8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction - We Are The Mighty
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8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction

We sometimes overlook the accurate and fantastic portrayals of veterans and troops in fiction, instead criticizing Hollywood’s typical depiction of us as hyper-macho, high-speed ass-kicking machines or broken and fragile husks of human beings.


For a good portion of the armed services, this is far from the truth. This isn’t a grunt versus POG (Person Other than Grunt) thing. It’s a symptom of the civilian-military divide.

There seems to be a perpetual cycle of fiction blowing real military service out of proportion. Civilians who never interacted with service members often believe that fictional portrayal.

Let’s be honest. Veterans are combating the stigma, but it’s an uphill battle.

Hell, most of the stories we tell at bars aren’t helping.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
No judging. I will totally back up your claim as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner.

This one goes out to the creators, writers, directors, and actors that gave the world a veteran and stayed away from the stigma. Either intentionally or not, these characters either embody what it was truly like in the service or have exceptional moments that can overlook some of the more silly moments.

If you can think of any others left out, leave them in the comment section.

1. Sgt. Bill Dauterive – “King of the Hill”

Though the 022 MOS doesn’t exist anymore, Bill from “King of the Hill” was a U.S. Army Barber. There are several episodes dedicated to his military service. The 2007 episode “Bill, Bulk and the Body Buddies” even revolved around him trying to get in shape to pass his APFT.

How he manages to go on all the adventures in the show and not be considered AWOL is also a plot point.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Character by Mike Judge and Fox Studios)

2. Capt. Frank Castle, aka “The Punisher” – Marvel Comics

Not every superhero gets their powers from a science experiment, being an alien, or just being super rich.

Frank Castle, The Punisher, learned his skills in the Marine Corps. Sure. He’s an extreme representation of a veteran. But The Punisher earns his spot on this list because of Jon Bernthal’s monologue in Season 2 of “Daredevil.” His performance and his story about his return from a deployment hits close to home for many people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdMQk2fL_qA

(YouTube, Rastifan)

3. King Robert Baratheon – A Song of Fire and Ice, “Game of Thrones”

Let’s take away medieval fantasy elements of “Game of Thrones” and recognize that Robert Baratheon used to be a proud, respected, and feared soldier on the front lines.

Ever since putting his service behind him, he got fat, grew a glorious beard, spent his time drinking, hunting, and talking about his glory days. Sound like anyone you know from your old unit?

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Character by George RR Martin and HBO)

4. Pfc. Donny Novitski and his band — “Bandstand”

A Tony Award winning musical may seem an unlikely place to find a true to life depiction of a WWII veteran, but it’s the only Broadway musical with an official “Got Your 6” certification.

The musical is about a group of young vets returning home who form a band to try to reach stardom (the same half thought out plan we all had while we were downrange).

The lead character, Donny, spends most of the story showing his bandmates and the world their sacrifice and talents.

Veterans who’ve seen the show praise it. At the end of every show, they thank the troops around the world and dedicate each performance to a different veteran.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Characters by Richard Oberacker)

5. Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – “M*A*S*H”

The Capt. Hawkeye character is beloved by many for its accuracy. He was drafted right after his medical residency to deploy to the Korean War. Everything about his character was a fresh change to the ordinary war hero cliche.

He resented the Army for drafting him. Each loss of life affected him as the series progressed. He used humor to help cope with the daily stress of combat.

In the 1978 episode “Commander Pierce,” Hawkeye is temporarily in charge of the 4077th. For one episode, he drastically made the very real change to become the leader that his soldiers needed before reverting back to fit the semi-episodic formula.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Character by Richard Hooker and CBS)

6. Capt. Kathryn Janeway – “Star Trek: Voyager”

While on the topic of the burdens of leadership, the character that best exemplifies this is the commander of the USS Voyager. Many of the ongoing struggles in the series revolve around how Capt. Kathryn Janeway deals with the safety of the crew, the dream of returning home, and hiding her internal doubt.

Oh, and she always drinks coffee, and she always drinks it black.

via GIPHY

 7. Master Sgt. Abraham Simpson – “The Simpsons”

The senile grandpa of the Simpson family is often the butt of many jokes. His long term memory is hazy and his short term memory isn’t any better.

But then there’s the 1996 “Flying Hellfish” episode. Art and story-wise, this episode is vastly different from most, and is regarded as one of the best in the series.

Grandpa Abe and Bart go on an adventure to reclaim the treasure Abe found back in World War II. Back in the day, Grandpa was a very competent and tactful leader.

When his unit, which also included series antagonist Mr. Burns, discover a fortune in stolen Nazi paintings, they place a life bet on who keeps them.

While Mr. Burns is willing to kill for the prize, Abe still holds onto his honor and loyalty to his unit after all those years. At the end, when the paintings are confiscated by police, Abe tells his grandson why he went after the paintings. “It was to show you that I wasn’t always a pathetic old kook,” he said.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Character by Matt Groening and Fox Studios)

8. Sgt. Donald Duck – Disney

The sailor suit he always wears isn’t just for show or stolen valor, Donald Duck legitimately was in the Navy and Army Air Force (hence why, in 1984, he was officially given the rank of sergeant and discharge by the real world Army on his 50th anniversary).

Hear me out on this.

In World War I, Walt Disney attempted to join the U.S. Army but was rejected for being too young. He then forged documents to join the Red Cross.

In France, the cartoons he sketched grabbed the attention of Stars and Stripes, later becoming the icon we all know today. In WWII, his love of country and understanding of how propaganda worked lead Disney to use Donald Duck to help the troops.

The “Buck Sergeant Duck” was used in counter-propoganda cartoons and recruitment shorts, even winning an Oscar for “Der Feuhrer’s Face.”

His time in both the Army and Navy is well depicted in many forms — from cartoons to comics. In “DuckTales,” Donald leaves his nephews because he’s being shipped out, which starts the series. The cartoon “Donald Gets Drafted” shows Donald learning (in an exaggerated manner) that recruiters sometimes tell fibs to get bodies in the door.

Even his short temper, aggression, loud voice, cynical attitude, and unprovoked tantrums aren’t a concept lost on veterans.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
(Character by Walt Disney and Disney)

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Paul Rieckhoff wants vets to help America ‘bring the temperature down’

 


8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and founder, advocating for vets at the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If the 13 years of running Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has taken an emotional and physical toll on founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, he doesn’t show it. Watching him in action at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia is a study in determination and attention to detail. No bypassing staffer is too junior to be engaged, and no veterans issue is too trivial to be addressed.

“If you had asked me 13 years ago that if this far in the future it would still be this hard, I would have said you were full of it,” Rieckhoff says. “Everything is still too hard, from getting candidates to say the right thing to reforming the VA.”

He’s also concerned that philanthropic organizations haven’t responded to a national health problem that he compares to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“This is like going to the convention in 1982 and people are kind of peripherally talking about AIDS when their friends are dying,” he says. “So if we accept that 20 vets are dying a day as a base point, we’re going to walk out of these conventions and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and these other billionaire philanthropic leaders are not going to be focused on veterans issues.”

Rieckhoff spreads the blame for the lack of progress on veterans’ issues — heath care and beyond — across several camps, starting with the commander-in-chief.

“President Obama has failed to provide the country a national strategy, and as a response, you’ve gotten fragmentation,” he says. And, by his reckoning, that fragmentation has taken myriad forms, including divisions among the veteran community itself.

“Too often VSO are having tribal fights when we really should recognize that we’re all really in deep shit because our demographics are our destiny and our demographics are bad,” Rieckhoff warns.

He goes on to explain that the veteran community is about to experience a “tectonic shift” numbers-wise because the World War II generation is all but gone and the Vietnam War generation is dying fast.

“We’re going to go from 12 percent in the population to, at some point, under five percent,” he explains.

In the face of this reality, Rieckhoff says that veteran service organizations and, more broadly, veterans themselves need to unify.

“My big takeaway in the wake of these two conventions is we have to find ways to be united and focused and we have to find ways to multiply our impact,” he says. “If veterans alone are carrying water for veterans’ issues we will lose.  We’re just too small. There aren’t enough of us.”

That’s not to say that he doesn’t think veterans have individual impact potential; in fact, Rieckhoff is quick to point out that vets are in a unique position nationwide right now.

“If you’re a veteran and you walk into a Starbucks or a classroom and announce your status you’re going to get 2 minutes of ‘rock star’ respect where people will listen to you for a little while before they jump into their corners for Bernie or Trump or whoever,” he says. “But you have that opening that opportunity to try and be a leader and bring people together. That’s what veterans need to be doing right now. We can bring the temperature down. We can do it through credibility and patriotism and through our example.”

At the same time, Rieckhoff warns vets against being used as props.

“As a community, we have to be really wary about being used. If they want to throw you up on stage with someone, make sure that you’re getting out of it what you need because they’re going to get what they need,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you join the military, right? Uncle Sam’s going to get what he needs out of you. Make sure you get what you need out of Uncle Sam.”

The discussion pivots to the political sphere, and Rieckhoff is at once unflinching and bipartisan in his take on what’s in play for the military community.

“The conventions have been fascinating to watch,” he says. “I think what’s happened in the last four years is both parties realize that veterans make good populism. Last week you had Joni Ernst and a wall of veterans, this week you’ll have Seth Moulton and a wall of veterans. They know – Trump especially – that there is a huge populist undertone to everything veterans.”

But Rieckhoff fears the community may be squandering its time in the spotlight.

“We have lacked a real sharp edge of activism,” he says. “If this was 1968, vet protestors would be in the convention.”

He introduces a broader theme, saying, “It’s a very complicated psycho-social situation we’re in where our community has been asked to sacrifice over and over again, but the public has reasoned that those in the military are self-selected as people who are willing to sacrifice over and over again. You can send us on 12 tours and we’re not going to make that much of a stink.

“The bigger issue is the lack of precedent for the lack of involvement in our country in a time of war. There’s no precedent in American history for this much war with this small group of people for this long.”

That societal reality has yielded some things of concern, not the least of which, according to Rieckhoff, is the fact that there are very few veterans in positions of real power.

“None of the candidates in either party is a veteran,” he points out. “Neither chairman of the VA on either the House or Senate side was a veteran. Jeff Miller and Bernie Sanders can’t run around talking about how wonderful they were when they presided over the largest VA scandal in American history.

“Bernie Sanders used the scandal to pass the omnibus and Jeff Miller is running around with Trump, using his time on HVAC for that. That’s politics, I get that. But At the end of the day veterans are still screwed.”

Rieckhoff likens the situation to “asking a plumber to fix your television.”

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff at the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

He uses what’s going on at the VA as an example, saying, “Bob McDonald is an army of one right now. He’s getting his legs cut out from under him by the Republican congress and Democratic leadership won’t touch him, so he’s almost out of time. He’s a good man who’s tried, but likely he’ll be out. The probability is we’ll get a new VA secretary who’ll get nominated in February or March, confirmed in March or April, and maybe he gets to work in June. So, six months into 2017, we’ll have the vision of a new VA secretary.”

Rieckhoff wants veteran leaders “who are still on the sidelines” to engage.

“There should be a coordinated and independent effort to recognize that these are trying times politically and we need to have a new call for these folks to serve,” he says. “You had the ‘Fighting Dems” in ’06 and I told Rahm Emanuel that ‘you have a political jump ball here,’ and he didn’t see it.

“The Fighting Dems wasn’t started by the party; it was started by that crew – Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth and Joe Sestak. That was the first iteration. Four years later the Republicans had their own round, but there was never really a coordinated campaign by either party to recruit veterans. There was a coordinated campaign to push out veterans and to celebrate veterans, but there’s not actually a farm team.”

Rieckhoff goes further, actually recommending a ticket that a large percentage of veterans would support right out of the gate.

“If [former NYC mayor] Mike Bloomberg and [retired Admiral and former CJCS] Mike Mullen started their own party tomorrow, a third of our membership would go with them . . . probably a third of the country would go with them,” he opines.

Rieckhoff sums the landscape up as “crazier,” and, again, he believes that presents a unique opportunity for the military/veteran community.

“We’re some of the only people who can go to both conventions and understand both sides,” he says. “That’s the powerful position for us whether it’s gun control, immigration, Islamophobia, gay rights, marijuana, or whatever. We can be a unique bridge builder between both sides. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements are great examples. The veterans community is on both sides of those.”

For all of the impact potential veterans might have, Rieckhoff is also mindful of negative stereotypes that exist among the civilian populations, something he blames in large part to “media laziness.”

“The only description the media had of the Dallas shooter was that he was African-American, and he was a veteran,” he points out. “Why? Because they have to file a story quickly and those were the only two things they could verify. That accelerated media cycle perpetuates lazy reporting. And when you have a vet who fits the stereotype they run with it.”

Rieckhoff exhales and contemplates the requirement to constantly attend to the pubic’s perception of vets, and that reminds him of the accomplishments of the community and, specifically, the legacy of IAVA.

“When IAVA started in 2004 the veterans landscape was a desert,” he remembers. “Now it’s a metropolis. We are very proud of the fact that a lot of people who come through the IAVA team have gone on to do really cool stuff.”

A quick review of the current roles of IAVA alums bears this out. Vet leaders like Abdul Henderson (now on the Congressional Black Caucus), Bill Rausch (now at Got Your 6), Tom Taratino (Twitter), Matt Miller (Trump campaign), and Todd Bowers (Uber) all spent time on the IAVA staff.

“We built IAVA to be a launching pad,” Rieckhoff says. “I’d rather have Tom Taratino at Twitter changing the culture than have him at the House VA Committee talking to a bunch of other veterans for the ninetieth time.”

But in spite of the challenges, Rieckhoff is bullish on the future of the veteran community.

“In 10 years, disproportionally CEOs are going to be veterans, candidates are going to be veterans, entrepreneurs are going to be veterans,” he says. “And that’s going to be exciting to watch.”

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5 fictional planes we wish were real

Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.


Still, here are five we wish would happen:

1. Airwolf

In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.

This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.

2. The EB-52C Megafortress

Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
We want to give B-52s secret lasers. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…

3. Blue Thunder

According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.

This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.

4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet

The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.

The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.

(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)

5. MiG-31 Firefox

No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
The tail end of a MiG-31 Firefox from the movie. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.

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This Marine veteran stole a plane and landed it on a New York City street – to win a bar bet

Marines don’t take kindly to being told something is impossible. Thomas Fitzpatrick was that kind of Marine. He landed a single-engine plane right outside of a New York City bar after making a bar bet with another patron.


Marine in WWII and Army veteran of the Korean War, “Tommy Fitz” was having a drink in Washington Heights one night when another patron bet him that he couldn’t go to New Jersey and be back in 15 minutes.

For anyone else, this might have been impossible.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction

In fact, the Police Aviation Bureau called it next to impossible, estimating the odds of success at “100,000-to-1.” Shortly before 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1956, the “twenty-something” Fitzpatrick hopped in a single-engine plane at New Jersey’s Teterboro School of Aeronautics and took off without lights or a radio.

“Supposedly, he planned on landing on the field at George Washington High School but it wasn’t lit up at night, so he had to land on St. Nicholas instead,” said Jim Clarke in an interview with the New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon. Clarke was a local resident at the time and remembers seeing the plane in the middle of the street.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
You losers play GTA and call it a game. Tommy Fitz didn’t play games. (Reddit user SquirtieBirdie)

According to the New York Times, locals called the first landing “a feat of aeronautics.” The owner of the plane did not press charges. Fitzpatrick was given a $100 fine (almost $900 when adjusted for inflation) for violating a city law which forbids landing airplanes on New York City streets. He also lost his pilot’s license. And that was that.

Until Fitzpatrick did it again, two years later.

This time, the Marine veteran stole the plane at 1 a.m. from Teterboro School and landed it at Amsterdam and 187th Street. He stole the second plane because someone at the bar didn’t believe that he stole a plane the first time around.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
28 minutes by car, under 15 by plane. Just trust us on this one.

For the second theft, the judge threw the book at Fitzpatrick, sentencing him to six months confinement.

“Landing on a street with lampposts and cars parked on both sides is a miracle,” said Fred Hartling, whose family was close to Fitzpatrick. “It was a wonder – you had to be a great flier to put that thing down so close to everything.”

Aside from his two skillful drunken landings, Tommy Fitz was also a Purple Heart recipient and earned a Silver Star in Korea.

During a strategic withdrawal, Corporal Fitzpatrick noticed a wounded officer, about 100 yards forward of his position. In attempting a rescue, he and a companion were seriously wounded. Cpl. Fitzpatrick despite severe pain and loss of blood made it back to safety, directed a second successful rescue party, organized and provided covering fire to support the rescue. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star.

Thomas Fitzpatrick died in 2009 at age 79, survived by his wife of 51 years. As of 2013, the Washington Heights neighborhood still had a drink named for ol’ Tommy Fitz: the Late Night Flight.

Courtesy of the Dinner Party Download:

.5 oz Kahlua

1.5 oz vodka

.5 oz Chambord

5 blackberries

1 egg white

dash simple syrup

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
The Late Night Flight. (photo from the Dinner Party Download)

“…Pour Kahlua into the base of a cocktail glass.

In a separate mixing glass, muddle the blackberries, add Chambord and one ounce of vodka, and shake with ice.

Strain carefully into a layer over the Kahlua.

In another mixing glass, shake egg white, syrup, and remaining half ounce of vodka — without ice — to create an emulsion.

Layer this fluffy white foam on top…”

 

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Two heroic soldiers are finally getting the Medal of Honor they were cheated out of 97 years ago

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction


Two U.S. Army soldiers will finally be awarded the nation’s highest military award, nearly a century after they displayed incredible bravery during World War I.

Sgt. Henry Johnson, a black soldier assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier with the 47th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) on Tuesday. Ninety-seven years after they were denied the award due to discrimination, the pair of soldiers will finally be recognized in a ceremony at The White House.

While serving as a sentry in the Argonne Forest with another soldier on May 15, 1918, then-Pvt. Johnson came under heavy enemy fire after a raiding party of 12 German soldiers came upon his position. Despite receiving significant injuries, Johnson held off the Germans using grenades, a rifle, a knife, and even his bare hands.

“The Germans came from all sides,” Johnson told an interviewer after the war, according to The Daily Beast. “Roberts kept handing me the grenades and I kept throwing them, and the Dutchmen kept squealing but jes’ the same, they kept comin’ on. When the grenades were all gone I started in with my rifle.”

Johnson exposed himself to enemy fire and held back the German forces until they retreated, according to the U.S. Army.

On Aug. 7, 1918 in an area southeast of Bazoches, France, Sgt. Sgt. Shemin left the safety of his platoon’s trench and repeatedly crossed an open area to rescue wounded soldiers, despite the threat of heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Then after his officers and senior non-commissioned officers were wounded or killed, Shemin took command of the platoon and “displayed great initiative under fire” until he was wounded himself on Aug. 9, according to the U.S. Army.

Staten-Island Live has more:

Why did it take almost a century for Shemin to be recognized with the highest U.S. military award for valor in combat? Perhaps because of widespread discrimination in the military during that period of history; Shemin was Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism was a way of life in the Army in World War I,” said Mrs. Roth, who has been waging the campaign on behalf of her father’s honor since 2002. “They’re making a wrong right, 97 years later. The discrimination hurts, but all has been made right.”

Their recognition comes as a result of a 2002 move by Congress to review combat actions of Jewish and Hispanic veterans and ensure “those deserving the Medal Of Honor were not denied because of prejudice,” the White House explained to CNN. The act was later amended to review all possible cases of discrimination.

In March, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who had been denied the award due to prejudice, NBC reported.

NOW: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

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3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.


While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.

Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.

Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.

3. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.

Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.

You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
These Recon Marine conduct target practice and immediate action drill while on stationed on the MEU.

2. Their proud history is different.

The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said  “oh sh*t” to themselves as realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.

So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.

In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.

At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
These Marine Raiders take time out for a quick photo op during operations in World War 2. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

1. Their missions are different

Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance, and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.

Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.

Also Read: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

Check out Nick Koumalatsos‘ video below for a detailed summary of these key differences.

(Nick Koumalatsos| YouTube)
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Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

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‘Artillery mishap’ claims 2 US soldiers in Iraq

Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”


Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.

The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.

Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”

More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division secure a helicopter-landing zone during simulated casualty evacuation in a force provider drill at Camp Swift, Makhmour, Iraq, on Jan. 22, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ian Ryan)

But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.

More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.

Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.

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The ‘most hated units’ in the Army are some of the best

They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.


The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
American Army Pfc. Sean P. Stieren, a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), fires a mock Stinger missile launcher at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 19, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A), act as insurgent and conventional opposing forces during decisive action training environment exercises at JRTC. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.

Through all this training, they get good. Really good.

And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) fires blank rounds at soldiers from a rotational training unit during an exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 22, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A) role-play as multiple enemy forces including a near-peer military, insurgent cells and a crime family. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.

“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”

So yeah, despite typically fighting at a 2-to-1 or even a 3-to-1 disadvantage, OPFOR units often decimate their opponents.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?

But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.

“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
A UH-72 Lakota helicopter from the OPFOR Platoon, NTC Aviation Company provides air support to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ground forces during an engagement during rotation 16-08 at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016. The Lakota aircraft participated in an exercise that challenged the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.

When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.

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That time pirates mistook a Navy warship for a target

Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.


 

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
An armed suspected pirate looks over the edge of a skiff, in international waters off the coast of Somalia. (U.S. Navy photo.)

According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Confiscated weapons lay on the deck of guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) following an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. (U.S. Navy photo.)

A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Evidence of small arms fire impact is visible on USS Cape St. George’s (CG 71) hull after suspected pirates opened fire on USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and Cape St. George. (U.S. Navy photo.)

The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
A suspected pirate vessel ignites in flames before burning to the waterline. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and other armaments lay on the deck of USS Cape St. George (CG 71) after being confiscated during an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.

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This ‘indestructible’ Medal of Honor recipient jumped on two grenades and lived

Would you fall on a grenade to save your friends? How about two grenades? Jack H. Lucas did and became the youngest man to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest combat award.


8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Photo: Wikipedia

Born Jacklyn Harrell Lucas in Plymouth, NC on February 14, 1928, Jacklyn was a natural athlete who quickly rose to captain of the football team at his high school, the Edwards Military Institute.

By the age of 14, Jack looked much older. Relatively tall for his age (5′ 8″) and brawny at 180 pounds, Jack had no trouble convincing the Marine Corps recruiters that he was 17 when he enlisted in August of 1942. Notably, to enlist at age 17 (as opposed to 18), Jack needed a parent signature – so he forged his mother’s.

Jack did his basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina and qualified as both a rifle sharpshooter and a heavy machine gun crewman. In November 1943, he was assigned to the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps at Camp Catlin in Oahu, Hawaii. There he achieved the rank of Private First Class in January of 1944. However, after reviewing a letter Jack had written to his girlfriend, military censors realized he was only 15 years old. He was then removed from his combat unit, but rather than sent home (something he argued heavily against), he was assigned to truck driving.

Of course, being “in the rear with the gear” was not Jack’s idea of military service. Angry, he got into so many fights that he was ultimately court-martialed and spent 5 months breaking rocks and consuming mostly bread and water.

Released from the stockade by January 1945 and still determined to see combat, Jack walked away from his post that month and stowed away on the USS Deuel, a transport ship heading toward fighting in the Pacific. Because he left his assignment, he was declared a deserter and reduced in rank to Private. Now closer to the action, after hiding for about a month, Jack finally turned himself in on February 8, 1945, once again volunteering to fight. On February 14, he turned 17. By February 20, he got his wish and was fighting on the island of Iwa Jima.

During the battle on February 20, 1945, Jack and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench.

Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive.

Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life.

Shortly after his act of heroism, on February 26, 1945, the deserter classification was removed and he was restored to the rank of Private First Class. Ultimately all 17 of his military convictions were also cleared. Nonetheless, he was unfit for duty and discharged form the Marines on September 18, 1945.

On October 5, 1945 President Harry S Truman awarded Jack, and 13 other recipients at that ceremony, the Medal of Honor. Notably, however, at 17 he was the youngest there and the youngest to ever receive the award. For his bravery and service, Jack also received the Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and a Purple Heart.

So what happened after? Besides graduating high school and earning a business degree, at the age of 31, he enlisted as a First Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.  During his first training jump, according to his team leader, “Jack was the last one out of the plane and the first one on the ground.”  You see, neither of his parachutes opened.  Despite this and an approximately 3,500 foot fall, he miraculously survived with only minor injuries. Two weeks later, he was back jumping out of planes.

8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction
Photo: Department of Defense William D. Moss

Once he returned to civilian life four years later, he opened a chain of beef selling businesses in Washington, D.C., married a few times (including one wife who tried to have him killed), and later, with the help of D.K. Drum, published an autobiography aptly titled, Indestructible.

Jack lived to the ripe old age of 80, dying on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.

Bonus Facts:

  • A more recent individual who jumped on a grenade to save another soldier was Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position.  Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast.  Like Jack Lucas, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
  • During World War II, U.S. armed forces used the Mk 2 hand grenade (Mk II), a fragmentation type of grenade. Resembling a type of fruit, it was given the nickname “iron pineapple.” The time from pulling the pin to explosion of a time-delay fragmentation grenade can vary from between 2 and 6 seconds.
  • Four-hundred and sixty-four service members were awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II, including 82 Marines. To date, 15 service members have been granted that honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. In total, 3,468 Medals of Honor have been awarded, with the most (1,522) being given for service during the American Civil War. In addition, 193 have been to non-combat recipients.
  • The most recent recipient (awarded on July 21, 2014) was Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts of the U.S. Army, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry who, on July 13, 2008 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, despite severe wounds, launched fragmentary grenades, laid suppressive fire, and risked his life to convey vital situation reports, which helped prevent the enemy from gaining a strategic foothold.