The 38th Parallel between North and South Korea isn’t a place known for comedy, and lately it’s been even more un-funny than usual.
American General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. forces in the country, recently said that tensions on the Korean Peninsula were at their highest level in more than 20 years. So Conan O’Brien took his late night show on the road to provide a little levity for the troops stationed along the DMZ.
They went to the Joint Security Area (JSA) on the border, the only place where North and South Korean troops stand face to face. The JSA is used to hold diplomatic engagements between the two countries who are still technically at war. They were startled to discover the North keeps a closed circuit television feed on the buildings in the JSA to monitor activity there.
While there, O’Brien and crew performed the first late night talk show ever performed in the Hermit Kingdom, albeit just a few feet across the border. His first guest was “The Walking Dead’s” Steven Yeun. Watch the whole segment below, then check out an outtake from the DMZ Gift Shop.
In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.
The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.
All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.
In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.
According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.
The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.
According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.
“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.
If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.
It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.
“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”
The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.
The myth states that when hearing 153.0 Hz at a thunderous volume, your guts will shake to the point where you can’t control your bowels. Jaime Hyneman and Adam Savage of “MythBusters” busted this all the way back in 2005.
Savage, who conducted the test, felt the long waves vibrating through him and it felt awkward. Yet, the show concludes that a sound alone couldn’t make you crap your pants.
“Even with the help of some of the world’s best audio technicians, the MythBusters just couldn’t produce the brown note,” concludes the narrator, Robert Lee.
There is no way to literally shake the sh*t out of you with sound. That we know of.
However, this isn’t the only time anyone conceived of and developed sound as a weapon.
The use of sound weapons has been a concept that has been in development stage since 1944. Currently, the military and law enforcement both use the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). The LRAD is a non-lethal loud speaker that works more as a mass notification system than a weapon.
Sound has more of a psychological effect than physical. Instead of a specific frequency, it’s songs that have a long history in psychological warfare.
In the Vietnam War, troops played “Ghost Tape Number Ten.” They would blast it from helicopters and loudspeakers at the dead of night in deep in the jungle. The tape played funeral music and heavy-distorted voices that sound like ghosts.
In Vietnamese, the “ghost” would say eerie things such as “My friend, I come back to tell you I am dead,” and “Go home, my friend, before it’s too late.”
UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”
It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.
Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.
“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”
Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.
Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.
But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”
But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.
Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.
In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.
“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”
Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.
Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.
“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”
And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.
“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”
The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.
“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”
A group of tank restorers was working on a World War II Hellcat when they realized that the man who worked that exact Hellcat from Omaha Beach to V-E Day, Don Verle Breinholt, happened to live just a few miles down the road from them.
The restorers rushed to finish their restoration in time for Breinholt and his tank to reunite at a veteran appreciation event.
The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer was one of the fastest and most agile armored vehicles of World War II. It was custom designed to cripple Germany’s Panzer Corps, quickly moving to the heart of the action and firing its 76mm main gun into Nazi armor. It would also dart ahead of an enemy thrust and then lie in wait to launch an ambush.
The Hellcat was so fast that America’s modern and feared Abrams Main Battle Tank, widely praised for its speed, is actually slower than the Hellcat. The Abrams can book it across the battlefield at 45 mph. The Hellcat can swing past it at 53 mph.
And the ammo on the Hellcat was vicious. While the gun itself was similar to the one on most American medium tanks, Hellcats carried high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds designed to jet molten metal right through German armor.
While Hellcats were lethal, they were also vulnerable. The Hellcats carried minimal armor and could be killed with everything from tank rounds to panzerfausts to heavy machine guns.
That’s what makes it so amazing that Breinholt made it from Omaha as a gunner to where he met up with the Russians as a vehicle commander without suffering his own life-threatening injury or losing his Hellcat.
You can watch the restoration and learn a lot more about the M18 Hellcat and the modern M1 Abrams in the video below. Breinholt speaks throughout the video, but you can see him meet his old vehicle for the first time since May 1945 at the 46-minute mark:
Forty years ago, a two-day, American rescue mission launched on April 24 to free the hostages held by Iran in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. For John Limbert, who was held hostage for more than a year during his role as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, it feels like yesterday.
Last fall, the documentary “Desert One” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, telling the story of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to free the hostages.
“For better or worse, the film does bring back memories,” Limbert told We Are The Mighty.
“Memories fade, you don’t remember all the details and particularly when you’re in the middle of it, but that was one of the powers of the film.”
Desert One is a 107-minute documentary directed by Barbara Kopple. The film gives viewers an intimate look into the military response led by then-President Jimmy Carter to rescue 52 hostages that were being detained in Tehran, Iran in the U.S. Embassy and Foreign Ministry buildings. Ultimately, the mission was aborted due to unoperational helicopters, with zero hostages rescued, eight servicemen dead and several others severely wounded. The crisis received near 24-hour news coverage and is widely considered a component of Carter’s eventual landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.
Through interviews with hostages, Delta Force soldiers, military personnel and President Carter, as well as animation done by an Iranian artist intimately familiar with the topography of the country, Kopple’s film chronicles the mission from every aspect, taking care to tell the story through people who lived it, a detail that was paramount for the two-time Academy Award winner.
“You can’t tell a story unless you have a lot of different angles of people coming at it from different places,” Kopple said. “They’re all feeling something. Whether it’s the special operators, or the hostages, or the people in Carter’s administration – there are so many different elements to it, which is also why it drew us in. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Why should we tell everything about the Americans’ experience and not tell everyone about the Iranian’s experience? We’ve got to know these things exist to communicate. That’s so important. It’s a tough thing to do, but a very important thing to do.”
The ill-fated Operation marked the emergence of special operations in the American military. In 1986, Congress passed the Nunn-Cohen Amendment, citing this tragedy as part of their justification. The amendment mandated the President create a unified combatant command for Special Operations, and permitted the command to have control over its own resources.
“The film captures the best of our military colleagues,” Limbert explained. “This wasn’t a suicide mission, but that’s what it was. They didn’t have to go, but they did it. I have nothing but admiration for them. It was me and my colleagues that they were trying to rescue. They were willing to do this for people they didn’t know. It’s absolutely amazing. That’s the strength of the film. That willingness to self sacrifice so beautifully.”
Added Kopple, “What I felt is that these guys were all willing to give up their lives for the rescue. That was incredible that they wanted to get the American hostages out and they were a team. Even if one of them doubted it, they thought … well my buddies are going. They all had each other’s back — that thing inside of them not to leave anybody behind. That was their duty and that was their job.”
For Kopple, the hardest part of the filmmaking process was tracking down President Carter to speak on camera for his role in the mission and how it impacted his presidential legacy.
“I tried for three months [to get access] and there’s a guy named Phil who works for his administration who would never call me back,” she said. “So I started to have a relationship with his voicemail. I would tell them all about filming and every few days, I would call and beg him, ‘Please let us film President Carter.’ Three months had gone by and Phil called, and he introduced himself and I said, ‘I know, I’d know your voice anywhere.'”
Kopple was eventually granted just 20 minutes of access to the former president for the making of the film.
“He gave us 19 minutes and 47 seconds and we used a lot of it in Desert One,” Kopple said.
Desert One is expected to be released in movie theaters in late 2020 or early 2021, with an eventual television debut on the HISTORY channel.
“When you’re [making a film], you don’t think – where will this show?” Kopple said. “Hopefully the film presents an opportunity for Iranian and American audiences to find healing and reconcile with this very complicated history, not to stereotype people, [and] to really see who people are as individuals.”
Henry “Hank” Hughes is a Writer/Director, Army veteran and Academy Award nominee for his short film Day One. Day One received critical appraisal and earned him a Best Narrative (short) Gold Medal at 42nd Annual Student Film Awards, BAFTA US Student Award at 2016 BAFTA/LA Student Film Awards and Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film nomination at 88th Academy Awards. His most recent work is where he co-produced The Outpost, which was released this past summer to positive reviews. The Outpost depicts the Battle of Kamdesh based on Jake Tapper’s book of the same name. Hughes served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team while in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan twice during his service. He continues his creative work in Hollywood as a continued patriot, storyteller and American Film Institute graduate.
Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
We have been a military family since 1775. It’s kind of Lt. Dan (from Forrest Gump) situation where our oldest relative is a Quaker. He quit being a Quaker so he could fight in the Revolution. He was the scribe for the Declaration of Independence so its his handwriting on the document. His father had been an indentured servant from England and a Quaker. Since then we have all been in the Army through all of the American wars. So, I grew up with my dad having three siblings all in the Army. My mom, who is Italian-American, as soon as they got here her father joined the Army and her twin brother is in the Army. My parents met in the Army where they are loving and progressive people. My mom is a speech therapist and a special education teacher. She has a lot of empathy. A lot of spirituality comes from my father because he is a devout Catholic. They look for the meaning in things which led me toward storytelling.
My great grandfather was a spy for the US during the Cold War, and we had a relative that fought in the Civil War. He was in New Orleans as an occupier from the Union Army during the war where he met his wife there where she threw pee on him since he was from the North. I made a lot of skateboarding videos growing and love skateboarding. Watched a lot of Tony Hawk and Chad Muska, where Muska was a hero of mine. I picked up skating while in Germany where my dad was stationed in Heidelberg. That was me and my buddy’s identity in our early teen years. Germany is like a second home to me. My sophomore year of high school we moved to Fort Knox, KY where it was not as accessible as Heidelberg was with the mass transit.
What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
Family tradition. I always knew I was going to join the Army and I am Henry Hughes IV where all of the other Henrys had been in the Army. I knew I would only do it for a time not a career, especially as an officer. I liked the Captain and tactical and below level interesting. The higher parts were not as interesting to me. Being a Platoon Leader was amazing. I went to Boston University and studied Film and English. I was probably a mediocre cadet where I had other priorities at the time. I became an armor office because my dad was armor, so it seemed like the smart thing to do. I learned all this stuff on tanks and basically became an infantryman upon going to the 173rd. I did a bunch of the schools, Scout Leaders, Airborne and Ranger which took over a year. My unit was in Afghanistan and wrote my battalion commander about having Thanksgiving with my family and joining the unit afterwards in Afghanistan.
A friend from high school and neighbor during my skate boarder days in Heidelberg who I had lost touch with was in the same unit, the 173rd. I had planned on linking up with him once I got to my unit in Afghanistan. Upon graduating Ranger School my father informed me my friend had died during my first or second week of the schoolhouse. He had been killed in action. His name is Ben Hall and he was killed in action on August 3rd, 2007.Three or four lieutenants died there where the combat was pretty intense. The Battle of Wanat, and Battle of Ranch House took place when I was there, where they are similar to The Outpost. I did have a moment in college where I thought, “do I really want to go to war?” I decided if I was going to go, then go do it all the way.
I got to go twice to Afghanistan and the second time got to work with a specialty platoon that targeted bomb makers. We had Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Military Working Dogs and a Female Engagement Team, which made us like a CSI/SWAT mix where we gather evidence at bomb sites, link it to a bomb maker and then try to track down the bomb maker. It was much more personnel in my second deployment. My first deployment was fighting hillside to hillside where on the second one we were going into people’s homes at night which made it unpleasant at times. We disrupted them in their sleep and took their children to another room. Day One is about that idea of going into people’s lives.
On my second deployment I had a female interpreter where she became the genesis for Day One. She was such an incredible person so everything I did was through her. I had this woman’s voice for an entire year where I had never seen that in a war film. It was so particular to my experience. We had an instance where an Afghani man brought us his wife with a child sticking out of her where the Army medics had to help deliver her. I combined those two stories for Day One. I am very proud of my military heritage and where I come from. It is inescapable in many ways as I continue to grow as a person, I will forever be a part of that time. I don’t want to lose it and, in many ways, it was a second family. I can’t let down my friends from that time and that bond. I have more of a responsibility of me to them than of them to me.
What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am most proud that my friends from that time reach out to me to talk to about things they are feeling. I did three or four years of therapy to understand my own feelings during that time. I am very proud to help other people I care about help navigate their feelings from that time.
I love being from 173rd and love that unit. I do love the Army but have a stupid attachment to the 173rd that I would call childlike for another person. There is something about being from that unit that I just adore. I would make stupid mistakes in defending its honor for some reason that wouldn’t matter. The Army is so big, and a machine where I felt like a shock trooper with 173rd, very close knit.
What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
Integrity. I found that lying gets you nowhere. It always comes out. I try to be very frank and try to maintain a dialogue similar to my time as a young leader. There is an openness and integrity that I learned from there that is avoidant behaviors that people partake in Hollywood. Ghosting is a simple way to look at it where if you avoid talking with someone or a problem it will go away. I think that makes it stew and creates other problems. What you see is what you get creates an actual better creative environment where there is no different understanding or subterfuge where I will be honest with them about their ideas. Whenever that I speak it is coming from a place of truth and knowledge. It gets the ego out of the way. Dishonesty and subterfuge can work in the short term where long term of strategy is not going to pan out. No one wants to work with someone they can’t trust.
What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Failure in the military can be catastrophic. Failure in the civilian world or Hollywood might feel like it is, but it isn’t. I would sometimes take on a failure in the civilian world as it were the same as when my platoon sergeant got wounded where it was my fault. It is not true and only a feeling, so partially true. There was so much responsibility inside of being a platoon leader where I absolutely cared about my platoon sergeant. I would sometimes write a story or have interactions within the industry where I felt like I failed on the same level. Failure in the military is binary; you live, or you die. Out here it is a spectrum and failures are a place to learn from. I had to adjust my emotional relationship with failure.
What was it like working on projects such as Day One and The Outpost?
Very rewarding to me because I love having a product I worked hard on. I have even gotten into building stuff with wood where I have made four desks now. Day One involved more of my war time experience even though The Outpost is more autobiographical. I am thankful to explore those times from my life. The Outpost was very strange to me because that place doesn’t exist anymore. There is a distinction in my life from before I went to Camp Keating and after I went to Camp Keating. It’s like there is a big turn in my life. I was at Camp Keating in 2008, a year before the battle from The Outpost.
To be able to go back there in this surreal and make-believe way where they recreated The Outpost and it looks incredible was amazing. It was like walking into a memory and it felt exactly like I was there. It was just surreal to go back in this fantastic way. My mom came to set for the last three days. I got to show her where my bunk was and what the base looked like. I took her to the closest thing possible to show her what that was like in Afghanistan. I feel very fortunate that I get to do the things that have such meaning to me. I live a good life now where I get to work on things I like.
Daniel Rodriguez, veteran of the Army and the Battle of Kamdesh, acted in the movie as himself and wrote a great book called Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept. He has a music career now and is a great guy, so it was good working with him and fellow veterans on the film.
What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Knowing who is in charge and when. Working with EOD where when we got to the bomb site they were in charge. You may think you are always have the right answer as the Platoon Leader where you are not. You need to listen to and lean on the experience of your senior NCOs. I need to know what right sounds like and as a leader I need to be able to listen. Once you get everyone thinking then you can work like a well oiled machine. In Hollywood they say the best idea wins where a costume designer may have the best idea on part of the project, where you should listen to them and their expertise.
As a service member, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
There is a huge separation between the life of the soldier and the life of the civilian. We need to bridge that gap. There is a warrior class in our society and those that wouldn’t even think of joining the service. We need to tell more personal and authentic stories of our culture. We have had a fair number of outsiders of what they think the culture is about and the things that they find interesting we might find commonplace so there is a disconnect there. It is empowering people from our own culture to tell our stories. People will eventually be able to understand it to where it is not Hollywood blood and guts of it all. People would never think that my mom and dad in the Army. They were both soldiers. They don’t think about that part of it where they only think of the infantry stuff. We only see one small slice. Policing is not about guns and raids it is this whole community thing. We need to see the whole spectrum.
What would you like to do next in your career?
I would like to produce a feature film. I rewrote the script for The Outpost, was a co-producer and got the chance to act, which I never thought I would be an actor. I would love to be able to make my own movie. I did a feature version of Day One and am trying to get that made. I am writing some other scripts as well. I would like to make movies and TV shows from this culture I came from. Maybe one day I will do something that is not military related. Some people warn me about not being “pigeonholed,” which is a “champagne problem.” The military culture has not really been explored. I haven’t really seen it in movies in a way that I would like to dig into about my family.
What are you most proud of in life and your career?
The circle of people I keep around me with family and friends. I have a solid circle of love.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range. The 162nd Wing conducts international F-16 pilot training and manages a fleet of more than 70 F-16 C/D and Mid-Life Update Fighting Falcons
Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior near Hurlburt Field, Fla.
C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, help U.S. Army and British paratroopers perform a static line jump at Holland Drop Zone in preparation for Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Marcus Jones, from Anderson, S.C., directs a helicopter during flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58).
A shooter launches an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
A crew chief watches another CH-47F Chinook helicopter from 1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment fly along the crevasses of Kahiltna Glacier April 27, 2015, on the way to the 7,000-foot high base camp on Mount McKinley.
Soldiers, rappel from a Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, during the air assault course at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 21, 2015. The training is one of the final tests for students enrolled in course.
Senior Airman Nicholas Oswald, a loadmaster, 374th Operations Support Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, sits with Philippine air force aircrew members during a night flight.
Marines and U.S. Navy Sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp man the rails of the Wasp as it travels up the Mississippi River for Navy Week 2015 April 23, 2015. Marines and Sailors of the MEU, from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., participated in Navy Week New Orleans April 23-29.
Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama.
As many Americans prepare for bed, Coast Guard men and women stand the watch.
In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.
The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.
But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:
Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.
12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.
I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.
Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.
His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.
Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:
“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.
These are not pages to read before bed.
Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.
I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.
I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.
He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:
“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”
And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”
If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.
One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.
British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.
“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”
There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.
The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
Whether the new battle rifle is based on the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the new M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the M14EBR, or some other contender, the Army will want the reach and hitting power of this cartridge in the hands of more grunts.
Every rifleman a designated marksman?
2. A new scout helicopter
The Army has retired the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, but there has been no replacement. The hot-rod that was the RAH-66 Comanche got chopped in 2004. The ARH-70 Arapahoe was killed in 2008. Then, the planned OH-58F Block II got the axe in 2014 thanks to sequestration.
Look, the Apache is not a bad helicopter, but the Kiowa worked well as a scout bird. UAVs are nice, but sometimes, you need a manned scout to do the job.
3. More Dragoons
The Stryker got a firepower upgrade last year in the form of a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. These Strykers got a new designation (M1296) and a new name (Dragoon). However, there are a lot of places the grunts could use that extra firepower.
After Carl (Gustav) lost the weight, it came back with some new features that will make it far more user-friendly. The system is now a permanent part of infantry platoons, and gives them a weapon capable of firing anti-armor, illumination, smoke, anti-building, and anti-personnel rounds.
But let’s get those systems there faster, please.
5. Bring back the W48 and merge it with the Excalibur GPS tech
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th Airlift Wing prepare to drop Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The mass tactical exercise helped prepare both units for any future real-world scenarios they may face.
Members with the 374th Maintenance Squadron pull a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2016. The aircraft was pulled as part of the 374th Maintenance Group’s Maintenance Rodeo Competition, which pits squadrons against each other in various tasks to win points toward an award and bragging rights.
Soldiers assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, pilot 32 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters during a during farewell flight over Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville community.
Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct a simulated air assault operation during exercise #SaberJunction 16 at 7th Army JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 18, 2016. The exercise includes nearly 5,000 participants from 16 NATO partner nations and is designed to evaluate the readiness of U.S. Army Europe based combat brigades.
KUMAMOTO, Japan (April 19, 2016) An MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit departs JS Hyuga (DDH 181) in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto. The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japan Self-Defense Force and civil relief efforts.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 20, 2016) Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Nicholas Noviello inspects Sailors’ dress white uniforms in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment.
Staff Sgt. Dylan M. Worrell observes the terrain at the bottom of a cavern before commencing confined space entry training at a cave on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Horton, assault man with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa zip lines into the ocean during a French Commando aquatic training event aboard Fort-Miradou, France.
Crewmembers aboard USCGC Kukui (WLB 203) enjoy the sunset from the fantail while underway in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2016. The crew is currently underway for a fisheries and law enforcement patrol in the western and central Pacific.
“We work long days to stay proficient in our craft so that we will be ready to respond when we are needed. We are the Bering Sea Cutter.” – Capt. Sam Jordan, Munro commanding officer.