How soldier-made 'The Gatekeeper' fights veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.

In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.

Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”

His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.

This ain’t no ordinary student film:


How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.

Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.

Also read: We have to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

“I knew I had to make this movie last year when I learned two of my military friends had decided to take their own life,” said Martinez.

For more and more veterans, losing friends to suicide is becoming a reality. For the rest, it’s a deep fear, and one we must respond to.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

U.S. Army veteran Christopher Loverro in ‘The Gatekeeper.’

“This is the war they are fighting — and this is the war they are losing,” said Loverro, who has been open about sharing his own struggles after returning from combat.

Martinez’s film reflects a growing trend among veterans in the film industry to tell their own stories, both as a form of catharsis and also to ensure authenticity in the work.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

This set was not cheap.

The Gatekeeper is currently in production. If anyone wants to help bring the film to life, there are a few ways to do it.

Southern California locals can become part of the cast and crew in a Mojave Desert shoot the weekend of May 11-12.

Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 awesome movie moments troops wish they could pull off

Spoiler alert! Movies aren’t real.


Although some of our favorite films are pretty “out there” when it comes to pulling off some amazing feats, there are quite a few movie moments that Marines would love to train their asses off for and totally pull off.

For instance:

Related: 6 of the worst times to salute officers

1. Curving a freakin’ bullet (Wanted)

In a hostage situation, shooting around the victim and nailing the assailant would come in quite handy — if we could master it. But we doubt we ever could.

How awesome would this be?

2. Shooting out the floor (Underworld)

In many cases, service members have to find clever ways to evacuate from a desperate situation. In 2003’s Underworld, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) shoots the floor out in order to escape from vicious werewolves.

This is a great idea; you know, if the physics were possible and humans could handle 20-foot drops.

If it worked for her, it should work in real life.

3. Inverting you fighter jet (Top Gun)

When flying in an aerial dogfight, there’s no better way to send the enemy an FU message like Maverick’s in 1986’s Top Gun. He managed to fly inverted and flip the bird to his rival flying ace.

This feat is near impossible, but “Mav” makes it look easy as hell.

They went ballistic! 

4. Putting on a parachute in mid-air (Eraser)

In 1996, director Chick Russell took on a stunt that had audience asking, “How did they do that?” when U.S. Marshal John “The Eraser” Kruger threw a parachute outside of a speeding plane at high-attitude then retrieves the “chute” in mid-air.

We think that’s pretty badass.

Who wants to go skydiving? 

5. The backbend bullet dodge (The Matrix)

At times, Marines fight in close quarters combat when charging in enemy territory, and, unfortunately, sometimes they get shot. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they could just dodge incoming rounds like Nero? We think so.

There is no spoon. 

Also Read: 6 epic movie moments that always make Marines pump their fist

6. Shooting someone through their scope (Saving Private Ryan)

Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed Saving Private Ryan.

After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, he brilliantly captured the moment when Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.

Although it’s reported Marine legend Carlos Hathcock made this historic shot, the myth has been both deemed both “busted” and “plausible” by the same people — the Myth Busters. Regardless, we want to be able to pull it off again, and again. Mostly for bragging rights.

Bam! 

MIGHTY FIT

March virtually with fellow vets and soldiers in Iraq this Saturday

Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?

Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.


This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.

So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.

“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”

The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.

This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.

23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?

When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.

When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.

Why Post-Traumatic Stress is Supposed to Happen

www.youtube.com

Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.

The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.

After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.

Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.

There are only four rules:

  • No drinking
  • No bitching
  • No news (local news but not to take in negative)
  • No war stories

Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.

This is where you come in.

If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!

MIGHTY MOVIES

This interactive timeline will help you understand the time-traveling in ‘Endgame’

Avengers: Endgame is a beast of a movie. It’s over three hours long, yet it still feels stuffed with characters and action sequences. The time travel logic that film deploys isn’t simple, Back to the Future-style stuff. It’s elaborate and convoluted, and knowing where (and when) a particular scene is taking place is a difficult proposition for all but the most dedicated Marvel fans. Luckily, there’s a new tool that can help you process everything that happened in Endgame.

Oren Bell is a St. Louis-based electronics engineer who works on personal coding projects in his spare time, posting his creations to GitHub and his own blog. The Endgame Timelines applet is his most popular project yet, its popularity due to the tons of people who saw the film and struggled to comprehend its structure.


When you open the timeline, you’ll see a spectrum with a cluster of ten circles on the right side, past the notch marked Endgame, itself to the right of one marked The Snap. Each circle contains a Funko-inspired icon for one of the Avengers, and when you click on a character to see their journey through time and space throughout the movie. The characters who join them on their journeys are also shown, a little cluster veering off the main timeline into alternate histories.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

(Marvel Studios)

As you click, you can read a brief description of the scene below the timeline, a useful device for trying to figure out just how everything fits together. The timeline also shows which Infinity stones the characters have at any given point.

Bell’s timeline is fun to play around with, but its real value will come when you watch Endgame from the comfort of your own home, with the ability to pause confusing scenes and click to figure out exactly what’s happening. Chances are, you’ll figure out something you missed the first time, making Endgame the gift that keeps on giving.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ trailer is perfect – don’t at me

Get ready for two minutes and fifty-six seconds of glory because the latest trailer from the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise just dropped. This is why The Rock wakes up at 4:00 to work out while the rest of us sleep like lazy jerks. Hobbs & Shaw looks like it will be completely ridiculous — and that’s why it’s going to be perfection.

Check it out:


Hobbs & Shaw (Official Trailer)

www.youtube.com

Hobbs & Shaw (Official Trailer)

Hobbs Shaw will be the 9th film in the Fast Furious franchise and just like its predecessors, it’s completely bonkers. But it knows that it’s bonkers — and that’s why it’s brilliant.

The franchise started out in 2001 with street racing, thieves, and an undercover cop (played by the late and very much missed Paul Walker), and since then it has exploded into a billion franchise that burns physics like NOS. In the latest film, they’re upping the ante and throwing in super powers.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

No complaints here.

“I am human evolutionary change. Bullet proof. Super human,” purrs Idris Elba, the self-proclaimed “bad guy” of the film. According to The Rock, Elba plays a “cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist [who] gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever,” and former nemeses Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must team up together to stop him.

Even though they hate each other but actually share similar ideals. So silly.

Vanessa Kirby plays a rogue M16 agent in there somewhere, too, and I’ll be watching with my Bechdel checklist…

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

This is the party I signed up for.

Johnson has made a career out of over-the-top roles that he absolutely pulls off. He’s not making dark action flicks — he’s making films designed to give the viewer some fun. Hobbs Shaw looks like it will be no exception. The creative team doubled down on action thriller endorphins by playing up that ol’ “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trope — and they did it because it works.

Also read: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wanted to be a CIA agent

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

You guys are so silly.

The trailer reveals a peek at what we can expect from the film: car chases, explosions, destroyed buildings, and dudes who have spent a lotta hours in the gym beating each other up.

And a girl. Somewhere. Getting captured it looks like. So probably also rescued. She better have some of her own agency is what I’m saying. We can talk about it later, writing duo Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson…

Ultimately, my bet is that the trailer is advertising the exact film it represents: an action-packed, fun-filled, no brainer experience, which is perfect.

Hobbs Shaw opens on August 2, 2019.

More: Read about that time The Rock surprised a combat veteran

MIGHTY HISTORY

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Jet engines, air-to-air rockets, drones. World War II was filled with flashy technological breakthroughs that would change warfare, both during that conflict and in wars to follow. But it was one humble piece of equipment that got an early upgrade that may have actually tipped the war in America’s favor: the fuse.

Specifically, impact and timed fuses were switched out for a weapon that had been hypothetical until then: the proximity fuse.


How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

Anti-aircraft guns fire during World War II. Air defenders using timed fuses had to fire a lot of rounds to bring anything down.

(U.S. Army)

Anti-aircraft and other artillery rounds typically consist of an outer shell packed with a large amount of high explosives. These explosives are relatively stable, and require the activation of a fuse to detonate. Before World War II, there were two broad categories of fuses: impact and timed.

Impact fuses, sometimes known as crush fuses, go off when they impact something. A split-second later, this sets off the main explosives in the shell and causes it to explode in a cloud of shrapnel. This is great for hitting armored targets where you need the explosion pressed as closely as possible against the hull.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

A U.S. bomber flies through clouds of flak with an engine smoking. While flak and other timed-burst weapons could bring down planes, it typically took entire batteries firing at high rates to actually down anything.

(U.S. Air Force)

But for anti-personnel, anti-aircraft, or just wide-area coverage fire, artillerymen want the round to go off a couple feet or a couple yards above the ground. This allows for a much wider spread of lethal shrapnel. The best way of accomplishing this until 1940 was with a timed fuse. The force of the shell being propelled out of the tube starts a timer in the fuse, and the shell detonates after a set duration.

The fuses could be set to different times, and artillerymen in the fire direction center would do the math to see what time setting was needed for maximum shrapnel burst.

But timed fuses were less than perfect, and small math errors could lead to a round going off too early, allowing the shrapnel to disperse and slow before reaching personnel and planes, or too late, allowing the round to get stuck deep into the dirt before going off — the dirt then absorbs the round’s energy and stops much of the shrapnel.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University succeeded in creating a revolutionary fuse that would tip battles in America’s favor.

So, in 1940, the National Defense Research Committee asked the Carnegie Institution and Johns Hopkins University to complete research on a tricky project, proximity fuses that worked by sending out radio waves and then measuring the time it takes for those waves to bounce back, allowing it to detonate a set distance from an object. This required shrinking down a radio transmitter and receiver until it was small enough to fit in the space allotted for a fuse.

This, in turn, required all sorts of breakthroughs, like shrinking down vacuum tubes and finding ways to cradle all the sensitive electronics when a round is fired out of the tube.

The scientists accepted the challenge and began work in total secrecy. Top-tier talent, like Dr. James Van Allen, the one the “Van Allen radiation belt” is named after, managed to create a working fuse that detonated near its target approximately half the time.

That may not sound like a great rate, but it was actually a bit of a miracle. Air defenders had to fire thousands of rounds on average to bring down any of the fast, single-engine bombers that were becoming more and more popular — and deadly.

So, to suddenly have rounds that would explode near their target half the time, potentially bringing down an enemy plane in just a few dozen or few hundred shots, was a revelation.

This solved a few problems. Ships were now less likely to run out of anti-aircraft ammunition while on long cruises and could suddenly defend themselves much better from concerted bomber attacks.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

Sailors man anti-aircraft guns during World War II on the USS Hornet.

(U.S. Navy)

In fact, for the first while after the rounds were deployed, gains were only made at sea because the technology was deemed too sensitive to employ on land where duds could be captured and then reverse-engineered.

The fuses’ combat debut came at Guadalcanal where the USS Helena, one of the first three ships to receive it, fired on a dive bomber heading for its task force. The Helena fired two rounds and the fuses’ first victim burst into flame before plunging to a watery grave.

Two rounds, at a time when thousands used to fail to bring down an enemy plane.

From then on, naval commanders steered ships loaded with the advanced shells into the hearts of oncoming enemy waves, and the fuse was credited with 50 percent of the enemy kills the fleet attained even though only 25 percent of the ammo issued to the fleet had proximity fuses.

That means the fuse was outperforming traditional rounds three to one in routine combat conditions.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

A fireball from a kamikaze attack engulfs the USS Columbia during a battle near the Philippines in 1945. The Columbia survived, but 13 crew members were killed.

(U.S. Navy)

It even potentially saved the life of one of its creators, Dr. Van Allen. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where U.S. planes and gunners brought down over 500 Japanese planes, Dr. Van Allen was exposed on the USS Washington when it came under kamikaze attack. He later described what happened next:

“I saw at least two or three 5-inch shell bursts in the vicinity of the plane, and then the plane dove into the water several hundred yards short of the ship,” he said. “It was so close I could make out the pilot of the plane.”

The rounds were finally authorized for ground warfare in 1944, and their greatest moment came during the Battle of the Bulge when Gen. George S. Patton ordered them used against a concentration of tank crews and infantry.

The rounds were set to go off approximately 50 feet above the ground. Shrapnel tore through men and light equipment and took entire armored and infantry units out of play due to the sheer number of wounded and killed service members.

“The new shell with the funny fuse is devastating,” General Patton later wrote to the War Department. “I’m glad you all thought of it first.”
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why China’s J-20 can’t dogfight US stealth fighters

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet represents a massive milestone for Beijing’s armed forces and the first stealth aircraft ever fielded outside the US, but the impressive effort still falls noticeably short in some areas.

The J-20 doesn’t have a cannon and represents the only entry into the world of fifth-generation fighters that skips the gun, which has seen 100 years of aerial combat.

Enemy aircraft can’t jam a fighter jet’s gun. Flares and chaff will never fool a gun, which needs no radar. Bullets rip out of the gun already above the speed of sound and need not wait for rocket boosters to kick in.


While the F-22, the US’s fifth-generation stealth superiority fighter, can hold just eight missiles, its 20mm rotary cannon holds 480 rounds it can expend in about five seconds of nonstop firing.

The US’s other fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35, has already used its cannon in combat missions in Afghanistan.

But not every jet needs a gun, and not every jet needs to dogfight.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

The F-35B firing its gun pod in the air for the first time.

(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)

The J-20 doesn’t even consider dogfights

The J-20’s lack of a gun shows that the “Chinese recognize that being in a dogfight is not a mission that they’re building for,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-22 pilot and F-35B squadron commander, told Business Insider.

“They probably want to avoid a dogfight at all costs,” he continued.

Air-combat experts previously told Business Insider that the J-20 most likely couldn’t compete with even older US jets like the F-15 in head-on dogfights, but that it most likely didn’t need to.

The Chinese jet — with powerful sensors, long-range missiles, and a stealth design — poses a serious threat to US Air Force refueling, early warning, and other support planes. Tactically, beating back these logistical planes with J-20s could allow China to keep the US operating at an arm’s length in a conflict.

But it increasingly looks as if the J-20 would lose handily to US fighter jets in outright combat, and that may be the point.

According to Berke, guns only work to about 800 feet to score aerial kills.

“I’d rather have a missile that’s good to 800 feet that goes out to 20 miles than a gun that goes to 800 feet and closer but nothing else,” Berke said, adding, “Once you start getting outside of 1,000 feet, you can start using missiles.”

Because the J-20 wasn’t meant to be a close-in brawler, the Chinese ditched it, saving room and weight aboard the jet to allow for other technologies.

Also, the mission of the gun in air-to-air combat may be disappearing.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

The last US air-to-air-guns kill wasn’t exactly done by a fifth-gen.

(DVIDS)

The US started building the F-22 in the 1990s with a hangover from combat losses to air-to-air guns in Vietnam after fielding jets without guns and relying solely on missiles. The F-35 includes a gun because it has a broad set of missions that include close air support and air-to-ground fires.

“In air-to-air, the cannon serves one very specific and limited purpose only useful in a very predictable phase of flight, which is a dogfight,” Berke said.

“The Chinese probably recognize that [dogfights are] not where they want the airframe to be and that’s not the investment they want to make,” he continued.

“Utilizing a gun against a highly maneuverable platform is an incredibly challenging task,” Berke said. In World War II, propeller-driven planes frequently engaged in turning fights where they attempted to get behind one another and let the guns rip, and bombers flew with turret gunners covering the whole compass.

But today’s F-22s, J-20s, Su-35s, and other highly maneuverable jets give the guns an “extremely limited use” in combat, according to Berke.

Berke said the US most likely hadn’t scored an air-to-air-guns kill in decades.

A Business Insider review found that the last time a US plane shot down an enemy aircraft with guns was most likely the Cold War-era tank buster A-10 downing an Iraqi helicopter in 1991— hardly applicable to the world of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

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

Articles

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Airborne forces face a problem whenever they have to jump behind enemy lines — whether it’s to seize an enemy airfield or to take and hold territory.


The paratroopers can’t bring their own armor support, because America doesn’t currently have an airborne-certified tank or large armored vehicle. (The Stryker and the Light Armored Vehicle have undergone successful airdrop tests, but neither has been certified).

But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide
The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.

The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide
An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Sheridan was crewed by four people and weighed 16 tons, light enough that it could actually swim through the water. It was powered by a 300-hp diesel engine and could hit approximately 45 mph. It could travel 373 miles between fill-ups.

The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide
The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.

The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.

Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide
The M551 Sheridan could be airdropped from Air Force cargo planes. Crew would follow it to the ground and get the tank up and running. (GIF: YouTube/Strength through Humility)

Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.

The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.

By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide
The M60 Patton, which is still in service with allied nations today, was seen as more reliable and powerful than the M551. (GIF: YouTube/arronlee33)

According to an Army history pamphlet, one cavalryman told the Stars and Stripes, “We can get the job done with the Sheridan, but most cavalrymen would rather have the tank.”

The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.

The Army is, once again, looking at new light tanks or heavy-armored vehicles to support paratroopers. The new solution could be another custom-built tank, like the Sheridan. But as of summer 2016, its specifications were up in the air. It just has to be capable of an airdrop, and it has to get the job done.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an english dude invented a gun that fired square bullets

Considered to be little more than a historical curio today, the early 18th century Puckle Gun was nonetheless one of the most advanced firearms of its age, capable of firing one shot every 6 seconds in an era when even the most highly skilled soldier equipped with a musket typically topped out at a rate of only about one shot every 20 seconds.

Invented by one James Puckle Esq, an English lawyer and essayist, the Puckle Gun was a flintlock weapon capable of turning a man’s insides into a cloud of viscera. Its most unique feature was a rotating cylinder that allowed it to overcome the inherent issue that plagued all flintlock weapons of the era — a glacial rate of fire.


More akin to a modern revolver, the gun is nonetheless often described (inaccurately) as the first machine gun. In fact, it was amongst the first, if not the first gun, to ever be called that when, in a 1722 shipping manifest, it was noted that the ship had on board “2 Machine Guns of Puckles.”

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Curiously modern looking in its design, the Puckle Gun boasted a 3 foot long barrel and was designed to sit atop a tripod. It could also swivel and be aimed in any direction extremely rapidly with little effort by the operator due to how well balanced it was.

Once the prototype was completed in 1717, Puckle approached the British Navy who, at the time, were having a lot of trouble with Ottoman pirates. You see, the large, broadside cannons their ships were equipped with were a poor weapon of choice to use against tiny, fast moving vessels that could quite literally run circles around the bigger craft.

Puckle felt his gun was perfect for this use-case. Ships could quite easily have several of the Puckle guns mounted all around the perimeter of the deck and fire at approaching pirates with incredible speed for the age.

Intrigued, officials from the English Board of Ordnance were sent to observe a demonstration of the gun in 1717 in Woolwich. Unfortunately for Puckle, while they were reportedly impressed with the speed at which it could launch projectiles of death, and how quickly it could be reloaded, they decided to pass.

Their objections to it were primarily that it featured an unreliable flintlock system and it was too complex to be easily manufactured, including requiring many custom made components that gunsmiths at that point didn’t have, all combined making it difficult to mass produce. On top of that, it didn’t exactly lend itself to a variety of tactical situations due to its size.

Unperturbed at the initial rejection, Puckle continued to refine the design, patenting a better version of the gun a year later in 1718. Said patent, No. 418, describes the gun as being primarily for defensive purposes and notes that it is ideal for defending “bridges, breaches, lines and passes, ships, boats, houses and other places” from pesky foreigners.

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James Puckle.

A natural salesman, Puckle went as far as putting advertising of sorts right in his patent, with the second line of said patent reading: “Defending KING GEORGE your COUNTRY and LAWES – Is Defending YOUR SELVES and PROTESTANT CAUSE”

This is an idea Puckle would double down on by including engravings on the gun itself featuring things like King George, imagery of Britain and random bible verses.

To doubly sell potential investors on the value of the gun as a stalwart defender of Christian ideology, Puckle’s patent also describes how the gun could, in a pinch, fire square bullets.

What does this have to do with religion?

Puckle thought that square bullets would cause significantly more damage to the human body and believed that if they were shot at Muslim Turks (who the British were fighting at the time), it would, to quote the patent, “convince [them] of the benefits of Christian civilisation”.

The gun could also fire regular, round projectiles too (which Puckle earmarked as being for use against Christians only). On top of that, it also fired “grenados”, shot, essentially comprising of many tiny bullets — you know, for when you really wanted to ruin someone’s day.

Puckle began selling shares of his company to the public in 1720 for about 8 pounds a piece (about £1,100 pounds or id=”listicle-2639223725″,600 today) to finance construction of more advanced Puckle Guns, one of which was demonstrated to the public on March 31, 1722.

During said demonstration, as described in the London Journal: “[O]ne man discharged it 63 times in seven Minutes, though all while Raining, and it throws off either one large or sixteen Musquet Balls at every discharge with great force…”

Despite the impressive and reliable display, the British military on the whole was still uninterested in the newfangled technology.

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Replica Puckle gun from Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum.

That said, there was at least one order, placed by then Master-General of Ordnance for Britain, Duke John Montagu, for two of the guns to bring along in an attempt to capture St. Vincent and St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Whether these ever ended up being used or not isn’t clear.

Whatever the case, the two Puckle guns in question are still around today and can presently be seen at the Boughton House and Beaulieu Palace, homes once owned by Montagu.

As for Puckle, he died in 1724, never seeing his gun leveled against the enemies of King George — much to the relief of 18th century Turks everywhere we’re sure.

Summing up his failed invention and company, one sarcastic reporter for the London Journal quipped that the gun had “only wounded [those] who have shares therein.”

Burn.

Bonus fact:

If you happen to think killing two birds with one stone is a bit inefficient, you might want to look into the “punt gun,” capable of killing upwards of 50-100 birds in a single shot.

First put in use in the 1800s, the punt guns were never manufactured on a large scale, with each being custom made by a gunsmith to fit a buyer’s specifications. But, in general, the barrels had openings upwards of 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and weighed over 100-pounds (45 kg). They generally could fire more than a pound of shot at a time and usually measured over 10 feet (3 m) long.

As you might imagine from this, they were too heavy and the recoil too strong for a hunter to fire them by hand. Instead, they were (usually) mounted to small, often flat bottomed, boats known as “punts.” Hunters aimed the gun by maneuvering the boat into position one or two dozen meters from their targets, and then fired.

As an example of how effective this was, a market hunter in the eastern United States, Ray Todd, claimed he and three other hunters with punt guns managed to kill 419 ducks one night in a single volley after encountering a huge flock “over a half-mile long and nearly as wide.”

After the first volley, he stated, “The birds flew off a short distance and began to feed again. We made three more shots that night. By morning we had killed over 1,000 ducks. They brought .50 a pair in Baltimore, and it was the best night’s work we had ever done.”

Not surprisingly, in the years after market hunters began using punt guns, the population of wild waterfowl began to decline in the United States dramatically. Sportsmen who hunted for personal use of the killed waterfowl, rather than for profit like the market hunters, began advocating for hunting regulations and limits. In response, many states in the U.S. outlawed the use of punt guns by the 1860s, while the Lacey Act of 1900 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 effectively ended their use in the country. That said, punt guns are still legal in the United Kingdom, though their barrels are restricted to a diameter less than 1.75-inches. Hunters must also have a permit from the government for the gun and black powder, and they must adhere to strict hunting seasons. All this hasn’t proved much of a problem as there are only a few dozen currently used punt guns left in the U.K. today.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Vietnam draft actually worked

Winning the lottery has likely never crossed your mind to be anything short of a celebration of newfound riches. Yet, for American men born before 1958, finding your number selected at random on television didn’t generally translate to wealth.

Ever wondered how the Vietnam draft actually worked? We’re combing through the history pages to find out just how birthdates and the Selective Service System mattered throughout the 20th century.


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Your grandfather, father and I

Coming of age doesn’t come close to holding the same meaning as it did for the nearly 72 million “baby boomers” born into the Vietnam era draft. Requirements for registration varied over the decades, ranging from eligible age ranges beginning at 21 and eventually lowering to age 18.

Uncle Sam had called upon its fighting-age citizens as far back as anyone alive could recall, as both World Wars and the Korean War utilized draftees. The Selective Service Act of 1917 reframed the process, outlawing clauses like purchasing and expanding upon deferments. Military service was something that, voluntary or not, living generations had in common.

Low was high and high was low

When the lottery took effect, men were assigned a number between 1 and 366. (365 days per year plus one to account for leap year birthdays.) In 1969, a September 14birthday was assigned a number 001. Group 001 birthdays would be the first group to be called upon. May 5 birthdays were assigned number 364 or would have been the 364group to be required to report. Even if called upon, screenings for physical limitations, felony convictions or other legal grounds resulted in candidate rejection.

This method was determined to be a “more fair and equitable process” of selecting eligible candidates for service. Local draft boards, who determined eligibility and filled previous quotas for induction, had been criticized for selecting poor or minority classes over-educated or affluent candidates.

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Grade “A” American prime candidates

In addition to a selection group, eligible males were also assigned a rating. These classifications were used between 1948 and 1976 and are available to view on the Selective Service System’s website.

1-A- eligible for military service.

1A-O- Conscientious Objector. Several letter assignments are utilized for various circumstances a conscientious objector may fall under.

4-G- Sole surviving son in a family where parent or sibling died as a result of capture or holds POW-MIA status.

3-A- Hardship deferment. Hardship would cause undue hardship upon the family.

Requests for reclassification, deferments, and postponements for educational purposes or hardships required candidates to fill out and submit a form to the Selective Service.

Dodging or just “getting out of dodge”

Options for refusing service during Vietnam varied. Frequently called “draft dodgers” referred to those who not just objected, but literally dodged induction. Not showing up, fleeing to Canada, going AWOL while in service or acts such as burning draft cards were all cards played to avoid Vietnam.

Failing to report held consequences ranging from fines, ineligibility of certain benefits, to imprisonment. In what has widely been viewed as a controversial decision, President Jimmy Carter pardoned hundreds of thousands of “draft dodgers” eliminating the statuses like “deserter” from countless files.

Researching the history of “the draft” in American history dates back to that of the Civil War. While spanning back generations and several wars, the Vietnam era draft is still viewed as the most controversial and widely discussed period in its history.

In case you’re wondering, The Selective Service System’s website still exists, as men are still required to register even today.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why the Russian military is so ‘accident-prone’

While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.

“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.

Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.

In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.


Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.

The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.

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Nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

These are just a few of a number of deadly submarine accidents since the turn of the century.

“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.

The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.

Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.

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Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.

Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.

“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”

At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.

“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

It was a beautiful June day in Contra Pria, Italy. Families enjoyed a picnic together, and the refreshing water served as a welcome refuge from the heat and humidity of the last weekend leading into summer.

It was Father’s Day in America, and Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, decided to take advantage of the weather to bring his grandsons to a popular nearby swimming hole.


The tiny hamlet of Contra Pria is made up of a few houses that appear lost in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. The half-dozen houses follow the course of the Astico, a small river created by the melting snow of the mountains that flow down into the rocky valley creating deep chasms with frigid still waters that invite adventure seekers escaping the summer heat.

When Hall and his family arrived early on June 17, 2018, they were surprisingly greeted by Army Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and his family, who were picnicking and swimming with some friends in the remote swimming area. They introduced their children to each other who then played in the beach areas together.

“We noticed a few people jumping from the 20-30 foot cliffs that formed a small canyon along the stream,” said Hall’s wife, Laura Hall. “Jumpers would often pause for scuba divers in wet suits exploring the glacial waters that feed into the chasm below.”

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U.S. Army Paratrooper Lt. Col. John Hall

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

Deep, Frigid Water

This peaceful scene completely changed in the blink of an eye.

“The boys were taking a break from the cold water when I decided I would climb up on the cliff to see what the divers were exploring,” Hall said. “Just as they swam away, four Italian men, probably somewhere in their twenties, appeared above the river on the opposite cliff. They seemed to be daring each other to jump. Two immediately jumped and then challenged their friends. One chose not to jump at all, while the other hesitated, but after a few minutes I saw him falling through the air.”

Hall said that when the man hit the deep, frigid water, he began to thrash about, yelling for his friends to help as he repeatedly went under water. The two men who jumped in earlier leapt from the cliff to attempt a rescue, but as they swam up to him, the scene turned into what appeared to be a fight or wrestling match in the water.

Hall could see from his vantage point on the opposite cliff that the struggling man was drowning, and would possibly drown his companions, as they all began to go under water together.

“I jumped from the cliff,” Hall said.

‘That’s Just John’

“I swam over to the three men, firmly wrapped my arm around the chin of the drowning man and pulled him onto my hip. The other men briefly continued pulling at us and one another. Once we broke free, I swam the man to the cliff, pulled him around, and placed his hands on the rocks.”

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Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, saves a man from drowning in the frigid waters of Pria Park.

(Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

One of the man’s friends swam over to help Hall hold him in place while he caught his breath. The men swam toward the water’s edge, but the group was still in deep water without a foothold. Exhausted and in shock, the man was unable to work his way along the rocky face to reach the shallow waters. As they both clung to the rock face, Hall indicated to him that he would help him climb and push him up to safety.

“Once he was safe, I swam over to a rocky outcropping and climbed to verify that he was ok,” Hall said. “Still shaking from the experience, the man turned and gave me a hug.”

“John Hall will claim he was just in the right place at the right time to save that guy’s life, and that may be partially true,” Keirsey said. “But it really takes the right person to recognize somebody is in jeopardy and then have the courage to do something about it.”

“At first, I thought he was just jumping to amuse our grandsons who were watching. When I saw him swim into a group of splashing men and pull one out, it was then that I realized that he was saving the man,” Laura said.

“I was surprised that someone who couldn’t swim well would jump into those waters, but I wasn’t surprised that John helped him,” she said. “That’s just John.”

“I am just so glad that someone was there to help him. After it was over, I couldn’t help thinking it was Father’s Day,” Hall said. “No man should lose his son on Father’s Day.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.