It’s almost beach season! That means it’s time put on those colorful tank tops and get your feet sandy. However, before we sizzle in the sun, many of us want to get our arms jacked so that we can give out free tickets to the gun show.
So, how can you get your arms pumped up before summer? Well, at this point in the year, it’d take a miracle — but now is always the best time to start.
The biceps are composed of two muscles: the long and short head. To bulk them up, you’ll also need to include some work on the triceps — which is made up of the lateral, medial, and long head.
If you’re ready to get that daily muscle pump going, then let’s go.
Note: Don’t get these confused with EZ-curls, that’s something different.
This exercise requires a tight grip on the bar, keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart with your elbows placed in front of your hips. With your wrists straight, lift the bar up and feel the squeeze in those biceps.
Then, lower the bar slowly, focusing on the negative motion. This movement should take approximately three seconds to complete. Go any faster and you’re probably not getting the full rep.
While using an adjustable cable machine, take a solid step backward, set your feet, keep a slight bend in your knees, then push down and breathe out. After you push down, slowly raise the bar until your elbows return to a 90-degree bend.
Similar to a straight bar curl, seated incline bench dumbbell curls are a great way to shoot blood into your biceps and achieve that epic pump. While in a seated 45-degree position, have workable weights in both hands — which should be hanging down by your sides.
As you start the rep, bring the dumbbells up and squeeze the bicep at the peak of the rep, then, lower that sucker back down slowly. The key to this exercise is to keep your back firmly on the bench. Lifting off the inclined bench could result in crappy form, and we don’t want that.
Laying flat and using an EZ-curl bar with a proper amount of weight, start the rep by lowering the bar toward your forehead. Keep your elbows pointed inward and you slowly bring the bar to touch your forehead.
If you mismanage the rep, you can smack yourself right in the forehead. We don’t want that, but that’s why they call it a skullcrusher.
This exercise focuses on expanding the width of your bicep and forearm. Once you’ve grabbed a manageable set of weights from the rack, hold them down by your side until you are ready to begin.
Now, raise the weights up by bending elbows at a 90-degree angle and squeeze that sucker at the peak. There are many ways to complete this exercise correctly. You can alternate hands and which direction you decide to move the weight: toward your chest or out in front of you.
This one is the opposite of the tricep push down. Once you’ve chosen a legit dumbbell weight that you can handle, bring it over your head with two hands and stretch it back behind you. Make sure you don’t hit yourself with the weight as you begin the rep, extending your arms straight overhead.
Once you slowly lower the weight down, remember to breathe and halt the weight when your elbow reaches a 90-degree angle. Then, bring the weight back up. Easy day, right?
Note: These exercises should be done with a spotter or a fitness professional. Have fun getting buffed out, but don’t get hurt out there.
Marines speak a slightly-different language than the rest of the United States.
While everyone in the Corps speaks and uses English most of the time, there’s another layer of terminology added on top which is uniquely Marine. If you are around Marines long enough, you’ll hear someone being called a “boot” or dozens of them screaming out “yut.”
This is what it all means.
“Rah.” or “Rah!” or “Rah?”
Short for “Oohrah,” a Marine greeting or expression of enthusiasm similar to the Army’s “Hooah” or the Navy’s “Hooyah.” Rah, however, is a bit more versatile. You could be agreeing with someone, by saying “rah.” You could be excited about going on a mission by exclaiming, “Rah!” Or you could be asking the platoon if everyone understands, “rah?”
It’s like the Marine version of the mobster’s “fuggaddaboutit.”
This is an even more shortened-down version of “rah.” But it’s most often used as a lazy-man’s version of agreement. Your platoon sergeant may ask if everyone understands the plan of the day, to which everyone will respond with “Errrr.” Translation: Yeah Gunny, we got it.
Arguably used more often than “Oohrah” by junior Marines to express enthusiasm. Instead of “oohrah,” Marines will often just say “yut” when in the presence of motivational speeches and/or talk of blowing things up.
A play on the Marine Corps motto of “Semper Fidelis (Latin for “Always Faithful”), Semper Gumby for Marines means “Always Flexible.” This phrase is often used when you are told to do one thing, then told a different thing, then told to just stand by, then told to go back to doing the original thing. “Semper Gumby, bro.”
A pejorative term for a new Marine fresh out of boot camp. The term’s origin apparently comes from Vietnam, as an acronym meaning “beginning of one’s tour.” New Marines joining a unit are usually referred to as “boots” until they go on a deployment or have at least a year or two in the Corps. Especially among post-9/11 era infantry Marines however, you are pretty much a “boot” until you’ve been to combat.
This is what Marines call guard duty. While sentries may well have been looking for fires in the past, Marines pulling fire watch nowadays can be walking around a barracks aimlessly or standing their shift behind the machine-gun in Afghanistan.
Since this is one of the most important duties of recruits at boot camp, senior Marines will often say boots only have the “fire watch ribbon,” a pejorative for the National Defense Service Medal that everyone gets.
Acronym often used in response to someone complaining. “Hey dude, SITFU.” That means suck it the f— up. You can also just ask if they have a straw. Most Marines will understand the reference.
“Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
An unofficial motto of Marines that means exactly what you think it means. As the smaller service — and with much less funding than the Army — Marines have an attitude of doing more with less. “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” sums it all up.
Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps
The nickname for the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps, Archibald Henderson, who served in the Marine Corps for 54 years. But most of the time when this phrase is used, it’s in referring to the oldest guy in the unit. Common usage: “Hey grand old man, what was it like serving with Jesus?”
Sure, it can literally mean kill. But in Marine-speak, kill can mean “yes, I understand,” “hell yeah,” or “let’s do this.” Marines will even say “kill” as a half-joking version of hello. Using this one outside of the Corps can get plenty of strange looks, so don’t try this one on your local college campus.
Acronym for the Marine Corps’ six troop-leading steps. It stands for begin the planning, arrange reconnaissance, make reconnaissance, complete the planning, issue the order, and supervise. But most Marines just say “BAMCIS” when they successfully complete a task. It’s like when Chef Emeril says “Bam!” Just add a “cis.”
The term Marines use for slacking off. Soldiers call this behavior “shamming,” but Marines can “skate” out of boring tasks by avoiding them somehow, usually by getting a dental appointment. And of course, S-K-A-T-E is even an acronym: S: Stay out of trouble / K: Keep a low profile / A: Avoid higher-ups / T: Take your time / E: Enjoy yourself.
Direct reflection of leadership
This is often used sarcastically to rib a non-commissioned officer when one of his or her Marines gets in trouble. “So, two guys from your squad got caught drinking in Tijuana then got arrested at the border. Direct reflection of leadership, right corporal?”
What some Marines will call an extremely gung-ho coworker. It’s not a compliment.
Non-judicial punishment — also known as the Article 15 — is what Marines can face if they break the rules, but a commander doesn’t feel it’s bad enough to warrant a court martial. While the military justice system is the same across branches, the Marines are the only ones who refer to it as an NJP. If you walk out of your commanding officer’s door going down a rank or losing some pay, you probably got “ninja punched.”
Pvt. or Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli
The John Doe of the Marine Corps. He’s the screw-up and the guy always getting in trouble. The Marine who is lost all the time. The anonymous service-member who stands as the example of what not to do. This term will usually be brought up by a senior leader, like: “Hey gents, you are all doing good things. Be safe out there this weekend, but don’t let me get a phone call about Pvt. Schmuckatelli getting all drunk out at the club and getting into trouble, good to go?”
Another play on “Semper Fidelis,” which often gets shortened to “Semper Fi.” While the motto means “Always Faithful” and brings up teamwork and esprit de corps, “Semper I” is used when a Marine goes off and does their own thing without thinking of others. Sometimes used as “Semper I, f— the other guy.”
Lance Corporal, or E-3, is a Marine rank that comes with more responsibility than a private or private first class, but is not a non-commissioned officer. In order for Marines to pick up the next rank of corporal, they need to have a high-enough “cutting score” to be promoted. If they get out after their four-year enlistment at Lance Corporal, they are a “Terminal Lance,” which can be bad or a point of pride, depending on who you talk to. “Terminal Lance” is also a hugely-popular online comic strip started by Maximilian Uriarte.
Let’s break it down, Barney-style.
Some Marines need some help in understanding how to complete a task. When this happens, a leader may want to break it down into baby steps and explain it very slowly. You know, just like Barney.
These are what Marines call the glasses you get issued at boot camp, or “boot camp glasses.” Most know them by their nickname, which is “birth control glasses,” because well, you probably don’t want to hit the club wearing these things.
The Lance Corporal Underground
The source of most rumors that go around the Corps. Since lance corporals make up a large part of the Corps, the underground is often responsible for passing word of what’s going on, or completely made-up falsehoods.
“Good initiative, bad judgment.”
This phrase comes out when a Marine does something for a good reason, but things turn out awful. A great example would be when your platoon commander says he knows a shortcut through the woods, then he gets the platoon completely lost. “Good initiative, bad judgment, sir.” Next time, let’s stick to the planned route.
Traditionally run on Thursday, the one night of the week Marines usually dread. No, it’s not the field day of play and sports like back in school. It’s the term used to describe the weekly ritual of cleaning rooms in the barracks. Field day cleaning involves moving furniture (often completely outside of the room), dusting top-to-bottom, vacuuming, scrubbing, and waxing floors.
“Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis,” reads the top definition in Urban Dictionary. If your first sergeant finds a speck of dust anywhere, you’re screwed.
What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.
As if 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, earlier today the Pentagon officially released unclassified, previously leaked footage of “unidentified aerial phenomena” aka unidentified flying objects aka UFOs aka ALIENS.
In September of last year, the Navy acknowledged the validity of the videos, but are officially releasing them “in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’
There are three videos showing separate incidents.
Gimbal: The First Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release
If social distancing’s got you down, just remember: We’re not alone. Is that threatening to national security? Here’s what UFO expert and former special agent Luis Elizondo, said in an interview with WATM:
Do I think they’re a threat? They could be if they wanted to be.
Let me give you a very succinct analogy: Let’s say at night you go to lock your front door, you don’t expect any problems, but you lock it anyways just to be extra safe. You lock your windows, and you turn on your alarm system, and you go to bed. You do this every morning, and let’s say one morning after you wake up, you’re walking downstairs, and you find muddy footprints in your living room.
Nothing has been taken, no one is hurt, but despite you locking the front doors, the windows, and turning on the alarm system — there are muddy footprints in your living room.
The question is: is that a threat?
Well, I don’t know, but it could be if it wanted to be.
A new weapon being tested by the US military could give special operators a more lethal edge by allowing them to shoot underwater, according to Defense One.
The bullets, manufactured by DSG Technologies, are tipped with tungsten and create an gas bubble to allow the bullet to move rapidly through the water. Ordinary bullets don’t have this supercavitating effect, which means they move much more slowly through water.
While ordinary bullets can travel about half a mile per minute, that speed quickly slows to a complete stop when the bullet travels through denser materials like water.
According to DSG Technologies, “Depending on the weapon and the used loading variant, this ammunition is suitable for use in partial or fully submerged weapons, regardless of if the target is in water or on the surface.”
A press officer with US Special Operations Command told Insider that the bullets were being tested by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). CTTSO confirmed to Insider that it is testing supercavitating ammunition, but declined to answer questions about whether Special Forces communities have been involved in the testing, or whether DSG Technologies is the company that provides the ammunition for testing.
DSG told Defense News that its ammunition is undergoing several tests with the military, including tests in which the bullets are fired from underwater up to the surface.
Odd Leonhardsen, DSG’s chief science officer, also told Defense One that DSG is selling the bullets to governments around the world, but did not specify where — although he did mention that those countries were testing the bullets by firing them from a helicopter into water.
According to Defense One, .50 caliber CAV-X bullets can travel 60 meters underwater, and can go through 2 centimeters of steel fired from 17 meters away, indicating that it could be used to penetrate submarines.
How the bullets actually create the gas bubble is unclear, Popular Mechanics reports, but they could somehow harness the gasses created from the gunpowder when the bullet is fired. Popular Mechanics also reports that the bullets are being developed to be compatible with existing weapons, indicating that bullets can be used in and out of the water.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Look, we get it. It can be hard to write about the military. What’s the difference between soldiers, troops, and service members? Are Coast Guardsman sailors? Are they Navy personnel at all? Do those guys really prefer to be known as “seamen?”
There’s a lot of terminology to get straight, but still, it’s not that hard. And, frankly, we’re tired of seeing anything with more than 2 inches of armor being described as a “tank.” So, here’s a quick primer on America’s only current tank — and a whole bunch of armored vehicles that are not tanks:
A U.S. M1A2 Abrams tank fires during a 2015 exercise in Estonia.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt)
First, the only current American military vehicle that is actually a tank: the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The first ones rolled out in 1976, but numerous upgrades have been made since. The modern M1A2 SEPV3 has ceramic armor made from depleted uranium and fires a 120mm cannon with everything from high explosive rounds to sabot. Sabot rounds are fast-flying darts that exit from the main gun.
Thousands of them exist in the U.S. arsenal and hundreds more are in service around the world, mostly in places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Australia. It’s easy to pick out because of its large size, free-moving turret with a large gun, and the massive tank treads that propel it across the ground.
U.S. Army Arkansas National Guard soldiers fire paladins.
(U.S. Army Arkansas National Guard)
Next, the Paladin. This is probably the most convincing of the non-tanks out there. It’s significantly smaller than the Abrams and weighs less than half as much, but it is large, propels itself on two big tank treads, is well-armored, and has a big gun.
But it’s the gun and the mission that makes this artillery instead of a tank. The 155mm howitzer is made to primarily fire in an indirect fire mode, arcing the shells over the battlefield instead of engaging directly, like an Abrams. Its armor and speed also aren’t really up to snuff for direct combat.
You can differentiate it from a tank by focusing on the arm that supports the cannon barrel, the smaller size, and the reduced armor. Especially important is the lack of explosive reactive armor, the boxy armor panels on the skirts of Abrams tanks.
A U.S. Army Soldier assigned to 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, ground guides an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
(U.S. Army Spc. Esmeralda Cervantes)
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Confusing a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle with a tank is pretty reasonable. It’s armored, propels itself on two tracks, and is often seen with the explosive reactive armor common on Abrams. It even has a free-turning turret like a tank and fights on the frontlines.
But the difference comes in the vehicles’ mission and the size of the main cannon. Bradleys have lighter armor and a much smaller gun, typically 25mm compared to the Abrams’ 120mm. They’re made to move quickly on the battlefield and carry up to 8 infantrymen into combat, though other variants drop the infantry carrying capacity to serve other missions, instead.
To differentiate it from the Abrams, focus on the size, reduced armor, and the much smaller gun.
The M113 armored personnel carrier is the predecessor the the Bradley. It, also, is not a tank. It’s smaller, has less armor, and lacks a turret.
The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle is based on the M1 Abrams tank, but it has no 120mm gun and is designed for breaching obstacles rather than defeating enemy forces in direct combat.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle
The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle is based on the M1 Abrams, so getting mixed up makes sense. But M1150s lack the 120mm main gun of an Abrams.
They boast some kind of large plow on the front instead, usually a 15-foot-wide, bulldozer-like plow, but sometimes they’re seen with other mine-clearing equipment. They’re also equipped with a mine-clearing line charge, or MICLIC, that fires from the turret.
The Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle is an impressive piece of hardware, but still not a tank.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)
Amphibious Assault Vehicle
These monstrosities are pretty sweet. They’re swimming armored vehicles with treads and the ability to carry up to 25 combat-equipped infantrymen (nearly always Marines).
But their primary offensive armament is a .50-cal. machine gun or a 40mm grenade launcher, a far cry from the cannons used on tanks, especially the 120mm on the Abrams. They also have armor that’s perpendicular to the ground, something that tank designers avoid in key areas since it helps the enemy round penetrate during fights.
Marines fire the main gun of the LAV-25 during gunnery training. This impressive bit of armor is super useful, but it’s still smaller, less armored, and less powerful than a main battle tank.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)
This is another armored vehicle that swims across open ocean. Used primarily by the U.S. Marine Corps, it has a 25mm chain gun and some light armor, but it’s still underpowered and underarmored compared to main tanks.
But the easiest way to tell the LAV-25 from a tank is that it has rubber road wheels instead of metal ones on treads. In fact. lots of armored platforms that are sometimes described as tanks are rolling on rubber road wheels, something tanks don’t do.
So, just like the LAV-25, Army Strykers are not tanks. Nor are any of the lighter vehicles, like humvees, MRAPs, or M-ATVs.
If all of this leaves you wondering what, exactly, a tank is, well, sorry — it’s changed over time. But modern tanks are typically heavily armored vehicles with large guns, rotating turrets, and treads. They’re designed to engage in direct combat with other forces, including enemy armor, by using their armor and the terrain for protection while firing their main gun as their primary offense.
When dealing with anti-tank infantry, they may rely more heavily on their machine guns, but many countries field shotgun-like ammo for their tanks for this scenario.
If it doesn’t fit all of these categories, it’s almost certainly an infantry fighting vehicle, self-propelled artillery, or a similar platform.
If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.
And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.
The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.
Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.
That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.
In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.
Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.
Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.
The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.
Throughout history, communications troops have had one job: to make sure those on front lines are able to talk to headquarters. Today’s troops that operate satellite communications and line-of-sight radio waves through mostly barren terrain may not know just how difficult their same job was during the Vietnam War.
In training, it wasn’t uncommon to walk into the classroom and see the number “5” written on the board. When an unfortunate soul would ask about the number, the response was, “that number up on the board? That’s your life expectancy, in seconds, during a firefight.” This is because the PRC-77 radio system weighted 13.5 lbs without batteries. With batteries, spare batteries, and encryption, you’re looking at 54lbs total. The PRC-77 used either a 3-ft or 10-ft antenna but, since the 3-ft whip antenna rarely worked in the jungles, most commo troops were stuck using the 10-footer, which essentially put a big target on their back.
Just so we don’t have to get into detail on how FM radio waves work, trust me on this one: radio communication was laughably hard in the thick jungles of Vietnam. While the Army’s 1st Signal Brigade managed to set up a massive communications hubs in Saigon and Thailand, it was with the smaller signal sites scattered throughout the region that allowed troops to talk. Any hilltop would have to be stripped so giant antenna could be built to further amplify communications.
Commo guys always have — and always will — say “Yep, that antenna looks good enough!” (U.S. Army)
And finally, there’s the overly complicated radio encryption. The early forms of radio encryption, the NESTORs, functioned as the DoD planned, but they were bulky, prone to overheating, rarely worked, greatly decreased sound quality, lowered the range by 10 percent, and had easily-damaged, highly-valuable cables. While a very valuable tool, it was also determined that even if the enemy could decode the encryption, they still wouldn’t understand military jargon.
In short, it was hell for these commo guys. But these men stood among the greats, like Sgt. Allen Lynch and Pfc. Bruce W. Carter— radio operators who received the Medal of Honor for their actions during in Vietnam.
Three months ago, Navy SEAL and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy slogged through the dirt roads of Normandy with a 44lbs rucksack on his back. Captain Cassidy and several dozen other SEALs (myself included) had just swam 11 miles through the English channel to commemorate the pre-D-Day mission of the first Naval Commandos. The 11-mile swim / 25-mile ruck run on the 74th anniversary of D-Day had a purpose: to raise money for fallen SEALs and their families.
It was an act of service for those who had died in service.
Cassidy, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, sweated out this epic charity challenge in the middle of training for another kind of walk — one that will take place at 17,000 miles per hour, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. If all goes well, Cassidy will return to space and conduct a spacewalk to make repairs on the International Space Station. But, in the midst of endless days of preparation and training, he took time to honor his military roots — a heritage he shares with a long line of astronauts before him. Captain Chris Cassidy said,
It’s truly been an honor to have a role in our nation’s manned space program. We have had astronauts and cosmonauts living continuously on the International Space Station for the last 18 years which has only been possible because of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. That history is also deeply intertwined with the military. Personally, I love how in both our nation’s space program and military, laser focus on mission success is balanced with detailed planning and operational rick controls. It’s also an amazing feeling to be among such motivated and talented people.
That heritage is one of the centerpieces of the new blockbuster film, First Man, featuring Ryan Gosling starring as NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong. People know Armstrong as the man who walked on the moon; they often don’t know that Armstrong was a decorated Navy fighter pilot and Korean War veteran.
Neil Armstrong in 1964, while in training to be an astronaut.
The film is largely focused on Armstrong’s life and the mission to get to the moon — but it explores a theme familiar to military audiences: the challenge of maintaining a family while deploying to do dangerous work. The film depicts Armstrong’s family and their sacrifice, particularly that of Armstrong’s wife, Janet. And it shows scenes that any military family has faced: how to speak to your children about the danger of the mission; the enormous stress before the deployment; the uncertainty while your loved one is far away. All of this is shown with raw and real emotion.
What was true then and is true now is that service member families often bear a heavy and overlooked burden during times of conflict. While First Man is primarily a movie about the first moon walk, it’s important to remember that that mission, and the space program in general, was the byproduct of a conflict: the Cold War and the tension between the USSR and the US. The frontlines of the early space race were the frontiers of space, and its foot soldiers were military test pilots who strapped themselves to rockets and ventured into the stratosphere in service of their country.
Apollo 11 astronauts with families, 1969
(Ralph Morse for LIFE)
I had an opportunity to speak with Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (the director behind the smash-hit films La La Land and Whiplash) and ask him about these themes of the connection between military service and the space program:
1. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘First Man’
After I made Whiplash, I was approached by producers Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, and Marty Bowen about the idea of doing a movie on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about space travel and didn’t know what my angle would be. But I started reading Jim Hansen’s incredible book, First Man, and started to think of Neil’s story as a story about the cost of great achievement — similar to what I had looked at in Whiplash, only on a much bigger canvas.
What was the toll that the mission to the moon took? I was awed by the sacrifice, the patriotism, the ambition, and the vision that made the impossible possible — and the reminder that it was human beings who did it, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and overcoming daunting odds — and even great tragedy — to accomplish something for the ages.
The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m.
2. What’s woven through the movie are themes of duty and sacrifice. And as a Navy veteran myself, I could identify not just with the astronauts (especially Neil, Navy pilot), but with their families and what they went through. Can you talk a bit about those themes and how they affected your work on this?
The family aspect was paramount — showing these famous events through the eyes of not just Neil, but his wife Janet and his sons, Rick and Mark. How did they all cope with the demands of the job? Funerals were a normal part of life. Two of Neil’s closest friends died while he was in the program. Neil himself almost died several times. And yet, balanced with the danger and the risk, he and Janet also had to take out the trash, clean the pool, make breakfast for their kids. That combination of the intimate and the epic, and the selfless way Neil and Janet confronted all of it, was extraordinary to me.
But I also think it’s worth remembering, as you note, that Neil had been in the Navy. He was someone who believed deeply in service for country. He risked his life in the Korean War. He became a test pilot to forward our understanding of aeronautics, to contribute to knowledge. He went to space to keep seeking those answers. This is someone who was not acting in his own self-interest, who was not seeking fame or fortune. This is a man who believed, in all aspects of his life, that his duty to the mission came first, and without that willingness to risk it all and to sacrifice it all I don’t believe the moon landing ever would have happened.
3. Can you talk a bit about Janet Armstrong and her role?
Ryan and I were lucky enough to meet with Janet and spend time with her. She was an incredible woman, and the stories she told us and memories she shared with us were invaluable. Like Neil, Janet was tough — she had a grit to her that I think made her uniquely qualified for her role in the space program. It’s worth remembering that astronaut wives like Janet played an enormous part in the overall endeavor of going to the moon: they were the ones to had to find the balance between space and home, between the demands of their husbands’ work with the lives of their kids and the necessities of home. They had to do it all while putting on a smile for the cameras — even when they couldn’t know for sure if their husbands would ever return from space. One of my greatest joys in making this movie was in watching Claire Foy embody Janet’s spirit and resilience and pay tribute to such an amazing person.
The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives, Janet Armstrong, Patricia Collins, and Joan Aldrin.
4. There’s a scene in the film where Neil Armstrong is talking to his boys about what’s about to happen — the mission and the risks. Can you give us a sense of what you were thinking with that scene and what you wanted to convey?
That’s a scene that many families across the country have their own version of: the mom or dad about to go off to work, and the knowledge that he or she may not come back. It again speaks to a willingness to sacrifice in the name of service that I find awe-inspiring. In this movie’s case, the scene at the dinner table between Neil and Janet and their boys Rick and Mark was almost word-for-word what actually happened. Janet insisted to Neil he talk to his kids and explain to them what he was doing and what the risks were; much of the scene was taken verbatim from Rick and Mark Armstrong’s recollections. It was a tremendously important scene for all of us — a moment where the characters have to come to a stop and confront the dangers of what they are doing, and what it all means.
5. The military and the space program have a long joint history. At the simplest, a lot of veterans became astronauts. The SEAL community, which I’m a part of, for example is proud of the fact that there are two astronauts currently in training who are SEALs. Did that joint history play into your research at all, or the end product?
It did, in several ways. First, I liked to think of the film as almost a war movie. The moon mission was initially a product of the Cold War, and the astronauts who risked their lives for their country were all former or current servicemen. The dangers were almost combat-like, too — this was not the glossy, glamorous, sleek-and-easy space travel I grew up seeing in movies. These capsules were like old tanks and submarines; the rockets carrying them out of the atmosphere were essentially converted missiles. The dangers were front and center — and, with them, the immense bravery required to face them.
This photograph of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, was taken inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface.
6. The film’s story and title come from James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, but I was curious: Did you have any other creative influences that helped you make this — books, films, etc?
Yes, many! As I alluded to, certain war movies were big inspirations: Saving Private Ryan, Paths of Glory, The Deer Hunter. Movies about submarines like Das Boot. I also read as many books on the subject matter as I could — one of my favorites was “Carrying the Fire” by Mike Collins, who flew with Neil on Apollo 11. “Deke!” by Deke Slayton and “Failure Is Not An Option” by Gene Kranz were also key. And, finally, documentaries! The archival material shot by NASA, much of which is compiled in incredible films like For All Mankind and Moonwalk One. Documentaries of the period like Salesman and Hospital and Gimme Shelter. An amazing documentary by Frederick Wiseman, about training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, called Missile. All of these taught and inspired me.
First Man, starring Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters October 12, 2018.
Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also served as a US Navy SEAL earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander and completing multiple deployments in the Global War on Terrorism. His family member, Judith Resnick, was the second American woman in space and was killed on launch during the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.
Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.
The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.
“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.
On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.
There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran, which some believe hamper Tehran’s ability to contain the deadly outbreak of coronavirus that has officially killed nearly 2,000 people.
The United States has offered to help Iran but has shown no desire to ease crippling sanctions reimposed on Tehran shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump exited the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump said on March 22 he had offered to help the Islamic republic in its fight against the coronavirus, saying that “Iran is really going through a difficult period with respect to this, as you know.”
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rohani, have long called for the lifting of the sanctions, while dismissing Washington’s humanitarian offer as dishonest. “They offer a glass of muddy water but they don’t say that they’ve blocked this nation from [accessing] the main [water] springs,” Rohani said on March 23.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went as far as suggesting that the United States might be behind the pandemic and therefore the offer cannot be trusted. “You are accused of creating this virus; I don’t know if this is true, but amid such an allegation, how can a wise person trust you and accept your offer of help?” he said in a speech on March 22. “You could be giving medicine to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain here permanently.”
In a statement issued on March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Khamenei’s “fabrications” put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk. He also reiterated that U.S. sanctions did not target imports of food, medicine, or other humanitarian goods.
Iran has said it asked the International Monetary Fund for billion in emergency funding to battle the coronavirus outbreak that, according to Iran’s Health Ministry, is killing one person nearly every 10 minutes.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed on March 22 for Trump to lift the sanctions — which prevent banking transactions well as the export of oil — on humanitarian grounds until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. “The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran’s efforts to fight COVID19,” Khan said on Twitter. “Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic.”
‘Maximum Pressure’ To Continue
While continuing to pressure Tehran amid the pandemic, U.S. officials have blamed much of the crisis on mismanagement by Iranian leaders, who are accused of a slow initial response.
Criticism also came for the failure of Iranian officials to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak in Iran and from where the virus is believed to have first spread to the rest of the country.
“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iranian affairs, told reporters last week. “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran.”
China and Russia, allies of Tehran and signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, have also made a similar appeal for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. “We called and are calling on the United States to abandon the inhumane practice of applying unilateral sanctions against Iran, which has an acute shortage of means to solve urgent health issues in the current situation of the spread of the coronavirus,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a similar demand on Twitter. “Continued sanction on Iran was against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations,” it tweeted on March 16.
The Guardian reported on March 18 that Britain was also privately pressing the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to allow it to help fight against the coronavirus, which, according to figures released by Iran’s Health Ministry on March 24, has infected 24,811 Iranians. The official death toll — which has been criticized by many as being underreported — stands at 1,934.
On March 20, some 25 organizations in the United States, including the International Crisis Group, Oxfam America, and the National Iranian American Council, called on U.S. leaders to lift the sanctions for 120 days to offer Iranians relief at this critical time.
“Sanctions have harmed the public health sector in Iran by slowing or entirely blocking the sale of medicine, respirators, and hygienic supplies needed to mitigate the epidemic, and broad sectoral sanctions continue to negatively impact ordinary Iranians by shuttering civilian-owned businesses and decimating the value of the rial, making it harder to procure food, medicine, and other basic needs,” the organizations said in a joint online statement.
There have also been calls on social media by U.S. lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” he tweeted on March 18. “As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”
Human Rights Watch said in an October 2019 report that U.S. sanctions have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment.
The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.
“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)
Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.
Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.
SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.
Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)
That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.
Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.
The HMS Thunderbolt was lost in combat on March 14, 1943, after a short but successful World War II career that saw it sink multiple Italian vessels, which might have been surprising to some since the submarine had actually sank three years prior in 1940 with a loss of nearly all hands.
The submarine scheduled to become HMS Thetis in 1939. It would later sink but was raised and served in World War II as the HMS Thunderbolt.
(Royal Navy Lt. S.J. Beadell)
That’s because the HMS Thunderbolt was once the HMS Thetis, or, more properly, it was almost the HMS Thetis. It was a submarine launched in 1938 as part of the interwar buildup of arms. The submarine was scheduled to become the HMS Thetis when it was commissioned.
But the planned commissioning didn’t happen. As the submarine went through its sea trials, a tragic accident occurred. Most torpedo tubes, then and now, work using two doors. One door opens to the sea when a torpedo is launched, one door opens into the sub when the crew needs to load a new torpedo. The best subs have mechanisms that make it physically impossible to open one door if the other isn’t closed.
But the N25 had an indicator instead, that was supposed to tell the crew the outer door was open so they wouldn’t open the inner door. But the indicator was really just a small hole in the door that would spurt water if the tube was flooded, and a painter had accidentally filled the small hole in.
79 years ago, on the 3rd September 1939, the day Great Britain declared war on Germany and her allies, HMS Thetis was towed aground onto Traeth Bychan beach #Anglesey #HMSThetis #HMSThunderbolt #submarinepic.twitter.com/uOm23G5FnZ
During a dive on June 1, 1939, this resulted in the inner door being opened while the outer door was also open. The crew was able to seal a bulkhead after significant flooding, but the boat was filled with 53 members of the defense industry and public, and air was already in short supply in the flooded sub.
The crew managed to raise themselves back to the surface for a short period, and four crewmembers escaped, but it crashed back to the seafloor, and 99 people were killed.
The HMS Thunderbolt in the Mediterranean in 1942.
The HMS Thunderbolt was successful, even though it seemed like it would be cursed. First, sailors don’t always like it when a vessel’s name is changed, an old superstition. And if any sub could be a ghost ship, the Thunderbolt was a top contender. Worse, Thunderbolt was, itself, an auspicious name for British vessels as two previous HMS Thunderbolts had been lost in crashes.
All of this likely weighed on the crew, especially when they saw the rust line on the walls of the sub from the original sinking. But it destroyed an Italian sub in the Atlantic on Dec. 15, 1940, and helped destroy an Italian light cruiser and a supply ship in early January 1943 in the Mediterranean.
The crew of the HMS Thunderbolt poses with a Jolly Roger flag in 1942.
(Royal Navy J.A. Hampton)
The Cicogna forced the Thunderbolt under and, when the British crew tried to resurface for air, spotted the boat’s periscope and hit it with depth charges, ending the ill-fated sub’s career and killing its crew, the second time the submarine was lost with all hands.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.