In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam’s Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.
It. Was. Awesome.
If you’ve never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It’ll make you feel alive.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) New Trailer— Sylvester Stallone
Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.
“A hammer can be used to build or destroy,” observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam’s Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.
He started out with safety information (“Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn’t have to be glowing to burn you…”) and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.
“I don’t want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end.” Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.
When the steel is at critical temperature, it’s ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it’s actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.
Then there’s the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.
Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.
Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.
I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.
Once we’d begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.
Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.
First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.
Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly “quenching” it.
According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.
From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.
At the end of four hours, we’d each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.
Tony Stark Builds Mark 1 – First Suit Up Scene – Iron Man (2008) – Movie CLIP HD
Here’s my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it’s got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It’s just cool.
I’m excited to share this with other veterans because it’s been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn’t exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although…maybe?) but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.
It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.
And then I walked away with a bitchin’ new blade to call my own.
HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don’t forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.
In 1955, the Army made a video about the the two most handsome military police officers in the history of the Army and their foot patrols through U.S. town, providing “moral guidance” for soldiers and interrupting all sorts of trouble before it starts.
Oddly, they don’t write a single speeding ticket, but they do snatch a staff sergeant for driving recklessly.
The military police are moving on foot through the town, learning all the local haunts off base and providing services ranging from giving bus route advice to providing first aid to injured soldiers. They interrupt fights before they happen and let troops know what areas are off limits.
A much wider portfolio than the speed traps they’re known for today.
And the video specifically highlights the “moral services” of the military police officers, which is pretty surprising information for anyone who’s partied with MPs.
The dangerous gunmen that the MPs stop from shooting up Augusta, Georgia.
But even in ’50s propaganda, the MPs get into some blue falcon shenanigans, waking up a soldier waiting on a bus to get onto him about his uniform, then detaining a soldier on pass for looking slightly shady.
They even find an idiot boot playing pool in his G.I. boots.
Their finest moment comes when they catch a wanted soldier carrying the world’s most adorable pistol while loitering near an art studio. Of course, our intrepid heroes catch the ne’er-do-well without a shot fired after drawing on him in the mean streets of Augusta, Georgia.
Actual line in this scene: “Punishment? Well, the sergeant’s company commander will take care of that.” Um, yeah, of course the commander makes the decision, because MPs have all the punitive powers of a Boy Scout.
Hint: If you want to make a group of soldiers look awesome, give them a more forgiving challenge than rolling boots in one of the safest cities in the Union. Maybe highlight their role in maneuver warfare or the way they breach buildings and fight gunmen inside.
The worst infraction the MPs find in this video, outside of the miniature gunfighter, is a stolen valor major at 25:30.
The video is almost 30 minutes long, but has plenty of unintentional humor to keep you chuckling. Check it out up top, and be sure to share it with any MP buddies who get too big for their britches.
President Donald Trump has tentatively decided to withdraw the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria once the last remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been eliminated, the White House said April 4, 2018.
The White House statement gave no timeline for a pullout that has been opposed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but said, “We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans.”
“The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” the statement said, adding the U.S.-led coalition remains “committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.”
However, once the mission to destroy ISIS is completed, the U.S. can focus on withdrawal, the statement said.
In the absence of the U.S. military, “We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges,” it continued.
The White House issued the statement after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on April 4, 2018, that Trump had reached a decision on whether to order Mattis to begin planning for withdrawal.
At a breakfast with defense reporters, Coats did not say what the decision was, but said it was reached after “all hands on deck” discussions between Trump and his national security team April 3, 2018, at the White House.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Mattis, who has argued that the U.S. military needs to remain to provide security for recovery efforts, and the return of refugees, attended the discussions on the potential withdrawal, Pentagon officials said.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces after the defeat of ISIS would leave the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to an uncertain fate.
With the backing of U.S. airpower and artillery, the mostly Kurdish SDF has driven ISIS from most of its strongholds in Syria, and in 2017, claimed the so-called ISIS capital of Raqqa after a lengthy siege.
However, the dominant force in the SDF is the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militia that Turkey has labeled a terrorist group.
In January 2018, Turkish forces, and their Free Syrian Army proxies began “Operation Olive Branch” to drive the YPG from border areas. The Turkish offensive is now focused on the crossroads town of Manbij, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in support of the local Manbij Military Council.
At the end of March 2018, Special Operations Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Texas, and British Sgt. Matt Tonroe, 33, were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij while reportedly on a mission to capture or kill an ISIS operative.
On April 4, 2018, as the White House pondered withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were meeting in Ankara to coordinate their next steps in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.
In a joint statement, the three presidents said they would oppose efforts to undermine the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster had once been a key goal of U.S. policy.
(Photo from Moscow Kremlin)
The three presidents said they are against “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Syria,” a possible reference to U.S. opposition to Assad.
At the end of March 2018, Trump said he had lost patience with the costs to the U.S. in blood and treasure of involvement in the Middle East and wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “very soon.”
At a joint White House news conference on April 4, 2018, with the leaders of the Baltic states, Trump said, “I want to get out” of Syria.
“I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” he said. “It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS; we will be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it is time to come back home. And we are thinking about that very seriously.”
However, Trump appeared to leave open the possibility that U.S. troops would remain in Syria if others picked up the costs of their presence.
“We’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision, and I said, ‘Well you know, you want us to stay, maybe you’re gonna have to pay.’ “
At the same time that Trump was speaking at the White House, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, was arguing for a continued U.S. military presence in Syria to defeat ISIS and provide security for recovery efforts.
“The hard part is in front of us,” Votel said at a U.S. Institute of Peace Forum at which representatives of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development spoke of their ongoing efforts to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS.
Votel said U.S. troops in Syria had the mission of “consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, [and] addressing the long-term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done. Of course, there is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase.”
Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.
“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”
Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.
VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.
Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.
Improvements in memory and energy way up
“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”
During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.
When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.
“It’s worth every second.”
“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”
Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
LAS VEGAS — A compact polymer drum magazine from Magpul that can hold 60 rounds is being tested for potential use by several U.S. military service branches, as well as elite units, the company’s director of government and international affairs said.
Tray Ardese would not specify which branches and commands are testing the PMAG D-60 drum, but said range testing by the services so far appears to be going well.
“We’re under kind of a handshake [non-disclosure agreement] right now to let them get their tests in so we don’t put a lot of pressure on them,” Ardese told Military.com at SHOT Shot on Tuesday. “But each branch of the service has at least a few of them. It is a solution right now that could save lives.”
Magpul appears at the show after a major coup: The Marine Corps’ decision in December to approve the company’s high-performing Generation M3 PMAG as the only magazine authorized for use in combat, replacing the legacy metal magazine.
Ardese said Magpul hopes the ruggedness, balance and reliability of the drum will also win over military users.
“I was one of the biggest drum haters in the world until I saw this one,” said Ardese, a retired Marine colonel. “Because … they’d work great when you treated them with care, but the second you got them dirty or beat them around, they would stop on you. This one hasn’t stopped on me yet and I’ve shot a lot of rounds through it, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds shot through it. It runs flawlessly.”
The drum, at 7.4 inches in length, is designed to be no longer than a traditional 30-round magazine, so shooters in the prone position don’t have to adjust their positioning to fire. And it’s compatible with all the weapons that can accept the PMAG, although Ardese said the drum is particularly well suited to the Marines’ M27 infantry automatic rifle.
The Corps is currently undergoing experimentation to determine whether more infantrymen should be issued the IAR in place of the M4 as their standard service rifle. The weapon has a slightly longer effective range than the M4 carbine and has features including a free-floating barrel that make it more accurate. And unlike the standard M4, it includes a fully automatic mode. Currently, each Marine infantry fire team is equipped with one IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“M27 is the perfect platform for this magazine. This magazine gives the IAR gunner, the automatic rifleman an advantage in volume of fire right off the bat if they were ambushed or they were hit,” Ardese said. “They immediately have two magazines’ worth of ammunition in a flawlessly feeding drum that is very well balanced. It is a must for the IAR gunner.”
The drum, he said, lends itself to any situation where a warfighter needs to have a lot of ammunition at the ready.
“It would be great for vehicle interdiction, any place you would need a large volume of firepower right now,” he said.
It’s not clear when the services currently testing the drum will make a decision on whether to field it, and for what weapons, Ardese said.
He has received only positive feedback from those in charge of range testing, he said.
Military service members are famous for their special lingo, everything from branch-specific slang to the sometimes stilted and official language of operation orders.
That carefully selected and drafted language ensures that everyone in a complex operation knows what is expected of them and allows mission commanders to report sometimes emotional events to their superiors in a straightforward manner.
But there’s a reason that Hallmark doesn’t write its cards in military style for a reason. There’s just something wrong with describing the birth of a first-born child like it’s an amphibious operation.
Anyway, here are seven life events inappropriately described with military lingo:
1. First engagement
“Task force established a long-term partnership with local forces that is expected to result in greater intelligence and great successes resulting from partnered operations.”
2. Breaking off the first engagement
“It turns out that partnered forces are back-stabbing, conniving, liars. The task force has resumed solo operations.”
“Partnered operations with local forces have displayed promising results. The new alliance with the host nation will result in success. Hopefully.”
4. Buying a first home
“The squad has established a secure firebase. Intent is to constantly improve the position while disrupting enemy operations in the local area. Most importantly, we must interrupt Steve’s constant requests that we barbecue together. God that guy’s annoying.”
5. Birth of the first child
“Task force welcomed a new member at 0300, a most inopportune time for our partnered force. Initial reports indicate that the new member is healthy and prepared to begin training.”
6. Birth of all other children
“Timeline for Operation GREEN ACRES has been further delayed as a new member of the task force necessitates 18 years of full operations before sufficient resources are available for departure from theater.”
“Task force operators have withdrawn from the area of operations and begun enduring R and R missions in the gulf area as part of Operation GREEN ACRES. Primary targets include tuna and red snapper.”
Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
Everyone knows about the famous crossing of the Delaware, where General Washington surprised the Hessians in the darkness of late Christmas Day. But who were the infamous Hessians that Washington and his men killed and wounded by the score? And what happened to the ones who didn’t get killed by the Continental Army? As it turns out, Hessian mercenaries liked freedom as much as any other colonial immigrant, because many just stuck around.
Which was fine after the war, but during the war they were very unwelcome – because looting people’s homes is a real turn off.
Not the first time Americans would have to put Germans in their place. And not the last.
The Hessians were not technically mercenaries but contract armies fighting for Britain from the German states of Hesse- Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. Though German troops contracted under British control came from other principalities, they were referred to as “Hessians” as a whole by the colonists. Britain used Hessian troops to control large populations, especially in Ireland and the American Colonies. The use of these troops was one of the reasons the Americans would declare their independence from the crown. Though more than capable fighters, the British used them as guards and garrison troops, which is how they found themselves when Washington surprised them that Christmas night.
When Hessians were captured, especially after the Battle of Trenton, they would be paraded through the streets. The colonists’ anger toward their mother country using “foreign mercenaries” to subdue them was infuriating and increased military enlistments for the Continental Army. They would then be used as a source of labor while they were prisoners of war, often working on farms. The Continental Congress also offered each Hessian who would defect to the American cause 50 acres of land for their effort.
What Hessians see when they aren’t defecting.
Many German troops ended up in Lancaster, Penn. working alongside the Pennsylvania Dutch, who, by nature, treated the Germans very well. In all, German POWs had such a great experience in American farms and fields that they would sometimes join the Continental Army. Some 30,000 men came from German states to fight against the American Revolution. While more than 7,500 of them died in the fighting, the rest did not and when it came time to go home, many didn’t want to go.
So they stayed.
Only an estimated 17,300 of the original 30,000 Hessian soldiers opted to return to their principalities in the German states. The rest decided to make their way in the new United States or head to Canada to try out a new life up there. Life in the armies of German princes was not always so good and the troops were not always well-paid for their efforts. Starting a new life in a country where their future was their own to make was a natural step for many of the well-trained, hardworking Germans.
They could finally celebrate Christmas without worrying about Americans surprising them in their sleep.
A popular app that connects resellers with buyers for used items just announced an initiative to help the military community fulfill the holiday wishlists of 15 homeless veteran shelters across the country.
The makers of the ReSupply app launched the holiday effort, dubbed Operation ReSupply, which will allow app users to find, acquire, and ship items from a master shelter wish list via their mobile devices through Jan. 1.
1. Verified ReSupply users submit their donations via the app.
2. Next, a ReSupply brand ambassador matches the item with a shelter.
3. Finally, the app provides donors with a prepaid shipping label.
All the proceeds from sales between app users during this period will also be donated to the veteran shelters.
While the ReSupply app only works with veterans and servicemembers verified through ID.me, civilians who wish to participate can help cover shipping costs by donating to #OperationReSupply’s Go Fund Me page.
This short video shows how the app helps homeless veterans:
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer conducts a training mission in the vicinity of Japan where they integrated with Japan Air Self Defense Force assets, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman River Bruce)
The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.
As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.
The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.
Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.
While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.
Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.
The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.
The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.
The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.
Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.
The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.
Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.
The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.
“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.
“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.
“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.
If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.
Ships from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are deploying without their carrier and accompanying air wing after the flattop suffered an unexpected electrical problem that required maintenance, the Navy revealed Sept. 12, 2019.
The destroyers USS Lassen, USS Farragut, and USS Forrest Sherman, along with the cruiser USS Normandy, will set sail from their homeports in Norfolk, Virginia, and Mayport, Florida, in the near future. These ships will be accompanied by helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Squadron 72 out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, however, will remain behind.
The move is unusual. Normally, if a carrier is down for maintenance or some other reason, it will simply be replaced with another carrier. But, the East Coast carrier fleet is currently short a suitable alternative in the inventory due to maintenance backlogs and delivery delays, among other issues.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) underway in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
In late August 2019, the Truman aircraft carrier experienced an “electrical malfunction within the ship’s electrical distribution system requiring analysis and repair,” US Fleet Forces Command spokesman Capt. Scott Miller told USNI News, which first reported the news of both the electrical issue and the unusual deployment.
US 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis characterized the latest developments as “unfortunate” in talks with USNI News. “The situation with Truman frankly is unfortunate,” he told the naval affairs outlet. “Obviously, we’re working really hard to fix it, and we will fix it, but it’s unfortunate — nobody wanted that to happen certainly.”
The Navy said Sept. 12, 2019, that “repairs are progressing and all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible.” But, as there are still a number of unknowns surrounding the issue, it is unclear when the Truman will again be ready to sail.
USS Harry S. Truman in drydock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
“Not having the aircraft carrier,” Lewis explained to USNI News, “it does detract from the symbolism and the deterrent effect, no question.”
“The aircraft carrier is a behemoth beast with an amazing capability, it shows up off your shores, and if you’re not our friend you become our friend quickly if you know what’s good for you. There is no question that that effect is lost with smaller ships.”
The deploying ships have formed a Surface Action Group, and the admiral insists that these ships bring the kind of capability to confront both low- and high-end threats.
Explaining that the ships have anti-submarine, air-and-missile defense, and strike warfare capabilities, he insisted that this is a “very capable group” that is ready “to do the nation’s bidding in this great power competition,” an apparent reference to 2nd Fleet’s role in countering a resurgent Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.
Despite the fan base not being filled to the brim with lovers of the game, Halo: Reach remains in the hearts of many of us gamers who dumped a considerable amount of time into the game itself. One thing that might stand out, especially for those of us in the veteran community, is how the game itself depicts war.
Halo: Reach was released nearly a decade this upcoming September, and this campaign still gets a lot of us excited. It had some good characters, each with unique qualities, and the story was amazing. The gameplay is another story, but what we’re focusing on here is the biggest thing that stood out: this game is about war.
Here’s why Halo: Reach was one of the best:
You were also, for the first time, surrounded by other Spartans.
Nerfed Spartan strength
Throughout the original Halo trilogy, you fight as Master Chief, the only Spartan in sight, which makes you an absolute force of nature on the battlefield. You’re essentially unstoppable, with your only purpose being to bring judgment down upon the Covenant that stands before you.
Reach took that and essentially made you just slightly weaker, but it was noticeable. Stronger than the average UNSC Marine but just on the same level as the best the Covenant has to offer. This made you feel more like you couldn’t just steamroll into battles, bringing death on a silver platter to the Covenant.
There are plenty of shots in the game that show the planet’s destruction.
Depicted a losing fight
Most of us who knew the lore of Reach before the game’s release knew it was a doomed mission. You were fighting a losing battle because the Covenant hits the planet’s under-manned military defenses with an all-out attack force with the intent to reap every last soul upon its surface. That didn’t stop you, though.
It really showed the tenacity that troops bring to the battlefield. Knowing you could lose doesn’t matter, you’ll fight to the death anyway and make the enemy work for every life they have to take – and suffer the consequences of taking it to begin with.
Prime example: Jorge.
Showed the tremendous sacrifices that were made
One thing that the original trilogy doesn’t take much time to do is to show the sacrifices of individual soldiers. Reach absolutely does that. With Noble Team, you see each of the team members die in some way or another, a couple of them choosing to die so that others may live.
Seeing mega cities like this getting torn apart was devastating.
Reach takes a lot of time to show us how destructive the Covenant is and the devastation of that destruction in context with what they do to the planet. Most of the other games you don’t get that sense, with Halo 3 being the obvious exception since part of it takes place on Earth.
But what we got in Reach was an entire game of trying to save a planet only to fail.