'This Is Us' hired a legendary Vietnam veteran to be a military advisor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘This Is Us’ hired a legendary Vietnam veteran to be a military advisor

If you enjoy one of the saddest best shows currently on broadcast television, then you’re in for a good cry treat — NBC’s This Is Us is exploring the background of one of its central characters, Jack Pearson, a Vietnam veteran. But to tell the story about Jack’s enlistment, producers and writers on the show needed the perspective that only an enlisted Vietnam veteran could give them.

They got it from one of the war’s most famous veterans.


The show follows the lives of three family members — one adopted — and the history of their mother and father. The family’s patriarch, Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, died when the show’s three siblings (now in adulthood) were 17 years old. The history of the family’s mother and father is shown mainly through flashbacks. This season is exploring Jack’s service in Vietnam.

Not only did This Is Us put the actors in the show through a boot camp, they sent camera crews to Ho Chi Minh City — the city, as some Vietnam veterans remember, that used to be called Saigon. Most importantly, they wanted to give Jack and his brother Nicky as realistic a Vietnam experience as possible.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Ventimiglia in NBC’s This Is Us. His character is a Vietnam veteran.

(NBC)

Milo Ventimiglia’s character, Jack Pearson, deployed to Vietnam in 1971. He enlisted to follow his little brother, Nicky (as played by Michael Angarano), who was drafted into the Army. In reality, Ventimiglia’s Jack would have been rejected by a draft board for a heart condition. While the reason for Jack’s enlistment is a work of fiction, his experience in Vietnam may not have been.

In order to add to the realism of the show and to Jack’s tour of duty, This Is Us producers hired Vietnam veteran and author Tim O’Brien as a consultant. O’Brien, a draftee himself, wrote the seminal Vietnam war story, 1990’s The Things They Carried.

Author and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien

(Photo by Darren Carroll)

O’Brien told Variety he was pleasantly surprised by how well the show portrayed realistic Vietnam War firefights while playing up the dread felt by soldiers who were on jungle patrols in the country.

“You’d think you’d be afraid of dying, but you were afraid of your reputation being sullied, am I brave enough, can I stand up under fire? And the alternative is guys lost it, and you’d almost be insane if you didn’t lose it,” O’Brien told Variety.

For medics, like Angarano’s Nicky Pearson, O’Brien says there was very little protection for them — the best they could hope for was to not get killed while getting all their wounded onto helicopters and out of the fighting.

Tim O’Brien in Vietnam

(Tim O’Brien)

O’Brien’s 1990 book is a collection of autobiographical short stories and essays inspired by his service in Vietnam. The author was drafted into the 23rd Infantry Division – the Americal Division – from 1969 to 1970. His unit operated in the area around Mai Lai, where a massacre was perpetrated the year before O’Brien arrived in country. O’Brien describes the lives of Vietnam War medics well.

“There wasn’t much you could really do. And watching people die and die on you day after day and lose feet and legs, you could expect how a guy could lose it,” the author says.

Jack Pearson in Vietnam, from NBC’s ‘This Is Us.’

(NBC)

The Things They Carried is routinely listed as one of the top books on Vietnam ever written, is listed as one of the 22 best books of the last 25 years by the New York Times, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. O’Brien himself is the recipient of numerous awards for The Things They Carried and his other works. Most recently, he received the Mark Twain Award in literature. For the show’s producers, collaborating with the Vietnam veteran was a rare treat.

“Tim has been a writing hero of mine since college,” the shows’ creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman told Deadline. “It was incredibly intimidating bringing him into our room to discuss a Vietnam plot line – and it was even more rewarding.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part seven

Da Lat, Vietnam
April, 2017

My “one night in Da Lat” was a pleasant reprieve from the war and normal combat operations that we had been conducting. I’d heard of the city, but never believed all of the stories I’d heard. Stories about the beautiful architecture, the green and lush gardens, cool weather, and about the graceful people — certainly a Shangri-La such as this couldn’t exist in the Vietnam I’d come to know. But low and behold, it did.


In stark contrast to what I had come to expect, this beautiful city, now grown into a true metropolitan area filling much more of the mountain encircled bowl, represented a softer, subtler side of Vietnam.

Not found in Da Lat were the loud bars and crowds of rowdy people. In their place were quiet enclaves where people would meet, have a drink, and talk in a quiet atmosphere. Here couples and families would stroll down the wide boulevards and enjoy the fragrant air and quiet neighborhoods. Also included was the central market area where you could find virtually anything you needed, from sweaters to shoes to fast food.

40 years later and none of that has changed in Da Lat, it’s only gotten bigger and it was a pleasure to see that the city and people were as I remembered them.

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

There was a special word for Confederates who joined the US Army

Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.

So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”


By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.

So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.

Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 percent of inmates never returned.

Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.

For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.

Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be.

The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.

In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

CNO sends a message to the Fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.


Below is the text of his message:

Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.

Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.

Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.

Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.

The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.

Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.

201006-N-BB269-1003
MIGHTY TRENDING

11 memes that perfectly capture life as a commo guy

In every branch, on every base, and in every possible unit is a communications (commo) guy. Sometimes, you get a commo guy who runs-and-guns alongside the combat arms guys. Other times, you get the guys who can talk for hours on the backstories of every comic book character ever made. Occasionally, these two guys are one in the same.


We tend to stick to ourselves and hide away in the S-6 (our commo shop) until we can no longer use “commo work” as an excuse to miss bullsh*t duties. In case you never got the chance to talk to us, here’s a basic rundown of what happens in our commo shops.

Related: 5 stereotypes radio guys get stuck with

11. Two halves of the Commo coin.

There’s the computer side and radio side. There’s no bad blood between us because we stick together despite our differences and we both are masters at shamming/skating.

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

10. The radio guys have a single job.

That job is to make sure a hunk-of-junk radio, not even worth its weight in scrap metal, doesn’t mess up. Spoiler alert: Everything will go great until the moment you need it to not be a hunk of junk.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

9. Commo gets called in for every computer problem.

But nearly every problem we run into can be solved with simply asking, “But have you tried turning it off and back on again?” This buys us enough time to Google the real solution.

(Meme via Comment Sense)

8. No one really knows what we do.

And then we need to explain to superiors that our MOS is vital to combat readiness.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

7. COMSEC (Communications Security) is a pain in the ass.

Once we pick up rank, we get pain-in-the-ass duties. The worst is being COMSEC custodian. It isn’t the enormous pile of paperwork or dealing with the fallout of an idiot ‘zeroizing’ (wiping completely clean) stuff they shouldn’t.

It’s opening this goddamn safe without it giving you a goddamn lightning-bolt error.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

6. There’s literally nothing on a retrans missions.

…also known as spending days on top of a hill, being the middleman between two radios so they can connect to each other over long distances to the point that you lose your goddamn mind.

With nothing to do but radio checks for days at a time. Just you. The radio. And maybe one or two other commo guys.

(Created in Photoshop using an image by 20th Century Fox)

5. Our jokes never die.

Older commo vets will be glad to know that their jokes are still spread throughout the commo world.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

4. Improper radio etiquette is more cringe-inducing than listening to people chew with their mouths open.

One of the first things troops learn in Basic/Boot Camp is the phonetic alphabet. It’s made for this very specific reason.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

3. Nothing unnerves us like messy cables.

About 90 percent of the computer-based commo world does is browse subreddits about perfectly laid-out cables in server rooms. We are in awe.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

2. Best moment to be a commo? When it’s time to get rid of sensitive information, CDs, and hard drives in a destructive manner.

Also known as, “those moments you really get to zeroize something.”

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

1. And they say Commo guys are POGs…

“You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us!” said every commo ever.

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a Marine Corps scout sniper managed to sneak up on his enemy naked

An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.

“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.

“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”


One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.

A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.

“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”

And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.

No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.

The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.

He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.

That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”

When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.

“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”

“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”

The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rocket strike near US Embassy in Afghanistan on anniversary of 9/11

A rocket narrowly missed the US Embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2019, during the first few minutes of the 18th anniversary of 9/11.

Loudspeakers inside the office broadcast a warning that “an explosion caused by a rocket has occurred on compound,” The Associated Press reported.

No one was injured, the nearby NATO mission told the AP.

A US State Department official told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “We can confirm there was an explosion near the US Embassy in Kabul. US mission personnel were not directly impacted by this explosion.”


Nosrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, told Gulf News that the rocket hit a wall at the defense ministry and that no one was hurt.

The news came amid heightened tensions between the US and the Taliban, the insurgent group that rules over large swathes of Afghanistan.

US and Taliban officials were due to meet at Camp David in Maryland on Sept. 8, 2019, to discuss a peace process and an end to the US military presence in Afghanistan, but President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the talks the day before.

About 14,000 US troops remain in the country, a situation that has angered Trump. Last month, the US and the Taliban reached a provisional agreement to remove several thousand troops.

However, on Sept. 9, 2019, Trump said the talks were “dead.” He cited the death of a US service member killed by a Taliban car bomb at a Kabul NATO checkpoint on Sept. 5, 2019, in canceling the covert Sept. 8, 2019 meeting.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Al Jazeera that the US would suffer the consequences of axing the talks.

The US Embassy in Kabul.

“We had two ways to end the occupation in Afghanistan. One was jihad and fighting, the other was talks and negotiations,” he said.

He added: “If Trump wants to stop talks, we will take the first way and they will soon regret it.”

The US invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 with the aim of defeating Al Qaeda and hunting down Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks whom the US accused the Taliban of hiding.

As many as 100,000 US troops were in Afghanistan at the war’s peak, and more than 2,400 have been killed.

The US Embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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

Articles

9 interesting reasons behind US military uniforms

Have you ever been sweating the details of an inspection or searching the rack at the PX and wondered how your branch’s uniforms came to be? Here are 9 reasons behind the uniforms in seabags and footlockers worldwide today:


1. Why are there three white stripes on a sailor’s jumper?

The three white stripes go back to the U.S. Navy’s origins and the service’s ties to the British Royal Navy. Each stripe represents one of Lord Nelson’s major victories (the wars of the First, Second, and Third Coalition, which included the Battle of Trafalgar).

2. What’s the flap for on the back of a sailor’s jumper?

(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

Jumper flaps originated as a protective cover for the uniform jacket because sailors greased their hair to hold it in place. (In those days showering wasn’t an every day thing.) (Source: Bluejacket.com)

3. Where did a sailor’s black neckerchief come from?

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

The black silk neckerchief was originally a sweat rag. Black was chosen as the color because it didn’t show dirt. (Source: Bluejacket.com)

4. Why do sailor’s wear bellbottoms?

(Photo: U.S. Navy Historical Command)

Bellbottoms are easier to roll up than regular trousers, and sailors have always had occasion to roll pant legs up whether swabbing decks or wading through the shallows when beaching small boats. (Source: Bluejacket.com)

5. Why does the eagle face to the right on emblems?

World War II-era officer’s crest. (Photo: Navy archives)

The eagle on an officer’s crest actually faced left until 1940 when it was changed to conform with “heraldic tradition” that hold that the right side of a shield represents honor, while the left side represents dishonor.

6. Why is the Army Service Uniform blue?

Anybody know where we’re going? (Photo: U.S. Army, Eboni Everson-Myart)

The origin of the blue Army service uniform goes back to the earliest days of the nation when General George Washington issued a general order October 1779 prescribing blue coats with differing facings for the various state troops, artillery, artillery artificers and light dragoons. The Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office, March 27, 1821 established “Dark blue is the National colour. When a different one is not expressly prescribed, all uniform coats, whether for officers or enlisted men, will be of that colour.” (Source: Army.mil)

7. What is the meaning of the symbol on top of a Marine Corps officer’s cover?

(Photo: AntiqueFlyingLeatherneck.com)

The quatrefoil — the cross-shaped braid worn atop an officer’s cover— represents the rope pre-Civil War era officers wore across their caps to allow sharpshooters high in the rigging of a sailing ship to identify friend from foe in a shipboard battle.

8. What does the Marine Corps’ Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem represent?

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The eagle represents the United States. The globe represents the Corps’ willingness to engage worldwide. And the (fouled) anchor represents the association with the Navy as an expeditionary fighting force from the sea.

9. Why doesn’t the U.S. Air Force have much in the way of uniform traditions like the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps?

Somewhere in this picture is a four-star general. Nope, not her. Good guess though. (Photo: U.S. Air Force, Michael J. Pausic)

The USAF is a relatively young service, having been formed from the Army Air Corps after World War II. That lack of heritage has made creating meaningful uniform symbology a challenge, and Air Force leader’s attempts to improve uniforms have generally caused confusion or been met by the force with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, at one point in the 1990s the Air Force actually had three authorized versions of the service dress uniform. The result of all of this has been a fairly straightforward (read “boring”) inventory of uniforms over the years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why beauty queens make tough-as-nails warriors

Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior. We all know that warriors must be strong in both mind and body. Yet, there is still a perception that only men can fill military ranks while women, known as the “weaker sex” (except when it comes to childbirth), of course, must sit at home and wait.

Then, there’s the notion that even if a woman were a strong warrior, she couldn’t possibly also be attractive, right?


But wait! 2017’s Wonder Woman wasn’t just an exciting piece of fiction, it also challenged every stereotype we hold about today’s warriors. Its star, Gal Gadot, was Miss Israel, but she also served in the Israel Defense Forces, proving that beauty and being badass are not mutually exclusive.

Now, a cadre of millennial beauty queens who serve or have served in the military are exploding stereotypes and breaking barriers everywhere with a wave of their scepters (or maybe their 9mms). This is because warriors and beauty queens actually have a lot in common.

Physical and mental conditioning

On deployment, MREs are more likely on the menu than yogurt, fish, vegetables, and fruit. But while MREs might nourish you enough to get the mission done, they’re not exactly packed with beautifying supernutrients.

Allison (Alli) Paganetti-Albers, Miss Rhode Island USA 2005, former Army Capt., and host of WATM’s ‘Troop Soup,’ had to be lean for competition, but was required to stay within Army height and weight standards. She was restricted from going on a diet that would jeopardize her ROTC scholarship. Her first commitment was to her Army contract, so she chose to stay within those standards and won her pageant anyway.

The toughness that comes from military training and experience translates into confidence on the runway. And the opposite is also true — pageantry helps in achieving military goals. Staying on task, thinking positive, turning off negative feelings, and pushing away fear of failure are all essential to thriving in the pageant world, and help build a strong discipline.

Teamwork and being part of something greater than one’s self

In the military, the team is everything. You depend upon the people to your left and right. The satisfaction of being part of a great military team is unmatched.

But aren’t queens just about themselves? Not really. Amazingly, the stereotype of extreme cattiness typically doesn’t exist.

Pageants should be part of something greater than self. There’s no room to tear each other down. If you don’t feel a sense of teamwork in pageantry, you’re doing something wrong. There must be a sisterhood and collaboration,” says Alexandra Curtis, Miss Rhode Island America 2015 and Rhode Island National Guard Sgt.

Another way beauty queens are about others is how they use their platforms. Besides her work with the ALS Association, Alexandra is very much into helping young women get into politics. She was inspired by women who blazed the trail before her by combining political office with Reserve and Guard careers. And her sister queens devote time to great causes, such as helping wounded veterans, visiting with active military members, and inspiring schoolchildren.

There’s an extra sense of community responsibility among these contestants because they’re military women. They feel they have to be good role models in both careers as they represent the country first, themselves second.

Goals and obstacles

When you’re serving, the goal is accomplishing the mission. In pageantry, the goal is winning the title. But both military and pageant careers require facing down hurdles — just ask Marina Gray, Miss Maine USA 2018 and National Guard Sgt. Marina broke out of poverty and neglect when she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 16. From that moment on, she lived on her own and supported herself.

She enlisted in the Guard as a way to help pay for college. Her love of the Maine Coast helped, but her outlook was most important. She grew up religious. “The best way to beat adversity is to be optimistic. Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Think: ‘It happened to me because I could handle it’. Things happen for a reason.”

Marina felt some discrimination from her male peers, not because for being a beauty queen, but because of her gender. She dealt with it by working even harder and became a 2015 Soldier of the Year, a 2017 NCO of the year, and earned various fitness awards. “I’ve faced much adversity in my life and the way I’ve overcome all my road bumps is what I think makes me a beautiful person. I think character shines much brighter than any shade of lipstick.”

Yes, these women are gorgeous, but don’t be fooled by their beauty. They’re also about grit and determination. In their commitment to the warrior ethos and pageantry, two seemingly different careers, queens and warriors are more alike than not. They’ve tossed a couple of grenades at the notion that you cannot be beautiful and talented and strong and brave at the same time
MIGHTY CULTURE

How this military spouse will memorialize fallen EOD airman

Bronze statues can be seen almost anywhere but one rarely hears the amazing stories behind their creation.

The spouse of an Air Force Reserve airman at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, recently sculpted a bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Johnson was killed in action Oct. 5, 2010, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“My husband has a contact with the EOD Warrior Foundation, so through the contact we came up with the idea to give back in some way because the military family and the EOD family had done so much for our family,” said Stephanie Hunter, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD program manager. “Lauren (the point of contact) was very helpful. She got behind the idea and sent out emails looking for Gold Star families we can honor.”


Gold Star families are those with family members in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.

The response was massive. Stephanie and her husband received a flood of emails from families hoping to memorialize their fallen heroes. One email in particular connected with Stephanie in a special way.

“We chose to honor Senior Airman Johnson because his duty background mirrored my husband’s, plus Johnson is from Minnesota, my home state, so I felt a bit of a hometown connection with him.”

A sculpted bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter)

Johnson was assigned to the 30th CES at Vandenberg AFB. He deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson deployed again in 2010, this time to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, he was credited with single-handedly saving an Afghanistan National Army soldier injured by an improvised explosive device.

“I just wanted to make the Johnson family proud of this memorial for their son and realize that he’s not forgotten,” Stephanie said. “The Johnson family has been very supportive of this project.”

Hunter said he’s very proud of his wife’s contribution to his military family.

“I’m in awe of Stephanie’s unique way of supporting the EOD community and our fallen comrade,” he said.

Even though sculpting the bust was a labor of love, Stephanie was dissatisfied with her work.

“I’m an artist and extremely critical of my own work,” she said. “Sometimes all I can see is what’s wrong with the project. But Jim Johnson (Senior Airman Johnson’s father), gave me approval to move forward. I felt great.”

The sculpted bust is now at a foundry where a mold will be made before being cast in bronze.

“The sculpture is going to change a couple times before the final product, so it’ll be a different feeling when I finally see it in bronze,” Stephanie said. “It’ll be permanent.”

The Johnson family intends to place the finished bust at a climbing center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

Stephanie hopes her work will encourage others to give back to the Air Force family.

“I just want to inspire others to do the same thing for their military family and do something outside of themselves,” she said. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to be part of this project and I’m thankful to the EOD Warrior Foundation for helping to support this project.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. personnel injured ahead of massive war games

Tens of thousands of NATO troops have converged on Norway for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

The exercise officially starts on Oct. 25, 2018, but the arrival of thousands of troops and their equipment in the harsh environs of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia hasn’t gone totally smoothly.

On Oct. 23, 2018, four US soldiers were injured in a roadway accident as they delivered cargo to Kongens Gruve, Norway, in support of the exercise.


“The accident occurred when three vehicles collided and a fourth vehicle slid off the pavement and overturned while trying to avoid the three vehicles that had collided,” the US Joint Information Center said, according to Reuters.

One of the soldiers was released shortly after being hospitalized, and as of late Oct. 23, 2018, the three others were in stable condition but still under observation, according to the information center. The troops and their trucks were assigned to the Army’s 51st Composite Truck Company, stationed in Baumholder, Germany.

A US Army Stryker vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

US ships taking part have also encountered trouble.

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, part of a group of ships carrying a Marine Corps contingent to the exercise, returned to port in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22, 2018, after heavy seas caused damage to the ship and injuries to its sailors.

The US 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Atlantic around Europe, said the ship’s well deck and several of the landing craft aboard it were damaged. The Gunston Hall returned to port for a damage assessment, though there was no timetable for its completion, the fleet said.

The sailors who were injured received medical treatment and returned to duty.

A landing craft enters the well deck of the USS Gunston Hall to embark for Trident Juncture 2018, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)

The amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, also on hand for the exercise, also returned to Reykjavik “as a safe haven from the seas until further notice,” the fleet said.

A 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times that the seas were challenging “but not out of the [Gunston Hall’s] limits” and that the USS New York “will remain in port until it is safe to get underway.”

The Gunston Hall and the New York were part of a group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima that left the US in October 2018, carrying some 4,000 sailors and Marines.

That group carried out a simulated air assault in Iceland and has been doing cold-weather training in preparation for Trident Juncture.

US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo)

It’s not clear if the absence of the Gunston Hall and the New York will affect the exercise, the 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.

Trident Juncture will include some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and other personnel from each of NATO’s 29 members as well as Sweden and Finland. The drills will be spread across Scandinavia and the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic.

Massing men and machines for such exercises rarely goes off without problems.

In June 2018, as some 18,000 personnel from 18 countries took part in the Saber Strike 18 exercise in Eastern Europe, four US Army Stryker armored vehicles collided during a road march in southern Lithuania.

Fifteen soldiers were taken to a local hospital, 10 of whom were held for overnight observation, but all returned to duty.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 of the stupidest wars ever fought in world history

There are a lot of good reasons humans have gone to war in the past few centuries, believe it or not. Halting or preventing genocides, declaring independence to give oppressed people a homeland, and of course, defending ones homeland from an invader would all be good reasons to take up arms against another country.

These wars were none of those things, and are presented in no particular order.


It is, admittedly, a nice bucket.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

While the War of the Oaken Bucket sounds more like a college gameday rivalry, it was really a 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, that killed 2,000 people. It was really a proxy war between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and before I get too far into the details here, what you really need to know is that it was started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well.

Even dumber is lopsided victory the Modenese won in defending that bucket. At the Battle of Zappolino, some 32,000 Bolognese marched on 7,000 Modenese – and were chased from the battlefield.

Surprisingly unrelated to the ongoing debate over Canadian bacon being real bacon.

The Pig War

This is a war that could have devolved into a much larger conflict, which makes it even stupider than it sounds. On San Juan Island, between the mainland United States and Canada’s Vancouver Island, was shared by both American settlers and British employees of the Hudson Bay Company. While the island was “shared” in practice, both countries had a claim to the northwestern island and it created a lot of tensions in the region. Those tensions boiled over in June 1859 when an American farmer shot a British boar for tearing up his potato crop. Arguments ensued and the farmer was almost arrested by the British.

The U.S. Army got wind of the situation and sent Capt. George Pickett (later of Pickett’s Charge fame) with a company of soldiers, who promptly declared the island American property. Of course the British responded by sending in its trump card, the Royal Navy. For weeks, it appeared the standoff would spark a greater war between the two powers, but cooler heads prevailed and the sides took joint custody of the island.

Adwarable.

War of the Stray Dog

Another war that is exactly what it sounds like, except this one really did cause a number of deaths, as well as a 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog, even though it ran across the Greek border with Bulgaria. Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, of course shot him.

The Greeks then began an invasion of Bulgaria, occupying border towns and preparing to shell and take the city off Petrich before the League of Nations intervened, negotiating a cease fire.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.