The new Charlie’s Angels trailer dropped today. Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games), who will also star as the timeless ‘Bosley’ character, the film stars Kristen Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman), Naomi Scott (Aladdin), and Ella Balinska (Run Sweetheart Run) as the three angels.
After recently writing about the Hobbs & Shaw trailer, I couldn’t help but notice how different the advertising is for female-driven and male-driven films.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer
“We’re gonna need the best trackers in the business. We’re gonna need to operate outside of the system,” said an operative with more substantial priorities.
If you had to boil down these two trailers, this is what they’re communicating about their films:
Charlie’s Angels: Fun, pretty girls fight bad guys.
Hobbs Shaw: Strong, funny men fight bad guys.
The comparison between these two trailers highlights a subversive social construct: in order for men to be heroes, they need to be strong (a feature that can be developed through will and dedication); in order for women to be heroes, they need to be beautiful (something outside of their control without painful surgery, or, I guess, wigs, toys, and clothes?).
I will at least acknowledge that the 2019 Charlie’s Angels description has been improved since the 2000 one:
2000: They’re beautiful, they’re brilliant, and they work for Charlie. In a smart, sexy update of the 70’s TV show from celebrated music video director McG. CHARLIE’S ANGELS revolves around three female detectives as intelligent and multi-talented as they are ravishingly gorgeous and utterly disarming.
(WE GET IT. YOU’D BONE THEM. CALM DOWN.)
2019: In Banks’ bold vision, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally. With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere.
Now here’s the description for Hobbs Shaw:
Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.
But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.
Just imagine if The Rock were on a super secret mission that involved coordinated dancing.
These are meant to be fun tentpole films, but stories have always impacted society and culture. These two films clearly have different target demographics, but they each seem to be straying from the path of the hero’s journey against evil. They stray in completely different, but I’d argue equally concerning, directions: for girls, it’s that excessive beauty is the answer to our problems and for men, it’s excessive violence.
What do you think? Are these films saying something about our society or are they just here to show us a good time? Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.
Over the next several months, NASA will conduct a series of ground tests inside five uniquely designed, full-size, deep space habitat prototypes. The mockups, constructed by five American companies, offer different perspectives on how astronauts will live and work aboard the Gateway — the first spaceship designed to stay in orbit around the Moon, providing the critical infrastructure needed for exploration, science and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface.
NASA doesn’t plan to select one habitat prototype to advance to flight — rather, the tests will help NASA evaluate the design standards, common interfaces, and requirements for a future U.S. Gateway habitat module, while reducing risks for eventual flight systems.
“These tests were formulated so that we can do a side-by-side comparison of very different and innovative concepts from U.S. industry,” said Marshall Smith, who leads human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “While we won’t dictate a specific design when we procure the U.S. habitat, we will enter the procurement phase with far less risk because of the knowledge we gain from these tests.”
NASA assembled a team from across the agency and from U.S. industry to conduct these tests. Engineers and technicians will analyze habitat system capabilities and performance proposed by each prototype concept, while human factors teams consider layout and ergonomics to optimize efficiency and performance. During the tests, future Gateway flight operators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will collect actual live telemetry streams from each prototype. Flight operators will monitor habitat performance and support realistic mission activities as astronauts conduct “day-in-the-life” procedures within each habitat prototype, providing their perspectives as potential crew members who may one day live and work aboard the Gateway.
In addition to the physical enclosure, each company has outfitted their prototype with the basic necessities to support humans during deep space expeditions — including environmental control and life support systems, avionics, sleeping quarters, exercise equipment, and communal areas.
The NextSTEP Habitation effort began in 2015 with four companies completing year-long concept studies. Those studies set the foundation for prototype development from 2016-2018 — this time with five companies submitting concepts. Their prototype approaches are listed below, as well as a concept study outline from a sixth company, NanoRacks:
1. Lockheed Martin — Testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The Lockheed Martin prototype is based on a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), which was originally designed to provide logistics capabilities for the International Space Station. The design leverages the capabilities of Lockheed’s robotic planetary spacecraft and the Orion capsule that will transport astronauts to and from the Gateway. The prototype includes a reconfigurable space that could support a variety of missions, and combines hardware prototyping and software simulation during the test.
Concept image of Lockheed Martin’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.
2. Northrop Grumman — Testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Texas
Northrop Grumman’s prototype leverages the company’s Cygnus spacecraft that delivers supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus took its maiden flight in 2013, and is already human-rated. Northrop Grumman’s habitat mockup focuses on providing a comfortable, efficient living environment as well as different internal configuration possibilities.
Concept image of Northrop Grumman’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.
3. Boeing — Testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Proven space station heritage hardware is the key ingredient in Boeing’s Exploration Habitat Demonstrator. Named the prime space station contractor in 1993, the company developed multiple space station elements. Their demonstrator will leverage heritage assets, with a focus on optimizing interior volume, with isolated areas offering the capability to use different atmospheres for payloads without impacting cabin atmosphere.
Concept image Boeing’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.
4. Sierra Nevada Corporation — Testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
Sierra Nevada’s Large Inflatable Fabric Environment (LIFE) habitat is designed to launch in a compact, “deflated” configuration, then inflate once it’s in space. The benefit of inflatables (also called expandables) is their final configuration is capable of providing much larger living space than traditional rigid structures, which are limited in size by the payload volume of the rocket used to launch it. The LIFE Prototype inflates to 27 ft in diameter and simulates three floors of living areas.
Concept image of Sierra Nevada’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.
(Sierra Nevada Corporation)
5. Bigelow Aerospace — Testing at Bigelow Aerospace, North Las Vegas, Nevada
Bigelow’s B330 prototype is an expandable module that expands in space, as its name suggests, to provide 330 cubic meters of livable area. Bigelow sent a smaller module, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the space station in 2015, where astronauts expanded the structure live on NASA Television with compressed air tanks. The BEAM completed a two-year demonstration aboard the station, proving soft-goods resilience to the harsh space environment. Following its demonstration period, NASA extended BEAM’s time aboard the station to become a storage unit.
Concept image Bigelow’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.
6. NanoRacks — concept study
NanoRacks has proposed yet another concept to maximize habitable volume for Gateway astronauts. The company’s idea is to refurbish and repurpose a spent rocket propellant tank, leveraging the natural vacuum of space to flush the tank of residual propellants. The company completed a feasibility study outlining the concept and next plans to develop full-scale prototypes demonstrating robotics development, outfitting and systems integration to convert the tank into a deep space habitat.
Concept image of NanoRack’s habitat concept docked to the International Space Station.
“This prototyping approach allows us to design, build, test and refine the habitat long before the final flight version is developed,” said NASA astronaut Mike Gernhardt, principal investigator of the agency’s habitation prototype test series. “We are using this operational-driven engineering approach to gain an early understanding of exactly what we need to address the mission, thereby reducing risk and cost.”
Using this approach, the builders, operators, and future users of the Gateway work together to evaluate concepts earlier and more completely, which helps NASA move forward to the Moon as early as possible.
The Gateway will be a temporary home and office for astronauts farther in space than humans have ever been before, and will be a home base for astronaut expeditions on surface of the Moon, and for future human missions to Mars. The NextSTEP approach bolsters American leadership in space, and will help drive an open, sustainable and agile lunar architecture.
The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last space shuttle made its final voyage into orbit.
Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station.
That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS in a mission called Demo-2.
A successful flight would resurrect the US’s ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX’s first mission with passengers in the company’s 18-year history.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” hours ahead of the scheduled launch. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like, 1% chance, 0.1% chance.”
A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening a new era of space exploration.
That’s why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline.
Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US would give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can carry only three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven.
An artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
He added, “We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone.
But the mission won’t be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth.
“We’re going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home,” Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. “Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that’s out there, and we’ve worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we’ll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home.”
The Habiru were described as a group of Asiatics wandering about the Levant, much like the Hebrews. The Sumerians were the first to mention this group as the SA.GAZ as far back as 2500 BCE. Hittite texts also refer to them as SA.GAZ. Texts found at Boghazkoi in Anatolia use both names, Habiru and SA.GAZ, interchangeably. The term also is associated with the Akkadian habbatu (“plunderer” or “robber”) or saggasu (“murderer”).
Instead, SA.GAZ means “one who smashes sinews;” this is typically in reference to a small band of soldiers who are employed as local mercenaries. This wandering body lived on the social fringes of civilization.
The Habiru were indeed an enemy to many, but a useful and complex one.
The philosopher Martin Buber described them as, “…people without a country, who have dissociated themselves from their national connections and unite in common journeys for pasture and plunder; semi-nomadic herdsmen they are, or freebooters if opportunity offers.”
While it’s well documented that the Habiru were viewed as landless undesirables who at times served as mercenaries in military ranks throughout the Near East and Egypt, it was their civil skills that were often overlooked and most desired. While it is tempting to correlate the Habiru with the Bedouin, that’s not always accurate.
The Habiru traveled in much larger groups and their social structure was complex. They were highly skilled pastoral people who were tenders of cattle, vintners, stonecutters, stockbreeders, agriculturalists, merchants, construction workers, skilled government employees, and fishermen.
4. The Ten Thousand
The “Mighty” Ten Thousand were mentioned in Xenophon’s Anabasis. The Ten Thousand, according to Xenophon, were a mixed bag of motley Greek warriors hired by Cyrus the Younger to help oust his brother King Artaxerxes II from the Persian throne.
In 401 B.C., the hardened Greek veterans of the Peloponnesian War fought alongside Cyrus near Baghdad against the Persian forces led by Artaxerxes. While the Ten Thousand fought bravely, it was not enough; Cyrus was killed in the battle. Afterwards, Tissaphernes, a local satrap (governor), met with the Greek commanders to negotiate new terms, but Tissaphernes refused their services and they were murdered.
Once word of the event got out, the Greeks elected new leaders and fled.
As the forces of Artaxerxes were pursuing them, the Ten Thousand banded together and fought their way out of enemy territory. Once Xenophon had been elected as one of their new leaders, the mercenary army embarked on a grueling nine-month journey that took them from the province of Babylonia all the way to the Greek Black Sea port at Trapezus.
During their journey, they fought off bad weather, famine, ambushes, and hallucinogenic honey. Once back on friendly soil, only three-fourths of their numbers remained.
3. The Varangian Guard
The Varangians were an elite guard that one served as the personal bodyguards of Byzantine rulers from the 10th to the 14th centuries. When not protecting the ruler, they were sent to the front in times of war to protect and expand the borders of the Byzantine Empire.
The Varangians were Swedish merchants who penetrated eastern Russia. Their story begins in 874 when the Kievan Rus and Constantinople established a peace treaty in which the Kievan Rus was obliged to send the Byzantines military assistance, but it would not be for some time. The first appearance of Varangians acting in the interest of the Byzantine state was during the reign of Emperor Michael III (842–867), in which they served as his personal security entourage. This peace opened the door for the Kievan Rus not only economically but also militarily. The establishment of the Varangian guard as permanent security organization started in 911.
What made the guard so exceptional was their loyalty to the emperor. Of course, if one is being paid a substantial wage while allowing the best pickings of loot from pillage cities, ones loyalty is hard to sway. They were instrumental in keeping the empire together and requiring lost territory, but also in protecting the Byzantine throne. However, the Varangians’ time would soon end after the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by Western Europeans during the Fourth Crusade; the Varangians never fully regained their once regal position and eventually faded away.
2. The White Company
The famed mercenary leader John Hawkwood was in charge of the infamous White Company. The White Company was one of the most notorious mercenary groups of the so-called “free companies” to conduct warfare in 14th century Italy. The unit first rose to prominence in the 1360s under the leadership of Albert Sterz before falling under the command of Sir John Hawkwood. John Hawkwood was an Englishman who served in the English army during the Hundred Years’ War, and he was knighted for his service.
Once Hawkwood took command of the White Company, they soon became known as an elite (if not the elite) mercenary army in Italy. The cultural makeup of the White Company was an amalgamation of English, German, Breton, and Hungarian adventurers. These well-trained mercenaries provided a combined arms approach to warfare. Their swift tactics and willingness to fight in harsh conditions terrified opponents.
What made the White Company so effective in 14th Century Italy is because Italia was fractured into many small provinces and city-states. Loyalties swayed as quick as the wind and because of this, Hawkwood saw the lucrative benefits awaiting him. From 1363 and 1388, Hawkwood’s While Company fought nearly nonstop, for and/or against the Papal States, the city of Milan, and the city of Florence.
1. Henry MacIver
Henry Ronald Douglas McIver (1841–1907) was a soldier of fortune who fought for 18 countries. (Image courtesy of Richard Harding Davis’ “Real Soldiers of Fortune”)
MacIver was born in Virginia in 1841. Much later in his life, his family sent him to finish his education with his uncle General Donald Graham. The reason for this is once MacIver had finished with school he would be sent to West Point. However, MacIver ditched West Point and joined the army of the East India Company. He was only 16 years old.
While with the East India Company, he would see his first action at age 17 during the Sepoy Mutiny. MacIver nearly died after being seriously wounded in the arm and head. Not long after, he made his way to Italy, where he fought alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi.
After mixed success, he found his way under the command of the Don Carlos, who was the pretender for the Spanish crown. In 1861, Civil War broke out in the United States and MacIver made his way to join the Confederacy, in which he served with distinction.
After the war was over, MacIver fled to Mexico and joined Emperor Maximilian and his war against the Juarez rebels. However, his fighting was short-lived. He was captured by Indians, but he would escape three months later and rejoin Maximilian’s forces. He would be given the title of Count for his valiant efforts on the field of battle at Monterrey.
Soon after, the Juarez rebels won the war and executed Emperor Maximilian. MacIver fled for South America and laid low for a time.
When the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) broke out, MacIver made his way to the Balkans and offered his services to the Serbians. He was given the rank of colonel and led a company of volunteers but would soon rise to the rank of general and cavalry commander of the Serbian contingents. MacIver considered this the highest point of his career and was his happiest.
After Serbia, MacIver raised more volunteers and planned further expeditions in Central America. Before that could happen, however, he found himself serving as the United States Consul. He would offer his services once again to President McKinley during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
By this time, he had grown older and his services on the field of battle were not needed. MacIver would go on to find more lucrative enterprises elsewhere in the America’s but as Davis says, MacIver’s “…life is, and, from the nature of his profession, must always be, a lonely one. Still he has his sword, his blanket, and in the event of war, to obtain a commission he has only to open his tin boxes and show the commissions already won. Indeed, any day, in a new uniform, and under the Nineteenth Flag, the general may again be winning fresh victories and honors.”
MacIver would die the following year in 1907, but is remembered as a true soldier of fortune.
Sports come in all levels of intensity. Basketball, American football, and rest-of-the-world football (aka soccer) fans all love to believe that their sport of choice is the most hardcore and dangerous. None of these hold a candle to combat sports.
Traditional martial arts in which contestants fight one another without weapons need little explanation. Though particulars change a bit depending on the style of fighting, you generally follow the rule of trying to hit your opponent more often and more powerfully than they hit you. Fairly self-explanatory, sure, but mastering it takes years. But what is perhaps more intriguing is when the fight does involve weaponry and how the fighters spar without lopping off each other’s heads like Roman gladiators.
Many traditional swordsmanship styles, such as Kendo and fencing, are still practiced today and fuel highly-publicized events. Then there’s SCA heavy combat, which is more akin to intense, live-action role-playing because contestants use the “honor system” for scoring points.
The next level of badassery is Historical European Martial Arts — though the name is now a misnomer as the sport allows use of a wide-variety of weapons from many eras and cultures. Training begins with wooden or plastic weaponry that can be purchased from sites like Purpleheart Armory, but when the fighter is ready, it’s time to grab their steel and enter a Combat Con tournament.
There are several championships held for different styles of weaponry: Longsword, sword and buckler, and rapier are just a few of many.
All participants must wear proper armor, the weapons must be dulled, and all commands from the referees are final. Shy of that, the fighters have 90 seconds per match (or until a maximum score has been reached) to make their ancestors proud through combat.
From here, you move onto to team fights as facilitated by the International Medieval Combat Federation. Here, teams of up to 16 combatants enter to fight for their nation’s glory using actual weapons and actual armor.
The objective here is to knock all of your opponents to the ground. The rules are simple: follow instruction from the referee and don’t cause unsportsmanlike harm to or remove any protective gear from an opponent.
Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.
Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.
As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.
Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.
Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.
Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.
Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.
Bring that flamethrower back over here.
You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.
Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.
Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.
Netflix subscribers on a trip outside the U.S. are sometimes surprised to find their accounts are blocked while overseas, primarily due to licensing issues. Some content is only licensed to the streaming service for viewers inside the United States (or is restricted in certain countries). And, by the way, Netflix is known to add users who circumvent the site’s security to blacklists.
In 2015, Netflix announced it would block Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which allow viewers from overseas to view the site and its contents as if they were in the United States. This week, the site announced it would start a heavy crackdown on those users. Here are a few of the military/war movies those subscribers won’t be able to watch:
This is Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s war documentary masterpiece featuring the U.S. Army’s Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. The film (and the outpost defended in the film) is named after Pvt. 1st. Class Juan Sebastián Restrepo, a medic killed earlier in the deployment. Four years later, Junger would make another film, Korengal, which would pick up where Restrepo left off. Korengal is also on Netflix.
Here’s a military movie that requires no introduction and no explanation outside of a volleyball scene. This is a flick that probably guaranteed the Navy wouldn’t have to put any money into recruiting pilots for the rest of eternity. If the United States ever falls as a civilization, archeologists in future millennia are going to wonder where they can sign up.
The Civil War
The documentary series and style that allowed Ken Burns to turn a blowup and motion effect into a career is on Netflix in its’ entirety. Also on the streaming service is Burns’ epic-scaled but fairly “meh” World War II documentary in the same vein, called The War.
Five wounded post-9/11 veterans have the opportunity to explore their experiences through humor. The film follows them and their work with professional comedians Zach Galifianakis, Lewis Black, Bob Saget, and B.J. Novak, who help them write and perform their own personal stand-up routines. One vet refers to the Iraq War as “a pretty aggressive study abroad program.”
This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently nominated for an Academy Award. It will also probably inspire Bundy clan copycats to take to the Arizona desert to “help” the U.S. Border Patrol keep ‘Murica free of invaders.
No one really needs an introduction to Forrest Gump. People still quote this movie to death in lame jokes and it’s now more than a decade old. It makes this list because of Gump’s Army service in Vietnam and Gary Sinise’s epic portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor.
The Unknown Known
How do you feel about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Master documentarian Errol Morris’s 2014 film will either infuriate you or soften your feelings toward the lifelong government official with the most punchable face.
Beasts of No Nation
Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government of a West African country falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF rebel guerillas. Do not watch this film with kids, teenagers, anyone with emotions, or anyone who expects to not be traumatized.
Team America: World Police
Few movies are as epic as Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America. If you’re a post-9/11 military veteran and haven’t seen this film, you must have been in such a secret squirrel MOS that the military kept you under a rock.
Less of a military movie and more of a horror movie in a military setting, Ravenous feature Guy Pearce visiting a remote U.S. Army outpost in post-Civil War California, a base full of the worst Blue Falcons of all time. Also featuring the worst trailer ever made for a decent film. Seriously, it looks like a fan trailer.
Bonus: TV Shows
Perfect viewing for anyone who ever wanted to pretend Catherine Bell was like the typical military spouse. I think the Army missed an opportunity here. There was never a better recruiting tool.
This is what we who grew up watching this show always hoped a real deployment would be like. If U.S. troops were allowed to build liquor distilleries in their barracks, we’d all become amateur engineers. Sadly, deployments are nothing like this
Five seasons of everyone who matters’ favorite secret agent for hire lives on Netflix, with the sixth season coming (phrasing!).
James H. Anderson, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, spoke about the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. He noted that the strategy covers the Defense Department’s three lines of effort: lethality, partnership and reform.
Here are his main points:
China and Russia are developing advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that can potentially overcome United States defenses. North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. and could be armed with nuclear warheads. And, Iran’s space program could accelerate development of an ICBM system that might be able to reach the U.S.
2019 missile defense review goal
Diplomacy and deterrence are the primary strategies to protect the nation, deployed forces and U.S. allies from missile attacks. Should that fail, the U.S. is developing a layered missile defense system as well as offensive capability.
The ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee gold crew returns to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 11, 2019, following a strategic deterrence patrol.
(Photo by Bryan Tomforde)
• Upgrade existing radars and sensors
• Increase the number of ground-based interceptors by 20 to 64, along with developing a new kill vehicle for the GBI
• Develop small, high-energy lasers that can be fitted on unmanned aerial systems
• Arm F-35 Lightning II aircraft with tracking capabilities and possible missile intercept at the early boost stage
• Increase the Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers from 38 to 60
• Improve space-based sensors to detect and track missiles
• Conduct a feasibility study of space-based missile intercept capability
• Conduct a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA test against ICBMs by 2020
• Leverage the SM-6 for both defensive and strike operations.
A Standard Missile 3 Block IIA launches from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018, during a test to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space.
(Photo by Ryan Keith)
To address regional threats and protect partners, Anderson said the U.S. will deploy additional terminal high altitude area defense, Patriot and Aegis Ashore platforms.
In turn, partner nations are building up their air and missile defenses, with the possibility of integrating them with U.S. systems. For example, he noted that NATO has an operational Aegis Ashore site in Romania. A second site, to be operational in about a year, is being built in Poland, which will house SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Denmark and the Netherlands have sea-based radar systems that can locate missiles.
DOD must adopt processes and cultures that enable development and procurement of missile defense systems in a streamlined and cost-effective manner, Anderson said.
“We must not fear test failure, but learn from it and rapidly adjust,” he said.
Europe will soon have a rapidly-deployable military force of its own. The powers that used to be have finally teamed up to coordinate military responses to developing crises and defense issues. France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, and even the UK all signed off on the upcoming continental QRF.
It’s an initiative spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, according to The Guardian. France’s chief executive has long advocated for Europe’s military autonomy as part of a greater European integration – with major European powers calling the shots.
An all-European military force also answers questions about the defense culture of the European Union, where France’s Defence Minister says decisions and deadlines take much too long, getting gummed up in the bureaucracy of the 28-member organization.
The effort of raising this military force is called the “European Intervention Initiative” and is outside the structure of the European Union and its defense cooperation agreement, known as the Permanent Structure Cooperation on security and defence, or PESCO for short. There are 25 PESCO members
This new initiative comes as an effort to build the force while sidestepping the bureaucracy of the EU and allowing for the entry of the armed forces of the United Kingdom to take part, something London is “very keen” on entering with Europe, despite the Brexit vote.
Europe’s new initiative is also outside of NATO and excludes the United States, with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis worrying that it would pull resources and capabilities away from NATO. But the Secretary-General of the Brussels-based military alliance welcomed the news.
“I welcome this initiative as I believe it can strengthen the readiness of forces,” said NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. “We need high readiness and that is exactly what NATO is now focusing on.”
Though later Stoltenberg stressed the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO for any military initiative.
“We need to be able to move forces quickly throughout Europe, when needed,” he said.
The European Union’s armed forces, the European Defence Union, is currently organized into four multinational battle groups consisting of 546 ships, more than 2,400 aircraft, and almost 7,500 main battle tanks. None of the battle groups have ever deployed, but EU ships do participate in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa.
The F-35 Lightning II, designed to be a stealthy sensor platform that can fly and fight nearly anywhere in the world, can now feed its targeting data back to Navy ships, allowing the task force to engage dozens of targets without the F-35 having to fire its own weapons and break stealth.
A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes off from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on October 9, 2018, with inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
The change comes thanks to an upgrade on the ship side, not on the Lightning II. Basically, the Navy has a communications system known as the Ship Self Defense System. SSDS is typically built into carrier strike groups and the larger amphibious ships, like Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.
So, basically anything that an F-35 can take off from. But now, the SSDS on the USS Wasp can accept communications from the F-35’s Link 16 Digital Air Control. This allows the F-35 to directly feed its sensor data into the fleet’s communications.
The most important application of this capability is that commanders can now see what the Lightning II sees and order surface ships to engage targets with missiles, other aircraft, or even naval artillery if it’s in range.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) steams through the Mediterranean Sea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman)
This will be a huge boost for the F-35 in a war. F-35s and F-22 Raptors can’t carry many missiles and bombs while remaining stealthy, and firing their weapons can give away their positions.
Additionally, the fleet has many more missiles than the planes can carry — and that can be key during a complex fight. If Marines are landing ashore, they don’t want to hear that their air support is running low on missiles. They want to hear that there’s an endless rain of effects coming their way, and that all of them are going to be digitally targeted against the most dangerous threats.
While the digital communications upgrade is currently only placed on the USS Wasp, the rest of the carrier and LHA/LHD groups will receive it in the near future.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, test pilot with the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force, continues First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) developmental test flights aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)
In addition to passing targeting data, the F-35 sends back its status information, like fuel and weapon inventories, while receiving information from the mission commander, like assignment information.
Top video game players are currently playing for a pool of almost $25 million’s worth in prizes in a game called DOTA 2, but one event that will take place on the main stage will be the most public display yet of a growing technology that will likely re-shape warfare in the way that the maturation of gunpowder or military aviation once did.
A team of artificial intelligence bots from OpenAI will take on a team of five professional human players and the AI will likely win. It will likely be the closest thing AI gets to a Billy Mitchell bombing the Ostfriesland moment.
The details of the game aren’t super important for this discussion, but you can read about it here if you care. Basically, the game is much more complex than the board games that AIs have been taking on in the last few years, and requires a much more complex system of evaluations and executions to win against humans, especially in team play.
Fans watch the proceedings during the 2014 DOTA 2 invitational.
So, what does this all have to do with war? OpenAI doesn’t exist to win video games. It’s a nonprofit started by big names like Elon Musk in order to advance safe AI (Artificial intelligence restricted to working for the benefit and safety of humans). In fact, most of OpenAI’s projects have nothing to do with video games. They just use DOTA 2 as a flashy way to get and keep people interested in their AI work.
What OpenAI really cares about is fueling breakthroughs in AI research and development for use in everything from managing cities to controlling factories. And while they don’t pursue military research, it’s not hard to see how a computer that can control a mage throwing fireballs across a digital battlefield might be taught how to control cruisers firing artillery shells across the water.
Other researchers have already created an AI that can outperform humans in small aerial dogfights. If an AI created with OpenAI’s deep-learning was aimed at that milestone, it could be expected to take on human opponents within a few months of creation, then win against teams within another year or less, and be able to dominate most human teams soon thereafter.
The U.S. Navy’s unmanned X-47B jet aircraft.
And that’s while we make the computer fly jets designed for humans and if it’s forced to treat its planes as assets it can’t sacrifice. But jets flown by humans don’t need to be constrained by the limits of the human body, meaning they can take tighter turns at higher speeds. And we don’t have to treat losing jets the same as we would losing jets with humans on board. The computer could treat them like DOTA 2 heroes: valuable, but ultimately disposable for the right gain.
And the U.S. and Chinese militaries, among others, know about these advantages of AI, and are pursuing AI technology for just that reason. And it won’t just apply to jets, but also submarines, armored vehicles, and potentially even infantry. After all, OpenAI has helped AIs train each other for controlling human-like bodies in everything from digital sumo matches to high winds.
So it’s easy to imagine that, in the next war, China and America will start turning more and more to their robot partners for help against their enemies, potentially each other.
For at least the next few decades, larger ships will still need human crews, which means that hundreds or thousands of sailors will still be at risk while fighting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)
But this will create an even more frightening change in warfare than aerial bombing did. Sailors and soldiers will be asked to go forward either knowing that the decision has been made by an unfeeling machine or knowing that there was a chance the decision was made by a machine, and that they will be fighting a mix of machines and humans.
And AIs will likely be better at strategic decisions eventually, but it will still carry an added moral weight for troops knowing that they aren’t executing the will of a senior human, but a robot.
But, of course, it won’t be all bad. In isolated areas with little need for humans to safeguard against collateral damage, entire battles could be fought with little or no human losses.
A U.S. Marine leads a robot on a simulated patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kyle J. O. Olson)
Imagine a few decades into the future, one where robots can control warships and planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. Now imagine the historic Battle of Midway where Japan lost five ships and 292 aircraft while suffering 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost two ships and 145 aircraft while suffering 307 casualties.
Now, combine those two visions, a Battle of Midway where two of the world’s largest navies clash with almost no sailors having to fight at the front. Yes, the ships and planes would still be lost, and control of vast swaths of the world would still be decided by violent clashes, but the human sacrifice would be in the single or double digits.
And the victory for the winner will still be complete. After all, if the U.S. fleet survives at Midway, whether it is crewed by robots or humans, that’s still a physical fleet that can move towards the Japanese home islands.
So, yes, AI will almost certainly revolutionize warfare, and it will happen in the secrecy of classified labs until exploding into the open in a large war.
Until then, if you want to see the progress AI is making, watch the OpenAI Twitter and YouTube streams. Robots may prove their supremacy this week, if only in digital space…
Going to sick call is seen as optional by many troops. I mean, who wants to waste a nice morning run when you can just treat whatever ails you on your own? After all, it worked that one time, so why wouldn’t it work again now?
There’s a tendency among troops to take it upon themselves to try and fix minor medical problems without bothering the doc and missing out on a super critical 6-mile ruck. You wouldn’t want to be accused of malingering, would you?
In the minds of troops, it’s often better to roll the dice and hope you can treat yourself — and, as you can imagine, this isn’t always the best answer.
The truth is that some of the common “treatments” employed by troops are either not all that helpful or they make matters worse. Here’s the best advice we can offer: Don’t be an friggin’ idiot. Use common sense. If the sickness or injury is bad enough, go see the doc. The only prize for “toughing it out” is a f*cked up body. And by skipping out on a visit to sick call, you miss out on putting your issue on your medical records, which can be a big problem down the road.
The following are the unofficial tools for avoiding sick call — and why you might want to reconsider:
If you don’t feel it immediately, you’ll sure as hell feel it in the morning…
(U.S. Air Force)
“It ain’t called “Grandpa’s cough syrup” for nothing! It’s like taking Benadryl — only more fun, right? After all, you can’t feel sick if you’re passed out!”
Ask anyone who’s ever tried drinking while sick and they’ll probably tell you it’s a terrible idea. Being sick dehydrates you — so does drinking. By consuming alcohol, you’re flushing the water your body needs to heal itself. In the end, this just prolongs your recovery.
Beware the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
2. Guzzling down water
“If there’s one thing that the medic kept getting on your ass about, it was to keep drinking water. The surest way to detect how healthy your body is by comparing your pee to that chart that’s hanging in the latrine. It’s like a check-engine light for your body.”
This is a fantastic idea. Drinking water is a perfectly healthy thing to do. But if you quickly go from consuming barely any water at all to chugging gallons of it, you can actually become overhydrated. Your kidneys can’t process that much water and you’ll lose it all — along with some other needed stuff, like sodium. If you really want to use the pee chart, know that “pale lemonade yellow” is the healthy medium.
At least get a sick call slip. It’s an official order from a medical officer that says you can be lazy for a few days.
3. Ignoring it
“Sometimes, all you need is a good night’s rest and you’ll be right as rain. If that doesn’t work, ignore whatever’s going on until things get better. If it still hurts, well, just toughen up and stop complaining.”
If it’s a cold or a sore muscle, roger — get some rest and carry on. This mentality becomes a problem when whatever’s ailing you doesn’t show signs of improving. Say you tear some kinda muscle — if your body is given the proper time to heal and you take it easy, it could heal on its own. If you try to shrug it off and continue to push yourself, things are only going to get worse with each passing day.
If it remains a problem, get some help.
If you are going to pop the blister, at least use extreme care to keep it clean. Bandage it and use moleskin.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)
4. Popping blisters
“It’s only natural to poke at something when it hurts. See that blister? Screw waiting around! Pop that sucker with a needle so it can start healing and let’s get a move on.”
It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that popping blisters on your feet is a terrible idea. For starters, blisters are your body’s way of repairing itself. Popping blisters only prolongs the healing process and leaves the wound open for infection. And since it’s oftentimes on your nasty-ass feet, it’s definitely going to get infected.
If you don’t want to be literally sh*tting out blood, don’t exceed 800mg per 6 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Spain)
5. Lots of ibuprofen
“Why bother the corpsmen when you already know what they’re going to give you? No matter what you tell them, the solution is always the same: Motrin and a bottle of water. Skip the line and just pick some up at the local grocery store and pop a few. Besides, it’s totally funny to watch peoples’ reactions as you down three 800mg pills of ibuprofen and wash it down with an energy drink.”
Ibuprofen is not a super drug that can cure everything. First of all, it’s really only used to treat fevers and soothe pains and inflammations. Secondly, despite what you might think, there’ is such a thing as too much ibuprofen — quit popping 800mg pills whenever you start feeling a cramp. Finally, don’t be taking the huge-ass ones without food or water unless you feel like ripping your stomach and intestines up.
During the Cold War, the American nuclear deterrent strategy required coming up with ways to guarantee the survival of nuclear weapons if the Soviets managed a surprise first strike. The surviving devices would then be used to destroy Soviet civilization.
Keeping U.S. nukes out of Soviet crosshairs required a lot of imagination. The Americans had to keep the nukes deeply buried or constantly on the move. Then they had to make sure the surviving devices could be used effectively.
One such scheme was outfitting a full-size Minuteman III Inter-continental Ballistic Missile to fit in the back of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, dumping the nuke out the back and triggering the ICBM’s full ignition sequence.
Minuteman III ICBMs carry multiple warheads bound for separate targets. This makes the Minuteman III the ideal missile for the mobile nuclear weapon strategy. At 60 feet long and 78,000 pounds, the missile is easily carried by the gargantuan aircraft.
The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum payload is an amazing 285,000 pounds and the aircraft itself is just under 248 feet long. With an operational range of 5,250 nautical miles, the C-5 can fly from Dover Air Force Base to the Middle East without having to refuel.
Launching a fully functional ICBM out the back of an aircraft inflight might sound crazy, but the Air Force first tested this concept successfully in 1974.