'First Man' director wants to show the sacrifices that military families made as astronauts braved the unknown - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘First Man’ director wants to show the sacrifices that military families made as astronauts braved the unknown

Three months ago, Navy SEAL and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy slogged through the dirt roads of Normandy with a 44lbs rucksack on his back. Captain Cassidy and several dozen other SEALs (myself included) had just swam 11 miles through the English channel to commemorate the pre-D-Day mission of the first Naval Commandos. The 11-mile swim / 25-mile ruck run on the 74th anniversary of D-Day had a purpose: to raise money for fallen SEALs and their families.

It was an act of service for those who had died in service.


Cassidy, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, sweated out this epic charity challenge in the middle of training for another kind of walk — one that will take place at 17,000 miles per hour, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. If all goes well, Cassidy will return to space and conduct a spacewalk to make repairs on the International Space Station. But, in the midst of endless days of preparation and training, he took time to honor his military roots — a heritage he shares with a long line of astronauts before him. Captain Chris Cassidy said,

It’s truly been an honor to have a role in our nation’s manned space program. We have had astronauts and cosmonauts living continuously on the International Space Station for the last 18 years which has only been possible because of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. That history is also deeply intertwined with the military. Personally, I love how in both our nation’s space program and military, laser focus on mission success is balanced with detailed planning and operational rick controls. It’s also an amazing feeling to be among such motivated and talented people.

That heritage is one of the centerpieces of the new blockbuster film, First Man, featuring Ryan Gosling starring as NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong. People know Armstrong as the man who walked on the moon; they often don’t know that Armstrong was a decorated Navy fighter pilot and Korean War veteran.

Neil Armstrong in 1964, while in training to be an astronaut.

(NASA)

The film is largely focused on Armstrong’s life and the mission to get to the moon — but it explores a theme familiar to military audiences: the challenge of maintaining a family while deploying to do dangerous work. The film depicts Armstrong’s family and their sacrifice, particularly that of Armstrong’s wife, Janet. And it shows scenes that any military family has faced: how to speak to your children about the danger of the mission; the enormous stress before the deployment; the uncertainty while your loved one is far away. All of this is shown with raw and real emotion.

What was true then and is true now is that service member families often bear a heavy and overlooked burden during times of conflict. While First Man is primarily a movie about the first moon walk, it’s important to remember that that mission, and the space program in general, was the byproduct of a conflict: the Cold War and the tension between the USSR and the US. The frontlines of the early space race were the frontiers of space, and its foot soldiers were military test pilots who strapped themselves to rockets and ventured into the stratosphere in service of their country.

Apollo 11 astronauts with families, 1969

(Ralph Morse for LIFE)

I had an opportunity to speak with Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (the director behind the smash-hit films La La Land and Whiplash) and ask him about these themes of the connection between military service and the space program:

1. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘First Man’

After I made Whiplash, I was approached by producers Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, and Marty Bowen about the idea of doing a movie on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about space travel and didn’t know what my angle would be. But I started reading Jim Hansen’s incredible book, First Man, and started to think of Neil’s story as a story about the cost of great achievement — similar to what I had looked at in Whiplash, only on a much bigger canvas.

What was the toll that the mission to the moon took? I was awed by the sacrifice, the patriotism, the ambition, and the vision that made the impossible possible — and the reminder that it was human beings who did it, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and overcoming daunting odds — and even great tragedy — to accomplish something for the ages.

The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m.

(NASA)

2. What’s woven through the movie are themes of duty and sacrifice. And as a Navy veteran myself, I could identify not just with the astronauts (especially Neil, Navy pilot), but with their families and what they went through. Can you talk a bit about those themes and how they affected your work on this?

The family aspect was paramount — showing these famous events through the eyes of not just Neil, but his wife Janet and his sons, Rick and Mark. How did they all cope with the demands of the job? Funerals were a normal part of life. Two of Neil’s closest friends died while he was in the program. Neil himself almost died several times. And yet, balanced with the danger and the risk, he and Janet also had to take out the trash, clean the pool, make breakfast for their kids. That combination of the intimate and the epic, and the selfless way Neil and Janet confronted all of it, was extraordinary to me.

But I also think it’s worth remembering, as you note, that Neil had been in the Navy. He was someone who believed deeply in service for country. He risked his life in the Korean War. He became a test pilot to forward our understanding of aeronautics, to contribute to knowledge. He went to space to keep seeking those answers. This is someone who was not acting in his own self-interest, who was not seeking fame or fortune. This is a man who believed, in all aspects of his life, that his duty to the mission came first, and without that willingness to risk it all and to sacrifice it all I don’t believe the moon landing ever would have happened.

3. Can you talk a bit about Janet Armstrong and her role?

Ryan and I were lucky enough to meet with Janet and spend time with her. She was an incredible woman, and the stories she told us and memories she shared with us were invaluable. Like Neil, Janet was tough — she had a grit to her that I think made her uniquely qualified for her role in the space program. It’s worth remembering that astronaut wives like Janet played an enormous part in the overall endeavor of going to the moon: they were the ones to had to find the balance between space and home, between the demands of their husbands’ work with the lives of their kids and the necessities of home. They had to do it all while putting on a smile for the cameras — even when they couldn’t know for sure if their husbands would ever return from space. One of my greatest joys in making this movie was in watching Claire Foy embody Janet’s spirit and resilience and pay tribute to such an amazing person.

The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives, Janet Armstrong, Patricia Collins, and Joan Aldrin.

(NASA)

4. There’s a scene in the film where Neil Armstrong is talking to his boys about what’s about to happen — the mission and the risks. Can you give us a sense of what you were thinking with that scene and what you wanted to convey?

That’s a scene that many families across the country have their own version of: the mom or dad about to go off to work, and the knowledge that he or she may not come back. It again speaks to a willingness to sacrifice in the name of service that I find awe-inspiring. In this movie’s case, the scene at the dinner table between Neil and Janet and their boys Rick and Mark was almost word-for-word what actually happened. Janet insisted to Neil he talk to his kids and explain to them what he was doing and what the risks were; much of the scene was taken verbatim from Rick and Mark Armstrong’s recollections. It was a tremendously important scene for all of us — a moment where the characters have to come to a stop and confront the dangers of what they are doing, and what it all means.

5. The military and the space program have a long joint history. At the simplest, a lot of veterans became astronauts. The SEAL community, which I’m a part of, for example is proud of the fact that there are two astronauts currently in training who are SEALs. Did that joint history play into your research at all, or the end product?

It did, in several ways. First, I liked to think of the film as almost a war movie. The moon mission was initially a product of the Cold War, and the astronauts who risked their lives for their country were all former or current servicemen. The dangers were almost combat-like, too — this was not the glossy, glamorous, sleek-and-easy space travel I grew up seeing in movies. These capsules were like old tanks and submarines; the rockets carrying them out of the atmosphere were essentially converted missiles. The dangers were front and center — and, with them, the immense bravery required to face them.

This photograph of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, was taken inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface.

(NASA)

6. The film’s story and title come from James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, but I was curious: Did you have any other creative influences that helped you make this — books, films, etc?

Yes, many! As I alluded to, certain war movies were big inspirations: Saving Private Ryan, Paths of Glory, The Deer Hunter. Movies about submarines like Das Boot. I also read as many books on the subject matter as I could — one of my favorites was “Carrying the Fire” by Mike Collins, who flew with Neil on Apollo 11. “Deke!” by Deke Slayton and “Failure Is Not An Option” by Gene Kranz were also key. And, finally, documentaries! The archival material shot by NASA, much of which is compiled in incredible films like For All Mankind and Moonwalk One. Documentaries of the period like Salesman and Hospital and Gimme Shelter. An amazing documentary by Frederick Wiseman, about training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, called Missile. All of these taught and inspired me.

First Man, starring Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters October 12, 2018.

Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also served as a US Navy SEAL earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander and completing multiple deployments in the Global War on Terrorism. His family member, Judith Resnick, was the second American woman in space and was killed on launch during the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will soon have female grunts, tankers in all brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced recently that female soldiers will be integrated into all of its infantry and armor brigade combat teams (BCTs) by the end of the year.

Currently, 601 women are in the process of entering the infantry career field and 568 are joining the armor career field, according to a recent Army news release.


“Every year, though, the number of women in combat arms increases,” Maj. Melissa Comiskey, chief of command policy for Army G-1, said in the release. “We’ve had women in the infantry and armor occupations now for three years. It’s not as different as it was three years ago when the Army first implemented the integration plan.”

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta started the process by lifting the ban on women serving in combat roles in 2013. The Army then launched a historic effort in 2015 to open the previously male-only Ranger School to female applicants.

Out of the 19 women who originally volunteered in April 2015, then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first to earn the coveted Ranger Tab that August.

The plan is to integrate female soldiers into the final nine of the Army’s 31 infantry and armor BCTs this year, according to the release. The service did not say how many female soldiers are currently serving in the other 22 BCTs.

At first, the gender integration plan, under the “leaders first” approach, required that two female officers or noncommissioned officers of the same military occupational specialty be assigned to each company that accepted women straight from initial-entry training.

Now, the rule has been changed to require only one female officer or NCO to be in companies that accept junior enlisted women, according to the release.

Comiskey said it’s still important to have female leaders in units receiving junior enlisted female infantry and armor soldiers, to help ease the culture change of historically all-male organizations.

“Quite frankly, it’s generally going to be an NCO leader that young soldiers will turn to for questions,” she said. “The inventory of infantry and armor women leaders is not as high as we have junior soldiers. … It takes a little bit longer to grow the leaders.”

In 2019, the Army began opening up more assignments for female armor and infantry officers at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and in Italy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS still has 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria

Despite the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and most of Syria, the extremist group still has around 20,000 to 30,000 militants in the two countries, according to a United Nations report.

The report circulated on Aug. 13, 2018, said the estimate came from governments it did not identify. It includes a “significant component” of foreign fighters.


The militants were equally divided between Iraq and Syria, said the report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Many of the key IS operatives were being relocated to Afghanistan, where the group has between 3,500 and 4,000 fighters and is growing, the experts said.

The militant group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also has significant affiliated supporters in Libya, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.

Military training in Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2018. This training is critical to enabling local security forces to secure their homeland from ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

Islamic State overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, but by January 2018, the group was confined to small pockets of territory in Syria.

According to the UN report, IS “is still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells.”

The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, the experts said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”

They said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than the IS group in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia, and Africa’s Sahel region.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oracle founder backs nemesis Amazon in supporting US military

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison had a few choice things to say about Google’s newfound disdain for the U.S. military.

“Well I think it’s actually kind of shocking. Here Jeff Bezos and I absolutely agree,” Ellison said, in a rare show of kind words for the competitor that Ellison spends most of his time these days trash-talking.


Bartiromo had asked Ellison about the fight going on in the cloud computing industry over a massive cloud contract from the Department of Defense. The DoD will award the whole contract, worth about billion, to just one company. By all accounts the winner is expected to be Amazon Web Services. Oracle is one a handful of cloud competitors fighting tooth and nail to grab a portion of the contract away from AWS.

In recent weeks, cloud competitor Google dropped its bid for the contract. Google cited a new policy not to use its technology for military purposes., a policy that came about after an employee uprising on the matter. Google also admitted it was dropping the bid because its cloud hadn’t yet achieved all the government certifications that the DoD was asking for.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

(Flickr photo by Nguyen Hung Vu)

Fox’s Bartiromo suggested that there’s some hypocrisy with Google’s policies: it doesn’t want to do work for the US DoD but Google is reportedly trying to return to the Chinese market with a search engine that the Chinese government can sensor.

Ellison agreed.

“I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking,” he said.

To be fair, numerous Google employees are also protesting the company’s plans to return to China, just as they protested the military work. So the situation is more about whether Google yields to employee protests about China rather than a double-standard in the company’s business ambitions. If Google’s management had its way, it would presumably be doing business with both the military and China.

Bezos has also spoken out against Google’s policies.”If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos told Wired in October 2018.

Bezos doubled down by donating million to With Honor, a political action committee fund trying to get more veterans elected to Congress.

Ellison also told Bartiromo, “I think it’s very important that U.S. technology companies support our country, our government. We are a democracy. If we don’t like our leaders, we can throw them out. If you don’t like the leaders in China, you can … fill in the blank.”

He went on to say he views China as a big threat to the U.S. these days.

“I think our big competitor is China, and that if we let China’s economy pass us up — if we let China produce more engineers than we do, if we let China’s technology companies beat our technology companies, it won’t be long that our military is behind technologically also,” he warned.

Here’s a segment of the interview where he discusses China.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.


It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.

Target acquired.

In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.

The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.

Anything is possible with enough money.

So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.

Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.

The emperor has new clothes.

If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.

That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 hilarious ways to welcome the new ‘butter bar’ lieutenant

You never really know what you’re in for when welcoming a new guy to the unit. Sometimes, you get handed a young, clueless private who has no idea what they’re in for. Sometimes, you get an apathetic specialist who’s been in for a minute and they’ll just wiggle right into the flow of things. Sometimes, you get a salty sergeant who’s dead set on making your unit just like their last.

Nobody, however, brings joy to everyone in the ranks quite like a new second lieutenant — and it’s not because everyone is just so excited to see them. It’s because they make for the greatest punching bags in the military.


Literally everyone has a go at the second lieutenant. They’re affectionately called “butter bars,” both because their rank insignia looks like one and because they have about the same value as a stick of butter.

Whether it’s done in good fun or out of spite, it’s your duty to give the new butter bar a hard time. Looking for a little inspiration? Try on these ways of letting your new platoon leader that they’re now one of you.

“Yeah. We totally run with vests on every day. Didn’t they teach you anything at BOLC?”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

Smoke the hell out of them at PT

When new troops arrive at the unit, you’ll most often meet them for the first time on the PT field. Butter bars have a tendency to make long-winded, elaborate presentations that sound something like, “Hi! My name Lt. FNG and I’m honored to be your new platoon leader!”

Get ’em.

By this point, you and the platoon have a certain, established rhythm for morning PT that the fresh-out-of-OCS lieutenant can’t keep up with. Show no mercy and go a few extra laps around the company area. Your guys will be cool with it as long as they understand the joke, and the new butter bar will be absolutely gassed.

But if the “exhaust sample” task does work on them… by all means, ask them to give the platoon a hand.

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Send them on a wild goose chase

The age-old tradition of sending the new guy to go find something that totally, 100%, absolutely exists isn’t just for privates. It’s open season for butter bars as well.

They probably won’t fall for the old “get me an exhaust sample” trick — plus, if they did, they’d probably just delegate it down to someone else who would ruin the joke. Try something more creative, like “ask the supply NCO about getting you assigned your new PRYK-E6” if their E-6 platoon sergeant is sitting right there. The NCO will gladly walk them through if it means the potential to pawn the Lt. onto someone else.

No one is safe from the knife hand.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Introduce them to the actual chain of command

There’s no denying the rank structure. Despite how it plays out, the lowliest second lieutenant technically outranks even the Sergeant Major of the Army. However — and that’s with a huge “however” — that should never be confused with the structure of the chain of command.

If they ever mention that they outrank the battalion sergeant major, don’t interfere — just observe. This will go one of two ways: That Lt. is about to get a boot shoved so far up their ass that they’ll be tasting leather or (and personal experience has proven this to be hilarious) the sergeant major will stay calm and collected as they go and grab the battalion commander. The sgt. major then asks the commander what the f*ck, exactly, is wrong with their new guy. The commander then proceeds to chew their ass out.

Just try to fight every instinct in your body to just let them get lost. The commander won’t look too highly on that.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte)

Let them lead a land nav course

Lieutenants are generally trained to recite answers found in “the book” as they’re written and land navigation is a skill that entirely almost relies on winging it.

Related: Why the ‘Lost Lieutenant’ jokes actually have some merit

But instead of just letting them lead the platoon into danger, establish dominance over them by going to a land nav course that you know inside and out. Let them think that they’re holding the reins while you’re in the background tossing jokes their way and keeping an ever-watchful eye on where you guys are actually heading.

Remind them that every last drip pan, fire extinguisher, and piece of scrap in the motor pool now belongs to them. Because it does.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Dennis, 1st ABCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

Toss all the paperwork onto their desk

No one wants loads of crap on their hand receipts and now everyone has some poor fool to pawn them off on. You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this — it’s basically their job to handle all of the paperwork while the platoon sergeant worries about training the troops.

For added measure, gather up all of the paperwork in one giant stack and drop it on their desk at once in that way that’s typically reserved for comedy films. Enjoy watching the sorrow build in their eyes when they realize that it’s not a joke and all that paperwork really does need to be done by final formation.

What good is a family if you can’t throw a little bit of shade at each other?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)

Eventually welcome them in

The military is one big, dysfunctional, family. We joke around with each other all the time, but there’s a time and place for all of that — there’s never time for legitimate hate or cruelty towards another person who raised their right hand.

Once the butter bar has taken their lashings, they can finally be welcomed in as the new platoon leader. Sure, feel free to offer the occasional jab here and there — but keep it all in good fun. The troops genuinely respect the new Lt. if they take it all in stride (or throw even better insults back).

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why getting the Antarctica Service Medal is so difficult

Easily one of the rarest medals a troop can earn is the Antarctica Service Medal. Spend a single day in Antarctica, south of 60 degrees latitude in the Southern hemisphere, and you’ve forever got bragging rights.


Do it in the wintertime and you’ve earned a distinctive “Wintered Over” clasp you can hold over everyone else. But being authorized to get down there is the hardest part.

Since its discovery in 1820, numerous nations who’ve landed in Antarctica have stuck their flags in the ground and claimed it as their own. Because the continent has essentially no readily available resources, is extremely remote, and was nearly impossible to settle on long-term, the flags (and their claims) were fairly weak.

So you can kind of get an understanding why there’s nothing in Antarctica. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

But that didn’t stop many nations from trying to hold a claim. The United Kingdom (and, by extension, Australia and New Zealand), France, Norway, Argentina, Chile, and Nazi Germany all claimed portions of the continent. The United States and the USSR also held the right to make a claim but never did.

To ease tensions between all parties in 1959, the Antarctica Treaty was established which laid the ground rules for the continent. It was agreed that Antarctica is the “common heritage of mankind” and could not belong to an entity, territorial claim or not.

This was established to increase scientific understanding of the region and allow scientists the ability to freely communicate. Another article of the treaty bans military personnel and nuclear weapons testing from the continent.

Which is kind of remarkable if you consider it was brokered during the height of the Cold War. (Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

The only exception to this policy is that troops are allowed entry into Antarctica as long as it’s done for scientific research and other peaceful purposes — this is the exact mission of every troop who travels south of the 60-degree line.

Airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen will routinely travel to scientific research facilities to give aid, transportation, or supplies. However, finding the justification to send soldiers or Marines is more limited.

These troops can be found at McMurdo Station, one of the largest coastal facilities on the continent, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is a scientific research facility located at the geographic south pole.

Just let that sink in a bit. Coasties can get that cooler medal far easier than a grunt. Stings doesn’t it? (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft finishes flight across the Pacific

US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.

The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.

“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.


MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US wants to hunt Chinese fighters with these new long-range missiles

The US military is developing a new, longer-range air-to-air missile amid growing concerns that China’s advanced missiles outrange those carried by US fighters.

The AIM-260 air-to-air missile, also known as the Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM), is intended to replace the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) currently carried by US fighters, which has been a go-to weapon for aerial engagements. It “is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer, told Air Force Magazine.

“It has a range greater than AMRAAM,” he further explained, adding that the missile has “different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next-generation air-dominance] threat set.”


Russia and China are developing their own fifth-generation fighters, the Su-57 and J-20 respectively, to compete against the US F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and these two powerful rivals are also developing new, long-range air-to-air missiles.

The Sukhoi Su-57.

In particular, the US military is deeply concerned about the Chinese PL-15, an active radar-guided very long range air-to-air missile (VLRAAM) with a suspected range of about 200 km. The Chinese military is also developing another weapon known as the PL-21, which is believed to have a range in excess of 300 km, or about 125 miles.

The PL-15, which has a greater range than the AIM-120D AMRAAM, entered service in 2016, and last year, Chinese J-20 stealth fighters did a air show flyover, during which they showed off their weapons bays loaded with suspected PL-15 missiles.

J-20 stealth fighters of PLA Air Force.

Genatempo told reporters that the PL-15 was the motivation for the development of the JATM.

The AIM-260, a US Air Force project being carried out in coordination with the Army, the Navy, and Lockheed Martin, will initially be fielded on F-22 Raptors and F/A-18 Hornets and will later arm the F-35. Flight tests will begin in 2021, and the weapon is expected to achieve operational capability the following year.

The US military will stop buying AMRAAMs in 2026, phasing out the weapon that first entered service in the early 1990s for firepower with “longer legs,” the general explained.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.


And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.

Here are eight examples.

1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.

The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.

On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.

In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.

2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.

Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.

It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”

Here’s the Navy version:

3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.

The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.

These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.

Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).

shellback ceremony Photo: Wikimedia Commons

4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.

Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.

Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.

5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.

Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.

This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.

The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.

Photo: MCB Hawaii

Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.

These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.

7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.

Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.

While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”

That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.

8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.

Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.

Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).

According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this woman destroy the Army PT test without training

Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.


I took the US Army Fitness Test without practice

www.youtube.com

But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.

That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.

Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.

But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.

But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s what’s going on with the crazy ‘WandaVision’ promos

When we last saw (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s) Wanda Maximoff, she was at the funeral of Tony Stark after the Avengers finally defeated Thanos. During Avengers: Infinity War, she was forced to destroy the Mind Stone — killing her lover, Vision, in the process — until Thanos used the Time Stone to undo her actions and tear the Mind Stone from Vision, killing the sentient android himself. Wanda disappeared — along with half the universe — during ‘The Snap’ before being restored in Avengers: Endgame; but sadly, Vision remained among the casualties of the war.

So when Marvel announced that a six-episode series called WandaVision would be added to its Phase 4 lineup, there were questions. Would it take place in the past (a popular Loki theory)? Did Vision somehow survive (like Agent Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)? 

Once the official trailer dropped…well…the questions just keep coming.

WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER HERE:

Set to debut on Disney+ on Jan. 15, 2021, WandaVision appears to take place in an alternate dimension. Star Elizabeth Olsen told the New York Times that the series will explore Wanda as the Scarlet Witch much as she is in the comic books — including addressing the character’s mental health and illness.

The series begins in a 1950s television sitcom where the characters are blissfully unaware of the tragedy that has befallen them. Marvel literally filmed the pilot in front of a studio audience (who signed “very, very strict NDAs,” reported Entertainment Weekly).

“It is even better than it was pitched. It’s even more complicated and fun and interesting and playful than I could have ever imagined this job being,” gushed Olsen. Her co-star Paul Bettany, who plays the titular Vision character, called it “totally bonkers” with a grin. 

“Our content is so different from Marvel. It’s like a conversation of American sitcom through the decades with Marvel Film and they’re constantly in dialogue with each other. So it’s really fun!” hinted Olsen.

After a decade of successful films and television series within the MCU, Marvel has earned the right to take some risks. The show will bridge itself to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. Due for release in March 2022, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange promises to feature Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff alongside Benedict Cumberbatch’s zany Dr. Stephen Strange.

Jobs

5 reasons veterans leave civilian jobs

For most hiring managers, sourcing, and hiring employees is only half the work: Retaining and engaging them is critical. According to a study published by the Society of Human Resources Professionals in late 2017, “The average overall turnover rate in 2016 was 18%. The 2016 rate is similar to the 2015 rate (19%).” This indicates a huge savings for employers, as replacing employees is time intensive and costly.

As companies recognize the benefits of hiring military veterans, the question often arises: Will they stay? Replacing an employee who is also a veteran is costly (as with any employee) and often emotional (I feel bad for not retaining someone who served our country).


A 2014 study from VetAdvisor and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families IVMF) at Syracuse University found that nearly half of all veterans leave their first post-military position within a year, and between 60% and 80% of veterans leave their first civilian jobs before their second work anniversary.

There are many reasons an employee leaves their current job – some are within, and others are outside of their control. For instance, downsizing, performance issues, and natural employee attrition certainly account for some retention statistics.

In the case of military veterans in civilian careers, the five reasons that stand out for turnover include:

1. Lack of leadership

Leadership is a foundational value and skill developed in the military. From the moment an individual puts on the uniform, to the day they leave the military, they are taught how to lead, why leadership matters, the importance of driving towards a mission, and caring for their teams/colleagues. In their civilian careers, veterans often seek to lead or be led in similar ways: Ascribing to a high set of values and principles, complete accountability and responsibility for actions, and caring for others. When these goals fall short, the veteran might feel disillusioned and could leave the company in search of a more meaningful contribution or leader.

2. Feeling a deficiency of support

Unlike your recent college graduate, or civilian employee, your veteran will likely not feel comfortable asking for help, resources or support. They are accustomed to being self-sufficient to solve problems. When they hit a wall, they were trained to go around, over, under or through it to get to resolution. But what happens when they feel stuck, lost, confused or hopeless? Unless the employer has a structure in place (that is well communicated to the veteran employee,) about what to do when needing support, the veteran could leave the company rather than risk the embarrassment of asking for help.

3. Found a better job

Lt. Col. Donald Elliott, of the Adjutant General School, talks to a representative from Penske. Elliott is retiring in a year and wants to start preparing for his transition into civilian life.
(Photo by Ms. Demetria Mosley)

With 5 million veterans estimated to be in the workplace by 2023, and more employers recognizing the value in hiring military talent, it’s common today for veteran employees to be recruited out of their current job. As social media tools have enhanced their search ability for prospects, savvy recruiters are contacting employees and recruiting them away.

4. Skills not aligned

Perhaps the employer took a chance on a veteran candidate who lacked several of the key skills for the job. And, maybe that employer neglected to give that employee access to training and tools needed to do the job well. Combine this with the veteran’s reluctance to ask for help… and you may have an employee who is not skilled up on the work needed.

5. Chose the wrong job

There are a number of military veterans who will accept the first job offer they get simply to create some stability in their transition. This is not ideal for the employer or the employee, but it does happen. The pressure and stress of transitioning from a career, culture, and team you are very familiar with, to something completely unknown, is daunting.

When it comes to military veteran employees, employers can do more to increase the support network, open communications channels, and demonstrate leadership aligned with values to positively impact retention.