8 times when the movie 'Three Kings' nailed what it's like to be a soldier - We Are The Mighty
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8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

You wouldn’t think a heist movie set during the Iraq War would provide a particularly accurate look at military life. But while the 1999 movie “Three Kings” has a lot of problems, it gets a surprising number of Army-life details right.


Here are seven times the filmmakers nailed it:

1. Troops waste key resources by having a water bottle fight in the middle of the desert:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Ask your First Sergeant if it’s a good idea to waste life-giving water in the middle of a desert.

Yes, the ceasefire ending the war had just been announced, but this is still bad resource management.

2. An American officer communicates with Iraqis by speaking at the exact same time as his interpreter:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
(Screenshot: Three Kings)

We’re sure the Iraqi soldiers who can understand English are glad that you’re yelling it over the guy speaking Arabic. And your troops are probably enjoying the two loud audio streams washing over them all day.

3. A group of soldiers finds a secret document in a guy’s butt and it immediately falls to the junior soldier to pull it out:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
That glove is about to see some stuff.

This is literally the only time that it makes sense for a specialist to pull rank.

4. A Special Forces major is trying to get the story of what happened with the secret butt map and everyone on the base tells him a different rumor:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
The map may have been in a guy’s butt, his penis, or possibly stitched to the back of his head. (GIF: GIPHY)

Seriously, when did you ever get the truth on your first try from a base rumor mill?

5. A junior enlisted soldier is given the chance to ask questions about an upcoming, risky mission and he wastes it:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Yeah, the Special Forces selections process is the most important thing to learn about before you conduct a four-man raid against an Iraqi bunker filled with gold.

6. A guy clearing his first bunker tries some stupid stuff that he saw in a movie and immediately regrets it:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

You shot a deadbolt. The deadbolt is still in the door. Your shoulder is not as strong as the iron holding that door in place. Moron.

7. When the group’s escape is ruined because the junior guy can’t find his gas mask that is supposed to be strapped to his leg.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Notice that while he doesn’t have his mask — which is essential to surviving the gas weapons that have already been used in this war — strapped to his person, but his survival knife is easily accessible. Because he’ll definitely need that knife.

8. A blue falcon immediately dimes out the group to the senior brass, even though no one has asked him a question:

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Seriously, Private Falcon, no one asked you. Just stand there quietly.

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The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Meanwhile south of the border, there’s a lot of air-to-air action going on

Let’s be honest – the War on Terror hasn’t seen a lot of air-to-air combat.


In fact, since the start of the millennium, the U.S. military has a grand total of two air-to-air kills — both were UAVs, and one was an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper that went rogue.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Peruvian Air Force AT-29 Tucano. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the real air-to-air action is taking place south of the border. In Central and South America, the Air Combat Information Group noted at least five planes have been shot out of the sky. In a June, 2016 report, WarIsBoring.com claimed that Venezuela had shot down 30 drug flights in 2015 alone.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
An A-37 with the Illinois Air National Guard. Similar planes have scored air-to-air kills over South America – targeting drug smugglers. (DOD photo)

That’s right, folks – the A-37 and AT-27 have over twice the kill total that the U.S. Air Force has notched since Desert Storm. Here’s a video showing one of the shoot downs in South America.

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The craziest small-arms maneuvers by South Korean SWAT

With a multitude of potential threats radiating over the border from North Korea, South Korea cannot be lax when it comes to security.


As such, Seoul places a premium on the training and capabilities of its military and police forces. This is clearly illustrated through the paramilitary capabilities of the South Korean National Police (KNP) SWAT teams.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Members of South Korean SWAT team approach mock terrorists during an anti-terrorism exercise at a venue for the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.

A 2014 video from LiveLeak shows the incredible training in small-arms maneuvers that these SWAT members go through.

The KNP is responsible for most security operations within the country, including counterterrorism measures, riot control, and hostage negotiations. The KNP also, on occasion, carries out joint exercises with the Korean Coast Guard and Army.

The highlights of the KNP training video are in the following GIFs:

A trainee practices strafing while alternating fire between a pistol and a submachine gun.

Trainees practice disarming, and counter-disarming, techniques.

Two prospective SWAT members work in a pair, coordinating movement and cover fire.

A trainee practices a faux surrender.

SWAT team members must be ready to respond to all manner of threats, including the sudden appearance of a combatant from behind.

Here, a trainee practices handling the recoil from a shotgun, before transitioning to his pistol

In possible crowd situations, accuracy is of critical importance, and marksmanship is given plenty of practice.

While in the field, SWAT members must be ready to continue an operation even after a potential injury. Here, a trainee is practicing shooting and reloading with one hand.

Of course, being able to function while distracted and under stress is one of the most important factors for success in the KNP. Here, instructors attempt to distract a trainee during an accuracy drill

All GIFs via GIPHY
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5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

The fighting in Syria is not as simple as a schismatic civil war. And there is more to the religiosity of the conflict than just Sunni vs. Shia. Theologists and other influencers, including U.S. lawmakers, see the coming “end of days” prophesies via religious texts, visions of the Apocalypse, and other theories that they claim support the notion of our living in a time when the curtain falls for good.


1. Isaiah 17

This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the Lord Almighty Isaiah

The Bible warns a series of horrible events will take place in Israel and Syria. Central to this vision of the apocalypse is the destruction of Damascus as one of the finest cities in the world.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
So… that happened.

Joel Rosenberg is a Christian author, an expert on Christian “end times” discussions. He told MotherJones unidentified members of the U.S. Congress called him to Washington to consult on the biblical end of days. Yes. Congress is concerned about the End of Days, as if they could just pass the “No to End of Days” Act and go on with life. Other legislators interested in this verse include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.

Hal Lindsey is an influential evangelist, something that should be an oxymoron but isn’t, who believes the Russians will lead a “Gog-Magog Alliance” foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, which means this bit is in the Torah, the Bible, and Koran as well. Gog and Magog could be individuals, a person and his homeland, or basically whatever suits the theory you’re peddling. In Revelations, Gog and Magog join Satan in the final battle.

Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.

Guess who a lot of people think Gog may be.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
u mad bro?

2. Islam’s ‘Grand Battle’

Many fighters in Syria (on all sides) believe was a large battle was foretold 1,400 years ago in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and anecdotes about things he said and did from his closest followers.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
The “No sh*t, there I was” collection of Islamic religious stories.

Some Sunni jihadis and other militias aren’t really even there to fight Asad. They’re there for a Grand Battle the prophet talked about in the 7th century CE. According to Muhammed, two huge Islamic armies are destined to meet near Damascus, coming from the North and West of the area. Fighters are pouring in to various sides from all over the world because Mohammed promised this would happen. The goal is to establish an Islamic state.

In the hadith, Mohammed also said Syria is God’s favored land and if not Syria, the faithful should go to Yemen, which is also not the first place anyone would associate with the phrase “God’s favored land,” as it is currently experiencing a civil war exacerbated by external aggression. Bringing the U.S. and NATO (especially Turkey) to Syria made some believe the U.S. aggression was deliberately planned by you-know-who to bring about the Grand Battle.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Thanks, Obama.

3. The Return of the Mahdi

What sounds like the worst Star Wars movie ever (or a new hymn by Mark Morrison) is actually also prediction mentioned in hadith. Shia Muslims believe the Syrian war is paving the way for the Imam Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed’s who disappeared a thousand years ago but is going to resurface to re-establish Islamic rule during a time of war, shortly before the end of the world. To them, the Islamic state foretold by the hadith was established during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War is the war in question.

The hadith says fighters with yellow flags (see Hezbollah) join to fight anti-Shi’ites (read: Sunnis) in Damascus as a prelude to the coming of the Mahdi. Fighters believe if they are killed during the war, they will be reborn when the Mahdi comes, so they can join his army. This also works for Christians, because the return of the Mahdi coincides with second coming of Jesus. Christian religious scholars in the U.S. believe a document labeled the “Arak Codex #190001” in a museum in Tehran, says the Imam is already here, and it contains a description of the Mahdi. Guess who he supposedly looks like.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

4. Nostradamus predicted ISIS

Believers in the 16th century French prophet Nostradamus believe he wrote poems which predicted the future, and he was eerily accurate about events even 500 years later. They believe he predicted Napoleon and Hitler, who were two of three “antichrists” whose rise foretold the end of the world.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote:

He will enter wicked, unpleasant, infamous,

Tyrannizing over Mesopotamia:

All friends made by the adulterous lady,

Land dreadful and black of aspect.

In the original French, it rhymed. Just saying. Anyway, adherents to Nostradamus translate this passage to mean ISIS’ rise to prominence in Iraq and Syria, the black referring to ISIS’ uniforms and flags. There’s also a bunch of math involved which makes Common Core look reasonable. But who knows, there are so many tyrants to choose from in the Middle East, especially in recent history, “He” could be anyone. The adulterous lady could mean any coalition or Syria itself, no matter who might be in charge there. The verses devolve into a description of World War III, endless war, and the end of the world. More racist looks at the writings of Nostradamus predict the end of the world will be brought by someone special…

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

5. The Book of Revelation

Shortly before Russia intervened in Syria, there was a very large blood moon, visible in most of the world. John of Patmos (aka”The Revelator,” aka “the Greek” aka “Bad Host from Patmos.” [I made the last two up]) wrote in the Book of Revelation that the blood moon would appear when the sixth of seven seals are opened and then some bowls are poured, some trumpets sound, a bunch of other stuff happens. This theory doesn’t really jive with Isaiah 17, because this is where Gog and Magog gather everyone from the four corners for battle at the holy city… after a thousand years. So, unless the bowls and trumpets and the seals did this 1,000 years ago, we don’t have to worry about Gog and Magog.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Gog and Magog have new SEALs to worry about.

Still others believe John foretold of a 200 million-man army. Since the entire world’s number of active duty uniformed personnel add up to about 20.2 million (and don’t all necessarily get along), it’s unlikely this army would be a conventional army. Enter ISIS. Some Christian groups see the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as a potential source of manpower for the apocalyptic 200 million man army. Just 10-15% of the worlds Islamic people gives said army a potential strength of 160-240 million.

Good luck getting them all to fight together.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
L’chaim.

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

Stream these free programs while in isolation

Normal screen time suggestions have been thrown out the window! We’re stuck at home, we’re enjoying the great outdoors but we’re also taking full advantage of programs offering free streaming options. Take a look at these game-changing programs that are offering widespread access to the masses, free of charge.


8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

Amazon Prime

Amazon is offering free streaming on kids’ shows through the pandemic to all users with or without an account. However, any new user can sign up for 30 days of free content before committing to an entire year. Choose from their extensive selection of free streaming options or link up your card and rent/buy movies and shows as needed. But considering the trial comes with free shipping on all your Amazon orders, why not?! The grace period is also good for previous customers who no longer subscribe. Prime Video will cost you 9 annually, or per month.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

SirusXM Premier

Stay in and listen to the radio. Or for all you essential soldiers, tune in on your way to and from work. SirusXM Premier is offering all of its paid content free through May 15 — that’s over a month of access to music, talk shows and their exclusive programming. The service normally runs per month.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

CBS All Access

Stream for free through April 23 with ViacomCBS. Users can use the promo code GIFT to access shows from Nickelodeon, the Smithsonian Channel and over 1,000 Paramount movies. Perfect for all you milspouse moms and dads who are suddenly homeschooling!

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

Hulu

Considering social distancing was extended through April and in many states, much longer, now is the perfect time to cash in on your free 30 day Hulu trial. All you need is an email address that has not yet been associated with the program. Normally or per month (the latter comes commercial free), Hulu is ideal for watching current and past TV shows. Users can also bundle their Hulu account for a deal on additional streaming options.

Take advantage of these streaming options today!

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This mine-sniffing rat received an award for his life-saving work

Unless their name is Remy and they’re adept at preparing French cuisine in an animated Disney movie, rats are often viewed negatively by humans. Despite this, rats have served humans as medical and scientific test subjects including cancer research and space travel. However, one rat has gone above and beyond in his service to the human race.

Magawa is a seven-year-old male African giant pouched rat working in Cambodia where he employs a very special skill. Trained by the Belgian-registered APOPO charity, Magawa has the ability to detect landmines and alert his human handlers to their presence. APOPO specializes in training rats to detect both landmines in the earth and tuberculosis in human sputum samples. The rats are referred to as HeroRATs and are certified for their specialized task after a year of training.


The HeroRATs are trained to detect specific chemical compounds found in explosives. This means that they are not distracted or confused by scrap metal and are more efficient at locating buried landmines. When they do find a landmine, the rats are trained to scratch the earth in order to alert their human handlers. The HeroRATs “significantly speed up land mine detection using their amazing sense of smell and excellent memory,” said APOPO’s chief executive Christophe Cox. “This not only saves lives, but returns much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.” According to the HALO Trust, the world’s largest landmine clearance charity, landmines and other unexploded ordnance in Cambodia have resulted in over 64,000 injuries and 25,000 recorded amputations since 1979.

Magawa was born and raised in Tanzania, weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 28 inches long. Though he and his African giant pouched rat brethren are significantly larger than other species of rat, they are small and light enough to step on the landmines that they are seeking without detonating them. Magawa is capable of clearing a tennis court-sized field in just 20 minutes. APOPO says that the same field would require up to four days for a human to clear with a traditional metal detector. Magawa has sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions and cleared over 1.5 million square feet of land in his four-year career.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

Magawa sniffs for explosives (PDSA)

For his incredible accomplishments and service, Magawa was recognized by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British animal charity founded in 1917 during WWI. The PDSA presented Magawa with their Gold Medal on September 25, 2020. The medal bears the inscription “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty” and has been awarded to 30 animals, of which Magawa is the first rat. “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women, and children who are impacted by these landmines,” said PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

Although he is the most successful mine-detecting HeroRAT, Magawa works just one half hour in the mornings. “He is very quick and decisive,” said Malen, Magawa’s main handler, “but he is also the first one to take a nap during a break.” Malen’s last name has been withheld for privacy. In his downtime, Magawa enjoys running on his wheel and is partial to snacks of bananas, peanuts, and watermelons. “He is very special to me,” Malen said of Magawa. The two have been working together for four years.

As HeroRATs generally have a field career of four to five years, Magawa is nearing retirement. APOPO says that once they enter retirement, they are given plenty of play and exercise. In the meantime, a PDSA spokesperson expects that Magawa will receive a more practical reward in addition to his medal. “I hear he’s partial to bananas and peanuts,” Emily Malcolm said, “so I’m sure he will be getting a few extra treats.”

Originally published September 28, 2020. 

 

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Top generals on F-35: We have a ‘war winner on our hands’

The top aviators from the US Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the head of the F-35 Joint Program office all testified before Congress on Thursday and came to a clear consensus — the US has “a war winner” on its hands with the F-35.


The F-35 program, first announced in 2001, has become the most expensive weapons project in history, with President Donald Trump calling the program “out of control” in December.

Related: Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

The program has delivered just 200 or so aircraft years behind schedule and billions over budget, but the top aviators in the US military said that the Joint Strike Fighter would come down in price and provide revolutionary capabilities to the US and their partners.

“We believe we are on track to continue reducing the price of the F-35 such that in [fiscal year 2019], with an engine including all fees, the F-35A model will cost between $80 million and $85 million,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer, F-35 joint program office told Congress.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

Bogdan also said the program had begun a block-buying strategy for foreign nations to bring down the price per aircraft.

The Marine Corps and Navy has said their biggest problem with the F-35 is not having enough. Marine Corps Lt. General Jon Davis said the Marines need F-35s to replace their aging fleets of F-18s and Harrier jump jets, which average 22 years.

Also read: Russia pimps out its new Su-35S Flanker in latest video

But the F-35 isn’t just another fighter jet — it’s a flying all-spectrum sensor node that can fight without being seen and elevate the performance of entire squadrons by sharing data on the battle space.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
From left to right: The Air Force F-35A, the Marine Corps F-35B, and the Navy F-35C. | Lockheed Martin

“The aircraft’s stealth characteristics, long-range combat identification and ability to penetrate threat envelopes while fusing multiple information sources into a coherent picture will transform the joint coalition view of the battlefield,” said Navy Rear Adm. DeWolfe “Chip” Miller III.

“I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we have a game-changer, a war winner on our hands,” Davis said of the F-35. “We can’t get into those airplanes fast enough.”

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These ‘Q-ships’ used to fool subs and take torpedoes in both world wars

Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.


This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.

The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.

Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
An American Q-ship of the Second World War (Photo from U.S. Navy)

U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.

The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.

A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.

However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.

One less U-boat in the fight.

The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.

Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
HMS Polyanthus, a WWI-era Q-ship with camouflage designed to break up the lines of the ship (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.

By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.

The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.

Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.

In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.

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17 surreal photos of the US Navy at night

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Zach Byrd directs a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter assigned to the Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 364 (Reinforced) during nighttime flight operations aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20). | US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam


The US Navy is the dominant force on the world’s oceans.

Helping to support open trade lanes, tackle piracy, and providing humanitarian missions are all part and parcel of the Navy’s mission in addition to its obvious military role. These massive responsibilities require that the Navy must be always ready to act.

Below, we’ve shared some of our favorite photos of the US Navy operating at night.

Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Clayton Jackson, from Minneapolis, guides an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Sea Combat Squadron 28 during a night vertical replenishment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.

An MV-22 Osprey assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 takes off during flight operations aboard the amphibious-assault ship USS Boxer.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Jeffries

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the third Mobile User Objective System satellite for the US Navy creates a light trail as it lifts off, January 20, 2015

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/United Launch Alliance

Aircraft land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise during nighttime flight operations in the Arabian Sea.

Weapons Department Sailors on a sponson fire a .50-caliber machine gun and flares during a night gun shoot for tiger-cruise participants watching from the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter is seen from the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown as the ship transits the East China Sea.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Lindahl

Sailors recover combat rubber raiding craft with Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during night operations in the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright

The Phalanx close-in weapons system is fired aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens during a weapons test at sea.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Kevin Williams directs an F/A-18C Hornet from the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate

A 25 mm machine gun fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Mandello

CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters assigned to the Evil Eyes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 refuel on the flight deck aboard the amphibious-assault ship USS Boxer during night-flight operations.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 prepares to launch from catapult two during night-flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared M. King

A student at the Aviation Survival Training Center ascends on a hoist during a simulated night exercise as part of an aircrew refresher course in Jacksonville, Florida.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom

Sailors observe from the primary flight-control tower as an F/A-18 Hornet lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dylan McCord

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Zach Byrd directs a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter assigned to the Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 during nighttime flight operations aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam

An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 sits on the flight deck of USS Enterprise at night. Enterprise is deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater-security cooperation efforts, and support missions as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr.

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This converted airliner was death for Allied convoys in the Atlantic

One of Nazi Germany’s most deadly weapons wasn’t really a weapon at all – at least not when it first took flight. However, it did eventually became a deadly foe; not for what it could drop, but for what it could see. It also set the pattern for two iconic planes of the Cold War.


The Focke-Wolf Fw 200 Condor began its life as an airliner for Lufthansa, according to aircraftaces.com. As a civilian transport, it generated some export orders to Denmark and Brazil. As an airliner, the Fw 200 held 26 passengers, and was able to fly from Berlin to New York non-stop.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Fw 200 as an airliner. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Fw 200 as a maritime patrol plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In World War II, the airliner versions were used as military transports by the Germans. But the real impact would come because the prototype for a reconnaissance version requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy. According to uboat.net, the Luftwaffe looked at the prototype, and requested that designer Kurt Tank make some changes.

What emerged was a plane that could fly for 14 hours, and carry 2,000 pounds of bombs. By February 1941 they were responsible for putting 363,000 tons of merchant shipping on the bottom of the Atlantic. That is the rough equivalent of four Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Two Fw 200 Condors parked. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the Condor’s real lethality wasn’t from what it dropped, it was from what it told the Germans — namely the locations of Allied convoys necessary to keep England in the war. That allowed Karl Donitz to vector in U-boat “wolfpacks” to attack the convoys some more.

Ultimately, when the British began to field catapult-armed merchantmen and eventually escort carriers, the Germans had the Condors avoid combat and just report the positions. By 1943, though, the Condor had been shifted to transport missions.

At the end of the war, the Fw 200 returned to the maritime strike role, carrying Hs 293 anti-ship missiles.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
The ultimate legacy of the Fw 200 Condor: P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy.  (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

The Fw 200, even though it was on the losing side of World War II, was a ground-breaking concept. In the Cold War, two major maritime patrol aircraft used by Germany’s World War II enemies — the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the British Aerospace Nimrod — were based on airliners themselves (the Lockheed Electra and the de Havilland Comet). The Boeing P-8 Poseidon, replacing the Orion and Nimrod, is based on the Boeing 737.

The Condor has a long legacy – one that continues to this day.

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This is why Aztecs deliberately did not kill the enemy

Every civilization will face a crisis that either shapes it by adapting to a threat or destroying it. The Aztecs – arguably one of the most brutal communities that ever existed, dealt with its destruction daily. While literature attempts to convey how callous the Aztecs were, it is still hard to imagine a society functioning in that high state of violence. The Aztec practice of human sacrifice was a widespread tradition accepted in everyday life of The Aztec people.

As technology improves, we peer more deeply into the past. From 2015 through 2018, archaeologists unearthed evidence of towering skull racks near the Templo Mayor. One of the motifs found in mass graves is that they most have markings from ceremonial deaths instead of battle. The excavation site strengthens this argument. Although considered a barbaric civilization because of the empire’s emphasis on wars and human sacrifices, it had a complex hierarchy, professional army, settlements, treaties with neighboring empires and wealth. Barbarism is relative to point of view.

Religious Warfare

While The Aztec empire was largely defined by war, religion was a core cultural component. The Aztecs selected their capital, Tenochtitlan, because of an eagle that they interpreted as a sign from their god, Huitzilopochtli. Founded in 1325, Tenochtitlan continued to be a central part of The Aztec community. This a place where they mounted the Templo Mayor as their base of religion. The Aztecs believed if they did not provide daily sacrifices to the Gods Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, their world would end.

Despite claims of an exaggeration to justify the enormity of inhuman behavior, there is less doubt about the nature of the killings. Fray Diego Duran, a Spanish historian, reports that over 80,400 people went through gruesome ceremonies that entailed clawing, slicing and stoning. Children who were frequent victims considered “pure and unadulterated” went through live burning and tossing from the pinnacle of temples.

The Gods demand it

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Ritual human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.)

The Aztecs believed many gods had destroyed the world four times in their battle for dominance. In the gods’ fifth battle that coincided with The Aztecs’ battle, the gods decided to create humanity and the sun to sustain organic life by giving up their blood. At the same time, The Aztecs believed the fifth battle would end the world, and the only way to sustain life was by shedding human blood.

Obtaining enough blood to sustain the world entailed carrying out human sacrifices once every four days in a year to coincide with the most important calendar dates. Although prisoners formed a significant portion of the human death tolls, it was not uncommon for locals to “join the honorable deity.” To capture a considerable number of prisoners for sacrifice, The Aztecs developed militaristic technologies to prevent them from killing their enemies.

Almost every aspect of The Aztec culture was tailored for human sacrifice. In addition to slicing out the victim’s heart at Templo Mayor’s, The Aztecs also practiced some form of cannibalism. After beheading, the victim’s body was gifted to noblemen and other distinguished members to prepare limb broth. In what was termed as “communing with the gods,” cannibalism was, both to the victim and nobleman, considered a great honor.

Military Expansion

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier
Great Temple in Historic center of Mexico City (Wikimedia Commons)

Human sacrifice also served as a signature of expanding The Aztec empire between the 15th through the 16th century. The ritual killings of captives and widespread display of skulls as a centerpiece for structures around the temple served as visceral reminders of the empire’s dominion. Although the remains of the people don’t explicitly show whether victims were burned alive, there are pictorial depictions of victims being hung upside down as they were burned.

Across history and cultures, escalating human sacrifices coincided with complex societies and social stratification. Like gladiator wars, mass execution of Egyptian slaves beside their fallen masters and the Aztec culture was a particularly effective way to intimidate rivals and expand the empire. In an ironic twist of fate, epidemics caused by the new Europeans entering the Americas caused ritual sacrifices to plummet. Their world did indeed came to an end; their greatest fear came to pass when the blood stopped flowing. That is why Aztecs would rather take prisoners alive than deliberately kill them in battle.

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Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Julian Scadden, by his own admission, was not always all that likable.  He had some rough edges.


“I didn’t use to be a nice guy,” he said. “In fact, I use to be a bouncer.  I would take out my frustrations by throwing guys out of the bar.  I’m 5-foot-4 and I just loved throwing big guys out of the bar.”

But that was a long time ago.  The 67-year-old Vietnam-Era Veteran now spends his days doing quieter work.  He’s a housekeeping aide at the Denver VA’s Community Living Center. But his custodial skills are not his primary contribution to the hospital.   Over the last nine years Scadden has developed another skill:  comforting Veterans in their final hours.

Good Instincts

“Julian is an incredibly important part of our care team here,” said Dr. Elizabeth Holman, a palliative care psychologist who works with Scadden. “He has an instinct for what people need when they’re nearing the end.  Sometimes they just need his quiet presence.  Sometimes they need words of encouragement.  He’s just so ‘present’ with these Veterans.  He makes them feel safe.”

He’s so humble…he doesn’t realize the tremendous value of his services, and of his heart.

She continued:  “It makes such a difference, to spend your last moments with someone who is kind and caring. And it’s such a comfort to family members, knowing that their loved one wasn’t alone when they died.”

“I didn’t think I would be any good at it,” Scadden admitted. “I didn’t think I could handle it. But they give you training.”

Scadden’s training, however, got off to a rough start.  At one point his trainers began to wonder if he really had the ‘right stuff’ to become a member of the Denver VA’s Compassion Corps  —the volunteers who spend time with dying Veterans.

“They had their doubts about me,” he said.  “During training they told me I was doing everything right except one thing.  I said, ‘What’s that?’  They said, ‘You have to learn how to talk to people!'”

It was a sad truth.  Scadden’s people skills had become a bit rusty.  He had plenty of compassion, but it was hidden somewhere deep inside where no one could see it.

“I had to learn to be polite,” he said.

And so he learned.

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

Of Ducks and Water

“I’m glad they were patient with me during the training,” said the Army Veteran.  “Once I completed the training they just put me out there and I took to it like a duck to water.  And it’s made me a better person, to be honest with you.  I think this is my calling.  This is what my higher power wants me to do.”

But not all patients — even those who are dying — believe in a higher power.  And that’s okay with Scadden.

“My very first patient didn’t believe in a higher power,” he recalled. “But about a week before he died, he told me to thank my higher power for allowing me to be there with him.”

Scadden said that during his nine years of hospice work he’s seen some patients get very angry at what’s happening to them.  Some get mean.  Some get abusive.

“You see every kind of scenario,” he said.  “Some of them are just scared, or confused.  They don’t want to die. They’ll ask things like, ‘Why me?’   They feel like they’ve led a good life, and they don’t understand why they have to go through all this suffering.”

Other patients, as the end nears, slip quietly into a coma.  Scadden said this can be unsettling for some family members, who feel they can no longer communicate with their loved one.

“Just because their eyes are closed doesn’t mean they can’t hear you,” he said.  “I try to explain that to the family.  I tell them, ‘Talk to him, tell him you love him, because he can still hear you.”

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