“Hail, Caesar!,” the latest movie from the Coen Brothers, hits theaters on Friday, February 5. Here’s a sneak peek at one of the military parts of the film (cause that’s how we roll at WATM), a song where Navy man Channing Tatum complains that there ain’t gonna be no dames on his upcoming deployment. The song also contains veiled sexual references using sealife (octopus and clams), which is in line with what audiences have come to expect from the Coen Brothers in terms of hilarity.
So the next time you complain about gender integration, think about this poor sailor with clams in his rack.
Now, he may extend his resumé to include drill sergeant. He recently spent three days in Serbia as a guest of the Serbian government. While in Belgrade, Seagal met with Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic. It went much better than the time Seagal met Eastern Europeans in Driven to Kill.
The Serbians had another offer for him. They offered the actor and producer a job training Serbian special police forces in Aikido, the Japanese martial art for which Seagal is famous.
He was in Serbia to be honored for his work with the Brothers Karic Foundation, a Serbian nonprofit dedicated to promoting tolerance and coexistence while promoting Serbian culture abroad.
The 63-year-old action film actor is one of many celebrities openly socializing with Russian President Vladimir Putin who once received the same honor.
Seagal’s affinity toward the Russians and Serbia — a longtime traditional Russian ally — is well documented. The actor’s response is not known, but the chances of someone’s arm being broken was high.
But music has been a part of war for a long time. Horns, buglers, and drummers sounded orders for entire armies from the Classical era until as late as the Korean War. Even in psychological operations, the use of music is not a novelty – Joshua is said to have used horns as a weapon when he captured Jericho.
From biblical times to post-9/11, here are few contemporary examples of armies using music against the enemy.
1. Metallica, “Enter Sandman” – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Among these were Barney the Dinosaur’s “I Love You” song, “Bodies” by the band Drowning Pool, and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.
“Part of me is proud because they chose Metallica,” frontman James Hetfield said in an interview with 3SAT, a German media outlet. “And part of me is bummed that people worry about us being attached to some political statement because of that… politics and music for us don’t mix.”
2. 4Minute, “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” – Korean DMZ
The main feature of the Korean Demilitarized Zone are the thousands of North and South Korean (and U.S.) troops literally staring each other down, daring each other to try something cute. It’s an intense area and you can cut through the tension with a knife. Each has tried a number of “cute” things to irk the others, including fake cities, propaganda billboards, and ax murders. In 2010, the weapon of choice became Korean pop music.
When North Korea sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan that year, The South responded by blasting propaganda messages across the border using 11 enormous loudspeakers aligned in the DMZ. They also used the song “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” by the Kpop group 4Minute, over and over. It got to be so much that the North threatened to turn Seoul into a “Sea of Flame” if the music didn’t stop.
3. Britney Spears, “Oops! I Did It Again” – Horn of Africa
By 2013, the Somali pirate fleet operating in the Horn of Africa was such a problem, the UK’s Royal Navy had 14 warships on alert in the area. Attacks have decreased since then, thanks to increased attention by international naval patrols. But there are a few merchant mariners who think Britney Spears might have had a hand in it as well.
“They’re so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns,” one merchant told the Mirror. “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney they move on as quickly as they can.”
4. Martha and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run” – Operation Just Cause
In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama after its leader Gen. Manuel Noriega discarded the results of a national election and Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine and wounded another. American troops were sent to safeguard its citizens lives, enforce the election results, and capture and extradite Noriega to the United States.
Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.
You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.
According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.
Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.
Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.
According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.
“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.
Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.
Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.
Two months ago Rear Admiral Richard Williams was found guilty of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman after evidence showed that he’d spent numerous hours viewing porn on a government computer during a training exercise aboard a Navy ship.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Williams implied during testimony that he didn’t start off with the intention of viewing porn but that he was drawn there by pop-up advertisements. “It started as pop-ups, but then I navigated,” Williams told investigators.
Data gathered during a routine computer sweep conducted by the Navy Information Operations Command showed that during the six days Williams was aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the summer of 2015 he watched four hours of porn. Later, in December, he was on the ship for five days and watched in five hours of porn.
When confronted with those stats Williams replied, “I didn’t know it was this much.”
Williams was serving as the commander of Carrier Strike Group 15 at the time of his infractions. He earned his commission in 1984 after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology and served as a surface warfare officer for much of his career.
Along with being removed from his post, Williams was also issued a punitive letter of reprimand, an extra level of discipline that indicates the Navy considers moral crimes more egregious than professional errors like running a ship aground or causing a collision at sea.
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight. We’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone.”
A few more surprise credits include Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker (who, in addition to providing great trailer voiceover, will return, I suspect, as a Force Ghost, which really is canonically what they’re called) and Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa (via archived footage reportedly from filming The Force Awakens).
OG Force Ghosts from Return of the Jedi.
Since J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated release of The Force Awakens, it’s been clear that this trilogy is designed to pass the torch to the next generation of characters, including Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and of course, (U.S. Marine) Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Episode IX will close out the triptych.
According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, this film will also close out the Skywalker saga, prompting the franchise to take a little hiatus.
“We have not announced any specific plans for movies thereafter. There are movies in development, but we have not announced them. We will take a pause, some time, and reset because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie. There will be other Stars Wars movies, but there will be a bit of a hiatus,” Iger told Bloomberg.
Challenges for this film will be to provide a satisfying resolution to a storyline that has spanned 40 years with some of the most beloved characters ever created (and a fan base whose vitriol has the capacity to rival even the military community’s yes I am looking at you in the YouTube comment section of our Mighty Minutes…).
More than that, Episode IX will also have to resolve the battle raging in Kylo Ren, the trilogy’s main antagonist — who also happens to be the son of Leia and Han Solo. That’s a lot to ask of one movie, but no matter what happens, it’ll be fun to watch it play out.
I get the sense that her family background will actually be significant…
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
Should someone tell these guys that Rey is taking on a TIE fighter (variant unknown).
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
The look on Billy Dee Williams’ face when he finally got the call from Disney.
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker will open on Dec. 20, 2019, and the good tickets will sell out so buy them early and maybe buy some extra to sell on ebay. You’re welcome. And may the Force be with you, obviously.
For once, Internet rumors have proved true. Swedish video-game developer DICE, a subsidiary of EA, is looking to the past for the setting of the newest installation in its Battlefield series of first-person shooters.
But how realistic are the weapons in Battlefield 1? It turns out — pretty realistic for a game of this sort. But there are a couple of odd anachronisms.
DICE launched the Battlefield series back in 2002 with Battlefield 1942, set during World War II. Most of the Battlefield games are set in the present or future, but one takes place during the Vietnam War. As such, the Battlefieldseries has a history with, ahem, history.
Today in 2016 we’re in the middle of the Great War centennial — and this no doubt inspired DICE’s decision to set Battlefield 1 during World War I. It’s also possible that the developers hoped to recreate the success of the excellent multiplayer game Verdun, which recreates the eponymous 1916 battle.
Having played some of their earlier games — namely Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam — and having been impressed with the level accuracy and detail, I decided to take a close look at some of the weapons that appear in the 60-second teaser trailer DICE recently released for Battlefield 1.
In the first 10 seconds of the trailer, we see what looks to be a German soldier wearing a Gaede helmet and a gas mask and bludgeoning an enemy with a trench club.
At left — EA capture. At right — German soldiers in Gaede helmets, c. 1915. Photo via Reddit
A short while later, the trailer cuts to what appears to be a sabre-wielding Arab horseman charging through a desert. All pretty convincing.
At left — EA capture. At right — Arab cavalry in 1916. Library of Congress photo
Thirteen seconds into the trailer, there’s a spectacular aerial shot of a Western Front battlefield from over the shoulder of an observer manning what appears to be a Mk. II Aerial Lewis Gun.
Another scene again shows a Gaede-wearing German dispatching an apparent American infantryman armed with what could be a Winchester M1897 Trench Gun or, alternatively, a Remington Model 10A Trench Gun, which the U.S. Marine Corps deployed in limited numbers during World War I.
The shotgun’s profile — it doesn’t appear to have an exposed hammer like the Winchester does — and its bayonet lug indicate it’s the latter weapon. However, the weapon lacks the wooden heat shield which fit to the top of the Model 10A’s barrel. The pump handle also appears to be missing!
Maxim LMG 08/15
The trailer features a series of aerial dogfights over a number of different theaters. Twenty seconds in, we see a red German plane — possibly a Fokker Dr.I — chase an Allied biplane through a canyon, ultimately destroying it with its MG 08/15 Maxim machine guns.
At the 25-second mark, the world’s first anti-tank rifle — the German T-Gewehr — is briefly visible. A soldier sprints beside a British Mk. IV Male tank — which, by the way, is moving far too fast to be realistic. It’s quite the feat, considering the T-Gewehr weighed 41 pounds!
At left — EA capture. At right — New Zealand troops with a captured T-Gewehr. Imperial War Museum photo
Halfway through the trailer, there’s a brief glimpse of a 1911 pistol. This scene also hints that the game could involve more than just trench combat.
At left — EA capture. At right — Photo via Zwickelundkrieg
At the trailer’s midpoint, we finally get our first glimpses of gas warfare. A shattered ruin collapses under artillery fire and a Lewis Gun operator blasts a German infantryman before donning a gas mask.
At left — EA capture. At right — A U.S. Marine test-fires an M1917 Lewis Gun in 1917. Library of Congress photo
Carcano M1891 Carbine
The trailer cuts to a group of what seem to be Italian infantry wearing Adrian helmet — and getting brutally cut down by machine-gun fire. The carbines they carry are the trailer’s first mystery. They’re not quite Carcanos, but what else would Italian troops be carrying in 1916?
The weapons lack the Carcano’s curved bolt handle, folding bayonet and magazine — but no other weapon fits the bill. Maybe this represents a rare oversight in DICE’s game design. Or maybe the weapon we see in the trailer is a placeholder for a gun that the designers are still working on rendering.
At left — EA capture. At right — YouTube capture
At 38 seconds, the iconic British Short Magazine Lee-Enfield makes an appearance as the camera pans across a trench full of British troops scrambling to fix bayonets.
At left — EA capture. At right — British soldiers with Lee-Enfield rifles during World War II
Scoped Gewehr 98
For a split-second as a building explodes, we catch a glimpse of a sniper’s scope-equipped Gewehr 98 rifle.
At left — EA capture. At right — A German soldier with a Gewehr 98. Capture from the 1943 film ‘Sahara’
MG 08/15 or Bergmann MG15nA
It’s difficult to see quite what this unrealistically armor-clad soldier is hip-firing, but it’s probably either a MG08/15 or possibly a Bergmann MG15nA — which had a carrying handle — as these were the only light machine guns Germany used during the war.
This brief scene concerns me, as the armor looks more like something from the 15th century than from World War I. Not only that, the MG 08/15 weighed nearly 40 pounds, so it was impossible to fire from the hip for very long.
While it’s true that the Germans experimented with infantry armor during World War I, most of the combatant nations — including Germany — found heavy armor to be impractical and never deployed it outside of static fortifications.
At left—Bergmann MG15nA. World.guns.ru photo. At right — Mg 08 15. Mitrailleuse.fr photo
Mauser C96 Bergmann MP18
Let’s round things out with a look at the weapons in the first promotional images DICE made available following the trailer’s debut. They show a man armed with a trench club in one hand, the iconic Mauser C96 in the other and a Bergmann MP18 submachine gun — complete with a trommel magazine slung at his side!
At left — Mauser C96. Photo via Wikipedia. At right — Bergmann MP18. World.guns.ru photo
No doubt, once Battlefield 1 drops in October 2016, we’ll also see BARs,Chauchats, Lebels, Lugers and a host of Maxim guns. But what about more obscure weapons? Perhaps an Italian Villar Perosa, a French RSC 1917, a British Webley automatic or even a Pedersen Device jutting out of an M1903 Springfield.
When bombers beat fighters, it is very notable. But some bombers have more tools than others in an air-to-air fight. For instance, the F-105 shot down 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many thanks to its M61 cannon.
Here are some bombers that an enemy fighter would not want to get caught in front of.
1. De Havilland Mosquito
While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.
It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.
2. Douglas A-20G Havoc
During the Pacific War, Paul I. Gunn, also known as “Pappy” came up with the idea to make use of the extra .50-caliber machine guns that came from wrecked fighters. He put those on A-20 bombers.
Eventually his modifications were something that Douglas Aircraft began to put on the planes at the factory. The A-20G had six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose — the same firepower of a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat. Against a Zero, that would be a deadly punch. The A-20 later was used as the basis for the P-70, a night fighter armed with four 20mm cannon.
3. Douglas A-26B Invader
Designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, the Invader was equipped to carry up to 14 .50-caliber machine guns in its nose. Nope, not a misprint; this was the combined firepower of a P-47 and a P-51. That is more than enough to ruin the life of an enemy pilot who gets caught in front of this plane.
4. North American B-25J Mitchell
The medium bomber version of the B-25J was pretty much conventional, but another version based on the strafer modifications made by “Pappy” Gunn in the Southwest Pacific held 18 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One B-25, therefore, had the firepower of three F4U Corsairs.
Other versions of the B-25, the G and H models, had fewer .50-caliber machine guns, but added a 75mm howitzer in the nose.
5. Junkers Ju-88
Like the Allied planes listed above, the Ju-88 proved to be a very receptive candidate for heavy firepower in the nose. Some versions got four 20mm cannon and were equipped as night fighters. Others got two 37mm cannon and six 7.92mm machine guns, and were intended to kill tanks and/or bombers. Either way, it will leave a mark, even on the P-47.
6. Vought A-7D/E Corsair
The A-7 Corsair is widely seen as an attack aircraft. It carries a huge bomb load, but the D (Air Force) and E (Navy) models also have a M61 Vulcan with a thousand rounds of ammo. While no Navy or Air Force Corsairs scored an air-to-air kill in the type’s service, if a plane or helicopter was caught in front of this bird, it wouldn’t last long.
7. F-105D/F/G Thunderchief
The F-105 is probably the tactical bomber with the highest air-to-air score since the end of World War II. Much of this was due to its M61 Vulcan with 1,029 rounds of ammo. You know what Leo Thorsness did with his F-105 against a bunch of MiGs.
8. F-111 Aardvark
While it was an awesome strike aircraft that could still be contributing today, it is not that well known that the F-111 did have the option to carry a M61 cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of heat for whatever unfortunate plane is in front of it.
9. A-10 Thunderbolt
Widely beloved for its use as a close-air support plane in Desert Storm and the War on Terror, the A-10’s GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be used against aerial targets. During Desert Storm, a pair of Iraqi helicopters found that out the hard way.
Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
It’s one of the most cinematic forms of storytelling in war or action movies. Morale is down and all of the dejected troops look up to their great leader, the protagonist of the film, to deliver some sage words of wisdom and inspire them onto the pathway to glory.
We, the audience, know that the protagonist is more than likely going to win the battle and we can assume that, in real life, there’s no speech powerful enough to miraculously change troops’ minds about wanting to, you know, not die. That being said, whenever we see our sublime hero stand in front of their troops and deliver one hell of a speech, it gets our blood pumping.
And don’t just take our word for it — the films that feature the top four speeches on this list also swept the Oscars when they were released. Critics and moviegoers both love a powerful, pre-battle speech.
Ragnar Lothbrok — ‘Vikings’
There’s a disconnect between Hollywood and actual warfare. Normally, before a gigantic battle or fight, a leader won’t stand in front of their warfighters and give a rousing speech. The fight is just moments away — there’s no time to wax eloquent. In History’s Vikings, they get it right.
This is typically how pre-battle speeches typically go down in real life: “Don’t do anything stupid. Let’s kill the enemy. Here’s a a few tactics we should follow.”
In the brief speech below, delivered during the first episode of the series, we get a good look at how these speeches probably looked during the viking golden age.
Agent Maya — ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
This one also falls under the “how it actually happens” category. The fact is, the closest that pre-battle speeches usually get to the front lines is on base, miles away. The speech outlines mission objectives and is (typically) subject to questions/snarky comments from the people going into the fight.
There is honestly no better example in film history of this actually being done right than in Zero Dark Thirty, moments before SEAL Team Six flies out to finally get Osama Bin Laden. The speech is even complete with a “he’s there… and you’re going to kill him for me.”
President Whitmore — ‘Independence Day’
The world is under attack by hostile aliens and it’s up to the what remains of the military to stop them. Realistically, there’s no chance at survival, but just the right people are listening in to this speech, gaining the strength to fight on.
Not only does the speech unite everyone that’s about to go fight the aliens, but it also calls for human to unite and stand together. And you know, it also includes one of the best title drops in cinematic history.
General Maximus — ‘Gladiator’
Character introductions are one of the hardest parts of a script to write. The audience needs to know, in an instant, who a character was before the movie started, what we need to know about them now, and why they deserve to be the main character. There is perhaps no greater introduction than the one for Roman General Maximus, shown at the height of his power
After making sure that everything is going according to plan, Maximus has a little time to joke with his troops and tells them that he will be going back to his farm. It takes Maximus all of twenty seconds to put instill his men with pride and confidence as the enemy rides ever nearer.
General George S. Patton — ‘Patton’
This speech is far deeper than most people realize today. Yeah, it’s technically being given to the Third Army right before battle, but the film, instead, depicts it as being delivered in a theater.
That’s because the speech isn’t being directed at the troops. It’s directed at the audience, 1970s movie-going America. It’s brilliantly re-purposed and given a new meaning by being presented in a way that highlighted much of the uncertainty and debate surrounding the then-ongoing Vietnam War.
Aragorn — ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’
Everything in the Lord of the Rings leads up to one moment. A gathering all of the living warriors across Middle-Earth is charged with taking down the unstoppable scourge of Sauron’s forces. While the audience knows that Frodo and Sam are alright, Aragorn and his men believe them to be dead. They believe that Frodo has been killed, the ring was not destroyed, and it is instead in the hands of the enemy.
In their eyes, there was no way to win. They were all gathered just to die in front of the Black Gates. But not this day. They may all die, but they’ll make a valorous attempt to survive, spurned on by Aragorn’s courage.
William Wallace — ‘Braveheart’
William Wallace had finally banded the clans of Scotland together to finally make their stand against the English, but when they see the massive army they’re going against, they lose the will to fight. They come to the sudden realization that this “mythical” William Wallace that was supposed to lead them in battle is a mere man and, just as quickly, everyone wants to go home.
This is the perfect example of how the pre-war speech is supposed to go down. It’s up to William Wallace to remind everyone that there is no going back. There is no alternative to fighting, even if it means many of them will die. But if they die, they’ll go knowing they were slain for freedom.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter).
So-called “burn pits” have been used to dispose of waste material at American military bases overseas since the 1990s. They were used to keep potentially sensitive materials out of local waste dumps and to leave as small a footprint as possible when U.S. troops leave an area.
Installations have used burn pits to destroy all kinds of material, from standard trash and food waste to chemicals, paint, human waste, metal containers, petroleum products, rubber and even unexploded ordnance.
In the years since, we’ve learned the fumes created by those burning pits of various trash materials have exposed veterans to harmful, toxic substances and were potentially inhaled by everyone in the area. The veteran service organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has dubbed the burn pits of the Middle East “the Agent Orange of our generation.”
While the Department of Veterans Affairs has yet to recognize the burn pits as the Agent Orange of the post-9/11 era of veterans, some members of Congress have decided to take up the issue for themselves, introducing what some call the most significant veterans legislation in history.
Veterans affected by burn pit exposure can feel a wide range of symptoms, from mild irritations and sore throats to long-term headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing. The long-term effect of burn pit exposure is not fully known at this time.
Through the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, where veterans potentially exposed to burn pit toxins have registered to report their service in various affected areas, we’ve learned that an incredible 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to the toxic fumes of the burn pits. A full 89% of those who reported exposure have reported ongoing symptoms as a result of that exposure. That number only grows as more veterans register.
Worst of all, the burn pits are still in use in deployed facilities around the world. The VA currently requires veterans to prove their symptoms are a result of toxic exposure. Agent Orange exposure has a number of “presumptive” conditions of exposure, such as respiratory cancer, Hodgkin’s Disease and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Any one of these symptoms is automatically recognized by the VA as a result of Agent Orange and is immediately service-connected.
There are currently no presumptive symptoms of burn pit exposure – nor is there any way for many veterans to prove their symptoms are a result.
In March 2021, the Senate introduced the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act, which would force the VA to recognize 11 presumptive conditions for veterans suffering from burn pit exposure. It would apply immediately to veterans of all eras. It would also add hypertension to the VA’s Agent Orange exposure list.
Instead of forcing veterans to prove their conditions are a result of burn pit fumes, the COST of War Act would put the onus on the Department of Veterans Affairs, making the federal government responsible for reviewing veteran records for toxic substance exposure.
The bill will also establish a transparent system for determining which cases have their causes in the burn pits, and increasing training requirements and funding for Veterans Affairs health care and disability claims processing.
The act was also introduced into the House of Representatives on July 1, 2021, and despite a hefty $1 trillion price tag, is expected to pass through both houses of Congress.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.
David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.
In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.
“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.
“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.
When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”
Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”
His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.
Hypersonic missiles being developed by the Russian ministry of defense are getting most of the attention in international news media these days. This could be for a number of reasons, the first being that the United States is woefully behind in the hypersonic missile gap. The second reason might be that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced it in a grandiose speech, effectively thumbing his nose at anyone who thinks the Russian military’s best days are behind them.
The third and most likely reason, however, is that it is all a sleight of hand trick. Russia is trying to keep the world’s attention focused on a missile whose technology is nearly untrackable and has almost no defense. Instead, we should be focused on the country’s nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo, one designed to destroy entire harbors.
Think about it: How would the world ever know if a Russian hypersonic missile really existed or not? How would the world ever really know what the Russian technology was capable of doing? The point is that the U.S. and other powers are so focused on hypersonic technology that we seem to forget Russia’s deadly Poseidon torpedo.
The Poseidon was first introduced to the Russian Navy in 2015 when Putin himself leaked the “top secret” torpedo’s existence during a live speech on television, as he was denouncing American military projects. The next year, a Russian nuclear submarine successfully tested one of the new torpedoes in the Arctic Ocean.
Officially called the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, the torpedo is actually more of a water-borne titanium drone, powered by a nuclear reactor and capable of carrying a nuclear payload. It came about as a means of getting around American nuclear and ballistic missile defense shields.
At about 80 feet long, the nuclear reactor gives the weapon an operational range of more than 6,200 miles. This means a Poseidon torpedo fired from St. Petersburg, Russia could sail all the way to New York to deliver a nuclear blast on Manhattan.
The worst part is its rubber noise insulation and potential depth of more than 3,000 feet means it could make the trip completely undetected. It features underwater stealth technology, its nuclear reactor is low-weight and compact to reduce noise, and it’s intended to travel at a slow speed for the bulk of its journey, only picking up speed when hitting its intended target.
Even if a major city port wasn’t a potential target for this Russian doomsday weapon, the speed and depth at which it travels would make even aircraft carrier battle groups a tempting target. It could potentially destroy an entire group, with the only warning being the mushroom cloud that follows.
Any nuclear blast caused by a Poseidon torpedo won’t be the only cause for destruction, either. The fallout created by the multi-megaton cobalt nuclear bomb would create fallout that could devastate the entire U.S. Eastern seaboard.
The only good luck the U.S. has in stopping the use of a Poseidon torpedo is that Russia only has two boats capable of carrying and firing the weapon. Each of the two submarines are capable of carrying up to six of the weapons, but if the U.S. can target and destroy those boats, there’s a chance of mitigating the threat.