Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

“Roswell: The First Witness” takes an unconventional look at the iconic 1947 Roswell, New Mexico crash with new evidence and a secret diary left by the first person to investigate the wreckage, Major Jesse Marcel. The investigation, led by former CIA operative Ben Smith, follows the grandchildren of Major Marcel and artifacts he left behind that may reveal what really happened at Roswell. Through the use of new advanced technologies, personal stories and expert witness interviews, the Marcel family and our decorated team of investigators hope to cement the truth about this mysterious site of intrigue once and for all.

WATM: How did you first become interested in extra-terrestrials?

I think pretty much everyone at this point is interested in UFOs, especially with the release of all the classified footage from the Navy pilots. In the 80’s and 90’s when paranormal activities had a celebrated cultural moment. It always fascinated me and when I Left the CIA I thought ‘You know what? Let me use my skills to answer some questions; what is out there? Have they been here?’ I wanted to use my skills to tackle some of those big universal questions.

WATM: During the initial coverup at Roswell the government’s official stance was that aliens do not exist. However, now the government’s stance is the opposite. What is your opinion on the government’s stance on aliens?

I personally have not had any firsthand accounts myself. I have met people who claim they have seen UFOs and they have survivor groups trying to figure out what is going. I think the universe is big enough for all kinds of intelligent life out there. I think the technical hurdles to get here are, in time for us to know about it, are difficult but not insurmountable. I wouldn’t call myself an agnostic, I would say I’m open minded. I think it is totally possible. We need hard evidence. My training as an intelligence officer instilled in me says ‘we need hard evidence; we need to validate the information of what we have.’ 

As far as the government cover up, that’s what makes the Roswell case so interesting. It was the only time in history that the government claimed it had debris of a crashed UFO. It’s pretty interesting and there was debris. They collected something in a field in New Mexico. It makes me feel like ‘well, what was it?

The government is not officially claiming that there were aliens at Roswell. Well, the government takes all kinds of stances to protect the country’s national security. Sometimes they turn out to be true and sometimes not. That’s why I’m diving right in. I worked for the government for a number of years, I know how it functions, why it functions the way that it does. I’m not totally convinced, and I don’t buy it all the time either. This is a big question I’m hoping to answer for myself as well as for the viewers. 

WATM: In the show, Major Jesse Marcel’s personal journal was discovered by his family. How did that document help in the investigation?

As a former intelligence officer, we always look for first-hand documentation. We want something from the source and in this case we have a diary that belonged to and was in the possession of Jesse Marcel Sr. when he passed. Talking to his grandchildren it came to them and they didn’t have a chance to talk to their grandfather about it before he passed. It was an enigma, when I crack it open I think, ‘There is a strong possibility that there is all kinds of information here.’

I was trained to protect information in plain sight and maybe that’s what he may be doing here. That was really the basis of our investigation. We have this new piece of evidence and let’s see where it leads us. It can change the established narrative about Rosewell and Marcel senior. Working with his family was a total privilege. They’re levelheaded, great, normal – for lack of a better word – normal people. They answered questions about their family history. 

I found out about [the diary] through a production company, a new production circulating around with potential new evidence. I thought to myself ‘well, I got to be a part of it.’ I lobbied pretty hard to get involved with HISTORY and the Marcel family it worked out and we clicked. We had the same vision, the same process information and discovery, and it turned into a successful and productive relationship.

WATM: What was your favorite behind the scenes moment while working on this project?

This whole thing has been a real trip! Getting to know the ins and outs of the UFO research community, the Marcel family, to be out in that debris field is a special experience. It really connects you to American history, world history, in a way I haven’t anticipated. I have not been to New Mexico before but to stand out in the middle of the steppe, the grazing lands of New Mexico at 5,000/6,000 feet, in the middle of January. It kind of really drives home the rugged nature, the rugged experience of cowboy life. 

These are real people who lived out here on the edge, homegrown, homey, honest and they saw something strange. To be up there and be part of the wonder was really magical for me. I really enjoyed it, I loved New Mexico. I hope this season is a success and the audience enjoys it so we can go back and keep digging. It’s really cool to be out there and be part of history.

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the military community?

It was really cool learning about the Marcel family’s connection to the military. Jesse Sr. retired as a colonel, his son Jesse Jr. as well, and John was a former Army mechanic. This is a family with a rich military history. They served their country, and in many ways did their duty to protect and serve. The military audience is really going to connect with some of the experience – that they experience themselves. The frustrations of national security and protecting our nation. Also, they’ll see some wonderful and strange things and connect with the Marcel’s experience.

WATM: Our readers would never forgive me if I didn’t ask, what is it like to be a CIA operative? 

Being a CIA intelligence officer you get a lot of practice dealing with nefarious, criminal, underground, terrorists, foreign intelligence and US intelligence officers to even just random US citizens. You get to hear these fantastic stories and the challenge is to sift through all the information and report it back to Washington D.C. back to the President. That’s kind of the approach I took with this investigation. This is a real lead, I‘m treating it like a real intelligence lead, where does it go? Can I make a final conclusion? That kind of approach is great for this mysterious topic. It’s been out there for so long but never had a resolution. 

That’s my goal and your audience members, many of whom work in intelligence who have a duty to report truthful information, I think they’re going to connect with this investigation.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The final Black Widow trailer is here

The new Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Black Widow, comes out this May. The standalone film will revolve around the Avenger Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as the Black Widow.


The former assassin turned superhero has a dark and mysterious past that has been alluded to several times during the MCU run. Now, fans get to dive into that story and learn what made Black Widow and why her past haunts her.

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The new trailer also featured more of the movie’s villain, the Taskmaster. The Taskmaster has the ability to learn and mimic the fighting style of anyone he faces. In the first trailer we see him take aim with a bow and arrow which means he must have gone up against Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.

But in the new trailer, we see other Avengers mimicked by the Taskmaster. At the 1:12 mark, we see Taskmaster give the ole Wakanda Forever salute, prompting fans to wonder if there will be an appearance by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, also known as Black Panther.

Also, we see Taskmaster pull out a very iconic tool of one of the Avengers.

That’s right, he uses (pretty proficiently) a shield as a weapon just like Captain America.

Taskmaster is considered Marvel’s ultimate copycat In the new #BlackWidow trailer you can see him: – Studying Natasha’s moves in ‘Iron Man 2’ – Throwing a shield like Cap – Mimicking Black Panther – Shooting a bow and arrow like Hawkeye http://fandom.link/taskmaster pic.twitter.com/NMUXG7FNKd

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Speaking of the Captain, the movie features his old Soviet counterpart. Played by Stranger Things star David Harbour, the Red Guardian has a big role in the movie as one of Black Widow’s family members. The premise of the movie seems to be that the Taskmaster has taken control of the Red Room (used to create Black Widow assassins) and Black Widow and her family must do battle to stop him. Rounding out the superhero family are Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh.

The movie is supposed to be set after Captain America: Civil War, and has Romonoff alone and dealing with a sinister force that is using her past against her. She must battle both the Taskmaster and her past in order to prevail.

It sounds like this will be another great Marvel action flick!

Black Widow hits theaters on May 1st, 2020.
popular

5 more common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

When a veteran or active duty service member watches a movie that depicts life in the military, they automatically begin to look for flaws. With a little attention to detail, they can spot even the most subtle of goofs.


But even on the surface, there are some mistakes that Hollywood makes that can get pretty annoying — especially when it wouldn’t take much to get it right.

1. Radio etiquette

This is something that’s so simple that it’s frustrating when we see it done wrong. What most people don’t understand is that, in the military, using the word ‘repeat’ over the radio tells your fire support assets to repeat their mission. So, saying it is an absolute no-no unless, well, you want your destroyed target to be even more destroyed.

Aside from that, the proper response to a message over the radio is ‘roger,’ not ‘copy.’ The reason you would say ‘copy’ is if the messenger gave you the information that needed to copy down, such as map coordinates, headcounts, etc. If someone says, ‘stand-by,’ your response should be, “roger, standing by.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
You should also avoid cussing over the radio. Just saying. (Photo from Paramount Pictures’ Rules of Engagement)

 

2. Tactics

Since military tactics vary between countries and branches, this is somewhat excusable. But, for the most part, all countries understand the fundamentals: never enter a room or building alone, don’t stand in the open while being shot at, and don’t move without covering fire.

These things are so simple that it’s practically common sense. Going against these concepts is a really bad idea but, for some reason, filmmakers just don’t get it right.

3. Customs and courtesies

The military is known for the respect and discipline that’s instilled in every service member — you’d think it’d be pretty easy to capture in a movie.

But what seems to be misunderstood is that a lower enlisted does not call a general by their rank in a conversation. In fact, no one calls an officer by their rank — not even other officers. They’re referred to as, ‘sir.’ Only when being discussed in the third person are they referred to by rank.

The only case you would refer to an officer by their rank is if you need to get their attention. For example, you would say, “Lieutenant Parker, sir.” When they talk to you, end every sentence with, ‘sir.’

 

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Make sure you salute them correctly when the time comes, too. (Photo from 20th Century Fox’s The Marine)

4. Duty stations

If you’ve been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, you know about this. When someone on screen claims they were “stationed in Afghanistan” for four years or however long, it’s essentially the same as that one guy in the bar who claims they were a Marine scout-sniper Space Shuttle door gunner SEAL — it’s bullsh*t.

You may spend 9 months to a year in Afghanistan, but that’s not a duty station, it’s a deployment. This is something you can learn in a conversation with literally anyone who has been there.

5. Trigger discipline

This one should bother everyone. It’s pretty hard to believe someone on screen spent any amount of years in the service if they don’t know to keep their finger straight and off the trigger. Everyone learns this in boot camp — everyone.

This is even common sense in the hunting community or among anyone who has had even the most basic level of training on a firearm. That finger should NOT touch the trigger until you’re ready to unload some discontent toward a monster, alien, or person.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
A captain should know better… (Photo from United Artists’ Apocalypse Now)

Feature image: Warner Bros’ American Sniper

Articles

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.


“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.

His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Mark Bowden signs books while visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.

American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.

Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.

It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.

Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was the architect of early Vietnam War strategy.

“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.

The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.

Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.

If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.

The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.

The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.

Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.

The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.

The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.

Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ post-credits scene will make olds very happy

After finishing off Avengers: Endgame with a definitive and decidedly sweet ending, the next big Marvel movie — Spider-Man: Far From Home — will return to Marvel’s diabolic plans to get you to sit through the credits for extra scenes. Are there post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home and do that matter? The answer is a big yes.

No spoilers ahead.

It’s hard to know which of these facts feels more surreal:


  1. Tom Holland has been in five Marvel movies as Spider-Man at this point
  2. It’s only been five years since Andrew Garfield was in his second Spider-Man movie; which also starred Jamie Foxx getting bitten by electric eels.
  3. 2019 marks twelve years since Tobey Maguire did his emo-Spider-Man dance routine in Spider-Man 3.

Feeling old yet? If so, there’s some very good news about Spider-Man: Far From Home. The post-credits scene is basically made for olds. If you remember seeing the first Tobey Maguire Spidey-flick like the same year you were able to legally buy alcohol for the first time (or maybe even before) then this post-credits scene is for you.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Official Trailer

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We aren’t going to spoil what it is exactly yet, but let’s just put it this way: There are two post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the first one is the one you’ve got to see. Technically, this is what the pros call a “mid-credits” scene because it happens pretty quickly after the movie “ends.” (These movies never end.)

Will this scene make everyone happy? Yes. Does it set-up great things for the next big phase of Marvel movies. Big yes.

So, word of warning, between now and July 2, 2019, avoid spoilers as much as you can. This might not as Endgame-level as some thought, but if you’re of a certain age, it’s going to be very, very cool.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters on July 2, 2019, which is, friendly reminder, a freaking Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This is why ‘Star Wars’ is actually a series of WWII-style spy thrillers

People see the world through the lens of their own experiences. If you spent much of your career working and then studying intelligence, you may start to see potential spies everywhere.


Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Nothing suspicious here, though. (20th Century Fox)

Also Read: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.

Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.

“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
She has no idea what you’re talking about. She’s on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. (20th Century Fox)

Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.

“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”

But Houghton takes his argument further.

“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.

“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”

The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.

“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”

In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder. (20th Century Fox)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine artist Maximilian Uriarte publishes compelling new graphic novel

Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.

Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.


When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.

Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.

“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.

Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.

In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.

“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.

“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”

Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.

The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”

The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.

Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”

When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.

Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.

You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.

Articles

’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ captures courage while avoiding politics

When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.


“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”

The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.

“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
(Paramount Pictures)

The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.

“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
(Paramount Pictures)

The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.

“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”

The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
(Paramount Pictures)

The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).

“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”

 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters today. Follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

Navy veteran and legendary actor Sean Connery turns 90. Here are his best military roles

“Bond. James Bond.” These are Sir Sean Connery’s first lines in 1962’s Dr. No as he brought Ian Fleming’s spy of mystique to life on the silver screen. Ironically, Fleming didn’t want the working-class, bodybuilding Scotsman to portray his suave and dapper British super-spy. However, Connery went on to play the role a total of seven times, and each time was met with critical acclaim. In 1964, Fleming even wrote Connery’s heritage into the Bond character, saying that his father was from Glencoe in Scotland. On August 25, 2020, the veteran actor celebrated his 90th birthday. What many people don’t know about him is that before he played Commander James Bond, Connery was a sailor himself.


Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

“Bond. James Bond.” (United Artists)

In 1946, at the age of 16, Connery enlisted in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. He received training at the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth and was assigned to an anti-aircraft artillery crew. His first and only ship assignment was the Illustrious-class aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. After three years of naval service, Connery was medically discharged due to a duodenal ulcer.

After leaving the Navy, Connery went into bodybuilding and football (the European sort). Though he was offered a contract with Manchester United, the short-lived career of a footballer deterred him. “I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23,” Connery recalled. “I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.”

Connery started his acting career onstage in the 1953 production of South Pacific. Back in uniform, albeit a costume, Connery played a Seabee chorus boy before he was given the part of Marine Cpl. Hamilton Steeves. The next year, the production returned out of popular demand and Connery was promoted to the featured role of Lt. Buzz Adams.

When Connery made the transition to motion pictures, it wasn’t long before he was portraying military men again. Less than two weeks after Dr. No was released in the UK, The Longest Day hit theaters with Connery playing the role of Pte. Flanagan. After six Bond films, Connery traded his onscreen Naval rank for an Army one. The 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express featured Connery as British Indian Army Officer Colonel John Arbuthnot. Three years later, Connery took on one of his most iconic military roles in 1977’s A Bridge Too Far, portraying Major General Roy Urquhart and his command of the British 1st Airborne Division as they attempted to hold a bridge in Arnhem during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.
Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

Connery wearing the iconic paratrooper’s red beret (United Artists)

The 1980s would see Connery reprise the role of Commander James Bond one last time in 1983’s Never Say Never Again. The Scotsman also donned an American uniform, playing Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell in the 1988 film The Presidio. Serving as the Post Provost Marshal, Caldwell clashes with maverick SFPD detective and former Army MP Jay Austin, played by Mark Harmon.

Exploring the uniforms of other nations, Connery then went behind the Iron Curtain as Soviet Submarine Captain Marko Ramius in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. If I have to explain this one, your weekend assignment is to watch it.
Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

“One ping only” (Paramount Pictures)

1996 saw Connery play the role of a military man one last time in The Rock. As former British SAS Captain John Mason, Connery starred alongside Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris in this action thriller directed by Michael Bay and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the production duo that brought us Top Gun.

Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on July 5, 2000. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute when he announced his retirement from acting on June 8, 2006. When asked if he would return to acting to appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Connery announced that he would not, saying, “Retirement is just too much damned fun.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Off-Islander’ sees a Vietnam vet turned private investigator looking for a missing man in 1982 New England

Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.

Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.


All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.

For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.

The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.

That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.

In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.

Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.

Articles

‘Charlie Mike’ gets it right for the new greatest generation

Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.


The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness

Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.

“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.

Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Eric Greitens

Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Jake Wood

These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.

Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.

 

Articles

This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about situational awareness

I think this should go without saying, but, here’s your obligatory Spoiler Warning.


If you saw Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 (or you don’t really care about spoilers) then read on. If you haven’t watched the episode but you’re reading articles about the show…here’s an article we did about cats.

Still around? Cool. Let’s get into it.

For last week’s episode, check out – This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition

Situational awareness isn’t a skill a warfighter picks up overnight. It’s the concept of living your life with your head on a swivel. It’s why so many veterans and active duty troops keep their back to a wall and an eye on the door like they’re Jason Bourne.

This is what Jeff Cooper described in his book “Principles of Personal Defense” as “living in Condition: Yellow.”

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
(Scale by Jeff Cooper via Principles of Personal Defense)

White is being blissfully ignorant and Orange being hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. Yellow is the perfect middle ground of quietly observing. It’s also referred to as “relaxed alert.”

Red, Gray, and Black are the states of action with varying degrees of how one reacts in confrontation to a threat. Red or “primed for action” is the desired state when sh*t hits the fan. Grey is a state of chaos and Black is total panic, both causing the war fighter to ignore or forget their surroundings.

We can break down the reactions of how the team of Westeros’ greatest fighters devised a strategy to capture and extract a wight (the reanimated skeletons that fight for the Night King.)

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Deep in conversation, they’re still watch their surroundings (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

As the team of badasses move through the frozen north, they generally maintain Condition: Yellow. Tormund may be joking about his three best ways to keep warm, but he’s still eyeing his surroundings.

It’s only Gendry, the fighter with the least experience, who is in Orange. He’s uneasy about his “squad mates.” He’s never been beyond the wall, or even acclimated to the snow. He’s nervous and it shows.

When the group comes to the open field shrouded in snowfall, the group loses their control of situational awareness. And this is common in every battle.

The Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said of this: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

This has since been called the “fog of war.” Same concept as in video games, but our heroes also have to contend with a literal fog that hide their enemies as well as allies. With the probable threat nearby, they form up and prepare to engage.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
Note the 360° Perimeter (Photo via Wikimedia Screen grab via HBO Go)

The squad isn’t able to spot the zombie bear in time and after it caught on fire, Sandor Clegane is terrified. He is a prime example of how even the greatest of war fighters can still lose their composure. He’s in Condition: Gray.

They find their stray wight with a white walker and his soldiers. The rest of the steps in maintaining situational awareness are further explained in fighter pilot and military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is the constant cycle of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
(Chart via Wikicommons)

Through the OODA Loop, they observe the valley and have a count how many enemies there are. They orient themselves to position themselves to push through with the exit to their front. They decide who is attacking whom, with John (the only one with a Valerian Steel sword) attacking the leader.

And in action, it works flawlessly. They capture and bind the enemy. But not before it calls for reinforcements.

They send Gendry as a runner to get the message back to Daenerys. Keeping higher command aware of what’s going on in the field is paramount for operation success. But Gendry has another critical mission: to call in air support.

As the undead horde swarms the squad, they come across a lake with thin ice and an island with a high observation point. They use this perfectly to their advantage. The ice shatters, creating a moat-like barrier around their island. They can hold the island long enough for extraction.

If it looks stupid but works — it ain’t stupid.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
A good fighting position makes all the world. (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Operationally, everything has been relatively smooth. Only one character with a name has died so far. It’s cold, but they have eyes on every target, including the enemy leaders — who’s elimination would end their magically undead army. You can point out everything thus far as prime examples of things you should do before and after first contact.

Now comes the example of what happens when you march into battle with no situational awareness, no understanding of your enemy, very little experience, and way too much confidence.

Exclusive interview with former CIA operative Ben Smith and host of HISTORY’s Roswell: The First Witness
If everyone is waiting on you…move. (Photo via Defense.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Air Extraction has touched down on the landing zone and air support is (literally) lighting up the enemy. Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Minutes before, she didn’t believe the enemy existed and now she’s fighting the massive army of the dead.

Her dragons have been injured before; Drogon has taken spears from Sons of the Harpy and the Lannister’s Scorpion and he survived. And in battle, we all think we are invincible…until we’re not.

Viserion, the golden dragon of Daenerys, is slain after the Night King impales him with an ice spear.

It was the lack of situational awareness that kept the group from identifying not one but two ice spears. Jon Snow, with all of his experience in combat, really is a slow-learner as far as battle tactics go. He spots the second spear in time to send off a warning, but is left stranded on the battlefield with plan.

Sure, he’s alright and thanks to plot armor he makes it out of there alive, but really Jon, it’s time to start studying combat strategy. It’s almost as if he forgot everything he had learned about situational awareness up until this point…

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