With the adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle by the United States Marine Corps, the Marines have replaced the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
What’s especially handy about the new M27 IAR is that it can use the same 30-round magazines used by M4 and M16 rifles. In fact, it looks very similar to the M4 and M16, too. Russia, though, has had a similar dynamic in operation for over five decades with the Ruchnoi Pulemyot Kalashnikova, often called the RPK for brevity’s sake.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris P. Duane (right) receives assistance from an Romanian soldier in clearing a Russian RPK squad automatic rifle during the weapons familiarization phase of Exercise Rescue Eagle 2000 at Babadag Range, Romania, on July 15, 2000.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Richards)
The RPK replaced the RPD light machine gun in Soviet service starting in 1964. The original version fired the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47 assault rifle and the SKS carbine.
The AK-74 (top) and the RPK-74. Note the longer barrel and bipod on the RPK.
The biggest difference between the RPK and the AK-47 is the length of the barrel. The AK-47’s barrel is about 16.34 inches long — the RPK’s barrel is about eight inches longer. Despite this, the RPK shares many common parts with the AK and can readily accept the 30-round magazines used by the assault rifle classic.
The RPK has been upgraded over the years, equipped with night vision sights and polymer furniture, which replaced the wood used on older versions. When the Soviet Union replaced the AK-47 and ALKM with the AK-74 (which fired a 5.45x39mm round), the RPK was replaced with the RPK-74, maintaining a common round. Newer versions of the RPK for the export market are chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO round. A semi-auto version, the Century Arms C39RPK, is available for civilian purchase today.
The RPK has seen action in conflicts around the world, starting with the Vietnam War, and still sees action in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. Even though it has seen over 50 years of service, the RPK likely has a lengthy career ahead of it with militaries — and insurgent groups — around the world.
“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”
That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.
Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.
“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.
“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.
(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)
Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.
“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”
With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.
“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”
That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.
“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.
In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.
Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.
“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”
Life without orders is like staring into the abyss — of choices. We all know finding a new groove is essential to success after the military, but which habits should die-hard, and which should you begrudgingly hang onto?
While it may seem like pulling a complete 180 is you “sticking it to the man,” he actually gave you a few good pointers.
Cursing – kick it
Swearing like a sailor may be the language of choice across all branches of the military, but average America is not ready to wade through the sea of f-bombs to catch your intended meaning. They also, sadly, don’t see the value in violent bluntness or the off-the-cuff nickname you would love to metaphorically slap them with.
While it would be abso-bleeping-lutely great if everyone could just cipher through like the rest of us, one slip up from the old….mouth and you can kiss that job or promotion goodbye.
Stay training- for something that matters – stick with it
The military is always training to achieve a specific goal or purpose. Your skills are constantly being sharpened, forcing you to become better than the day before. The discipline of living within a constant training cycle is a pace that throws many veterans for a loop after service.
As a civilian, you can pick what to train for, but the key to connecting who you are now to what you were before, could be remaining diligent in your training. Learn to cook like a chef or get a black belt; just do it with a clear date to make the cut.
Wake up and grind – stick with it
We’re melding two habits into one here – keeping up with PT and waking up early. There are clearly more hours in the day and zero chances for your pants to stop fitting if you keep with the military way of working out.
No one loves frosty morning runs, but no one hates the endorphins high that you get before breakfast, either. Take comfort, and a feeling of camaraderie in the fact that you’re in the best company before dawn, powering through PT like a warrior.
Living paycheck to paycheck – kick it
While there are many things to complain about in terms of military pay, there is one thing – a reliable paycheck, to count on. It would be great to believe that anyone past PFC would have a solid grasp on finances, that’s not the case.
Getting smart about not just how you’re spending, but what you actually need in terms of salary to support your lifestyle, is a requirement for success. Civilian life doesn’t come with BAS, BAH, and plenty of other little perks you don’t realize you have.
Take a hard look at your Leave and Earnings Statement well before you get out. If it looks like the grid of confusion, stroll yourself into one of the many free financial programs on post or online open to the military community.
Contingency plans – stick with it
No one takes over a compound without a plan b, so why tackle an entire second career without one? If your squad leader didn’t drill it into your head hard enough, they’re important, and you must be prepared to activate the next on the list when or if things go south.
Waiting for orders – kick it
Every day that you served, orders were waiting for you. The simplicity of a highly scheduled life is difficult to replicate, and after a short vacation from it turns out to be something most veterans miss.
Luckily, the military taught you what to do. Taking initiative in the absence of orders is battlefield common sense. Creating the mission (see above) and executing a series of orders, which, if followed, will achieve success, is how you make it one day at a time.
Troops are very acquainted with using blank rounds. We slap in a magazine filled with them, screw on a blank-firing adapter (or BFA), and continue training for the day. Without fail, we go out and someone inevitably takes a photo of themselves trying to look all badass like in the movies — but they can’t. That BFA just looks ridiculous and lets everyone know immediately that they’re just training.
So if you really want to look as badass as they do in the movies, you have to look at how the special effects teams on a film set do it. They’re obviously not firing actual, live rounds at each other during the film’s climactic ending — that’d violate so many safety regulations and break countless union rules — but to us, the audience, it feels real.
They’re firing firing blanks, just like the troops in training, but they’ve some ingenious ways of hiding that fact.
When you put the flash hider back on, you can’t tell the difference unless you’re up close and personal.
(Combat Disabled Veteran’s Surplus)
Most semi-automatic firearms use the gas expelled from ejected rounds to cycle in another round. Blank rounds don’t create enough gas pressure in the barrel to make this happen, so, if you’re firing blanks, you need a blank-firing adapter. Firing without a BFA will inevitably cause a failure-to-feed.
The BFA acts more as a plug for the gas. It keeps in just enough gas to build the pressure needed in the chamber for a person to continue shooting without interruption while still letting enough oxygen in.
On a film set, however, you can’t have the actors looking like they’re troops in basic (unless that’s what the film is about). Instead, they screw a tiny blank-firing adapter onto the end of the barrel, underneath the flash hider, as shown below.
If you love ‘Sons of Anarchy’… just don’t hit pause during the gunfights of the first season. Yikes.
Other film sets use entirely decommissioned firearms that have been repurposed as production weapons. Propsmasters will replace most of the assembly with components that require less gas pressure to function. These are close copies, but, ultimately, they’re just replicas — and enthusiasts can tell.
People who’ve been around firearms can quickly spot when filmmakers add an abundance of flash coming out of the muzzle. But it’s a known inaccuracy and it’s done with a purpose. Films, in general, are shown (and often captured) at a rate of 24 frames per second. Without enhancing the muzzle flash, there’s a good chance that the camera won’t capture a flash at all — and that visual bang is an important part of selling the illusion of real gunfire.
But then there are the films crews that skip all of these mechanical steps and add the flashes and sound effects entirely in post-production. It’s comparatively cheaper when you factor in the costs of safety crews and whatnot, but the results aren’t always so great…
An interesting and positive side note: Lee’s stunt double, who’d also replace him for the rest of the film was Chad Stahelski, the man who’d later direct John Wick.
Which leads us to the elephant in the room — the incident that took place on the set of 1994’s The Crow, which lead to the death of the actor Brandon Lee. One of the special effects guys tried to save time and money by making their own blank rounds from live .44 rounds. The weapon they were using on set was an actual handgun and made use these modified rounds. Well, one day, it didn’t work perfectly and a piece of the cartridge broke off and got lodged in the barrel. No one bothered to inspect the firearm or clean it. They tossed it aside and carried on with production.
A few days later, when they needed more firearms for a bigger scene, they grabbed that same handgun. Loaded with another home-made blank and with that fragment of the cartridge still in the barrel, a stunt actor fired it at Lee. Since his character was supposed to react to the shot (and Lee was known for being a gifted actor) no one noticed that Lee had actually been shot until well after the camera stopped rolling.
Though nothing can undo the tragedy that befell Brandon Lee, the silver lining is that firearms have since been treated with more care on set. Many safety regulations are now in place to prevent such a horrible tragedy from happening again.
Upon entering a room lined with panels and LED lights, described solely as something out of a science fiction movie, people in polar white suits are ready to re-skin a new beast.
The airmen working across two shifts in the work center, paint and renovate the aircraft and equipment assigned to the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 Fighting Falcon wing.
The work being performed on the aircraft is intended to provide a protective finish that prevents damage to the structure and enhance the aircraft’s overall lifespan.
“Our mission here is to remove defective aircraft coatings,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tinsley, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control noncommissioned officer in charge. “We also inspect for corrosion and reapply coats should the aircraft need it.”
Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control paint barn, work on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Nov. 13, 2018.
Tinsley went on to say the flight helps identify and troubleshoot paint fatigue that may be caused by consistent flights.
Within the facility, a locker room houses the protective gear of the airmen assigned to the 20th EMS aircraft structural maintenance flight.
“When we paint, no matter what we are working on that day, we keep safety in mind at all times,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harris, 20th EMS corrosion control shift lead.
Each job requires the airmen to gear up from top to bottom to prevent any damage or poisoning that could be caused by the exposure to paint fumes.
During the painting process, corrosion control airmen inspect the aircraft for any cracks or wear that may have been caused through various aerial missions.
“Our airmen are the ones out there doing the hard work,” said Tinsley. “They are either sanding or painting anything that may come into the paint barn … they’re the real work horses, they’re killing it.”
With the continued support of these technicians the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing can thrive and allow the pilots to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission anytime, anywhere.
For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.
The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.
Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.
The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.
2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division
The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.
4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.
4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division
This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.
5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division
You see it. You know you do.
6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps
Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.
7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division
Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”
8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division
Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.
The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.
10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division
The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.
The late-70s and 80s were a pure golden age for horror films. The once goofy genre had new life blown into it after the critical and financial success of such films like 1973’s The Exorcist and 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Audiences were terrified again when they sat comfortably in their seats eating popcorn. The 80s upped the ante even further with The Shining and The Evil Dead.
There were many great films released in this era but there were also plenty of flops, due in large part to filmmakers trying to recreate success without understanding what made the original so popular.
Then came the film that came to define both 80’s horror and action films: Predator.
(20th Century Fox)
On paper, Predator played like an action film. It starred both Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the top of their game, directed by John McTiernan (who would go on to make Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, and The 13th Warrior) and produced by Joel Silver (the man who produced nearly every great action film since The Warriors.)
But it wasn’t just an action film. Deep down, Predator was also a horror film.
Instead of the generic teenagers, the film followed the most elite commandos the world had ever seen. They were such hardened badasses that anything wanting to pick them off like flies would need to be that much more badass. The antagonistic killer wasn’t some mustache-twirling prick who’d spout off puns. The predator hunted down each and every one of the commandos (except the lead), which gave the film it’s terrifying core: the humans were being hunted they way we hunt animals.
The script was also worked on by the relatively unknown Shane Black. After scripts are written, they tend to go through plenty of rewrites and usually involve another writer to come in and “doctor” the script — like having a friend proofread it. Shane Black needed to know every little bit of the script down to the punctuation. For his work, he got to play Hawkins, the radio operator that is just brutally killed by the titular character.
Shane Black would get his big break following the success of Lethal Weapon (which was released three months earlier). He’d go on to make his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and solidify his Hollywood status with the astronomically successful Iron Man 3.
Now everything comes back full circle. The man who’s been at the heart of the Predator franchise from day one, who has beyond proven his ability as one hell of a writer and director, is now back to return it to its roots — as both an action and a horror film.
This Veterans Day, moviegoers everywhere can witness the most pivotal Pacific battle in World War II: “Midway.” The production reminds viewers just how precariously America’s future teetered in the early 1940s, and what cost, sacrifice and luck was required to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down, Independence Day: Resurgence) waited ten years before embarking on the heroic story, written by U.S. Navy veteran Wes Tooke. The ambitious storyline begins in earnest in Asia the 1930s, and follows the war in the Pacific through the Midway battle that ultimately changed the tide of war.
The narrative chiefly follows the experiences of two principal characters: Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton (the U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence Officer) and Lt. Dick Best (naval aviator and commanding officer of Bombing Six squadron). As with the actual war, numerous other characters help the story take shape. Historic figures like Nimitz, Doolittle, Halsey, McClusky and others played critical roles in the war, and resultantly in the movie.
Actor Woody Harrelson observes flight operations with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, Aug. 11, 2018, as aircraft trap, or recover, while returning from a mission.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)
The movie timeline has a fever-pitch parade of battles from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the the climactic fight at Midway a mere seven months later. Those portrayed are originally imperfect versions of themselves, who grow personally and professionally. Along the way they are confronted with unimaginable challenges and choices, often with historic consequences.
“I wanted to showcase the valor and immense courage of the men on both sides, and remain very sensitive to the human toll of the battles and war itself,” said Emmerich.
Just as the project was being “green lighted,” Emmerich visited historic Pearl Harbor in June 2016. While there, he saw first-hand the historic bases, facilities and memorials that remain some 75 years on. Home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Oahu was the target of the infamous Dec. 7 attack. The island also hosted the headquarters where much of the early Pacific war planning occurred and where information warfare professionals partially broke the Japanese code. Ultimately, this was the location from which Adm. Chester Nimitz made the decision to risk what remained of the Pacific Fleet in the gamble at Midway in June 1942.
Emmerich personally toured the waterfront, including Battleship Row and the harbor where much of the fleet was anchored that fateful Sunday morning. He went on to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, which includes a dedicated Battle of Midway exhibit. His visit was curated by the facility’s historian and author Mr. Burl Burlingame, who has since passed away. Burlingame provided rich accounts of the opening months of the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Emmerich also got a behind-the-scenes look in the historic aircraft hangar there.
More than 200 extras in period dress on location during the filming of the major motion picture “Midway.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)
The tour continued along Ford Island, which included stops at the original USS Arizona Memorial; a Navy seaplane ramp (with Pearl Harbor attack bomb and strafing scars); the Army seaplane ramps (also with strafing scars); and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials.
Emmerich and his party then conducted windshield tours of the USS Missouri; the Pacific Fleet Headquarters compound at Makalapa – which included the historic Nimitz and Spruance homes; the temporary office space from which Adm. Kimmel watched the attack on Pearl Harbor unfold; and the famed Station HYPO, profiled throughout the movie Midway, where its operators broke enough of the Japanese code to enable the ambush at Midway.
The visitors were able to glimpse the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Dry Dock One. In the of Spring of 1942, a battered and bloodied USS Yorktown aircraft carrier limped back to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Coral Sea. Despite extensive damage, the ship remained in dry dock only three days as shipyard works swarmed aboard to get her back in the fight. Initial repair estimates actually forecast three months to get her operational. The “Yorktown Miracle” resulted in the aircraft carrier being available to join the Midway fight a few days later.
After a full day of exposure to the places and legends who won Midway, the task of pulling it together for one movie might intimidate even the most seasoned directors. Not Emmerich.
“I was really impressed with his enthusiasm for the history and his determination to get it right. You could see the wheels turning in his head with each visit – it was like the movie was coming alive in his mind,” said Dave Werner, who escorted Emmerich and his group during the visit.
Once the Department of Defense approved a production support agreement with the movie’s producers, the writers got busy working to get the script as accurate as practicable. Multiple script drafts were provided to the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). Those same historians viewed the rough and final movie productions.
Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, left, and actor Woody Harrelson discuss the life and career of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander during World War II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)
The “Midway” movie writers and producers worked tirelessly with the Navy in script development and during production to keep the storyline consistent with the historic narrative. In a few small instances, some events portrayed were not completely consistent with the historical record. Revising them would have unnecessarily complicated an already ambitious retelling of a series of complicated military battles. The production was representative of what unfolded in the opening months of WWII in the Pacific and does justice to the integrity, accountably, initiative and toughness of the sailors involved.
The naval historians who reviewed the production were impressed.
“I’m glad they did a movie about real heroes and not comic book heroes. Despite some of the ‘Hollywood’ aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made and does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle, on both sides,” said the director of NHHC, retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who personally supported each phase of the historical review.
The commitment to getting it right matriculated to the actors honored to represent American heroes.
Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz
Woody Harrelson plays the role of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander who assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, through Midway and remained in command until after the end of the war. Harrelson bears an uncanny resemblance to Nimitz in the movie.
In preparing for the role and while in Pearl Harbor, Harrelson called on Rear Adm. Brian Fort, who was (at the time) the commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted to understand the decisions the fleet admiral took in those critical months, and also wanted to get a sense of the type of naval officer and man Nimitz was. Calm and understated, and renowned for his piercing blue eyes, Nimitz was a quiet, confident leader. And he demonstrated a remarkable threshold for taking calculated risks. Committing his remaining carriers to the Midway engagement was chief among them.
Actor Woody Harrelson, second from left, poses for a photo with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while observing flight operations with sailors.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)
“Adm. Nimitz came in at an extremely difficult time for the Pacific Fleet. It was really important for Harrelson to understand not just the man, but the timing of his arrival and the urgency of the situation for the Navy and nation,” said Jim Neuman, the Navy Region Hawaii historian who arranged the meeting between Rear Adm. Fort and Harrelson. Neuman also served as the historical liaison representative on multiple sets during the filming.
Harrelson also got underway on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in August 2018 while the ship operated in the eastern Pacific Ocean. While embarked Harrelson got a close look at air operations at sea. He observed the launching and recovery of various naval aircraft, as well as seeing the navigation bridge and other areas critical in ensuring the ship operates safely. Harrelson was also exceedingly generous with his time to interact with sailors, stopping to talk with them, sign autographs and even played piano at an impromptu jam session.
During the visit, he saw first-hand what “Midway” depicts throughout: Navy teams work very closely together to make the impossible become possible.
The Midway battle pitted four Japanese aircraft carriers against three American carriers. Preparing, arming, launching and recovering aircraft from a ships at sea is no easy task. Adding the uncertainty and urgency of war only complicates an already highly complex operation.
Having credible combat power win the fight was only one aspect of winning Midway. Having them in the right location, at the right time, was the work of the information warfare professionals.
Wilson as Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton
Patrick Wilson, who serves in the role of Lt. Cmdr Edwin Layton, the U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, took great care in accurately portraying his character. He called on the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer, just-retired Navy Capt. Dale Rielage. The two toured an unclassified area outside of the still highly-classified offices at the Pacific Fleet. The outer office space is adorned with storyboards that remind the Navy information warfare professionals there just how critical their work was in winning Midway and the war in the Pacific. Also located there is the Pacific Fleet intelligence officer portrait board – with Layton’s picture being the first in a line of dozens of officers who have served in the 75 years since.
Patrick Wilson, right, who portrays U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton in the upcoming movie “Midway,” tours U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. Here he tours an unclassified outer office dedicated to heritage of the World War II information warfare specialists who helped win the war in the Pacific.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)
After the brief tour, the two sat down and compared notes about Layton’s education, his experiences in Japan and elsewhere before the war, his relationship to Nimitz, and what the relationship was like between the Pacific Fleet staff and the code breakers in Station HYPO. No detail was too small, including typical protocol concerning how staff might have reacted when a senior officer such as Adm. Nimitz entered the office. Wilson’s command of Layton’s history was impressive and exhaustive, and his portrayal in the movie reflects it.
In fact, the research he and others put into the script and portrayals made “Midway” a compelling and believable representation of how information warfare professionals literally helped save the world 75 years ago. In today’s connected 21st-century information landscape, the importance of naval information warfare professionals are even more important to today’s security.
“We were thoroughly impressed with the amount of research he had conducted on his own, and it’s evident he is committed to honoring Layton’s legacy. Besides that, he was a really just a good guy and earnestly interested in learning more about Layton and the history,” said Werner, who escorted Wilson during the visit to the staff.
“Midway” opens in theaters everywhere on Nov. 8, 2019.
More than 5,000 troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border will not receive additional compensation for working in a dangerous environment, known as “danger pay,” a Pentagon official said on Nov. 6, 2018.
Army Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said troops do not qualify for the special pay unless they are on duty “in foreign areas, designated as such because of wartime conditions, civil war, civil insurrection, or terrorism.”
“Members who are deployed in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s border mission are not eligible for imminent-danger pay,” he said in a statement on Nov. 5, 2018.
Nor will troops receive hostile-fire pay, which is given to service members in close proximity to a firefight or exposed to a barrage of fire from an enemy combatant. The border mission is considered non-combative, Manning said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
“Our military will not receive combat pay or hostile-fire pay as they are not deploying to a combat area, nor are they expected to be subject to hostile fire,” he said, adding that they will be eligible for a separation allowance.
“Members with dependents, including those in support of the border mission, who are deployed away from their dependents (and their permanent duty station) for more than 30 days, are eligible to receive family separation allowance retroactive back to the first day of the separation at the rate of 0 per month,” Manning continued.
President Donald Trump tweeted that the caravan of migrants traveling toward the U.S. border could be taken down by lethal force.
“The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people,” he tweeted Oct. 31, 2018. “Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through. Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable or unwilling to stop Caravan.”
“We’re not going to put up with that,” Trump said during a White House press conference. “[If] they want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. We’re going to consider it — and I told them, ‘consider that a rifle.’ When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say ‘consider it a rifle.’ “
He revisited his remarks, saying he never said U.S. forces would shoot migrants.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
“What I don’t want is these people throwing rocks. … What they did to the Mexican military is a disgrace,” Trump said. “They hit them with rocks. Some were very seriously injured, and they were throwing rocks in their face. They do that with us, they’re going to be arrested, there are going to be problems. I didn’t say shoot.”
Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, reaffirmed that “everything that we are doing is in line with and adherence to Posse Comitatus,” a congressional act dating to 1878 prohibiting the military from participating in domestic law-enforcement activities.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Diego Marmalejo, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, went on vacation with a fellow Marine to Bali, Indonesia during July of 2018.
While in Bali, Marmalejo used ingenuity and skills that he learned through Marine Corps training to perform first aid, and he saved two lives — which earned him the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He was awarded the medal at MCAS Iwakuni, Sept. 21, 2018.
“We spent 10 days in Bali just hanging out there,” said Marmalejo. “So, for the most part, we were just at the beach, hanging out and having a good time relaxing.”
Marmalejo’s vacation took a different turn on the second to last night of his stay on the island. While traveling to a beach in the area where he was staying, he came upon a traffic accident.
“I ran to the accident, and I basically forgot about everybody else,” said Marmalejo. “I was just focused on the accident.You enter a state of panic, at least from what I remember.”
Upon reaching the accident, Marmalejo quickly assessed the situation and surveyed that there were two injured civilians.
“The female was screaming at the time, and she was bleeding out from her leg,” said Marmalejo. “The male was unresponsive so on the surface it appeared that the female needed a lot more medical attention. That was my initial thought. I went to work on her at first.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jason P. Kaufmann, left, commanding officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, presents Cpl. Diego Marmalejo, an air traffic controller with HHS, with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 21, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Akeel Austin)
By assessing the situation and applying lifesaving skills that he learned during basic training and a combat lifesaver course, his Marine instinct was to search for something to use as a tourniquet.
“I was asking for a belt because that was the first thing that came to mind for a makeshift tourniquet,” said Marmalejo. “Nobody was wearing a belt because everyone was wearing board shorts so I used a shirt that I found on the street. I basically ripped up the shirt and just like we learned in boot camp, I tied it two inches above the wound.”
Marines are taught to write the time that a tourniquet is applied on the victim as a means to communicate with first responders. If tourniquets are left on for too long, they can cause more harm than good. Marmalejo did not have a writing utensil so he adapted to the situation and wrote the time with the victim’s blood on her leg.
After administering first aid to the wounded woman, Marmalejo moved on to the injured man who was fading in and out of consciousness with a possible head injury.
“I just looked around for nearby things and found a mug that I put underneath his head, and that’s honestly the best thing I could do,” said Marmalejo.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Diego Marmalejo, left, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Akeel Austin)
Marmalejo went on to ensure that the two victims were able to find proper medical treatment and stayed with them overnight until 5 a.m. when he returned to the hostel where he was staying. At the hostel he met back up with Sgt. Derrick Usry, an air traffic controller with HHS who was also in Bali and was separated from him the night before.
“When I first saw Marmalejo I was worried, seeing him walk into our room with blood on his shoes,” said Usry. “He explained what happened, and he seemed fine. He was worried less about his emotions and more about the people he helped save.”
Marmalejo went back to the hospital later that day to make sure the victims were alright. In the days after the accident, he kept in contact with the victims’ families and received updates on the woman’s recovery.
Usry, who works with Marmalejo, said that he is proud to work alongside him and his actions were nothing short of extraordinary.
“Cpl. Marmalejo has outstanding character and is constantly looking out for others, even if it means putting aside his self-interests,” said Usry.
Marmalejo is still working at MCAS Iwakuni as an air traffic controller, and he currently serves on the HHS color guard.
Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.
“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.
“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.
With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.
So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space. Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).
The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.
“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”
During the Cold War, the Soviets exploited the ground effect phenomenon by creating some of the largest and fastest vehicles of the time called “Ekranoplans.” They were not quite airplanes or hovercraft but something else in between known as Ground Effect Vehicles (GEVs).
Although the technology already existed, they took it to the next level by scaling these vehicles to three-quarters of a football field, weighing more than 350 tons and traveling at speeds beyond 400 miles per hour.
The technology was reportedly used from 1987 to the late 1990s. There was a transport version, a battle version, and even a hospital version of the Ekranoplan. The last of its kind was 90 percent complete when funding ran out. It now sits unused at a naval station in Kaspiysk off the Caspian Sea.
Today, the ground effect technology is making a come back in small hobby vehicles and glorified water taxis. GEVs are fuel and power efficient and become even more economical as they get bigger, according to the video below. “In theory, wing in ground effect works better as the craft gets bigger, so a really big craft would be very, very efficient. That’s where the economics starts to make sense and you can start to build a business out of it.”
This video shows how ground effect technology is making a comeback decades since the Cold War.
In 2017, I left the military after 14 years of service as an Army military policeman. I came to Texas with a debilitating back injury, PTSD, little financial security and Hurricane Harvey was looming in my future. Like so many that are in pain, I started to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs.
Then Hurricane Harvey hit: the catalyst that tipped the scales. With my savings already gone and no assistance from FEMA, my family was left living in a hotel room. Feeling like I couldn’t provide for my family only worsened my PTSD. But I couldn’t go to anybody – I told myself that other people need help more than I do and that my problems weren’t “that” bad. So I tried to deal with it on my own, but I was in too deep.
(Military Families Magazine)
So deep, that in October 2017, I drove to the hotel I was living in, parked the car and pulled my pistol out of the glove compartment. I didn’t see any other options. At that moment, my fiancée came outside. I couldn’t let her see what I was about to do, so I put the gun away and followed her inside. There she handed me a check and I learned that somebody applied for a grant for me from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It wasn’t necessarily the money that brought my head above water so that I could reanalyze the situation and take the next step forward — It was the fact that somebody cared enough about me to notice I was struggling and offer help.
From that point on, I knew that I wanted to help others. For those that know somebody who needs help, don’t sit by. Everybody has the power to make one small action that can change somebody else’s life, and in a time with so much uncertainty and fear in the world, we should all aim for that.
How can you help those in need?
So here are five small things that you can do today to help somebody in your life that may be struggling.
(Military Families Magazine)
1. Notice changes.
In our fast-pace culture, its common to rush by people, even those you love, and not really notice how they are doing. Have they become quieter and more withdrawn or perpetually angry? That is often a big signal that they are struggling with something. Other top signals include changes to their hygiene, sleep, appetite and focus. But did you know that even positive changes are often indicators of mental or emotional turmoil?
Trust your gut. If somebody has become more social all of a sudden and they seem “fine” now, they probably aren’t really fine. Really taking the time to notice people in your life and be aware of any personality changes is the first step to being there for somebody.
2. Avoid giving advice and silver linings.
Once you start noticing the people in your life that may be struggling, it’s tempting to want to talk to them. But avoid giving advice and silver linings, as it can tend to make somebody shut down even more. You want to create space where they can open up to you, so check in often and just be there to listen – even if they don’t want to talk.
If they do want to open up to you, make an effort to hear the story from their perspective. Even if their struggle doesn’t make sense to you, avoid saying “it could be worse” or listing the reasons why they should be happy. Fight the urge to try and “fix” their problems. Sometimes, the best fix is to just lend a listening ear and to know when to refer your loved one to a professional.
3. Be proactive.
If you notice that somebody in your life could use a little tangible help, be proactive and offer it, rather than saying “let me know if you need anything.” While that may be a socially acceptable phrase, it puts all the pressure on the other person to reach out to you. We are often conditioned to see asking for help as a weakness, so the odds that they take you up on the offer are small. So if you notice a mom on your kid’s soccer team is constantly late for pickup, offer to drive her child home. If your sister’s health is poor, but she can’t afford to eat well, drop off a healthy meal once in a while. Apply for that financial aid for somebody. Your gesture doesn’t need to be big — It’s often the little things that help people the most.
4. Suggest volunteering.
Today, I travel around speaking and advocating for PTSD and suicide awareness. While sharing my story provides hope to others, it also continues to heal me. I have found that each time I recount my experiences, I release more of the burden of these stories. That’s why I continue to serve, and because of my service I have been named a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing, which aims to bring to light the continued service of America’s veterans.
Remind your loved one that volunteering and serving others is a great way to foster their own healing. Invite them to go with you to a food bank or animal shelter as a way to get out of your head for a few hours.
5. Remember to care for yourself as well.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take care of yourself as well. Do not blame yourself for not “doing enough” or not feeling comfortable talking to somebody about their experiences. Even following just one of the tips above can mean the world to somebody. It did for me.
I still don’t know who applied for that grant for me, but it changed my life. Today, I am in school working toward becoming a family law attorney, I speak on and advocate for PTSD and suicide awareness and I am a spokesperson for the VFW’s #StillServing campaign.
Chris Blevins is a veteran of the US Army, serving 14 years as a military police officer with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, he is an advocate for post traumatic stress disorder awareness and suicide awareness. He attends the University of Texas San Antonio where he is pursuing a degree in politics and law with the goal of becoming a family lawyer. He is a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing and lives in San Antonio with his wife and four children.