Here's how the team behind 'John Wick: Chapter 2' made reloading cool - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.

Watch the trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 2” here.

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What North Koreans really think of their supreme leader

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Why does it always look overcast in North Korea?


The Center for Strategic and International Studies‘s Beyond Parallel released new polls that shed light on one of the most obscure areas in global studies — the opinions of ordinary North Korean citizens.

North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.

But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.

Also read: What you need to know about North Korean threats

“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.

Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

Out of the 36 people polled, zero said that the country’s public distribution system of goods provides what they want for a good life.

Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.

While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:

State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.

Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.

The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.

The US and international community have long tried to lobby North Korea’s greatest ally, China, to exert some influence on the isolated dictatorship to ease the suffering of the North Korean people, and protect the region from Pyongyang’s nuclear belligerence.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

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This is what it’s like for families of terrorists

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”


In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
USAF photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
A young boy pushes a cart outside of a market in Mosul, Iraq, July 4, 2017. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

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The most ridiculous weapons used throughout history

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool


From homemade tanks to nuclear land mines kept warm by chickens, war brings out the engineers in people. When a weapons system works, it’s made by the thousands, and sometimes used for decades. But when it doesn’t, it’s quickly added to the dustbin of bad ideas. Many of these ridiculous, odd, and exceptionally weird weapons were developed by militaries all over the world, but either proved impractical, or never even got past the prototype stage.

These spectacularly ridiculous weapons systems, vehicles, and concepts all made it at least to prototype, though whether they proved to be effective is up for debate. Most of these strange weapons are from World War II, when desperate countries threw together whatever they had to rally their people. The United States, Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union all had their fair share of oddball ideas they each thought could help win the war. In all historical fairness, there were also no shortage of stupid weapon ideas during The Civil War. A few items on this list are modern weapons that are actually in use today.

What are the weirdest military weapons ever built? From weaponized animals to square bullets, engineers and weapons designers have come up with some crazy stuff over the years. Some of these weapons are so absurd, it’s funny to think that anyone ever thought they could work. Other weapons, while impractical, were inventive and innovative attempts to give soldiers a unique advantage. Either way, these weapons are strange. But what were the strangest weapons made? Read on to find out!

The Most Ridiculous (Real) Weapons Used Throughout History

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Here’s how US fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war against China

A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US’s fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.


The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after “rising tensions in a key region abroad.”

However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force’s force structure.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force

As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.

In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US’s vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.

Such a step denies China’s ability to land a “knockout blow” as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US’s fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
The US would avoid large masses of airpower in the event of a conflict with China. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth

Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at its home base, the officials claim.

With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.

“Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi-spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures,” the Air Force officials write.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China’s formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.

The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. | AUS Airpower

Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. AUS Airpower

Many of China’s SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites.

The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.

From the report:

“Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields.”

Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.

All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China’s air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force’s fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Once the fifth-gens pave the way for legacy fighters, it’s curtains. | US Air Force photo by Jim Hazeltine

And that’s it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as “armada planes,” leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China’s air defenses.

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Why now is the perfect time for military families to refinance home loans

In recent weeks, Wall Street has talked a lot about the fears of a coming recession, fueled by a drop in government bond yields. The casual investor may have no idea what this means for them, but for homeowners in the military and beyond, it means now is the perfect time to refinance a mortgage.


What any potential refinancer needs to know is that the falling bond yield is pushing mortgage rates to their lowest levels in three years. In November 2018, the interest rate was steady at five percent. Eight months later, the interest rate in now at 3.6 percent and looking to fall further.

This isn’t some shady internet ad, promising easy money on Obama-era mortgage laws or new Trump-era government home loans – those certainly exist and everyone should be wary about trusting easy money. But the drop in mortgage rates comes directly from Freddie Mac, whose rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.6 in August 2019. The reason is that the 30-year rate is linked to 10-year Treasury Bonds. The rate of return on those bonds just fell to their lowest since October 2016.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

(St. Louis Federal Reserve)

What this means is that suddenly your homeowner dollar goes a little bit further, considering the cost of taking out a new loan or refinancing an old one just dropped. According to Caliber Home Loans, a lending company who specializes in military and veteran homebuyers, the rule of thumb used to be that the interest rate for a new mortgage must be about two percentage points below the rate of a current mortgage for refinancing to make sense.

With new low- and no-cost refinancing from Caliber and other lenders, refinancing could make sense any time – especially right now, given the latest interest rates. A refinance could reduce overall interest while reducing a monthly payment. If you acted right now, you wouldn’t be alone, not by far. Falling rates boost the U.S. housing market.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

It’s important to think of your home as an investment, too.

“My applications are up across the board,” said Angela Martin, a Nashville, Tenn.-based loan officer told the Wall Street Journal. “Every time the Fed starts talking is when my phone starts ringing off the hook.”

What Martin means is the Federal Reserve just cut the benchmark interest rate after a few successive rate hikes. This is when people start looking for a better deal. But be wary – lenders will sometimes employ different perks after a rate drop to entice customers to accept things like credits at closing instead of a lower rate.

For military families and veteran homeowners, look into military-oriented lenders like Caliber Home Loans. Caliber and companies like it specialize in the needs and benefits afforded to military members and veterans. Caliber is also a proud sponsor of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community.

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This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).


But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”

Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
A Marine performs pushups with a pack during the 2nd Annual Tactical Athlete Championship aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Aug. 17. The competition was a part of the Marine Corps’ High Intensity Tactical Training program and tested the strengths and abilities of Marines from different installations around the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Liah Kitchen/Released)

Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”

Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.

Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”

HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.

“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”

Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.

Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.

“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.

The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.

Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.

This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.

Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.

“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”

At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”

Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”

And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.

She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”

Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.

It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”

The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.

Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.

A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.

The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”

The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.

The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.

East Coast units this year even raced off in a cardboard boat regatta.

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Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

At 222 feet across, almost 300 feet long, and 65 feet tall at its tail, Lockheed Martin’s C-5 Galaxy is the largest transport aircraft in the US Air Force. With a cargo hull 121 feet long and 19 feet across, the C-5 is a flying warehouse that can carry a combat-ready military unit or deliver necessary supplies anywhere in the world.


The C-5 has a cargo capacity of 142 tons, the equivalent of carrying two M1A1 Abrams tanks, six greyhound buses, or 25,844,746 ping-pong balls. Below, see just how awesome the C-5’s carrying capacity is.

The C-5 Galaxy absolutely dwarfs humans.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
People in line to enter the 445th Airlift Wing’s first C-5A Galaxy in 2005. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Charlie Miller

The engine alone is more than 7 feet across.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Staff Sgt. Randall Ard, 730th Air Mobility Squadron crew chief, clears the runway for a C-5 Galaxy at Yokota Air Base, Japan, August 31, 2015. | US Air Force photo

Even large helicopters are tiny compared to the C-5.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
US Marine Corps Bell AH-1 Sea Cobra helicopters and a Bell UH-1N Twin Huey helicopter are parked on the flight line as a US Air Force C-5A Galaxy aircraft stands by after unloading supplies during Operation Desert Shield on January 23, 1991. | US Army

To ease loading and unloading, the C-5 opens from the nose and the tail end.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
ILA-boy via Wikimedia Commons

With four massive engines that each produce the force of 800 cars, the C-5 sounds amazing. (Sound starts about 0:30 mark.)

Chinook helicopters fit with ease.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
US Air Force photo

Hauling an A-10 is no problem.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
US Air Force

Fighter jets fit too!

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Members of the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial port flight and 22nd Airlift Squadron prepare to load a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft onto a US Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, August 18, 2011. | US Air Force photo

Here comes the M1 Abrams.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
US Air Force photo

Over 266,000 pounds of cargo and armored vehicles are loaded into a C-5 in Afghanistan.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Airmen from the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron work with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade to load vehicles into a C-5 Super Galaxy October 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. | US Air Force photo

Here the C-5 unloads an 81-foot boat for the Navy.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
A C-5 Galaxy offloads an 81-foot boat for the US Navy at Coronado Naval Base, California. | Photo by SSgt. Angel Gallardo

The C-130 is a big plane in its own right, but its fuselage fits easily inside the galaxy.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
A C-130 Hercules training fuselage is loaded into a C-5 Galaxy for transport to Stratton Air National Guard Base, New York. This was the first time a C-5 transported a C-130 fuselage. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ty Moore

In times of trouble, when aid is needed on a huge scale, the C-5 is a welcome sight.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
A C-5 Galaxy from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 433rd Airlift Wing is ready to depart a deployed location on another mission supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. | US Air Force photo by Capt. Jeremy Angel

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This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.


Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”

Army:

The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.

The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.

National Guard:

The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.

Air Force:

The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard has Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, wich is a private non-profit organization that works closely with the Coast Guard to provide interest free loans, grants, and counseling.

Navy / Marine Corps:

The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.

The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.

American Red Cross:

For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.

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Marine Corps F-35s will go head-to-head with F-18s, F-22s, F-16s, and more at Red Flag

For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.


The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.

Red Flag represents an important test for the troubled jet, which has so far been a nightmarish project running behind and over budget. In previous simulations of combat against legacy platforms, the F-35 embarrassingly failed against F-16s.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | U.S. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.

The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.

“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”

“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool
Two U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) during operational testing May 18, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”

As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.

Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”

Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:

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U.S. Army trains winter camouflage techniques in Poland

Now you see them, and now you don’t. Learning how to conceal 28-ton Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks in any type of terrain takes a high level of skill.


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An M1 Abrams tank emerges out of wooded terrain after soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team had concealed it to blend in with the surrounding environment at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20, 2017. The vehicles and soldiers are part of a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Whether they are training in a desert environment or — as they are now — in the forested hills of Poland, the soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division‘s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team trained on camouflaging Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20.

“Today we’re here to prove the concept that, regardless of the color of the vehicle, with enough preparation and dedication, we have the ability to camouflage in any scenery, but specifically here in the forest of western Poland,” said Army Capt. Edward Bachar, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment.

How it’s Done

Army Sgt. Cody Flodin, an infantryman assigned to 1-68, said the initial step of camouflaging a vehicle is to place it in an assault position and cover the vehicle with a camouflage net — a radar- and laser-scattering net that deters detection from the air or the ground.

Then, Flodin said he covers the vehicle using dead foliage from the forest floor to break up the visual outline of the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is concealed, Flodin said, he places snow on the foliage to mimic the natural environment, ensuring that all vehicle functions still work properly.

“We need to have the ability to quickly move into a wooded area and not be able to be observed by any potential enemy,” Bachar said. “It is important that within approximately 15 minutes, this Bradley was able to go from maneuvering in a large open area directly into the wood line and blend in with the local surroundings.”

The unit prepared for this mission during a 30-day training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

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A Trooper with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, communicates enemy positions to higher headquarters during a June 15, Situational Training Exercise at Fort Irwin, Calif. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Erik A. Thurman)

From Desert to Forest

“Three months ago, we had to do the same thing in the desert with these vehicles and we did it phenomenally,” the captain said. “We have the ability to execute hide sites, [conduct] assembly area operations, [assume] assault positions and remain undetected from the enemy. To be able to do the same thing in a completely different environment really shows the proficiency of the crew themselves to camouflage their Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks.”

The Bradleys and tanks are slated to be painted in green foliage camouflage in a few months, making it a little easier for the “Iron Brigade” soldiers to conceal themselves. In the meantime, Bachar said, they will continue to train and hone their skills.

Also read: This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

“Field craft is a priority, really in anything, from a dismounted squad being able to blend into its surroundings to a Bradley fighting vehicle,” he added. “So we will emphasize field craft camouflage and the ability to blend in to your immediate surroundings in every training exercise. This [Jan. 20 training] is just a proof of concept and the initial training to ensure we have the ability to do it. From here on out, we’re going to continue to get better in our ability to do exactly that.”

The Iron Brigade is here as the first rotation of back-to-back armored brigades in Europe in support of Atlantic ResolveU.S. European Command officials said this rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises, officials added.

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The 3 elite Green Berets killed in Jordan earlier this month were working for the CIA

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U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy


The three members of Army Special Forces who were killed earlier this month outside a Jordanian military base were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The three soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on November 4. The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to King Feisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Also read: The US lost 6 elite Green Berets in a 72-hour span last week

According to The Post, the soldiers were working on the CIA’s program to train moderate Syrian rebels. It’s still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding their deaths.

Jordanian military officials said that shots were fired as the Americans’ car tried to enter the base, and a Jordanian military officer was also wounded, according to Army Times. Reporting from the Post seems to suggest that an accidental discharge from the Green Berets inside their vehicle may have led to a shootout, which an official called a “chain of unfortunate events.”

The loss of the three soldiers may be the deadliest incident for the CIA since 2009, when a suicide bomber killed seven members of a CIA team in Khost, Afghanistan.

The CIA often “details” special operations units to operate within its paramilitary force, called Special Activities Division. Some notable examples include the use of Army’s Delta Force in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which was carried out by Navy SEALs assigned to the CIA.

It has been particularly rough time for the Army Special Forces community. Besides the three soldiers killed in Jordan, there were two others killed in Afghanistan and another killed during scuba training this month.

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China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

By 2020, China could be setting the stage for a massive naval confrontation in the South China Sea if it tries to enforce new rules that are currently in draft form.


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A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

According to a report by Stars and Stripes, China wants to require all ships to ask permission before entering “Chinese waters” and all submarines to surface, announce their presence, and fly a flag. China has been taking steps to enforce its claims in the South China Sea, including a bomber flight and the construction of air bases on artificial islands.

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Reuters has reported that China has begun construction of what appear to be facilities intended to support long-range missiles at Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef. The news breaks after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) carried out what the Navy described as “routine operations” in the maritime flashpoint.

Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

An international arbitration panel ruled against China’s claims last July, but the Chinese boycotted the process and have ignored the ruling against their claims. Last November, the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out what were, for all intents and purposes, “freedom of navigation” exercises. This past December saw a Chinese vessel carry out the brazen heist of an American unmanned underwater vehicle.

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Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

Quartz Media reports that the Chinese will fine any vessel that fails to comply $70,000. No word on how they intend to collect, but the U.S. has a lengthy tradition of refusing to pay such fines, going back to the XYZ Affair, when a South Carolina Rep. Robert G. Harper, famously coined the phrase, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

It should be noted that deagel.com, an online encyclopedia of military hardware, prices a Standard surface-to-air missile at $750,000 per unit, and a Harpoon anti-ship missile at $720,000 per unit.

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