'Blood Stripe' defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women - We Are The Mighty
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‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

I went to the LA Film Festival to watch a film about a female Marine, expecting to be bored and disappointed. I was neither.


“Blood Stripe” is a well-crafted piece of cinematic art that describes bluntly – and accurately – the difficulties faced by the main character “Sarge” (Kate Nowlin) when she comes back home after serving in the Marine Corps. She realizes she has changed, and those around her cannot fully relate to the person she has become. Her circle questions her emotions, reactions, and behavior, oblivious to the trauma she just left.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

As I said, my initial expectations were low. What could civilians know about making war movies, especially war movies about women? I assumed the film would be some “GI-Jane” type of nonsense, a cliché like Jessica Simpson’s character in the atrocious “Private Valentine.” Simpson, clad in a full face of makeup, hair out of regs, clean, and completely un-military is the type of Hollywood characterization that could well make women avoid watching military movies at all. I anticipated a tepid film with a fairytale ending where everyone solves their problems and proclaims “the war is over, let’s all be happy!” In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending.

In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending. Sarge comes home to the husband she left behind, she gets a job, she drinks a lot of beer; her life may not be great, but it’s okay. Something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

But something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

Sarge is dealing with issues normally portrayed by male characters — dark emotions and feelings not typically associated with women veterans. She is not looking to be a hero nor trying to find a savior; she does not want a parade nor does she want accolades. The war has followed her home, and the tentacles of a vile monster called PTSD are beginning to creep into her life.

The metaphor of running is used throughout the film. Sarge vainly attempts to work out her issues in the typical military manner: She PTs. She does scores of push-ups and sit-ups and tries to literally run from her problems. She can run, but the deep-seated internal turmoil of combat is always there.

The film highlights not only the struggles of most service members to successfully readjust to post-military life but accurately shows the obstacles female veterans explicitly face. One of Sarge’s new friends at Camp Vermillion repeats a line not dissimilar to what many female veterans often hear: “You’re a girl Marine–do they even make those?”

Yes, yes they do. These words demonstrate what females face once they have left the military: disbelief about their military service and treated as if they are not true veterans.

Society has still not fully embraced the notion that women are capable of both giving and taking life; that women can struggle with a war long after arriving back home. Kate Nowlin does an excellent job portraying a woman coming to grips with herself. Her character is both credible and authentic, and alarmingly real. Military women come from all walks of life, they look like your sister or mother or cousin or neighbor; they are unassuming women accomplishing extraordinary feats – although most of them keep their remarkable achievements to themselves.

The war gave Sarge a lot of things: a sense of purpose, pride, strength, and courage. It also took a lot of things away from her: identity, her sense of security, camaraderie.  War changes us, life changes us. In the end, this was a film not merely about war and women, but also the struggles we all face during this unique human experience and a longing to find our way back home, wherever that may be.

 

“Blood Stripe” had its world premiere in June 2016 at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a sold-out audience. It won the coveted U.S. Fiction Award.

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These 4 fearless fighting females wrecked every enemy who stood in their way

“If you men will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”


These were the words of Yaa Asantewaa, an Asante woman in what is modern Ghana calling on the men and women of Asante to fight British colonial forces at the turn of the 20th Century.

History is full of stories of such great women in combat — more than most people think.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Even in this old photo, you can tell Yaa Asantewaa was sick of your shit.

Also read: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the army’ 

Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.

1. Margarita Neri – Mexico

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.

She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.

After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.

After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.

2. Marie Marvingt – France

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.

When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.

In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.

During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.

3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.

As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.

Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.

She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.

4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history.

Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.

In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”

By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.

She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as  “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”

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This is why the MRE is more than just a meal

The military’s standard individual field ration, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), is the well-known and much-discussed bag of food eaten by service members of the U.S. military when deployed in combat, to remote locations, or when training in the field. The purpose of the MRE is simple; it serves as nourishment for troops.


The MRE can be divisive. Some like them, some hate them but most handle them when we have to. There are ways to deal with a diet of this prepackaged manna. Troops figured this out a long time ago. Creative recipes were conjured to make them taste better and there are literally hundreds of videos about them online. Ask any veteran about them– each will have their own methods.

At face value, the MRE is just a brown plastic bag filled with food, spread packets, and a flameless heater. The individual self-contained meal, however, has emblematic qualities that many may not realize. It is able to withstand cold and hot temperatures. It’s durable for long periods of time in the harshest conditions… The MRE is very much a representation of the military veteran.

The MRE is also an unlikely tool used for diplomacy and international relations, where military members from two different nations can establish a friendship by simply exchanging MREs after a long day of combined training.

The MRE is also a symbol of hope. It gives optimism for people of a foreign nation such as Haiti after a devastating earthquake or residents of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina. The MRE brings a smile to the face of a child that sometimes can be overlooked, but it represents a beacon of hope when all hope was lost.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Two Haitian children run back to their families after receiving packages of MREs, while Marines and Sri Lankan United Nations forces hand out food to Haitians Jan. 24, 2010 as part of recovery efforts following a 7.0 earthquake. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michele Watson)

The MRE brings a sense of family where brothers and sisters in arms can enjoy a meal together even if it’s only for a few minutes.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

MREs also bring a mix of emotions. Feelings like satisfaction, envy, and sadness.

The satisfaction of eating after a long day of training or following a combat patrol. The feeling of envy because your battle buddy’s MRE came with a packet of M&Ms or Skittles and you got the gooey energy bar. Sadness stems from the fact that you are eating an MRE on a summer day in a faraway land instead of being home for a poolside BBQ with your family and loved ones.

The MRE serves as a component of business and negotiation skills. Servicemembers learn the aspects of supply and demand via trading MRE contents with a fellow trooper. The MRE is much more than a meal packaged in strong, flexible plastic, it is a simile of military service.

Forrest Gump would always say “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” The classic comparison to life instilled to him by his mama.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

For veterans and their military service, “Life is like an MRE. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, you will certainly not miss them but you will miss the people you shared them with.”

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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Another close call as Russian provocations of the American military continue

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Russian SU-27 Flanker. (Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin, Creative Commons)


Earlier this week a Russian Su-27 Flanker made what DOD officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” pass on U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon. The Russian fighter came within ten feet of the American maritime patrol jet, which was operating over international waters in the Black Sea.

The incident is the latest involving American surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft. Earlier this year, an RC-135U Combat Sent surveillance aircraft also had a close encounter with a Russian Flanker. Russian Su-24 Fencers have buzzed American and Canadian ships in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since 2014, the year that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Russians aren’t alone with these types of acts. In 2014 and 2015, the Pentagon reported on incidents involving Chinese fighters also acting in an unsafe manner while intercepting P-8 and RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea.

And in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback piloted by Wang Wei collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. The J-8 crashed, killing Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for over a week.

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Here Is The Army’s Secret File On The Leader Of ISIS

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women


Relatively little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). However, newly declassified military documents obtained by Business Insider on Wednesday reveal several new details about the ISIS leader.

The records come from time Baghdadi spent in US Army custody in Iraq. They were released through a Freedom of Information Act request. In these files, Baghdadi was identified by his birth name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry.

There have been conflicting reports about the time Baghdadi spent as a US detainee. These files identify his “capture date” as Feb. 4, 2004 and the date of his “release in place” as Dec. 8, 2004. According to the records, Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah and held at multiple prison facilities including Camp Bucca and Camp Adder.

In the book “ISIS: Inside The Army of Terror,” Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan relay an account of Baghdadi’s capture from ISIS expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi. In the interview, al-Hashimi said Baghdadi was captured by US military intelligence while visiting a friend in Fallujah named Nessayif Numan Nessayif.

“Baghdadi was not the target — it was Nessayif,” said al-Hashimi, who consults with the Iraqi government and claims to have met the ISIS leader in the 1990s.

Baghdadi’s detainee I.D. card lists him as a “civilian detainee,” which means he was not a member of a foreign armed force or militia, but was still held for security reasons. His “civilian occupation” was identified as “ADMINISTRATIVE WORK (SECRETARY).” As of 2014, he was listed as being 43 years old though his birth date was redacted. Baghdadi’s birthplace was identified as Fallujah.

These records also provide some details about Baghdadi’s family. His file identifies him as married and his next of kin was an uncle. The names of his family members were redacted from the records.

View the Baghdadi files below. According to Army Corrections Command, some of the records requested by Business Insider remain classified. We are working to obtain all possible files from Baghdadi’s detention.

Baghdadi Detainee File

Baghdadi Detainee File 2

Baghdadi Detainee File 3

Baghdadi Detainee file 4

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Navy SEAL: Here’s how to stay fit when you have no time to workout

In the mid-90’s, Randy Hetrick was a Navy SEAL deployed on a counter-piracy mission in southeast Asia, holed up in a warehouse, trying to figure out how to stay in the kind of shape necessary to quickly scale the side of a freighter while wearing 75 pounds of gear. He had accidentally deployed with his jujitsu belt, which he combined with some spare webbing from parachute harnesses to DIY a “Cro-Magnon” version of what became the TRX suspension training system. Today, it’s a wildly popular piece of exercise equipment based on the principles of bodyweight resistance.


That’s a great invention story; it’s also directly applicable to a new dad, which Hetrick has been, twice. New dads have to figure out how to maintain some semblance of physical fitness despite a life of chaos. We asked Hetrick how to use what he’s learned when the “warehouse” is your house and the blood thirsty pirate is your sleep-hating little kid.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

The Schedule

Thirty-to-45 minutes spread out over the course of a day is more than enough time to kick your own ass. Hetrick suggests carving out 3 10-to-15 minute blocks a day. “There are seasons in life,” he says. “Be ok saying, ‘I don’t have time for an hour workout, so I’ll just do 10 or 20 minutes.”

Workouts 1 & 3: Perform these at home and focus on the upper body, lower body and core. That’s easy to do, since Hetrick only recommends bodyweight exercises (as opposed to weights), which naturally overlap multiple muscles and joints into single exercises. He also recommends time-based, as opposed to rep-based, sets: one minute of work with 30 seconds of recovery. Since you’re already too tired to do the math: that’s about 6 exercise for a 10-minute workout and 10 for a 15-minute one.

Workout 2: You can do this one at work and it doesn’t require sweating profusely and then going about your day like some gross re-enactment of 4th Grade gym class. Just spend these 10-15 minutes doing “mobility movements” (that’s “stretching” to you) and none of your co-workers will know you’re halfway through a Navy SEAL’s daily workout.

The Exercises

“It’s what you do in life,” says Hetrick of bodyweight exercising. “You’re lunging, you’re squatting, you’re bending, reaching and twisting.” It’s also highly efficient, since it requires more oxygen, pumps more blood and burns more calories than single muscle weight work outs. It turns out, you (particularly you with some very portable TRX straps) are your own best piece of gym equipment.

Exercises Without TRX

Exercises With TRX

With a suspension training system like TRX, it’s easier to go from movement to movement and execute actions that integrate multiple joints and muscles at once. When you buy the system, you get access to various workout tools, but here are a few of Hetrick’s favorites:

  • Squat rows integrate more muscles into the repetition.
  • Atomic pushup work arms and back while burning the crap out of your core.
  • Pledge curls, which use both arms simultaneously across the body — one to the opposite shoulder and the other to the opposite armpit, switching on each rep.

Whether your use TRX or not, the important thing to remember is that keeping your jiggly bundle of joy from turning you into a sad tub of goo doesn’t require a lot of stuff.

Mobility Movements

Most men — and particularly new fathers — need help opening the hips and back. Men’s hips are naturally tight (since they don’t push little people through them), and most fathers’ backs are a wreck due to the aforementioned jiggly bundle of joy being unable to pick itself up off the ground. With these stretches, move into tension for 30 seconds, then ease off for 10 seconds and give each movement around 2 minutes.

  • Hip hinge: Spread your feet, bend at the waist, and let gravity stretch your hamstrings and decompress your spine.
  • Seated hamstring: Legs apart, lean forward.
  • Figure four stretch: Try this one laying down and then try it standing.
  • Cobra pose: The basic building block of hot yoga mom workouts is great for opening shoulders and abs.

The Running Alternative

As a SEAL, Hetrick used to run for miles with a 75-pound backpack. So, lugging a kid in a baby carrier gives him happy little flashbacks. “The kid instantly falls asleep, you’ve got a load hanging off you, and can go off for as brisk a walk as you want. Anyone who tries power walking with a [kid] quickly discovers it’s just as taxing as jogging with no load.”

And even though Hetrick can’t guarantee your kid will actually fall asleep in the carrier (as opposed to, say, screaming hysterically from the moment you put them in one), his main point is that exercising — even with new kids — is within your grasp. “It can be an opportunity to re-prioritize and create a new routine. Replace the 30 minutes of happy hour time with 10 minutes of suspension training or other exercise, and you’ll be better for it,” he says.

After all, “You can’t do happy hour anymore, anyway.”

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This article originally appeared at Fatherly. Copyright 2015. Like Fatherly on Facebook.

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Reports of sexual assault in the military increase

Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.


The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.

The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.

For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.

Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.

Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.

Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.

Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.

Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.

As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.

Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.

In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.

The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.

The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.

About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.

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Here are the most damning parts of the report on the F-35’s dogfighting problems

The F-35, the most expensive weapons project in history, was incapable of beating a jet it was meant to replace in a dogfight, according to a leaked report obtained by War is Boring.


The report, written by an F-35 test pilot who has over 2,000 hours of flight time in the F-15E and experience flying both F-16s and F-18s, highlights a range of problems with the US’ hypercostly and often dysfunctional “plane of the future” in a dogfighting scenario.

The pilot’s complete report can be read over at War Is Boring.

Below, we have pulled some notable quotations from the report highlighting the issues that the F-35 faced while dogfighting against an F-16.

  • “Overall, the most noticeable characteristic of the F-35A in a visual engagement was its lack of energy maneuverability.”
  • “No effective gun defense was found during this test.”
  • “The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft. There were multiple occasions when the bandit would’ve been visible (not blocked by the seat) but the helmet prevented getting in a position to see him (behind the high side of the seat, around the inside of the seat, or high near the lift vector).”
  • “The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight and operators would quickly learn it isn’t an ideal regime.”
  • “Though the aircraft has proven it is capable of high AOA [angle of attack] flight, it wasn’t effective for killing or surviving attacks primarily due to a lack of energy maneuverability.”

As damning as the report is, it’s worth remembering that the aircraft was never truly designed for dogfighting scenarios. Additionally, the test F-35 used in the test dogfight lacked many of the sensor and software upgrades that the fully deployed F-35 will have.

According to Jane’s 360, the F-35 is designed to detect and engage aircraft “on its own medium- to long-range terms.” The plane’s flexible attack range is intended to ensure that the F-35 wouldn’t usually have to engage in dogfights.

Still, the $1.5 trillion F-35’s failure to best an F-16 — a plane that was first introduced into service in 1978, is concerning. Although the F-35 may be designed to overcome rival aircraft at distance, there are is no way to guarantee that a future air war won’t involve frequent dogfights, confrontations for which the F-35 may be ill equipped.

Meanwhile, both Russia and China are currently developing their own fifth-generation fighter jets. Both countries may also intend to sell variants of their jets to the international customers, including Pakistan and Iran.

Ultimately, the F-35 may never need to participate in close-quarter, air-to-air battles. The aircraft is stealthy and may never have to dogfight with regularity.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert isn’t so sure. “Stealth may be overrated,” Greenert said during a speech in February. So in addition to its other problems, the F-35 may find itself nose-to-nose with enemy aircraft more often than military planners expect.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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How the Army shoots down enemy mortars and rockets

The Army uses a defensive weapon stripped from Navy vessels to shoot down enemy rockets and mortars before they can reach friendly troops. And, as a free bonus, they tell nearby artillery units where the enemy’s shot came from, allowing for quick retaliation.


Phalanx weapons were originally fielded as a Close-In Weapon Systems on Navy ships. Raytheon — responding to an Army request for weapons that would shut down mortar and rocket attacks on coalition bases in Iraq — pitched the Phalanx for the new mission.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Specialist. Jamael O. Turner, of Nashville, Tenn., shows one of the first rockets his unit shot down with the counter rocket artillery and mortar at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And the Land-Based Phalanx Weapons System performs. A radar scans the air near protected bases. When it sees an incoming round that could threaten personnel or equipment, the gun and a camera-based tracking system turn to watch it.

At the optimal moment, the Phalanx fires a long stream of self-destructing 20mm rounds from it’s six-barrel Gatling gun. The weapon can fire 75 rounds per second.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
(Original video: U.S. Army Sgt. Neil Stanfield)

The armor-piercing rounds disable or destroy the enemy munitions. The rounds self-destruct after a set distance, ensuring that they don’t rain down on civilians or friendly forces in the area.

Of course, the system can’t always down the incoming round, especially when the system is undergoing maintenance. So most C-RAM equipped bases are equipped with a warning system to alert troops when enemy munitions are incoming.

Either way, the system calculates the most likely point of origin for the enemy round and feeds that information to the fire direction center of nearby artillery units.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Soldiers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), load ammunition into a Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System at Fort Sill. (Photo: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Lee-Ann Craig)

When that unit can get eyes on the shooter, they’re able to quickly fire counter artillery, destroying the jerks who took the shot in the first place.

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‘Missing Man’ honored after going MIA in Vietnam

Thundering jets above Colorado Springs the morning of May 9 bid a final farewell to a native son who went missing 48 years ago on a mission to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


It was a sound that Capt. Roger Helwig loved. Helwig, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Colorado Springs, was a free spirit known for meticulous honesty oddly melded with a wild streak that drove him to seek adventure in the sky.

“He was a tremendous guy,” said retired Maj. Jack Schnurr, a flight school friend, after an Air Force Academy memorial for the captain.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Helwig loved the F-4 Phantom and new bride Carol in what some joking called equal measures when he flew off for his second tour in Vietnam in 1969.

“He didn’t have to be there,” Schnurr said. “He volunteered to go back.”

On his first tour overseas, Helwig flew in the second seat of the F-4, running the plane’s weapons systems and electronics as a GIB, the military acronym for “guy in back.”

After he came home, Helwig got more flight training and headed back to war as the guy in front.

He was a forward air controller, one of the legendary “fast-FACs” who ranged far and wide over Southeast Asia spotting targets for troops on the ground.

During his final flight, Helwig and Capt. Roger Stearns were 10 miles west of Vietnam on a mission to stop the flow of arms and troops that fueled the Viet Cong insurgency. Flights against targets in neutral Laos, though, were something the Air Force avoided discussing in public.

Also read: The last US troops killed in the Vietnam War actually died two years after it ended

Records say the two had just bombed a target, and the jet was trailing a mist of fuel before it exploded. Searchers later found shredded parachutes and the remains of a life raft, but they didn’t find Helwig or Stearns.

In 1990, a Defense Department team returned to the crash site and found Stearns’ remains. Helwig stayed missing until last summer.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Dog tags are primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded service members. (Photo: U.S. Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal)

His widow got a visit from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August. Searchers had found a tiny talisman at the jungle site: Helwig’s dog tag.

“It was surreal when I held that in the palm of my hand,” Carol said May 9. “It was as if I was reliving the past.”

Dozens gathered at the academy May 9 to relive the past with her and tell stories about the 26-year-old pilot.

Lt. Col. Mike Newton, a chaplain, told mourners they need to remember Helwig’s courage.

“I have no idea what it took to fly 100 missions in Vietnam, each one of them harrowing,” Newton said. “But he strapped it on every time.”

Carol remembered the kind but kind of crazy young man she met when he was riding his motorcycle from Arizona to Washington, D.C.

She knew she was competing with a twin-engined jet for Helwig’s affection.

“He loved flying,” she said.

Helwig left no children to mourn him, but a wide array of friends came to the Air Force Academy cemetery to remember.

The academy supplied an honor guard, rifle team, and a bugler to play taps.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
The 24 notes of Taps lay heroes to rest. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

Air Combat Command offered up four F-15 Eagle fighters to blaze overhead in the missing man formation.

Carol supplied her own touch. Bells played a last waltz for the man she loved — the theme song of Doctor Zhivago, the first film they had seen together.

And as the bells played, quiet voices whispered the song’s tale of love long lost but reclaimed.

“Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing. Although the snow covers the hope of spring.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


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Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Articles

This Marine knows the meaning of service

David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).


Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”

“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”

Also read: ‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’

He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Semper Fi. (Photo courtesy of the VA)

Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”

And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”

As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.

Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”

Articles

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.


Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Kurdish Peshmerga near the Syrian border (photo by Enno Lenze)

The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.

The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.

The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.

“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.

He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”

Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.

Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.

The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”

‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women
Kurdish Peshmerga forces shelling ISIS positions near Mount Sinjar.

The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.

Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.

“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.

In Damascus, meanwhile, officials denounced new U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. The move was part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Khaled Abboud, a member of parliament, said the center is “purely a research center, mostly for agricultural studies.”

“The sanctions are new attempts by the U.S. administration to put pressure on the Syrian state,” he told The Associated Press, adding that the center is a “peaceful research center.”

The U.S. has blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in the rebel-held northern Idlib province. Syrian officials strongly deny the charges.

An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.

Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.