12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms - We Are The Mighty
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12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Stolen valor, Hollywood-style!


Blame the stylist, blame the director, but don’t hate the player, hate the game. Here are 12 cringeworthy photos that will make you want to knifehand these celebrities:

1. 50 Cent

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Attention on deck for General Admiral Gunnery Sergeant Cent.

2. Adrianne Curry

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

As much as we love the self-proclaimed “Mistress of the Dorks,” maybe she should stick to cosplaying as an Imperial Officer instead. She was much more squared away.

3. Jake Lacy

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers” should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.

4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.

5. Amber Rose

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.

6. Jeremy Renner

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker” was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.

7. Samuel L. Jackson

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.

8. Shia LeBeouf

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.

9. Steven Seagal

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.

10. Jessica Simpson

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.

Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.

11. Channing Tatum

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.

12. Bill Cosby

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

The only thing really wrong with this uniform is the guy wearing it. (And he’s not an honorary chief anymore.)

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US aircraft carriers are almost unsinkable giants of the ocean

The USS America was a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier first built in the 1960s and served through the Vietnam War, Cold War clashes and on into Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1996, the Navy decided the ship’s best post-service use was as a target. America would help design the newest fleet of supercarriers to be even less vulnerable to enemy fire than she was.

The America did not go down easy. For four weeks the Navy hit the ship with everything they could muster, short of a nuclear weapon.


Even today, the wreck lies in one piece at the bottom of the ocean near Cape Hatteras. Despite the Navy’s best efforts, they just could not sink the indefatigable carrier. The last time any carrier was lost to battle damage in combat was in World War II, where 12 such ships were sent to the bottom after heavy fighting. The America didn’t engage in combat, but the attacking forces were out to hit her as if she had. The sinking of America was a test run for vulnerabilities in American aircraft carrier designs.

The good news is that China is going to have a really hard time doing it, even if they use an intercontinental ballistic missile. The bad news is that it’s somehow possible to sink these floating behemoths, and if done could kill up to 6,000 American sailors. Still, good luck getting close.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
The wake left by America following her use as a live-fire target in 2005; the ship was used as a platform to test how the hull of large aircraft carriers would hold up against underwater attacks. Following the tests, America was scuttled, serving as a further test of the sinking of a large aircraft carrier.
(U.S. Navy photo)

 

Carriers traverse the waves with an entourage of submarines, cruisers and other support craft, as well as potentially dozens of fighter and electronic warfare aircraft that would make even getting close to the carrier a nearly suicidal feat. Once in close, actually hitting the ship with any kind of accuracy is just as hard – and if you do, the chances of striking a death blow are virtually nil.

For the America, teams of scientists and military engineers targeted the ship repeatedly for a full month, both above and below the waterline using anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and almost anything else they could think to throw at the old girl and still, she persisted. It wasn’t until a team of dedicated explosives experts boarded the ship and purposefully destroyed it that it gave way and sank to the bottom.

But even the Vietcong tried that move – and the USS Card was back up and fighting in no time. So maybe it’s just best to avoid a fight with an American carrier.

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This WWII bombing mission resulted in 5 Medals of Honor

It was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War II, and it resulted in the most medals of honor bestowed on America’s airmen from any battle in any war.


In the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force launched the audacious Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the largest supply of oil production for the German war machine in Ploesti, Romania.

The Ploesti oil fields produced a third of all Axis oil in Europe, so it was a prime target for an Allied attack. But unbeknownst to the Allies, it was also one of its most heavily defended cities in Europe — second only to Berlin.

Flying from Benghazi, Libya, a force of five bomb groups – the 98th and 376th from the Ninth Air Force and the 44th, 93rd, and 389th from the Eighth Air Force – (totaling 177 B-24 Liberator bombers) conducted the raid. The most effective way to strike the targets was to come in at tree-top level and use bombs with delayed fuses to allow planes to clear the area before detonation.

The force would have a series of troubling events before they even reached Ploesti.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, just after the bombers began their mission, an overloaded bomber crashed on take-off and later the lead plane winged over and crashed into the sea.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
A B-24 Liberator taking off in Benghazi, bound for the oil fields at Ploesti. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the raid approached its target,  the 98th Bomb Group fell behind, separating the planes into two groups. Then a navigational error sent the lead group away from Ploesti and toward Bucharest. Realizing their mistake, the 93rd, led by Lt. Col. Addison Baker, turned north toward the refineries. Seeing this, the 376th, led by Col. Keith Compton and mission commander Brig. Gen. Uzal Ent, also turned toward the target but turned away to look for a better entry point when they hit the anti-aircraft defenses.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

The overwhelming ground fire soon overwhelmed many of the planes during the attack, and the pilots did everything they could to maintain course and strike their target.

In a final act of heroism, the pilots of a shot up plane tried to gain enough altitude for the crew to bail out but were too late – the plane crashed into the target, killing all on board.

Pilots Lt. Col. Baker and Maj. Jerstad were both awarded the Medal of Honor.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
U.S. B-24 Liberators over their target, Ploesti, Romania in August, 1943 (U.S. Army photo)

The 376th, unable to find a suitable line to the main refineries, was ordered to bomb targets of opportunity before coming home. One six-plane element breached the defenses and hit its target but was ineffective.

Just as the remnants of the 93rd and 376th were leaving the target, the straggling 98th and 44th, which followed the correct course, arrived with the fifth group, swerving north to hit a separate compound.

Due to the confusion, the first groups over the target hit anything they could. This meant the next two groups approached with their primary targets already in flames. To make matters worse, not all of the planes evacuated the target area, so pilots already dodging smoke and ground fire had to watch out for other bombers too.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
U.S. Army Air Forces hit the Axis oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, on Aug. 1, 1943 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the hellacious conditions, Col. John Kane’s 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon Johnson’s 44th Bomb Group flew on and attacked their targets with precision. For their bravery and leadership, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the 98th and 44th fought their way through Ploesti, the 389th attacked the Campina facility to the north. Though more lightly defended than the main facility, the bombers still encountered heavy resistance.

Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes’ plane was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and streamed fuel as it entered the target area. Motivated by duty and mission, he flew his plane into the inferno to hit his target. His own plane caught fire. Hughes attempted a crash landing but he and five other crew died. The enemy captured the rest. Lt. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for his devotion to duty.

The top turret gunner, Sgt. Zerrill Steen, continued to fire on enemy positions until his ammunition was exhausted. Steen was part of an air crew under Lt. Robert Horton. Horton’s plane was heavily damaged and went down, killing nine of the 10 crew. Sergeant Steen was captured and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while in captivity.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
A B-24 Turret Gunner, wearing altitude mask, flak vest, and jacket. (U.S. army photo)

Of the 177 planes that took off from Benghazi, only 89 returned. While the enemy destroyed 54 planes, others crash landed at bases throughout the area. Over 300 men died, over 100 captured, and 78 were interred in Turkey.

Of the 89 returning planes, over a third were unfit to fly afterward. Five pilots received the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.

The high cost of the mission did not bring about great success. While the refinery at Campina was put out of action for the remainder of the war, the losses in oil production were repaired within weeks.

Due to the losses suffered by the attackers, August 1st came to be known as ‘Black Sunday.’

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Special operators will remain in Afghanistan after withdrawal

The Pentagon is planning to cut its force size in Afghanistan by half, but special operations strike units will remain in country to carry out raids on Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a Defense Department official with knowledge of the withdrawal plans said Jan 2, 2019.

Press reports of a decision by President Donald Trump to begin removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan began emerging in late December 2018, shortly after the White House declared victory over ISIS fighters in Syria and ordered that American troops be pulled from that war-torn country.


U.S. military leaders since have downplayed the reports of an Afghanistan departure as rumors. Following a Dec. 23, 2018 meeting with the governor of Nangarhar district, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews agency, “I have seen the same rumors you have from the newspapers [on withdrawals], but all I would assure you is, first of all, I have no orders, so nothing changed. But if I do get orders, I think it is important for you to know that we are still with the security forces. Even if I have to get a little bit smaller, we will be OK.”

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Lt. Gen. Scott Miller.

(U.S. Army photo by Whitney Hughes)

On Jan. 2, 2019, U.S. military officials remained reluctant to discuss withdrawal plans from Afghanistan, but a source familiar with the strategy told Military.com that Miller plans to pull about 7,000 of the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops out of the country over the next eight to 12 months.

Currently, the bulk of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is dedicated to advising and training Afghan security forces to be able to operate without American assistance, but the fledgling force remains inexperienced in complex warfighting skills, such as combat aviation, combined arms operations and logistical support, military officials say.

The direct-action portion of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan — made up of a small contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces, such as units from the Army‘s 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force; and the Navy‘s Special Warfare Development Group, or SEAL Team Six — will continue to carry out strike missions against enemy positions in the country, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak to the press.

“We will have a strike force in country,” the source told Military.com.

U.S. military officials maintain that the Pentagon has received no official orders or guidance on withdrawal plans, despite reports Trump wants a plan to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan by half.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

President Donald Trump.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Nothing has changed,” said Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, on Jan. 2, 2019. “As peace talks with the Taliban continue, we are considering all options of force numbers and disposition.”

While not confirming plans for withdrawal, Miller said Jan. 1, 2019 at an event in Kabul that a major policy review is underway on the overall U.S. objective of driving the Taliban to a peace agreement with the Afghan government.

“The policy review is going on in multiple capitals, peace talks [are] out there, regional players pressing for peace, the Taliban talking about peace, the Afghan government talking about peace,” Miller said, according to TOLOnews.

The Taliban has thus far refused to meet with Kabul representatives while they continue to maintain contact with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

In addition to the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, there are about 16,000 service members from 30 NATO and partner nations, all in non-combat or advisory roles, according to a November NATO release.

At the height of the U.S. and NATO commitment to Afghanistan in 2012, there were about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan from the U.S., NATO and other coalition countries.

Despite the continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents control nearly half the country and are more powerful now than they have been at any time since a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The 17-year conflict has cost the U.S. about 0 billion and resulted in more than 2,400 American deaths.

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

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What it looks like when one Army legend rates another

It’s easy to forget that, even in the midst of World War II, the Army’s administrative requirements marched on. Officers were quickly moved between billets, units were slotted into or pulled out of operational plans, and leaders had to be re-appraised often.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that even men like Lt. Gen. George S. Patton had to take breaks from whooping butt in order to rate other legends like Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley.


12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley poses with actor Marlene Dietrich during a USO tour during World War II. (U.S. Army)

 

The September 1943 “Efficiency Report” is remarkably brief. At the time, the Army didn’t have such strict form for evaluation reports. It’s basically a two-page memorandum with only a couple hundred words of text.

But Bradley had helped make 1943 a great year for the Army. He spent much of the year unsticking problems at the front in North Africa. And, after the defeat of II Corps at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, he pushed for an overhaul of the corps and later took command of it from Patton. It was Bradley who led the corps during the invasion of Sicily.

Patton and Eisenhower both wanted Bradley for their own commands, so it’s probably not surprising that he would receive a good rating from Patton.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Lieutenant Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley talk with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944.
(U.S. Army)

 

And, indeed, when Patton rated Bradley on Sept. 12, 1943, he said that Bradley was “superior” in manner of performance, physical activity, physical endurance, and knowledge of his profession. Four for four at the time. Bradley was a corps commander and Patton recommended him for command of an army.

But the most impressive endorsement of Patton came in question 10 “Of all general officers of his grade personally known to you, what number would you give him on this list and how many comprise your list?”

Patton responded “Number 1. I know all of them.”

The Army gets fairly small at the top, after all.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Lieutenant Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley talk with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944. There are a surprising number of photos of these three together. (U.S. Army)

 

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the North African Theater of Operations, United States Army, commander at the time, concurred with the report.

Thanks in part to the brief but strong recommendations of Patton and Eisenhower, Bradley received command of the U.S. First Army in time to command it against Utah and Omaha beaches and then the breakout into the rest of France. Despite some mistakes, he would take command of an Army Group and take the first major hits of the Battle of the Bulge.

He was a four-star general before the war ended and would later rise to lead the Veteran’s Administration and serve as Army Chief of Staff. He was the last person to be promoted to General of the Army, an Army five-star rank.

The entire September 1943 assessment of him by Patton and Eisenhower is available below:

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)
12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)
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Russia softens punishments for likes, reposts, and memes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will soften the punishment for some hate crimes amid concerns over prison terms handed down to people for “liking” or reposting memes on the Internet.

The legislation, signed by Putin on Dec. 28, 2018, will remove the possibility of a prison sentence for first-time offenders found to have incited ethnic, religious, and other forms of hatred and discord in public, including in the media or on the Internet.


The legislation is the result of a rare climbdown by President Vladimir Putin, who proposed it amid a wave of potentially image-damaging concern over the arrests and imprisonment of Russians for publicly questioning religious dogmas or posting, reporting, or “liking” memes or comments that authorities say incited hatred.

Under the legislation, first-time offenders will face administrative instead of criminal prosecution, meaning they would be fined, do community service, or be jailed for up to 15 days.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A person who is deemed to have committed a second, similar offense within a year will then face criminal prosecution and the possibility of two to five years in prison.

But all offenders, including those found guilty for the first time, will still face up to six years in prison if their incitement to hatred involves violence, the threat of violence, the use of their official position, or is committed by a group, the bill says.

Putin proposed the change in early October 2018, following a string of cases in which Russians were charged for publishing material — sometimes satirical or seen by many as harmless — on social networks such as VKontakte and Facebook.

The bill was approved by lawmakers in both chambers of parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.

Reaction to the new legislation has been mixed, with Kremlin critics warning that the government will still retain many tools for suppressing dissent and limiting free speech.

On Oct. 2, 2018, Putin signed a law toughening punishment for those who refuse to remove information from the Internet deemed illegal by a court.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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This Is China’s Version Of SEAL Team 6

The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is the China’s most elite counter terrorism unit, similar to America’s SEAL Team 6. Surprisingly, the unit is a federal police unit and not part of China’s Army.


Tasked with protecting the capital of Beijing, their activities are largely secret. Still, the glimpses the world gets are pretty impressive.

The unit is reported to have been established soon after China’s capital was selected for the 2008 Olympics. From 2002 to 2007, they trained in secret under the name “Snow Wolf Commando Unit.”

In 2007, their existence was finally announced just before a ceremony that changed their name to “Snow Leopard Commando Unit.” That same year, SLCU conducted some flashy training with Russian police.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaTvmTeCOH4
SLCU continued service after the Olympic’s closing ceremonies. The elite unit is rarely reported on, but they made news in 2013 and 2014 for winning top honors at the Warrior Competition, a sort of combat Olympics held in Jordan every year.
The Chinese police very rarely leave China, but the Snow Leopard Unit does, providing security for Chinese dignitaries. They’ve also been dispatched domestically to stamp out unrest in China’s West.

If China has a need to conduct a hostage rescue mission against ISIS or other extremists, it would likely be the Snow Leopard Commando Unit that goes.

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These are the only 2 subs that sank enemy ships in combat since 1945

Submarines were very proficient ship-killers in World War II. Nazi U-boats hit 3,474 Allied ships. Allied submarines in the Pacific sank 1,314 ships from Japan’s navy and merchant marine.


But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.

There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
PNS Hangor deploys in the early days of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. PNS Hangor

The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.

On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
INS Khukri, a Blackwood-class frigate that holds the distinction of being the first ship to be sunk by an enemy submarine since World War II. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.

According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.

The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.

It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
This 2006 photo HMS Conqueror (on the right in the foreground) show her awaiting scrapping. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HMS Conqueror

Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.

The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
The General Belgrano underway prior to the Falklands War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.

As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.

The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.

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Here’s how volunteers are stepping up to fight terrorism

Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.


They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
People’s Protection Units work towards peace. (Photo from KurdishStruggle on Flickr.)

Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.

Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.

“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”

Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.

On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.

Related: US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.

Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. (Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.

The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.

“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.

“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Raqqa, Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.

He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.

“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”

For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.

A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.

On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”

“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.

From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.

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The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.


Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.

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US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”

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Gen. Robert Abrams. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.

Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms
US Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.

The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.

The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.

Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.

The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.

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(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Emmons)

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.

Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.

In some cases, the personal touch can help.

Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.

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Photo courtesy of US Army

“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”

Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.

But the clock is ticking.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Evans said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first successful carrier raid

In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.


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The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.

(Imperial War Museums)

America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.

This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.

After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.

The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.

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Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.

(Imperial War Museums)

On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.

But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.

So they proceeded to Tondern where German Zeppelin sheds housed the airships and crews that bombed London and British troops, and conducted reconnaissance over Allied powers. These airships were real weapons of terror against Britain and its subjects, and the military wanted them gone.

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Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.

(Public domain)

Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.

Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.

While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.

The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.

Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.

Germany lost another airship to a navy-based fighter in August, this time in a crazy aerial attack after Royal Air Force Flight sub-lieutenant Stuart Culley launched from a barge and flew his plane to the maximum altitude he could reach that day, a little over 18,000 feet, and shot down a Zeppelin with incendiary rounds.

This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Details on ‘missing’ sailor Peter Mims are unpleasant and kinda sad

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and U.S. Seventh Fleet dropped everything to search for the presumed “man-overboard” Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims on June 8. For three days, the search continued until it was called off and he was labelled lost-at-sea. By the 15th, they were planning the memorial service in his honor…until he was found alive and hiding. He faces court martial and admits to the charges of abandoning watch and dereliction.

As new details come to light into the Mims investigation, it becomes clear that Mims was not mentally well. Bear in mind: For a list of all the details released to the public, an exclusive on the Navy Times goes in greater detail.


Prior to being missing, Seventh Fleet wasn’t known for it’s high morale. Fat Leonard scandals, several collisions, and historically low morale just scratch the surface. Sailors of the Shiloh and Mims’ engineering department were no different. After the USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo, the missions of the Shiloh were reportedly multiplied and sailors were reporting three hours of sleep a night as normal.

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As for GSM3 Mims, his mother was sick with cancer and was asking his chain of command about leaving the Navy early to care for her. Caring for his family and being indebted to the Navy left his pay checks bone dry at $40 to $60. To top all of this off, shipmates claim that he believed in some wild ideas, like being able to shut down the engine room with his body’s electricity or shoot fireballs out of his hands, that he’d been to space, and that other sailors were going to poison him with needles.

He was seen at 6PM, prior to his watch shift, but failed to show up at 8PM. It was over 30 minutes before he was logged as missing. He was, however, seen during his hiding, but the unnamed sailor in the galley didn’t realize it was Mims at the time. It was later discovered that Mims squirreled away large amount of Pop Tarts and granola bars.

He was seen again, covered in rust and carrying a 34-gallon plastic bag filled with water. Mims told the sailor who spotted him that people were trying to kill him and that there were hidden messages in the movie titles listed in the plan of the day. Terrified by how erratic Mims was, this sailor also did not report it immediately. The crew later searched his last spotted locations. The entire ship had been cleared top to bottom except for the Main Engine room 2 catacombs, which was ignored because of the extreme heat and overwhelmingly putrid scent — believed to be fuel and oil, they later realized it was actually human waste.

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

He was found covered in feces and urine, carrying a camelback, a multi-tool, a box of Peeps, and an empty peanut butter jar. His fellow sailors talked him into leaving the tight hiding spot and turning himself in. He was escorted to the command master chief’s cabin. Mims said that he had no plans of being caught, plans to reveal himself, or even plans to escape. He would be taken into custody at the USS Reagan.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 1980 Olympics are the ‘cleanest’ in history. Athletes recall how Moscow cheated the system.

When Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, games were being played not only in Soviet arenas but at the headquarters of the KGB.

The Kremlin was determined to host an untarnished event after the United States and 65 other countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the secret police were heavily involved in the effort.

On the surface, they succeeded.


The Soviets performed like champions in Moscow, winning 195 medals, including 80 golds, enough to top the medal count. And the 1980 games stand alone today as the cleanest on record — the first and only since the testing of Olympic athletes began in 1968 to not disqualify a single athlete for using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

But Soviet athletes and former members of the KGB allege that the Soviet authorities were using dirty tricks to boost performances while maintaining the appearance of a clean competition.

In a scheme that bears some resemblance to the state-sponsored doping program that Russia employed to boost its performance when it hosted the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, the Soviet authorities allegedly oversaw a broad effort to tamper with athletes’ drug tests.

In 1977, the KGB’s Fifth Directorate, which handled domestic security issues, created the Eleventh Department. Officially, the new entity’s task was “to disrupt subversive actions by the enemy and hostile elements during the preparation and holding of the Olympics.”

In reality, the employees of the Eleventh Department also worked in the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, which was accredited for the Olympics just two weeks before the games kicked off on July 19, 1980.

‘We Don’t Need Accidents’

Konstantin Volkov, who won a silver medal in the pole vault for the Soviet Union at the 1980 games, told Current Time that when it came time to hand in his urine sample for testing, an employee at the Moscow lab informed him that “we throw all this out” and handed him a different container already filled with urine.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything [in my urine]. I’m not scared,'” according to the 60-year-old Volkov. But the former pole vaulter said the lab employee insisted that “we don’t need accidents, so go turn this one in.”

When asked if other athletes, including from the 70 other countries competing in the games, were doing the same, the lab employee confirmed that they were.

“Yes, everyone is the same; no exceptions,” Volkov recalled the lab employee saying. “No one will have anything [in their samples].”

Retired KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that two of his former colleagues were accredited to work in the Anti-Doping Laboratory during the 1980 Olympics.

“They filled the containers [of urine] that were purportedly to be from the athletes,” said Popov, who handled sports journalists at the time. “Naturally, they didn’t have any positive doping tests, and that’s how the samples were clean.”

In the event that an athlete like Volkov actually provided samples, they were “simply replaced with obviously clean ones,” Popov added.

Efforts to uncover doping among Olympians first began at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. By 1975, the International Olympic Committee had banned anabolic steroids, which were often used by Soviet athletes. The next year, at the Montreal games, 12 athletes were disqualified for using steroids.

Yet despite the expanded effort to catch drug cheats, not a single athlete was caught doping in Moscow four years later — a result that contrasts sharply with a 1989 report by the Australian parliament that alleged “there is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner…who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might well have been called the Chemists’ Games.”

The Kremlin was under extraordinary pressure to ensure that no scandals tainted the Moscow games, the first Olympics hosted by a communist country, and on which the Soviet Union had spent an estimated id=”listicle-2646453422″.3 billion.

With the “whole world” watching, state-run Moskva 24 TV recollected recently, the Soviet government was looking to “eliminate all elements of chance.”

Soviet citizens, meanwhile, were essentially told to consider the games a view into their own future. And in the sphere of sports doping, they were.

First Moscow, Then Sochi

Thirty-four years later, the Kremlin was once again playing host to the Olympics, this time in winter, in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The 2014 Winter Olympics, won by Team Russia, was held up at the time as a symbol of Russia’s return as a sporting powerhouse and arrival as a tourism destination.

But those victories were soon tainted by allegations that Russia’s security services had been swapping out Russian athletes’ urine samples to avoid the detection of performance-enhancing substances.

“The Winter Olympics in Sochi debuted the ultimate fail-safe mechanism in the Russian’s sample-swapping progression,” concluded a 2016 independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). “A protected Winter Olympics competitor likely to medal did not have to worry about his or her doping activities. They could dope up to, and possibly throughout, the games as they could count on their dirty sample being swapped at the Sochi Laboratory.”

Russian officials have never accepted the conclusions of what is commonly called the McLaren Report, and have engaged in a drawn out battle with WADA that continues to this day.

While Russia escaped a ban from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the fallout from the scandal resulted in the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee in 2017, preventing Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Tens of Russian athletes were banned from international competition, and 13 medals won in Sochi were stripped from Team Russia.

Most recently, the failure by Russian authorities to cooperate fully with WADA’s investigation into the Moscow lab and the country’s state-sponsored doping program led the international anti-doping watchdog in 2019 to impose a four-year ban on Russia participating in or hosting any major international sports competitions, including the Olympics.

Popov told Current Time that the tampering in Sochi was “a remake, let’s say, of what there was in the ’80s…. The experience gained in those years was employed at the Sochi Olympics.”

He added that in 1980 the U.S.S.R.’s State Sports Committee had a “special program” that provided steroids to athletes who, in their coaches’ opinions, had the best chances of winning.

In 1980, then-20-year-old Volkov was seen as a potential gold medalist in Moscow, having won the European Championships just months before.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics, he told Current Time, representatives of the doping program suggested that he use anabolic steroids.

“They had me come in with my coach, my father,” Volkov recalled. He said he was told that he needed to go through “a special drugs program to win a gold medal.”

“But we refused because, first of all, we didn’t know how this works with pole vaulting” or how it would impact a pole vaulter’s technique, Volkov continued. “They said, ‘OK, it’s on you. If there’ll be a failure, then you’ll answer for your actions.'”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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