Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Rod Lurie is a West Point graduate and former Air Defense Artillery officer in the US Army. After his time in service he worked as an entertainment reporter and film critic. He then transitioned into film making by writing and directing his first feature film Deterrence, which is a political thriller. Rod also directed The Contender, The Last Castle, Nothing but the Truth, and Straw Dogs. Most recently, he directed The Outpost, the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers who battled a force of roughly 400 enemy insurgents in north-eastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.


Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

James Mardsen, Hunter Lurie, Kate Bosworth, Rod, and Paige Lurie during the filming of Straw Dogs (2011)

Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Currently I live in Studio City with my wife Kyra who is a New York Times bestselling novelist. I have one stepson Isaac and a daughter named Paige where we have a family dog named POTUS. My son Hunter passed away two years ago today. The Outpost is dedicated to him where since he died so young his passing to me relates to the young soldiers who died at the Battle of Kamdesh.

My family growing up consisted of my father, mother and three brothers. At age five, my family moved from Israel to Connecticut and then to Hawaii. My father is a military veteran of Israel and he worked as a political cartoonist, which includes illustrations for LIFE magazine where he is “the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world”, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. My mother Tamar is still the most successful real estate agent in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Rod at West Point during his plebe (first) year.

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

My father focused on two things for me: creativity and sticking up for myself and our Jewish heritage. He is a wildly creative person and he told us to never stop creating where he reminded us about how God had created in the Bible. My mother was a voracious athlete where she encouraged me and my sibling to really push ourselves athletically. She is truly kind, and she raised us with empathy as well.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

A picture of Caleb Landry Jones as Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Ty Carter in The Outpost.

What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

The challenge for any Jewish person in that era and in that part of the world was anti-Semitism. We had immigrated from Israel where, of course, we never faced that within our own communities.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Rod Lurie interviewing acting and film legend Paul Newman.

What values were stressed at home?

Creativity, Righteousness and Athleticism. We had a strong sense of morality in our home where ethics are what society expects and morals are what we expect of ourselves.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Rod at his West Point Graduation in 1984.

What drew you to film and media while growing up?

Growing up I saw a movie on a little TV named Ben-Hur. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I did not even know movies were made where my understanding was that they were just kind of there. I was so thrilled with film I decided my goal was to be somehow involved. Because of my lack of knowledge of the film making process I was most impressed with film critics. Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael were my idols where I wrote to them and they wrote me back. In the end, no motivation was greater than for me than to be a filmmaker. One of my beliefs is that you shouldn’t go to film school where you should go to study what you want to make movies about. The USMA is a place of leadership, which is what I want to make films on. My dream one day is to make a movie about West Point where I made a deal with Universal to make such a movie on the academy titled Heart of a Soldier with Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. Unfortunately, the film fell apart once the Iraq War broke out.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Scott Eastwood as Medal of Honor recipient SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost

What made you want to attend West Point and is the best lesson you learned while there at the academy?

My political awareness from an early age because of my father’s political cartoonist work influenced me to go to West Point where it seemed like a natural fit for me. The best thing I learned from West Point; when you think you have exhausted everything you have you really have only used 10% of your capabilities. This was said to me before I went in to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Orlando Bloom, Cory Hardrict, Jacob Scipio, Bobby Lockwood, Alexander Arnold, Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, James Jagger, Celina Sinden, Jack Kesy, Taylor John Smith, and Milo Gibson in The Outpost.

What did you enjoy most about your service as an Army officer?

What I enjoyed most about my time in service were the friendships and comradery of the people I served with. The best friendships I have had in my life were from West Point and from the service where nothing will ever top that. Another enjoyable part about my time in the Army came from the confidence generated in the team-based atmosphere. Many people think the most stressful time of a cadet is when you are going through Beast Barracks when in reality the toughest time is when you are taking your exams. I am on my own when taking those tests. When going through things with your fellow troops you are going through it together. There is something about the concept of if we all work together, then we can succeed. It creates a quiet calmness.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Rod as a cadet at West Point.

What leadership lessons in life and from the service that have helped you the most in your career in Hollywood?

Problem solving and Teamwork. The film was an exceedingly difficult movie to put together because of budget and time constraints. On The Outpost, as the boss and being a military veteran we had some actors that were veterans where I insisted on having them for a couple of reasons. One is that for all of us who have worn the uniform we can always say I have been in a tougher scrape than this. No matter what we come across we know we can solve this problem. Another part of having veterans as part of the production was realism where I had several vets that were also Technical Advisors. Because of the calm problem-solving skills and real-life team-based experiences, we functioned as military veterans; smoothly and without panic. We stayed grounded and focused unlike how it may have been on other sets where anxiety and fear set in due to such tight restrictions.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Taylor John Smith as Distinguished Service Cross recipient First Lieutenant Andrew Bunderman and Orlando Bloom as Bronze Star recipient First Lieutenant Benjamin D. Keating in The Outpost.

What did you enjoy most about filming The Outpost?

There is a great satisfaction in knowing that we are doing good on this film. There are many families that lost their loved ones in the Battle of Kamdesh which were sons, brothers, and fathers. The fact that we can give to these people and families, not just closure, but a promise that their loved ones will have their names repeated and spoken forevermore is very satisfying. When my son died, I realized the obligation we had to these families. The friendships and comradery on set were amazing because of this shared mission. The crew all got so close on the film because of its importance, especially since it was something we were going through together in a tough situation.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Scott Eastwood as SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost.

What is the main message you want people to remember about The Outpost?

My goal is to get people to daily remember the military currently serving abroad. The service members need to be remembered where I believe that people just don’t think ever about the soldiers that are serving overseas right now. In previous wars like WWII, Korea, and Vietnam they were on our minds and now we don’t give it a second thought. In WWII, every soldier also had the same mission; we are going to stop Hitler. Today the answer is most likely mixed with why we are there in the Middle East, which makes their service even tougher. It is just not cool that soldiers currently in the fight today are forgotten. People must understand what these soldiers went through and that their sacrifices matter.

Lists

6 things you should know about Mountain Warfare Training

“Every clime and place” is what we say in the Marine Corps and we mean that sh*t. If anything, Marines are notorious for going to insane lengths to find the bad guys and punch them in the face, no matter where they’re hiding.


For this reason, the Marine Corps has devised training centers designed to prepare would-be war heroes to live out that line in our beloved hymn.

Here are things you should know about the most dreaded training of them all — mountain warfare and extreme cold-weather survival training.

Related: 7 things you didn’t know about the Marine Jungle Warfare Training Center

1. Pooping in bags

Most trainings in the Marine Corps will provide a place to make a sit-down restroom visit, but given the treacherous terrain and weather inherent to the Mountain Warfare Training Center, it’s difficult to provide such amenities.

Instead, they provide buckets and orange trash bags for you. If nothing else made you wonder why you joined before this, you’ll definitely ask yourself now.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
You might be familiar with this if you take your dog for a walk in the park. (Photo via Cleanwaste)

2. Cold-weather Meals, Ready to Eat

Normal MREs — the ones in the brown pouches — are, pretty much, hot piles of garbage wrapped in plastic. But when you go to cold-weather training, they provide you with freeze-dried MREs in a white pouch. These are easily the best field rations you will ever get because, not only is it hot chow, it actually tastes good.

While you may developed a few favorites among normal MREs, it’ll be hard to decide which of the cold-weather ones is your favorite because they’re great across the board. If you don’t agree, you’re wrong and everybody hates you.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
You’ll love these, don’t worry. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps)

3. The dangers of cotton-based clothing

Cotton-based clothing tends to hold liquids and dry slowly. This is exceptionally important in an environment where liquids will certainly turn to ice. You don’t want your sweat-covered undershirt to freeze to your body and give you hypothermia.

4. It started before the Korean War

When the United States was gearing up to send the best military in the world to the Korean peninsula, they needed to prepare for the cold.

So, the Marine Corps’ solution was to establish a training center where they send you to the top of a cold mountain for nearly two weeks to be absolutely miserable to the point where you seriously reconsider your life choices.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Korea was considerably worse, though. (Photo by the National Museum of the Marine Corps)

5. Sleeping in snow trenches

Part of Extreme Cold Weather Survival Training is learning how to live like an Eskimo because, well, if it works for them, then why not? Don’t let this get you down, though. Despite their icy appearance, snow trenches offer some warmth and an escape from the bitter, cold wind.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
You can get pretty creative with these trenches and make tables, shelves, etc. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Ohira)

Also read: 5 reasons Deadpool would make an amazing platoon sergeant

6. You will never be warm

Even though you’ll be given an entire issue of cold-weather survival gear and you’ll have some shelter from the wind, the sad truth is that you’re still going to be cold. You’re going to be cold every second you’re on the mountain. You’ll never be warm, only slightly less cold.

You’ll sweat on the forced marches, but those marches will end eventually and you’ll still be covered in sweat. So, brace yourself for the most miserable time of your life (so far).

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Even fires won’t be enough. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Roberto Villa Jr)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only time a US blimp was ever lost in World War II combat

Airships like zeppelins and blimps lost their appeal somewhere between World Wars I and II. It might have had something to do with the Hindenburg going down in a massive, fiery wreck in front of the whole world. By the time World War II came about, airships were a thing of the past for every military except the United States, which is a shame because you did not want to f*ck with an airship.


They seem like goofy floating targets just begging to be shot down but getting to them was a lot harder than anyone might think. More than that, they were really effective at locating enemy submarines and then blowing them into oblivion. Of the 89,000 ships protected by airships during WWII, only one was ever lost.

And only one airship was ever lost, and it happened off the coast of Florida in July 1943.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Blimp-Submarine combat seems like it would be adorable.

The missions of blimp crew was an easy one, use the massive range of sight the blimp had over the ocean waters, locate enemy submarines, then call in for fighters and bombers to come finish the subs off. They had some weapons, a few depth charges, and a .50-cal machine gun, but not something to take on a submarine head-to-head. But K-74 did just that.

A 252-foot airship, K-74 was performing its usual mission in the Florida Straits when it spotted German U-boat 134 on radar. The airship came down from the cover of the clouds to find the boat on the surface of the water. Seeing that the U-boat was headed for a merchant convoy, Lt. Nelson Grills decided he couldn’t just wait for backup and had to act fast. As the ship moved to intercept the boat, the sub’s conning tower exploded with 20-mm rounds.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

U-134 under attack from the RAF earlier in 1943. The sub survived the meeting.

K-74 was able to drop two charges on the sub as it flew overhead, but the charges did nothing to silence the 20mm guns. The blimp returned fire, but the submarine had hit one of the airship’s engines, and she was losing altitude fast. Then it caught fire. The next thing he knew, the crew had begun to abandon ship – all because he couldn’t follow protocol. But the ship didn’t explode in a Hindenburg-like burst of flame. It gently fell to the surface of the water, and the crew climbed aboard the deflated ship.

Gills helped his crewmen escape, but as they climbed the balloon part of the ship, Grills got separated when he stayed behind to destroy the ship’s classified documents and top-secret cargo.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

The ship’s commander was found when another K-ship spotted him in the water below just a few hours after his ship went down. His crew was in the water all night and was found by a seaplane the next day. Most of them survived, except for one. The crew was being circled by sharks as planes flew overhead and surface ships moved in for a rescue. The USS Dahlgren had come on scene to pick them up, and even though the Dahlgren’s crew managed to keep some sharks away with small arms, one of the K-74 crewmen was pulled under by a shark and disappeared.

All was not lost, however. K-74 damaged the enemy submarine in the action. The U-boat was forced to limp home heavily damaged. Eventually, it was found at sea by the British Royal Air Force, who swiftly finished it off near the Cies Islands.

Articles

The best and the worst Air Force recruiting slogans of all time

The U.S. Air Force has had many recruiting slogans, used at various times to varying effect. The current Air Force slogan “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win” is no “We’re Looking For A Few Good Men” or “The Few The Proud, The Marines.” But yet the USAF continues its effort to come up with something as sticky as “Semper Fi.”


Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Not happening.

Marine Corps slogan recognition will always beat any branch (and even some national brands… there are studies on this), but Air Force advertising has been like the Cleveland Browns trying to find a quarterback – they were on to something early, but after a while, it got confusing.

Here’s WATM’s list of Air Force slogans ranked from the best ideas to the worst:

1. “Aim High”

Easily the best slogan the Air Force ever used. Aim High is so good, the Air Force had to bring it back. It’s fast, snappy, memorable, and says all you need to know: we think we’re the best branch, so why try to join the Army or Navy? I don’t know why they changed it and they probably couldn’t tell you either but whatever they changed it to had to be the Merrill McPeak uniform of Air Force slogan.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
That was the most Air Force joke ever made.

2. “Uno Ab Alto (One From on High)”

This sounds less like Airmen and more like Gandalf the Gray. Or a Harry Potter spell. Looking for that badass Latin quote will get you into trouble, Air Force. I can’t fault them too much because this was before Aim High. Uno Ab Alto gets #2 because it’s a classier way of saying “Death From Above” (Mors Ab Alto) which I think is a far better recruiting slogan for the Drone Age. If you want to attract more drone pilots, just say what you mean.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
The 7th Bomb Wing is ahead of the game.

3. “Aim High . . . Fly-Fight-Win”

Sloganeering as a result of surveys, meetings, and calls for suggestions: the true Air Force way. This latest iteration of “Aim High” ranks as #3 because it’s riding the coattails of #1.

This will likely not be replaced for a long time considering the amount of research, time, and money effort spent on coming up with it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to Air Force veterans that the Air Force put so much into changing their slogan only to lean on one they used a decade or so ago and adding a college fight song to it.

If they wanted to use things Airmen naturally say to each other as a recruiting slogan, they should have just listened to Airmen in squadron hallways, but this would probably result in the Air Force slogan being “Have a great Air Force day” “Happy Hour?” or “See you tomorrow, Doug.”

4. “The Sky’s No Limit”

Harkening back to the Air Force’s Cold War glory days, The Sky’s No Limit is actually not a bad one to fall back on if we’re just going to start resurrecting old lines. The test pilots of the days of yore were pretty ballsy, and with the Air Force’s expanding missions as an Air and Space Force, this is a good descriptive slogan, even if it’s a little vague.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Airman Snuffy just brings his buddies on the flightline, NBD.

The only real problem with this is a lot of the Air Force doesn’t really fly so for them, the sky’s no limit, but getting there certainly is. Believe it or not, some people who join the Air Force don’t want to fly. The fighting and winning are fun, though.

5. “Do Something Amazing”

While the Air Force has some heroic people working in incredible career fields (that is, people who do those amazing somethings), it also has cooks, plumbers, and lawyers. All are necessary to the Air Force mission (and are true-blue lifesavers when you really want or need one – trust me, you want these people to be your friends), but these aren’t the careers you think of when you’re considering joining the military. You might be disappointed when you’re thinking about all the amazing AFSCs you’ll cross-train into the moment you can. At least they’re not patronizing people by framing additional duties as a great activity.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Marines probably do this.

Actually, you know what’s amazing? Spending an entire enlistment without ever having to see Tops In Blue.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
And at air shows.

Also, “amazing” is what a sorority girl calls her summer study abroad program in London.

6. “We Do The Impossible Everyday”

… And we do the hyperbolic so much more. Read some USAF EPRs for the most flowery language you’ve ever seen. The thesaurus was created for Air Force performance reviews. You need one to make it sound like your creepy subordinate deserves a goddamn medal for volunteering to watch people pee.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
The sky’s no limit.

This line looks like the Air Force doesn’t know the meaning of the word impossible (Which is a much better slogan. Air Force, call me). The biggest problem with this slogan is that they also do the very, very possible all the time. Not every one gets the “impossible” job.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
What’s she holding? Wait, They read from dead trees? MAGIC.

You know what’s possible? Getting booted out for your third alcohol-related incident because Frank’s Franks won’t put hot dogs on Anthony’s Pizza. You know who makes that possible? Air Force JAGs and security forces.

7. “No One Comes Close”

This wouldn’t have been so bad in retrospect, except you know who comes close? The Navy. They also have fighters and stuff. Not exactly the same missions, I know, but… close enough to make this slogan awkward.

8. “Cross Into The Blue”

This nebulous Blue. Context tells you it’s the sky but the ocean is also blue, for the record, and it’s a much more tangible blue to cross into. This would be a better line for trying to get Army people to come to the Air Force, but I doubt that would be the goal (Airmen use the term “Army Proof” for a reason).

9. “It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s What We Do Everyday”

This would be a better slogan for Scientology. I don’t remember Orson Scott Card writing about drone strikes in Pakistan but maybe somewhere a six-year-old is playing video games and ending terrorists. No one confuses drones with alien technology. The Internet had been around for a long time when these ads started. So too with night vision. Until DARPA puts those Iron Man suits in field tests, no one will ever make that connection.

America’s Airmen (for the most part) are not delusional about themselves. They don’t need to be. For all the “Chair Force” smack Airman take from other branches, troops like Ammo are awesome in their own way and don’t need to pretend they’re all combat controllers.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
Except Mondays between 1100 and 1400.

10. “We’ve Been Waiting For You”

Slightly ominous, it doesn’t really inspire as much as it implies the Air Force has been watching you while you sleep, staring at you from across crowded rooms, and following you home after school.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

11. “Above All”

Unfinished thoughts probably always seem like a great idea for a slogan in meetings. Sure, I get the idea of putting your branch above everyone else’s as a way to foster esprit de corps, but it can be troublesome sometimes.

Every branch has their strengths, so let’s be real. Unlike this Air Force Training Instructor:

Another reason this slogan ranks so low is the lack of originality. Uber alles (above all) is the German national anthem.

12. “A Great Way of Life”

An older slogan which probably seemed appropriate for a time when the Air Force has to pull people from living the American Dream and get them into the Air Force, where they would sleep on the flightline and be prepared to bomb Russians into the Stone Age 24/7.

The Airmen of the Strategic Air Command era were pretty badass in their own right. Nowadays, this would mean highlighting the golf course, gym, the dorms (and the Airmen who live there), the DFAC, and all the stupid shit young Airmen tend to do when they get to their first duty station.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Havening: The weird hugging technique that will fix your anxiety

Small daily rituals can help keep sadness and anxiety at bay. Running, yoga, deep breathing, spending time in nature, and turning off news alerts on your phone do real work. Exercise releases endorphins, greenspaces increase happiness, and removing screens can lead to better sleep. In the midst of the nationwide mental health crisis stemming from COVID-19, these small defenses help in a bigger battle. Here’s another science-backed, and surprisingly impactful weapon to add to your arsenal: havening.

On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.


The Brain on Anxiety

To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.

Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.

Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.

“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”

Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.

“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.

Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”

Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.

How Havening Helps

Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.

But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)

On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.

“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.

Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”

Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I soldier earned the Medal of Honor in a mustard gas attack

There are few higher compliments for a soldier than when the General of the Armies calls him the most outstanding soldier who fought in an entire war – and the war to end all wars, no less. But Samuel Woodfill wasn’t just a veteran of World War I, he was also in the Philippines and on the Mexican border. He was even around to train U.S. troops to fight in World War II.

But to earn his status as America’s one-man Army, he had to go through hell.


Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Mustard gas is not a weapon anyone would want to fight in.

Woodfill was a career military man, spending time fighting Filipino warriors and then guarding Alaska and the Mexican border areas before shipping out to fight in World War I. Though enlisting as a private, Woodfill’s skill and experience earned him a commission before he shipped out to the Great War. The American Expeditionary force needed good officers to fill its ranks as they settled into a defensive position between the Meuse and the Argonne areas of France.

In September 1918, just one month after arriving in France, their defensive position became an offensive move toward the German lines. Woodfill and his company were near the town of Cunel, advancing on the Germans through a thick fog as carefully as possible, when the telltale crackle of machine-gun fire ripped through the fog toward Woodfill and his men.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Woodfill with President Calvin Coolidge after the war.

Woodfill’s men threw themselves away from the fire to take cover, but Woodfill himself rushed toward the machine gun. He jumped in the trench and took down three German soldiers manning the gun. That’s when their officer starting lunging toward him. He made short work of their officer just as another machine gun opened up on him. He ordered his men to come out of hiding and attack the latest machine gun, which they did, making short work of it just in time for a third gun to open up on the Americans.

Woodfill joined his men in a charge on the third gun position. He was the first to get to the machine-gun nest and, having fired all the shots in his pistol, was forced to fight both Germans at the gun at the same time. In the middle of the fighting, he searched desperately for any kind of equalizer – which he found in the form of a pickax. Meanwhile, the fog that had been growing thicker and thicker turned out to be growing thick with Mustard Gas. The Americans hightailed it out of the gas area.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

You would too.

The American company was knocked out of the war by the effects of the Mustard Gas and Woodfill would deal with its effects for the rest of his life. But his heroics and daring in the Meuse-Argonne earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him in France by Gen. John J. Pershing himself. Later, Woodfill would have the honor of carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside fellow Army legends and Medal of Honor recipients Charles Whittlesey and Alvin York.

Woodfill would stay in the Army until 1943, having stayed on long enough to train recruits to fight the Nazis in World War II.

MIGHTY GAMING

Blizzard fans plan protests after company’s response to Blitzchung ban

After a week-long controversy and accusations of censorship, Blizzard Entertainment responded late Oct. 11, 2019, to say China did not influence its decision to ban a professional gamer from Hong Kong for supporting anti-China protests. But the gaming community has been reluctant to accept Blizzard’s latest explanation of the move, and many are still planning protests at the company’s upcoming conference, BlizzCon.

“Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung, wore a gas mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on Oct. 5, 2019. Blizzard initially responded by banning him from competition for one year, and saying that it would no longer work with the two commentators who conducted the interview.


The company said Blitzchung violated the rules of the competition by making political statements, and claimed that the statements damaged the company’s image by offending a portion of the public.

The punishment was harshly criticized by fans and U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of censoring free speech to protect its relationships in China, a massive and highly lucrative market with strict laws that require companies operating in the country to censor or remove content at the government’s request. Players threatened to boycott Blizzard’s games in response and a small group of Blizzard employees staged a walkout to show support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

After staying silent for several days, Blizzard Entertainment President J.Allen Brack pushed back against claims that Blizzard’s business in China influenced the company’s decision in a statement published Oct. 11, 2019. The company reduced the suspension of Blitzchung and the two commentators to six months and reinstated Blitzchung’s prize money, but Brack reiterated that Blitzchung had violated the rules of the competition.

“There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” Brack wrote in a statement.

Blizzard’s reduced punishment didn’t do much to change public perception

Critics remain skeptical of Brack’s claim that China had no impact on Blizzard’s decision, and many suggested that Blizzard should have lifted its suspension of Blitzchung and the two competitors entirely.

Others accused Blizzard of trying to minimize its concession by making a statement on a Friday evening, a common tactic used to diminish negative press in a weekend news cycle. Former Blizzard producer Mark Kern said the company used the same strategy while he was working there.

Protesters upset with Blizzard’s lack of support for Hong Kong are planning to show up at the company’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, on November 1. One group of protesters planned to form picket lines outside of the event and interrupt BlizzCon panel discussions with questions about Hong Kong. The same group is demanding that Blizzard make a public statement in support of Hong Kong, apologize and reverse the punishment, and create a special protest costume for the Chinese “Overwatch” character Mei.

Ultimately, Brack’s statement did little to change the perception of Blizzard’s punishment of Blitzchung, though the “Hearthstone” player said he accepted the company’s stance on the situation. Blizzard will have to wait and see if time will heal the company’s public perception, and hope the situation doesn’t escalate further with planned protests in the coming weeks.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A deployed carrier has a coronavirus outbreak. Her husband is on board.

Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.


Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.

Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.

Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.

When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”

But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.

“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”

While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”

Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”

Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some Lejuene Marines will ‘fight’ through hurricane

The commanding general at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune is facing criticism for not issuing a mandatory evacuation order as Hurricane Florence barrels directly towards his North Carolina base, but he’s issued a series of statements defending the move.

“Since 1941, this base and its Marines have been postured to deal with crises at home and abroad and Hurricane Florence is no exception,” Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford said in a message posted to the base’s Facebook page on Sept. 11, 2018. “Marines take care of each other, and I will expend every available resource to make sure that happens.”


Alford also said Lejeune is not in a flood prone area and seems confident the base can keep the remaining personnel there safe. “I give you my personal assurance we are going to take care of everyone on this base,” he said.

Thousands of Marines have reportedly left the base as nonessential personnel were released from duty, but it’s not clear how many personnel remain there. Camp Lejeune’s public affairs office did not immediately respond to a request from Business Insider for updated figures on who will remain on base.

Due to the size and severity of the storm and the fact the base is at sea level near inland bodies of water, many on social media have mocked and criticized Alford’s decision not to order a mandatory evacuation.

Meanwhile, Marine recruits at Parris Island in South Carolina were ordered to evacuate on Sept. 11, 2018, but those orders were later rescinded based on changes in the trajectory of the storm. Personnel who’d already evacuated Parris Island were ordered to return to their permanent duty station no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2018.

“As of now, all Marines assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island will resume normal base operations on Thursday. This includes commanders and troops alike,” the base’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, said in a statement on the termination of the evacuation order.

Other branches of the military have taken precautionary measures in preparation for the storm. The US Navy, for example, ordered dozens of ships based in Norfolk, Virginia, out to sea.

Florence is a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall on Sept. 14, 2018, and could dump as much as 40 inches of rain on North Carolina. The storm is expected to bring catastrophic flooding across the Carolinas.

More than one million people in the region are under mandatory-evacuation orders, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Sept. 12, 2018, urged residents to get out while they still can, stating, “Disaster is at the doorstep. If you’re on the coast there is still time to get out safely.”

Featured image: Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune, 2008.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MIGHTY STORIES: Vietnam’s Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Art Jetter, Vietnam Veteran.

“I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I was the oldest of six boys, no girls, in middle class America. My dad was a great man and my mom was a wonderful mother.

My dad was a B-17 pilot in World War II. He flew 35 missions out of England. He volunteered to fly in the Pacific, but thankfully the war ended as he finished his training. My mom’s two brothers were also pilots. My grandfather joined the Signal Corp in the Army and was also in pilot training during World War I. My dad didn’t really talk about the war.

He was the youngest of 9 kids. I read some letters he sent back to his family during World War II. Whatever the Army paid him, he sent home. Here’s a guy who did all his country ever asked him, and I don’t think he had time to be scared.

The 8th Army Air Corps had a reunion in Omaha about 25 years ago. His crew all came. They fought together, they came home together, and they stayed connected. They all came over to dinner at my parents that night and invited us kids to join them. My dad was pretty hard of hearing, so imagine a long dinner table with my dad at one end. One of the guys, Marty, was at the other end. And Marty said, ‘Now boys, I just want you all to know that the reason that we all are able to have dinner here tonight – the reason that we all came home alive – was because of your dad. I asked, ‘What did my father do,’ I mean these B17s flew in formation, ‘What did he do to provide protection?’ And Marty explained that my dad always flew toward the flack.

There was some room between the bombers, and the Germans would aim their anti-aircraft at a particular aircraft and when my dad would see the flack, he would turn toward it. The Germans would adjust, trying to guess where they should have shot, and they’d always guess wrong. My dad turned to me and said, ‘What did Marty just say?’ I said, ‘He said that in order to avoid getting shot you would fly toward the flack.’ And my dad said, ‘You know I used to do that.’ We all had a pretty good chuckle about it. He expected me to do the right thing. He was a very honorable, truthful, loyal guy.

I remember in 1965, our student body was all sitting in the auditorium for some kind of program. One of my favorite friends, Charlie Lee, was sitting next to me. His dad was a major in the Army. He turned to me and said, ‘My dad says we should join the Reserves.’ And I said, ‘Why would we do that?’ And he said that as soon as we turned 18 then we could join the Reserves, and we could pick our jobs instead of just getting sent to Vietnam as an infantry guy. I didn’t really even know what Vietnam was. Charlie joined the 173rd Transportation Company in the Reserves and as soon as he joined his whole unit was called up and sent over. He’d been trained as a lifeguard at a swimming pool at the Officers Club and got to Vietnam as a convoy commander. He remains to this day one of the most organized guys I’ve ever met in my life. Charlie stayed in the Reserves and was called to most of the battles after Vietnam. He achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major before he retired.

I didn’t follow his instructions and I got drafted. I wanted to be an architect. I got accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but my grandpa was on the Board of Trustees at a small college in Iowa and he wanted me to go there. So, I went, but I shouldn’t have gone. I left and couldn’t get back into UNL. I was selling men’s and boy’s clothes at a retail store for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour. I went to Wentworth Military Academy for 12 months and soon after, I got a letter welcoming me to the United States Army.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

I went to Fort Lewis for basic training. They put us all in a line and asked anyone who had been through ROTC to take a step forward. I did, and then they asked if anyone had gone to a military academy. Since I had, I took another step forward. And so, they made me the acting drill sergeant for one of the platoons. I thought, ‘holy crap.’ I was a little guy when I graduated from high school. I was almost 5’2 and 120 pounds. I think I could do about three pushups.

I worked hard and pretty soon I was maxing the PT test. At the end of basic, they put an article in the Omaha World Herald that I was the top in my class and they promoted me to E3. I went to my senior drill sergeant and told him I was the best guy he had. He replied that I shouldn’t be bragging. I said, ‘Make no mistake, I’m not bragging. I’m saying if I’m the best you have you’re in big trouble.’ He said, ‘You don’t think the training was adequate.’ I said, ‘I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs of the airplane in Vietnam without getting shot.’ We talked about needing better training and a week later I found myself as a candidate in the Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS).

After I applied for Ranger and Airborne school (which I didn’t get), they told me I had the aptitude to be a pilot. I thought it was pretty nifty with so many pilots in my family. I did my troop duty and then went to flight school in Texas. Then I spent four months at Fort Rucker learning to fly Hueys. I graduated from flight school as one of the top guys. I tell you that not to brag, but it was because I was more afraid of what could happen to me than anybody else, so I studied harder. It was more about being able to live than grades. I was picked to fly the Cobra, which was like going from a family minivan to a full-tilt Ferrari.

I knew I was going to Vietnam. I had a month off, so I went home. Every girl I knew took me to the airport on my way to Vietnam. The whole time I was in helicopter school I knew they weren’t training me to stay home. It’s an interesting thing about getting ready to go. You know in one regard, I was scared. Another, was, with all this training, I really wanted it to be put to use.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

I’m not a fan of war. But I’d put everything into training that I could – for my own survival and for the survival of everyone I’d be associated with. I requested to be in the 1st Air Calvary Division. When I got to Vietnam I went to the 1st Air Calvary reception station. The smart thing would have been to ask which is the unit where nobody got shot at, but I had heard people talking about the legendary Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit, and I requested that. I wasn’t disappointed. Maybe a little overworked, but I was in a unit with exceptional human beings.

That experience and those guys stuck with me. Many of them are dear friends of mine. We only had 32 pilots in our unit. Just after I left, eight of them got killed. It was a weird way of thinking about those guys. And I think I had survivor’s guilt. Like I left too soon. By the time I was there about nine months, I had been the flight lead in most organized attacks. I told my commander, Major Larry McKay, I’m going to extend for six months. I felt like I belonged to this unit. Larry said great, company clerk said great, and the day after I was originally supposed to leave Vietnam – the day my year was up – the Department of the Army called up my commander and said, ‘Where is he? My commander said I was on a mission, that I’d extended for 6 months, and the Army said no. So, my commander sent out another Cobra to relieve me. He and I went to the 1st Calvary Division Headquarters and I was told I had to report to Fort Riley, Kansas. I left Vietnam and tried like crazy to go back. Those guys were that important to me.

Our mission was this: They parked us within 5 minutes’ flight time of our guys in the field. We sat with a radio operator who would have contact with the guys on the ground. If the radio operator yelled, ‘Fire Mission,’ we’d run to the aircraft and have to be off the ground in less than two minutes. As soon as we took off, the guy would give us a heading to follow and then he’d read the mission. If there was a Medevac, part of our mission was security. We’d provide security for the medevac helicopter to come in.

I flew 1,032 combat missions but there are a bunch that stand out, all for different reasons. When I first got there, I was a co-pilot. You strive to become an aircraft commander but when you start out you’re a co-pilot. It was an incursion in Cambodia. A command and control helicopter got shot down and landed on a road. Just an ocean of people came out of the treeline; enemy soldiers, running toward the Huey.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Getting that would have been a prized treasure. Parts of war are treacherous, and parts are bizarre and humorous in a dark humor kind of way. We were shooting so many people. We weren’t very high off the ground and we were looking at them shooting at us. The devastation was just insane. And I just kept thinking, ‘What is wrong with these soldiers – they just keep coming. We’re taught to disperse.’

While all this shooting is going on, a two-and-a-half-ton truck is coming down the road. The truck stops and picks these guys up and they just keep going down the road to Vietnam. I think just the memory of all those enemy soldiers in the open … that will never go away.

I had a co-pilot, Ernest Rickenbacker, who had a famous last name because of his great uncle, Eddie, the World War I flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient. I went to my commander and told him that Ernest needed his own aircraft – he was unbelievable. And my commander did it. We called Ernest “Fast Eddie” because he became an aircraft commander so quickly. He won a Silver Star for rescuing his co-pilot. But let me tell you about that mission, first.

There was a Fire Support Base called Pace, right next to the Cambodian border where the Ho Chi Minh Trail came into Vietnam. For political reasons, the Army was supposed to evacuate this Fire Support Base. Left to its own devices, the Army never would have sacrificed it because of the strategic advantage. But, some guy wouldn’t go on patrol and he wrote his senator, so they shut it down for being “too dangerous.” Not the way you should fight a war, but anyway. We were supposed to take 12 helicopters to the Tay Ninh airport for a briefing and we’re being told about all this anti-aircraft all over the place and that nobody could get into Pace – it was too deadly.

We were working out how to get these guys evacuated. The plan was that the next day, a Huey with a smoke generator would fly around and mask trucks coming up to pick up the guys and get them out of there. I don’t tell this story very often, so I might miss parts of it. But the bunch of us that were walking back were supposed to brief the other pilots. But then the airport came under a rocket attack.

First thing we had to do was get our helicopters out. So, we did, and then we’re all supposed to land. As we’re coming in for final, the guys at Pace start yelling that they’re taking incoming. I said to my wingship, ‘Let’s take care of this.’ So, we went low-level up to the treetops until we got next to Pace. We popped up to about 1500 feet and we see 6 guys and a mortar tube on the other side of the border. The border right there was marked by a creek. Everything on the west side was Cambodia and the east was Vietnam.

We always had to call to get clearance to fire, so I called. I think the guy I had to call was an Air Force guy, and I requested flying over the border to Cambodia in order to save the men at Pace who were taking mortars. He denied my request. I said, ‘We’re in hot pursuit,’ and he said, ‘Nobody’s crossing. Out.’ Just like that, and that was the last I heard from him.

I pulled the nose of my helicopter up and launched about 6 rockets in the direction of the mortar tube. I shot across the border instead of crossing it. As luck would have it, the rockets fell right by the guys. I killed three and three hobbled off. We both dove at those three guys. My wingship, who was ahead of me, shot the other three guys. We took a hard left and and I called the guy back at Pace and told him something stupid like, ‘Send the Congressional Medal of Honor to Blue Max 1-2.’ And just as I’m saying this, I’m probably at 800 feet and there’s a loud kablamo and a big flame shoots out the left side of the nose of my helicopter. And my helicopter whips about 30 degrees to the left and then snaps back. I said to my wingship, Blue Max, 1-8, 1-2, we just got hit. And my wingship says Roger that 1-2, we just got hit.

My co-pilot in the front seat is pointing down and just yelling really loud. He’s not on the intercom; he’s just pointing and yelling. And I look down and I see this big orange garbage can coming toward me and I thought, ‘The hell is that.’ It looked like a Star Wars kind of thing. It took a lot slower than you’d think a bullet would go and it went right past us. I’m thinking, ‘That’s a 23-millimeter antiaircraft cannon round tracer.’

So, I was an infantry guy – What do you do in a near ambush? You assault. I flipped the cobra over and dove on the gun. None of my weapons would work.

I pushed the rocket launch button, nothing.

I pulled the trigger for the mini-gun, nothing.

I pushed the button for the 40-millimeter grenade launcher, nothing.

I called my wingship and said, ‘See where I’m going to hit the ground? Blow that up!’ I pulled up my nose and he hit where I was trying to and there was a huge secondary explosion from where we took out munitions. But then my cockpit filled with smoke.

I thought this was really bad because the helicopter is made of magnesium and would just burn up. So, I was flying really low – a few feet off the ground – because I thought that when the thing goes up like a match, I’ll set it down and skid down the road and open the canopy and we’ll just jump out. But as we’re coming on final, the smoke cleared out and I landed. It was the weirdest thing. The 23 millimeter came up through the nose of the helicopter. It went through the heavy steel cartridge ejection shoot for the mini gun and just shredded that, and then it went through this wire loom that controlled all the weapons systems, and it was a big heavy bundle of wires. Because it was a tracer, it started the insulation on fire and that somehow got sucked into the cockpit. And that’s all that happened.

But for my wingship commander, the 23 millimeter went through his engine compartment and took out the Environmental Control Unit and turned it into shrapnel and clipped a hydraulics line. You can fly a helicopter if you can’t shoot, but you can’t fly the Cobra without hydraulics.

All this is a lead up to what happened the next day to fast Eddie Rickenbacker.

The next morning, they told me they got my rockets fixed but they haven’t fixed my mini-gun or my 40-millimeter grenade launcher. My wingship can’t go. I shouldn’t go because I don’t have all my weapons.

Somebody needs to be back up so that’s me.

Rickenbacker’s job was to provide security for the smoke generating Huey to mask the extraction. Rickenbacker is flying about 400′. In Vietnam they would always tell us to fly below 50′ or above 1500′ because between 50′ and 1500′ a guy can shoot you down with a rifle. Rickenbacker’s helicopter gets hit about 15 times by a 51-caliber machine gun. His engine quits, his helicopter starts on fire and he crashes into the woods directly east of Fire Support Base Pace, across the road.

He crashes, and the helicopter is leaning a bit to the right, sitting there on fire. Rickenbacker gets out and runs away from the helicopter. He turns around and he looks back and Mac, his co-pilot is still in there and he’s on fire, thrashing about. He’s not getting out. Understand that you don’t want to be standing in front of one of these things when it’s on fire because it’s got all these rockets on it ready to launch.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Rickenbacker runs back over there, reaches into the fire, unbuckles Mac, picks him up bodily and yanks him out of the helicopter and puts him behind a dirt mound as the ammo starts to explode. So, all this is going on and the other 11 cobras that are there can only fly for about an hour and a half and then they’re out of fuel. I get the call that they’re out of fuel and that they’re heading back, and I have to go find Rickenbacker. I said, ‘What do you mean, find him?’

Well, there was a patrol that left the support base to rescue the crew, but what they found was Mac laying there with a compound fracture of his femur and he’d broken his pelvis and he was badly burned. He had Rickenbacker’s pistol – Eddie had this really fancy revolver with a pearl handle, like a cowboy that he had brought with him. Rickenbacker had given it to Jim and told him he would go to the base to get help and have them come back for him.

The patrol walks over and finds Mac and ask him where his pilot is. He points east. East is 80 miles to the ocean through jungle, which would be the absolute wrong thing to do. I’m flying in little circles and only my rockets work. The guy in the front seat and I are trying to see where the hell Rick is.

The guy on the radio says, ‘We think our ground surveillance radar found your guy in some elephant grass across the road.’ So, my plan was to land in the Fire Support Base and my co-pilot would get out and I’d hover over there to where the elephant grass was and hopefully I’d find Rickenbacker. I’m on final to the Fire Support Base and one of the guys who flies the air ambulance, the Medevac, who’s a dear friend of ours, calls and says, ‘I’ve been listening to all this on the radio, and I’m coming up to get Rick. You just provide me with security.’ And so that’s what happened.

We get Rick out and God Bless Him. He had yanked Mac right out of there. Fast Eddie Rickenbacker had a stellar military career after that.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Eddie was a Harley guy. He drove his motorcycle to Omaha and stayed a couple days with my wife and me. This was eight years ago maybe. He drove clear across the country and back and when he got home, he checked into the hospital for problems with cancer from Agent Orange. He probably shouldn’t have made the trip and he didn’t even say anything to me about his health problems. We had a good visit.

He was dead shortly after that.

We went to his ceremony at Arlington and my wife said, ‘I don’t care if you knew who was getting buried here or not, you’d be crying just standing here.’

It was very touching. Mac showed up and that was really touching to watch him say goodbye. I’m still in touch with him. He’s a great guy. You know he says that Rick gave him the rest of his life, which he did.

That day sticks out in my memory because I’ve been reminded of it so many times over the years, having seen Mac and Fast Eddie. Even in the Arlington National Cemetery website eulogy for Ernest Rickenbacker said that I had given him the name Fast Eddie. So, if I’m proud of one thing, it’s that his son, Scott, who was also a helicopter pilot, had told the writer that.

I don’t think you ever become immune to the missions. You don’t become jaded, you become more professional with how to handle missions. And you learn when to break the rules, because sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Going from selling clothes for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour to flying around Vietnam in a million-and-a-half-dollar helicopter with all this elaborate training and going through all this craziness, I think I’m much better for it. I don’t know how I would have turned out otherwise, but it really helped me set my course and make good decisions. Between the training and the camaraderie with the guys in my unit and with my high school buddy Charlie Lee, it really prepared me for life. Not that life should be about killing, but the education experience, the leadership, well, it made me a better person.

Being around those guys was strengthening. A year ago, I was in Salado, Texas. I met up with my commander, Jerry, who was commander the first part of my tour, and my co-pilot and another aircraft commander. Jerry told us that we’d all been hand selected by our commanders. You know we had to wait 47 years to hear that but that was wonderful to hear. I don’t think he was making it up.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

It was a very special unit. Wings, the History of Aviation even did a little 10-minute thing on my unit. I don’t see the guys too often. I’m 70 now. Some of them have died.

In 1993, the Army had a new Apache helicopter company. And the new commander’s name was Timothy Solms. And I know this because he called me and said, ‘The Army gave me a new Apache unit and because I’m the charter commander, I get to name it. I looked through Army history and of all the stood down helicopter units so that I could give the members of my unit a legacy. I picked your unit. We’re calling our guys ‘Blue Max’ in your honor and we’re going to have a black-tie dinner in Fayetteville, North Carolina and we’d like you to come out for it.’

He found about 15 of us, and we went out for this dinner. The guest speaker that night was General Bill Miller, and Larry McKay who was the commander the second half I was out there. McKay was just a wonderful guy. He had decided it had been too long since we had seen each other after that night, so he started hosting a dinner the night before Veterans Day every year in Washington DC. Then on Veterans Day, we’d have a sunrise service at the wall, and then go have breakfast with the 1st Calvary Division.

Larry died in 2014. I don’t see the guys as a group like when Larry was doing those dinners, but we stay in touch and my crew chief even flew in from Alaska to see us. In 1995, I took my wife and daughter to a Vietnam helicopter pilots’ reunion and she saw that about 8 of these guys had Blue Max t-shirts on. And so, my wife went up to one of them, a guy named Jet Jackson. She asked if he knew me, and he replied, ‘No ma’am, he was just a legend when I got there.’ I pulled him aside and said, ‘Where did that come from? What do I owe you for that?’ And he said, ‘Just remember what to say to my wife when you meet her.’

Blue Max was truly a special group of guys. I think about them often. I guess I always will.”

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

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Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

Art Jetter, Jr. on his experience as a US Army Cobra Helicopter Gunship pilot flying in Vietnam. This interview was done for the Veterans History Project of …
MIGHTY CULTURE

These World War I troops claimed to be rescued by angels

In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.


The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.

On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.

George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.

After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.

The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.

Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

World War I Ex Machina.

The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.

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That time Taylor Swift dropped in on a World War II vet

World War II vets often have tales of meeting Hollywood stars doing USO tours. Well, Clyde Porter has one that is a lot more recent.


According to a report by the BBC, Porter got something many vets wished they got from Ingrid Bergman (among others), 71 years after the end of World War II.

This visit was from none other than music superstar and sometime actress Taylor Swift!

Porter’s been a fan of Ms. Swift – one of her oldest – as a way to get closer with his grandchildren. He told a local TV station that he’d taken two of his granddaughters to some of her concerts.

Well, word got back to the superstar, and she decided to surprise Mr. Porter, who saw action in the European Theater of Operations.

And what a surprise it was! She dropped by the 96-year-old vet’s home, spending hours with the family, and giving them a private performance of her hit “Shake it Off.” Porter, who is fighting cancer, has expressed his goal is to catch a concert on Ms. Swift’s next tour.

Bravo Zulu, Taylor Swift! Here’s the video for the song she sang:

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This daring ruse turned the tide of the American Revolution

The success of the American Revolution was far from certain in the early months of 1781. The patriots managed to gain French support and survived five years of fighting yet had still not been able to win a decisive victory.


But after a fake retreat baited a ruthless British commander into a bloody ambush, the tide slowly began to turn in the Americans’ favor and eventually led to the Crown’s defeat later that year.

In March 1780, the British invaded South Carolina and captured Charleston. When the crown won a lopsided victory at the Battle of Camden, it strengthened their hold on the southern colonies and routed the Continental Army in the south.

General George Washington sent Gen. Nathaniel Greene to take command the Patriots in the south. Greene immediately dispatched Gen. Daniel Morgan into the Carolina backcountry to harass Lord Cornwallis and interdict his supply lines. In response, Cornwallis sent Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, a brutal young commander, to stop Morgan.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’

The next January, Tarleton learned of Morgan’s presence and began a pursuit. Morgan began retreating north to avoid being caught between Tarleton’s and Cornwallis’ forces. Flooded rivers slowed his progress. Morgan decided to stand and fight Tarleton rather than get caught attempting to cross a river.

Although Morgan had a formidable force of over 1,000 men, Tarleton did as well. Unfortunately for Morgan, the majority of his force consisted of colonial militiamen, untested in battle. Morgan’s “green” militia had a tendency to break and run at the first hint of a real fight. Morgan knew it. Tarleton knew it. But Gen. Morgan was a clever chap.

He decided to use the untested militia as bait to draw Tarleton into a trap. Morgan devised an ingenious, if unorthodox, tactical plan. The Cowpens, a flat grazing area in backcountry South Carolina would be the place to make his stand. He used three lines of men to oppose Tarleton’s advance.

The first consisted of sharpshooters to harass the British and pick off officers. The sharpshooters would then fall back to the second line, made up of militiamen. The militia would fire off two volleys before feigning a rout and retreating to the third line. Morgan wanted the British to assume they defeated an untrained militia force and charge forward. Instead of finding a fleeing militia they would meet Lt. Col. John Howard’s colonial regulars holding the third line. In reserve, Morgan had a small force of Continental cavalry.

At dawn on January 17, Tarleton arrived at Cowpens and advanced on Morgan. Tarleton’s arrogance played right into Morgan’s trap. Although slightly outnumbered, the British had more cavalry, regular infantry, and artillery – which the colonials lacked.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
This painting depicts the British regulars engaging the Continentals at close range.

The British launched a frontal assault with infantry in the center and dragoons on the flanks. As they advanced, patriot sharpshooters hit the dragoons hard, taking out numerous officers and disorganizing their advance. They fell back to the second line to join the militia, as planned. When the Redcoats pressed the attack, militia fired off two volleys then began their false retreat. That’s when the British cavalry unexpectedly charged, sending the militia into a real retreat. They flew past the third line where they were supposed to reform.

The Continental cavalry, led by  Lt. Col. William Washington (cousin of  George Washington) came out of nowhere on the British right flank and dispersed their cavalry. The remaining British were still lured into the trap by the retreating militia and engaged the Colonial regulars.

Sensing victory, Tarleton committed his reserve infantry. When Lt. Col. Howard gave ordered his men to face the British reserve, a miscommunication sent them into retreat. Morgan, seeing this, quickly rode and turned the men around. They turned and fired a near point-blank volley into the advancing British infantry. It was the same trick the Americans were using in the center and it worked like a charm.

The rebels then surged into the demoralized British from all directions. As Morgan’s third line rushed forward with bayonets, the cavalry attacked from the right flank while the once-retreating militia reformed and hit the left. Many British soldiers surrendered on the spot. The rest fled.

Tarleton attempted to rally his men. He was met by Lt. Col. Washington who engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. Washington narrowly avoided being killed when his trumpeter appeared in time to dispatch a charging Redcoat. Tarleton escaped with what remained of his force.

Ten Questions with Rod Lurie, Director of Operation Enduring Freedom film ‘The Outpost’
The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse at center).

The battle lasted one hour but was a decisive victory for the Americans. The British lost over 100 killed, over 200 wounded, and over 500 captured along with two cannons. The Americans lost 12 killed and 60 wounded.

Cornwallis, fed up with the Americans, marched to meet them himself. He won a pyrrhic victory at Guilford Courthouse before seeking refuge at Yorktown. Gen. Washington laid siege to Yorktown and received the British surrender there on October 18, 1781.