As the weather turns cooler and you look for yet another thing to help keep you sane while you’re stuck indoors, might we suggest you return to the originals and re-watch any one of these classic Vietnam War movies.
(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)
We’re listing this one first to get it right out there in the open. Yes, we’re talking about Rambo here, but in our humble opinion, First Blood is one of the best Vietnam War movies of all time. Don’t believe us? Well, consider this.
The majority of Vietnam Veterans weren’t given any kind of preferential treatment on their return to America. Discounts? Forget about them. Being thanked for their service? Not in a million years. That’s one of the reasons why First Blood is such a standout Vietnam War movie – it shows a part of our country’s history that many have forgotten forever. It helped educate the general public about the challenges of Vietnam Veterans, both in the field and once back at home, too.
This gritty war movie focuses on 14 soldiers from the 101st B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiments during a 12-day battle that occurred in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.
Debuting in 1987, the film showcases what it was like for the Screaming Eagles as they endured an uphill battle against a well-entrenched enemy under awful conditions.
The real battle of Hamburger Hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left almost 300 wounded. This film absolutely holds up to any other film that attempts to explore the sacrifices made by infantrymen.
(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)
Platoon won the “Best Film” of 1986 and for a good reason. This movie manages to explore combat from the ground level, and does what many war movies can’t do – it shows the combat experience for exactly what it is: scary, full of dread and lots of worries. The reason this film manages to be successful where others aren’t might be due in part to the fact that Oliver Stone, who wrote and directed it, was a Vietnam Veteran. In interviews, Stone said that he was just trying to make a film for himself and for those like him, to remember the war for exactly what it was.
(American International Pictures)
This one might not be on your radar, in part because it’s a low-budget movie that never won any awards. It was written by the same person who wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and an unknown director. The result is a film that’s part war rage and part revenge fantasy and is probably relatable for most Vietnam Veterans returning from war.
Two POWs get a hero’s welcome upon returning to Texas, but things fall apart immediately after and only go from bad to worse. The movie traces these two characters’ lives as they come to terms with understanding their new normal.
This is the kind of movie that will completely captivate you and tap into the frustration that many Vietnam war movies try to illustrate.
The Deer Hunter
The cast of The Deer Hunter elevates it into the cinematic hall of fame status. Starring Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, the cast is as impressive as the storyline. What further sets this film apart is the fact that John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather) makes his last appearance before his death from bone cancer.
The harrowing POW sequences in this film are dark, gritty and utterly memorable. The Deer Hunter is one of those movies that will remain with you long after you’ve watched it.
Several new technologies are being developed that, once combined, will provide Soldiers an unprecedented overview of the battlefield.
That assessment came from Army personnel at Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate here, who hosted a recent media visit.
Those technologies involve the marriage of micro-displays with augmented reality.
The Army’s preferred method of acquiring new technologies is to use what industry is already developing for consumers, or modifying that technology for its own use, said Rupal Varshneya, an electrical engineer at CERDEC.
The Army employs its scientists and research laboratories for designing needed technologies that industry is not interested in pursuing, she said. Such was the case when the Army needed a very bright, high-definition micro-display, about the size of a postage stamp.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
First off, the Army approached makers of smartphone, tablets, TVs and even the gaming industry, she said. None of them were interested in making the micro-display because they didn’t foresee consumer demand or profit potential.
So Army researchers at CERDEC went to work.
David Fellowes, an electrical engineer at CERDEC, said researchers worked in stages building displays with progressively greater capability. About eight years ago, they developed a monochrome version.
Then, several years later, researchers developed a new silicone technology and manufacturing methods that enabled the micro-display to increase in brightness, he explained.
“If you’ve ever tried looking at your cellphone on a sunny day, it’s really hard,” he said. The increase in display brightness was such that Soldiers would now be able to see the tiny micro-display in sunlight.
Although the technology was being developed for dismounted Soldiers, other program managers took notice, he said. For example the program manager responsible for Apache helicopters wanted their pilots to have them for head-mounted displays.
They are not yet fielded for the Apaches, but a contract for them has already been signed. Other program managers wanted them for night vision goggles and even for weapons sights, he added.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
The next step, he said, was to develop an extremely high resolution, 2048-by-2048-pixel display in full color. That advancement came to fruition recently, and some of them were on display.
The next phase of development had to do with taking the improved micro-display and pairing it with augmented reality, using the Nett Warrior system.
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Nelson, in charge of Soldier testing at CERDEC, was suited up in the Nett Warrior System, with a helmet-mounted micro-display attached. The media could see what he was seeing in his micro-display on a large TV screen.
Previously, Soldiers had a small radio attached to their chest, he said. Whenever they needed to get location coordinates or other data they had to look down and lost situational awareness to their front. Nelson compared it to a person walking across a busy street looking down at a cellphone. “Not good.”
The micro-display attachment to the helmet allows Soldiers to stay focused on what’s in front of them, he said.
The micro-display not only gives Soldiers a clear view of what’s ahead of them, night or day, it also can accommodate overlays such as maps and symbols showing friendly forces and enemy forces. In this way, it replaces traditional night vision goggles.
Furthermore, information that’s wirelessly fed into the micro-display, such as maps and symbols, can be shared among other Soldiers using the device, as well as leaders in the tactical operation center, he said.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
They all have the ability to share the same picture of the battlefield and can add or manipulate the symbols as needed, he said.
Researchers are also adding micro-displays on the Soldiers’ weapons and feeding that display into the one attached to the
Soldiers’ helmets via a tablet worn on the waist. That enables Soldiers to get a split view of what’s around them plus the target the weapon is trained on, he said.
So if the rifle is pointed rearward and the Soldier is looking forward, the image shows both views, he explained, adding that creates novel ways for Soldiers to fire their weapons, such as shooting over a wall without being exposed.
The entire system is currently being tested by Soldiers at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, he said.
We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.
Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)
When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.
One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.
Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.
After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.
Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”
Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.
The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.
But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.
Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.
The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.
Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.
As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.
A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.
Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”
Two men accused by London of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent have told Russia’s state-funded RT television station they visited the British city of Salisbury in March 2018 as tourists.
“Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where is it located,” one of the two men claimed.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman called the interview “an insult to the public’s intelligence,” saying it was full of “lies and blatant fabrications.”
British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.
The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.
The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.
“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.
“The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”
They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.
“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.
A picture taken on Fisherton Road in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service on Sept. 5, 2018, shows Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.
In the statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.
“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said in a statement.
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March 2018,” the statement said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”
The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.
“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018, contradicting the British government’s assertion that they were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU.
Following Putin’s declaration, May’s spokesman said that Britain’s attempts to get an explanation from Moscow over the poisoning had always been met with “obfuscation and lies.”
The two suspects are GRU officers, the spokesman reiterated, adding, “The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives, and its methods, this position is supported by our international allies.”
Early September 2018, British authorities announced that they had charged two Russian men, identified as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with carrying out the poisoning on March 4, 2018.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sept. 9, 2018, that Britain will catch the two men and bring them to prosecution if they ever step out of Russia.
Calling the poisoning a “sickening and despicable” attack, Javid said it was “unequivocally, crystal-clear this was the act of the Russian state — two Russian nationals sent to Britain with the sole purpose of carrying out a reckless assassination attempt.”
The poisoning led Britain, the United States, the European Union, and others to carry out a series of diplomatic expulsions and financial sanctions against Moscow.
It has further damaged already severely strained relations between Russia and the West and has been a cause for solidarity at a time when Western officials accuse Moscow of seeking to cause rifts in relations between Western countries.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law-enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.
“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.
“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.
The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law-enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the US Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.
This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as members of the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.
Customs and Border Protection’s immediate-response force, also known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, often wear military uniforms with custom patches.
Members of this group were sent to Portland to quell the protests, which went on for over 50 days and were linked to the defacement of federal buildings, according to CBP. The Border Patrol Tactical Unit’s actions at the protests were scrutinized after video footage showed its agents detaining someone suspected of assault or property destruction and whisking them away in an unmarked minivan. The incident prompted lawmakers to demand an investigation.
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law-enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.
“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”
Nazi subs prowled the Gulf of Mexico during World War II.
Herbert G. Claudius was in command of the patrol ship USS PC-566 in 1942. His mission and that of his crew was to monitor the Louisiana coast and its territorial waters for signs of any Nazi u-boat activity. On July 30, 1942, they got their chance, sinking a submarine that was preying on American shipping. For this, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with a Combat V device. The medal was issued in 2014, 72 years after the action.
At the time, Claudius was relieved of command for the same action.
USS PC-566 was a submarine chaser patrol boat, much like the one seen here.
In all, Hitler sent around 22 or more u-boats into the Gulf of Mexico at the outset of World War II, and they were successful. The submarines prowling the coasts of Texas and Florida picked off an estimated 50 ships during the war. They were wreaking absolute havoc on American shipping, and the United States Navy was only able to sink one of them. That’s the u-boat taken down by Claudius’ USS PC-566 and her crew.
On July 30, 1942, the passenger liner SS Robert E. Lee was torpedoed and sank by U-166 45 miles south of the Mississippi River Delta. Upon entering the area, Claudius and his crew spotted U-166’s periscope and dropped depth charges into the water until an oil slick bubbled up to the surface – proof positive they hit their target, possibly destroying the boat.
When Claudius reported the action to the Navy, the Navy was skeptical because the crew of PC-566 had not yet received anti-submarine training and admonished the crew of the patrol boat for poorly executing the attack. Their skipper was relieved of his command and sent to anti-submarine school instead of receiving the Legion of Merit he so richly deserved. After reviewing the evidence presented to the Navy by Ballard and by oil companies who also found the wreck, the Navy reversed course, just 72 years too late.
In a 2014 ceremony, Claudius’ son, also named Herbert G. Claudius, received his father’s Legion of Merit from then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert at the Pentagon. The elder Claudius, who died in 1981 after 33 years of Naval service, “would have felt vindicated.”
It’s pouring rain as the photographer and I run through the cobbled streets of Philadelphia. You can see it in the locals’ faces and the Colonial buildings still standing strong just blocks from the Liberty Bell that this city is tough. For over 300 years, Philly has been the home of patriots, presidents and even movie characters such as Rocky Balboa. Yet, there is one theme that continues to define Philadelphians. No matter how much they struggle, get kicked around or scarred, there will be a moment when they rise, gritty and determined, and GO on with their mission.
We arrive at the Union League, a brick and brownstone club, which has supported the military and veterans since 1862. As we pass two statues of soldiers marching off to war, I receive a text, “Finishing a board meeting. Use the side entrance. You won’t be allowed in unless you are in a jacket. Which I assume you are not.” The subject of our next interview is 100% correct and I instantly know we are in the place where Ryan Manion and her team hold court each December.
Ryan is the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, co-author of the Knock at the Door, mother, Gold Star sister and marathon runner. She’s busy. Always on the go, and the second week of December is her Super Bowl.
The night before our interview, she led the annual If Not Me, Then Who gala, which honors fallen heroes, veterans, active-duty troops and military families. Today, she’s leading the TMF board meeting, which includes current CEOs and former generals. Tomorrow, she’ll go on Fox Sports to represent TMF at the Army-Navy game where Navy will take home the win (but we don’t know that yet). Ryan has thankfully given us thirty minutes of her downtime for a one-on-one interview which she tells me is “no big deal” after I thank her again.
The Travis Manion Foundation is a big deal. The non-profit, which started as a small family effort, is now an organization that coordinates thousands of community volunteers across the nation. Ryan, who lost her brother, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, and her team are driven by the mission to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.”
The most amazing thing about Ryan Manion is not only all that she and her team have accomplished since 2007 but the fact that she is still going, and going strong. Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a former smoker who now runs marathons and does ruck marches. She talks fast and moves faster. “Come on, let’s GO,” she tells us when we see her. I follow, knowing without a doubt that Ryan is the next generation of tough as nails leader that Philly is known for.
WATM: How’s your Army-Navy week going?
Ryan’s phone rings. It’s a family call. She answers while we start taking photos. Then she’s back.
Ryan Manion: It’s been a little heavy this week. We started off Tuesday with a meeting for all our senior TMF leadership, which we did for the first time. They flew in from all over the country. Then Tuesday night, we had a huge book event here in Philly, and my son has pneumonia.
WATM: OMG, that is a lot.
Ryan: He’s fine. Home with the family. He had a cold for three days. It didn’t even seem like a big cold. You know, it’s been kind of crazy.
WATM: How do you manage everything on your plate?
Ryan: I love what I do, and I get to work on wonderful things. We’ve been working on a project for tomorrow’s Army-Navy Game. We’re bringing 30 wounded warriors and their families to meet the President during the third quarter.
WATM: Wow, that is amazing. Did you ever see yourself doing this kind of work? Especially leading an organization such as the Travis Manion Foundation?
Ryan: Today, one of our board members said it best, “It all just gets back to Travis, saying, if not me, then who?” And that kind of simplified the journey for me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m sitting here with all these people because of my brother.’
WATM: You and your family established the organization as a way to carry on Travis’s legacy. Does it still feel that way a decade later?
Ryan and her brother Travis at the Army-Navy Game.
Ryan: Last night, somebody at the gala who was a Marine that served with Travis came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve been at this gala for eight years now, and every year gets better and better. It’s unbelievable. But I got to tell you, I was sitting there thinking, these people don’t know who Travis Manion was.”
WATM: How did that make you feel?
Ryan: Travis is my personal driver, but this organization is bigger than one person. I am excited for so many to see the fruits of what he stood for through this organization.
WATM: If Not Me, Then Who?
Ryan: Exactly. My brother wrote those words before he deployed to Iraq, and they represent the character, leadership and selfless service that is the backbone of all our programs. Whether it is our strength-building seminars, expeditions, fitness events or service projects, we unite our volunteers, both civilian and veteran, in the common cause to better their communities by living the mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…”
WATM: What do you think draws people to the foundation and your work?
Ryan: It’s funny because our board was just asking me the same thing.
Ryan: I have to tell you, the thing about our organization is that it’s like the feeling you get when you’re around your family. It started out as a family affair. It was a small family that was grieving the loss of their loved one. But even as we’ve grown, it doesn’t matter what event you’re at or how many show up. You know, tomorrow there will be a thousand people at our tailgate, everyone’s going to feel like they’re part of a team, a family.
WATM: Was that the plan from the beginning?
Ryan laughs. I’ve been to a few TMF tailgates, and we both know the answer.
Ryan: I can’t articulate in words why that is. But you’ve been around it, you see it, and I don’t know what drives that. We come from a very different place from a lot of other traditional veterans service organizations, especially those in the post 9/11 world. I think they’re all doing great work. They came with an idea, “Ok, this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to solve it.”
We came with, “I just lost my brother, my mom and dad just lost their son. And we want to make sure that we continue his legacy.” So when you come at it from that place, there’s no chance that it’s gonna be anything but super authentic in what you’re doing. Since then, it’s been, “Ok, we’re going to do this. Oh, people are into it. Ok? Let’s keep doing it. Oh, wow. We’re really doing something here now.” That’s the plan.
Ryan Manion with a copy of her book, The Knock at the Door.
WATM: So let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations.
Ryan: Thank you. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.
WATM: What’s the feedback you’re getting so far?
Ryan: The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve found that this book, to some degree, breaks down the wedge between the civilian and military worlds because everyone receives some type of knock at the door. We all have challenges that we weren’t expecting to appear in our lives.
The Knock At the Door shows what a military family goes through when they lose someone. But this story doesn’t end there. Our story just begins there. So it’s set in a much different context. The Knock At the Door empowered me and my co-authors into another chapter of our lives. We all had different journeys from shock to finding purpose.
WATM: In the book, you describe how physical fitness helped you find focus. Specifically moving from smoking to running the Marine Corps Marathon?
Ryan: I totally recognize the extreme of it all. Physical fitness is huge both in general and in times of grief. It was truly eye-opening when I discovered the effect it had on my daily psyche. I mean, people say, exercise is a little bit of a drug and they’re right. That’s why I had to write about my physical journey alongside my emotional one. I went through some dark times after I lost my brother. I struggled with anxiety and depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. It was realization that I was not ok that helped me to pick up the pieces.
WATM: Is there anything that people are really responding to or the people are coming to you afterwards and saying, I love this. That you’re finding people are really resonating with?
Ryan: I think for me, people were surprised about how vulnerable I was in the book. You know, I’ve been given the opportunity to run a veteran serving organization that requires a lot of professional appearances and public speaking. People get to meet me as the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, but this book showed a whole different side of me.
WATM: Was it scary to be that vulnerable and open?
Ryan: Yes. You know, the other thing that’s been really great about the book is the response from the Gold Star community. If you would have asked me before I wrote, what’s your biggest fear? It would be that like the Gold Star community doesn’t connect with this. And they have.
Ryan with her TMF GORUCK.
WATM: What do you think Travis would say about all of this?
Ryan: I don’t know what Travis would be doing now. I don’t know if he’d still be in the Marine Corps, if he’d be out and working in corporate America or doing something less traditional. I have no idea. But I know that he would be involved in this world. He would not be the veteran that takes off the uniform, goes away and is unconnected to what’s happening in their community. But would I be connected to this world? Probably not, because my brother would have been. I think he would be proud that I am involved and active with the Travis Manion Foundation, but he would have hated that it’s named after him.
WATM: I think I can understand that.
Ryan: We were years into this thing, and my dad’s like, “I just feel like I don’t think Travis would like that his name is everywhere. It’s nameless, maybe we should change the name?” And my response was something like, “Dad, you’re kidding. We’re in too deep. Travis’s name represents this generation.” And so, that’s my rebuttal. I think Travis would be super proud of what’s happening in his name.
WATM: Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2020? Maybe something you’re scared about or something we should keep on our radar?
Ryan: The next big thing I’m doing is going to Puerto Rico at the end of January for one of our service expeditions. We have eight or nine of these service expeditions a year, but this one is special. I will be traveling with a Marine who was with Travis when he was killed. We will be doing rehab projects for veterans’ homes effected by the hurricane a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to that.
WATM: Will you keep us updated on the trip?
Ryan: Of course.
WATM: Last question. Who do you think will win the Army-Navy Game tomorrow?
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.
Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.
US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.
Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.
Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)
“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.
“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”
Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)
The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.
“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”
US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)
The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.
“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”
US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)
Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)
“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”
The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.
The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.
Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army researchers have discovered that being initially uncertain when faced with making critical mission-related decisions based on various forms of information may lead to better overall results in the end.
Army collaborative research has studied networked teams and asked the following question: “Does the uncertainty regarding shared information result in lower decision making performance?”
The answer seems to be “not necessarily,” as the findings suggest that uncertainty may actually be helpful in certain situations.
This finding may sound counterintuitive, as many algorithms specifically incorporate the objective to reduce uncertainty by removing conflicting or irrelevant data.
Reducing uncertainty is desirable when decision makers are processing high-quality information which is correct, timely, complete and actionable.
Additionally, in automated settings requiring no human input, prior beliefs may not impact decisions and it is not necessary to consider the impact of uncertainty on beliefs.
However, many real-world scenarios do not correspond to this idealized setting and hence more nuanced approaches may be needed.
Army graphic designed by U.S. Army Research Laboratory graphic artist Evan Jensen delivers the key idea that making decisions under uncertainty may not be such a bad thing after all.
“We are continuously flooded with large amounts of unverified information from social and news media in our daily lives,” said Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, a project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division. “Hence, we may find ourselves unable to make a decision due to too much information as opposed to too little.”
In the context of battlefield situations, different information through diverse channels is available for a decision maker, for example, a commander.
The commander needs to incorporate all opinions or evidence to make a final decision, which is often closely related to time-sensitive mission completion in a given military context.
“Investigating how uncertainty plays a role in forming opinions with different qualities of information is critical to supporting warfighters’ decision making capability,” Cho said. “But, what if we cannot reduce uncertainty further?”
Recently, Cho presented her research paper entitled “Is uncertainty always bad: The effect of topic competence on uncertain opinions” at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Communications.
This research is completed in collaboration with Professor Sibel Adali at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Cho and Adali have been working together through the Research Laboratory’s collaborative program called the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance.
In the paper, the researchers pointed out that although past work investigated how uncertain and subjective opinions evolve and diffuse in social networks, there is little work on directly showing the impact of uncertain, noisy information and topic competence on forming subjective opinions and beliefs as well as decision making performance.
Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division.
“Information often has multiple attributes that all contribute to decision making in conjunction with the competence, knowledge and prior beliefs of individuals in the given topic,” Adali said. “Many information models tend to oversimplify the problem abstracting out these factors which become quite important in situations involving uncertain, noisy or unreliable information.”
The key motivation of this study is to answer the following question: “When we are stuck with high uncertainty due to noisy, not credible information, how can an individual maximize the positive effect of a small pieces of good information for decision making?”
To study this problem, Cho and Adali extended the subjective logic framework to incorporate interactions between different qualities of information and human agents in scenarios requiring processing of uncertain information.
In their recent research paper, the following lessons are presented as answers to this key problem:
One, as human cognition is limited in detecting good or bad information or processing a large volume of information, errors are inevitable.
However, as long as an individual is not biased towards false information, systematic errors do not cascade in the network.
In this case, high uncertainty can even help the decision maker to maximize the effect of small pieces of good information because the uncertainty can be largely credited by being treated as good information.
Another insight is that less information is better, particularly when the quality of information is not guaranteed.
“A non-biased view is vital for correct decision making under high uncertainty,” Cho said. “You don’t even have to favor true information either. If we are not biased, it allows even small pieces of true information to lead you to the right decision.”
So, when faced with tough decisions on the battlefield, warfighters need not rely solely on one way of thinking and processing information, as the answer they need to successfully make a move or complete a mission could be right in front of them in the form of an uncertain feeling.
The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.
“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”
Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.
The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.
“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”
Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.
U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”
Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.
“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.
But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.
Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.
Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.
Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.
Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.
The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.
It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.
Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.
A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
When considering the origins of legendary cocktails, it’s doubtful that Egypt is the first place to spring into anyone’s mind. Like many culinary innovations made during World War II, “The Suffering Bastard” is a concoction birthed from a world of limited supplies in which everyone had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on – and it shows.
The Suffering Bastard is a legendary beverage, created by a legendary barman, in time and place where new legends were born every day. The unlikely mixture is said to have turned the tides of the war against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Egypt. True or not, it succeeded in its original mission: curing the hangovers of British troops so they could push Rommel back to Tunisia.
In 1941, World War II was not going well for the British Empire. Even though the previous year saw British and Imperial troops capture more than 100,000 Italian Axis troops in North Africa, Hitler soon sent in his vaunted Afrika Corps to bolster Axis forces in the region.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel with staff in North Africa, 1942.
Crack German troops led by capable tank strategist and Field Marshal, Erwin Rommel, the British experienced a number of defeats in the early months of 1941. They were pushed out of Libya and the lines were within 150 miles of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. His goal was to capture the Suez Canal and cut the British Empire in two.
During the Battle of El-Alamein, Rommel was quoted as saying “I’ll be drinking champagne in the master suite at Shepheard’s soon,” referring to the world-famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Inside the hotel was the well-known Long Bar and behind that bar was bartender, Joe Scialom, whose stories could rival anyone’s, from Ernest Hemingway to Ian Fleming.
Scialom behind the Long Bar in Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel.
Scialom was a Jewish Egyptian with Italian roots. Born in Egypt, he was a trained chemist who worked in Sudan in his formative years but soon found he enjoyed applying the principles of chemistry to making drinks. The chemist-turned-barman who spoke eight languages would eventually travel the world over, to Cairo, Havana, London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, and Manhattan, drinking alongside folks like Winston Churchill and Conrad Hilton. Much of that would come later, however. In 1941, he was the barkeep at the Long Bar and he was faced with a unique problem.
The war made it very difficult to get good liquor in Egypt. British officers resorted to drinking liquor that wasn’t made of such high quality and soon began complaining about terrible hangovers. In an effort to do his part for the British, Scialom set out to make a drink that would give them the effect they wanted while curing their inevitable hangovers. He used an unlikely combination of bourbon and gin along with added lime, ginger ale, and bitters to create a drink that did the job perfectly.
Many variations on the original recipe exist, to include ingredients like pineapple syrup and rum, but the original Suffering Bastard used bourbon and gin as its base.
The first Battle of El Alamein in 1942 resulted in a stalemate. The Axis supply lines from Libya were stretched out to their breaking point and Rommel could not press on to Alexandria. Before the second Battle of El Alamein, the ranking British general, Claude Auchinleck, was replaced. His spot eventually taken by one General Bernard Montgomery. The next time the two sides met at El Alamein, Montgomery was in command and British hangovers were a thing of the past. Monty and the British Empire troops turned Rommel away and pushed him westward toward an eventual defeat.
Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.
British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.
Not my first prize choice, but whatever.
Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.
The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.
The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.
The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.
That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.
And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.