ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.
Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.
“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.
There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.
I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.
Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.
The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.
So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The commanding general at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune is facing criticism for not issuing a mandatory evacuation order as Hurricane Florence barrels directly towards his North Carolina base, but he’s issued a series of statements defending the move.
“Since 1941, this base and its Marines have been postured to deal with crises at home and abroad and Hurricane Florence is no exception,” Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford said in a message posted to the base’s Facebook page on Sept. 11, 2018. “Marines take care of each other, and I will expend every available resource to make sure that happens.”
Alford also said Lejeune is not in a flood prone area and seems confident the base can keep the remaining personnel there safe. “I give you my personal assurance we are going to take care of everyone on this base,” he said.
Thousands of Marines have reportedly left the base as nonessential personnel were released from duty, but it’s not clear how many personnel remain there. Camp Lejeune’s public affairs office did not immediately respond to a request from Business Insider for updated figures on who will remain on base.
Due to the size and severity of the storm and the fact the base is at sea level near inland bodies of water, many on social media have mocked and criticized Alford’s decision not to order a mandatory evacuation.
Meanwhile, Marine recruits at Parris Island in South Carolina were ordered to evacuate on Sept. 11, 2018, but those orders were later rescinded based on changes in the trajectory of the storm. Personnel who’d already evacuated Parris Island were ordered to return to their permanent duty station no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2018.
“As of now, all Marines assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island will resume normal base operations on Thursday. This includes commanders and troops alike,” the base’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, said in a statement on the termination of the evacuation order.
Florence is a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall on Sept. 14, 2018, and could dump as much as 40 inches of rain on North Carolina. The storm is expected to bring catastrophic flooding across the Carolinas.
More than one million people in the region are under mandatory-evacuation orders, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
David Royer receives the Soldier’s Medal from Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville during a ceremony honoring Royer for heroism July 16, 2020 at the Buffalo Soldier Monument. (Prudence Siebert/U.S. Army)
The retired soldier who was hailed as a hero after taking down a gunman who opened fire at people stopped in their vehicles on a bridge in May was awarded for his actions this week.
Retired Master Sgt. David Royer was awarded the Soldier’s Medal on Thursday, nearly two months after he drove toward a gunman, ramming him with his truck as the man began firing on people at random.
The medal, which is the Army‘s highest award for non-combat heroism, was presented by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville at a ceremony at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“It’s hard to say what inspires soldiers at the risk of their own lives to intervene and to save other soldiers, but that’s exactly what Master Sgt. Royer did on that day,” McConville said during the ceremony. “He risked his own life to save others, and we’re very, very proud of his actions that day.”
Royer was serving with the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility when the shooting occurred oMay 27. He was on the phone with his fiancée while driving on the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth when the gunman got out of a vehicle and began shooting people with a rifle.
“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer later said at a press conference.
Another soldier was wounded in the shooting. The 37-year-old gunman was arrested by police after being pinned under Royer’s truck.
Jason Randell Westrem, of Houston City, Missouri, was later charged with first-degree murder and eight other felonies for allegedly firing on the vehicles, one of which had two children inside.
Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said in May that Royer’s quick response saved countless lives.
“His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that,” he said.
Since retiring from the Army, Royer has joined the veteran-owned Kansas City Cattle Company, according to an Army News release.
(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)
View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)
The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.
Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.
Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.
Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.
But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.
The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.
And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.
And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)
There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.
So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.
But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.
A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.
(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)
That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”
The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.
Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.
But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.
A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.
The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.
Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army soldiers)
The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.
But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.
The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.
The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.
The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.
Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.
The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.
The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.
This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.
But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.
Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.
The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.
Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.
The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.
Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.
Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.
Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.
China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.
Type 001 Liaoning
China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.
“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.
The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.
Type 001A and Type 002
The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.
It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.
Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups
The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.
“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.
Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”
The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.
“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.
Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most
There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.
In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.
Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”
But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.
“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”
China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.
Type and number of ships in a carrier task force
“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.
“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.
A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.
“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.
A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.
Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.
Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates
The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.
The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.
China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.
Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers
These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.
Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.
Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers
While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.
The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.
Type 056 Jingdao corvettes
Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.
“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”
These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.
Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)
Additional naval and support vessels
In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.
“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.
“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Look. We all had a choice to make when we signed up for the military: we could defend freedom and democracy in high-pressure missions with global ramifications using elite skillsets… or we could be officers.
I’m joking, except… not really.
In a loose summary, officers are there to lead units and oversee the (enlisted) personnel that execute the mission. There are, of course, many careers fields that require officers to get their hands dirty, but overall, the officer force is trained to ensure the mission is complete and the enlisted force is trained to get the work done.
As a result, there are a few ways that officers are set apart from the rest of the military (and I’m not just talking about the bachelor’s degree required for commissioning):
1. You’re kind of a snob
I commissioned through Air Force ROTC at a liberal arts university in Southern California, so the only officers who are even bigger snobs than I were Ivy League graduates, and that’s saying something. I spent four years being taught to lead men and women toward a noble purpose. I was set up for success and given tests that I passed with aplomb and then I was praised spectacularly, increasing my confidence and morale to holy levels.
Then I went to MEPS and I saw a glimpse of what enlisted endure throughout their training. Holy sh*t, you guys. I’m sorry that happened to you.
But you were trained to follow orders. We were trained to give them.
2. You drink liquor or craft beer
I mean, we had enough disposable income to afford the good stuff, so why wouldn’t we? You can keep your PBR and hangover — I’ll be over here sipping whatever the mixologist alchemized during happy hour.
3. You know what “crud” is
I don’t care what you heathens do at your barracks parties or whatever. Crud is for dignified folk and it’s effing fun and you’ll never change my mind about that.
I’m willing to acknowledge that playing with hot pilots may have influenced my opinion about this matter.
Anyway, crud is a sophisticated game involving the corner pockets of the pool table and a lot of body-checking. The details are complicated — but trust me, they’re worth it.
4. You know all your enlisted people’s darkest secrets
The trick is to not let your chain of command know them. Now go be a good little sh*t shield.
5. Everyone stops laughing and talking when you approach
It’s lonely at the top, and, as we’ve established, you’re a snob and probably also a nerd, and there are fewer of your kind, so, yeah, they’re all talking about you. But if you’ve done your job right, they’re doing it in a good-natured way?
6. You utilize an exorbitant passel of buzzwords
Phrases like “force multiplier” and “interoperability” belong in your powerpoint presentation for the 2-star. Stop using them around your friends, or you won’t have anyone left to love.
7. When you’re the first to arrive and the last to leave but still accused of doing nothing
When I signed up for the military, I did it because I wanted to kick down doors and be a super hero. I had no idea that’s not what the Air Force an officer does. Then on active duty I found out that I basically put in four years of training to become a souped-up babysitter responsible for a sh*t ton of paperwork who everyone makes fun of in perpetuity.
For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It’s one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.
My problem was two-fold.
First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.
“That’s just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can’t get them anymore.”
Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.
“Oh my God! I remember when these things were all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want 00!!!!”
If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.
Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around 0, I thought I would take another chance.
Luckily the rifle’s action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.
I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.
The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.
I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.
It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.
At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.
I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.
The base is set in a keyway and although it’s a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won’t ding or destroy your sight.
With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.
One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I’m not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.
As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.
Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.
The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.
After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.
On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.
“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.
The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.
The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.
“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”
Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.
NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.
“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”
“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.
An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest
After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.
The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.
“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.
“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”
Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.
Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.
The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.
“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.
Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.
“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”
The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.
The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.
If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.
Any advanced technology is almost indistinguishable from magic. Qore Performance, and its innovations to enhance the capability of soldiers, meets the magical criteria. The products of Qore Performance focus on improving the performance of the military’s most important asset: the soldier. Accomplished via a focus on heat management and hydration solutions, Qore products and accessories are adaptable to 99% of the market.
As a veteran with the 75th Ranger Regiment and knowing the never-ending battle with heat management and hydration, I was excited to get my hands on two of their flagship products: IceVents, and the IcePlate.
About Qore Performance
A former officer with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Qore Performance co-founder Justin Li was no stranger to working in the heat. Serving in the California desert, with long hours, and wearing lots of protective gear, Justin knew there must be a better way to remain cool and improve endurance. Witnessing the innovation of the ‘cooling glove,’ and combining his knowledge of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), Li began early prototyping that set Qore Performance upon a journey that continues today.
Our body is a master at homeostasis; we have a physiological process by which maintains a balance and stable equilibrium between interdependent elements. In other words, when it gets extremely hot outside, our body sweats to cool itself down. That is homeostasis at work. But what happens if our body remains hot for an extended period of time? We deplete our hydration stores and eventually overheat, unable to continue a task.
Excessive heat is an all too common problem for soldiers. The environments where we operate have high temperatures, the clothing and equipment we wear traps heat, and the physical demands of the job produce heat. Heat contributes to increased breathing and heart rate, which leads to dehydration and decreased performance. Beat the heat, and you can increase endurance.
Qore Performance’s fundamental mission is to prevent, and delay, the exhaustion of hydration stores through cooling innovations. Look no further than their hallmark hashtag of #stayfrosty. The problem statement is clear: soldiers are overheating on the battlefield. The solution: cool them down. We look at two examples of how their products accomplish this effort.
When asked how IceVents were created, Li replied, “IceVents were invented on my Honeymoon. I still can’t tell if that makes my wife happy or sad.” Li goes on to describe, “I started dreaming about how poorly designed traditional plate carrier and backpack shoulder pads are. They absorb water/sweat and they trap heat because they use old-school foam. Foam is also not good at distributing load which contributes to fatigue. Anyone who has ever humped a ruck of almost any weight knows this combination of factors sucks.” Li returned from his honeymoon and began prototyping, ultimately creating IceVents.
IceVents are composed of a “proprietary Supracor Stimulite impact-absorbing hexagonal honeycomb thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) technology.” Say that five times fast. This honeycomb looking design provides a unique channel of ventilation. It essentially creates a microclimate, providing space for heat to dissipate.
Initially created as a new technology for load carriage shoulder straps, IceVents can be universally applied to many products. Ear protection headsets, gun belts, tool belts, and even backpacks can all be integrated with IceVents. I put the IceVents in a couple of different carriers I own made by First Spear, and Crye Precision and they worked great. Easy to assemble, and super comfortable on a run or ruck march. Qore Performance has a list of all the compatible carriers on their website.
Qore Performance IceVents are currently being used by some of the West Coast Naval Special Warfare (NSW) groups, AFSOC, MARSOC, 1st Recon, and many other individuals across the country.
If you have worn body armor in a hot environment, you know what a pain cave it can be. IcePlates, and the newest innovation of IcePlate Curve, are an amazing solution for heat management and water storage. IcePlate Curve is essentially a water bottle that can hold approximately 50 ounces of water, weighs less than 1 pound, but in the form factor of a medium-sized ESAPI plate.
The IcePlate is worn close to the body to keep you cool. Every IcePlate is configured with a hose so you can drink the cold water inside, removing the need to carry a cumbersome water carrier on your back. Not only does the cold plate keep you cool, but it eliminates the need to store water elsewhere on your person. It’s just a much more pragmatic and functional design. No longer do you need to carry water bottles or even a Camelbak.
Talking with Li, one of the most interesting applications for the product was with public safety. At a Chick-fil-A store in Scottsdale, AZ, staff would take orders from customers outside in the drive thru. With high temperatures, staff were overheating and becoming exhausted. Thus, a new safety application emerged. Qore Performance outfitted the staff with plates to help keep them cool throughout the day, and the results were amazing. Watch the video HERE. IcePlates have expanded into many commercial customers to include Dutch Bros Coffee, Boeing, Costco, and many more.
IcePlates have tremendous applications in military, law enforcement, and safety applications. If I can’t convince you to wear an IcePlate, just read the dozens of glowing reviews from military, police, and safety officers. If you have ever been overheated wearing body armor, then you need to make this purchase. Stay Frosty.
Brain injuries are the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 380,000 service members experiencing them between 2001 and 2017, according to the Department of Defense. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can have devastating effects on those who experience them, such as vomiting, seizures, speech disorders, and aggression. Long after initial impact, the resulting injuries can leave sufferers with invisible wounds that are tough to pinpoint or treat.
According to the Military Health System guidelines, a TBI is a traumatically induced structural injury or physiological disruption of brain function, the result of an external force. It’s indicated by an altered mental state, such as disorientation or a decrease in cognitive functions, as well any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury, or the loss of or a decreased level of consciousness.
Equally challenging for medical providers is the stigma victims often feel when it comes to seeking help. But researchers say awareness and advances in the DoD’s treatment and prevention strategies have changed for the better the way patients recover.
“There has been an increase of awareness about TBI, and that has made a great difference in early identification and intervention. Even in the past few years, we’ve seen a greater willingness to seek treatment for both TBI and psychological health concerns,” said Dr. Louis French, deputy director of operations and a clinical psychologist at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) located in Bethesda, Maryland.
Opened in 2010, NICoE helps active duty members, reservists, veterans, retirees, and their families manage TBIs and other associated conditions while providing diagnostic evaluation, comprehensive treatment planning, outpatient clinical care, and TBI research and education.
According to French, understanding the relationship between the mind and the brain is important because psychological and emotional health can influence TBI recovery.
A TBI can impact a person’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral or emotional functions. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, nausea, dizziness, difficulty with concentration, memory, and language, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
“We continue to grow our understanding of the various factors that go into a person’s recovery from TBI, including physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive and other aspects,” said French. “Family involvement is also now recognized as an important part of the recovery process, and for those who may have complicated recoveries.”
At the NICoE, patients and their families have access to traditional medical specialties like primary care, advanced neurology and neuropsychology, as well as complementary holistic approaches, including wellness and creative arts therapy.
Alyson Rhodes, a yoga therapist, leads patients through the rest pose portion of a therapeutic yoga session, Dec. 11, 2017.
One of many reasons the center was created, said Capt. Walter Greenhalgh, director of NICoE, is to provide support to patients and their families.
“NICoE treatment programs are designed to encourage family-member involvement in the patient care plan by attending appointments and participating in programs like family therapy, family education classes, and Spouse and Caregiver Support groups. Our social workers provide education and skills training for all family members and connect them with resources to help them cope as a family unit,” Greenhalgh explained.
Group therapy for those coping with similar injuries can also show patients they aren’t alone and allow families the opportunity to interact with other family members.
Although TBIs are widely viewed as combat injuries, service members can still be at risk during day-to-day activities. Research conducted by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center shows TBIs are more commonly the result of operational training, falls and motor vehicle accidents.
“TBI is not just a military injury. It’s easy to forget that it was only 10 years ago that we wrote the first in-theater guidelines for TBI, and now we have standardized assessment and treatment protocols across the entire Defense Department,” said French.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence, or NICoE, a directorate of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The majority of traumatic brain injuries — 82 percent — are classified as mild TBIs or concussions. Mild TBIs:
– Can leave sufferers in a confused or disoriented state for less than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for up to 30 minutes – May result in memory loss lasting less than 24 hours
– Can create a confused or disorientated state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, but less than 24 hours – May result in memory loss lasting more than 24 hours but less than seven days – Can appear to be a mild TBI, but with abnormal CT scan results
– Can create a confused or disoriented state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours – May result in memory loss for more than seven days
A penetrating TBI, or an open head injury, is the most severe type of TBI:
– The scalp, skull and dura mater (the outer membrane encasing the brain and spinal cord) are penetrated by a foreign object. – Penetrating injuries can be caused by high-velocity projectiles. – Objects of lower velocity, such as knives or bone fragments from a skull fracture, can also be driven into the brain.
The current definition of TBI was updated in 2015 to be consistent with military and civilian guidelines, and a later review showed that many previously “unclassifiable” cases were likely moderate TBIs.
“Having standardized assessment and treatment guidelines pushed out to an entire military health system and being able to track people through an integrated medical record is amazing,” said French. “Then you have the development of places like NICoE and the Intrepid Spirit Centers that provide intensive, integrative treatment.
“The military and academia are working hand-in-hand to answer questions and improve assessment and care. There are a lot of things that have been done in support of TBI advancement — any of my civilian colleagues look at what the Defense Department achieved in this amount of time, and it’s phenomenal.”
Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.
While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.
In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.
Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.
Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.
Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.
There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.
The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.
So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.
Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee recently released a draft of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill that would set aside $1 million for the Army to fund the renaming of major installations named after Confederate leaders.
Calls for renaming Army posts such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Benning, Georgia, have gained momentum after a surge of protests against racism broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being taken into custody by Minneapolis police in late May.
Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in early June that he was open to consider renaming these installations but backed off the effort days later when President Donald Trump said his administration would not consider such a move.
McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon in late June that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has directed the services to look at Confederate symbols and other challenging issues involving race and “have deliberate conversations so we can make the best recommendations possible.”
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate, however, have taken steps to support removing symbols of systematic racism on military bases.
The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill would provide id=”listicle-2646370462″ million to the Army for the “renaming of installations, facilities, roads and streets that bear the name of Confederate leaders and officers since the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.”
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 includes a provision that would require the secretary of defense to “establish a commission relating to assigning, modifying, or removing of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia to assets of the Department of Defense that commemorate the Confederate States of America.”
The eight-member commission would include service members, as well as members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
The provision authorizes million to be appropriated for the effort. If approved, the committee would have until October 2022 to brief Congress on a plan to include “collecting and incorporating local sensitivities associated with naming or renaming of assets of the Department of Defense,” according to the language.