It seems like so many dictators just love movies. We all do, but absolute power takes it to a whole new level. Gaddafi had a channel set up just to play his favorite movie – his one favorite movie. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped his favorite actors and actresses to star in North Korea’s movies. Then, of course, the next natural step for these guys is directing movies.
Kim Jong-Il made several films. Benito Mussolini pitched to Columbia pictures. And even Saddam Hussein made a $30 million war epic. But Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s “ultimate censor.”
At the time, global Communism was still very much a growing threat, one Stalin wanted to continue to spread around the world – under Soviet leadership.
He saw how much power and influence films – and the stars in them – held over large audiences. He saw it in Nazi German propaganda during the Second World War and he used it effectively himself to further his own personality cult.
So when he saw John Wayne’s power as an virulent anti-Communist on the rise, he ordered the actor killed and then sent (allegedly) more than one hit squad to do the job. He saw the Duke as a threat to the spread of Communism around the world – and especially in America.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
The entire time Wayne knew there was a price on his head, he refused the FBI’s offer of federal protection and didn’t even tell his family. He just moved into a house with a big wall around it. Once word got out, though, Hollywood stuntmen loyal to the Duke began to infiltrate Communist Party cells around the country and expose plots against him.
The race to get the contract for the US Navy’s first carrier-based drone is heating up.
All three competitors — Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin — have released images of what their drones look like, and the announcement of the winner is expected sometime between August and October 2018.
The program, officially known as the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, or CBARS, is an attempt by the Navy to increase the operational range of carrier-based aircraft with a drone that can perform aerial refueling duties.
The program was originally called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, and was intended to field a carrier-based drone that could conduct air strikes and perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, known as ISR.
But after delays over the main focus of the MQ-25’s role (strike or ISR), the Pentagon decided to repurpose the program to aerial refueling, in order to help deal with its shortage of pilots and the rise of longer range anti-ship defenses.
Northrup Grumman, once considered the most likely to be awarded the contract because of the success of its X-47B demonstrator, announced that it was pulling out from the competition in October 2017, leaving Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin as the only competitors.
Here’s what you need to know about each submission:
(Lockheed Martin photo)
Lockheed Martin’s design is loosely based on its RQ-170 Sentinel and the overall design does not appear much different from Lockheed Martin’s UCLASS offer, the Sea Ghost. That drone was supposed to feature stealth technology to help it conduct strike and ISR missions.
But when the Pentagon shifted the program to aerial refueling, the stealth requirements were dropped. Despite this, Lockheed Martin has decided to keep its flying wing design.
A flying wing design is aerodynamically efficient because it requires less thrust and fuel to fly, and its spot factor is small when its wingtips are folded up.
A flying wing design for a tanker also has the added benefit of having more space than conventional designs, which allows it to carry more fuel. The Navy wants its new drone to be able to hold over 14,000 lbs of fuel.
From a mechanical standpoint, flying wing aircraft are considered slightly easier to maintain as well because they tend to have a lower number of parts.
The drone will also be equipped with sensors and cameras that enable it to carry out limited ISR missions.
Boeing’s design is based on its Phantom Ray stealth UAV demonstrator. Boeing has the most experience in aerial refueling, as well as naval aviation as a whole — the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler dominate the current naval air fleet.
Like Lockheed Martin’s design, the drone has a massive fuel tank, meaning it will have no difficulty meeting the Navy’s 14,000lbs of fuel and 500 nautical mile range requirements.
Boeing’s design is the only one that has a working prototype, though it has not yet flown. The drone has been tested in St. Louis on Lambert Field.
The drone was operating on a painted outline of an aircraft carrier flight deck to test if it could function well in the limited space.
Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing, said that they had “successfully controlled the aircraft through all of the most challenging flight deck scenarios, including day and night operations,” in tests that were “designed to show how the aircraft can be taxied and operated within the tight confines of the carrier flight deck.”
Boeing’s candidate was also adapted from the original UCLASS program.
(General Atomics photo)
General Atomics’ design is based on their Sea Avenger, a carrier-based version of their Avenger UAV, a strike aircraft that was intended to succeed its MQ-9 Reaper.
The Sea Avenger was re-adapted for refueling operations after the Pentagon cancelled the UCLASS program.
General Atomics and Boeing are working on the proposal together, and this drone would be among the largest projects General Atomics has pursued.
The drone will be equipped with electromagnetic technology that will enable it to fit in seamlessly with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System on board Ford-class carriers.
It will also be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW815 turbofan engines, one of the most efficient and modern engines currently used.
The design is still heavily based on the Avenger, which was designed for strike and ISR missions.
The company has already announced that it will not build a flyable prototype, choosing instead to use its Avenger prototypes for things like ground tests. General Atomics provides the US military with more drones than any other company.
On Nov. 11, Americans celebrate veterans and honor those who served, but the date holds special meaning beyond our borders and around the world. In fact, the 11th of November is a solemn day to our many of our nation’s allies. To them it is Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I hostilities at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918. The red poppy became synonymous with the fallen troops during the First World War — and has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since. But the poppies adopted this meaning because of the war poem “In Flanders Field” written by the Canadian Physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
It was at the second battle of Ypres, Belgium in April to May 1915 where McCrae saw the devastation firsthand. The Germans had just begun using chlorine gas against their enemies. Within the first ten minutes of the battle, there were already six thousand French casualties. After only the first seventeen days, half of McCrae’s brigade had died in battle.
McCrae’s close friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed in action on May 2nd. He chose to perform the burial service himself. As he laid his friend to rest, he saw beauty in the hellscape around him.
Red poppies are a hardy flower. Where the land had been destroyed by mortar fire, chlorine gas, and countless other environmental concerns, the poppies grew around the graves — not even the high sodium or increased levels of lime could deter the red blooms.
Nearly every grave was decorated, as if it were a symbol from above.
The next day, in the back of an ambulance overlooking the battlefield, McCrae wrote what would arguably become Canada’s most well-known literary work.
“In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
–In Flanders Field by John McCrae
McCrae would be promoted to the consulting physician of the First British Army just four days before succumbing to pneumonia on Jan. 28, 1918. He would never know the end of the war or see the true impact of his poem. Canadians, Brits, Aussies, and New Zealanders wear a red poppy to remember the fallen of all wars. Americans borrow from this tradition for Memorial Day.
And that’s what made it so scary for the Air Force and Marine Corps F-15 pilots who realized that they’d stumbled into a sophisticated trap on the second day of the assault.
The F-15 is a stunning fighter that claims over 100 aerial kills with zero losses to enemy fire.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)
Marine Corps Capt. Charles Magill was leading a flight of eight F-15s protecting a larger strike package headed into the contested airspace to destroy threats on the ground. The eight F-15s in the lead got a call from the E-3 Sentry aircraft on the mission.
Two MiG-29 Fulcrums were near the target area.
Magill decided to take three other F-15s with him to destroy the threat, leaving four behind to protect the main strike package.
Four-against-two odds, especially when the team of four has F-15s versus enemy MiGs, is a good setup — but the F-15s had been tricked. As they pursued the MiGs, the ground suddenly erupted with surface-to-air missiles, all locked on U.S. jets and racing to their targets.
MiG-29 were useful and capable fighters, even if they lacked all the capability of American F-15s.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons)
The American pilots were forced to jettison their external fuel tanks and take evasive actions. They deployed flares, put the planes through gut-wrenching turns, and, ultimately, avoided every missile fired against them. This left them in suddenly-safe skies once again — except for the two MiGs that had lured them. The Americans still smelled blood and decided to continue the pursuit.
As they drew close, the MiGs took a sudden turn towards the Air Force and Marine pilots, making the Americans think that the MiGs were prepared for a knockdown fight.
But, it turned out, the Iraqis had spotted a lone Navy F-14 Tomcat and were maneuvering to attack it, allowing the F-15 pilots to pursue the MiGs in turn. Magill took his shot immediately after Air Force Capt. Rhory Draeger. Magill, worried that his first missile had malfunctioned, took a third shot.
Draeger’s first missile flew true and shredded the Iraqi jet, while both of Magill’s missiles also made contact. The first missile tore the right wing from the Iraqi jet and the second missile flew into the resulting fireball and exploded. The strike package was safe once again to attack Iraqi ground targets and Operation Desert Storm continued unabated.
From St. Nicolas Island, Calif., the United States fired its latest gift for Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army – a new medium-range missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987. The accord, also known as the INF Treaty, bans nuclear-capable weapons with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States left that treaty earlier in August 2019, after blaming Russia for violating the agreement first. The Russians aren’t happy about it at all.
Russia’s 9M729 missile, the one that broke the 1987 INF Treaty.
The Aug. 18, 2019 missile test saw the projectile deliberately fly beyond the 500-kilometer range that would have seen it banned by the INF Treaty. Newly-minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants missiles like this new one deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but that effort was hampered under the old agreement. Now the U.S. is free to pursue the relevant technology.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the Defense Department said.
Meanwhile, the Russians were openly upset about the Americans pulling out of the treaty and then having a new weapon within the same month.
“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”
Bold words from a government who has, according to the United States government, already violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on several occasions, most notably after it developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation Novator 9M729, a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.” But it’s not just the President who is denouncing the Russian military. The State Department came to the same conclusion.
“The United States has determined that in 2016, the Russian Federation (Russia) continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” according to the State Department’s April 2017 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments report.
The new U.S. missile isn’t nuclear-equipped (at least, not for this particular test) and resembles the more common Tomahawk missile in looks and the once-banned intermediate-range Tomahawk missile last seen in 1987. But the Russians weren’t the only ones upset about the looming new Cold War.
“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, adding that the U.S. should ditch its Cold War mentality.
Your crusty ol’ Sergeant Major was partially right when he said that you’ll have a hard time out in the civilian world. Sure, it’s amazing to forget what 0500 is after setting your alarm clock to “8 am” and the overtime pay is nice, but everything would be a lot better if you didn’t have to deal with so many civilians.
Not all of them are bad, though. There are plenty of civilians who could have fit right into any squad if their career had taken a different turn, but there are plenty others that will always irk veterans.
If they were troops, you could yell at them until you’re blue in the face or make them do push-ups until you get tired, but, sadly, that kind of behavior only nets you weird looks. So, we think it’s best just to avoid interacting with the following low-lives.
If only civilians wet themselves at the sight of a knife-hand. Then things would get moving again.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
The biggest hurdle you’ll face is the utter lack of f*cks given about professionalism and the need to get things done right the first time. Your “until mission complete” mentality is entirely at odds with the folks who get paid by the hour regardless.
In some civilian jobs, there isn’t any real incentive to go that extra mile. Those who slack off still get paid on time. If you try to cover for their laziness, you’ll end up doing double work for none of the extra pay. It’s a trap.
The “relax, it was just a joke” doesn’t seem to fly with civilian bosses.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The jokers that can’t take a joke
Troops and veterans have a wicked sense of humor. In one moment, we’re prim and proper — professional enough to show off to your grandmother. In the next, we open our mouths and tell rotten jokes that’d make grandma blush.
That’s entirely how we show our love for one another — by belittling every bit of someone and expecting them to do the same in return. But civilians can’t throw shade like veterans can. You make a tiny, seemingly innocent remark, like how their hairline is so jacked up that they should just cut their loses and shave it bald and suddenly, you find yourself dealing with HR.
“Oh, you went on a camping trip and didn’t have electricity for a night? That’s cute.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Being in the military, you know exactly where you stack up against another person professionally. Your rank is right there on your chest, collar, or sleeve. If it’s the same, you go to time in grade or service. If those are similar, you move to your medals, awards, and so on. Respect is earned and rewarded accordingly.
Most people in the civilian world are so caught up with trying to make themselves look better that they’ll confuse what they’ve done with where they stand comparatively. The fact that some dude’s dad just bought a new yacht doesn’t mean jack sh*t if you’re both sitting in same-sized cubicles. Nothing outside of work should matter during work but, apparently, the one-upper thinks it does.
Back in the day, you’d learn real quick why that’s a dumb idea. Ask anyone who’s ever been the reason for a 4-day weekend recall formation.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
The glory seeker
“One team, one fight” is the mantra of the military. If one person fails, everyone fails. If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. We’re all in the same foxhole, wearing the same shade of green, fighting for the same flag. Being a team player isn’t something that comes naturally for some folks.
The drive for personal success outweighs the need to get things done for these guys. They’ll beg, borrow, steal, or lie to anyone if it means they can get that raise and they’ll never look down to see every shoulder they’re standing on. To make things worse, they’re also the same type that believes that the world revolves around them and they’re owed the right to do whatever misdeeds they commit onto others.
Just smile, nod, and mess with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Heather Atherton)
The armchair political commentator
Troops come from all backgrounds and make up a fairly balanced slice of the American population. Personal identity, race, religion, sex, orientation, political affiliation, and whatever else — none of that matters while you’re on duty and trying to complete the mission. Those kind of talks are best kept for when you’re out of uniform and can realistically not have duty on your mind.
Yet, in the minds of these civilians, veterans are often seen as some sort of subject matter expert for all things military. I couldn’t tell you what the other company in my battalion was doing while I was still in the Army and yet people will press you on whether it was a just idea to implement sanctions on wherever.
These are probably the same guys to say to you because you’re a vet “I would have joined, but…”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
The “excuses, excuses, excuses” guy
If you mess up in the military, you take it on the chin like an adult and you drive on. You’re late? Own up to your mistake or be honest about why you’re late. You may get reprimanded, but no one really cares after that. Just get back to the mission.
There is no magical excuse that will immediately absolve anyone of any of their shortcomings — but goddamn will these as*holes try to find it. Problem with me? It was the other guy. Problem with my performance? Must have been a computer problem. You get the point. These types will always let you down and never seek to improve themselves because they’ll honestly believe their own BS.
In a press release on March 7, 2019, the company finally announced the opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge — and it’s ahead of schedule. The 14-acre expansion will open on May 31, 2019, at Disneyland in California and on Aug. 29, 2019, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
“On opening day for phase one, guests will be transported to the remote planet of Batuu, full of unique sights, sounds, smells, and tastes,” the release describes. “Guests can become part of the story as they sample galactic food and beverages, explore an intriguing collection of merchant shops, and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run.”
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Open May 31 at Disneyland Resort, Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
According to the statement, however, the park will open in phases “to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular.”
Phase two won’t open until later in 2019. It will feature the park’s largest attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where guests will board a full-size starship and join the battle against the First Order, including a face-off with Kylo Ren.
To visit the Disneyland park between May 31 and June 23, 2019, Disney says that guests will not only need valid theme park admission but also a “no-cost reservation.” Details on how to make that reservation have not yet been released but will be posted on Disneyland.com. The park will then open to the general public on June 24, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In all the chatter aboutCaptain Marvel, one aspect of the film simply isn’t getting discussed enough: the fact that it’s the first 21st superhero movie to be a period piece to be specifically set in the 1990s. This is cool for several reasons. Not only does this subtly reference the fact that Samuel L. Jackson was totally the shit in the ’90s, but it’s also rad for those of us teenagers to remember a simpler time of Blockbuster Video and the last decade where people really listened to songs on the radio.
The best part of this Captain Marvel nostalgia fest is the soundtrack. Featuring ’90s mega-hits like TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” and No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl,” the soundtrack also has some deeper cuts like Elastica’s “Connection,” and R.E.M.’s “Crush With Eyeliner.” In the same way that the first Guardians of the Galaxy“Awesome Mix” celebrated the ’70s, the Captain Marvel soundtrack crushes on the ‘9os real hard. (Let’s also try to remember how strange this “Whatta Man” Salt N’ Pepper lyric is: “A body like Arnold and a Denzel face.” Would we want to meet such a chimera in real life?)
Disney has released the orchestral score of the film (composed by Pinar Toprak) but you can’t actually buy a physical version of the soundtrack featuring all the great grunge, hip-hop and pop ’90s hits. But don’t worry! There’s an Apple playlist (above) that has all the big ’90s songs mixed in with the new score. Come as you are. Listen to it now and have a better day.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
During this period of mutual terror, NATO held regular war games. One annual event was Able Archer, a command post exercise in Western Europe that tested the ability of NATO to respond to a nuclear attack. In 1983, a particularly realistic iteration of the event nearly triggered an actual nuclear war.
Modern intelligence reviews of the exercise, the Soviet response, and information gleaned from spies indicates that the Soviets truly thought that Able Archer 83 was an attack.
A British spy in the KGB, Col. Oleg Gordievsky, said that about a week into the exercise, the KGB sent out a cable alerting KGB officers that the American military had just elevated their alert level and that the countdown to war may have already started.
Gordievsky alerted London to the risk the West was running in the exercise and London lobbied America to take steps to prevent a disaster.
Luckily, nothing in Able Archer 83 pushed Soviet fears over the edge and Russia never launched a preemptive strike. Reagan, who later met Gordievsky in the Oval Office after the spy defected to England, wrote that he thought someone should tell the Soviets directly that America had no intention of launching a first strike.
Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
Bullying is nothing new; even the Old West had its share of bullies. When one of those Old West villains made the mistake of poking fun at the glasses of a stout man of average height in a Mingusville, Montana, hotel one day, he got run out of town on a train. The fight began with what might be the oldest taunt against people who wear glasses. The fact that this particular bully said it to young Teddy Roosevelt in 1884 just goes to show how old the name “four eyes” really is.
But the bully had no idea who was wearing those glasses. TR didn’t come looking for a fight, but he always looked to end them.
Bullies learn the hard way.
This is the guy who cured his own asthma using just willpower, after all.
By 1884, Teddy Roosevelt did not yet have the bold international reputation he would have in later years, but he was still a successful boxer and martial artist. He wore his signature round spectacles, as he always had, even when he was ranching in the Dakota Territory. The bully in question could not have known about TR’s dedication to his personal “Big Stick” policy.
Roosevelt was on a sort of hiatus from political life, having supported a losing candidate in the Republican Party. His wife Alice died during childbirth earlier that year. His mother died just days later. He left the world of New York politics to start a second ranch out west, where he did more than play cowboy in the Dakota Badlands. It was there he learned to rope, ride, and hunt in the Wild West. He even wrote three books about his time there.
Don’t talk sh*t.
When he came into Nolan’s Hotel in what was then Mingusville, Montana, he was on a self-driven riding trip through the Badlands and Western Dakota areas. Late one cool evening, as he walked upstairs to the bar area, he heard two shots ring out. He noticed the people in the room were looking around with fake smiles. A man with two cocked pistols in his hands was apparently shooting at the clock on the wall.
As soon as he saw the young Roosevelt, he told the room that “Four Eyes” was going to buy drinks for everyone. Roosevelt just laughed it off and took a seat by the stove — but the man followed him. He stood over the future president and told him again that “Four Eyes” was going to buy the drinks, guns still in each hand. Teddy laughed and stood up.
TR was well-known for his boxing exploits later in life.
“Well, if I’ve got to, I’ve got to,” Roosevelt told the man as he stood.
Instead of laughing it off, Roosevelt hit the man with a hard right to the jaw as he rose, then followed it up with a left and another right. The guns went off, but Roosevelt was unsure if the man was actually trying to shoot him. With Roosevelt’s final right, the man stumbled into the bar, hitting his head and knocking himself senseless. With that, the bar owners dragged the man out into a nearby shed and put him on a freight train the next morning.
In 1984, the Army was studying all sorts of paranormal phenomena, from men trying to walk through walls and move objects with their mind to killing goats from 100 feet away. One of the lesser-known experiments was in “astral projection” with soldiers trying to move their consciousness to a different time and space. And the most exotic locale they tried to reach was a million years ago on Mars.
They didn’t let him read the information in the envelope. So he didn’t know he was being asked to focus on the planet Mars in the year 1 million B.C.
His reports get pretty weird, pretty fast though. At the first set of coordinates, the subject claims to see a pyramid and the “after effect of a major geologic problem.” When told to go back to a time before the geologic event, he starts describing an entire ancient civilization.
I just keep seeing very large people. They appear thin and tall, but they’re very large. Ah…wearing some kind of strange clothes.
These thin and tall people lived in a series of structures built in the walls of massive canyons.
…it’s like a rabbit warren, corners of rooms, they’re really huge, I don’t, feel like I’m standing in one it’s just really huge. Perception is that the ceiling is very high, walls very wide.
The best part is how the guide responds to this. Remember, he’s hearing a “psychic” describe what ancient Mars was like. And when he hears that the rooms are large and laid out like a rabbit warren, he responds, “Yes that would be correct.”
Yeah, the dude asking psychics to describe an ancient Martian civilization was pretty sure what the rooms should look like.
The subject goes on to describe aqueducts, pyramid-shaped storm shelters, and more.
And in the storm shelters, the test subject actually spoke with these massive Martians. It turns out, their society was dying, and massive storms were destroying the planet. The Martians that the subject was speaking to were waiting for it all to collapse. But they had sent a group to populate somewhere new.
It’s like I’m getting all kinds of overwhelming input of the….corruption of their environment. It’s failing very rapidly, and this group went somewhere, like a long way to find another place to live.
No one says that this party of ancient Martians were the first humans. But we all get it, right?
According to a Slate article, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Joseph McMoneagle claims to have been the test subject. He believes that the experiments were real and that he was really seeing the surface of an ancient planet. But he also says that such exotic requests were rare. He also said that he didn’t like studying Mars or UFOs or anything similar because “there’s no real way to validate the information.”
The Army’s remote-viewing program supposedly shut down in the 1990s because it “failed to produce the concrete, specific information valued in intelligence gathering.”