Mat Best's biggest battle yet - We Are The Mighty
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Mat Best’s biggest battle yet

Ever wonder what members of Special Forces do in their free time?


We do, too.

Unfortunately they’re not too keen on disclosing information — go figure. But lucky for you we’ve found the next best thing; in fact, even his name backs that statement.

Meet former Army Ranger, Mat Best, best known for the Bikini Snap and Article 15 clothing apparel. And of course… the most epic of epic rap battles.

Image credit: Recoil Web

 

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The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Everyone knows there are risks to joining the Army, but there are the dangers that everyone knows about thanks to movies, and then there are the dangers that soldiers learn about during their time in service.


Most movies make it look like the only way to die is in combat. But movies like “Jarhead” and “Starship Troopers” remind everyone that there are a lot of under appreciated ways to die in the military, like being killed by your own artillery or friendly fire from a machine gunner.

Here are five relatively unknown ways to get your ticket punched in the Army

1. It’s not “Danger close” until it has a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating you

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

“Danger close” is one of those military terms that pops up in movies from time to time. It’s usually used correctly with artillery observers yelling it on the radio when they need bombs or artillery.

What the movie doesn’t tell you is that the term “danger close” refers to fire missions where the rounds have a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating or killing friendly troops. That may not sound like much, but the risk estimate distance, or RED, for calculating  danger close is on a per round basis. Which means you’re rolling those 1 in 1,000 dice every time a round is fired.

Danger close fires are still often a good idea since they’re only used when a U.S. position is about to be overwhelmed, but they’re super dangerous. If the artillery line is asked to fire a total of 150 rounds in a danger close situation, then they have an 8.6 percent chance of hitting an American even if they do everything perfectly.

Any mistake increases the risk.

2. Human chemical detectors

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Kimball)

In the unlikely event of a chemical or biological attack, all members of the military don protective masks and suits and chemical soldiers track how the enemy agents break down until it’s safe. But someone has to be the first to take off their mask.

This moment sucks especially hard for the junior-most member of the unit since they’re usually the one who has to take their mask off first. So, good luck with that, new enlistees.

3. Every weapon malfunctions and malfunctions can kill you

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army works hard to purchase and deploy effective and dependable weapons, but every weapon has a chance to fail even when it’s properly maintained. While soldiers usually act in training like helicopters only fall when shot at and weapons always fire until they overheat, that simply isn’t the case.

Take this artillery crew in Afghanistan that got a horrible surprise when their howitzer’s recoil mechanism gave out during a fire mission, leaving them to manually lower and raise the gun between shots. And that’s not even getting into the malfunctions that can kill soldiers outright, like when the breach or tube on a weapon gives out and it suddenly explodes when fired.

4. Everyone with a radio is a target

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Provost)

American soldiers are trained to target enemy combatants with radios in an attempt to shutdown the adversary’s command and control networks. Unfortunately, the enemy has figured this out too and uses the same tactics.

What that means for every platoon leader and sergeant, every radio telephone operator, and every artillery observer is that their antenna is a huge target painted on their backs.

5. Even in training, the weakest link can get you killed

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Steven L. Phillips)

But the scariest thing about being in the Army is when you realize that you’re life depends on everyone around you, and some of those guys are pretty stupid. In combat, these guys can get you killed by not being good at their jobs, but there are risks in training as well.

Artillery crews can miscalculate and hit friendly troops, helicopter pilots can crash, troops who have negligent discharges can send rounds anywhere. Obviously, sexier training is more dangerous. Shoot houses with live ammo and artillery ranges are more dangerous than practicing to escape a rolled over vehicle.

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Here’s how you can get one of those awesome M41A pulse rifles from the ‘Aliens’ movie

A Colonial Space Marine without a pulse rifle is like cake without candles; good, but not great. While a Space Corps has been proposed, it’ll be a long time before we see our science fiction dreams of sweet, sweet xenomorph murdering fully realized. In the meantime while we wait for the apocalyptic space future promised by 1980’s movies, there’s an opportunity to get your hands on an original prop of arguably the most iconic movie weapon in a generation: The M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens.


Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Aliens (1986) – 20th Century Fox.

You’re going to have to pay a hefty price for the pleasure, however.

Where else but eBay can we find details on the original prop?

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Screenshot of ebay.com

The item description features a decent breakdown of the parts used. Like many other movie props of the era, the M41A Pulse Rifle consists of actual firearm components intermixed with custom fabricated elements.

Aliens original hero Colonial Marine M41-A Pulse Rifle. (TCF, 1986) One of the most famous Sci-Fi firearms, the M41-A Pulse Rifle was featured heavily in James Cameron’s 1986 action sequel Aliens.

Designed by Cameron himself and constructed under the supervision of renowned armorer Simon Atherton at Bapty Armory, the Pulse Rifle is viewed by many as the pinnacle of Sci-Fi prop weaponry. This is an original prop Pulse Rifle that was originally constructed for and used in Aliens, and later re-built and re-used in Alien 3.

The prop is constructed around a WWII era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, which was originally modified to fire blanks for the production and has since been fully decommissioned. The Thompson is fitted with a custom-made pistol grip, and a custom-made extended barrel.

A SPAS-12 shotgun cage mounts below the Thompson barrel via a custom-stamped barrel shroud, simulating the grenade launcher. The grenade launcher features the original SPAS-12 pump handle, which was cut down for a different look in the film. It slides freely back and forth, allowing the pump-action loading of the launcher to be simulated. As only one version of the Pulse Rifle had a practical grenade launcher (actually a Remington 870 shotgun) fitted, this piece has a dummy grenade launcher filling the SPAS cage…

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Aliens (1986) – 20th Century Fox.

…The ends of the piece are capped with a custom-made steel shoulder stock, and a custom-made aluminum barrel cap at the front of the grenade launcher. The entire assembly is housed in a vacuum-formed ABS outer casing, which completes the unique profile of the prop. While all other components on the piece were used in Aliens, the casing was installed specifically for the production of Alien 3.

After Aliens, all of the Pulse Rifle props were struck back to their original firearm components, and most of the casings used were discarded as they were no longer deemed necessary. When the decision was made for Weyland scientists to carry Pulse Rifles during the climax of Alien 3, Bapty had to re-assemble the Pulse Rifles and were now lacking the outer casings. New outer casings were therefore manufactured by vacuum-forming over one of the original casings from Aliens, and the new ABS casing was fitted to the prop with bolts, brackets and custom-riveted plates.

The outer casing was originally painted black for use in Alien 3, as are all Pulse Rifle props in the film, but was later re-sprayed green by Bapty to return the piece to its classic Aliens form. The clip base is made from wood and is installed with a screw at the front of the casing. The Pulse Rifle is complete and in good film-used and weathered condition.

All of the moveable components-the shoulder stock, grenade launcher pump handle, and original Thompson selector switches and trigger-can be moved and positioned. This is a rare opportunity to own a masterpiece of film prop weaponry. Special shipping must be arranged through a federal firearms licensed dealer. $12,000 – $15,000

This famous prop is part of Hollywood Auction 89 – a live auction being held on June 28th at 14:00 PST. Details of each item up for grabs can be found on the auction page.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Photo from Pop Culture Geek, taken by Doug Kline

If you don’t have a spare $15k set aside for a rainy day, the game isn’t over quite yet. You can build a functional M41A for yourself, or for the less mechanically inclined, obtain an airsoft version.

As for us, we’ll stick to spending that kind of coin on actual machine guns, with a healthy side of late night Aliens screenings

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This Navy base is bigger than Rhode Island

During WWII, scientists at the California Institute of Technology needed adequate facilities to test and evaluate their rockets. Simultaneously, the U.S. Navy was seeking a new proving ground for aviation ordnance. Cal Tech’s Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen and Navy Cdr. Sherman E. Burroughs met and agreed to work together to find a site that would suit both of their organizations’ needs.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
The original NOTS logo (U.S. Navy)

Approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles in the West Mojave Desert lies China Lake. The dry lake is named for the Chinese prospectors who harvested borax from the lake bed. With plenty of open land far from towns and cities, China Lake was the test site that Cal Tech and the Navy were looking for.

In November 1943, the Navy established the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake. The Secretary of the Navy described NOTS as, “…a station having for its primary function the research, development and testing of weapons, and having additional function of furnishing primary training in the use of such weapons.” Testing at NOTS began within a month of its establishment. With its near perfect, year-round flying weather and practically unlimited visibility, China Lake quickly became the premiere location for weapons research, development, testing and evaluation. Moreover, the Navy’s partnership with Cal Tech established and fostered a relationship between military and civilian scientists and engineers that continues to this day.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
An F9F-8 Cougar with AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles flies over NOTS China Lake (U.S. Navy)

In 1950, NOTS developed the Air Intercept Missile 9. Better known as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the missile has become the world’s most used and copied air-to-air missile. Other notable weapons that were developed and/or tested at China Lake include the Mighty Mouse, Zuni, Shrike and JDAM.

In July 1967, NOTS China Lake was combined with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Corona, California, to become the Naval Weapons Center. By 1971, the Corona facilities were shut and relocated to China Lake. In July 1979, China Lake also assumed the mission of the National Parachute Test Range at El Centro.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
The modern NAWS logo (U.S. Navy)

In January 1992, NOTS China Lake was redesignated Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. In total, the installation covers over 1,100,000 acres of land. Representing 38% of the Navy’s global land holdings, the base is larger than the state of Rhode Island. As of 2010, at least 95% of the land remains undeveloped. Additionally, China Lake’s restricted and controlled airspace covers 19,600 square miles. This accounts for 12% of California’s total airspace.

On top if its research, testing and evaluation roles, China Lake is also home to a National Historic Landmark. The Native American Cosco People who once inhabited the land carved thousands of petroglyphs into what are known today as Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons and sit within China Lake. They are part of the larger Cosco Rock Art District which contains more than 50,000 documented petroglyphs in an area of roughly 99 square miles, the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the northern hemisphere.

Today, the Navy reports that China Lake hosts 620 service members, 4,100 full-time civilians and 1,734 on-board and off-site contractors. The base continues to support the Navy’s research, testing and evaluation of cutting-edge weapons to equip the nation’s warfighters.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
An F/A-18F Super Hornet flies over NAWS China Lake (U.S. Navy)
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US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.


US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Syrian Democratic Forces march in Raqqa in 2016

Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.

SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.

There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.

On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.

This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.

Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.

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Here’s a look at the likely finalists for the new XM17 modular handgun

For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.


Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:

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The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.

Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.

An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.

So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?

Glock

By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.

In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)

While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.

Smith Wesson

Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.

Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.

Smith  Wesson has teamed with General Dynamics to compete for the Army XM17 Modular Handgun System program. Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)

And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.

That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.

But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Photo from Sig Sauer

You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.

And it’s this off-the-shelf modularity that leads many to believe the P320 is the odds-on favorite to win the XM17 handgun program.

Will it happen?

The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.

For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.

Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.

It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.

So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.

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Gurkha soldiers are rebuilding vets homes after massive earthquake

When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.


A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
A Nepalese soldier carries a young earthquake victim from a U.S Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Joint Task Force 505 to a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the country, May 12, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales)

One of the military forces that rushed in were Gurkha soldiers from the British Army in Operation Leyland. The Gurkhas are recruited from the same region of Nepal that was worst hit, and the troops were deployed to help their own families and forebears.

But the Gurkhas didn’t leave once the emergency passed. They’re still taking turns rotating into the area to help rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. Operation Marmat was a deliberate deployment of about 100 Gurkhas at a time to build homes with materials purchased by the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
A Gurkha soldier helps rebuild the home of a former Gurkha rifleman during Operation Marmat, an ongoing effort to rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. (Photo: Facebook/British Army)

In addition to their labor in the mountains of Nepal, the Gurkhas have raised money — approximately $65,000 — across the world with an emphasis on the United Kingdom where they are based.

An update from the British Army Facebook page says that 800 homes have been rebuilt by the trust and 61 of them were built with labor from the active duty Gurkha soldiers in the past two years.

Another 300 homes are still slated for reconstruction. People who want to help can visit the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British Army stands guard in Sanger, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

Gurkha soldiers have served the British Army with distinction for over 200 years, including deployments to both world wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan where they served alongside American troops.

To learn more, check out this short video from the British Army (you must be logged into Facebook to see the video):


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Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”


It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.

Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.

“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.

Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.

But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”

 

But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.

Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.

In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.

“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the ‎dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”

Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.

Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.

“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”

And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.

“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”

The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.

“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”

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This is how infantrymen learned about their weapons in World War II

During World War II, military trainers had to quickly get recruits ready for combat on the front lines of Nazi Europe and the Pacific Theater. As a result, the U.S. Army created this infantry training video in 1943.


Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Infantrymen emplace the 105mm howitzer, their largest weapon in World War II. Today, the 105mm belongs to the artillery battalions. Photo: YouTube/Weaponeer

The video covers all of the major infantry weapons from their ammunition types and ballistic properties to how to best use each weapon in combat. It even shows how soldiers could make Molotov cocktails to take out tanks and the infantry could use 105mm howitzers, “the infantry’s bulldog.”

The film contains some great one-liners, including, “He’ll need more than aspirin after that,” while a Nazi mannequin takes .30-cal. rounds to the dome.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Yeah, aspirin won’t fix this. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

“Don’t think this pillbox is Heaven. The bazooka makes it Hell,” during the anti-tank rocket portion is pretty great as well.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Not photographed: Heaven. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

The whole film runs through carbines, improvised weapons, mortars, anti-tank rifles and rockets, and more. It’s funny, but it also makes you think (about dying Nazis). Check it out below:

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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

Mat Best’s biggest battle yet
Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

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5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite gunny

Editor’s Note: On April 15, 2018, R. Lee Ermey passed away from complications of pneumonia. His long time manager, Bill Rogin, made the announcement via Ermey’s twitter handle. In honor of his passing, We Are The Mighty is proud to share these facts about America’s favorite Gunny.

Most people know R. Lee Ermey from his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. And if you somehow joined the military and never saw Full Metal Jacket, the first question anyone would ask is “How is that even possible?” But the second would be “How much do you know about this guy, anyway?”


Ermey didn’t go right into acting and if it weren’t for his Marine Corps-level determination, we might never know him at all. Which would be a shame, because his life before and after Full Metal Jacket is equally interesting.

1. His first job after the military was untraditional.

Ermey was medically retired from the Marine Corps and was at a loss about what to do as a civilian. He told Entertainment Weekly in a 1997 interview that he “bought a run-down bar and whorehouse” in Okinawa. He had to leave the business behind when the Japanese FBI caught wind of his black marketing. He escaped to the Philippines, where he met his wife.

 

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What Ermey actually looked like as a Drill Instructor in 1968.

 

2. His first role was an Army helicopter pilot.

It was while in the Philippines that the future Gunnery Sergeant was cast in Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola himself. Ermey was studying drama and did a number of Filipino films before Coppola discovered him. You can see him in yet another legendary war movie scene.

Coppola also hired him as the film’s technical advisor for all thing military.

Also read: 7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

3. He wasn’t supposed to be in Full Metal Jacket.

Ermey was doing his job as technical advisor, reading the part of Sgt. Hartman while interviewing extras for the film. They already hired another actor for the part but Ermey had a plan to get the part. He got the job as technical advisor because of his other roles in Vietnam movies. He taped the interviews he did as Hartman and Kubrick cast him after seeing those tapes.

Interestingly enough, Ermey wrote the insults he hurled at the Marines in the film. Kubrick never gave him input on what a drill instructor might say. He wrote 150 pages of insults.

4. Ermey is the only Marine to be promoted after retiring.

He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after spending 14 months in Vietnam and doing two tours in Okinawa. He was medically retired for the injuries he received during his service. But it was in 2002, that Marine Corps Commandant James L. Jones promoted Ermey to E-7, Gunnery Sergeant, the rank he became so well-known for. It was the first and only time the Corps has promoted a retiree.

5. He originally joined the Corps to stay out of jail – and almost went Navy.

In the old days, joining the military was an option for at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents to avoid real jail time. Ermey was arrested twice as a teen. He admits to being a bit of a hell-raiser. And he didn’t even know about the Marine Corps the day he decided to join.

 

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Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

“Basically a silver-haired judge, a kindly old judge, looked down at me and said ‘this is the second time I’ve seen you up here and it looks like we’re going to have to do something about this,'” Ermey told a gathering in 2010. He wanted to join the Navy because his father was in the Navy, but they rejected him on the grounds that he was a troublemaker.

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North Korea accuses White House of assassination plot

After arresting two American university instructors and laying out what it says was an elaborate, CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea is claiming to be the victim of state-sponsored terrorism — from the White House.


The assertion comes as the U.S. is considering putting the North back on its list of terror sponsors. But the vitriolic outrage over the alleged plan to assassinate Kim in April is also being doled out with an unusually big dollop of retaliation threats, raising a familiar question: What on Earth is going on in Pyongyang?

North Korea’s state-run media announced May 7 that an ethnic Korean man with U.S. citizenship was “intercepted” by authorities for unspecified hostile acts against the country. He was identified as Kim Hak Song, an employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

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The Supreme Leader doesn’t like these kinds of images. (Via reddit user Rotorammer)

That came just days after the North announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, also a U.S. citizen, for “acts of hostility aimed to overturn” the country. PUST is North Korea’s only privately funded university and has a large number of foreign teachers, including Americans.

What, if anything, the arrests have to the alleged plot is unknown. But they bring to four the number of U.S. citizens now known to be in custody in the North.

“Obviously this is concerning,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters May 8. “We are well-aware of it, and we are going to work through the embassy of Sweden … through our State Department to seek the release of the individuals there.”

Sweden handles U.S. consular affairs in North Korea, including those of American detainees.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labour for alleged anti-state acts — he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner at his tourist hotel — and Kim Dong Chul, serving a 10-year term with hard labour for alleged espionage.

The reported arrest of another “Mr. Kim” — the North Korean man allegedly at the centre of the assassination plot — is more ominous.

According to state media reports that began May 5, he is a Pyongyang resident who was “ideologically corrupted and bribed” by the CIA and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service while working in the timber industry in Siberia in 2014. The Russian far east is one of the main places where North Korean laborers are allowed to work abroad.

The reports say Kim — his full name has not been provided — was converted into a “terrorist full of repugnance and revenge against the supreme leadership” of North Korea and collaborated in an elaborate plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un at a series of events, including a major military parade, that were held last month.

They allege Kim was in frequent contact through satellite communications with the “murderous demons” of the NIS and CIA, who instructed him to use a biochemical substance that is the “know-how of the CIA” and that the hardware, supplies, and funds would be borne by the South Korean side.

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In this image, Kim Jong Un is looking at a thing.

Kim Jong Un attended the military parade on April 15 and made several other appearances around that time to mark the anniversary of his late grandfather’s birthday.

The initial reports of the plot concluded with a vow by the Ministry of State Security to “ferret out to the last one” the organizers, conspirators and followers of the plot, which it called “state-sponsored terrorism.”

The North Korean reports also said a “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack” would begin immediately. Follow-up stories on the plot have focused on outraged North Koreans demanding revenge.

It’s anyone’s guess what a “Korean-style” attack might entail.

North Korea is known for its loud and belligerent rhetoric in the face of what it deems to be threats to its leadership, and the reference to ferreting out anyone involved in the plot could suggest not only action abroad but possible purges or crackdowns at home.

“I wonder if Kim Jong Un has become paranoid about the influence Americans are having on North Koreans, and about the possibility of U.S. action against him,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defence analyst and North Koreaexpert at the RAND Corporation. “Will Kim increase his internal purges of North Korean elites? Will he focus on North Korean defectors, people who the regime would like to silence? Or will he do both?”

Tensions between North Korea and its chief adversaries — the U.S. and South Korea — have been rising over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that include training for a possible “decapitation strike” to kill the North’s senior leaders.

Bennett noted that such training has been included and expanded upon in annual wargames hosted by South Korea, which were bigger than ever this year.

The wargames, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, just finished, without any signs of North Korean retaliation.

Further reading: 3 jokes that could get you sent to a firing squad in North Korea

But the current rhetoric from Pyongyang has a somewhat familiar ring to it. Case in point: the movie “The Interview” in 2014.

In June that year, the North denounced the Seth Rogen comedy, which portrays the assassination of Kim Jong Un for the CIA by two American journalists, as “a most wanton act of terror and act of war.” A few months later, hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment computers and released thousands of emails, documents, Social Security numbers, and other personal information in an attempt to derail the movie’s release.

The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang denies involvement, but has praised the hackers.

The North’s claims of a plot to kill Kim Jong Un with a biochemical agent also have an eerie similarity to the assassination of his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam, at an airport lobby in Malaysia in February.

In that attack, seen by many as orchestrated by the North, two young women who were allegedly tricked into thinking they were taking part in a television game show, rubbed the deadly VX nerve agent onto the face of the unsuspecting victim, who died soon after.

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Today in military history: US raids Hanoi

On Aug. 27, 1972, U.S. aircraft hit North Vietnamese barracks near Hanoi and Haiphong in the heaviest bombing in four years.

Earlier that year, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) launched a ferocious military operation known as the Easter Offensive, designed to gain as much territory and destroy as many U.S. and South Vietnamese units as possible. 

In response, President Nixon unleashed Operation Linebacker I, a continuous bombing effort against the North.

On Aug. 27, U.S. aircraft flattened NVA barracks near Hanoi and Haiphong and destroyed bridges on the railroad line to China as four ships shelled the Haiphong port and attacked two NVA patrol boats. 

Operation Linebacker One would continue through October and in December, Linebacker II would begin.

Tens of thousands of Americans would die as a result of the Vietnam War, with three hundred thousand more injured and countless traumatized. In 1995, Vietnam released an official estimate detailing as many as two million civilian deaths on both sides with somewhere between two hundred thousand and one million combatants killed. 

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