“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.
Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason. Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.
“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.
“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”
That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)
To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.
“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”
The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.
“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”
The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.
“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”
At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.
“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”
“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.
Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.
One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.
But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:
Do you have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the danceable? In this classic from a few years back, Marines bust a move when their favorite jam, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe,’ comes on:
A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.
During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.
Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:
The first time I witnessed a ‘missing man formation’ was at the funeral of my grandfather, who flew the B-25 Mitchell during World War II. After his service in the Army Air Corps, he became a commercial pilot for TWA and then ventured into private flight. He died in an airplane crash at the age of 74 and my family gathered with his aviation community at Santa Paula Airport for his memorial.
At the ceremony, we looked to the sky as a group of planes from the Condor Squadron flew overhead. One of the planes banked away, leaving an empty space in the formation.
The symbolism was not lost on me.
Four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing conduct a missing man formation flyover during the POW/MIA ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne)
It’s a powerful visual, and a traditional salute to military aviators.
The “missing man formation” has evolved throughout history, but today, there are two main variations.
The first is the one held at my grandfather’s memorial: a group of planes roars low overhead, then one pulls up spectacularly from the rest, leaving his or her space in the formation empty to represent the fallen pilot.
The “missing man formation” has always held a special place in my heart, perhaps because flight, for me, feels synonymous with freedom. The notion that a pilot might slip “the surly bonds of earth” for the final time is one that brings me comfort, and therefore saying goodbye to those who love the “vastness of the sky” in this way is a bittersweet moment.
Watch the video below to see a “missing man formation” in action:
Amazon Studios along with Lionsgate shows the inspirational power of brotherhood amongst service members in Richard Linklater’s film “Last Flag Flying.”
The film sheds a charismatic light on Larry “Doc” Shepherd, a former Navy Corpsman and Vietnam veteran who loses his only son while serving in the Iraq war.
Faced with this surprising tragedy, Shepard looks to reunite with his former Marine brothers for their most crucial mission yet: to bury Shepherd’s son and ultimately reconnect the brotherhood they shared 30 years ago.
“Last Flag Flying” stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne and chronicles an uplifting cross-country adventure and the genuine strength of the military fraternity.
Mel Gibson has started production on World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge in New South Wales, Australia, starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington. The first photographs for this new upcoming drama have been released.
The movie is based on the life of Desmond T. Doss, a medic who served during the Battle of Okinawa, who refused to kill or carry a weapon into combat and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
According to Wikipedia: “Drafted in April 1942, Desmond Doss refused to kill or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He consequently became a medic, and while serving in the Pacific theatre of World War II he helped his country by saving the lives of his comrades, at the same time adhering to his religious convictions.”
Captain Glover (played by Worthington) is in charge of the unit (77th Infantry Division), while Vaughn plays Sergeant Howell, whose job is to get the new recruits ready for battle.
“While production has only just begun, there is already incredible camaraderie between the cast,” Gibson said in a statement. “Not only is Andrew perfect for the role of Desmond Doss, the entire cast are an incredible mix of experience, depth and exciting up and coming talent.”
Other cast members include Richard Roxburgh, Luke Pegler, Richard Pyros, Ben Mingay, Firass Dirani, Nico Cortez, Michael Sheasby, Goran Kleut, Jacob Warner, Harry Greenwood, Damien Thomlinson, Ben O’Toole, Benedict Hardie, Robert Morgan, Ori Pfeffer, Milo Gibson and Nathaniel Buzolic.
In 1946 George Kennan, an American diplomat in the Soviet Union, wrote to the Truman State Department about his view of the USSR’s aggression. He thought the Soviets were “impervious to logic of reason… highly sensitive to the logic of force.” This outlook became the cornerstone of the United States’ “containment” policy of Soviet and Communist expansion, a policy which almost led to the brink of global nuclear war 16 years later.
After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the presence of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy starting in 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place nuclear missile installations in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempts by the U.S. and its Central Intelligence Agency to invade Cuba. The CIA was tipped off by Soviet spy Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, who passed on war plans, secret documents, and other human intelligence.
On October 14, a U-2 spy plane overflight confirmed the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. For thirteen days, October 16 – 28, 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union faced each other down in a confrontation that would be the closest the world came to nuclear annihilation during the Cold War.
16 October: President Kennedy is informed about the photographic evidence
The President was notified of the presence and confirmation of Soviet missiles in Cuba and received a full intelligence briefing. Two response ideas were proposed: an air strike and invasion or a naval quarantine with the threat of further military action. The President kept to his official schedule to raising concerns from the public.
17 October: U.S. troops begin buildup in the Southeast
Military units flowed into bases in the Southeast United States as U-2 reconnaissance flights showed continued development of missile sites in Cuba, complete with medium and long range missiles, capable of hitting most of the continental U.S. The President met with the Libyan head of state and then went to Connecticut to support political candidates.
18 October: The Soviet Foreign Minister meets with Kennedy
Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko met the President at the White House, assuring Kennedy the weapons were defensive. Kennedy knew otherwise but didn’t press the issue, instead giving Gromyko a warning of “gravest consequences” if offensive nuclear weapons were on Cuba.
19 October: Business as usual
The President stuck to his scheduled travel in the midwestern United States. Advisors continued to debate a response strategy.
20 October: Kennedy orders a “quarantine” of Cuba
The White House called the blockade a “quarantine” because a blockade is technically an act of war. Any Soviet ships carrying weapons to Cuba would be turned back. The President faked a cold as an excuse to end his trip early without alarming Americans and returned to Washington.
21 October: Tactical Air Command cannot guarantee destruction of the missiles
The President attended Sunday Mass then met with General Walter Sweeney of the USAF’s Tactical Air Command. Gen. Sweeney could not guarantee 100 percent destruction of the missiles.
22 October: Kennedy informs the public about the blockade and puts U.S. troops on alert
President Kennedy informs former Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower as well as the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the Cuban Missile situation. He then assembles and Executive Committee (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council to work out coordinating further action.
After a week of waiting, Kennedy addressed the nation to inform them about the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. He also announced the quarantine of the island to prevent further “offensive military equipment” from arriving, stating the U.S. will not end the quarantine until the USSR removes the missiles.
The EXCOMM assembled by President Kennedy recommended a military invasion of Cuba to end the stalemate, which would have led to massive retaliation from the Soviet Union, and the destruction of all forces on the island. The U.S. moved to Defense Condition (DEFCON) 3.
Kennedy wrote to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev:
“I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would In this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.”
23 October: Organization of American States (OAS) Supports Quarantine
The OAS support for the blockade gave the American move international legitimacy. Cuba was expelled from the OAS earlier in 1962.
U.S. ships moved into their blockade positions around Cuba.
Soviet freighters bound for Cuba with military supplies stopped for the most part but the oil tanker Bucharest continued to Cuba.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Ambassador Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy.
24 October: Khrushchev denounces the quarantine
The Soviet Premier denounced the U.S. quarantine of the island as an act of aggression.
“You, Mr. President, are not declaring a quarantine, but rather are setting forth an ultimatum and threatening that if we do not give in to your demands you will use force. Consider what you are saying! And you want to persuade me to agree to this! What would it mean to agree to these demands? It would mean guiding oneself in one’s relations with other countries not by reason, but by submitting to arbitrariness. You are no longer appealing to reason, but wish to intimidate us.”
Pope John XXIII appealed to Kennedy and Khrushchev to push for peace.
25 October: Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of missiles in Cuba to UN
The U.S. requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security council, where the Soviet ambassador denied the presence of missiles in Cuba. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson told the Soviet ambassador he was “willing to wait until hell freezes over” for an answer from the USSR. Then he showed the damning reconnaissance photos to the UN.
UN Secretary General U Thant called for a “cooling off” period, rejected by President Kennedy because it left the missiles in Cuba.
26 October: The U.S. Armed Forces prepare for all out war
The U.S. military moved to DEFCON 2. Once the blockade was in place, all Soviet ships bound for Cuba either held their positions or reversed course. Some ships were searched and allowed to proceed.
Missiles on Cuba became operational and construction continued. Soviet IL-28 bombers began construction on Cuban airfields.
Fearing an imminent attack from the United States, Cuban leader Fidel Castro suggested to Khrushchev the USSR should attack first.
A Soviet spy, Aleksander Fomin, approached ABC News’ John Scali to offer a diplomatic solution: The removal of the missiles in exchange for a promise not to invade Cuba.
The Soviet Premier sent a letter with a similar message to President Kennedy stating his willingness to remove the missiles from the island if the United States would pledge never to invade Cuba.
27 October (Black Saturday): Khrushchev offers a new deal to Kennedy
In a second, more harshly worded letter, the Soviet Premier agreed to withdraw the missiles if Kennedy promised to never invade Cuba and to remove the U.S.’ Jupiter missiles from Turkey, contradicting his personal letter to Kennedy.
A U-2 spy plane checking the progress of the missiles was shot down over Cuba, killing the pilot, Major Rudolph Anderson. Neither side escalated the conflict, despite the shoot down.
The U.S. ignored Khrushchev’s public offer and took him up on the first offer, adding they would voluntarily remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey a few months later, voluntarily.
A U.S. Navy ship dropped depth charges at a Soviet submarine under the blockade line. The submarine was armed with nuclear torpedoes, but chose not to fire them in retaliation.
A U.S. plane was chased out of the Kamchatka region by MiGs.
In the evening the USSR and USA, through Robert Kennedy and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, reached an agreement to de-escalate the conflict.
28 October: The USSR announces it will remove missiles from Cuba
The Soviets agreed publicly to remove the missiles in exchange for the promise not to invade Cuba. They do not mention the agreement to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
Radio Moscow announced that the Soviet Union accepted the proposed solution and released the text of a Khrushchev letter affirming that the missiles would be removed.
The missiles were loaded and shipped back to the Soviet Union in early November 1962. By the end of that month, the U.S. embargo on Cuba ended. Soviet bombers left the country before the end of the year and the Jupiter missiles were removed form Turkey by the end of April, 1963. A “hotline” was set up between the USSR and the United States to ensure direct communication between the two superpowers in the future.
Kings Mountain High School teacher Hailey Spearman was made an honorary recruiter for the Shelby Army Recruiting Center at a ceremony on Fort Jackson, S.C. on April 22.
Spearman attended a Future Soldier event with her local Shelby recruiter, Staff Sgt. Casey Raza, and some of her students who have joined the U.S. Army this school year. They received first-hand experience of what Army basic training entails.
Spearman teaches English Language Arts and coaches the women’s track and field team at KMHS.
Lt. Col. Robert Garbarino, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Columbia Commander, said both teacher and recruiter work together to help students find their options for life after high school.
“Ms. Spearman is a model for what a community advocate does for our recruiting efforts,” Garbarino said.
He deputized her by giving her his Army Recruiting Badge in front of over 250 Future Soldiers and their guests. He also presented her with a plaque to thank her for her efforts to promote awareness on Army opportunities. Garbarino said he was pleased to recognize Spearman after hearing how she goes the extra mile for her students.
Raza said that Spearman has been instrumental to the process.
“I wanted to reach as many students as possible to show them all of their options,” Raza said. “She allowed me to give presentations during her English classes and to students who are on her track team.”
Spearman said Raza puts the needs of each student first.
“She has a way of building positive relationships with students and therefore, our students look up to her and respect her opinions concerning the Army,” Spearman said.
American-style taco – shell + sushi rice = a dish to heal the wounds of WWII. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Kon’nichiwa, TACO RICE.
Meals Ready To Eat explored the advent of one of Japan’s most popular street foods when host August Dannehl traveled to Okinawa in search of taco rice, a true food fusion OG.
If you were to suggest that spiced taco meat dressed in shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomato, would seem a bastard topping to foist upon sushi rice, Japan’s most sacred and traditional foodstuff, well, in Okinawa at least, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of a lesson in local history.
Taco Rice is the result of two post-WWII cultures: that of the Japanese and the American troops stationed in Okinawa, finding a way to transcend their differences through the combination of comforting foods.
An influx of American delicacies, most notably Spam, flooded the island following the cessation of hostilities and led to a heyday of culinary cross-pollination. Spam is still featured in many now-traditional Okinawan dishes, but taco rice is, for modern Okinawans and American military personnel, the belle of the mash-up Ball.
When the Nazis came to power in January 1933, the party only won 37 percent of the vote across Germany. In the Reichstag, the German parliament, the National Socialists only controlled a third of the seats when Hitler came to power. When they held another election two months later, after crushing other parties and quieting opposition, they still only won 43 percent of the vote and less than half of the Reichstag.
So it’s safe to say that not every German was huge supporter of the Nazi party and its leadership. But after a while, criticizing the government became more and more hazardous to one’s health. How does a population who can’t openly object to their government blow off the built-up popular anger among friends? With jokes.
For many Germans, laughing at Hitler within their homes was the most they could do. Far from brainwashed, they were fed up with the laws forcing them to do things against their will. As Rudolph Herzog writes in “Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler’s Germany,” these jokes could get you in a concentration camp or in front of a firing squad. These are the jokes people living under Hitler and the Third Reich told each other.
1. The crude behavior of regime officials offended Germans immediately.
The German word “wählen” means “to dial someone” and “to vote for someone.”
2. Did you notice a lot of Nazis were overweight? So did the Germans.
3. Not all Germans were thrilled to greet each other with “Heil Hitler.”
4. Everyone knew who really set the Reichstag fire.
5. Clergy were the first to point out Hitler’s hypocrisy.
6. Germans wondered why the Nazis pretended to have a justice system.
7. Many Germans knew of some concentration camps and what happened to dissenters there.
8. Dachau was the one everyone knew about.
9. German Jews who escaped joked about those who stayed.
10. The people knew what was coming.
11. Their Italian allies weren’t exempt from ridicule.
12. Italian inability didn’t go unnoticed.
13. After a while, the German people felt stupid for believing it all.
14. They got more cutting as time passed.
15. Telling this joke was considered a misdemeanor:
16. The end became apparent in jokes long before the reality of the situation.
“The Finest Hours” depicts the events of Feb. 18, 1952, when a horrendous winter storm broke two large tankers in half. Coast Guardsmen operating out of the Chatham, Massachusetts lifeboat station managed to save 70 of the men from death by hypothermia or drowning.
The two tankers, both 520 feet long and carrying kerosene and heating oil, were called the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer. The Pendleton broke first, cracking in half near dawn in the middle of a nor’easter that created 60-foot waves and 70-knot winds.
The way the Pendleton broke resulted in a circuit tripping, cutting electricity to the front of the ship where the captain could have sent out an S.O.S. signal. The captain and seven other men in the front of the ship would die before anyone knew to rescue them.
In the bow of the Pendleton, 33 men were fighting for their survival. They struggled to keep their ship afloat and sound alarms while knowing they had only hours to live.
A short time later, the Fort Mercer was broken in half by the same storm. The Coast Guard first learned about the Fort Mercer and dispatched a motor boat from Chatham and a number of Coast Guard cutters and aircraft responded.
The rescue of the Fort Mercer crew was dramatic. Crew members tried to climb on ropes from their sinking vessel to a cutter, but were thrown around by the wind and waves. A particularly brave cutter captain ordered his vessel to make runs beneath the stern, allowing survivors to jump from one ship to another as the waves tried to crash them together.
38 men were eventually rescued from the Mercer. It was during this that a Coast Guard aircraft spotted a floating section of the Pendleton and reported that there were two broken ships out there.
So, a second motorboat was dispatched from Chatham station. It is this one that “The Finest Hours” seems to focus on. A small crew of 3 volunteers led by a young boatswain’s mate, Bernard Webber, set out into the storm to attempt the rescue.
En route, their 36-foot lifeboat was twice swamped by the waves. The first simply flipped the self-righting ship, while the second flipped it and broke out the windshield, threw Webber against the deck, and broke the small vessels compass. Webber and his men would complete the rest of the rescue without being sure of where they were going at any time.
When they made it to the Pendleton, the survivors lined the deck and waved their arms to get the Coast Guardsmen’s attention. A nearby cutter had also come to the aid of the Pendleton, but was unable to assist because the Pendleton stern section was crashing against an underwater bar that would destroy the cutter.
So the small motorboat, designed to hold just a few people, began taking on the crew of the Pendleton. It took twenty passes of the motorboat for the entire crew to make it off. For each man that jumped onto the motorboat, the vessel became harder to maneuver and more sluggish, a potentially lethal problem in the turbulent storm.
Finally, on the last pass, the Coast Guardsmen had taken on 32 of the 33 survivors from the Pendleton. But the final survivor dropped too early, crashing into the water between the ship’s stern and the Coast Guard boat. When he floated back to the surface, a wave pushed the vessels together and the man was crushed between them.
Though Webber was hurt by the loss of the man, he began the challenging process of getting his crew and the 32 remaining survivors back to safety. With no compass for guidance, he radioed the shore for help. As Chatham Lifeboat Station and a Coast Guard cutter argued about the best course of action, Webber got fed up and shut off his radio.
He headed in a direction that he thought would let him beach the craft, allowing men to scramble ashore. As he moved forward though, he spotted a navigational buoy and alerted Chatham Station that he was coming up to the pier with his survivors.
Other Coast Guardsmen and civilians from Chatham came out to meet the heroes and help the survivors. The next day, Coast Guard Rear Admiral H. G. Bradbury wrote a letter thanking the men for their heroism. Each member of the crew later received Gold Lifesaving Medals from the Treasury Department for their efforts.
Third, it has the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a system originally devised to communicate between F-35s that has now been expanded to participate in the NIFC-CA.
MADL provides significant advantages over traditional systems of transmission, namely that it’s very difficult to jam. Adversaries have never seen anything like the MADL, and if they ever do figure out how to disrupt it, it will certainly take some time.
When the F-35 program reaches its maturation point about a dozen US allies will be flying the Joint Strike Fighter. They will all have the ability to contribute targeting data to their own fleets as well as that of allied nations. So an Australian F-35 could transmit data to a nearby South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer and take out a distant target, no problem.
The applications and versatility of the F-35’s MADL has surprised even those close to the program.
“Originally we didn’t think F-35s would use through datalinks directly to ships… This gives them the ability to talk directly to the ship with a very hard to detect very hard to jam MADL link,” retired Navy officer Bran Clark told USNI News.