It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.
Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.
It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.
Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.
The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.
Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.
During its 241-year history the U.S. Navy has had it’s fair share of swashbucklers, iconoclasts, groundbreakers, and innovators. Here are seven among the most noteworthy of them:
1. John Paul Jones
“The Father of the American Navy,” John Paul Jones rose to early prominence in the Revolutionary War period by taking prize ships and inflicting damage on the British in the waters off the North American coast. But he truly made his name when he sailed the Bonhomme Richard into British waters and engaged with the Royal Navy’s Serapis.
After a vicious engagement that seemingly had the American warship defeated and about to sink, the British captain asked JPJ if he was ready to give up. The American captain responded, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and he went on to lead Bonhomme Richard to a decisive victory.
Jones is buried in a crypt beneath the chapel on the campus of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
2. Stephen Decatur
Stephen Decatur joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 19, following in his father’s footsteps. His first major task was to oversee the construction of the original six frigates, including the United States, which he would later command.
At the turn of the century Decatur was among a group of officers who convinced a timid President Jefferson to allow the fledgling fleet to sail over the horizon to make an impact on the Old World. He led a daring raid to burn the Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor after it had run aground, a mission that Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson himself called “the most bold and daring act of the age.” Word of the raid got back to the States and Decatur became a national hero.
Decatur was later killed in a duel with James Barron over a rumor that Decatur had besmirched Barron’s honor.
3. Alfred Thayer Mahan
Mahan has been called “the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century.” His concepts of sea power, famously presented in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783, had an enormous influence in shaping the strategic thought of navies across the world and contributed to a European naval arms race in the 1890s that culminated in the First World War.
Ironically, his skills in actual command of a ship were not good, and a number of vessels under his command smashed into both moving and stationary objects. He actually tried to avoid active sea duty.
Nevertheless, the books he wrote ashore made him arguably the most influential naval historian of the period, and his ideas still influence the U.S. Navy’s doctrine.
4. Chester Nimitz
After being court martialed for running a ship aground while he was an ensign (something no junior officer could survive today), Nimitz reinvented himself as a submariner, eventually becoming the U.S. Navy’s foremost authority on the construction and tactical uses of them. Along the way he commanded surface ships and subs alike, and he also stood up the nation’s first NROTC unit (at UCal Berkeley, which seems sort of ironic now).
Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nimitz became the commander of the Pacific Fleet, and he oversaw the “island hopping” campaign that carried the Allies to victory. In 1944 he was promoted to five-star. Nimitz signed for the U.S. when the Japanese surrendered aboard the Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. His final tour was as Chief of Naval Operations.
By virtue of his five-star rank, Nimitz never technically retired and retained full pay and benefits until his death in 1966.
5. Jesse Brown
Brown was the first African-American aviator in the U.S. Navy, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War.
He flew 20 combat missions before his F4U Corsair aircraft came under fire and crashed on a remote mountaintop on December 4, 1950 while supporting ground troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Brown died of his wounds despite the efforts of wingman Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., who intentionally crashed his own aircraft in a rescue attempt, for which he received the Medal of Honor.
Because of Brown’s successes in breaking through barriers in the segregated U.S. military, the frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF 1089) was named in his honor.
6. Hyman Rickover
“The Father of the Nuclear Navy,” Rickover’s unique personality and drive created the “zero defect” culture of nuke power that exists today, one that has avoided any mishaps (as defined by the uncontrolled release of fission products to the environment subsequent to reactor core damage).
Rickover’s major career advances were made by going around his immediate chain of command and getting the support of the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who saw the potential of nuclear power. Rickover led the construction of the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear powered vessel, the USS Nautilus, a submarine.
For the next three decades Rickover held the nuclear Navy with tight reins, even insisting on personal interviews with every ROTC and USNA candidate who wanted nuke power. (Those interviews remain the stuff of legend because of the outrageous questions Rickover sometimes asked the young midshipmen about their academic records and personal lives.)
Always controversial and largely unpopular (especially with those who worked closely with him) Rickover was retired against his will after a record 63-year career, by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman who believed that Rickover’s accomplishments were in the past and that his grip on the community had outlasted its utility. Rickover went down swinging, including calling Lehman all sorts of names in the Oval Office while President Reagan was trying to show him the door.
7. James B. Stockdale
A year after being told by his superiors to keep quiet about the fact that he saw no enemy forces from the air the night of the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” that President Johnson used as the justification for the U.S. entering the Vietnam War, Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam while flying his A-4 on a bombing mission.
He was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison (popularly known as the Hanoi Hilton) for the next seven and a half years. As the senior Naval officer, he was one of the primary organizers of prisoner resistance. Tortured routinely and denied medical attention for the severely damaged leg he suffered during capture, Stockdale created and enforced a code of conduct for all prisoners that governed torture, secret communications, and behavior.
In the summer of 1969, he was locked in leg irons in a bath stall and routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so he couldn’t be used as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition.
He received the Medal of Honor for his leadership and courage during his time as a POW. When later asked what mindset got him through the trial he said the following: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”
Oscar-nominated Sam Elliott will narrate the four-part docuseries Honor Guard, which follows U.S. Army soldiers throughout the grueling training required to serve at the 3rd Infantry Regiment. Also known as The Old Guard, the 3rd Infantry Regiment is perhaps best known for hosting the Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Honor Guard is the follow-up to Time to Kill Productions’ award-winning 2016 feature documentary The Unknowns, which follows the training of the Sentinels. Creators Neal Schrodetzki and Ethan Morse, who served together as guards at the Tomb, will now follow the intense training cycles that prepare soldiers for The Regiment, the Honor Guard Caisson Platoon, the U.S. Army Drill Team, or a Full-Honors funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Morse and Schrodetzki have exclusive access provided by the United States Army to capture these never-before documented training cycles. Their mission is the same as Sam Elliott’s, and the reason he agreed to join the project: to honor the fallen.
Elliott’s contributions to military story-telling helped inspired Morse to serve in the first place. “I first became interested in the military after seeing Sam Elliott as the Union Cavalry General John Buford in Gettysburg. Fast forward a few years and I’m serving in the California Army National Guard, just like Mr. Elliott did.”
Elliott has a distinguished and longstanding reputation with the military community, due in part to the iconic roles he has played in films like We Were Soldiers and Once an Eagle.
Plus, his voice is smooth as molasses. You just know it is.
That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.
“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”
That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.
The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.
Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.
DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”
The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.
The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.
An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.
The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.
He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”
The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.
A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.
“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”
Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.
“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.
It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.
“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.
“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.
LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.
The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.
While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.
Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.
Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.
“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,” Beutner added.
In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.
In World War II, the United States had outstanding fighters like the P-51 Mustang and the P-47 Thunderbolt. Allies tossed in excellent aircraft as well, like the Spitfire.
But while the Allies won the air-to-air battle against the Axis, it doesn’t mean that the ground troops could forego ground-based air defense.
The U.S. had one weapon that they used for that role — especially front-line grunts. It was the M2 machine gun, known as “Ma Deuce.” One could do some serious damage, firing up to 635 rounds per minute according to the FN website.
Now imagine what four of these could do to troops — or anything short of an armored vehicle or bunker, come to think of it.
In World War II, the United States deployed the M45 Quadmount, with four M2s, each of which were fed by a 200-round drum of ammo. As an anti-aircraft weapon, it was fierce against prop-driven planes like the Me-109, the FW-190, and the Ju-87.
However, grunts often don’t see what a weapon was designed to do. They quickly can come up with “off-label” uses for weapons they are issued, and the M45 Quadmount — initially designed to kill Axis planes — soon was used on Axis ground targets.
The system soon got nicknames like “Meat Chopper.” The M45 mount was used on trailers, but also on the M16 half-track, where it was called the MGMC for “Multiple Gun Motor Carriage” — in essence, a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. One version was even tested on the chassis of the M3 light tank — but that version didn’t go into production.
The M45 “Meat Chopper” didn’t leave when World War II ended. In fact, it managed to stick around for the Korean War and the Vietnam War — in both cases serving as a very deadly infantry-support platform.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).
In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.
It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.
Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.
1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.
The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.
His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.
2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.
Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.
3. He was also the first man to eat in space.
The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).
4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.
Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.
Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”
5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.
The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.
6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.
Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.
7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”
He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.
8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.
The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.
9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.
Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.
Chuck Schumer of New York said Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, is opposed to gay marriage and has sponsored legislation that would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“A man who was the lead sponsor of legislation to make it easier for businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community; opposes gay marriage, which is the law of the land; believes being transgender is a ‘disease;’ supports constricting access to legal contraception; and makes deeply troubling comments about Muslims is the wrong choice to lead America’s Army,” Schumer said in a statement.
Trump last month selected Green for the Army’s top civilian post. Green, 52, is a West Point graduate and former Army physician who has featured his military background in his political campaigns.
Trump’s selection of Green is a jarring contrast to President Barack Obama’s choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Fanning was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
While Schumer urged his colleagues to oppose Green’s nomination, Republican control of the Senate makes it unlikely his nomination will be defeated.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said May 3 he’s concerned by “a broad variety of statements” that have been attributed to Green. McCain said Green will have the opportunity during his confirmation hearing to respond to explain the comments he’s made.
“That’s why we have hearings,” McCain said. “We ask questions and we let them defend themselves.”
Green last year supported legislation that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles. Critics said the law allows for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Green argued during the state Senate debate that counselors should be given the same latitude as he is as a doctor.
“I am allowed to refer that patient to another provider and not prescribe the morning-after pill based on my religious beliefs,” Green said.
Schumer said Green also has made derogatory comments about Latinos and Muslims. Schumer’s office cited a YouTube video of a speech before a tea party group in which Green is asked what could account for a rise in the number of Latinos registered to vote in Tennessee.
He suggested they “were being bused here probably.”
Green also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago and agreed that a stand must be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam in our public schools.”
Earlier on May 3, several House Republicans told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., that Green is a “dedicated public servant” who has the full support of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Any attempt to politicize personal statements or views that have been expressed by Mark at any point throughout his career must not be allowed to supersede his qualifications or be conflated to create needless uncertainty with his nomination,” according to a letter from Reps. Duncan Hunter of California, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and nine other GOP members.
Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”
As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.
From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.
The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.
“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”
OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.
“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”
In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.
Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.
“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop
Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.
“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.
“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.
“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”
OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.
“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”
While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.
Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.
“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.
“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”
For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.
“When you’re young, you have this sense of invincibility, ” says Stacy Pearsall. “You can hear the gunshots, but they can’t touch you.” Pearsall is a former Air Force Combat Photojournalist who spent much of her storied ten-year Air Force career assigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in Charleston South Carolina. Her awards include the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor. She is one of two women to win Military Photographer of the Year and the only woman to win it twice. She has an honorary doctoral degree from The Citadel and was declared a Champion of Change by the White House.
During her first Iraq deployment in 2003, then-23-year-old Pearsall documented everything from Blackhawk helicopter sorties to foot patrols with Army infantry units on the ground. This would be the cornerstone of an epic that would impact thousands of veterans from across the US and around the globe.
“Throughout my deployment I photographed a civil affairs mission to rebuild a bombed out school where Saddam’s wife once taught,” Pearsall reflects. “We targeted it during “shock and awe” because Ba’athists used it as a headquarters. When we were gearing up for the convoy, there was one open seat in the lead vehicle and one in the rear. My partner and I drew straws to see who would sit where. As we departed the school, an IED buried under piles of debris detonated near my vehicle, sending projectiles and dust everywhere. It was fortunate the bomb wasn’t bigger. Everyone walked away that day.”
She waited to seek medical attention until she returned to the Air Force’s Camp Sather. She’d seen far worse wounds and didn’t want to make a big deal about whiplash and some blood in her ears. She played down her injuries and continued to document missions nearly every day until the end of her deployment.
“Suffice to say I slammed a lot of vitamin M,” Pearsall recalls.
Like many blast traumas, it was the injuries she couldn’t see that followed her home from deployment. Once back home in Charleston, Pearsall was cooking dinner and suddenly fell over. Her world was off-kilter and she couldn’t stand upright. Doctors thought her injuries gave way to viruses so she underwent the treatment for that with little to no relief. Today, a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI) would’ve been more likely. For Pearsall, that diagnosis would not come for another five years.
“So I learned to deal with the vertigo and headaches,” Pearsall says. Despite the chronic headaches and neck pain, she continued her Air Force photojournalism career. Her work earned her Military Photographer of the Year (MPOY) in 2003, an annual award, open to all military personnel. During the judging, the panel referred to Stacy as ‘he‘. They did not do it years later, when she won for the second time.
While supporting Operation Enduring Freedom Horn of Africa, she teamed up with combat videographer Staff Sergeant Katie Robinson, an Air Force Reservist who would eventually become Pearsall’s battle buddy for life. The two worked to deploy together at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse, near Baqubah, Iraq.
Despite a mud-floored CHU with a leaky roof and a critical satellite transmitter sitting in a pool of water, set out to prove they could hang with the soldiers at Warhorse.
“I was never faced with anything regarding my competency because I am a female,” Pearsall says. Initially, everyone was apprehensive because I was a photographer. I caught earfuls of inter-service rivalry for being Air Force but after our first firefight, word got around that I was worth having around. Instead of seeking them out, they started asking for our support.”
FOB Warhorse proved to be the right place for action. The Battle of Baqubah was the last major offensive of the Iraq War and would last seven months. Having freedom to do so, Pearsall and Robinson moved around the AOR documenting one key mission after another.
“I put those soldiers on a pedestal,” Pearsall reveals. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”
Pearsall and Robinson were supposed to accompany Delta Company into Baqubah on a raid to take down a house harboring enemy fighters. At the last minute, they were transferred to an Iraqi Army operation in nearby Buhriz. As they prepared for their new assignment, they listened to their friends’ progress as the reports trickled in.
“As the breach team moved in, the house blew,” Pearsall remembers. “The Bradleys came back to the FOB and began unloading the injured. The soldiers were a mess. We looked for our friends, but couldn’t see them. Then the last Bradley dropped ramp and unloaded those who were killed in action. Blue Platoon lost three really great guys that day. The rest of their team had to soldier on. Katie and I did too. We still had to go out and meet the Iraqi Army for our next operation.”
The two were split up between two Iraqi Army companies, with the idea they’d link back up in a few days. That was the plan, anyway.
“They shot my fucking thumb off!” Robinson said the minute she was struck by a nearby sniper. The sniper was aiming for an officer sitting next to Robinson. The bullet went through her left forearm, through her video camera and exploded the battery, which partially amputated her right thumb.
“I laughed when I heard that,” Pearsall remembers. “That’s what made us so close. Our collective humor, our unwavering bond, our utmost respect for each other.” When given the opportunity to redeploy home and rehab back in the United States, Robinson refused. Instead, she opted to return to FOB Warhorse.
“For me, the rest of the deployment was intense, just like that,” Pearsall says. “So many good soldiers taken so quickly, so young. Photographing the rare moments between gunfights was my favorite thing to do. It was my sense of home, of humanity.”
Toward the end of her deployment, Pearsall further injured her neck during an operation. Robinson finally convinced her to see a doctor. An x-ray led to a CAT scan and more tests. Doctors concluded she needed surgery. For Pearsall, that was not an option. She wanted to leave Iraq on her own terms.
“Katie was strong. I wanted to remain strong too,” Pearsall says. I already lived with the pain for so long, one flight home wasn’t going to kill me. It was the one thing I could control in a situation that seemed out of my control.”
“My neck wouldn’t heal enough for me to stay in the military,” Pearsall explains. “It was devastating. They offered alternatives, like admin or finance. But after you’ve tasted combat, you can’t go back. If I couldn’t fight, what was I supposed to do? My career in the military was over.”
“One day, while waiting for an appointment at my VA hospital, a World War II veteran leaned over and asked if I was taking my grandfather to his doctor’s appointment. He seemed surprised to learn I was a veteran. He told me how he helped liberate a concentration camp during WWII and I realized that I judged him unfairly – just as everyone was doing to me. So I set about healing myself through the experiences of other veterans.”
Now her mission continues. First on her mind is a portrait project, photographing veterans from every conflict and preserving their stories their image for generations to come.
“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” she says. “And I wanted to continue that service to my fellow veterans.”
Her work and personal recovery, isn’t limited to her portrait project. There were some whose stories could no longer be told firsthand. In 2012, she published Shooter: Combat From Behind the Camera, a book of her Iraq War imagery.
“I couldn’t look at my photos without having an emotional response,” she says. “I wanted to put what happened on a page and shelve it, so I wouldn’t have to live that part of my life every day anymore. Shooter was my therapy. It was my way of honoring those who didn’t have a voice anymore, to share their experience with the world.”
Her second book, A Photojournalist’s Field Guide was published in 2013. Along with contributions from her heavy–hitter photojournalist friends, Pearsall created a guide to educate younger photographers. The book isn’t limited to photography tips. It includes insight on how to survive in austere conditions, cope with stress and maneuver through tough situations.
“I’m not the first woman to go into combat for the United States,” Pearsall explains. “There are a whole slew of women who fought for this country. Unfortunately, they’re not spoken much of in the history books.”
Not anymore. Pearsall’s project will ensure history won’t forget any veteran who fought for the U.S., regardless of gender.
The rise of Nazism in Germany was for many Germans a terrifyingly swift deviation in the nation’s moral compass.
The most famous example of Hitler’s attempt to make his plans for the establishment of a master race a little more commercial is undoubtedly the Hitler Youth program. In 1935, over 60% of the country’s young people were involved in the program, and in 1936, all other youth groups were banned, making the Fuhrer’s brainchild the best kids’ club by default. Awesome.
Program membership was mandatory for kids over 17, but Hitler knew that if he wanted to shape the younger generation, he would have to start small. Kids as young as ten years old were encouraged to join the movement, which was similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, except instead of teaching valuable skills about friendship and forest survival, Hitler was making sure the kids became bigoted military minions.
An entire generation of ordinary people was seduced by this mythos, and parents eagerly sent their children to become young men and women of the “Thousand Year Reich“, excited to watch their sons become soldiers and their daughters demure, obedient mothers who would populate the master race.
Not all kids were down with this idea, however. And because the program was compulsory and very restrictive, they had to get creative with their rebellion. Enter the Edelweiss Pirates — a teenage protest group with the classiest rebel name ever.
Comprised mostly of working class boys, the gang was not shy about it’s anti-authority, down-with-Hitler ideologies. The Pirates refused to wear the military-inspired uniforms of the Hitler Youth, opting instead for bohemian ensembles with a ton of fringe and cool-factor. Their defiance extended to all aspects of their lives, and the rebel kids could be heard singing banned songs, playing banned jazz music and dancing with the opposite sex — completely unapproved by the Nazi party.
These song lyrics, which served as the groups anthem, were particularly unwelcome:
Hitler’s power may lay us low,
And keep us locked in chains,
But we will smash the chains one day,
We’ll be free again.
We’ve got the fists and we can fight,
We’ve got the knives and we’ll get them out.
We want freedom, don’t we boys?
At first they were just considered an annoyance that needed to be weeded out and further indoctrinated into the party, nothing a fifteenth reading of “Mein Kempf” couldn’t fix.
Once WWII began, however, the teens started to appear like more and more of a legitimate threat to the state.
In 1942 Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS operations, wrote Reinhard Heydrich to discuss the rebellious boys and “worthless girls” who formed the resistance group:
“The youth should first be given thrashings and then [be] put through the severest drill and set to work. It must be made clear that they will never be allowed to go back to their studies. We must investigate how much encouragement they have had from their parents. If they have encouraged them, then they should also be put into a concentration camp and [have] their property confiscated.”
This didn’t stop the Pirates, but disdain for their antics was not limited to the higher ups of the Nazi regime. The Hitler Youth Patrol Service, made up of the same kids who participated in the Nazi group, were particularly brutal towards these rebellious outliers. The mini-police force, who were literally above the law, raided movie theaters, coffee shops and billiard halls looking to bust the Edelweiss Pirates and beat them up in the streets.
The Pirates existed in several different cities under different names, but their desire to undermine the fascism was uniform.
As the war raged on, many of the Pirates, now adults, joined the underground resistance movement. In Cologne, Edelweiss Pirates members offered aid and shelter to Nazi deserters and refugees who had escaped from concentration camps. Members even went so far as to raid military depots and supply reserves, sabotaging war production. They also continued their usual hi-jinks, graffitiing bridges and walls with the words “Down with Hitler”.
In response, the Nazis intensified their opposition to the fringe group. Pirates who were caught were sent to jail, reform schools, labor camps and psych wards, all in an effort to stamp out resistance. If caught in public, “defectors” were often humiliated in front of a crowd, and were beaten and shaved before being taken away. In 1944 Heinrich Himmler even ordered the public execution of thirteen Pirate members in Cologne, pictured below.
For the duration of the war these brave young people continued to stand firm in the face of overwhelming resistance and power, and continued to fight for the freedoms they believed in.
The historic, lethal and combat-tested AC-130 gunship — known for attacking ISIS and Taliban fighters during close-air support high-risk combat missions — is getting a massive technological upgrade with newer weapons and avionics to increase the effectiveness of the attack platform and extend its service life into future decades, service officials said.
“AC-130 gunship work involves upgrading the plane with weapons, targeting systems and sensor packages,” Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Early variants of the AC-130 gunship first entered combat in the late 1960s during the Vietnam war. Later variants served in the Gulf War, War on Terror and war in Afghanistan, among other missions.
The gunships, operated by Special Operations Command, are often used to support Special Operations fighters on the ground engaged in combat.
The aircraft is known for its 105mm side-firing cannons which enable it fire from a side-axis position during close-in combat supporting ground troops. The AC-130 Gunship also has a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm weapon, according to Air Force statements.
The Lockheed-Boeing built aircraft uses four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, each with 4,300 shaft horsepower; the 155,000-pound aircraft has a 132-foot wingspan and hits speeds of 300 miles per hour. Its crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officers, flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection operator, loadmaster and four aerial gunners.
The AC-130 gunship is a C-130 aircraft engineered for close-air support combat. Its variants include versions of a 105mm gun, called a M102 Howitzer, fires 33-pound high explosive shells at a firing rate of 10-round a minute. The weapon has a range up to seven miles and is the largest gun ever operated from a US Air Force aircraft, reports have said.
Air Force Special Operators ultimately plan to operate 37 of the newest version of the aircraft, the AC-130J Ghostrider, service officials said.
The aircraft’s 25-millimeter Gatling Gun, the GAU-12, is the same weapon now on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the weapon fires both High-Explosive-Incendiary and Armor Piercing-Incendiary rounds against enemy fighters, buildings and light vehicles, Air Force officials confirm.
In a recent attack, AC-130 gunships and A-10 Warthog close-air support aircraft together destroyed an ISIS fuel convoy of more than 100 vehicles.
The AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.
The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.
As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.
“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.
C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.
“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.
The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.
Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.
“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.
The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Toth added.
“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service life, we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,” Toth said.
As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.
“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.
Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.
Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air. Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.
AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.
“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.
As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.
“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.
Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.
While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.
“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”
While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.
For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.
“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.
The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.
“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.
Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.
“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”
Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.
“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”
The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.
“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”