5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

In comic books and superhero movies, there’s a constant trope about average troops being given superpowers to match their immense bravery and honest heart. From a story perspective, it makes sense. And according to the bumper stickers on most military spouses’ mini-vans, not all heroes wear capes after all.


But in real life, if you manage to survive a super-soldier project, you won’t be doing much superhero work. Take a look at Captain America for instance.

1. Uncle Sam would get his money’s worth

There isn’t an exact number put to how much it would cost to become a super soldier, but Forbes estimates the cost of Captain America at $54.6 Million. There’s no way you’d get away with having that much money spent on you without constantly having to do military stuff.

You probably won’t be doing Special Ops stuff, either. Your name and face would be everywhere and that’s simply too much money to put on the line. Plus, if the Army learned you could clean an entire Connex in one minute, guess what you’ll be doing…

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
That, or selling war bonds… (Paramount Pictures)

2. Everyone expects the best from you

Good luck trying to take it easy for a single moment.

You’re going to be constantly working. You’ll be on the move non-stop, saving everyone and doing the right thing. Even if the pressure weighs you down, you’ll have to keep saving everyone.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
God forbid you take a nap for 70 years… (Paramount Pictures)

3. No more private life

A common theme in comic books and movies is the protagonist trying to balance their public, superhero life and a personal life. That balance wouldn’t be a thing for super soldiers.

They just don’t get the opportunity to BE civilians. If they do have a personal life, it’ll still just be doing regular military stuff.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
You’re still never going to watch all those films you told people you’d eventually get around to seeing. (Walt Disney Studios)

4. No more getting drunk

Captain America doesn’t have a real weakness — except one. His superpowers and accelerated metabolism work too hard for him to get drunk.

No matter how much he drinks, he’ll never get the pleasure of stumbling home after the bars close.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
At least you can hold your own with a Norse god. (Walt Disney Studios)

5. You’re never getting promoted… ever…

Once you’ve been given your superhero name, you can’t really change it. It’s your new identity. That’s fine for every other superhero, but it’s terrible for Captain America.

The ‘Captain’ in Captain America isn’t some clever name. It was Captain Steve Rogers’ actual rank in the U.S. Army. In The Ultimates, at least Colonel Nick Fury gets promoted to General.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
Over 80 years of service and never promoted to Major. (Sony Pictures)

Bonus: At least chicks dig superheroes in uniform

It could be all the badass things he’s done in WWII, it could also be the CIB he rocks, or it could even be the Pinks and Greens he’s wearing. Either way…

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
It’s totally the P&G’s. (Paramount Pictures)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New pack design may save troops from fatigue and injuries

Lightning Packs, LLC has created what could be a ground-breaking new pack-frame design that appears to float while being carried, reducing fatigue. It may even generate power, the makers say.

“Our ergonomic backpacks use an innovative pulley system to reduce impact forces on the user by 80 to 90 [percent], which reduces exertion and injury,” according to the Lightning Packs website.


Lightning Packs founder and pack inventor Lawrence Rome is a muscle physiology expert, according to the company’s website. He also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We first designed, built under contract, and delivered a series of ergonomic and electricity-generating backpacks for personnel of the United States Army and Marine Corps. The ergonomic benefits of our design have been field-tested and approved by soldiers themselves,” the website states.

www.youtube.com

The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center put out a brief video in 2015 to showcase the new pack frame technology.

Yakira Howarth, of CERDEC’S Command, Power and Integration Directorate, said in the video that the frame “generates electricity through rotary motion that we can capture and use to trickle-charge any batteries or electronics that they have on them.”

“Our aim is for a net-zero soldier which means that whatever he is powering that is on him will be powered by what he is carrying on him at the same time,” she continued. “We are supporting tactical power for the small unit so we are continually gathering data and feedback from soldiers so that we can continue to improve the wearability of this working prototype.”

It’s unclear if the Army is still looking at the technology.

Lightning Packs now plans to market its new ergonomic backpack, the “Hoverglide,” on the commercial market, using Kickstarter.com to raise funding.

Using Suspended Load Technology, or SLT, the frame slides up and down as the weared walks to reduce “the accelerative forces that cause injuries and reduce mobility,” according to the website.

“The pack reduces the metabolic energy requirement by 40-80 watts, allowing a wearer to carry 8-12 extra pounds ‘for free,'” the website states.

The Hoverglide will be offered in several models for backpacking, commuting and light hiking. There will also be a tactical model which is about the size of a standard daypack or assault pack, according to the review website Hot-Newtech.

“Our company is ready to produce a pack that enables quicker, easier travel while reducing back pain and injury, [and] with your help, we can make that happen,” the Lighting Packs website states.

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

Featured

Taking pictures of animals in your house is the greatest quarantine activity ever

If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).

Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.


To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
MIGHTY TRENDING

6 practical everyday chores you can finally teach your kids during quarantine

I’ve been waiting for this moment. To have a chunk of time set aside to give my kids some basic home upkeep and cooking training. Not the quick “get the butter for me” because we’re hustling between a Spanish lesson and bath time. I wanted to dedicate time to have fun with it. I didn’t expect this opportunity to be handed over at the cost of our social freedom because coronavirus is spreading! But here we are.


Teaching our kids these skills is important not only so they can help around the house, but so they’ll know how to survive as adults without expecting MOMMY to come over and fold their laundry.

Here’s some backstory. My mother folded my laundry. I’m not ashamed to be transparent about that. Not because she enjoyed it, she just wanted it done, and if I didn’t move fast enough for her, she got annoyed. Unfortunately, it crippled me a bit.

After getting married, I had an epiphany one day while staring at a laundry basket full of clean clothes. My husband barely had any free time because he was a Marine Corps Recruiter, and his position was extremely demanding. I realized that I was going to have to fold all those clothes. ME!

I won’t let my kids suffer the same fate of not being prepared. Daily home maintenance and cooking will be a part of their life, and now is the perfect time for us to dive in!

Here are six everyday chores your kids can start learning while we’re all quarantined.

Attack that LAUNDRY pile

Yes. Let’s start with the big one. Depending on their age, you can start by teaching them to sort and fold. When you’re ready, start showing them the proper amount of detergent to use based on the size of the load and what dryer setting to use.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Really CLEAN the kitchen

This doesn’t stop at washing dishes. It includes loading the dishwasher, cleaning counters, putting away dishes and cleaning the floors.

Make a cold meal

When your kids learn to make lunch, it will change your life! Bread, meat, cheese, chips and fruit then BAM! There are other options and combinations you can create, but just make sure they are easy. Most importantly, teach them to WASH THEIR HANDS first!

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Make the yard nice

Once your kids learn to push a mower and do it properly, this could actually lead to a nice side business for them. It doesn’t hurt to pull weeds and rake leaves too.

Take out the trash

This one can be a little tricky because it also requires remembering your trash pickup schedule. A chore sheet or checklist will help with that.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Use the stove for a simple meal

Safety first! Take time to talk about what NOT to do then proceed. An easy starter is having them cook a scrambled egg or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Teaching these tasks will take some time, which we have a lot of right now. With no known end to this national public emergency, try to focus on them getting better at their chores, so you don’t have to spend time doing it over. Also, resist the urge for perfection.

Their chores are their responsibility and contribution to the home.

Your kids will one day be independent adults who are grateful for the skills they acquired during a pandemic. Who knows? They may still come mow the lawn for you when they are out of your house.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US sends in the A-10s against a resurgent Taliban

The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the Afghan capital of Farah province on May 15, 2018, forcing the US to send in A-10 Warthogs in a show of force, according to numerous media reports and a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The Taliban, equipped with HUMVEEs and Afghan police pickup trucks, attacked multiple Farah City checkpoints and took over an intelligence headquarters, according to Long War Journal.


“There is fighting still going on in the city of Farah,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, told Business Insider over the phone, which “despite rumors to the contrary, remains on the outskirts of the city, three kilometers to the north and west.”

“You’ve got Army, police, commandos, and Afghan air force involved in the fight,” O’Donnell said. “Both Afghan A-29s and Mi-17s have conducted multiple air strikes, and US forces have conducted one drone strike. We’ve also conducted a show of force with A-10s.”

Dozens of Taliban fighters have been killed, and Afghan forces have suffered an unknown number of casualties, O’Donnell said, adding that he was unsure of any civilian casualties.

The Afghan governor of Farah province, Basir Salangi, fled the city of 50,000 people when the attack began at about 2 a.m., but he remains in the province, according to The New York Times.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

O’Donnell said the Afghan government remains in control of the city, but ATN News reported that “at least three parts of the city came under the control of Taliban,” Long War Journal reported.

The “rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department,” Long War Journal reported, citing Pajhwok Afghan News. Taliban fighters have also attacked the city’s hospital, where they killed two wounded Afghan police officers. They may even be moving on the prison.

O’Donnell said that the fighting is expected to last through May 17, 2018, and that US advisers are on the ground, but not involved in the fighting to his knowledge.

“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group. … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

The US announced in November 2017, that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes. Some analysts have criticized it as a game of “whack-a-mole” since the Taliban can reportedly rebuild the labs in just a matter of days.

The US has been quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history, going on 17 years, which the Pentagon says costs about $45 billion per year.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Sears became the store of the American Century

One of America’s longest-serving retailers is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While this doesn’t mark the end of the 130-year-old retailer, it doesn’t exactly bode well for its future, either. With 700 just over Sears and K-Mart stores nationwide, the company is bleeding money it doesn’t have. Hopeful sources tell the Wall Street Journal that there will still be upwards of 300 stores open for the coming holiday season, but the company is a shadow of its former self.


The once-dominant retail sales company, first founded as a mail-order catalog in 1891, has been in a slow decline over the past decade.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
(Wall Street Journal)

The company once sold everything, from dresses to appliances to even cars at one point. In fact, President Jimmy Carter even grew up in a shotgun-style house his family purchased through a Sears catalog. Hell, the company even sold cocaine and opium at one point. Try getting that on Amazon.

While anecdotes about Sears, Roebuck, and Company selling patent medicine are quaint, this was a company that was — for much of its life — ahead of its time. The story of the rise of Sears is almost the story of the American century — of the American dream.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

An automobile offering from a 1909 Sears catalog.

In the months and years after the Civil War, communication and transportation technologies that were developed to help the Union fight and win the war were still on the cutting edge. While working as a railroad agent around the early 1880s, Richard Warren Sears purchased a collection of unwanted watches from a local jeweler and then resold them to his coworkers — picking up a big profit along the way.

He used this experience to start a mail-order watch business with a watch repairman named Alvah Roebuck. The duo moved to Chicago, a rail hub, and expanded their offerings to other jewelry. After selling that business, he moved away to Iowa but came back to the mail-order business shorty after. That’s when Sears and Roebuck founded Sears, Roebuck, Company.

They began to expand into the rest of the postwar United States. Not through brick and mortar stores, rather the company expanded the offerings in its catalog. Most importantly, they began to service the more remote areas of the United States, lending dependability and stability to the supply side of these remote markets — something local stores could not do.

Eventually, the company went public, survived the Great Depression, changes in ownership and direction, and by the 1930s, was opening stores in urban areas to respond to the American population moving closer to those areas and away from rural ones. The company still distributed goods to rural communities from its multi-million square foot warehouse in Chicago. Control over its distribution was one of the stores’ original keys to success.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Fashionable and functional.

Sears was the original “everything” store. Rather than sell the latest fashions or flash-in-the-pan trinkets, the original Sears stores sold reliable consumer staples at a lower cost. Socks and sheets aren’t sexy, but everyone needs them and the Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, was built on a foundation of consumer needs.

This is strangely also the foundation of Sears’ downfall. A company that had survived everything from the Panic of 1893 to the Great Depression and two World Wars would begin to lose sight of what once made it great and profitable. While Sears’ dedication to consumer needs helped drive American industry, helped develop suburban areas in the days following World War II, and even drive U.S. companies into Mexico and Canada, it began to lose sight of that foundation.

In the 1980s, the company expanded into credit holdings, stocks and financial products, even real estate. By the 1990s, it was no longer a price leader. Years of inflation in the 1970s and 1980s led to the foundation of similar department stores based on competing with companies like Sears through lower prices. K-Mart, Target, and Walmart fired the first shots that led to Sears’ decline. Amazon just put the nails in the coffin. Allen Questrom, a retired retail executive says 1985 was the year Sears made its first mistake.

“They took their eye off the ball,” Questrom, former head of Sears rival J.C. Penny, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Sears opening the Discover Card brand. Other industry insiders say it happened earlier, when it purchased brokerage and real-estate firms like Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker.

But by the time Sears decided to get rid of its financial holdings, it was too late. It survived the Great Recession, but its last profitable year came in 2010, posting losses of over billion since. Despite a further shedding and sales of unprofitable assets and an increased focus on what does work for the company’s remaining stores, the 70,000 employees left at the once-iconic retailer no doubt wonder if there’s anyone in the wings that could make Sears great again.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap

An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.

The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.

The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.

Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.


In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.

In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.

The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.

(National Directorate of Security)

The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.

“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.

Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”

According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.

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

Humor

4 common things that annoy Air Force enlisted members

Air Force enlisted members’ gripes are very different from those in other branches of the military. The Air Force is well-known for the mountains of paperwork it continually throws on personnel. If there is a process, there’s always a checklist and multiple forms that need to be filled out before anyone makes a physical move.


Training, discipline, and upward mobility also tend to come with piles of paperwork.

1. Letters of Counseling (LOCs)

Passive aggression might as well be one of the Air Force’s trademarks. Instead of a good ol’ reprimanding and yelling, the Air Force presents a typed letter that resembles a court document that details your indiscretion. The letter of counseling is given to personnel by their supervisor, usually after they do something that is out of regulation or just pisses them off personally.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
Might as well give the whole squadron one just to prepare them for the feeling.

Since some supervisors feel like they have control over their subordinates’ military careers, there are many times where Airmen get LOCs for absolutely nothing. Sometimes, it comes down to how much of an as*hole their supervisor is. Other times, the LOC might be valid (like coming into duty hungover). Either way, a LOC is kept in the member’s personal information file and can affect promotions if they get too many.

2. EPR bullet writing

The time of year every enlisted member dreads in the Air Force is when their Enlisted Performance Report is due. The EPR consists of categories of performance that require 4-6 bullets centered on accomplishments in selected areas. You would figure, given the nature of performance reviews, that the brunt of the work would be done by the services member’s supervisor. The majority of the time, however, the member has to write their own bullets and send forward a draft, which their supervisor then corrects.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
Your guess is as good as mine.

Sometimes, the bullets are a complete fabrication of what was actually accomplished. For example, taking out the trash in Air Force EPR bullet form could be written as, “member’s continued responsibility in daily detail work successfully improved overall mission accomplishment by 70%.”

Plain and simple, EPRs are a pain in the ass.

3. Death by PowerPoint

Please, please, please, Air Force; stop it already with the PowerPoint presentations.

Want to fall asleep? Go to an Air Force squadron on any day of the week. Chances are, there’s a PowerPoint presentation going on somewhere in the building. PowerPoints relay heaps of information over the course of an hour or two and presenters expect personnel to retain all the information like sponges.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
No one wants to to discuss anything, they just want to go to lunch.

It’s not hard to gauge the involvement level of PowerPoint presentations. Usually, half of the room is asleep by the end of it all. Watch it, though: Sleeping through presentations can get you an LOC.

4. CBTs

CBTs are computer-based trainings. Yes, this a requirement in the Air Force, too. It may sound ridiculous — at times, it is — but enlisted members have a number of CBTs they are required to remain current in annually, biannually, and before deployments.

You read that right: Before deployments, you have to complete computer-based training.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck
Hopefully, command is smart enough to know this is common.

Since there are so many requirements and no one is getting deployed or qualified until training is complete, the obvious habit is to just click through slides. CBTs certainly are a small sample of an Airman’s personal hell.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

The Pentagon has announced that President Donald J. Trump will present the Medal of Honor to the family of Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, an infantryman killed in action on June 1, 2007, when he wrenched a suicide bomber away from his troops and absorbed the blast with his body, saving his men. The presentation will take place on March 27.


Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins: Final Mission

www.youtube.com

Atkins had previously received the posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, but the award has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He was a member of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

His other awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Valorous Unit Award with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.

During the morning of June 1, 2007, Atkins and his squad were conducting route security near Abu Samak, Iraq, when a squad member spotted two possible insurgents attempting to cross the route. One of the soldiers ordered the men to stop, and they complied but were acting erratically and seemingly preparing to flee.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.

(Photo courtesy of the Atkins family)

Atkins moved up in his vehicle and then dismounted with his medic to interdict and search the men. One of the men began resisting the search, and Atkins realized that the man was wearing a suicide vest. They wrestled for control of the detonator, but the insurgent gained ground against Atkins

Atkins then wrapped up the bomber and pushed away from his men who were standing a few feet away, attempting to open up space. He pinned the insurgent to the ground and, when the vest detonated, Atkins absorbed the brunt of the blast.

Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast, but his actions saved others. Now, his son will receive his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor.

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed, June 1, 2007, by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, at a memorial ceremony held, June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker. Atkins was on a patrol with his unit, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., when they detained men who were wearing suicide vests.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann)

Before the fateful day on June 1, Atkins joined the Army on Nov. 9, 2000, and attended basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed with them to Kuwait in March 2003. He took part in the invasion of Iraq later that month before leaving the Army in December 2003.

After attending college and working as a contractor, Atkins returned to the Army in 2005 before deploying to Iraq in 2006.

A fitness center on Fort Drum was named for Atkins in January 2013.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

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Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


MIGHTY TRENDING

That time an F-16 flyby lit up a highway patrolman’s radar

A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.

A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.


The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”


When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …

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An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.

These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.

As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.

Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Russians were all drunk when Trump Tomahawked Syria

When Syrian President Bashar al-Asad used a sarin nerve gas attack on his own citizens during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, Trump was pissed. According to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, Fear: Trump in the White House, Trump wanted to kill Asad for the attack, using a targeted leadership strike.


But cooler heads prevailed, and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis convinced the President to hit Syrian airfields with a series of Tomahawk missiles instead.

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Sparing them from getting hit by Mattis’ personal Tomahawk.

The Russians came to Syria in September 2015, at a time when things looked pretty bleak for the regime, good for the loose confederation of rebels, and great for the Islamic State. Almost immediately, Russian intervention began to make the difference for the Syrian government forces. By the end of 2017, the government had retaken key cities and areas from both rebel groups and ISIS fighters.

Also the end of 2017, the Russians began to make their presence at air bases in the country permanent. That’s who the United States called in April 2017, delivering a warning that some of America’s finest manufactured products were being forcibly delivered to a Syrian airbase that night.

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There goes id=”listicle-2636430379″.8 million worth of forcible export.

Nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles were fired from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross of the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea that night. The Pentagon ordered the Navy to deliver a warning to Russian troops in the area right before the attack hit at 3:45 in the morning. According to Woodward’s source, the Russian airfield troop who picked up the phone sounded like he was dead drunk.

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“That’s our secret, captain… we’re always drunk.”

The warning worked, and the attack reportedly killed no Russian troops at the Shayrat Air Base, though it did damage and destroy aircraft and missile batteries, on top of killing nine Syrian government troops and seven civilians. The U.S. attack purposely avoided attacking a sarin gas storage facility on the base. The base itself was targeted because it was the source of Asad’s sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians.

Warning Russia of the pending attack may have given the Syrian Air Force notice to shelter its planes and prepare for the attack, as it was noted that many of the planes there survived the assault and its airfields were operational again less than 24 hours later.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military didn’t kill Kim Jong Un in 2017

The United States military watched as Kim Jong-Un smoked cigarettes around the next missile his country was going to test – a test designed specifically just to provoke the United States as Americans celebrated their independence. For over an hour, the top brass of the U.S. military just watched without ever ordering a strike or calling in some kind of attack.


For then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that must have taken a lot of restraint.

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He was there to observe a rocket test, a test just like many before it. This time it was for a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile itself was in the last stages of development. Meanwhile, American military leaders had ample time to look through their weapons catalogs and choose which weapon would have been perfect to use to wipe two of America’s greatest annoyances off the map – North Korea’s ballistic missile site and the leader who supports its development.

But no attack ever came, according to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda. The United States watched its dictator enemy pace around a missile for nearly 70 minutes before opting to do nothing.

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Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, smokes a cigarette just feet from the base of an untested, liquid-fueled rocket engine.

The U.S. knows North Korea is going to do something provocative on Independence Day – they always do – but the attack on the missile platform never came as expected. Instead, the next day the United States made a precision strike on some North Korean targets that demonstrated to Kim exactly what they were capable of, and specifically pointing out that the U.S. didn’t attack when it could have. After all, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted to “bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.”

U.S. officials believed the attack the next day sent Kim a twofold message. The first was that the United States wasn’t interested in regime change. The second was that since the U.S. didn’t want to explicitly kill Kim, he didn’t really need to keep the weapons programs going.

Perhaps the message worked as intended – within a year, Kim would meet with President Trump in Singapore to discuss peace and denuclearization.