In all the chatter aboutCaptain Marvel, one aspect of the film simply isn’t getting discussed enough: the fact that it’s the first 21st superhero movie to be a period piece to be specifically set in the 1990s. This is cool for several reasons. Not only does this subtly reference the fact that Samuel L. Jackson was totally the shit in the ’90s, but it’s also rad for those of us teenagers to remember a simpler time of Blockbuster Video and the last decade where people really listened to songs on the radio.
The best part of this Captain Marvel nostalgia fest is the soundtrack. Featuring ’90s mega-hits like TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” and No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl,” the soundtrack also has some deeper cuts like Elastica’s “Connection,” and R.E.M.’s “Crush With Eyeliner.” In the same way that the first Guardians of the Galaxy“Awesome Mix” celebrated the ’70s, the Captain Marvel soundtrack crushes on the ‘9os real hard. (Let’s also try to remember how strange this “Whatta Man” Salt N’ Pepper lyric is: “A body like Arnold and a Denzel face.” Would we want to meet such a chimera in real life?)
Disney has released the orchestral score of the film (composed by Pinar Toprak) but you can’t actually buy a physical version of the soundtrack featuring all the great grunge, hip-hop and pop ’90s hits. But don’t worry! There’s an Apple playlist (above) that has all the big ’90s songs mixed in with the new score. Come as you are. Listen to it now and have a better day.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
For the entirety of his Marine Corps career, Donnie Dunagan feared his fellow Marines discovering his pre-Corps life. The last thing he wanted was to be known forever as “Major Bambi.” It was a nightmare he’d harbored for 21 years of Marine Corps service – and it almost came out just weeks before retirement.
Donnie Dunagan as a Marine Corps officer in 1974.
Dunagan was a Marine recruiter’s dream – except he was never recruited. He was drafted into the Corps in 1952, which certainly made his life interesting, but it was already interesting. As a young child, Dunagan’s family struggled with poverty in Tennessee. After young Dunagan won 0 in a talent competition, the family moved to Hollywood where he became something of a child star. His last role was as the voice of Disney’s beloved baby fawn, the title role of Bambi.
His Hollywood past was a sharp contrast to his teen years. He earned money as a lathe operator in a boardinghouse before being drafted into the Marine Corps. But he took to the life of a Marine. He was promoted 13 times in his 21 years, which was a record at the time. He was also the youngest drill instructor to ever don the campaign hat. All the while, he harbored a secret he was desperate to keep from his fellow Marines.
This f*cking adorable secret could have wrecked him.
He fought three tours in Vietnam and over the years earned a promotion to Major along with a Bronze Star and three Purple hearts. A few weeks before he was set to retire from the Corps, secret intact, he was called into his CO’s office. The CO wanted him to “audit the auditors” – and When the Major asked when he would ever have the time to do what his commander asked, the CO patted a big red folder and said:
“You will audit the auditors. Won’t you, Maj. Bambi?”
His secret finally caught up to him.
Things like this don’t just go away when you’re a Marine.
“I have some holes in my body that God didn’t put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time,” Dunagan told StoryCorps. “But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House, it wouldn’t make any difference — it’s Bambi that’s so dear to people.”
It seems like so many dictators just love movies. We all do, but absolute power takes it to a whole new level. Gaddafi had a channel set up just to play his favorite movie – his one favorite movie. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped his favorite actors and actresses to star in North Korea’s movies. Then, of course, the next natural step for these guys is directing movies.
Kim Jong-Il made several films. Benito Mussolini pitched to Columbia pictures. And even Saddam Hussein made a $30 million war epic. But Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s “ultimate censor.”
At the time, global Communism was still very much a growing threat, one Stalin wanted to continue to spread around the world – under Soviet leadership.
He saw how much power and influence films – and the stars in them – held over large audiences. He saw it in Nazi German propaganda during the Second World War and he used it effectively himself to further his own personality cult.
So when he saw John Wayne’s power as an virulent anti-Communist on the rise, he ordered the actor killed and then sent (allegedly) more than one hit squad to do the job. He saw the Duke as a threat to the spread of Communism around the world – and especially in America.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
The entire time Wayne knew there was a price on his head, he refused the FBI’s offer of federal protection and didn’t even tell his family. He just moved into a house with a big wall around it. Once word got out, though, Hollywood stuntmen loyal to the Duke began to infiltrate Communist Party cells around the country and expose plots against him.
The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.
The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.
Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.
Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.
He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”
One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.
(U.S. Army photo)
The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.
Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The United States Marine Corps turned 244 on Nov. 10, 2019. To celebrate, the Devil Dogs probably did whatever it is Marines do after their respective Marine Corps Balls. The U.S. Navy, often called the Marines’ Taxi Service, laid aside sibling rivalry for the day, and fired a shot from the oldest warship in the Navy and the only active ship to have sunk an enemy in combat, the USS Constitution, in their honor.
They even let a Marine pull the trigger.
The Constitution was first laid as a 44-gun frigate in 1794, outfitted with 24-pound long guns and 32-pound carronades. In combat, she would carry around 54 guns. The carronades would be on the spar deck, a long 18-pound “chase” gun would be mounted forward, and 30 24-pounders would be loaded on the gun deck. The guns on her gun deck, like the one fired by the Sergeant of Marines in the above video, are not her original guns. In 1883, Constitution became a housing ship for sailors in the port of Boston, and her guns were removed. They were soon replaced, however, with replica guns.
Her centennial refit saw 55 replica guns made for the ship by the end of 1931. Cast in the Charleston Navy Yard in 1929, these are the guns aboard her today. Two War of 1812-era carronade replicas were placed aboard in 1981. All her guns were restored and refurbished during Constitution’s 21st-Century restoration.
The only problem with the ship’s new guns is that they were never intended to be fired. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Constitution’s commanding officer decided it would be a novel idea for the oldest active warship in the U.S. Navy to be able to give a salute from its era. Two of the 24-pound long guns were sent to the Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville, Ky. to be retrofitted to fire a saluting charge in time for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.
The Marines aren’t the only ones who receive a salute from the USS Constitution. Past recipients include anyone from Chief Petty Officer selectees to Queen Elizabeth II. The day after the Queen received the salute, she boarded Constitution for a tour with Prince Philip. It was the only time a reigning British monarch ever stepped foot aboard the ship.
It seems we’ve been forgiven for the whole HMS Guerriere incident.
Marine recruiters talk a good game to get prospects to sign on the dotted line, but words can only carry so much motivation. For some, it’s visual representation that can genuinely inspire a young adult to sign a contract and serve in the Corps.
Although posters are pretty cool, epic commercials that put adventure and self-righteousness on display are better.
One of the great recruiting commercials highlights the transformation of driven, young women into the ultimate Marine. Katy Perry may have intended to make her music video Part of Me feel like this motivating video, but she fell short.
Released in the late 1980s, this commercial showcases the Corps’ fighting spirit. The video symbolizes how troops will be trained to eliminate any threat that challenges their nation’s existence, even if that threat is a giant, flaming monster.
Taking a page out of the Legend of King Arthur, the Marines’ 1987 commercial invokes medieval knights to tell young men that if they become a part of the Corps, they would be seen as one of the greatest warriors who ever lived.
Now, who wants to sign up?
(Marines | YouTube)Do you agree with our list? Comment below and rank these videos yourself!
It’s official: top Pentagon officials will not clear the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for full-rate production this year, after setbacks during a crucial testing phase.
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord on Oct. 18, 2019, said officials may not sign off on the F-35 full-rate production milestone — a sign of confidence in the program to produce more fighter jets — until as far out as January 2021 because of the latest testing lapse.
“I’m going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly,” Lord said at a briefing at the Pentagon Oct. 18, 2019.
September 2019, it was revealed that the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 would not complete its already-delayed formal operational test phase by the new fall deadline due to a setback in the testing process.
A combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
Military.com first reported that while F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) was supposed to be complete by late summer, the testing was incomplete due to an unfinished phase known as the Joint Simulation Environment. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pentagon at the time confirmed the delay.
“We are not making as quick progress on the Joint Simulation Environment integrating the F-35 into it,” Lord told reporters during the briefing. “It is a critical portion of IOTE,” she said, adding inspectors need to get JSE “absolutely correct” before further testing can be done.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense would be the authority to sign off on the decision, moving the program out of its low-rate initial production (LRIP) stage.
The JSE simulation projects characteristics such as weather, geography and range, allowing test pilots to prove the aircraft’s “full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios,” according to a 2015 Director, Operational Test Evaluation (DOTE) report.
An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 5, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
JPO spokeswoman Brandi Schiff in September said the JSE is in the process of integrating Lockheed’s “‘F-35 In-A-Box’ (FIAB) model, which is the simulation of F-35 sensor systems and the overall aircraft integration.” FIAB is the F-35 aircraft simulation that plugs into the JSE environment.
“This integration and the associated verification activities are lagging [behind] initial projections and delaying IOTE entry into the JSE,” Schiff said at the time.
Lockheed Martin originally proposed a Virtual Simulator program for this testing. But in 2015, the government instead opted to transition the work — which would become the JSE — to Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
In December 2018, the JPO and Lockheed announced that all three F-35 variants belonging to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would be field-tested “for the purposes of determining the weapons systems’ operational effectiveness and operational suitability for combat.”
The testing had originally been set to begin in September 2018.
IOTE paves the way for full-rate production of the Lightning II. Three U.S. services and multiple partner nations already fly the aircraft.
Some versions of the F-35 have even made their combat debut.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
We’ve all thought it. If the zombie apocalypse broke out right now, what would you do?
Rush to the nearest gun store or shopping mall like everyone else? Which are both a terrible ideas. Parents lose their sh*t over toys for Christmas, let alone survival for their kids.
Well, the Department of Defense has you beat.
The much belittled CONPLAN 8888, also known as the “Counter-Zombie Dominance” plan was created as a training guide. The guide accompanies the scenario of political fallout, a broken chain of command, and a target rich environment. The very first words of the manual are “This plan was not actually designed as a joke.” Think of how the modern U.S. military trains combating the fictional “Pinelandians,” “Krasnovians,” and those damned diabolical “Donovians.”
The scenarios are fun instead of setting off some political red flags. After the forward, detailing how it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of planning around complete and utter chaos, it jumps head first into the absurd — to “undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde” in varying levels of Zombie Conditions (Z-CONs.)
CONPLAN 8888 has a six-step operational chart — because even in the apocalypse, you can’t escape those things. They are:
Phase 0: Shape
This phase is the current state of things. Training continues as normal. Doctrine is written. Contingency plans are formed. No zombie outbreak has happened as of yet.
Phase 1: Deter
This is when things kick off. Unless they are controlled by a nation state or non-governmental organization, zombies aren’t cognizant and can not be reasoned with, there’s only one thing to do. Get ready to kick some ass!
It’s useless talking to zombies — because you know, they’re zombies. (Television series “The Walking Dead” by AMC)
Phase 2: Seize the Initiative
All units must be ready and willing to deploy for 35 days. Troops will head out to infected areas to provide security and aid and to quarantine the area.
Phase 3: Dominate
Now is the time for ass kicking and the fun part every zombie movie is based on. Control through superior firepower. Prepare to shelter in place for up to forty days in case the worst happens.
Phase 4: Stabilize
Repeat all steps until the location is rendered safe enough. Seek and destroy all remaining threats. Deploy counter-zombie teams to weed out pockets of zombie resistance.
Phase 5: Restore Civil Authority
The zombie threat is gone and damage is probably widespread. Time to rebuild the world.
As silly and as ridiculous as the publication may seem, it takes the matter seriously. It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.
Forbes recognizes Matt Damon as one of the most bankable stars, the world sees him as a philanthropist, and the Hollywood scene noticed him as one of the most successful actors of all time. He is also involved in screenwriting and producing. However, he officially started acting at the age of 18. Born in 1970 in Massachusetts, Damon grew up with his mother after his parents got divorced in 1973. One of the people that he was spending a lot of time with since early childhood was Ben Affleck, who lived only two blocks away from him.
As a teenager, Damon was performing in numerous high school theatre plays which had a significant impact on his love for the theatre and the movie industry. He was also a student at Harvard University, but his passion for acting was very strong, so he decided to dedicate wholeheartedly and left the university. As far as we can tell, he has proven his commitment from the variety of awards won including an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, seven Emmys and three BAFTA awards.
Through his performances in “The Bourne” series, and “Ocean’s” Franchise, Matt has attracted a lot of attention and brought him fame in the Hollywood scene. Nonetheless, there are so many other lovely roles performed by this multitalented actor that we forgot about and missed. That is why we will make a throwback to the ’90s and review 4 of his best movies which shaped his career.
Matt Damon in 2015.
Good Will Hunting
Written by Matt Damon itself and his friend Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting got the reputation as one of the best movies ever made by telling the story of a delinquent janitor (Will Hunting) who is a genius. Among all of the awards that this movie has claimed, it has earned 2 Academy Awards. The whole team has performed very professionally including Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgård and Casey Affleck. Thanks to Matt Damon’s fantastic performance in the movie, students at M.I.T. (the place where the movie was filmed) in Boston are still crazy about Will Good Hunting. The movie brought him fame back then and was one of the critical factors in shaping his acting career.
The poker drama movie describes the life of Mike McDermott, a law student who is taking part in poker tournaments into the exciting underground casinos in New York and Atlantic City, which didn’t adhere to any laws or gambling regulations. Nowadays, poker players can enjoy playing legally on the internet, knowing they are in the right hands and provided with a secure gaming atmosphere. Damon, as Mike does a more than fantastic job in performing the role of a skilled poker player, he also mentioned in one of his interviews that he would be happy to reprise the movie, taking into account that the world of online playing has changed ever since then.
He got provided with appropriate training for the film, which is visible on the big screen with his focus, strategy and patience. However, Damon cleverly took advantage of those skills has applied them in many other movies which shaped him in an actor that he is now.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan won 5 Academy Awards, and it is one of the best WWII movies in history. On the one hand, Steven Spielberg’s drama perfectly describes the clash of cruelty and humanity, which are always present during wars. Back then, when Spielberg was focused on the casting for the role of Private Ryan, he preferred to find someone who is very unpopular in the movie industry. That is how he ended up with Matt Damon, but he won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting in the meantime. The movie is still highly respected in the Hollywood scene, and it will be remembered as one of the most epic films of all time.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The Talented Mr.Ripley is a psychological thriller directed by Anthony Minghella. Based on a novel written by Patricia Highsmith’s in 1955, the movie will get you through the story of Tom Ripley who always wanted to become a fake somebody rather than a real nobody. Tom Ripley’s character is very complex, he is a liar, manipulator and amoral, but yet sophisticated and polite. Despite the perplexing personal characteristics, Matt Damon successfully manages to represent Tom Ripley in his true colour. The movie also stars one of the most famous actors and actresses of all time such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman and has received five nominations for an Academy Award.
Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.
Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)
Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.
VA disability increase
Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.
Other federal retirees and beneficiaries
Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.
For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.
Largest COLA bump in years
This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.
The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.
In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.
Keep up with military pay updates
Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?
The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:
I really DID want to stay in the Army
I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army
It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.
(Special Forces Regimental insignia)
That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.
Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!
Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.
(Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)
There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.
Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.
“Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.
Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.
“Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.
“Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.
“Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.
“Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.
The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.
We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.
(Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)
The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.
Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.
(Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)
We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.
Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.
Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.
“Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”
(He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)
Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.
Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.
The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.
(SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)
I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:
time equals distance
hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
zero time equals zero distance
choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure
I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.
I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.
More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.
I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.
Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.
I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.
The defence supremos of the U.S. and China had a face-off in Singapore at the weekend.
Both sides came for a compare-and-contrast contest conducted as a rhetorical rumble. The two biggest players in the game exchanged stares, plus plenty of jabs and a few kicks. The handshakes were less convincing than the glares.
The event was the 18th annual Shangri-La Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, drawing defence ministers and military chiefs from ’38 countries across Asia, Australia, North America and Europe’.
In the opening keynote address, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the most important bilateral relationship in the world is beset by ‘tensions and frictions’ that’ll define the international environment for years to come.
Americans now talk openly of containing China, and to do so soon before it is too late — the way they used to talk about the USSR and the Soviet bloc. This negative view of China has permeated the U.S. establishment … In China, views are hardening too. There are those who see the U.S. as trying to thwart China’s legitimate ambitions, convinced that no matter what they do or concede on individual issues, the U.S. will never be satisfied … The fundamental problem between the U.S. and China is a mutual lack of strategic trust. This bodes ill for any compromise or peaceful accommodation.
So the stage was set for the showdown that framed the conference. As is traditional, the first session on June 1, 2019, was devoted to a speech by the U.S. defence secretary and questions from the audience.
Then came the novelty. The first session on June 2, 2019, was a mirror version, devoted to a speech by China’s defence minister, followed by questions. It’s only the second time China’s minister has come to Shangri-La. The previous visit was in 2011; that seems like an era long ago in calmer, happier times.
The U.S. acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, laid out the charge sheet against China and the terms of the U.S. challenge in the workmanlike manner to be expected from an engineer who spent 30 years at Boeing.
China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, performed with the discipline of an artillery officer who joined the People’s Liberation Army at 16 and has risen to the Central Military Commission (a salute at the end of his speech, another at the end of questions). The PLA came ready to rumble, sending a delegation of 54 people, including 11 generals.
One of the best moments in Shanahan’s performance was his response to the final question of his session (posed by a Chinese major general) about how his Boeing experience would shape his Pentagon role.
‘China was our biggest customer and our biggest competitor; you have to understand how to live in that duality’, Shanahan replied. ‘We can develop a constructive relationship and we can understand how to compete in a constructive way.’
The duality dynamic was illustrated by a bit of simultaneous dual theatre from the Americans. As Shanahan rose to speak, the U.S. also released its Indo-Pacific strategy report.
The report reprised and amplified America’s critique of China as a revisionist power: ‘As China continues its economic and military ascendance, it seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately global preeminence in the long-term.’ (The Russia headline was as sharp, calling Russia ‘a revitalized malign actor’.)
In response, Wei described security issues as ‘daunting and complex’ but said military relations with the U.S. were ‘generally stable, despite twists and difficulties’.
Chinese defense minister criticizes U.S. on trade war, Taiwan
‘As for the recent trade friction started by the U.S., if the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we will fight till the end’, Wei said.
‘As the general public of China says these days, “A talk? Welcome. A fight? We’re ready. Bully us? No way”.’
The general’s speech was Beijing boilerplate. Then came questions and Wei tackled almost everything tossed at him — around 20 questions delivered in two tranches. About the only question he didn’t touch was one on whether China is still a communist state.
On the militarisation of the South China Sea, Wei used the same line several times. China was merely responding to all those foreign naval vessels: ‘In the face of heavily armed warships and military aircraft, how can we not deploy any defence facilities?’
To a question about ‘concentration camps’ in Xinjiang (see ASPI’s mapping of the ‘re-education camps’), Wei replied that there’d been no terrorist attacks there in two years and China’s policy was to deradicalise and reintegrate people.
On this year’s 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Wei answered: ‘How can we say China didn’t handle the Tiananmen incident properly? That incident was political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy. Because of that handling of the Chinese government, China has enjoyed stability and development.’
The result of the face-off? It was, of course, inconclusive. Not a draw. Just one round in a contest with many more rounds to come.
Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.
Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.
“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”
The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”
“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”
Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.
Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.
Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.
“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”
First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.
Coming out of the coma
The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.
“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.
“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’
“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”
Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.
“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”
At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.
Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.
“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”
Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.
“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”
Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”
Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.
No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …
Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.
“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.
The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.
“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”
“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.
She and her boyfriend are no longer together.
“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”
“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”
Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA
Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.
Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.
“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”
“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.
Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.
Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.
“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.
“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”
Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.
Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”
“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.