“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is heading for the worst opening at the China box office of Disney’s new “Star Wars” movies.
The movie had earned $2.2 million in the region by 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to Variety, and was trailing behind three Chinese movies. The Chinese ticket service Maoyan is projecting “The Rise of Skywalker” to earn just $18 million during its theatrical run in China.
The “Star Wars” franchise has struggled to build an audience in the country, where Hollywood is increasingly relying on its box office to boost its blockbusters. The Chinese theatrical market has been growing at a rapid pace and is even projected to dethrone the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next few years.
Each Disney-era “Star Wars” movie has made less in China than the previous one. Here’s how each of them performed there:
“The Force Awakens” — 4 million
“Rogue One” — million
“The Last Jedi” — million
“Solo” — million
Despite the lack of enthusiasm in China, all of those movies except “Solo” grossed over id=”listicle-2641661309″ billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” earned over billion globally and 6 million domestically.
“The Rise of Skywalker” is expected to have a big opening domestically this weekend — despite negative reviews — but still less than the previous movies in the new trilogy. Boxoffice.com is projecting the movie to debut between 0 million and 0 million. “The Force Awakens” opened with 8 million domestically and “The Last Jedi” with 0 million.
“The Rise of Skywalker” so far has a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” movie since “The Phantom Menace.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa will soon train at the first indoor rifle range in the Army Reserve, a Modular Small Arms Range scheduled for a grand opening the end of April 2019.
“The sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the Armed Forces will have the single best indoor training facility in the Army,” Brigadier Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command Commanding General, said. “We are providing our soldiers in American Samoa state of the art training facilities and the ability to conduct training at home, keeping these citizen soldiers with their families and employers to the maximum extent possible.”
Prior to this construction, soldiers of the region flew to Hawaii to conduct their regular required training. Now with the training site locally based, soldiers will be able to complete their annual requirements without having to leave home to do so.
“We need to train our soldiers to be ready so that when they are called to go in harms’ way they can meet the challenge but also defeat the enemy,” Jon Lee, 9th MSC civilian executive officer, said. “They are all serving our country to protect our freedoms. So we are giving them the newest and best to train and succeed.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“We have a commitment to the community to build the soldiers’ readiness so they can be ready at their home station which lessens their time away from their families,” Lee said.
Lee, a retired general officer and former 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment commander, his first unit was the American Samoa-based 100th Battalion, B Co., in 1984. Years later he deployed with American Samoan soldiers in 2004 to Operation Iraqi Freedom and recalled what the soldiers previously endured in order to train for said deployment.
“The first time the 100th Battalion was mobilized to go to Iraq, the soldiers of American Samoa spent almost 9 months to train and get certified,” he recalled. “So that’s almost two years they were away from home. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“The Army is committed to the training and readiness, for the people of American Samoa who have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands who serve, and we are bringing in a State of the Art facility, the first of its kind for their sons and daughters,” Lee said. “We are bringing them the best of the best so that they can maximize to train in their local area.”
“We now have a greater chance to focus on the mission and training instead of spending a whole day at the shooting range,” Staff Sgt. Faiupu Tagaleo’o, unit supply sergeant for Theater Support Group- Pacific, American Samoa. “Now we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles to qualify with weapons. We can do it right here at home.”
Other Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa expressed similar sentiments.
(U.S. Army photo)
“I support the building of MSAR because I won’t have to wait a whole year for Annual Training to shoot,” Sgt. K. Moetala, C. Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Inf. Regt. said. “Also I get to train but I will be spending more time with my family.”
Furthermore, Lee stated, the MSAR is safe.
“It has zero escape for a round, 100 percent containment, from the ceiling to the walls to the ground,” he specified. “We issue ammo inside the building, with the doors closed and lock the building while firing. We take accountability of spent casings. We do accountability before we open the room again.”
The MSAR is also environmentally safe, with a filtration system so the fumes and gases released from the weapons are filtered. An additional benefit of the indoor facility, not only is it environmentally sound, but contains literal sound within from insulation.
“Noise abatement measures have been taken so that our community neighbors aren’t listening to the sounds of the rifle range during a training weekend,” said Anderson.
While maintaining U.S. Army Safety standards during use of the facility, the existence of the facility will also enable law enforcement and other security and protection entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, access to train.
Through the duration of construction, 9th MSC has hosted three community town halls continuing the relationship with its neighbors.
“Thanks to the community for participating in the three community engagements that we’ve held,” Anderson said. “Safety is a priority for the Army Reserve and the Modular Small Arms Range is safe and we welcome any opportunity to show this.”
As the nation grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military community and those wishing to join are feeling the effects. A recent memo released by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) states that recruit candidates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 — even after a full recovery — will now be permanently disqualified from joining the military.
“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads.
Military Times reached out to a Pentagon spokesperson to verify the accuracy of the MEPCOM memo which began circulating on Twitter on May 4, 2020. The Times confirmed the memo was accurate. This disqualifier for serving impacts not just new potential recruits walking in but also those already in the processing phase. According to the memo, once a potential recruit tests positive they must wait 28 days to return to MEPS. Upon return, they will be labeled “permanently disqualified.”
The military does allow medical waivers in certain cases where there is a disqualifier, so initially the assumption was that this would be the case with COVID-19, as well. This appears to not be the case. With COVID-19 being a new virus and little known about the after-effects of surviving it, there is no current guidance in place to inform those who’d be reviewing potential waivers.
When Military Times asked the Pentagon spokesperson why COVID-19 was being labeled a permanently disqualifying diagnosis when other similar acute illnesses weren’t, they declined to answer the question.
Medical professionals are currently racing to research this virus and compile data to understand it. Research institutes all across the world are doing the same to develop a vaccine. But without reliable information on long-term effects or the potential to have a relapse with the virus, too much is unknown. It may be with this in mind that the DOD is implementing this disqualifier, with the potential for it to be lifted later.
In the meantime, survivors of COVID-19 will be turned away and disqualified from serving this country. The Pentagon has not issued any guidance for active duty service members who contract the virus and recover.
Longtime readers of WATM know that the U.S. Navy had flying carriers in the 1930s that eventually failed as zeppelins began crashing and fighters increased in size and weight. But the Air Force wanted their own aircraft carriers in the 1970s, and they thought the new Boeing 747s were just the ticket.
The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept
So the Air Force figured, “What if we made jet fighters small enough to fit in the fuselage?”
The Air Force had already experimented with different methods of pairing bombers and fighters through the late 1940s to 1960s. But the only flying carrier was tested on the B-36 Convair. The Gremlin fighters that could fit in the bomber were too tiny and susceptible to turbulence, and pilots couldn’t make the linkups work.
A mock-up of how planes could fit inside the 747 on a conveyor belt along the plane’s spine.
So when the Air Force asked Boeing to take a look at an airborne-carrier variant of the 747, Boeing imagined its own tiny “microfighters.” Ten of these could be teamed with a single 747 equipped with a conveyor belt that could hold them in the plane and shift them to the open bays for launching.
The concept even called for a crew that could re-arm microfighters while the carrier was in flight. And the fighters could be refueled without fully re-entering the plane.
But the Air Force never pursued the idea beyond the 60-page proposal from Boeing, which might be best since a lot of important questions were left unanswered. Could the 747s really carry enough fuel to keep themselves and the microfighters going in a battle? Would the microfighters struggle with the same turbulence problems as the B-36s Gremlins?
What would be the combat radius for a microfighter after leaving its 747? Would it be large enough for the 747 to stay out of range of air defenses while remaining on station to pick up the fighters after the mission?
Boeing experimented with different microfighter designs, but none of them ever went into a prototype phase.
Most importantly, Boeing believed that microfighters could go toe-to-toe with many full-sized fighters at the time, but was there any real chance that Boeing could keep iterating new microfighters that could out-fly and fight full-sized fighters from Russia as the years ticked by?
It seems like it would’ve been a big lift for the aircraft designers and military planners to make the whole program militarily useful.
A new concept that uses drones instead of piloted fighters has popped up multiple times in recent years, and it features a number of key improvements over the 1970s 747 concept. Most importantly, drones don’t have pilots that need to be recovered. So if they face a range shortfall, have to fight Russian fighters on disadvantaged terms, or need to be left behind to save the carrier crew, it’s no big deal.
It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.
Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.
“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.
During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.
“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.
The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”
On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”
Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.
“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”
Soldier protection system
After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.
The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.
The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.
“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.
The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.
The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.
In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.
Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.
Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.
Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.
“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”
A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.
“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.
Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.
Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.
Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.
Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.
Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today’s growing technology industry.
MSSA is an 18-week program that provides transitioning service members and veterans with intensive training for high-paying careers in tech fields like database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, server and cloud administration, and cybersecurity administration. Essentially, it draws on military service members’ skill sets to quickly assess, analyze, and fix a situation with the resources at hand while remaining calm and focused, this time in the virtual world. It’s a role for which they’ve already proven themselves well-suited.
“I feel like I have so many new opportunities at my fingertips and I have the ability contribute the Microsoft mission now,” says Brown.
Enrolled service members take the course as their duty assignment, either on base or at a local community campus, spending the 18 weeks receiving both classroom and hands-on training in tech products and skills. They also prep for interviews and work with Microsoft mentors to ready them for a career in the technology industry. The program boasts a graduation rate of over 90% and upon completion, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its more than 280 hiring partners.
A new community for vets in tech
For Brown, MSSA translated to a total of 14 interviews with Microsoft. From those interviews, she received seven job offers, ultimately choosing to parlay her experience in USMC as an intelligence analyst into a security analyst in Microsoft’s own Cyber Defense Operations Center.
Just as important, though, she’s found a new sense of camaraderie with her co-workers in the tech industry, something she feared her exit from the Marines would force her to give up. She credits MSSA and Microsoft with building that community and introducing her to it.
“It has been easier to adjust to corporate world than I would have expected and I know it’s because of Microsoft being so amazing and because there are so many former military personnel where I work,” says Brown.
Job satisfaction, new purpose and a strong civilian community – it’s a vision of your future that’s worth the fight.
When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”
The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.
McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.
At first, McMillan was unruffled.
“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”
McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.
She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.
“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”
That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.
McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.
“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”
The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.
“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.
This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.
Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.
“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”
It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.
The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.
When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.
Using the back extension machine to work abs
Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.
Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.
The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.
When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.
Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.
In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.
It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.
The muscles of the back extension.
The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.
The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.
Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)
In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.
To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:
Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).
Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.
As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.
Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.
Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.
Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…
Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.
Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.
It’s sometimes hard to remember that World War II wasn’t actually a single, globe-spanning conflict. It was really about a dozen smaller conflicts that had all been openly fought (or at least simmering) in the months and years leading up to the German invasion of Poland — the moment most historians point to as the beginning of the war.
Members of the Russian Liberation Army stand together in 1943. The “POA” patch features the Cyrillic-language abbreviation of the unit’s name in Russian.
(Karl Muller, Bundesarchiv Bild)
One of those long-simmering conflicts was between the Soviets in Russia and the Fascists in Germany. Both countries descended into harsh autocracies between World Wars I and II, but their leaders were deeply distrustful of one another. And, their populations were split as to who the worse evil was, even during the war.
That’s probably why somewhere around 200,000 Russian soldiers were recruited from prisoner of war camps and Soviet defections to form the Russian Liberation Army, a military force of Russian citizens who fought for Hitler against Stalin.
The head of the unit, abbreviated from Russian as the ROA, was a decorated Soviet officer, Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov. Vlasov and his men fought well against the Nazi invasion of Russia.
A Leningrad building burns after a German air raid in World War II. The city was besieged by German forces, and Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov was in charge of a large segment of the forces sent to free it.
(RIA Novosti Archive)
Vlasov commanded the 4th Mechanized Corps, and he and his men retook multiple cities from Nazi forces during counterattacks, escaped encirclement at one point, and even helped save Moscow at one point. His face was printed in newspapers as a “defender of Moscow” and he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
But he was then placed in command of an army and sent to break the siege at Leningrad. He failed, though some historians point to the failure of other commanders to exploit openings that Vlasov created. Regardless, most of his army was eventually slaughtered and he was captured.
While imprisoned in prisoner of war camps, Vlasov was known for making statements against Stalin. Eventually, this led to Vlasov advocating for a new military unit made up of Russians and commanded by Russians — but fighting for Germany.
Russian defector to Germany Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov speaks with volunteers in Germany in 1944.
After months in POW camps, Vlasov was able to convince Germany to create the ROA. He wrote pamphlets and other materials to convince more Soviet POWs to join, and these were also dropped as leaflets over Soviet formations to trigger defections. The main selling point was that, after the war, Germany would allow for a free and democratic Russia.
Unfortunately for Vlasov, the Germans still barely trusted him. Most Russians recruited into the ROA served under the command of other officers, including German ones. Vlasov was promoted to general but only put in command of the ROA against Soviet forces one time. On February 11, 1945, Vlasov led the ROA against the Red Army as the Soviets pressed against a Polish river.
Russian defector Gen. Andrey Vlasov meets with senior Nazi leaders, including Joseph Goebbels at far right.
The ROA performed well, but was ultimately withdrawn and never sent into full-scale battle again. As Germany continued to lose ground, many in the ROA switched sides again, and fought their way through German units towards the western Allies, hoping that British and American forces would accept a surrender and request for asylum.
After all, they had no delusions about what the Soviets would do to captured Russian soldiers who fought against Stalin and the Red Army.
More than 30,000 pounds of pure cocaine sit on the pier next to the USS McInerney (FFG-8) just after it was offloaded. The $3.9 billion in drugs were seized in two separate busts in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard/Bobby Nash)
Ordinarily, patrolling the waters near Central and South America for drug traffickers is a job largely left to the U.S. Coast Guard. But since April 1 of this year, the U.S. Navy has surged assets to the region to assist with the mission — and helped reel in more than $2.5 billion worth of contraband to date.
The operation has gotten presidential attention and is ongoing, with the Navy destroyer Pinckney publicizing a recent major bust this week. The Pinckney, homeported in San Diego, executed a seizure with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment July 24, seizing more than 120 kilograms, or 265 pounds, of suspected cocaine from a single ship. In total, the haul was worth some $4.5 million.
“While on routine patrol, approximately 200 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica, a helicopter assigned to the ‘Wolf Pack’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 75 located the vessel and Pinckney soon arrived on scene,” Navy officials said in a release. “After coordination with the Government of Colombia and Colombian Navy, the vessel was searched and six suspected drug smugglers detained. The mariners are now in Government of Colombia custody.”
The crew of the Pinckney also secured medical evacuation for one detainee for whom treatment was deemed necessary for survival.
Heads of U.S. Southern Command have long expressed their wish for more U.S. Navy assets in the region to stop a drug trade tied to tens of thousands of U.S. deaths every year. Under the enhanced counternarcotics mission, those ships and aircraft are in place, at least for now.
Top officials say the billion drug trade, which thrives in unstable regions, has taken advantage of the added instability of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the end of March, we have employed, in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships than normal for drug interdiction,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a July 10 news conference from Doral, Florida. “These additional assets include four Navy destroyers, five Coast Guard cutters, and eight aircraft. Currently, nearly a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships and over 15 aircraft from across the interagency are supporting our efforts, in addition to security forces deployed to the region.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet, Cmdr. Katherine Meadows, said in a statement to Military.com that additional Defense Department capabilities added in the ramp-up include a continuous rotation of Navy destroyers and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; Navy littoral combat ships; P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft; Air ForceE-3 AWAC and E-8 JSTARS aircraft for reconnaissance; and an Army Security Forces Assistance Brigade company for advisory support. The Coast Guard has also increased its cutter and helicopter presence, and 22 partner nations have aided the effort.
“All of our ships have an embarked [Coast Guard] Law Enforcement Detachment onboard,” Meadows said. “The Navy supports the detection, while the Coast Guard has the authorities to seize narcotics and detain illicit trafficking suspects.”
To date, she said, the Navy has participated in the seizure of 16,396 kilograms of cocaine — more than 36,000 pounds — and 16,601 marijuana. The overall enhanced mission has “disrupted or seized” more than 38,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 98 metric tons of cocaine, she said.
“The operation has denied transnational criminal organizations more than .5 billion in criminal profits from the smuggling of narcotics that kill thousands of people every year and cause substantial human suffering in the U.S. and around the world,” she added.
That’s up from under billion on July 10.
Meadows did not provide comparison figures for the same period last year, but Esper said the U.S. military had been able to increase targeting of known drug operations by 60%. And at the Doral news conference, SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller said drug “disruptions” had increased by 15%.
“And 60 percent more targeting is a big deal for us because that means we can put more assets on more targets. And the enemy has seen that,” Faller said. “We’ve gotten information from our intelligence agencies that says the enemy has watched that and they’re waiting, and they’re stockpiling and they’re trying to change their tactics.”
Tehran says that Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, left the country “long ago” and doesn’t know where he is, rejecting a claim by his family saying he died in Iranian custody.
“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said in a statement on March 26.
He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”
“Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody. Those facts have not changed,” added Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission at the United Nations.
The Iranian comments come in response to a White House statement saying that the U.S. administration believed Bob Levinson may have passed away “some time ago.”
“Iran must provide a complete accounting of what occurred with Bob Levinson before the United States can fully accept what happened in this case,” White House national-security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement about the American, who disappeared in Iran 13 years ago, when he was 58.
Before that statement, Levinson’s family posted on social media that it had received word about his likely fate from the U.S. government.
“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” the Levinson family said in a statement.
“We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.
Following the family’s announcement and before O’Brien’s comments, President Donald Trump told reporters that “I won’t accept that he’s dead.”
Levinson had been “sick for a long time” before he was detained, Trump said, adding that he felt “terribly” for the family but still had some hope that Levinson was alive.
“It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he” dead. They haven’t told us that he’s dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that’s the case,” he said.
Levinson disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort of Kish Island in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.
The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.
However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”
The Levinson family said he would be alive today “if not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime.”
“How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands,” the statement added.
During the bloody and costly Argonne Offensive, American forces had to fight for three weeks and suffer 100,000 casualties to reach the objectives that were planned for the first day of fighting. One of those objectives was a large, well-defended hill that Douglas MacArthur was ordered to either capture or spend 5,000 lives in the failure. MacArthur promised his name would be on the list if he failed.
MacArthur was a brigadier general at the time, recently passed over for promotion and in command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, and he and his men had already fought viciously from Sep. 26, 1918, to early October. MacArthur had led some of their attacks, including a daring nighttime raid, from the front, earning him nominations for what would become his sixth and seventh Silver Stars.
But the 84th was moved up to a division at Côte de Châtillon. It’s a large hill that dominates the surrounding terrain, and MacArthur assessed that it was the center of German fortifications in the area. He carefully laid his plans for attack and, as he was finishing up, his new corps commander visited him in his tent.
Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall and MacArthur were old friends and shared a cup of coffee. When he was done, Summerall stood to leave and told MacArthur, “Give me Châtillon, MacArthur, or turn in a list of 5,000 casualties.”
It was a surprising order, but it highlighted the dire straits the American Expeditionary Force was in. Their first offensive in the Meuse the month before had gone very well, but America still had to prove itself to its allies. And Germany was close to winning the war before America entered it. Russia had fallen out of the war in 1917, and the French people were weary after over four years of fighting on their soil.
France could still fall, Germany could still win, and America would be seen as weak and exploited even if Germany lost the war without a significant American victory. Summerall and the other senior generals were willing to do nearly anything to prove that America was a real power on the world stage and to punish Germany for sinking U.S. ships.
But MacArthur was no slouch either. Remember, in less than a month of fighting before this meeting, he had earned himself nominations for two more Silver Stars. Though he would later be embarrassed by the drama of his response, what he said to Summerall at the time was, “All right, general. We’ll take it, or my name will head the list.”
To paraphrase, “I will come back with that hill or on it.” On October 14, MacArthur began his attack with “my Alabama cotton growers on my left, my Iowa farmers on my right,” as he referred to the National Guard forces under his command. The 83rd Infantry Brigade, made up mostly of New York and Ohio units, fought bravely beside the 84th.
…little units of our men crawled and sneaked and side-slipped forward from one bit of cover to another. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sang its way through our ranks. But like the arms of a giant pincer my Alabama and Iowa National Guardsmen closed in from both sides. Officers fell and sergeants leaped to command. Companies dwindled to platoons and corporals took over.”
Côte de Châtillon fell to American hands late on October 16, MacArthur had led from the front, and he would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his great courage “in rallying broken lines and in reforming attacks, thereby making victory possible.”
The Germans counterattacked, ferociously, but MacArthur and his men held on, and the hills nearby quickly fell to American forces. The 42nd Infantry Division, of which the 83rd and 84th were part, would be temporarily relieved from front line duty on October 18. The two brigades had suffered 3,000 casualties taking the hill.
The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.
When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.
This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.
Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec
The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.
One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.
COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire
A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.
The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.
The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.
The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.
Steel drizzle vs steel rain
The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.
Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.