From the time he was a boy, Merian C. Cooper wanted to be an adventurer, a wish that propelled him into journalism, the National Guard, military aviation, two world wars, and the cinematic killing of King Kong. During that time, he took part in historic events, like the hunt for Pancho Villa, and contributed to others, like the Doolittle Raid.
When he was six, he read a book by a French explorer who traveled Africa, and he was hooked on the idea of adventure. In 1916, that led the journalist and Georgia National Guardsman to Mexico, where he took part in the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.
That only fueled his desire more, so he got a billet at a military pilot school in Georgia and graduated in time to go to France for World War I. He became a bomber pilot, but was shot down over Germany and declared dead until the American officers learned he had survived and been taken prisoner.
But he wasn’t done with Europe, soon heading to Poland as a captain and taking part in the Polish-Soviet War. He formed a new squadron, the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, with volunteers from France. The men saw protracted combat, and Cooper himself was shot down two times. The second time, he was captured by the Soviets and sent (a second time) to a prisoner of war camp.
After two attempts, he successfully escaped and was rewarded for his wartime service with Poland’s highest decoration for valor.
After returning to a peaceful America, he became a movie producer and writer, working on some cinematic classics, including the game-changing King Kong of 1933. He even played one of the pilots in the film.
But war came knocking again when the U.S. entered World War II. So, Cooper returned to service as a colonel and was sent to India where he served as a logistics expert for the Doolittle Raid, the legendary attack by carrier-based bombers against Tokyo itself in 1942. He was even eventually invited to see Japan’s surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.
Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.
Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.
(Decelerate Your Life)
(Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Army as F*ck)
(The Salty Soldier)
Soon, this won’t be a joke.
When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.
As we all know by now, the Second Amendment protects the right for citizens of the U.S. to bear arms. In 48 states and territories, it is also legal for Americans to carry their weapons in the open, in public, in plain sight. While these “open carry” laws allow users to wear various firearms, it doesn’t allow for all weapons. Some non-firearms are legal for open carry, some aren’t so much.
Depending on where you are in the United States, you’ll want to check the local ordinances before you strap on your other weapons. Seriously, this site is We Are The Mighty, not We Are The Lawyers — so check those laws.
1. Swords – California
In California, any fixed blade must be sheathed. But not only is it legal to openly carry a sheathed sword, it’s the law. Any kind of concealment for bladed weapons is a misdemeanor. Bladed weapons in most states where they are legal to carry, are usually illegal if they’re longer than five inches. Concealed blades, like cane swords, are always illegal.
2. Religious Knives – U.S. Military and all States
Because Sikh religious practices sometimes require the use of a kirpan, a small sword used in religious practices. Because the bladed weapon is anywhere from three to nine inches long, it can be illegal in most states, but many state courts and legislatures found this violates the Sikh’s religious rights. The U.S. military allows for Sikhs to wear the bladed weapons in uniform.
3. Flamethrowers – Everywhere except Maryland and California
The perfect tool for melting snow and killing insects is now commercially available and legal for open carry in 48 states. Why? Because it runs on good ol’ 87 octane gasoline. Homemade flamethrowers were previously regulated based on the fuel they used. Now nothing can stop you from getting to work in those deep February snows.
4. Tomahawks – Not California, Colorado, or Texas
Unless you’re carrying a tomahawk made of wood and stone (in which case you should also be wearing a Native American headdress and traveling with a construction worker, policeman, and cowboy), then a tomahawk is actually a pretty popular weapon. Battle tomahawks are legal to own in most states that allow a fixed blade, except Colorado. Texas prohibits “any hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown.” In California, you should be on your way to a re-enactment or camping while holding your tomahawk, otherwise the law can give you a headache over it.
In Montana, it is legal to openly carry any weapon that is legal to own. So, throwing knives, lightsabers, ninja stars, you name it: anything not expressly forbidden by case law or state legislation is fair game. Go nuts, ninjas in Montana!
Chapter 5: The Gunslinger takes our Mandalorian to a familiar planet and introduces some fun guest star characters and a little mystery. Equally exciting is that it opens with an actual star war! Pew pew!
Let’s get right to the recap. Here’s your spoiler warning for episode five of The Mandalorian.
“I’ll hit the brakes. He’ll fly right by.”
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Gunslinger opens with a bounty hunter dogfight that ends with our Mandalorian pulling a Maverick and killing his would-be captor. Not terribly original, but hey, the sound design of Star Wars space battles is always a nostalgically good time. Our Mandalorian decides to take his damaged Razor Crest down to…wait for it…Tatooine for repairs.
Two glorious things happen right off the bat: first of all, the Yoda Baby giggled — swoon — and second of all, we get Amy Sedaris in Star Wars canon.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian shuts the Yoda Baby up in a little closet (presumably for safe-keeping…but…no) and pays mechanic Peli Motto (played by the delightful Amy Sedaris) to work on that leaky fuel pump. But for heaven’s sake! No droids!
Why? Why no droids? I thought it was because he didn’t want anyone finding out about the Yoda Baby but about two seconds later the baby toddles out of the ship. I guess he can open mechanical doors.
You are a wanted man, Yoda Baby. Hide your damn self???
“Last one there is a womp rat because we use ‘womp rat’ every chance we get I guess.”
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian searches for work in the Mos Eisley Cantina where he runs into Toro Calican (played by Nurse Jackie’s Jake Cannavale), a kid who just wants to be a bounty hunter. “I don’t care about the money!” he insists. Many times.
At first I was like, “Ooooo is he sexy?” and then I was like, “Oh dear. No. No he’s a bit obnoxious,” and then I was like, “Ugh he needs to die.” Calican makes an offer to our Mandalorian: help him capture a Hutt-protected bounty and Mando can keep the money while Calican can get in the Bounty Hunter Guild.
That bounty is revealed to be Fennec Shand, played by Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), who never disappoints.
Shand is hiding out across the sands of Tatooine, lands in the territory of Tusken Raiders. Luckily, our Mandalorian knows Tusken Raider Sign Language and is able to barter Calican’s “binocs” (aka binoculars) for passage across.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The pair wait for the cover of nightfall to attack Shand, who holds the higher ground. In a fun though short-lived attack, they manage to capture her but lose a speeder, forcing our Mandalorian to go round up a blurrg to ride back on. While gone, Shand takes a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach and tries to convince Calican to free her so they can both take down Mando and return him — and the Yoda Baby — to the Guild.
Calican thinks this is a pretty good idea except for the whole teaming up part. He shoots Shand and leaves her in his dust as he heads back to the hangar. (Once more I have to ask: why did Mando even let another bounty hunter see the baby??
When our Mandalorian returns to find Shand’s dead body, he rushes back to the hangar, shoots Calican while he’s holding the baby, pays Amy Sedaris, and heads off on his merry way.
Meanwhile, a pair of mysterious boots walk up to Shand’s (maybe not dead??) body. Entertainment Weekly has a fan theory that the boots belong to Boba Fett. Leave a comment and weigh in on that one, will ya?
The Mandalorian, Disney+
All in all, I’m enjoying The Mandalorian but I am not riveted by it. Our hero keeps making goofy mistakes that land him in preventable pickles that he easily overcomes and we’re not unraveling any major Star Wars mysteries. The show, while beautifully produced, doesn’t carry much weight to it.
While I find myself very invested in the fate of the Yoda Baby, it’s just too simple for someone else to take the baby — I want to know who he is, where he came from, and why he’s so important. I actually want to know those things about our Mandalorian as well. There haven’t been many major emotional revelations since the twist at the end of the first episode, but I’m still holding out that we’ll get some.
Working hard on my “The Mandalorian” spec script…pic.twitter.com/IggrqjhkxK
Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.
But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.
That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.
Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.
But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.
But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.
Throughout history, Italy wasn’t known for its dominance or military strength, but these knife-wielding operators made crucial advances using only a small force.
The Arditi, meaning “the daring ones,” were a group of volunteers, chosen from the most courageous of men and considered to be Italy’s most elite soldiers during WWI. Getting their name from the Royal Italian Army in 1917, they were known for engaging the enemy with vicious hand to hand combat and swift tactical movement.
The Arditi organization was much smaller than the regular infantry units, consisting of only five officers, 41 NCOs, and 150 men. Their unique strategy relied heavily on surprise, speed, and their sheath as they strategically advanced towards their opposition behind a curtain of allied artillery fire.
According to The Great War Youtube channel, once the bombardment ceased, the men would charge forward into enemy trenches, with only daggers in their teeth and grenades in their hands, with the goal of clearing and then holding their newly-earned positions until the relief of their fellow troops arrived, which could take up to a full day.
Due to their outstanding production, they were paid almost three times what the regular Army received.
Then, a bonus system was employed for taking enemy prisoners — 10 lire for a Private, 20 for an NCO, and 50 for an officer. Not to mention there was compensation for capturing enemy weapons, ranging from anywhere between 5 to 500 lire depending on the weapon’s size and caliber.
The Arditi seized 3,600 prisoners, 63 machine guns and 26 pieces of artillery over their course of the war. The Arditi were making bank back in 1917 and deserved every cent — according to History Answers.
As their losses in personnel grew, new soldiers were assigned to Arditi units by recommendation only. Before they could officially join, they had to complete a specialized school that mimicked the dangers and conditions of the front lines.
The fatality rates among the recruits were extremely high due to the realistic training methods.
The Great War Channel reports that wasn’t until Battle of Vittorio Veneto Offensive in October of 1918 when the Arditi would make its largest impact on the war. A dozen Arditi units combined, making two monstrous assault divisions. The brave men lead one another on a forceful charge on the Austro-Hungarian forces, resulting in a climatic victory.
Although the Arditi was disbanded in 1920, their bravery, patriotism, and impact on the Great War lives on in Italian military historical lore.
Getting out of the military is a great day for most. You’ve been anticipating this day for years and it’s finally here — but now what?
Is it all peaches and cream once you’re on the other side? It might be, but there are some bleak possibilities that many veterans face on the other side of service. Now, we’re not here to frighten you, but these are things you should be aware of.
This is absolutely the number one fear of many veterans, no matter how successful or far removed you are from this reality.
(Photo via Veteran Action Network)
Sadly, homelessness is as real a possibility awaiting veterans as a life of prosperity. Homelessness in America is a serious issue — and the homeless population is about 11% veteran. Of that total, 70% are on drugs, and 50% suffer from some type of psychological ailment.
There are programs in place to help, but you can only offer help to those who seek it, and there’s a general mistrust of these organizations in the veteran community.
Considering that the veteran population accounts for around 1% of the country, the amount of homeless veterans is extremely alarming. If you or anyone you know is homeless or on the verge of homelessness, there is help for you.
The VA can be a tricky beast. This guy came in for a simple check-up.
(Photo by Senior Airman Krystal Walker)
The mysterious misadventures of the VA
Going to the VA is a key part of post-service life. For many, it’s the only form of health insurance we have in the years immediately following service and is an absolute must if you experienced any adverse or lingering effects of service.
The VA is supposed to help, and for the most part, it does, but navigating the many avenues can be daunting. Hell, knowing where to start can be a task by itself. Setting up an appointment can take months and filing for your proper disability rating can take years… literally.
The best advice for dealing with the VA is patience and perseverance.
How it feels trying to fit in with classmates who were in grade school or younger when you joined service.
(The Montecito Picture Company)
One of the best things about honorably serving your country is that you get the opportunity to go to school afterward (mostly) on Uncle Sam’s dime. But going back to school isn’t as easy as showing up for class and doing your assignments. Depending on where you land, you might feel like you stand alone as the only adult in an ocean of children.
The fun part comes when you realize that you’re closer in age to your classmates’ parents than your classmates themselves.
What do I see? Just a bunch of veterans trying to find their way.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
Leaving the military is different for everyone. Some have planned for their exit for years; others never considered a life outside of the military. It isn’t uncommon for veterans to take a few years to get themselves truly together and on track.
Be ready for a period of self-reflection. Figuring out what you actually want to do can take more time than anticipated, and that’s fine. Try not to feel like you need to be at a specific point just because you’re a certain age or you’ve been through certain things. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but as long as you keep moving and searching, you’ll find your way.
The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019’s White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
“The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security,” Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.
The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy’s launch with reporters.
The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. “That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities,” he added. “The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS.”
Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.
Speed and agility are key
Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.
“The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy,” Deasy said.
“I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC,” he noted. “Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department.”
Reforming DOD business
The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department’s business processes. “Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency,” he added.
Pentagon outlines its artificial intelligence strategy
AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.
JAIC: focal point of AI
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity,” JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.
The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 “to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.”
The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.
First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. “This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities,” he said. “The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption.”
Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact, Shanahan said. “One of the JAIC’s most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services,” he explained.
Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it’s important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.
Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that “initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months.”
And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.
“Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners,” Shanahan said. “Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components.”
The JAIC’s mission, the director said, “nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there’s no time to waste.”
“The F-35A experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base,” officials said. “The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed,” the 33rd said.
One pilot was on board the aircraft, but did not sustain any injuries as a result of the mishaps, the Air force said. Fire crews “responded immediately,” officials said.
An F-35A Lightning II taxis down the runway.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Smallwood)
Lena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com that an investigation into the incident “is just beginning.” Lopez did not specify a timeline when the Air Force may have an update into the incident.
The Air Force did not specify the extent of the damage.
Eglin is home to one of the busiest F-35 training units in the Air Force; The 33rd Fighter Wing is also the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots.
The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence at Eglin and sends pilots through the training pipeline at the base, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.
Featured image: Contracted Logistics Maintenance personnel from Lockheed Martin at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., stop the pilot on the taxiway during the return of his flight in preparation to verify the F-35A’s brake temperatures are within safe limits to recover the aircraft March 13, 2012.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The United States and the Republic of Korea have a history of conducting bilateral military exercises where we team up and plan to take on an objective together to strengthen our relationship and coordination. One of these annual exercises is called Ssang Yong, and it’s a part of Foal Eagle, which typically takes place in the early spring. This training exercise is one of the largest military exercises in the world and, historically, it’s made North Korea really angry.
As part of Ssang Yong 2014, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment was attached to a ROK Marine company and together, they boarded three ships. When first platoon boarded the ROKS Dokdo, the Marines had no idea they were in for a full seven days of suffering and pain.
The experiences were life-changing and here’s why.
You could barely even stand between the racks of the berthing.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho)
It was crammed
The ROKS Dokdo is a very small ship. The berthing areas were so tiny that they were only used for sleep. If you wanted to hang out in the berthing, you might as well just climb in your bed and stay there — or else you’re just occupying otherwise valuable space.
Cash made things at least a little easier.
(U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class Cedric Ceballos)
The debit/credit card machine was down
You know how ships have a store on them from which you can buy snacks so you aren’t starving between meals? Well, typically, items there can be purchased with a special card that only works on the ship. The only problem is that no one told us that, and no one gave us any. So, our only option was to pay with cash.
Some of us, however, didn’t get a chance to withdraw cash prior to departing, which put a serious damper on snack time.
Most of us mainly ate rice and seaweed paper.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Immanuel Johnson)
The food portions were terrible
South Koreans don’t eat nearly as much as Americans. We eat like it’s going out of style and that’s especially true if you’re an infantry Marine. The ship was stocked with enough food to support ROK Sailors and maybe a handful of Marines — but they were in no way prepared to handle a platoon and a half of us.
Not only were we starving between meals, the meals didn’t do too much for us, either.
The Korean cigarettes aren’t bad, trust us.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Logan Kyle)
There were only Korean tobacco products
The ship only carried (go figure) Korean tobacco products, specifically cigarettes. If you didn’t bring some extra American cigs, you’d have to settle for the Korean stuff. Admittedly, these aren’t bad at all, but it felt wrong.
Armenian soldiers take positions along the border with Azerbaijan (Armenian Defense Ministry Press Service)
For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.
Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.
Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.
Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.
Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.
On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.
To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.
The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.
On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.
Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.
July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.
As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.
An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)
It happens every single time a veteran sits down to watch a movie with friends and family. The civilians grab a bag of popcorn while the veteran starts biting their lower lip. The civilians start to enjoy themselves and the veteran starts offhandedly remarking on how “that’s not how it actually happens.”
Before you know it, the veteran hits pause and proceeds to give a full-length presentation on why the film is a disaster because they put the flag on the wrong side of the soldier’s uniform.
Most of what makes a military film bad isn’t intentional, of course. No one wants to spend millions on making a bad movie. But when done right, as so many have been before, troops and veterans will keep it on their top ten film list. So, Mr. Hollywood Producer, when you set out to make the next military blockbuster, use the following advice:
I’m 100% certain that Dale Dye just knifehands his way into the wardrobe department and just makes his own characters because no one has the guts to tell him no — and I’m okay with this.
Hire a good military adviser (and listen to them)
This may come as a shock to some veterans, but there are people on film sets whose entire job is to point out what would and wouldn’t happen in the real military. They’re called military advisers. The great military films are made or broken by how much the cast and crew decide listen to said adviser.
On a magnificent film set, like Saving Private Ryan, for example, everyone from Steven Spielberg to the background extras listened to every single word Dale Dye spoke. A good adviser knows they’re not on set to interrupt the creative team’s ideas. If they speak up to say something is wrong, it’s for a good reason.
I mean, just because it’s a war film doesn’t mean you can get sloppy when writing characters. HBO managed an entire company of fully-developed soldiers over the span of one miniseries.
Writing that reflects reality
When there’s something fundamentally wrong with a film, it can often be traced back to the writer. One of the first things they tell up-and-coming screenwriters is, “you can make a bad movie from a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” And the best writers are those who can make is something feel authentic and realistic, no matter how extraordinary the setting.
Military films are no exception. The fact is, no two troops are the exactly same. This goes for every character in the film. Every character, lead or background, should be fully dimensional and the audience should have a reason to care if they get unexpectedly shot in Act 2B.
It’s funny because “get this guy” can apply to damn near every military film.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Don’t expect a three-act character arc in the matter of one deployment
While we’re still poking fun at writers, let’s talk about the all-too-common problem of trying to turn real stories into scripts by shoehorning their actions into the Aristotelian structure. For those unfamiliar, this is your basic story of a random nobody becoming a legendary hero. Luke Skywalker did it — but it took him three movies, the loss of his mentor, and multiple failures to finally become a Jedi master.
Don’t expect to apply that same structure to a biopic that begins with a troop being a nobody at basic training and ends with them becoming a battlefield legend. In fact, some of the greatest war films rely on something simple, like “we need to go get this guy” to carry the story. A good story doesn’t need to be humongous in scope to be compelling.
Just because it’s technically apart of a military uniform, don’t assume people actually wear it…
Use authentic wardrobe
Despite how it may seem, there is no law that states that you must mess up uniforms if you’re to use them in a film. In fact, there’s actually a Supreme Court ruling that states you can use real uniforms in the arts — so there’s no excuse.
Use a military adviser and give them a say in the wardrobe department. Or, if you want to keep it simple, hire at least one veteran from whichever branch as part of the wardrobe team.
I know I keep coming back to it, but look at the D-Day scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ The largest amphibious landing and one of the biggest moments in military history — told entirely through the sole perspective of Captain Miller.
Retell the big scenes with smaller moments
It’s called a “set piece.” It’s the huge, elaborate moment that costs a boat-load of cash to capture. It’s what fits perfectly in the trailers. These are the scenes that action sensations, like The Fast and the Furious films, are known for. And yet, they often leave us feeling like something’s missing when done in military films — the personal touch
And that’s what really makes military movies different — sure, there are explosions in war, but it’s an intensely personal moment for the troops fighting. The gigantic scenes will sell much better if they focus on the fear in someone’s eyes more than flying a telephoto lens over the battlefield.
We here at WATM love putting together lists and rankings, so it makes sense for us create one for non-fiction books. We read quite often, and not surprisingly considering we’re a bunch of military veterans, those books often deal with military topics.
These are our picks for best military non-fiction books of all-time. (If you’d like to see our picks for fiction, click here.) The books below are numbered but not in rank order. All of these are great reads.
If you want to gain an understanding of America’s war with radical Islamists, look no further than “The Forever War” by journalist Dexter Filkins. As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Filkins begins his book as the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, writes of the aftermath following the Sept. 11th attacks, and then continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Told from ground level by the only American journalist who reported on all of these events, Filkins does not write a neat history lesson. Instead, he tells individual stories of people — from ordinary citizens to soldiers — and how they are affected by the incidents that happen around them. He does it using beautiful prose, and with little bias.
Former Air Force Col. James Burton gives the inside account of what it’s like when the Pentagon wants to develop a new weapons system. Having spent 14 years in weapons acquisition and testing, Burton details his struggle during the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with those above him who were often more interested in supporting defense contractors instead of troops in the field.
Burton spends much of the book writing of the small band of military reformers who worked hard trying to fix the problems of Pentagon procurement from the 1960s to the 1980s, and he suffered professionally for “rocking the boat” as a result. For example, after suggesting that the Bradley’s armor should be tested against Soviet antitank weaponry, the Army — knowing it would never hold up — tried to get Burton transferred to Alaska. The very serious book also inspired a very funny movie made by HBO:
Most people have seen the movie, but this is one of those times when you should definitely read the book. This brilliant account by journalist Mark Bowden tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, when hundreds of elite U.S. Army soldiers fought back against thousands of militants when a routine mission went wrong.
With remarkable access, research, and interviews, Bowden recreates the battle minute-by-minute and perfectly captures the brutality of the fight and the heroism of those who fought and died there.
This book gives an inside look at the transformation that takes place from civilian to Marine Corps officer. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joins the Marines in 1998 an idealistic young man and leaves a battle-hardened and skilled leader after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At times very personal and unpleasant, Fick’s book recounts plenty of combat experiences. But that is not the real draw. His wonderful detailing of the training, mindset, and actions of Marine officers on today’s battlefields makes this a must-read.
Historian Stephen Ambrose’s account Easy Co. in “Band of Brothers” is quite simply, an account of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. The book — which later became a 10-part miniseries on HBO — takes readers from the unit’s tough training in 1942 all the way to its liberation of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in 1945.
“Band of Brothers illustrates what one of Ambrose’s sources calls ‘the secret attractions of war … the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction … war as spectacle,’ writes Tim Appelo in his review.
One of the first significant engagements between American and Vietnamese forces in 1965 was also one of the most savage. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is told by Lt. Col. Moore and Galloway, a reporter who was there, and it serves as both a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the 450 men who fought back after being surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.
While the book was later made into a movie, it’s well-worth reading if only for the stories of Rick Rescorla, the platoon leader featured on the cover of the book whose nickname was “Hard Core.”
More than 2,000 years old and still relevant today, “The Art of War” is a must-read book on military theory and strategy. But its maxims can be applied by those far outside the combat arms. Tzu offers advice relevant to everyone from Army generals to CEOs.
“Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership,” wrote Newsweek.
There have been many contemporary accounts written of World War II, but “Flyboys” manages to bring to light something that had remained hidden for nearly 60 years. James Bradley tells the story of nine Americans who were shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima.
One of them, George H.W. Bush, was rescued. But what happened to the eight others was covered up and kept secret from their families by both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Bradley, who wrote “Flags of our Fathers,” conducted extensive research and uncovered a story that has never been told before.
Written in a compelling narrative style, David McCullough’s “1776” retells the year of America’s birth in wonderful detail. McCullough is an incredible storyteller who puts you right there, feeling as if you are marching in the Continental Army.
From the Amazon description:
In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.
As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright rode with the Marines of 1st Recon Battalion into Iraq in 2003. Embedded among the men, Wright captures the story of that first month of American invasion along with the grunt mindset, how the Marines interact, and captures the new generation of warriors that has emerged after 9/11.
Soldiers today are “on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families,” Wright told Booklist (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: “It was fucking cool.”)
A monster of a book at 704 pages, journalist Jake Tapper tells a powerful story of an Afghan outpost that was doomed to fail even before soldiers built it. Beginning with the decision to build a combat outpost in Nuristan in 2006, Tapper reveals a series of bad decisions that would ultimately lead to a battle for survival at that outpost three years later — one that would see multiple soldiers earn the Medal of Honor for their heroism.
Known as Combat Outpost Keating, the story of the base is one that is worth reading. With its bestseller status, rave reviews by critics, and most importantly, the soldiers who fought there, it’s safe to say “The Outpost” gets it right.
Found on many military reading lists, Grossman’s “On Killing” is a landmark study of how soldiers face the reality of killing other humans in combat, and how military training overcomes their aversion to such an act.
A former West Point psychology professor, Grossman delves into the psychological costs of war and presents a compelling thesis that human beings have an instinctual aversion to killing. With this, he also shows how militaries overcome this central trait through conditioning and real-world training.
This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a masterpiece of military history. Delivering an account of the first month of World War I in 1914, Tuchman tells not just a war story, but an event that would upend the modern world.
“This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war,” reads the publisher’s description. “How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century.”
Embedded among the soldiers of 2-16 Infantry as part of President Bush’s last-chance “surge” in Iraq, journalist David Finkel captures the grim reality as troops face the chaotic, and often deadly, streets of Baghdad. The book often follows the overly-optimistic Col. Ralph Kauzlarich (motto: “It’s all good”).
But Finkel excels at capturing everyone up and down the chain-of-command, and tells their stories incredibly well. His book is less about big-picture surge strategy, and more about the soldiers on the ground who fought it. That is a very good thing.
Those are our picks. Did we miss one that you loved? Leave a recommendation in the comments.