As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.
While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.
Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.
One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.
The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.
One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.
Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.
(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)
That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.
As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.
This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.
While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.
If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.
It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.
During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was debuting two aircraft intended to hit ground targets on a tactical level. The Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot was one of these planes, the Soviet (and later, Russian) answer to the A-10. The other plane was the MiG-27 Flogger, which had some tank-killing power in its own right.
How could the MiG-27, a modification of the MiG-23 Flogger (which was designed to fight other fighters) be such an effective option against tanks? Well, one answer is in the gun — and as the A-10 has demonstrated, the right gun can do a hell of a lot of damage to armor on the ground.
The United States chose the GAU-8 as its tank-killer, pairing it with 1,174 30mm rounds to deliver that sweet, iconic BRRRT. Russia, on the other hand, opted for the GSh-6-30. According to RussianAmmo.org, this gun fires a staggering 5,000 rounds per minute. The only problem here is that the MiG-27 Flogger could only carry 260 rounds for this gun — which is enough for all of three seconds of firing time.
The GSh-6-30 cannon is the heart of the MiG-27 Flogger.
(Photo by VargaA)
The Flogger didn’t just have a gun, though. The World Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that MiG-27 Flogger also could carry missiles, like the AS-7 Kerry and the AS-14 Kedge, for attacking ground targets. This platform could also haul up to a dozen 250-kilogram bombs, six 500-kilogram bombs, or four UB-32-57 rocket pods. The rocket pods were particularly lethal — each pod holds 32 S-5 rockets, armed with one of nine warheads, one of which was an extremely potent anti-tank option.
A MiG-27 taking off.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)
The MiG-27 has retired from the service of Russia and former Soviet republics. India, however, still has this plane in service and there are a dozen more in Kazakh service.
Learn more about this lethal Russian attack plane that could kill tanks in the video below.
Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.
Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.
And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.
“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”
Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.
Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.
The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.
“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”
Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.
Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”
John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.
Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.
She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”
She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.
In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.
Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.
“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”
Move to Missouri
John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.
“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”
He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.
Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?” The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.
John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.
“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”
Whiteman Air Force Base
Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”
Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.
Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.
Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.
So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.
“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”
After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.
By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.
Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.
For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”
For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”
It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”
The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.
Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.
There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.
From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.
“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.
The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.
The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.
“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.
At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”
Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.
“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”
“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”
Following World War II, the former Soviet Union and the United States began the ultimate race to space. The Right Stuff series by NATGEO premiering on Disney+ chronicles a period of time filled with excitement, fear and more than anything, hope.
The new series is based on the nonfiction book of the same name written by the late Tom Wolfe. “This book grew out of some ordinary curiosity. What is it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?” he wrote in his foreword for the 1983 edition of The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff brings viewers into the intensity of a monumental time period in United States history. As the NASA space program began, President Eisenhower insisted that the first astronauts be pilots. Although the program stated that they would need decades to get a man on the moon and successfully in space, they were given an ultimatum. Two years.
The series follows the famed Mercury Seven as they began their quest to become the first men in space. When they were introduced to the world publicly, they were immediately idolized and revered by most Americans. What followed after their selection included rigorous training and tests to see who would be the first.
The famed Mercury Seven were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton – fighter pilots for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The new series boasts actors Jake McDorman, Michael Trotter, Patrick J Adams, James Lafferty, Aaron Staton, Colin O’Donoghue and Micah Stock. Executive producers of the new series include Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, founder of Appian Way Productions.
The Right Stuff series follows two men in particular, Major John Glenn, a Marine, and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, highly regarded as the best navy pilot in its history. It also brings the viewer into the around the clock work of the NASA engineers as they fought their way to space, with the timeclock of their deadline continuously ticking ominously in the background.
In an interview with Business Wire, Disney+ weighed in on the excitement of the new series. “As our audiences around the world turn to Disney+ to find inspiration and optimism, we believe the true-life heroism of the Mercury 7 will showcase the tenacity of the human spirit and inspire a new generation to reach for the stars,” said Ricky Strauss, President, Content Marketing, Disney+.
Patrick J Adams as John Glenn. (National Geographic)
In the first episode of season one, the viewer enters into the height of the Cold War in 1958. It opens in the Mojave Desert as the United States reacts to Sputnik and the mission to beat the Soviet Union in the race to space. The premise of the show brings a new generation into the heart of the life and world changing experience of that time. After the seven become overnight celebrities, the series follows their struggles and triumphs on their journey to space.
With the Mercury Seven astronauts constantly in the public eye, each episode digs deep to showcase the PR machine that existed to present the perfect picture, but they were far from it. What will it take to make it to space? The ending of the trailer highlights dramatic events unfolding in an eerily voiced countdown.
The opening line of the compelling trailer says it all, “American’s love stories and this story ends with a climax in space.” The Right Stuff showcases the raw cost of that ambition coming to fruition, as well as the invigorating hope and excitement it all brought to a country in desperate need of both.
The chief of police of Washington D.C’s Metropolitan Police Department, Peter Newsham, visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Aug. 14, 2019 with many of his senior leaders and police officers and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and other events, giving us a good chance to see how American and foreign dignitaries are allowed to show their respect for the tomb and all it represents. Here are 15 photos from that visit, all taken by Elizabeth Fraser, Arlington National Cemetery.
Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.
“My job was to catch spies,” shared former FBI agent Joe Navarro. He was straight up recruited to the FBI when he was a 23-year-old cop and he spent the next 25 years with the Bureau, working in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.
He specialized in the science of nonverbal communication — reading the unspoken clues about a person just by observing their body language and behavior.
“Most of my career I spent within the National Security Division. A lot of it had to do with looking at specific targets and then it was about, ‘How do I get in their heads and neutralize them?'”
There are a lot of myths out there. Take crossing your arms; Navarro says many people think of this as a “blocking behavior,” but crossed arms are actually known as “self-soothing” — the action of calming or comforting oneself when unhappy or distressed. “It’s a self hug,” he asserts.
“We are never in a state where we’re not transmitting information,” Navarro says with confidence. Check out the video to see precisely what that means:
Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language | Tradecraft | WIRED
Even body posturing in the stance Navarro calls “arms akimbo” can communicate different behavior based on the placement of the fingers. On the left, the fingers forward might indicate territorial behavior. It changes to a more inquisitive stance when the thumbs are forward.
Navarro can discern meaning from hand placement to foot activity.
“It really is looking at an individual and saying, ‘What are they transmitting?'” From walking pace to blink-rate, agents like Navarro will determine whether they should marshall resources to monitor or question an individual.
In the video, Navarro goes on to describe the effect a handshake can have on people, down to the very bonding chemicals that may or may not be produced by the body. He also unsettles a pair of strangers and describes the ramifications that action has on their interaction.
Then the video gets interesting, that is, if you’re a poker fan.
Navarro breaks down the body language of a poker table. “This is a great opportunity to be looking for behaviors indicative of discomfort,” he explains. “Even before the game starts this is an opportunity to collect ‘poker intelligence.'” If you think you’ve got a killer poker face, you may want to check out the video above! You’ll never look at your thumbs the same way again…
In 1961, 158 Irish soldiers with no combat experience came under determined attack from 3,000-5,000 African rebels and European mercenaries, surviving five days of airstrikes, mortar barrages, and frontal assaults while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission that went horribly wrong.
The men of Company A were sent to the Republic of the Congo shortly after the country received independence from Belgium in June 1960. A wave of violence had swept the country in the weeks and months following independence, and a local politician and businessman saw serious potential.
See, Congo is rich in natural resources, but a lot of those resources are concentrated in the Katanga region in the country’s southeast. Moise Tshombe thought he could cobble together a coalition of local forces from Katanga and mercenaries supported by European companies, and so he got Katanga to secede from the DRC.
Suddenly, the country’s racial and political unrest was a full-on civil war, and the young United Nations resolved to keep the peace. Troops were dispatched, and Congolese leaders were so happy with the first wave of troops that they asked for more, leading to the Irish deployment.
As the Irish got their major weapons systems into operations, they were surprised by an enemy mortar round that shook the buildings. That was when they knew they were outgunned, and it would quickly become apparent that they were outnumbered. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 men attacking the 158 defenders.
Quinlan had ordered his men to stockpile water before the attack, but as the fighting dragged on day after day, it became clear that there wasn’t enough water and ammunition to sustain the defense. And the rebels had taken control of a nearby river crossing, cutting off potential reinforcements or resupply.
One brave helicopter pilot did manage to fly in some water, but it turned out to be contaminated.
So, from Sept. 13-17, the Irish suffered strafing attacks with limited ability to defend themselves, but wreaked havoc on their enemies on the ground, killing 300 of the attackers while suffering zero deaths and only five major injuries.
Yes, outgunned, vastly outnumbered, and under concerted attack, the Irish held their own for five days. But, by Sept. 17, out of water and ammunition, it was clear to Quinlan that the compound was lost. He could order is men to resist with knives as their enemy attacked with machine guns and mortars, or he could surrender.
And so, the Irishmen surrendered and were taken as hostages by the rebels who tried to use them as a bargaining chip with the U.N. in a bid for independence. But the rebels ended up releasing all 158 soldiers just five weeks later.
For decades, the men were treated as cowards and embarrassments, but a 2016 movie named The Siege of Jadotville about the battle treated the men as heroes and has helped cast a light on the men’s heroism. Before the premiere of the movie, the Irish government agreed with lobbying by Quinlan’s son to award a unit citation for Company A and individuals were awarded Jadotville medals until 1917.
As if by fate, a weather delay in Germany allowed a group of reservists to embark on a challenging 22-and-a-half-hour mission to help save a fellow service member.
When severe weather delayed a C-17 aircrew from the 315th Airlift Wing heading home to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina was delayed in Germany Nov. 3, 2018, the crew was asked to take on an emergency mission transporting a burn patient to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.
“When our mission was delayed, everyone was a little frustrated because they had to get back to their civilian jobs,” said Capt. Dennis Conner, the mission’s aircraft commander from the 701st Airlift Squadron. “Then I get a call asking if we would stay out and take a medical evacuation mission because there was a Soldier who was pretty badly burned. There was not one hesitation, the entire crew stepped up. They put their civilian lives on hold to do this; they missed work and school to get him home.”
The soldier was transported from Hungary to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, by an Air Force aeromedical evacuation team and was destined for the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., return home after supporting a large formation exercise May 25, 2017.
According to the Daily News Hungary, “an American soldier was electrocuted at the Ferencváros railway station when he climbed up to a cargo train transporting combat vehicles.” The article states there was an electrical line carrying 25,000 volts above the train’s cargo, potentially causing the incident. The Hungarian National Health Service also gave details of the incident, “40 percent of the man’s body suffered second and third degree burns. What is more, he seemed to have broken his femur,” said Pál Győrfy, spokesperson for the organization.
“It was an unbelievable effort. No other country in the world would go to the extent we did to help one of our warfighters,” said Capt. Bryan Chianella, one of the 701 AS pilots on the mission. “We do what we can to take care of our own.”
During the flight, the C-17 was scheduled to do an aerial refueling so it could continue to San Antonio without stopping, said Conner.
“It was chaos,” he said. “Ten minutes before our AR, the tanker lost one of their engines and had to turn around. We did a lot of planning for this mission… We had several backup plans in place. We could only land in Boston or (Joint Base Andrews, Maryland) because if our jet broke down, he needed to be close to a burn center. Since we had strong headwinds, we didn’t have enough gas to get us to Andrews; we had to try to make it to Boston.”
“It was pretty stressful,” said Chianella. “They only had enough pain meds for our original flight time plus two hours and we landed in Boston with our emergency fuel.”
With the quick stop in Boston for fuel, the crew took off for San Antonio and landed at Lackland AFB, Texas then returned to home to Charleston with no further incidents.
“This was one of those missions where you make a difference helping a brother in arms,” said Master Sgt. Glenn Walker, the flying crew chief on the mission from the 315th Maintenance Squadron. “We all came together as a team and worked like a flawless Swiss watch,” he said.
Both Conner and Chianella also credited the crew’s teamwork in making the mission a success.
“I was very proud of the entire crew. I didn’t do anything special, the crew just did what they do and made this mission happen,” explained Connor.
With the beginning of summer, pools all over the US are opening for recreational swimming — but in the Navy, recruits are getting ready for the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, that will turn some of them into Navy SEALs.
In the SEALs, where recruits of the elite special operations unit are pushed to their limits, there is no room for inefficiency. So it developed a more efficient swimming stroke: the combat swimmer stroke.
The stroke combines the best elements of breaststroke and freestyle to streamline a motion that not only reduces resistance on a swimmer’s body, but makes the swimmer harder to spot underwater.
Here’s a sample of the stroke:
Unlike freestyle, the combat sidestroke calls for the swimmer to stay submerged for most of it.
To do the combat swimmer stroke, dive in or kick off as you would in freestyle, but at the end of your glide, do a large, horizontal scissor kick instead.
Now comes the unique part — as the horizontal scissor kick tilts your body so that one arm is slightly higher than the other, pull that arm back while leaving the other outstretched.
Turn your face up toward the surface as you pull that arm down, take a breath, and begin to pull down your other arm. Another scissor kick, then reset your arms. You should not switch your orientation or the order in which you pull back your arms.
Stetsons, six shooters, gunslingers on horseback galloping across a stark desert landscape. The Western is a beloved fixture of American culture that still taps into something universal, capturing the good, bad, and ugly at the heart of lawmen and outlaws everywhere. And good news, partner: many of the best Westerns are available now on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.
From classic shoot-em-ups set against the American frontier to fresh genre twists that transport you to the badlands of Brazil, here are the best Westerns on Netflix you can watch right now. Saddle up and get streaming.
A Philadelphia man unaccustomed to the rough Western life and two gambling outcasts arrive in the town of Big Kill in an attempt to make themselves a fortune. The once-prosperous town is in a slump, however, and the rag tag men find themselves teaming up against the dastardly gunslinging preacher and his gang who wreak havoc on the townspeople. The cast includes Jason Patrick, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Danny Trejo.
This dark and gritty 2016 Western takes place in a small Texas town on the Mexican border. Texas Ranger David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth) is sent to investigate a series of deaths and disappearances of Mexican citizens after the niece of a Mexican general goes missing. Once Kingston arrives in the religious town, he finds the people there under the rule of a despotic and occultist preacher, Abraham Brant (Woody Harrelson). The further Kingston looks into the town and Brant, the closer he gets to uncovering the troubling mystery and a link from his past.
This 1968 epic Spaghetti Western by Sergio Leone is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. When Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) arrives in the town of Sweetwater, she finds that her new husband and his three children have been murdered by a merciless gunslinger, Frank (Henry Fonda). As Frank tries to ruthlessly clear the way for a railroad tycoon’s new train line, a bandit named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and an enigmatic stranger with a harmonica (Charles Bronson) try to protect the widow from the cruel assassin.
Strap in, because this 1994 biographical Western crime film clocks in at over three hours. The film follows Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner) from his teenage years through to his later years with his wife Josie (Joanna Going). Several pivotal moments throughout Earp’s life are covered in the movie, including his friendships with Ed Masterson (Bill Pullman) and Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid), his time as a lawman, and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Outsider embraces the tropes of classic Westerns, while pushing the story forward with a darker, modern edge. The film stars Trace Adkins as Marshal Walker, a lawman with a begrudging yet unwavering support for his unhinged and sadistic son, James (portrayed by Kaiwi Lyman). After James assaults and kills the wife of Chinese railroad worker Jing Phang (John Foo), the marshal tries to keep his son safe from the widower on a violent path of justice. Sean Patrick Flannery portrays Chris King, a jaded tracker caught in the middle of the brutal dispute.
Even the most novice of Western watchers have heard of the 1969 classic True Grit. In Arkansas in 1880, the young tomboy Matte Ross (Kim Darby) seeks justice for the murder of her father, hiring tough-as-nails, hard-edged U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to track down the killer, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). While Mattie and Cogburn are joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), Chaney is joined by the rotten outlaw “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall). The two groups track each other through Indian Territory, setting themselves up for a deadly confrontation.
This popular series ran for five seasons on AMC. In the aftermath of the Civil War, former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) sets out on a path of revenge to find the Union soldiers that murdered his wife. Along his journey, he becomes entangled in the railroad business. The series also stars Colm Meaney, Common, Dominique McElligott, Robin McLeavy, Dohn Norwood, Eddie Spears, and more.
Quentin Tarantino wrangles an all-star cast of gunslingers for his ultraviolent 2015 Western set against the snowy expanse of post-Civil War Wyoming. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her execution in Red Rock, Wyoming, when they’re waylaid by a blizzard. They seek refuge in a stagecoach lodge, alongside six other strangers—each with a severely itchy trigger finger.
Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen unleashes a wave of bloody vengeance in this independent Western from Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring. Mikkelsen plays Jon, a Danish homesteader on the American frontier who sets out to avenge the brutal murder of his wife and son by an outlaw gang.
Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Gil Birmingham star in this gripping Western heist thriller set against the bleak backdrop of bankrupt, small-town America. Brothers Tanner (Foster) and Toby (Pine) join forces to rob different branches of the Texas bank that’s threatening to foreclose on their family ranch. Bridges and Birmingham play the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit of the desperate brothers.
Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Caren Pistorius star in this stylish and thoughtful Western. Smit-McPhee plays Jay Cavendish, a Scottish teen who enlists the help of a stoic gunslinger named Silas (Fassbender) to traverse the American frontier and reunite with his lost love Rose (Pistorius). But bounty hunters stalk the pair as they head west.
Prefer the narrative expanse of a Western TV show? Check out Godless. Set in 1880s America, the series tracks Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), a sadistic gang leader in search of his former protégé Roy Good (Jack O’Connell). Good’s trail leads Griffin to the town of La Belle, a New Mexico town inhabited nearly entirely by women after a mining accident wiped out its male residents.
Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi star in this powerfully acted Western set in 1892. Bale plays Joseph J. Blocker, a U.S. Army Captain who after years of bloody fighting against the Cheyenne is tasked with escorting tribal leader Chief Yellow Hawk and his family to Cheyenne lands in Montana. Along the way, they cross paths with young widow Rosalie Quaid (Pike), whose family was murdered out on the plains. Together, they must endure the challenges and dangers of their arduous journey.
Interested in a comical spin on the Western genre from the Coen Brothers? Take a gander at their dark and absurdist Western, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, starring everyone from Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan to Liam Neeson and Tom Waits. Keep in mind we’re still talking about the Coens here—so expect plenty of bloodshed alongside your cosmic hilarity.
Known as O Matador in its native Brazil, this striking international Western transports viewers from the 19th century American frontier to the desert badlands of early 20th century Brazil. The film follows Cabeliera (Diogo Morgado), an orphan raised in the wilderness by an outlaw named Seven Ears (Deto Montenegro). Now an adult, Cabeliera sets out to find Seven Ears—and transforms into a dangerous gunman himself.
Military working dogs have been thrust into the media spotlight over the last few years, bringing awareness to the critical roles they play in the U.S. armed forces. While once considered “unsung heroes,” multiple books, television shows, and even a military working dog monument have brought attention to their service.
However, as with all stories that gain attention, sometimes facts being reported and perpetuated are either slightly inaccurate or even blatantly untrue. To handlers and advocates in the MWD community, it can be frustrating to read and hear about stories that not only are untrue, but are actually harmful. It’s important to understand what is myth vs reality.
Here are the 9 biggest myths about military working dogs.
MYTH: Military working dogs bite to kill
Reality: MWD’s certified in patrol (bite work) are very capable of causing serious bodily harm and possibly even death. However, MWD’s are not trained to kill or even trained to bite vital areas of the body such as the head, neck, or groin. Handlers train MWD’s to “apprehend” suspects which means biting and holding on to them until the handler arrives to detain them.
To minimize injury to both the dog and suspect, MWD’s are taught to apprehend suspects by clenching down on a meaty part of the body such as an arm or leg. That being said, I fear for a suspect’s life who comes between a handler and their dog.
MYTH: Military working dogs are left behind in war zones
Reality: This wasn’t always a myth. Tragically, after the Vietnam War, military dogs were left behind and not brought home with their handlers. But there have been false reports that military dogs were sometimes left behind again during recent conflicts. That is simply not true and it has not happened since Vietnam.
Every military working dog is brought back to the U.S. bases from which they deployed with their handlers. In fact, there is a quote handlers are made to repeat: “Where I go, my dog goes. Where my dog goes, I go.”
MYTH: Military working dogs go home with their handlers every day
Reality: When deployed, handlers and their dogs are inseparable and will stay in the same living quarters. However, when back at their U.S. base, handlers are not allowed to bring their dogs home at the end of each day, and for good reason. Every MWD is an incredibly valuable asset to each base and there are simply too many risks in allowing them to stay anywhere but a controlled kennel area.
While it may sound harsh, there probably aren’t cleaner kennels in the world than on U.S. military bases as they are cleaned several times every day by motivated handlers and inspected regularly by the base veterinarian to ensure maximum comfort and health for the MWD’s.
MYTH: Military working dogs get titanium teeth implants so they bite harder
Reality: This was a myth perpetuated after the infamous Navy SEAL dog Cairo was thrust in to the spotlight after being named as being part of the Osama Bin Laden raid. Suddenly, there was an insatiable appetite for information about these heroic dogs, the missions they went on, and the special capabilities they could provide thus creating an environment for false information to spread.
The truth is that military dogs can receive a titanium tooth but only if an existing tooth becomes damaged. It’s the same as a human receiving a crown. A dog’s actual tooth is already stable, strong, and effective enough on their own that there is no reason to replace them unless for medical reasons.
MYTH: Any dog can be a military working dog, including shelter dogs
Reality: While it would be nice to be able to save shelter dogs and train them to be MWD’s or for civilians to donate their pet dogs to help serve our country, the truth of the matter is military working dogs are the front line of defense both on deployment and at home.
With this amount of responsibility — and so many lives on the line — there is no room for error and therefore only the world’s top dogs will do. A much better use of shelter dogs, or those who want to donate their pet dogs to the military, is to train them as therapy or service dogs for veterans.
MYTH: Military working dogs are euthanized when their service is complete
Reality: This is another myth that, tragically, was at one point true. After the Vietnam War, military working dogs that completed their service in the military were considered too dangerous to adopt and were routinely put down. Thanks to the passage of Robby’s Law in 2000, all retired military working dogs, if suitable, are now allowed to be adopted. Most retired MWDs (90%) are adopted by their current or former handlers.
Because of this, there is a 12-18 month waiting list for a civilian to adopt a retired MWD. Today, the only reasons an MWD may be euthanized is due to terminal illness or extreme aggression, but every effort is made to have MWD’s be successfully adopted.
MYTH: Every military working dog is trained to detect both narcotics and explosives
Reality: While all dogs receive the same patrol training, not all receive the same detection training. Each dog trained in detection specializes in either narcotics or explosives detection but not both. There are several different odors for both narcotics and explosives for dogs to learn, too much for a dog team to train and be proficient on so they must specialize in one or the other.
Also, there are different tactics in detecting narcotics vs. explosives, and even if your dog was trained on both and responds, how would you know to call the bomb squad or narcotics unit? That being said, it should be noted that some also believe MWD’s will retrieve what they find and bring it to the handler. MWD’s are trained to get as close as possible to the odor and then respond without ever touching it.
MYTH: All military working dogs are male
Reality: Females make just as good of an MWD as their male counterparts and are frequently used. They meet the same standards males do in becoming certified military working dogs in both patrol and detection. The only real and obvious difference is females are generally smaller than the males but in a military working dog world it’s not the size of the dog that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, and well trained female MWD’s will fight at all costs to protect their handlers as MWD Amber demonstrates (pictured above).
MYTH: Military working dogs are considered equipment
Reality: Once again, the most tragic moment in the history of the military working dog program was when they were considered to be surplus equipment at the end of the Vietnam war and left behind. However, the mentality that the military still considers them that way ended years ago. For all intents and purposes MWD’s are in no way thought of, treated, or tracked as equipment.
All MWD’s do receive a National Stock Number, or NSN, which allows the military to track and identify them but it’s the same as every service member being designated with a MOS (military occupational specialty) code so the military can track the kind of training they receive. Additionally, any official language found referring to MWD’s as equipment is currently being eliminated.
Business Insider asked a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft how to evaluate the plane’s stealth, and the results were not good.
Take a look at the pictures below and see if you can spot what’s wrong:
The scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of stealth work, pointed out six major problems from the pictures.
First, take a look at the seams between the flaps on the aircraft — they’re big. For reference, look at the US’s F-22, the stealthiest fighter jet on earth:
(Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)
The flaps at the end of the wing have very tight seams, which don’t scatter radar waves, thereby maintaining a low profile.
Secondly, look at the Su-57’s vertical rear tails. They have a wide gap where they stray from the fuselage. Keeping a tight profile is essential to stealth, according to the scientist.
(Photo by Marina Lystseva)
Look at the F-35’s rear tails for reference; they touch the whole way.
Third, look at the nose of the Su-57. It has noticeable seams around the canopy, which kills stealth. The F-35 and F-22 share a smooth, sloped look.
It’s likely Russia doesn’t have the machining technology to produce such a surface. The actual nose of the Su-57 looks bolted on with noticeable rivets.
Finally, take a look at the underside of the Su-57; it has rivets and sharp edges everywhere. “If nothing else convinces that no effort at [stealth] was attempted, this is the clincher,” the scientist said.
Russia didn’t even try at stealth, but that’s not the purpose
As the scientist said, Russia didn’t even appear to seriously try to make a stealth aircraft. The Su-57 takes certain measures, like storing weapons internally, that improve the stealth, but it’s leaps and bounds from a US or even Chinese effort.
This highlights the true purpose of Russia’s new fighter — not to evade radar itself, but to kill US stealth jets like the F-35 and F-22.
The Su-57 will feature side mounted radars along its nose, an infrared search-and-track radar up front, and additional radars in front and back, as well as on the wings.
As The Drive’s Tyler Rogoway writes, the side-mounted radars on the Su-57 allow it to excel at a tactic called “beaming” that can trick the radars on US stealth jets. Beaming entails flying perpendicular to a fighter’s radar in a way that makes the fighter dismiss the signature of the jet as a non-target.
Any fighter can “beam” by flying sideways, but the Su-57, with sideways-mounted radars, can actually guide missiles and score kills from that direction.
Russia has long taken a different approach to fighter aircraft than the US, but the Su-57 shows that even without the fancy percision-machined stealth of an F-22, Moscow’s jets can remain dangerous and relevant.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.