There are no stupid questions…except for these ones!
When civilians have burning questions about the military, they turn to the only trusted source out there: the internet. Luckily for us, this means we get to relive our glory days and have a little bit of amusement. What’s the best thing to do when civvies ask something like, “Should I wear my cowboy hat at basic training for the Air Force?”
Gather a group of your military buddies, have some drinks, and turn the camera on:
Should you wear your cowboy hat to basic training? | Dumb Military Questions 101
For the record, it was a unanimous ‘yes’ to wearing your cowboy hat to basic training. It was the first time there was peace, belonging, and unbridled respect among the five branches.
Other questions were less universal or specifically catered to the specops vets in the group:
“How do special forces soldiers *really* open velcro quietly?”
Luckily, Green Beret Terry Schappert was on hand with a few suggestions. “Just throw a flashbang grenade. That gives you enough time and noise to open the velcro.” Problem solved. Thanks, Schappert.
“Are tall and strong soldiers more effective than short, thin soldiers?”
Now this one opened up some varied points. On the one hand, tall, strong soldiers can’t fit inside tanks, as U.S. Air Force vet Mark Harper sagely observed. But on the other hand, just look at U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke. Do we even need tanks? Really? If given the choice between the two…
U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.
Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg
His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.
Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.
And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.
In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.
And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:
What went right?
What went wrong?
The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.
And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.
That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.
And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.
But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.
But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.
The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.
Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.
After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said.
Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”
They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues.
Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”
With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”
Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said.
Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter.
To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.
Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.
“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”
We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.
WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare?
I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission.
They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously.
There was no check and balance in place.
No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time.
WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?
It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle.
The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable.
As a contractor it’s really just you.
Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go.
WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?
It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for.
This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war.
Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’
Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to.
WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?
Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security.
Gate guard, tower guard.
Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available.
WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?
Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that.
So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.
They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.
It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community?
There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published.
Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater.
A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented.
So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help.
‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon.
About Onward Press
Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit. www.usvaa.org
Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.
We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.
All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio. We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions. Please see Submission Guidelines.
Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.
Trips to the armory are supposed to be as simple as picking up your weapon system, training with it in the field, cleaning it, and checking it back in.
However, rarely does that timeline progress as seamlessly as troops would like. For all the newbie Boots out there who’ve never stepped foot inside the secured weapons compound, know that it’s a place where you’ll encounter an interesting cast of characters, all of whom claim the occupation of armorer.
The one who can find a single speck of dirt in your rifle
Some armorers like to stick their dirty pinky fingers inside your rifle only to magically discover that your bolt assembly has a greasy smudge on it. This guy isn’t him. Instead, he sticks a clean, sterile Q-tip inside and somehow manages to find the only grain of dirt left on your rifle — and rejects you.
Son of a b*tch!
Cpl. Miguel A. Garcia works on a weapon before heading out to help teach the Ghanian Army on armory procedures and weapons maintenance.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas)
The one who knows everything about weapons
It’s almost like they were born inside the Remington or Colt manufacturing plant because this troop is an absolute genius when it comes to firearms. Even if they’re a Boot, the senior enlisted staff respects this guy or gal.
That one sh*thead who is always cranky
We don’t know who or what puts this armorer in a lousy mood, but they seem to be in one every time you encounter them. Although you do your best to prevent angering them further, there’s no cheering them up.
It’s as if one of their general orders is to always be a d*ck to those who come within walking distance of the armory window.
They’re around… somewhere…
The one that was supposed to deploy with your unit, but now works at the armory.
Believe it or not, some troops will put in request after request to transfer to a different job to avoid deploying. Oftentimes, they get sent to work at the armory if they have a basic understanding of weaponry. One day, you’ll stroll up to the armory to check out a rifle, and there they are — it’s that guy from your unit, who’s now working window.
We all know they weaseled their way out of serving with the rest of the troops because they’re scared.
Sgt. Christopher R. Garcia explains the weapons capabilities to a group of cadets with El Camino High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
(Photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)
The one who gets forced to give hip-pocket classes
It’s simple: some troops have a knack for teaching, others don’t. Typically, nobody’s paying attention to these hip-pocket classes anyway. Troops just want to go to the field and blow something up.
Today the World Health Organization designated COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, a global pandemic. President Trump addressed the nation from the White House this evening to talk about what we know, what we’re doing and how we will respond. Watch the full address, here:
Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.
The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.
Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .
As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”
Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)
But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”
Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .
One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.
In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The leaders of North Korea and South Korea are scheduled to meet face-to-face for the first time on April 27, 2018, in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.
It will be the first leadership summit between the countries in more than a decade. It’s a first for a North Korean leader to agree to visit South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s. And the South Korean government, led by President Moon Jae-in, has pledged to create an environment conducive to diplomacy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to bring several high-ranking officials and guards from his Escort Command. Ri Sol Ju, Kim’s wife, and Kim Yo Jong, his sister, may make appearances.
Kim Jong Un will also most likely bring a toilet.
Whenever he travels, the North Korean leader is said to always bring his own toilet. And not just one — he has numerous toilets in different vehicles in his motorcade.
Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”
The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country,” using a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”
Kim is also said to have a chamber pot in his Mercedes to use if he doesn’t have time to stop to hop out and jump into one of the purpose-built traveling toilets.
Aside from Kim’s apparent dislike of public restrooms, there’s an important reason for the portable conveniences.
Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before coming to South Korea in 2005, told The Washington Post that “the leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”
Kim’s urine and fecal matter are routinely tested to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.
But his personal preference might be his undoing.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea, has jokingly suggested that the US should strike Kim’s personal toilet to demonstrate its precision.
“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of US precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote in the Daily Beast.
“It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Magnum P.I. and Blue Bloods star may be best known for Hawaiian shirts and the Gatling gun of mustaches, but did you know he also served in the Guard?
After he was drafted during the Vietnam War, Selleck joined the 160th infantry regiment of the California National Guard. “I am a veteran. I’m proud of it,” he said. “I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry, National Guard, Vietnam era. We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.”
Selleck served from 1967 to 1973, including six months of active duty. Before his military career, however, Selleck had already begun to pursue the entertainment industry, including commercial work and modeling, which makes it no surprise that he would later appear on California National Guard recruiting posters.
Former National Guard member, Tom Selleck, shares Guard facts in this 1989 commercial
In the video, Selleck uses a mixture of voiceover and direct-to-camera dialogue interspersed with facts about the National Guard throughout modern conflicts and operations: “Some people think the National Guard is just an excuse for a bunch of guys to get together and have a good time. That they’re not as trained or committed as other branches of the military. That they’re weekend warriors — not real soldiers. And people wonder what business they have being in a foreign country. Well I can’t clear up all the misconceptions people have about the National Guard so let me leave you with one important fact: if you bring together all the ready forces of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Reserves, you still have only half the picture. The other half? The National Guard, skilled, capable, intelligent people. People like you and me. American’s at their best.”
The video is certainly different from what contemporary audiences are accustomed to. While modern recruiting videos show off assets and firepower, this one feels a little more solemn and defensive. This may be a reflection of the nation’s shift in National Guard duty rights during the 80s.
In 1986, Congress passed a Federal law known as the Montgomery Amendment, which removed state governors’ power to withhold consent for orders summoning National Guard units to active duty without a national emergency. The law was originally created in response to the decision made by several governors to withhold their consent to send units for training in Honduras. In 1989, a Federal appeals court upheld the law when it was challenged by the Massachusetts and Minnesota governors.
According to the 1989 Profile of the Army, additional missions were transferred to the National Guard and Army Reserve as the Army increased its focus as an integrated and cohesive “TOTAL FORCE” ready to respond to Soviet attacks on NATO or the Persian Gulf and defend U.S. interests abroad.
Selleck’s patriotism extended beyond his service to recruitment just in time to help boost numbers before the Persian Gulf War the following year.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the F/A-18 Hornet had plenty of opportunities to go head-to-head. There was the ever-present possibility of the Cold War turning hot, a potential meeting during Desert Storm, and again, an opportunity to clash over the Balkans. Even today, deployed carriers operate Hornets while several potential adversaries (like Syria, Iran, and North Korea) have Fulcrums in service.
This, of course, begs the question — which plane would win a dogfight? Let’s take a closer look at each.
Let’s start this off with a look at the F/A-18 Hornet. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Navy was looking for a plane to replace the F-4 Phantom and the A-7 Corsair in Navy and Marine Corps service. As a result, they got a very versatile plane – one that could help protect carriers from attacking Backfires, yet still carry out strike missions.
The MiG-29 Fulcrum was designed for the air-superiority role – and was meant to counter the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet
(USAF photo by MSGT Pat Nugent)
The baseline F/A-18 Hornets have a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 1,243 miles, and are armed with an M61 Vulcan cannon and a wide variety of air-to-ground weapons. Additionally, Hornets are typically armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. The Hornet is a very versatile plane that has seen action across the globe, from Libya to the War on Terror.
The MiG-29 Fulcrum, on the other hand, was one of two planes designed for fighting NATO planes for control of the air. The Fulcrum entered service in 1982 and was intended to be complemented by the Su-27 Flanker. The plane earned a bit of fame by playing an important role in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog.
The F/A-18 Hornet has advantages that would give it an edge over the MiG-29 in a fight.
(US Navy photo by PH2 Shane McCoy)
The MiG-29 has a higher top speed of 1,519 miles per hour, but a lower unrefueled range of 889 miles. It has a 30mm cannon, and primarily carries the AA-10 Alamo and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. Over time, the Fulcrum has evolved to carry some air-to-surface weapons, including bombs and missiles.
So, which of these planes would win in combat? The Fulcrum’s speed and the power of the AA-11 Archer would give it an advantage in a close-in dogfight. The problem, though, is getting close enough for that dogfight. The Hornet offers its pilot better situational awareness through hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls and advanced avionics. In a deadly duel where any single mistake can be fatal, being prepared is key.
As always, it depends on which plane’s fight is fought and how good the pilots are.
Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.
Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.
These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.
Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.
But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,
“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.
On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.
While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.
Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.
The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.
It’s rare for a film franchise to come out of nowhere and blow everyone away to the magnitude of Summit Entertainment’s John Wick. It’s a masterclass in storytelling through a character’s actions as opposed to pointless, exposition-heavy dialogue. The beautiful cinematography and the use of color to tell a story is, frankly, mind-blowing. But all of those elements pale in comparison to the breathtaking action sequences that make up the bulk of the series.
Today, the first trailer for the third installment dropped and it looks like it’s going to be an insane ride from the very beginning. In true John Wick fashion, the trailer doesn’t outright tell you what’s happening, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can piece together everything.
Even the poster basically tells you everything about the film if you’ve paid enough attention.
We last saw Keanu Reeves’ John Wick running away from the Bethesda Terrace in New York City’s Central Park. He had a -million bounty on his head after being forced into a hit-job he didn’t want to take. Eventually, Wick kills his mark, but does so in the Continental Hotel, a place designed to be a safe space for assassins. Suddenly, that -million bounty on his head doubled in value.
Now, he’s got to outrun every hitman looking to score a cool million and he no longer has access to any of the amenities offered by the Continental Hotel. The final film will take place moments after he was given a one-hour head start. In this hour, John Wick has to bandage up his wounds and get ready to fight (almost literally) everyone in the underworld.
In the freshly released trailer, John Wick is seen talking to Anjelica Huston’s character, simply known as The Director, who holds a presumably important position on the High Table (basically the UN for crime bosses). Wick asks for safe passage and is, of course, denied. The important detail to note here is that John is wearing the same outfit as he was when he was taking out every assassin in New York, so we can assume he’s still in the Big Apple, and he’s holding a rosary.
Next, we see him running into the New York Public Library and places that rosary along with his marker (a coin that can grant any desire, in the vein of asking a don on the day of his daughter’s wedding), several gold coins, and a photo of he and his wife inside a hollowed-out book. Wick knows he’s about to go to war, but this shows us he intends to return and claim his cache of prized possessions — and we all know that when Wick returns, he does so with a vengeance.
The clock strikes 6 P.M. and all hell breaks loose. The text, “If you want peace, prepare for war” flashes on screen between intense action shots and John Wick arrives in Morocco, where he meets Halle Berry’s character, Sophia, before the action rolls on.
To watch the trailer for yourself, check out the video below:
Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.
Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.
Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.
A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.
Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.
The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.
Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.
According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.
“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.
“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”
The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.
(U.S. Army photo)
“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.
“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”
The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.
“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.
The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.
While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.
“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”
While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.
Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.
“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”
Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.
The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.
It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.
Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.
Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.
However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.
Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.
Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.
(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)
It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.
Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.
The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.
Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.
“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”
While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.
The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.
“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”
The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.
While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.
On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.
While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.
As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.
“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.
“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”
Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.
“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.