In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and Chase speak with stand-up comedian Mitch Burrow about what simple luxuries we wished we had while on deployment.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
Being forward deployed without the amenities that service members are used to from back home can suck. While some military branches have chow halls with an all-you-can-eat menu, others are forced to eat highly-processed foods from heavy duty plastic bags — a.k.a. MREs.
Although we wish for the most part that our livelihood will remain the same while on deployment, it’s the simple things service members miss the most.
Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.
“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”
Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.
The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.
Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”
The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.
The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.
As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.
“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.
At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.
When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.
“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”
His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm, and constant jokes.
“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.
These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”
The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.
This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.
They’ll kayak, go tubing, and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.
Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.
Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”
One of the greatest rivalries in college football is Army vs. Navy. And Midshipman Rylan Tuohy has stepped up the game.
Whether on the field or cheering their teams along, both Army and Navy take winning this particular game very seriously. And the rivals are calling each other out through clever videos such as Rylan’s Suit and Tie parody. Six points to Navy for this one. Rylan is just as talented a singer as he is a United States Naval Academy midshipman.
First used by the Russians in 1891, the Mosin-Nagant was modified from a standard service weapon to a sniper rifle in the 1930s. This five-shot, bolt-action rifle was a highly effective killing tool on the battlefield because of its sturdy construction and accuracy.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle typically weighs in at 8.8 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second — but the rifle is only as good as the man or woman who pulls its trigger.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, talented Russians snipers used the Mosin-Nagant PU version to wreak plenty of havoc against their Nazi adversaries. One of those talented sharpshooters was none other than the Soviet hero himself, Vasily Zaytsev.
Zaytsev’s remarkable story was brought to life in 2001’s feature film “Enemy at the Gates” starring Jude Law. As a young boy, he learned his expert marksmanship skills while hunting game and tracking wolves near his home in desolate Siberia.
In 1937, Zaytsev was recruited into the Red Army, volunteered to be transferred to the front lines and waged a one-man war against the Nazis and reportedly killed 250 enemy troops with his Mosin-Nagant.
Reportedly, Zaitsev was involved in a historical sniper duel with Maj. Konig, the former head of the German Army’s sniper school. During an afternoon of stalking one another, Zaitsev scored a righteous kill shot eliminating the German sniper from the war — using his famous Mosin-Nagant.
Roughly, 17 million Mosin–Nagant were produced during War World II, and its devastating 7.62 x 54R round is still used today in several Russian-made weapons.
From “Spider-man” through “Iron Man” and the Avengers series, Marvel Studios has created its own brand of action/adventure movies, bringing audiences a proprietary mix of world-on-the-brink plots, stunning visuals, likable heroes and hate-able villains with complex relationships between them, humor, and – perhaps most signature of all – seamless tie-ins to other parts of the Marvel franchise.
Marvel’s latest release, “Ant-Man,” is no exception. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a white-collar criminal freshly released from San Quentin desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter (a first for a Marvel movie, hero motivation-wise, as director Peyton Reed emphasized at a pre-launch press conference) who lives with his ex and her pushy cop boyfriend. Lang tries to stay out of the burglary (not stealing) business – even taking a job at Baskin-Robbins – but ultimately he falls prey to the temptations of follow-on “jobs” offered by his former cellmates (one of whom is a guy named Luis played by the always-hilarious Michael Pena) who are now his roommates.
Meanwhile industrial technologist Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, is trying to keep his former protégé, Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll of “House of Cards” doomed drug addict congressman fame, from selling his shrinking technology to the highest bidder to destroy the world. Pym shelved the technology after losing his wife to it, a move Stoll views as a slight to his career potential. Stoll has been developing his own suit in parallel but – as the grizzly molecular deconstruction of a couple of baby lambs shows – he hasn’t quite mastered the ability to shrink life forms.
But he’s close, and Pym knows this. Pym needs a guinea pig to wear his suit, somebody with nothing to lose and everything to gain by carrying out a mission to save the world, and he finds Lang by synthesizing a can’t-miss burglary. Lang breaks into Pym’s house, cracks the ancient safe in his basement where he finds – not money – the Ant-Man suit, which, of course, he puts on.
Lang has a wild first ride in the suit, and he’s freaked out by the technology so much that he tries to put it back. But as he does, he’s arrested and thrown in jail – by his ex’s boyfriend, no less. Pym shows up as his “lawyer” and challenges him to fix his life by being Ant-Man.
Ant-Man training is intense, even tougher than Ranger School or BUDS because it involves learning to shrink at the right time, coordinating ops with a variety of ant species that are really big once you’re shrunk, and getting your ass kicked by a beautiful woman who happens to be Pym’s daughter.
The first training mission unintentionally morphs into a raid on the Avengers’ headquarters – a neat connection to another part of the franchise – where Ant-Man tangles with Hawkman, who apparently was the Avengers’ duty officer that day. After a scrap, Ant-Man emerges with a piece of key tech the team needs to move forward.
Lang’s criminal buds are read-in for the final mission – an all-out assault on Cross’ complex – and at that point the Marvel formula is in full gear. Over-the-top action is punctuated by LOL-level humor – one scene involving Thomas the Tank Engine is especially side-splitting – and other tongue-in-cheek asides that show the brand knows exactly how not to take itself too seriously while dealing out the serious pyro-laced slugfests.
In typical Marvel fashion, the movie ends with a teaser – this one involving Hawkman, a nice tie-in to his previous cameo – that hints at a sequel.
“Ant-Man” is a great addition to the Marvel movie collection, at once unorthodox and in keeping with the studio’s formula. The choice of Rudd in the lead role is inspired and ultimately differentiates the movie from others in the genre, and Douglas is in top form. (At a Marvel junket in Burbank a few weeks before the release both actors quipped that they’d gone up a few notches on the “cool” scale with their kids as a result of taking these roles.) The supporting characters are pitch perfect.
From a military point of view, the ability to control the sub-atomic and gamma realm is certainly something DARPA has toyed with, but until they master it, let’s enjoy “Ant-Man” – the perfect summer flick, a blockbuster that both thrills and entertains.
The Army and Air Force once conducted an air-to-air combat experiment between jet fighters and attack helicopters. Called J-CATCH, or Joint Countering Attack Helicopter, it was not the first of its kind but the most conclusive using modern technology.
The results showed attack helicopters proved remarkably deadly when properly employed against fighter aircraft. And it wasn’t even close.
First conducted by the Army using MASH Sikorsky H-19s, airframes developed in the 40s and 50s, the modern J-CATCH test started in 1978, as the Soviet Union expanded their helicopter forces. Of special concern was the development of the Mil Mi-24 or Hind helicopter gunship. The four phase J-CATCH experiment started in earnest with the Army, Marines, and Air Force participating in simulations at NASA’s Langley labs.
The second phase was a field test, pitting three AH-1 Cobras and two OH-58 Scouts against a Red Team force of UH-1 Twin Hueys and CH-3E Sea King helicopters and developed many new helicopter air-to-air tactics and maneuvers designed to counter the Russian Hind.
Phase Three is where the fighters came in. The Air Force chose F-4, A-7, A-10, and F-15 fighter aircraft to counter whatever the Army could muster in the exercise. The F-4 and F-15 were front line fighters with anti-air roles while the A-7 and A-10 had air-to-ground missions.
For two weeks, the helicopters trounced the fighter aircraft. The fighter pilots in the test runs sometimes didn’t even know they were under attack or destroyed until the exercise’s daily debriefing. The Army pilots were so good, they had to be ordered to follow Air Force procedures and tell their fixed-wing targets they were under attack over the radio. This only increased the kill ratio, which by the end of the exercise, had risen to 5-to-1 in favor of the helicopters.
The fourth phase of the exercise saw the final outcome of the test: fighters should avoid helicopters at all costs, unless they have superiority of distance or altitude.
Amid a recent wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, current members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are using social media networks to reassure all Muslim Americans, and specifically Sofia Yassini, a Texas-based 8-year-old, they will fight for the rights of all U.S. citizens.
Inspired the social media story of Sofia’s mother reacting to her daughter’s fear of being deported, the hashtag #IWillProtectYou started trending on Facebook and Twitter.
Sofia’s mother, Melissa Chance Yassini, originally took to Facebook to write about her daughter’s reactions to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States:
“She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.“
The post was shared more than 20,000 times. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and Army veteran Kerri Peek of Colorado, also a mother, saw the story.
“I was up all night, it bothered me,” Peek told ABC News. “I’m a mom, for mother to mother … I know you want to protect your children from everything.”
She posted a photo of herself in her Army uniform with the message “Here’s a picture of me as a mom and soldier and I’ll come to protect you.” Peek then asked her veteran friends to do the same.
“Post on Facebook or Twitter with the #IWillProtectYou and your picture of uniform. Make this go viral so that these children see this.”
About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.
The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.
The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.
The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.
“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”
The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.
Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.
“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.
“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”
Breakthrough research from the University of California-San Diego could take the US military one step closer towards having cloaked aircraft and drones.
Researchers Li Yi Hsu, Thomas Lepetit, and Boubacar Kante havesucceeded in creating an ultra thin “dielectric metasurface cloak,” which is composed of a multitude of ceramic cylinders embedded into a layer of Teflon.
Like an invisibility cloak, this coating could mask objects from visible light and radio wavelengths, the Army Times notes, and the military is paying attention.
“I am very excited about this work,” Kante told the Army Times.
The cloak functions by either absorbing or directing electromagnetic waves away from an object. This, in turn, effectively masks the object making it ‘invisible.’ While experiments in 2006 first showcased a limited degree of invisibility cloaking, the new breakthrough has two main advantages over older methods.
First, Kante told the Army Times, the new material his team discovered uses ceramics rather than metal particles making the material easier and cheaper to manufacture. Second, the method of using ceramics and Teflon allows the cloak to be effective with coating layers as thin as millimeters.
“Previous cloaking studies needed many layers of materials to hide an object, the cloak ended up being much thicker than the size of the object being covered,” Hsu said in a statement. “In this study, we show that we can use a thin single-layer sheet for cloaking.”
These advantages make a world of difference in real world applications, which is why the military has taken a keen interest in the new cloak. Whereas older cloaking technology would have required 30cm of Teflon coating to mask a Predator drone from a surveillance system, the new cloaking technology could hide the same drone from the same radar with only 3mm of coating, the Washington Post reports.
This suddenly takes the idea of cloaking away from the realm of sci-fi and moves it firmly towards real world applications. Kayla Matola, a research analyst with the Homeland Defense and Security Information Analysis Center, told the Army Times that the new cloaking technology is “basically what the military’s looking for.”
“If anything this could provide the military with air superiority,” Matola told the Army Times.
And although the technology is still in its nascent stages, Matola estimates that due to the ease of manufacturing the coating from ceramics and Teflon, full scale production and utilization of the technology could occur within the next decade.
“There’s no fundamental roadblocks,” Kante told the Army Times. “It would be easy to manufacture.”
However, despite Matola’s optimism, there are still fundamental issues associated with the technology. The cloak can only be used to block one potential wavelength at a time currently, Endgadget reports, drastically limiting the current applicability of the current cloak.
Additionally, the cloak only blocks wavelengths that hit the target within a six degree range of a 45 degree angle. Beyond that range any item covered in the cloak would still be fully visible. The researchers said they are working on widening the range.
Nicknamed the “Desert Fox,” Gen. Erwin Rommel was a decorated officer who was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his outstanding service on the Italian Front. During World War II, the legendary military leader commanded the 7th Panzer Division as the Nazis invaded France, earning himself a reputation as a brilliant tank commander.
While his fame turned him into a propaganda tool, Rommel had another agenda — to kill Adolf Hitler.
On July 20th, 1944, a bomb was planted and exploded under Hitler’s East Prussia Headquarters — but the Führer survived the blast.
“A very small clique of ambitious, corrupt and at the same time irrational, criminally stupid officers have conspired to do away with me. It is a tiny group of criminal elements, which will now be mercilessly extinguished,” Hitler stated as he vowed revenge.
As Hitler’s Gestapo conducted intense interrogations of bomb plot suspects, one famous name managed to surface — Erwin Rommel.
Then, in Sept. 1944, British intelligence tapped into one of the conversations of captured German General Heinrich Eberbach which revealed: “Rommel said to me that the Führer has to be killed, there is nothing for it … that man has to go.”
Weeks later, two German generals arrived at Rommel’s home and explained his narrow options. He could either be tried in the people’s court which would lead to ultimate disgrace in the Third Reich or drink a small bottle of cyanide which they brought with them.
General Erwin Rommel died that same day, but the German people were told that their famous hero passed in a car wreck. At his funeral, the German people saluted him as his casket carried away.
It’s PCS season, and that means across the world military personnel are getting ready to move. And with each of these moves comes a host of decisions — schools, recreation, safety, length of commute — but among the most important ones is whether to buy or rent your home at your new duty station. Here are 5 things to consider when making that call:
1. Can you finance the home using your VA home loan benefit?
There are a bunch of advantages to using a VA loan. VA home loans require zero money down, and because they’re underwritten by the U.S. government, sellers are usually comfortable with accepting offers from buyers using them. Also, VA home loans can be assumed by qualified buyers, which is a great option when considering the volatility of the military lifestyle. For more information check out the VA’s site here.
2. Can you build equity during the time you’re in that area?
Nobody buys a home to lose money in the process. Before you buy, consider the real estate market trends. Are home pricing rising or falling . . . and how quickly? Making money on a home after owning it a short time is ambitious, but not impossible in the right market.
3. Can you sell your home quickly when you get orders away from the area?
Just like in the previous bullet, market conditions are important when considering how quickly you could sell your home when the time comes. The easy way to assess this is to consider how many “for sale” signs there are on the street around your desired home. If there are a lot of them you might want to think twice about buying, especially if you’re only planning on being in the area for a couple of years or less.
4. Could you turn your home into a rental property if you got orders away from the area?
If the rental market is active in your area you might consider turning your home into a rental property. In some areas, the amount an owner can charge for monthly rent exceeds the owner’s mortgage payment, which allows the owner the retain all the associated tax benefits while continuing to build equity. But owners should also consider the responsibilities of being a landlord, not the least of which is keeping track of how the tenant is treating the property.
5. Is the duty station where your home is one to which you’re likely to return?
Will your career path bring you back to the area? Would you consider staying there once your time on active duty is over? And would you be willing to rent the home (see the previous bullet) in the meantime? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then the equity timeline can be stretched out and the risk of buying is reduced.
To start the process, check out Zillow.com’s cool buy/rent calculator here.