How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army offering recruits up to $40,000 to join the infantry

U.S. Army recruiters are offering bonuses worth up to $40,000 to new recruits who sign up for the infantry by Sept. 30, 2019, as part of an effort to reverse a shortage of grunts for fiscal 2019.

The drastic increase in bonus amounts for recruits in 11X, the infantry military occupational specialty, went into effect in mid-May 2019, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command officials, who said that the service still needs to fill about 3,300 infantry training seats by Sept. 30, 2019.

“We saw this coming in May; we immediately went to the senior leadership and said, ‘look, we need to max out the bonuses for 11Xs,'” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, told Military.com.


“If you sign up to be 11X and you sign a six-year commitment — ,000.”

Before May 2019, the maximum bonus amount for infantry recruits was ,000 for a six-year commitment.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A U.S. Army Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment speaks with a Soldier-in-training during a 12-mile ruck march at infantry One-Station Unit Training, Fort Benning, Ga., April 18, 2019.

(U.S. Army)

Last summer, the Army ran a pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that resulted in the service extending infantry one station unit training (OSUT) from 14 weeks to 22 weeks. The extended infantry training is designed to give soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver and first aid training.

The bonus increase is just a small step in the Army’s effort to meet its recruiting goal for the active force of 68,000 soldiers by Sept. 30, 2019. The Army launched a multi-faceted recruiting strategy October 2018 after the service missed its 2018 recruiting goal by 6,500 soldiers.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

New recruits signing up for the infantry can also get ,000 for a three-year enlistment, ,000 for a four-year enlistment and ,000 for a five-year enlistment, Recruiting Command officials said.

But these new bonuses won’t last long, Muth said.

“You’ve got to ship in August and September,” Muth said, explaining that infantry recruits must enter OSUT at Benning by the end of this fiscal year.

“If you ship in October, you don’t get the bonus.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier is late again

The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said March 26, 2019.

Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return summer 2019.


The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on March 26, 2019, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)

“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.

The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.

Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.

Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”

The issue appeared May 2018, when the ship was forced to return to port early.

“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The War Zone said that while the billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.

As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.

The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photo captures F-35 transitioning from sub-sonic to supersonic

The photograph in this post shows a U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) “Salty Dogs” during a test flight. Released by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, the image was taken as the stealth aircraft, carrying external AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles), flies transonic: indeed, what makes the shot particularly interesting are the schlieren shock waves that flight test photographers captured as the JSF transitioned from sub-sonic to supersonic.

Schlieren imagery is a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique, used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena: a clear understanding of the location and strength of shock waves is essential for determining aerodynamic performance of aircraft flying at supersonic speed in different configurations, for improving performance as well as designing future jets.


“Schlieren imaging reveals shock waves due to air density gradient and the accompanying change in refractive index,” says the NASA website that published an extensive article about this particular kind of photography few years ago. “This typically requires the use of fairly complex optics and a bright light source, and until recently most of the available schlieren imagery of airplanes was obtained from scale model testing in wind tunnels. Acquiring schlieren images of an aircraft in flight is much more challenging. Ground-based systems, using the sun as a light source, have produced good results but because of the distances involved did not have the desired spatial resolution to resolve small-scale shock structures near the aircraft.”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

This schlieren image of a VX-23 F-35C flying transonic shows the shock waves generated by the stealth aircraft.

(US Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

Noteworthy, while schlieren imaging dramatically displays the shock wave of a supersonic jet (image processing software removes the background then combines multiple frames to produce a clear picture of the shock waves) change in refractive index caused by shock waves can also become visible when aircraft move at speed much lowen than transonic, as shown in photographs taken in 2018.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A T-38C passing in front of the sun at supersonic speed, generating shockwaves.

(NASA)

Here what I wrote last year about a crazy cool image of an F-35 flying through the famous Star Wars canyon taken by photographer Jim Mumaw:

At speed lower than the transonic region, air flows smoothly around the airframe; in the transonic region, airflow begins to reach the speed of sound in localized areas on the aircraft, including the upper surface of the wing and the fuselage: shock waves, generated by pressure gradient resulting from the formation of supersonic flow regions, represent the location where the air moving at supersonic speed transitions to subsonic. When the density of the air changes (in this case as a consequence of shock waves) there is a change in its refractive index, resulting in light distortion.

Generally speaking, shock waves are generated by the interaction of two bodies of gas at different pressure, with a shock wave propagating into the lower pressure gas and an expansion wave propagating into the higher pressure gas: while the pressure gradient is significant in the transonic region, an aircraft maneuvering at high-speed through the air also creates a pressure gradient that generates shock waves at speed much lower than the speed of sound.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US grounds B-1 fleet over ejection seat precautions

The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.

Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.

“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.


The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.

“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.

Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”

Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”

The bombers will return to flight “as the issues, any issues, get resolved,” he said, adding that B-1s are not currently deployed overseas.

In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.

After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.

It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.

“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ukraine’s Navy: A tale of betrayal, loyalty, and revival

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Ukraine’s navy lost nearly all of its ships and most of its sailors quit or defected. Now, with help from its allies, Ukraine is slowly getting its sea legs back. This is the story of those who remained loyal to Ukraine and were forced to choose between family and country when they left Crimea. But, as they rebuild their lives and their nation’s fleet, rough waters lie ahead with Russia flexing its maritime muscle on the Black Sea.


MIGHTY CULTURE

10 much better names for the Army bases honoring Confederate generals

It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.

Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?

So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.


1. Fort Benning (Georgia)

This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.

For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)

In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”

Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.

2. Fort Lee (Virginia)

So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.

A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.

If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.

3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)

Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.

Bragg lost almost every battle he commanded, always took the opposite of good advice and once even misplaced a line of men.

Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.

Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.

Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.

4. Fort Hood (Texas)

This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.

For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Bling.

Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.

5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)

What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.

Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.

Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?

But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.

6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)

Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.

This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.

Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.

Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.

7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)

Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.

Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.

A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.

But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.

Pick one, Virginia.

8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)

Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.

Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.

9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)

Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.

The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.

But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)

Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.

10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)

Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.

While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.

Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how GPS actually works – and why some devices might stop working

Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?


On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.

As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A replica of Sputnik 1.

(NASA)

Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.

This got the wheels turning.

Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.

Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.

By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.

Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.

What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?

On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.

Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.

Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”

Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.

A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.

The attacking pilot described what happened next:

“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.

Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.

As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.

This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.

To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”

You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.

The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.

Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.

Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.

You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?

It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.

By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.

Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?

Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.

The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.

So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?

Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.

So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.

Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.

For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.

If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.

At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.

Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.

The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.

Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.

However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.

That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.

Bonus Facts:

  • Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
  • Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
  • The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.

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

Articles

The M79 isn’t perfect, but we love it anyway

Every soldier wants maximum firepower.


Firepower is something that can make the difference between life and death in a battle. It’s even better if the firepower is readily portable, so a single soldier can deliver death and destruction anywhere needed.

That’s why soldiers love the M79 grenade launcher. First used in Vietnam, the weapon has a well-deserved reputation for putting the power of a mortar in the hands of the individual Joe.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
An M79 grenade launcher with the leaf-type site unfolded. (Photo courtesy of Airman Magazine)

It isn’t a perfect weapon. The 40-mm round the M79 fires sometimes has less-devastating results than a hand-lobbed grenade.

But it is a simple weapon to use.

First deployed in 1961, the M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, break-open, shoulder-fired weapon. It is breech-loading and fires a 40 x 46-mm grenade that is easy to load and easy to fire.

“The M79 broke in the middle like a shotgun and loaded in the same way,” wrote Dean Muehlberg, a Special Forces operator who fought in Vietnam during 1979, in his book War Stories. “They were an awesome and deadly weapon.”

No wonder the M79 earned the nickname “The Thumper.”

The M79 uses a “high-low” propulsion launching system that reduces recoil and increases its effective range to up to 400 yards.

It also extends the “reach” of an infantryman. Designed to bridge the effectiveness between the maximum range of a hand grenade and the minimum range of a mortar, the M79 quickly proved its effectiveness during the Vietnam War.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
An M79 grenade launcher rests atop a Marine bunker beside an M249 squad automated weapon. (Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Laird)

U.S. soldiers and Marines could usually shoot grenades best at targets from 150 yards to 300 yards away. Small infantry units benefited the most from the M79 because it increased the destruction they could inflict on enemy targets such as Viet Cong bunkers and redoubts.

The M79 was not only used throughout the Vietnam War but remains in the arsenal to this day.

During the early years of the Iraq War, there were Marine convoy units that carried the M79 to destroy IEDs at a comfortable distance. An explosive round from the grenade launcher often did the job of keeping a road clear more quickly and safely than calling in bomb disposal units.

U.S. special operators also reportedly keep the M79 on hand because it remains a simple and accurate means of destroying an entrenched adversary — even though the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher was first introduced into the arsenal in 1969.

The M79 also fired flechette rounds, known as Beehive Rounds because of the sound they made when traveling down range, that dispensed 45 small darts in a plastic casing that could shred flesh and bone when they hit the target point first. Unfortunately, many times the flechettes simply bounced off the target.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
A coast guardsman loads a non-lethal round into an M79. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Brannen Parrish)

It can also fire buckshot, smoke, and tear gas rounds. In Vietnam, the M576 buckshot round replaced flechettes, producing far more lethal results.

The grenade launcher also has the capability of firing less-than-lethal rounds for crowd control and riot suppression. Used by police forces around the world, the M79 is often used to fire sponge rounds or rubber-coated crowd dispersal rounds to break up mobs and restore order.

Time tested, the M79 is proof that newer isn’t always better.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers share stories of suicide to save others

There was the staff sergeant who walked onto the street in front of his home — gun in hand — ready to end his life, when a neighbor stopped him from pulling the trigger.

There’s the lieutenant who vulnerably opened up to his commander during a battle assembly weekend — eyes so tired from not having slept in two days — and admitted he needed help.

The chaplain who lost his father to suicide in his grandmother’s house.

The sergeant who lost a soldier during deployment.

The officer who handled a suicide investigation case.

A lost brother. A mother. A close friend.


Each of them sat in front of the camera to share their stories — raw and real and unscripted — for a new take on suicide prevention.

“The idea was, talk directly into the lens as if you were looking at that person who is in crisis. Look at them in the eye. Say whatever it is you need them to hear,” said David Dummer, the suicide prevention program manager for the 200th Military Police Command, headquartered at Fort Meade.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Since 2010, the command’s suicide rate has dropped 65 percent. It is currently at its lowest point on record. In four of the last five years, the command’s suicide rate has been below the civilian rate, based on similar age demographics. That’s not often true throughout most of the armed services, said Dummer.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous, tremendous reduction in our suicide rate using the old material, and I think these new (videos) will take us even further in the right direction,” said Dummer.

The goal is to create something new, powerful and impactful to use in suicide prevention training, unlike some of the canned material that has been in use for several years now.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Maj. Valerie Palacios, a U.S. Army Reserve public affairs officer for the 200th Military Police Command, operates a camera on a slider during an interview for a video project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Suicide prevention training is required for all soldiers. In spite of everyone recognizing how incredibly important it is, soldiers often groan at the training because the materials used often feel scripted or repetitive, said Dummer.

“Our suicide prevention effort is to save lives. We recognized some time ago that the training material we have been given to use is rather stale,” Dummer said.

These new video messages are intended to change that. They are designed to supplement current material, not replace it.

“The official Army line is to reduce suicides, but in the 200th we’re aiming to eliminate them completely,” said Dummer.

The video shoot spanned two days at the Defense Media Activity (DMA), recorded inside a state of the art studio that reassured everyone that this was important. Their stories would be handled

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

with care and professionalism. It wasn’t going to be some PSA message haphazardly thrown together at the last minute. Dummer and his team at the 200th MP Command had been planning this shoot for months, calling soldiers from across the United States to take part in the effort.

“Their words have power. That power will ripple throughout the audience and beyond as people start to talk about what they saw on camera … It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak about your personal experiences publically,” Dummer said.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and civilians pose for a group portrait after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The primary audience for this video is the MP command itself, composed of nearly 14,000 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers across the United States. Most of those soldiers are MPs who specialize in combat support, detention operations and criminal investigations — among other job specialties. These are soldiers who have experienced deployment, trauma and life stressors as intense as any active duty soldier.

“I always brag that I have more combat stripes than I have service stripes,” said Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a 20-year Army veteran who is also a civilian police officer from Atlanta.

Snowden is also a suicide prevention instructor who often shares personal experiences to connect with soldiers during training.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

David Dummer (top), suicide prevention coordinator for the 200th Military Police Command, and Maj. Valerie Palacios, the command’s public affairs officer, conduct a video interview during a project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“Me being a police officer thinking I knew how to handle every situation, because I’ve dealt with child molestations. I’ve dealt with suicides … Overdoses. Murders. On the outside looking in, you have that mindset, just like you would in the military, that it’s work. When it’s over, it’s over. You go home,” he said.

Yet, the challenges of adjusting to home life after deployment only grew worse when trauma struck in his own house. One of his own daughters was sexually assaulted. He felt like a failure. He was her father. Her protector. A police officer. A former infantryman. If he couldn’t protect her, who could?

Over time, that sense of shame and worthlessness brought him onto the street with a gun. He didn’t want to end his life in his house or his back yard. He looked both ways to ensure no cars were coming. Then he heard a voice.

“Hey, brother, what are you doing?” It was his neighbor. Up until that day, Snowden didn’t even know the man’s name.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a U.S. Army Reserve military police soldier with the 200th Military Police Command, poses for a portrait while participating in a video project hosted and organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Snowden tried to make some excuse.

“That’s bull—-,” the neighbor responded. “I see it. Cause I’ve done it. I was there. I could see it a mile away. I could pretty much smell it on you. Let’s talk.”

The man introduced himself as Fred. A 32-year Army veteran. A man who cuts the grass and works in the yard every day as his personal outlet. Through that interaction, Fred saved Snowden’s life.

Other stories shared on camera didn’t have a happy ending. On holidays and birthdays, soldiers still miss the loved ones they lost to suicide. Yet, even though each story is personal and unique, they all share a universal message.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“I think the one theme that emerged from every single story … is the value of reaching out to someone around you, or to the people around you, and asking them for their support in getting through whatever tough time you’re experiencing,” said Dummer.

Soldiers often don’t express their need for help because they’re afraid of losing their security clearances, or their careers. They’re afraid of appearing weak or inferior. Dummer hopes to help dispel those fears through this video series.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Dummer also wants all Army Reserve leaders to know that if a soldier expresses suicidal ideations, commanders can place those soldiers on 72-hour orders to provide them immediate medical treatment at the nearest civilian emergency room or military hospital. The video will also provide a list of other helpful resources, such as “Give an Hour,” which offers free behavioral health services to all military members.

It’s not enough to raise awareness about a problem, if that awareness offers no solutions, Dummer said. These videos will do both.

The command has at least one more day scheduled at the DMA studios in January, before post production and editing begins. Once finished, the videos will be packaged and distributed throughout the command for training purposes beginning in the spring of 2019.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

15 photos of the first black Marines in US history

The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.


(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 7th

There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.

Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.


How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via The Lonely Operator)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Shammers United)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(N. Robertson)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Space Force Actual)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Military World)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme by Ranger Up)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 things you need to know about ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

The Force may be strong with your family, but are you ready for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? The final installment of what is now called “the Skywalker” saga will bring a specific story of a galaxy far, far away to a close this year. Of all the new Star Wars films, this is probably the one you won’t want to miss in the theaters, simply because everyone will ruin it for you if you wait. But, what the hell is going on with this movie? Which Skywalker is rising? Why is this the “end” of Star Wars? And just how many characters are coming back to life?

Here’s your Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cheatsheet.


How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

1. Rise of Skywalker is “Episode IX” which marks the end of regular Star Wars movies as we know them.

Back in the eighties, Star Wars creator George Lucas often said that the classic trilogy of films was actually just one part of a larger story consisting of a “trilogy of trilogies.” But, after Lucas created Episodes I, II and III from 1999-2005, he changed his mind and decided that Episode VI: Return of the Jedi — was a decent place to end the story. In 2004, Lucas inserted a digital Hayden Christesen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker and called it a day. But, then, in 2012, Lucas sold his company — Lucasfilm — to Disney and the rest is history. Since 2015, there have been four new Star Wars movies; The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo. But, only two these (Force Awakens and Last Jedi) have had the traditional episode numbers at the beginning. So, The Rise of Skywalker is a sequel to Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but also the conclusion of ALL the episodes, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After Rise of Skywalker, it seems like the will no longer be Star Wars movies with episode numbers, meaning the 2022 Star Wars movies will be organized differently.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

2. Okay, so I can tell my kids these were planned all along?

You can tell your children whatever you want about how Star Wars was written and created, but the fact of the matter is, literally all of Star Wars, including the original trilogy, was kind of made-up as it went along. George Lucas has gone on record saying that he wasn’t sure when Darth Vader would have been revealed as Luke’s father originally, and early drafts of the script for the Empire Strikes Back confirm this: At some point in the drafting process, screenwriter Leigh Brackett hadn’t even been told (or Lucas hadn’t decided?) if Vader was Luke’s father at all. This bit of trivia is a good microcosm for how to think about the new movies, too. Originally, J.J. Abrams was only supposed to direct The Force Awakens, but then, after Lucasfilm fired Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow from working on Episode IX, Abrams was brought back in to direct and co-write the movie. Abrams co-wrote Rise of Skywalker with a guy named Chris Terrio, whose previous credits include Justice League and Batman Vs Superman, so take that however you want.

Complicating matters further is the fact that obviously, no one at Lucasfilm knew Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away in 2016. Statements from Lucasfilm suggest the story for Episode IXwould have been very different had Fisher been alive to play Leia again. Finally, Rian Johnson certainly didn’t write The Last Jedi with the knowledge that Fisher would die or that Trevorrow would be fired, meaning, the events of The Last Jedi could be seen as slightly incongruous with whatever Abrams cooks up.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

3. I heard Leia is still in the movie. What’s up with that?

Carrie Fisher is appearing in The Rise of Skywalker as General Leia Organa, daughter of Anakin Skywalker, sister of Luke Skywalker, widow of Han Solo, and mother of Ben Solo AKA Kylo Ren. This is being achieved by using archival footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens. Apparently, J.J. Abrams had enough material left over to make it work. Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Fisher family have repeatedly said that Leia will not appear as a CGI recreation and that what you’ll see onscreen will actually be filmed footage of Carrie Fisher.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

4. Who else is coming back?

Rise of Skywalker will also feature the return of Billy Dee Willians as Lando Calrissian, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and, somehow, the character of Emperor Palpatine will laugh his way into the movie, too. Notably, two of these three characters are technically dead. Luke died in The Last Jedi and the Emperor was thrown down a shaft by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi back in 1983. Mark Hamill has already said that Luke is almost certainly back as a Force ghost, kind of like what Obi-Wan did in the old movies. However, Lucasfilm and actor Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor in all three prequels and Return of the Jedi) have been tight-lipped about how that character will return. Bottom line: the Emperor laughs in the trailer for Rise of Skywalker, so, somehow, he’s back.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

5. What about Rey’s parents?

In The Last Jedi, it was revealed by Kylo Ren that Rey’s mysterious parents from The Force Awakens were drunk junk-dealers who sold her into a life of servitude, Oliver Twist-style. Basically, they were nobodies. If you throw a rock, you can finally find someone around you right now who has a strong opinion about this twist one way or another. So, how will The Rise of Skywalker address it; even if you don’t want it too? Well, J.J. Abrams has said “there will be more” to the story of Rey’s parents. So, get ready for that. (Hey, let’s be honest, Star Wars has never been great about showing functional families!)

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

6. Can I buy tickets yet?

Nope, but that may change very soon. We’ll let you know when it does.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Teaser

www.youtube.com

7. How many trailers are there?

Right now, there’s just one trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, which debuted at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this past spring. There might be a new one coming at the end of Augst at D23, but no one knows for sure. You can watch that trailer right here.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

8. When does the movie come out?

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will be out in movie theaters around the world on Dec. 20, 2019. That’s a Friday, so, that means there will really be screenings as early as Thursday, the 19th, and reviews about a week before that. So, if you really want to save yourself from spoilers, avoid the internet, or any human interactions starting around Dec. 15, 2019.

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