Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood - We Are The Mighty
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Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.

When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard

a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.

I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.

I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.

I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.

The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.

I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.

No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.

I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing and writing?

It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?

After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com

Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.

Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.

Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.

Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.

Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.

With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?


Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.

However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.

Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.

As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.

(U.S. Army photo)

The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.

To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.

There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 reasons military brats are better off without roots

If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…

…do not despair.

While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.

What is it? Let me explain…


What is our ultimate goal for our kids?

Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.

My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

(Photo by Tim Pierce)

Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?

How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?

But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.

As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.

They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…

1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.

I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.

Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.

No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.

Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

(Photo by Janice Cullivan)

2. Military kids learn early networking skills.

With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.

Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.

In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.

3. Military kids are taught to persevere.

Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.

Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.

When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.

I’ll take vines over roots any day.

While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.

The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.

And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.

Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.

During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.


As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.

When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.

Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins: Final Mission

www.youtube.com

Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.

Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.

Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.

For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.

Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.

Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.

He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.

At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.

During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.

“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.

According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.

Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

How many airmen does it take to change a cargo aircraft tire? Too many, according to J.D. Bales, Air Force Research Laboratory and Junior Force Warfighter Operations team member of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

The 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, who maintain the US Air Force’s largest aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, contacted the JFWORX team seeking assistance to increase the safety and decrease the manpower requirements of the current tire-changing process.


Each C-5 tire wears down approximately 0.002 inches per landing on an aircraft that has 28 tires. The current tire changing method is performed several times a week. It is a complicated multistep procedure that requires up to five people working together for an extended period of time with a number of safety risks due to the size and weight of the tires and tools.

The design of the hub consists of a single large nut that holds the wheel in place. Heavy tools ensure placement of the wheel (almost 4 feet in diameter). The spanner wrench, used to tighten the nut, weighs 15 pounds and has to be held accurately in position so the nut can be tightened to the appropriate torque specification.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The rear wheel assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft inside a hangar at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Current C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement requires up to five airmen with a multitude of tools to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The new C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement platform requires only three airmen with one tool to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The nose and main landing gear tires of a C-5M Super Galaxy hang over a parking spot at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Two 30-ton tripod aircraft jacks hold up the nose section of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, remove a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, both crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, install a new C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly to the main landing gear bogie at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Airman 1st Class Nathan Shull, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, cleans the number four main landing gear bogie assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, front, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects the main landing gear brake assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, rolls a defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

A defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly prior to being taken away for maintenance April 22, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

The primary technical focus of JFWORX projects is the rapid development of customer-centric projects that will provide real-world solutions to existing warfighter needs.

JFWORX develops near term, innovative solutions to warfighter operational needs. Department of Defense organizations interested in working with the JFWORX team can contact the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Corporate Communications team at AFRL.RX.CorpComm@us.af.mil to learn more.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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

Articles

This 85-year-old Special Forces legend has one of the most badass military resumes we’ve ever seen

While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.


As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.

Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.

His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
Just the beginning.

In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.

“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”

The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
Waugh in Vietnam.

“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”

He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.

“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”

In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood
Photo: Nick Stubbs/US Air Force

Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.

“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Generals visit Arctic to prepare for future climate battles

A contingent of senior Air Force leaders and other high-ranking officials are visiting multiple locations across the Arctic April 27-May 3, 2019, in an attempt to better understand operational challenges and refine approaches for meeting the changing security dynamics in the region.

“The Arctic has always been a vital, indispensable part of any strategy to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States, our allies and our partners,” said Maj. Gen. Brian S. Robinson.

“While that has not changed, there are new activities and concerns in the Arctic, and our allies and partners are on the front lines of those changes. This trip provides important, firsthand insight on how our partners are preparing for a shifting landscape and how we can best adapt our policies, activities, and partnerships to successfully meet the emerging challenges in the region,” Robinson said.

The group includes Robinson along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski as well as senior Air Force officials Kenneth E. Bray and John M. Trumpfheller. All of them are touring facilities in Norway, Finland, and Sweden to see how Arctic allies and partners of the U.S. view security and operate in the region’s harsh conditions. The trip also offers opportunities for representatives of the countries to discuss joint operations and other activities that contribute to the shared interests and priorities of each country.

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U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Paul McKenna, the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visit units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019. The Arctic is strategic terrain in the defense of our northern approaches and is critical to our national security.

(Photo by Preston Schlachter)

The visit is especially important given changes in the Arctic’s climate and environment, which have increased activity in the area from nations and commercial interests. Also notable is its timing, since the Department of Defense is required to deliver to Congress a detailed strategy for the region by June 1, 2019.

The visit is just the latest effort on the part of the Air Force to develop an Arctic strategy nested within DoD objectives. In broad terms, the DoD’s objectives are to prevent and deter conflict in the Arctic and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies, with the ultimate goal of a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded and nations work together to address challenges.

As an Arctic nation, the U.S. has long been active in the region. Key allies and partners in the Arctic include: Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, all NATO allies and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partners, Sweden and Finland. These nations work together in numerous fora to address shared regional concerns (e.g., fisheries management, shipping safety, scientific research).

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

The figures are frightening.

Across the globe, the number of reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus is always higher than the day before, topping 1 million as of April 2.

But what if the true numbers are actually even higher?

Experts say data — and how it is reported, or not reported — can give us an incomplete portrait of the problem.


Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Testing, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons the true scale of the pandemic is unknown. And that may not be the fault of governments. Many of those infected show no symptoms and thus are not candidates for testing.

But there may be other problems with the data — namely, that some governments may be distorting figures to understate the scale of the problem in their respective countries.

U.S. media reported on April 1 that U.S. officials believe China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, with officials calling China’s numbers “fake.”

Like China, Iran has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. And like Beijing, Tehran is also suspected of tampering with its numbers to distort the situation there.

Questions have also been raised by Russia’s relatively low numbers as well.

While some governments minimize the problem at home, they may be behind efforts to maximize the scale of the pandemic elsewhere.

An EU watchdog tracking fake news said on April 1 that pro-Kremlin sources on social media were promoting a narrative that the European Union is failing to deal with the pandemic and is on the verge of collapse.

The more testing, the more likely countries will be able to curb the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

Data from the United States shows the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising sharply as testing has improved.

But does that mean infections are rising? Not necessarily. Experts say more testing could explain, at least in part, the higher number.

As The Atlantic magazine put it in an article published on March 26:

“Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? The answer should sound familiar: We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.”

While the United States has ramped up testing, India has taken a different tack.

New Delhi has refused to expand coronavirus testing, despite criticism that limited testing could leave COVID-19 cases undetected in the world’s second-most populous country.

As Al-Jazeera reported on March 18, Indian officials have said the WHO guidance on more testing didn’t apply in India because the spread of the virus was less severe there than elsewhere.

Balaram Bharghava, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research, said more testing would only create “more fear, more paranoia, and more hype.”

As of April 3, India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion people — had just over 2,500 reported confirmed coronavirus cases and 72 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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Silent Spreaders

But even if governments have the means and are eager to test, it may not always be clear whom should be tested.

That’s because not everyone reacts the same way to the coronavirus.

Jarmila Razova, the Czech Republic’s head hygienist, told Czech media on April 2 that up to 40 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may show no symptoms at all.

These so-called silent spreaders are feared to be fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stealth transmission” is not only real but a “major driver” of the epidemic, said Columbia University infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who led a study published on March 16 in the journal Science. Its contribution to the virus’s spread “is substantially undetected, and it’s flying below the radar.”

But even when the data may be as close as possible to giving a true picture of the coronavirus problem, some governments may be opting to distort it.

China, where the outbreak began in late December, has reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

By comparison, the United States has reported more than 245,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths as of April 3.

Doubts that the Chinese numbers are accurate have been fueled in part by stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus was first detected.

U.S. intelligence concluded in a classified report that was handed over to the White house that China covered up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on April 1.

U.S. officials refused to disclose details of the report, saying only, according to a Bloomberg report, that “China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.”

In the Middle East, no country has been harder hit than Iran. The Islamic republic has reported more than 50,000 cases and more than 3,100 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, many suspect the numbers being reported by Iran, notorious for its censorship and lack of transparency, are low.

Since the start of the crisis, members of parliament and local officials in some of the major centers of the coronavirus in the country have said the real number of dead and those infected is being grossly understated by the clerical regime that rules Iran.

Satellite images from mid-March appeared to show mass graves being dug in the area around the city of Qom, where the country’s outbreak is believed to have begun.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Faulty Russian Testing Tool?

With a population of over 144 million, Russia has reported some 3,500 confirmed cases and just 30 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

While Russia has been lauded for carrying out testing early and on a relatively large scale, some experts say the low numbers may be explained in part by the testing tool developed by a state-funded laboratory in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, known by its shorthand name Vektor.

A Russian science blog called PCR News, which said it had reviewed the specific protocols of the lab’s test, said it only detects the virus if it is over a certain threshold in a sample. The test also appeared to give a higher than expected number of “false positives.”

On March 23, Moscow’s coronavirus task force said the testing protocol would be changed, but it is unclear if the move will win over skeptics.

Within Russia itself, the Kremlin has moved to shut down domestic naysayers, accusing them of spreading disinformation on social media.

In early March, Russia’s Federal Security Service and Internet watchdog moved to take down a viral post claiming the real number of coronavirus cases had reached 20,000 and that the Russian government was covering it up.

Shortly after the move, Facebook and Instagram users in Russia started to see coronavirus awareness alerts linking to Rospotrebnadzor’s official website.

While the Kremlin has been quick to downplay crisis at home, it appears eager to promote it abroad.

According to an analysis released on April 1 by the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, “claims that the EU is disintegrating in the face of COVID-19 are trending on social media in all analyzed regions,” including EU states and Eastern Europe.

It also said RT and Sputnik — Kremlin-funded media — were peddling conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made or intentionally spread, while portraying Russia and China as “responsible powers.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy confirms mysterious videos of pilots spotting UFOs are genuine

The US Navy has confirmed videos showing pilots confused by two mysterious flying objects over the US contained what it considers to be UFOs, after years of speculation since their release.

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, confirmed that the Navy considered the objects in the videos to be unidentified.

“The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena,” he said in a statement to The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents.

He also later gave the statement to the news outlet Vice.


The term UFOs, which stands for “unidentified flying objects,” is now used less frequently by officials, who have instead adopted the term “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAP.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Another image from a video showing a UFO filmed near San Diego in 2004.

(Department of Defense)

Neither the term UFO nor UAP means the unknown object is deemed extraterrestrial, and many such sightings end up having logical, and earthly, explanations.

Gradisher also said the videos were never cleared for public release. “The Navy has not released the videos to the general public,” he said.

Susan Gough, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, previously told The Black Vault that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

Gradisher told Vice the Navy “considers the phenomena contained/depicted in those three videos as unidentified.”

He told The Black Vault: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can see the 2004 video here:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” John Greenwald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, when one commander who saw the object on a training mission told the outlet “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

The Times spoke with more pilots, who spotted objects in 2014 and 2015, this year. One of the pilots told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

These pilots, many of whom were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress, The Times reported.

The pilots said the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology, The Times added.

They said they were convinced the objects were not part of a secret military project like a classified drone program.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

An F/A-18F Super Hornet taking off from the USS Harry S. Truman in the North Atlantic in September 2018. Red Rippers crew said they saw mysterious objects while in flight.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kaysee Lohmann)

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Hypersonic speed is more than about 3,800 mph — five times the speed of sound.

The 2004 video and one of the 2015 videos were also shared by The To Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182, in December 2017. The group released a third Department of Defense video in 2018 that Gradisher told The Black Vault was filmed on the same day as the other 2015 video.

The group hints at non-earthly origins of the videos, claiming they “demonstrate flight characteristics of advanced technologies unlike anything we currently know, understand, or can duplicate with current technologies.”

Gradisher, the Navy representative, told Vice the Navy changed its policy in 2018 to make it easier for crew to report unexplained sightings as there were so many reports of “unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled training ranges and designated airspace.”

Why Scientists Don’t Freak Out About UFO Videos

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“The Navy and USAF take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report,” he said.

Scientists told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

US President Donald Trump said in June 2019 that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

And one Republican in the House Homeland Security Committee is accusing the Navy of withholding information on such sightings.

Rep. Mark Walker told Politico in June 2019 there was “frustration with the lack of answers to specific questions about the threat that superior aircraft flying in United States airspace may pose.”

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

MIGHTY GAMING

The Sega Genesis Mini is coming to fuel your ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ nostalgia

By now, there’s a playbook for capitalizing on gamer nostalgia. Take a classic console — the original Nintendo, the Super NES, the first PlayStation, the Atari VCS — and make a miniaturized, modern version with HDMI output and preloaded games. Then, sell it at a price much lower than that of the latest generation of consoles. For long-suffering Sega fans, the wait is finally coming to an end, as the company is finally borrowing the playbook and releasing an updated version of its classic console, the Sega Genesis.


The Sega Genesis Mini, as the new device is known looks, like a shrunk-down version of the original, beloved console. It will come with two wired controllers with a standard D-pad on the left and Genesis-standard three-button control pad on the right.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

The Genesis Mini is an HDMI-equipped version of the classic console that comes preloaded with 40 different games. (Buy now)

The system comes preloaded with 40 different games, a generous number that means it won’t be easy to get bored with this thing. The included titles are being announced in four waves of ten, and the first batch has us excited. Sonic the Hedgehog is thankfully included because there wouldn’t be much point to a Genesis reboot without it.

Other titles include the Dracula-themed platformer Castlevania: Bloodlines, groundbreaking independent title Gunstar Heroes, the bizarre and captivating Toe Jam Earl, as far as we know the only funk-themed video game out there. There’s a ton of variety in this wave, and we’re excited to see the rest of the titles as they’re released between now and Sept. 29, 2019, when the console hits the market.

If you’re already ready to shell out for the console, you can pre-order the Mini today and avoid any shortages that might happen.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Lists

5 things you didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s death scene in ‘Platoon’

There are so many war movies out there to choose from, yet not many come from the perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was the Vietnam War.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into that politically charged time in American history, where the war efforts of our service members were either overlooked or disdained upon returning home, with Platoon.

Related: 5 nuggets of wisdom in ‘Black Hawk Down’ you may have missed

With his unique perspective, Stone filmed one of the most iconic death scenes in cinema history — the dramatic end of Sgt. Elias.

But there are a few interesting things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s onscreen death.

5. Dafoe was “self-contained” during the scene

The acclaimed actor was given a walkie-talkie and was instructed by Stone to run from point A to point B while avoiding all the explosions.

Besides that, he had no further communication with cast or crew during the scene.

4. It only took 3-4 takes

For anyone who understands the process of filmmaking, 3-4 “takes” is extremely few, especially for such a dynamic scene that turned out so strong. Oliver Stone set up several cameras to capture the drama of the moment that gives you chills.

3. Not all of the bombs exploded

As Dafoe dashed through the uneven terrain, he knew the locations of the squibs and the controlled detonations — some of which failed to explode, but the audience can’t tell.

2. Dafoe had the squib detonator in his hand — which he threw

If look closely at Dafoe’s left hand, you can see him carrying the squib detonator, which he used to set off the devices attached to his wardrobe. Since not all the squibs exploded as planned, Dafoe ended up throwing the detonator to the side during the take that made the final cut.

Also Read: 6 reasons ‘Full Metal Jacket’ should have been about Animal Mother

1. They shot the scene in the Philippines

While there, the cast also trained to be soldiers with Marine veteran and friend of WATM, Capt. Dale Dye.

Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of Platoon, deep in the jungle in the Philippines (Image from Orion Pictures)

Check out Larry King‘s YouTube video below to hear Willem Dafoe retell the story of filming the epic scene.

(Larry King | YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Mattis was obsessed with a certain day in history

Everyone who is a fan of veteran Marine Corps General and onetime Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows of his affinity for reading, for consuming as much knowledge on a subject as he can before giving his opinion. His lifestyle of eschewing a family in favor of a lifetime of learning and dedication to duty even earned him the moniker “The Warrior Monk.” This well-known devotion to knowledge makes it all the more interesting to discover Mattis was “obsessed” with the date August 1914.


Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

From the Iraq War to the Trump Administration, Mattis is always the man for the job.

In journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” one Trump Administration official who spoke highly of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Woodward that the former general was “obsessed with August 1914… the idea that you take actions, military actions, that are seen as prudent planning and the unintended consequences are that you can’t get off the war train.”

Specifically, Mattis was “obsessed” with historian Barbara Tuchman’s World War I history book, “The Guns of August,” which has a spot on every reading list he ever published for the troops.

In June 1914, as we should all know by now, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by an assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia as European allies began to muster their troops throughout the continent during July of 1914. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, shelling Belgrade just days later. As July turns to August, Serbia’s ally Russia begins to mobilize for war. That’s when Germany demanded Russia stop preparing for war, which Russia ignored.

On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s allies began preparing for war in response to their mutual defense treaties. Germany then declared war on France and invaded neutral Belgium, forcing Great Britain and its Empire to declare war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. By Aug. 7, 1914, much of the world was at war. By the end of August, the fighting had spread to Africa and the Chinese mainland. What started as a regional dispute that could have been mediated led to millions of lives lost in a brutal, industrialized war machine.

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

German defenders of Tsingtao, China, who were fighting against the Japanese invaders because a Serbian shot an Austrian archduke in Bosnia.

In this context, Mattis was trying to keep the United States and NATO out of a war with Russia, which (according to Woodward’s book) seemed like a real possibility if the Trump Administration had enacted some of its more sweeping changes to American defense policy. Mattis was also trying to convince Trump that the U.S. needed to be in NATO, and if NATO didn’t already exist, it should be created – because Russia could not win a war against NATO, in Mattis’ opinion.

Russia had privately warned Mattis that if a war broke out in the Baltics, the Russians would use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO forces. Mattis and Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, began to think Russia as an existential threat to the United States. Even so, Mattis was determined to keep Russia and NATO from sliding into a similar war via a web of alliances.

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