The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.
The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.
An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.
All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.
First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.
Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.
There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.
That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.
An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)
Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.
These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.
So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.
These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.
This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.
Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.
But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.
So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.
It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.
It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs, according to an article in Esquire. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.
Here are nine examples of dark humor in the military:
For an ordinary man, ‘Manila John’ Basilone did extraordinary things. Despite a short life, Basilone accomplished great acts of heroism and patriotism. Born on Nov. 4, 1916, in Ruritan, New York, Basilone would go on to become the first U.S. Marine of enlisted rank to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II. He was also the only enlisted Marine to earn the Navy Cross posthumously.
Basilone hadn’t begun his career in the Marine Corps. Basilone enlisted in the U.S. Army just before his 18th birthday in 1934. He was sent to the Philippines as an infantryman from 1934 to 1937. While in the (at the time) U.S. colony, Basilone became a champion boxer and fell in love with his style of life there. Three years after his return to the United States, Basilone enlisted in the Army, thinking he would be more likely to return to the Philippines in that service. His Marine service did take him to the Far East, but, sadly, he never saw his beloved Manila again.
After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. joined the fight against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy. America’s late entry into WWII has drawn criticism, but there was no doubt that once America joined it came with full force. Basilone’s unit (1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division) soon found themselves in the thick of the fighting defending the island of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal was where this ordinary man’s extraordinary courage first showed itself.
Guadalcanal was as rough a posting as any soldier could want, or fear. Sited well within Japan’s emerging empire, it was vital to the Americans–and the Japanese wanted them out. Allied forces had captured an airstrip at Henderson Field, which allowed Allied aircraft to strike Japanese forces. In response, the Japanese naval force known as the Tokyo Express regularly bombarded the airfield and American positions. The fight for Guadalcanal was long and bloody. Basilone was smack in the middle of it.
During Oct. 24-25 in 1942, the Marines faced a frontal assault from over 3,000 Japanese troops of the Sendai Division. The Japanese, probably World War II’s best jungle fighters, attacked in typical Samurai fashion. The troops regarded death in battle as something to aspire to, not fear. Commanding two machine gun sections, Basilone readily obliged their aspirations. The citation for his Congressional Medal of Honor described his efforts in the battle.
“In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.”
A brave effort indeed, but ‘Manila John’ wasn’t finished yet. His citation continues:
“A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through enemy lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”
Thirty-eight bodies were left around the gun that Basilone had personally manned. His mission to collect ammunition for his gunners saw him fighting through Japanese lines on foot both ways, using a pistol. Not surprisingly, his commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis ‘Chesty’ Fuller recommended Basilone receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was well deserved.
Newly promoted to Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, CMH, USMC, he was sent home for publicity tours, using his celebrity status. He wasn’t happy. Like many soldiers, Basilone disliked celebrity and hero-worship. Like many Marines, he said as much. Within months, he requested re-assignment to the Pacific. The Corps refused, offering a commission and a safe posting stateside.
His national war bond tour had earned him ticker-tape parades, newsreel coverage, and a spot in Life magazine, but he wanted to be in the front line with his fellow Marines. He reportedly said, “I’m just a plain soldier and want to stay one. I ain’t no officer and I ain’t no museum piece. I belong back with my outfit.”
Eventually, the Corps relented. Basilone went to Camp Pendleton to train for combat in the Pacific. There he met his wife, fellow Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi, who became Mrs. Basilone in July 1944. In December, Basilone returned to the Pacific, headed for Iwo Jima. He never saw his wife again.
Iwo Jima was a bloodbath. Over 20,000 Japanese troops defended it: Only about 200 of them are known to have survived. The Marine Corps suffered nearly 26,000 casualties, of whom nearly 7,000 were killed in action. On the first day of the invasion, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, CMH, USMC became one of the fatal casualties.
Attacking the Japanese-held Airfield One on Feb. 19, 1945, Basilone was killed. By then he’d already risked his life pushing two bogged-down Sherman tanks out of mud, by hand, and had killed numerous Japanese soldiers. According to his Navy Cross citation:
‘In the forefront of the assault at all times, [Basilone] pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.’
He was 28 years old. Basilone’s actions just before his death would posthumously earn him a Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Basilone was the only Marine who was awarded these three major citations (Navy Cross, Purple Heart, and Medal of Honor) during World War II.
Basilone’s wife, Lena Mae, never remarried. She died in 1999 and was buried wearing her wedding ring. Aside from numerous decorations, Basilone received other honors. The U.S. Navy named a destroyer after him in 1945, which Lena Mae christened. Another USS John Basilone is scheduled for commission in 2019. He also appeared in the ‘Distinguished Marines’ postage stamp series and was a central character in the HBO series The Pacific.
The U.S. Marine Corps still consider him a soldier’s soldier, a Marine’s Marine. He lies beside many of America’s heroes in Arlington National Cemetery. You can find Basilone’s grave in section 12, Grave 384.
As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?
Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.
With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.
Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)
Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.
1. If another major terrorist attack happens
The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.
I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)
2. For a huge bonus check
Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.
And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)
3. If your military family went as well
The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.
You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)
4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you
Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.
These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)
5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again
Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.
He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)
6. To get some adventure
Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.
Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.
Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.
Alexander Skarsgard and Jon Huertas in Generation Kill. Photo credit Jon Huertas
Jon Huertas is one of the most successful Latino actors of today. Having been a lead on shows such as Generation Kill, Castle, This Is Us, and in the military film The Objective, Huertas is well-known for the depth of his talent. Perhaps lesser known: He’s an Air Force veteran. Huertas served in the Air Force before transitioning over to acting where he comes at his craft and profession from a much deeper perspective than one might recognize at a quick glance. He shares his stories here about where he has been, where he wants to go and changes he believes are necessary in the Entertainment industry.
Photo credit IMDB.com
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My upbringing was sometimes tough at times, although my mom and grandparents tried their best to make family life easier. You are born what you’re born into, where you try to come out with a smile on your face.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My mother worked very hard and the best as she could for her family. I grew up with my grandparents where my grandfather was adamant about studying effectively and always being a student of life. You never really master anything and need to keep an open mind because nothing is solid and everything in life tends to be fluid. So, I always try to learn something new to be ready for life’s many changes. My grandmother had a good sense of humor and she didn’t take herself too seriously. She was always laughing and always having fun. Our life on this planet is super short, with how small of creatures we truly are in the universe. And in retrospect to how long the earth has been here.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
In many ways I raised myself and made mistakes where I could have landed on a completely different path in life. I had a dream to be an actor and also a hero complex with a developing desire to also serve my country. These desires mostly kept me out of trouble growing up…”mostly,” but getting in trouble a few times steered me in the right direction. My goals kept me focused and not ending up in situations where I shouldn’t be. It was like I would have internal conversations with myself about my goals and which forced me to grow up.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Air Force, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
A lot of men in my family served, including my grandfather who was in the Navy, my uncle was in the Navy and I had several uncles that served in the Marine Corps as well. I saw pictures of them, especially the black and white picture of my grandfather in uniform, where I actually saw myself in that photo. I went to the Navy recruiter first then off to MEPS but then joined the Air Force after a conversation with a family member. I’d always loved flying, I loved airplanes and helicopters, so it was only natural that I joined the AF instead.
Serving your country is one of the last rites of passage in our country. And while I served, I identified and followed good leaders so I could aspire to one day become one myself. That’s my biggest take away from my time in the AF. You can find your family anywhere and when you’re in the military, you create this family around you at your duty stations. When you leave that one, you then have to find your new family at your next duty station. It’s actually fairly easy for humans to adapt in a situation where you have to find “your people”. I learned that I needed to surround myself with the people that were going to help me attain my goals. I got this from the AF, but I feel it can work for anyone whether the serve or not.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the USAF into acting?
The two most valuable things I took away from the AF is having a strong sense of initiative and discipline. It takes initiative to get your career started. Becoming an actor is one of the hardest careers. It is not even really a career; it is a lifestyle. So having the initiative to figure it all out was huge for me. And you have to have the discipline to stick with it and not give up. Knowing that being in constant training will keep you sharp and ready. In the military we are always improving on our training. It is the same with acting, I am constantly training. There are wonderful acting classes, books to read and films to watch. When you get the opportunity to finally go in for an audition, you should feel like you are the best that you think you can be, then show them that you are the best one for that job.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?
My most fulfilling role is definitely in “Generation Kill” as Sgt. Tony Espera. This was because they had developed a wonderfully complex Latino character. It was unlike any other show that I had worked on. My character, Espera, wasn’t a narco trafficker or a low-level thug, he was someone who had chosen to serve his country. Probably the most developed Latino character I have ever played. HBO, David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright showed gumption by making Espera one of the leads in the show. And it was so gratifying to portray a character like him — to tell an authentic story to the men and women who serve our country and to stay truthful to what happened during the invasion. The writer of the book, Evan Wright, was on set and would provide key advice. Evan had a micro recorder that he always had on him to where if we questioned some of the dialogue, he would pull out the recorder and we could hear our dialog being said, as it happened, by the real guys we were portraying. For advisors on the story, we had the real Rudy Reyes playing himself, with Jeff Carazales and Erick Kocher, also there but being portrayed by actors. Of course, we would them if, in these scripts, it was the way that it really happened, and they let us know it was.
The two biggest compliments I’ve ever received as an actor was when Tony Espera’s wife saw GK at the Camp Pendleton premiere and she asked me, “How was I able to be Tony?” and the other was Tony himself telling me, “I felt like I was watching memories, not a TV show.” Because of that, Generation Kill is the pinnacle of my career.
Jon Huertas, Alexander Skarsgard, and Lee Tergeson in “Generation Kill”. Photo credit IMDB.com
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Rob Bowman, Alex Skarsgard, Susana White, Simon Cellan Jones, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Dan Fogelman, and the like?
Castle is something that I had never experienced before. It is probably the most collaborative show I have ever worked on. They let me help develop Esposito, the character I played. He wasn’t a veteran in the pilot. I asked the producers if I could make him an Army veteran and they let me do it. The relationship I had with Nathan Fillion and Seamus Dever, where our characters, were normally the looser part of the story when compared with the Beckett character played by Stana Katic. We could play around a little more and Stana usually played the straight woman, mirroring the audience’s perspective. She was so good at portraying that character and bringing the three of us back to a more grounded place for the procedural aspect of the show. We were able to figure out how to play, what could’ve been repetitive tropes, differently by infusing character and humor into it that made us stick out. Rob Bowman directed our pilot and he is a mentor to me. He was my first teacher as a director, and he was so encouraging for us to bring more humor. He loved to laugh and wanted us to improve the story by having us not take ourselves too seriously which I think allowed the audience to root for us.
Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com
I can’t say enough about Seamus Dever who played my partner on the show. He is not only a loyal actor but an even more loyal friend. He was always protective of me and our work. He made my time on Castle the best time I could have had. Nathan is such a giving person and super generous. He wasn’t always trying to be the center of the show, he loved highlighting what the rest of us did. The most fun I had was trying to make Nathan laugh during a take, which I reprised when I got to guest with Nathan on The Rookie last year.
Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, and Jon Huertas in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com
After working on Generation Kill, it was amazing to see so many of the guys go off and do such wonderful work after the show. Alexander Skarsgard’s career has been amazing, from doing True Blood to Tarzan and tons of other amazing gigs. And to think he was thinking about quitting acting right before the GK?! Brad “Iceman” Colbert, who Alexander portrayed in Generation Kill, was super proud of Alexander’s work portraying him. Alex and I are still tight as well as most everyone from the show like, James Ransone, Stark Sands, Wilson Bethel, Michael Kelley, and many others. We’re all like brothers now. Almost every single guy from Generation Kill was at my wedding and it was a destination wedding in Mexico, I still can’t believe they all came there for me. I even flew with guys from Generation Kill to England to go to Stark Sands’ wedding. There have been several destination weddings from guys on that show. Everyone on Generation Kill was such a joy to work with, they pushed me, and I pushed them and their dedication in getting the story right made me very proud.
Kellan Lutz, Sal Alvarez, Jon Huertas, Pawel Szajda, and Stefan Otto in Generation Kill.
The experience was almost like being deployed. We shot for nearly eight months in Africa in the countries of Namibia, South Africa’s and in Mozambique. We were a cast made up of almost all guys and for Susana White to not only keep us all from killing each other, she did such an amazing job with the subject matter and was so open to getting the story right. She ended up nominated for Emmy for GK and, in fact, the show was nominated for eleven Emmys. Simon Kellan Jones is a blast to work with and made the set such a fun place to be. Even though we were telling a story that sometimes had us calling in an air strike on the civilian populace, Simon helped us process it so we didn’t bring in too much darkness where people may not watch it.
Now, This Is Us is a family show with no guns like a lot of shows I’ve done in the past. It does feel like a family and all that trickles down through Dan Fogelman. He sets the tone for the show. It is rare to be part of a show that has the impact that this show has. It’s another once in a lifetime experience to be on a show that has touched so many people in so many profound ways.
Jon Huertas, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Wynn Everett in “This Is Us”. Photo credit IMDB.com
All of the projects I’ve been a part of have been amazing in their own way. But working in this industry for the past 25 years, I’ve seen a lack of people behind the scenes that I can say have had similar experiences as an adult male Latino. Meaning…I’ve been working a lot of episodes of television from guest stars to series regulars to leads and I’ve only been directed by one adult male Latino. That is one a hole that still needs to be filled as well as TV writers, Show Runners, Producers and Executives.
After This Is Us ends, I’d like to spend more time behind the camera in the director’s chair and in writing. With the lack of Latino writers in TV, so many characters and storylines featuring Latinos are in roles of a negative stereotype or in menial roles like the gardener or cook instead of as heroes, champions, romantics and role models. So, until you can get people that are writing about it, producing it, developing it, greenlighting it or directing it you are not going to see it. I feel a responsibility to be a part of pushing that message forward. I see a lack of representation at the network, studio and production level for Latinos and I hope to be a part of changing that as well.
As a little kid I had this hero complex. I watched TV and movies, but rarely did I see anyone who looked or talked like me. I watched the old “Batman” TV series with Adam West and I loved Adam West but… he didn’t look like me. So in the back of my mind, I thought that I couldn’t be Batman because he was white. Marvel still hasn’t stepped up with Latino representation. In the TV world there was a recurring character called, Ghost Rider on Agents of Shield but for 20 plus years of doing Marvel in the cinematic universe, they’ve yet to have one adult male Latino as a superhero in his own title.
Erik Estrada was an influential to me while growing up as well as Esai Morales, who was another mentor of mine. I saw him for the first time in a Sean Penn movie called Bad Boys and I think that was the first time I saw someone who really looked like me. It took me seeing someone like me to have the confidence to aspire to become an actor. Latino characters need to be portrayed as the hero, the guy that gets the girl, and the wealthy guy. We have to force ourselves to tell stories that are an equal slice of life. The best bite of a stew is one with all of the pieces of the stew, not just the same three or four pieces.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the USAF have helped you most in your career?
Instead of making emotional decisions allow your emotions to inspire a calculated decision. That is what shows a true leader: You are not letting your emotions speak for you are letting your emotions inspire you to make the best decision. Emotional decisions can be like gut punches where you just react. A person may not think a certain way where they lash out after being hurt.
As an actor your job is to convey an emotion so you can get an emotional response from your audience. If a director and another actor come in and they’re trying to guide your personal choices to benefit them and you feel they’re trying to manipulate your artistic vision for your character, you could become emotional. If you let your emotion take over, you might regret reacting the way you do and end up looking like the problem in the moment. Now there’s tension between actor and director or actor and actor. If you take just a moment and think internally, “How do I get what I want?” You say, “I see where you are coming from, but does this have any value?”You may get them to see it from your perspective and you help them make your decision for you. Now that is, “if” your decision does have value. If so, how can they deny it?
Good decision-making trickles down from the top. From the president to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Pentagon. Even on the unit level from the battalion commander to the platoon commander and on down.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?
Think back to It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart where he was a WWII veteran. Stories are already being told that veterans like to watch but we need to encourage veterans to step up and write, direct, produce stories that speak not only to veteran audiences but also the general market. Veterans a lot of times make the focus of their stories completely from a veteran POV but instead need to create a story everyone will be into and then just happen to make the characters veterans. It’s almost like when you are laying out your characters and mark one with a green dot “veteran”. Back in the day, we just wouldn’t watch a lot of the TV shows or films that centered on veterans because Hollywood usually got it wrong. But now that’s changed. Some bars have been set high because some of the more recent military based projects, especially the higher quality ones, have hired advisors and/or worked with veterans from the inception of the projects. Just like I have to step out as a Latino and encourage others to do so, we need to encourage veterans to step out as well to write the stories.
Just like what I shared about training, not only when serving, when starting out as an actor but also veterans who want to tell their stories need to study creative writing and learn how to write a, treatments, out lines, pitches, log-lines and eventually an amazing screenplay. You have to write something that is not only a great story, but that is produce-able. The hope is that you can sell it somewhere and it’s given a proper budget so the integrity and authenticity can be upheld. As a veteran that wants to write a series about a veteran you may have to work as a staff writer on a show that is not about veterans, so you have to have an open mind. You have to have the skills to write a good script and then after a season or so you can talk to the producers about trying to introduce a character that is a veteran. You have to get into that writer’s room and win hearts and minds. Invest in the writer’s room and then move to the director’s chair and the executive’s chair at the studio, be in charge of what is getting made. You might be able to get into a position to inspire every project created at the studio level, who knows.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I’m proud to have been a working actor who happens to be Latino and also proud to be veterans who has represented veterans truthfully on screen. Portraying veteran and Latino characters positively has hopefully affected someone out there positively as well.
When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.
The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.
In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.
It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.
Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.
Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.
NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.
The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.
But even now, 18 months after his retirement, there are things that happen in our daily lives that make me smile because I am certain they’re completely foreign to my friends who are married to “civilians.” These are 6 such things:
6. You’ve ever had to say, “don’t you knife hand me!”
I might say this at least once a week. Okay, once a day. That knife hand is fierce and even my 5-year-old will employ it from time to time. Oorah.
And even then, my husband is stressed out. After all, if you are on time, you’re late. I’m not mad at this one (most days). My teenager has also learned this life skill and will do just about anything not to be “on time.”
Even though he’s no longer active duty, we still have duffle bags, green socks that I swear multiply if they get wet after midnight, paracords, backpacks, and those little black, clicky pens. Everywhere. And don’t even think about trying to get rid of those green t-shirts. Just don’t do it.
3. Your spouse, before bedtime, says, “I’m gonna go check the perimeter.”
Firearm strapped to his hip, my husband will go check the perimeter just to make sure we are all safe. I love this, but I don’t think any of my non-military spouse friends get this level of security each night. I’ll take it.
2. When you can’t watch military films or TV shows…
We’ll settle in for a great movie or TV show that has something to do with the military. Then, like clockwork, he pauses the DVR. “First of all… that ribbon is in the wrong place. And look at those stripes! No way does an E-5 have that many years of service. Who is advising this film?!”
You know the one I am talking about. When a movie, TV show, or really great military-related commercial comes on and it touches your veteran. You look over and he/she is biting that bottom lip just slightly, eyes are welling a bit, but they are trying hard not to cry.
You realize it has reminded them of someone who didn’t come home or an experience they may never feel ready to share and you’re reminded of just how incredible your spouse is for signing on that line and agreeing to pay the ultimate price for our country.
And then you say a little prayer of thanks that your spouse is one of the lucky ones.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.
The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”
The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.
The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.
The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.
“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.
Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.
With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.
Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.
China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.
The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Who doesn’t love a bit of candy to lighten the mood? Today, troops opening up an MRE might find a bag of Skittles or some sweets in there to help boost morale a little bit. This isn’t anything new; troops have had some kind of candy in rations since WWII.
While the soldiers who were preparing to jump into the fight on D-Day likely had a few of their favorite chocolate bars on them, they had another specialty chocolate bar, one made exclusively made for the troops. It was called the U.S. Army Field Ration D and it tasted about as appetizing as the name suggests — a little bit better than a boiled potato.
Still better than the Veggie MRE.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt)
The Field Ration D, or “D-Bar,” was the brain child of Col. Paul Logan and the Hershey Chocolate Corporation. The idea was to stuff enough calories, vitamins, and nutrients inside of an easy-to-carry chocolate bar so that troops always had an emergency field ration if they needed it. It weighed 4 oz., packed 600 calories, and was mixed with raw oat flour to ensure that it wouldn’t melt easily.
The packaging of Field Ration D was made with aluminum wrapper, cardboard dipped in wax, and cellophane. There was no way that bugs, weather, or gas could reach the bar and contaminate it. There was also a safety measure put in place by Col. Logan to ensure troops didn’t just eat their emergency ration for a sweet fix — he reportedly asked Hershey to not focus on the taste.
The D-Bar was so full of cacao fat and oat flour that it could survive any condition, but it also made the bar extremely bitter. Since it was made to endure nearly any conditions, it was solid as a rock. Not exactly appetizing.
To make matters worse, if any troop didn’t read the tiny warning to eat the bar slowly, over a thirty minute time period, their bowels would suffer. This unfortunate side-effect earned it the nickname, “Hitler’s secret weapon.”
Word of how awful the D-Bar was (and its unofficial moniker) made it back to Hershey. They offered another chocolate bar instead — the Tropical Bar. Apparently, this was even worse and earned the name “Dysentery Bar,” because troops who already had dysentery were the only ones who could tolerate it.
In the end, the top brass at the Pentagon lavished Hershey with numerous awards for their “help” in WWII while the troops exchanged the D-Bars and Tropical Bars to unsuspecting civilians for better food.
To watch the bravest man on YouTube actually eat one of these, check out the video below by Steve1989 at MRE Info.
In 1999, a U.S. Army World War II veteran applied for his Social Security pension. There would have been nothing out of the ordinary for any other vet down on his luck. He knew that any veteran of WWII was able to apply at the Social Security office for special benefits for Army vets during that war. Later that year, 1999, he received a notification by mail, with just one line:
“We are writing to tell you that you do not qualify for retirement benefits.”
The veteran applying for that bit of extra cash every month applied from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. His name was George Koval, and just 50 years prior, he was giving the Soviet Union the information it needed (and couldn’t produce itself) to build an atomic bomb.
The American-born Koval actually moved to Russia in his early years with his family. It was there he was recruited by Soviet intelligence to return to the United States and work as a spy. He came back to the mainland U.S. by way of San Fransisco, moved to New York, and became an electrical engineer for a company subcontracting to General Electric. Except this company was a front company owned by Soviet spies. Koval soon became the head of his own GRU-led cell.
Then, he was drafted to fight in World War II. But instead of fighting in the Infantry, he was sent to the City Colleges of New York to study more and prepare for his real assignment – the Manhattan Project.
Koval was transferred to Oak Ridge, Tenn. where he became the projects public safety officer. He had unfettered access to everything in the Manhattan Project, especially the radioactive elements necessary to trigger the fission that would create the world’s largest explosions. He sent everything back to the Soviet Union, including production processes for plutonium, uranium, and polonium. The coup de gras, however, was the polonium initiators that triggered the fission reaction. The Soviets got those designs too.
Agent DELMAR, Kovals code name, was given unrestricted access to all the top sites of the Project. He freely walked around the halls of the Dayton, Ohio facility where polonium triggers were manufactured. He had free access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the triggers were integrated into the greater design. Koval was basically able to guide Soviet scientists through the process, step-by-step. He sent information back to the Soviets for three years, between 1943 and 1946.
Eventually, the heat started getting to Koval, so he decided to apply for a passport. He told friends and colleagues he was going to Europe or Israel, but he left one day and never returned. Koval escaped to the USSR, where he was discharged from the Soviet military as an unskilled rifleman and given the appropriate pension… which probably wasn’t much. That’s likely the first step in what led him to apply for special benefits at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that day in 1999. The United States never suspected his involvement until the mid-1950s. By 1999, he was an FBI legend.
Koval lived until 2006 when President Vladimir Putin posthumously declared him a Hero of Russia for being the only spy to ever get into the Manhattan Project – much too late to get that pension.
The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.
1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters
After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.
While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.
The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.
The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.
2. HU-16 Albatross
Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.
The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.
In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.
It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!
3. HH-52 Seaguard
This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.
Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.
According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.
4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress
After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.
The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.
5. MH-68A Stingray
The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.
With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.
6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships
This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.
In many ways the LRASM is a lot like the weapons system it’s intended to replace. The Harpoon and LRASM both have electronics to guide the warhead to its target from over the horizon.
The big difference between the two is the LRASM’s autonomous ability and range. The LRASM is a smart, stealthy, drone-like-kamikaze that flies itself to its intended target up to 200 nautical miles away (about 230 miles). Its onboard systems are expected to identify targets without prior intelligence or supporting technology, such as GPS.
The U.S. military expects the LRASM to be operational by 2018. It is based on the JASSM air-to-ground missile, also known as the “terrorist killer” for its bunker-blasting capability.
The LRASM will have the capability of launching from various platforms.
Its onboard systems are expected to independently identify and destroy its targets.
This Lockheed Martin video illustrates how the missile system is expected to work:
Before he became one of musical comedy’s darkest satirists, musician Tom Lehrer served in the U.S. Army. The brilliant mathematician was an enlisted draftee from 1955-1957, serving at the National Security Agency.
He stood out from all the other enlisted troops. Specialist Third Class Tom Lehrer had a Master’s degree from Harvard at a time when his fellow enlisted troops barely had a high school education. He also had a hit record, one he self-published around Harvard but would become a nationwide hit.
Lehrer even wrote a submission for the Army song that talks about picking up cigarette butts, officers who can’t spell, bad food, and junior enlisted shenanigans.
What he did have in common with his brothers in arms was a fondness for having a few drinks at a party. But the party in question was on a naval base in Washington, D.C. — and no alcoholic beverages were allowed.
So he and a friend went right to work before the big day.
“We wanted to have a little party, so this friend and I spent an evening experimenting with Jell-O. It wasn’t a beverage…” he told San Francisco Weekly, “…so we went over to her apartment and we made all these little cups…”
After a few experiments with gin and vodka and number of different Jell-O flavors, they found that vodka and orange Jell-O worked best.
“I would bring them in, hoping that the Marine guard would say, ‘OK, what’s in there?’ And we’d say, ‘Jell-O.’ and then he’d say, ‘Oh, OK.’ But no, he didn’t even ask. So it worked. I recommend it. Orange Jell-O.”
I wonder what the now 89-year-old Lehrer would think about smuggling alcohol in with mouthwash bottles and food coloring.
Incidentally, Lehrer’s record, a 10-inch LP titled “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” was a dark comedy album, but is considered by many to be one of the most influential of all time. He wrote songs about a Russian mathematician, the periodic table, and Christmas commercialism just to name a few.
In all, Lehrer released 11 albums, with great titles like “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” and “The Remains of Tom Lehrer.” He even wrote a song for the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command for the 1963 film “A Gathering of Eagles.”