blows over in… Oh… Eight weeks? Sh*t…


Anyway, here’s another dose of your regularly scheduled memes – delivered to you from a “Socially distant” appropriate distance.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FHvDYL4BquK3qRR2UwpO5n40evb1nyE0OylUsFQ_p6pHgq22M9-AmiSxQljk6ZowiZu3phEX7kmZGKA7AUy6QzhZ6UPzYVvRluCdp4_TK&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=765&h=34b3bcbb7e7c5d344d0f4f80b3583d6e4e2a3beed72c4b5ab2fe8db376fddc73&size=980x&c=1819453376 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FHvDYL4BquK3qRR2UwpO5n40evb1nyE0OylUsFQ_p6pHgq22M9-AmiSxQljk6ZowiZu3phEX7kmZGKA7AUy6QzhZ6UPzYVvRluCdp4_TK%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D765%26h%3D34b3bcbb7e7c5d344d0f4f80b3583d6e4e2a3beed72c4b5ab2fe8db376fddc73%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1819453376%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

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(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FuJVxdBM_inXh4w3zyIoSFfnlI4Kyr6sXl-GgmW1_CX3XB_6fndka3T14whSc1D70W0kOaAEjO_M0Ptk4wI-UZ0ayh-d56zo7zFZ-EQNYKPJNUSN2ncRv6zB8BtbRBAXAlvfczV6W33-nZ6PSoA&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=674&h=1bce787d9d3203a1b9925ef5db775701bb3d1838b92d35a2a945f19e931dd846&size=980x&c=3481263278 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FuJVxdBM_inXh4w3zyIoSFfnlI4Kyr6sXl-GgmW1_CX3XB_6fndka3T14whSc1D70W0kOaAEjO_M0Ptk4wI-UZ0ayh-d56zo7zFZ-EQNYKPJNUSN2ncRv6zB8BtbRBAXAlvfczV6W33-nZ6PSoA%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D674%26h%3D1bce787d9d3203a1b9925ef5db775701bb3d1838b92d35a2a945f19e931dd846%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3481263278%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F-OLrkSgao-1ldVgnejQnXuinq9c2E9nPuiTxFpDrpYxg-3bZy-aCHGBBodZC-rYuoZXC9htEISJtcjJqstqAIo8Jg-aJOdA2BEVwpgmkjGxDiOGYq7RYZrxQc3de4wyO9nDbmOBbVmAXWiONmw&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=169&h=a1a4bc64d50ea179e2594476004b93f038ca03e0f77979526879a641528b2d66&size=980x&c=33900272 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F-OLrkSgao-1ldVgnejQnXuinq9c2E9nPuiTxFpDrpYxg-3bZy-aCHGBBodZC-rYuoZXC9htEISJtcjJqstqAIo8Jg-aJOdA2BEVwpgmkjGxDiOGYq7RYZrxQc3de4wyO9nDbmOBbVmAXWiONmw%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D169%26h%3Da1a4bc64d50ea179e2594476004b93f038ca03e0f77979526879a641528b2d66%26size%3D980x%26c%3D33900272%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FD_twYa6aSG4ObKHe6-iV3U-KXO_fLuzfmDXFhKFLfM8ToZc4fchjht6SLOKQYRdo3DygHK34X9QHhpN5Qp_9zGyTByii0m7yurXNyxPn&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=938&h=716ef1b01618eb20a03a3b1810de3b7020da82fcd1c31f613a763216dc017a03&size=980x&c=770316026 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FD_twYa6aSG4ObKHe6-iV3U-KXO_fLuzfmDXFhKFLfM8ToZc4fchjht6SLOKQYRdo3DygHK34X9QHhpN5Qp_9zGyTByii0m7yurXNyxPn%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D938%26h%3D716ef1b01618eb20a03a3b1810de3b7020da82fcd1c31f613a763216dc017a03%26size%3D980x%26c%3D770316026%22%7D” expand=1]

(Tweet via @Pop_Smoke7)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FrOM4yRI-8MsKA40FdFLIKSJgHrdKBWOLbsQuNZNtifQxixiwZuFWsOnq9Cglm50q87j_NQV2jXkaOjG9NJE1YwB7FxYgVml9HaKdZ7RV7a_zNx09F-pcCVJC_tm8SigJ1h_V8DJONPmgQi0F0A&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh6.googleusercontent.com&s=890&h=60d36e5e2a7b4435f8b79f42e429ad2e3d86dbc15a59ed302c12010cb79d263f&size=980x&c=1195197249 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FrOM4yRI-8MsKA40FdFLIKSJgHrdKBWOLbsQuNZNtifQxixiwZuFWsOnq9Cglm50q87j_NQV2jXkaOjG9NJE1YwB7FxYgVml9HaKdZ7RV7a_zNx09F-pcCVJC_tm8SigJ1h_V8DJONPmgQi0F0A%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh6.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D890%26h%3D60d36e5e2a7b4435f8b79f42e429ad2e3d86dbc15a59ed302c12010cb79d263f%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1195197249%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic

Edward Snowden, the man who exposed the breadth of spying at the US’s National Security Agency, has warned that an uptick in surveillance amid the coronavirus crisis could lead to long-lasting effects on civil liberties.


During a video-conference interview for the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival, Snowden said that, theoretically, new powers introduced by states to combat the coronavirus outbreak could remain in place after the crisis has subsided.

Fear of the virus and its spread could mean governments “send an order to every fitness tracker that can get something like pulse or heart rate” and demand access to that data, Snowden said.

“Five years later the coronavirus is gone, this data’s still available to them — they start looking for new things,” Snowden said. “They already know what you’re looking at on the internet, they already know where your phone is moving, now they know what your heart rate is. What happens when they start to intermix these and apply artificial intelligence to them?”

While no reports appear to have surfaced so far of states demanding access to health data from wearables like the Apple Watch, many countries are fast introducing new methods of surveillance to better understand and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

upload.wikimedia.or

Numerous European countries, including Italy, the UK, and Germany, have struck deals with telecoms companies to use anonymous aggregated data to create virtual heat maps of people’s movements.

Israel granted its spy services emergency powers to hack citizens’ phones without a warrant. South Korea has been sending text alerts to warn people when they may have been in contact with a coronavirus patient, including personal details like age and gender. Singapore is using a smartphone app to monitor the spread of the coronavirus by tracking people who may have been exposed.

In Poland, citizens under quarantine have to download a government app that mandates they respond to periodic requests for selfies. Taiwan has introduced an “electronic fence” system that alerts the police if quarantined patients move outside their homes.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Semper Fi’ trailer explores what happens when a hero breaks bad

West Point graduate Sean Mullin (Amira & Sam) returns to writing with Semper Fi, a film about a police officer and Marine Corps Reservist who is faced with an ethical dilemma when it comes to helping his brother in prison. Murderball director and co-writer Henry-Alex Rubin directed the film, which is filled with stars like Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad), Finn Witrock (Unbroken), and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl).

But it’s perfectly reasonable if you’re most excited about Recon Marine Rudy Reyes, who plays a role in the film and served as a military advisor for the production.


SEMPER FI Official Trailer (2019) Nat Wolff, Jai Courtney Movie HD

www.youtube.com

Watch the trailer:

Courtney plays Cal, a police officer and Marine Corps reservist who decides to break his younger brother Oyster (played by Paper Towns’ Nat Wolff) out of prison. In doing so, he’ll question the system he has sworn to uphold, whatever the cost.

Also read: 3 major reasons you should hire veterans in Hollywood

Some of the initial reactions to the trailer have included veterans and Marines saying the film goes against “what it means to be a Marine” but, given that the film doesn’t come out until Oct. 4, 2019, I’d say it’s probably too soon to tell. Furthermore, what “semper fi” means to one Marine might be different from what it means to another.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Besides, Mullin has a history of writing non-traditional veteran stories. Amira Sam, which Mullin wrote and directed, was about a veteran who comes home from war and his relationship with an immigrant. “I think every single ‘veteran comes home from war’ movie that’s ever been made is about a veteran with post-traumatic stress, and I wanted to tell the first story about a veteran who comes home and he’s okay but his country’s lost its mind,” Mullin told Military.com.

Sometimes vets are heroes and sometimes they break bad. It sounds like Courtney portrays a Marine who is navigating both roads — it’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out.

Either way, you can find out for yourself in October. In the meantime, feel free to keep the conversation going on our Facebook page: what is Hollywood’s responsibility when telling military stories?

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war
MIGHTY CULTURE

Corpsman saves family from crushed car

“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.

At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.

Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.


“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.

Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.

The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.

After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.

“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.

It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.

“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.

He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.

Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.

Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.

“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.

Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.

He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.

Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.

“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.

The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.

Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.

After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.

Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.

Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.

An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.

Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.

“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.

With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.

He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.

Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.

On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.

Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New trailer shows Rambo is getting to old for this s***

The idea of a macho-man being referred to as a “Rambo” is so ingrained in everyone’s brains that it’s hard to remember that there was actually a time before Rambo movies actually existed. But now, it looks like Sylvester Stallone’s alter-ego John Rambo is really going to be in his final movie titled I’m Getting Too Old For This Shit; Rambo: Last Blood.

Set to a slowed-down version of Lil’ Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Rambo: Last Blood leaves no old-guy action-star cliche unturned, which is why it will probably be awesome. In a plot that looks kind of like a mash-up of the last 20 minutes of Skyfalland the final episode of Breaking Bad, it seems Rambo is going to set a bunch of boobytraps and kill a bunch of dudes who probably (maybe?) deal drugs. (Killing evil drug dealers is what badass old dudes do full time in action movies these days, just so we’re clear.)


Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) Teaser Trailer— Sylvester Stallone

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The only question that remains at this point relative to Last Blood is whether or not Sly will utter the greatest old-guy action movie battle cry of all time; will Sly actually say “I’m getting too old for this shit?” And if he doesn’t will it really be Last Blood, or could there be a sequel. It’s a bit of a paradox, to be honest. When someone says “I’m getting too old for this shit” in an action movie (usually Danny Glover), it almost certainly means there’s a sequel and they are, in fact, not too old for this, or any other shit.

“I’m Too Old For This Shit”: The Movie Supercut

www.youtube.com

So, what say you, Rambo? Too old? Perhaps just perfectly old enough for this shit?

Side note: This is somehow, only the fifth Rambo movie. Doesn’t it seem like it’s the 20th?

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

System Of A Down released their first new music in 15 years in response to the Artsakh War

Throughout the Global War on Terror, many an American convoy has rolled to the heavy metal music of bands like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and System Of A Down. As songs like Fortunate Son, Paint it Black, and For What It’s Worth have become synonymous with the Vietnam War, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that songs like War Pigs, Highway to Hell, and Chop Suey will remind GWOT veterans of their time in country. System Of A Down in particular was extremely popular with service members in the early days of GWOT.

Formed in 1994, System consisted of Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and Andy Khachaturian who was later replaced by John Dolmayan in 1997. Originally playing under the band name Soil, System was derived from the name of a poem penned by Malakian titled Victims of a Down. “Victims” was changed to “System” in order to appeal to a wider audience and so that the band’s albums would be closer to their musical heroes, Slayer, on store shelves.

The band played an L.A. nightclub in 1995 and recorded a few demo tapes before their first official and professionally recorded song in 1997. The song, P.L.U.C.K., is an abbreviation for “Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers”, refers to the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. System then started playing more notable venues like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and Viper Room and caught the attention of producer Rick Rubin. Rubin later signed the band to American/Columbia Records and the rest is history.

In 2006, it seemed like System itself was set to become history. The previous year saw the band’s last recordings with the double album Mezmerize/Hypnotize before their last performance in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 13, 2006. “Tonight will be the last show we play for a long time together,” Malakian said that night. “We’ll be back. We just don’t know when.”

True to their word, System returned from their hiatus in 2011 and began a world tour through North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. System’s popularity had not waned, with their only 2013 U.S. performance at the Hollywood Bowl selling out just a few hours after tickets went on sale. The next year, the band announced the Wake Up The Souls Tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The tour included their first performance in their ancestral home of Armenia in 2015. System played a free concert in Republic Square in Yerevan, the country’s capital, which was met with wide acclaim.

Though System has continued to tour and perform, the band had not recorded any new material since 2005. That all changed on November 5, 2020 with the release of Genocidal Humanoidz and Protect the Land, the band’s first new songs in 15 years. The songs were written in 2017 and 2018 respectively and are inspired by the conflict faced by the ethnic Armenian people of the Artsakh region. The disputed border region saw the return of skirmishes in July 2020 which prompted responses by both Azeri and Armenian people around the world. The skirmishes escalated into a full-blown war on the morning of September 27, 2020.

Known to Armenians and the ethnically-Armenian people who call it home as Artsakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. However, the people who inhabit the land view themselves as a self-determined independent state. The latest conflict sees Azerbaijan being backed by Turkey and fielding Syrian mercenaries as well as Israeli-supplied weapons systems like UASs. On the other side of the conflict, Artsakh Defense Forces are being augmented by Armenian Armed Forces as well as Armenian diaspora, communities of ethnic Armenians around the world which were largely formed by refugees of the Armenian Genocide.

Though a ceasefire brokered by Russia came into effect on October 10, conflict has continued. As of the writing of this article, Armenia has announced 1,177 servicemen killed and 21 captured. Azerbaijan has not released any of their official casualty figures, however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported the deaths of 250 Syrian mercenaries. Both sides have reported civilian casualties and injuries totaling nearly 700. Additionally, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported some 40,000 Azerbaijani and 90,000 ethnic Armenians have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

In response to the war, System released their new songs to bring attention to the conflict that threatens their cultural homeland. Protect The Land was also released with its own music video depicting both diaspora Armenians and footage from the frontlines. “The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice,” reads the band’s statement on their website. “The music and lyrics speak for themselves. We need you to speak for Artsakh.”

The band is using their new music as a platform to raise funds through donations to the Aid for Artsakh Campaign under the Armenia Fund to provide aid to people who have been affected by the war. The band’s proceeds on purchases of the new songs are also going toward the Armenia Fund.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

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Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

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Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

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Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

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Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

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US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

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Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

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US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

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Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

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As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

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US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

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Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

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Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

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Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

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Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

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Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

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Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

popular

This soldier survived being impaled by an RPG

March 16, 2006 started like most days for the soldiers of Alpha Company, 2/87 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. A small patrol received their mission briefing and headed out to meet the elders of a remote village in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. The weather was warming up, signaling the start of the fighting season, and the soldiers knew it. But they didn’t know one of them would soon be hit by an RPG.


“There was definitely a sense of uneasiness,” Lt. Billy Mariani told ABC News. “There was an air about them of, you know, maybe something was going to happen.”

There was no way for the soldiers to know just how intense that something was going to be.

 

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

After four hours of driving, the patrol approached the village. They were ambushed by Taliban fighters using small arms and RPGs. As the convoy fought its way out of the kill zone, one of the vehicles, carrying Staff Sgt. Eric Wynn, Pvt. Channing Moss, and the platoon medic Spc. Jarod Angell, was struck by three RPGs.

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One of the rounds pierced the front windshield of the vehicle, nearly taking off Sgt. Wynn’s face in the process, and struck Moss, who was in the gunner’s turret, in the left hip. The impact threw him against the vehicle while the round shattered his pelvis, tore through his abdominal region, and lodged in his right thigh. The tailfin was still sticking out the other side. Moss was still alive and still conscious.

“I smelled something smoking and looked down,” Moss said. “And I was smoking.”

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Moss was lucky Doc Angell was seated below him in the Humvee. The medic got right to work dressing the wound. He bandaged Moss and secured the unexploded ordinance protruding from Moss to keep it from exploding. Lt. Mariani received the wounded report from Sgt. Wynn and called for a MEDEVAC, but he left out one crucial detail: one of his wounded was a potentially ticking bomb.

As the firefight died down, the MEDEVAC came in to evacuate the wounded but immediately noticed the RPG tailfin sticking out of Moss. The Army has a policy against transporting patients in Moss’ condition as they pose a risk for a catastrophic event that could bring down the helicopter. Fortunately for Moss, these brave souls had no intention of leaving a wounded soldier to die. After a quick conferral, the crew decided to load and evacuate him.

The helicopter landed safely at the aid station at Orgun-E where Moss was handed over to a surgical team. Going against protocol once again the surgical team, assisted by an EOD technician on the base, began the process of removing the live round from Moss’ abdomen.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Army policy states that soldiers wounded with unexploded ordinance are to be put in a blast secure area and treated as expectant (that is to say they aren’t going to make it) but Maj. John Oh and Maj. Kevin Kirk just simply could not do that.

To determine just how dangerous this surgery would be, the team first had to x-ray Moss to see what they were dealing with. They were fortunate, the main explosive of the warhead had come off before entering moss. However, there was still enough explosive and propellant remaining to kill Moss and maim anyone working on him.

After an intense surgery that required them to wear body armor to protect themselves, they were able to remove the unexploded round from Moss and save his life. The trauma to Moss’ internal organs was intense and a significant portion of his large intestine had to be removed.

Moss was transferred through the usual evacuee route going through hospitals in Afghanistan and Germany before arriving at Walter Reed. He would need several more surgeries and a great deal of physical therapy, but he would eventually recover to the point of being able to walk with a cane.

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

After being discharged from the Army, Moss returned to Georgia to attend college and raise his family.

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