Nicknamed the “Dragon Lady” and developed by Lockheed Martin, the U-2 spy plane was made famous in the 1960s when one was shot down conducting a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union.
Today, the surveillance jet continues its duty as it searches for threats in Afghanistan. Once the pilot detects a potential hazard to coalition forces, it locks onto the attacker’s location and sends the signal 7,000 miles away to Beale Air Force Base in California. Once the base receives the incoming traffic, the surveillance analysts decode the information and track the enemy movement.
As the analysts locate the threat, the surveillance team quickly intervenes and relays the vital information down to ground troops. With the highly sophisticated onboard radio system, the U-2 spy plane can then assist in choreographing with nearby fighter jets to initiate a strike tactic on enemy forces below before they manage to assault allied forces.
With its incredible versatility, the spy plane can conduct its mission from an altitude of 70,000 feet.
Bizarre, seemingly impossible anachronistic historical matchups aren’t just for wargaming or Sid Meier’s Civilization. There’s at least one instance in recorded history where European regular infantrymen were called on to take down some of Japan’s elite samurai warriors: the Battle of Cagayan.
In 1573, Japanese pirates, known as wokou, sailed into Cagayan, a city on the Philippine island of Luzon. The pirates were made up of ronin (samurai without a feudal master), soldiers of fortune and sailors from Japan and China. When their flat-bottom boats entered Caguyan, they demanded the locals submit to their will.
At the time, Cagayan was an important gold and silver trading area between the Japanese and Spanish, who controlled the Philippines. The pirates were looking to take control of the precious metal trade – and they were reasonably successful.
The Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines, Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa, wrote to King Phillip back in Spain that the pirates were becoming a nuisance, carrying not just the traditional weapons of the ronin, but also gunpowder weapons like arquebusiers and artillery, weapons he believed were built by the rival Portuguese.
King Phillip dispatched Juan Pablo de Carrión of the Spanish Navy to deal with the problem. Almost immediately, Carrión sank a wokou ship while sailing the South China Sea. That got the pirates’ attention. They responded by sending a fleet of ships to Cagayan, 18 flat-bottomed sampans, led by a junk.
When Carrión learned of the incoming attack, he assembled the best force he could manage; 40 soldiers on a total of seven ships, with a Spanish galleon at its head. The only advantage they had was that they were much better with firearms than their oncoming enemy. The Spanish had been proficient with them for decades, and made much better weapons and gunpowder than the Japanese carried.
Carrión and his ships arrived at Cagayan in time to catch the pirates abusing the natives of the town from a sampan. He and his men headed straight for it, and boarded the ship with rodeleros, shield-carrying swordsmen. Once on board, the rodeleros went into combat against sword-carrying Japanese sailors.
The Spaniards lost the first act of the fight, being forced back to their ships but came back twice as hard. The decks of the ships were a mess of men, bodies and sharp weapons. But the Spanish turned the tide with gunpowder weapons, forcing the Japanese pirates to abandon ship and swim for safety.
With the first sampan effectively out of the fighting, the flotilla of Spaniards sailed up the Cagayan River. It wasn’t long before they found the pirate fleet near a newly-constructed fortress. The turn of events didn’t deter them; they quickly opened up on the wokou ships with their ships’ artillery.
After blasting their way through the enemy ships, they managed to land on shore and bring that artillery to bear on the pirates from hastily-dug trenches. The pirates called for a cease-fire and asked to be compensated for the gold they would lose by leaving. Carrión refused and the pirates determined they would hit the Spanish with an overwhelming force.
They assembled a pirate army of 600 men to attack the Spanish trenches and hit them in successive waves. The first and second were easily repelled by superior firepower, but by the third wave, the Spanish were running low on powder. The samurai ran at them with full force, katanas glinting in the sunlight and almost forced the Spaniards out of their defensive positions.
But the pirates never managed to dislodge their Spanish enemy. The third wave was devastating for the attackers, so the Spanish left the trenches and finished the pirates off with long pikes. Those Japanese soldiers who could run away did, leaving their weapons and booty behind.
The victorious Spanish troops kept the strange Japanese weapons and armor they found scattered on the battlefield as war trophies.
When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.
“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.
Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason. Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.
“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.
“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”
That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)
To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.
“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”
The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.
“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”
The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.
“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”
At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.
“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”
“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.
Friday the 13th is more than just a classic movie series. It’s estimated that 17-21 million people are affected by Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. This fear has its roots in biblical history, referencing the thirteen people present at Jesus’ last supper on the 13th day on the night before his death on Good Friday. Another legend links the superstition to the liquidation of the Knights Templar by French king Philip IV.
No matter its origin, in Western culture, the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday has been an unlucky day for at least 200 years. Around the Western world, businesses take an estimated $800-900 million hit on Friday the 13th. A 1993 study in the British Medical Journal even revealed “a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day.” Maybe it’s just superstition, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, maybe it’s not a bad idea to stay in bed. Warfighters aren’t exempt. These five events added more than a few warriors to the ranks of the paraskevidekatriaphobic:
1. The Aztecs get pwned by Cortes
Stubbing your toe on Friday the 13th is bad luck. Losing your entire empire is literally the end of the world. At least, YOUR world. Losing your empire despite outnumbering a bunch of foreigners 200 to 1 is almost tragic.
On Friday the 13th, 1521, Conquistador Hernán Cortés captured Tenochtitlán with 1,500 Spaniards against 300,000 Aztecs after a two month siege. They chained the Emperor of the Aztec Empire and then tortured the city’s aristocracy, looking for hidden treasure. They held him as a slave for four years before executing him. Bad luck.
2. Robert E. Lee accidentally loses the Civil War
One of the famed general’s officers wrapped a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, the secret instructions for the invasion of Maryland, around three cigars in his camp. The order was a detailed, ten-part instruction for units involved in the rebel invasion. Somehow, the paper was dropped in an abandoned campsite and spotted by a Union scout, who picked it up on Friday, September 13, 1862 and sent it up the chain. It would affect every Confederate invasion of the North for the rest of the war.
Knowing the entire set of instructions, Union forces were able to beat the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war, and the bloodiest day in American military history. It ended Lee’s first invasion of Union territory. It allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would be instrumental in keeping foreign powers out of the war, and set the stage for Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
3. The King of England gets a up-close view of WWII
Nazi Germany was relentlessly bombing London during the Blitz, a period of intense aerial attacks on Britain where the Nazis dropped 100 tons of high explosives on the city. Just a week after the Blitz began, King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother (not the current Queen Elizabeth, but rather her mom) were having tea when the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth recalled “battling” to remove an eyelash from the King’s eye, when they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” and then the “scream of a bomb”.
The King and Elizabeth only had time to look foolishly at each other before the bombs exploded nearby. The King and his wife were as stiff-lipped as the rest of the British people, refusing to flee London, which won them the respect of the British people. The bomb destroyed a glass ceiling and the palace chapel.
4. Japanese admiral decides to have an actual “Battle of Friday the 13th”
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto led a 39-ship task force against the small American presence around Guadalcanal on Friday, November 13th, 1942. The idea was to land 7,000 Japanese troops on the island and retake the strategically-located Henderson Field (though that’s probably not what the Japanese called it).
Yamamoto lost two battleships, three destroyers, a heavy cruiser, and seven fully-loaded troop transports sunk and four destroyed on the beach. The Japanese also lost 64 aircraft and nearly 2,000 killed. The Americans lost seven destroyers, two light cruisers, 36 aircraft and more than 1,700 men, including Admirals Daniel Callaghan and Norman Scott, the highest ranking officers to die in combat during the war. The American win cemented the Guadalcanal campaign in U.S. favor.
5. The Cold War in the Baltic teeters on becoming ballistic
Soviet Fighter planes shot down a Swedish military C-47 Dakota cargo plane over international waters on Friday, June 13, 1952. The plane was unarmed and all eight crewmen died in the attack. The Swedes send out two PBY Catalina aircraft to search for the missing plane. One of those is intercepted and shot down as well. The crew of the rescue plane survived, but Moscow denied the incident until 1991.
After the incident, Swedish authorities discovered a life raft with remnants of a Soviet shell. The Swedes would later admit the first plane was conducting signals intelligence. The name of the rescue plane lent itself to color the name of the event, which became known as the “Catalina Affair.” In 2003, both aircraft were located in the Baltic Sea and when the first plane was raised from the ocean, the bullet holes showed the it was shot down by a MiG15. The clock in the cockpit read the exact time the plane went down and all eight crewmen’s remains were recovered.
Sharks have a reputation for being fearsome, man-eating killers — you can thank 1975’s Jaws for that. The shark, in nature, claims dominion over the seas, but its ferocious countenance has been painted on planes since the American Volunteer Group (also known as the “Flying Tigers”) put it on noses of their P-40s.
Russia has its own aeronautical shark, and it’s one of two attack helicopters the Soviet Union was developing in the 1980s to supplement — if not actually replace — the famous Mi-24 Hind. That helicopter is the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum, a single-purpose gunship.
The Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a very unique helicopter. Like the vast majority of other Kamov designs, it uses contra-rotating main rotors. Most of Kamov’s helicopters have been used by the Soviet Navy — and were passed on to the Russian Navy once the USSR collapsed. Mil helicopters, like the Mi-24 Hind and the Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip, have historically gone to the Soviet Army (and, afterward, the Russian Army).
Kamov’s primary customer was the Soviet — and later the Russian — Navy. They’ve delivered a high-performance attack helicopter.
(Photo by Dimitri Pichugin)
While in development, the Hokum was competing with the Mi-28 Havoc. In fact, the Russian Army first selected the Hokum, but later settled on the Havoc. The end of the Cold War delayed the programs, but now both helicopters are being procured.
This three-view graphic shows off some of the Hokum’s unique features: The main rotors and the lack of a tail rotor, for instance.
The Hokum has a number of other unique features. It is a single-seat helicopter, while most other attack helicopters require a crew of two. It has an ejection seat for the pilot, which is commonly found on fixed-wing vessels, but not on rotary-wing aircraft.
A look at some of the weapons the Ka-50 can pack. Not easily seen: the same 30mm cannon on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle is mounted on this helicopter.
(Photo by Tomasz Szulc)
The Hokum has a top speed of 193 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 393 miles. It can carry AT-16 missiles, rocket pods, gun pods, and even bombs, and it packs the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2 does.
Currently, Russia has 32 of these lethal helicopters in service. Learn more about this airborne “Black Shark” in the video below!
Five days into the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit women, one female Marine has washed out and one remains.
Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for the command, told Military.com that two women, a staff sergeant and a corporal checked in Aug. 9 at the command’s headquarters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and began the first 19-day phase of assessment and selection on Aug. 11.
The staff sergeant washed out of the course the following day during a timed ruck march, Mannweiler said. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
Both the corporal and the staff sergeant came from administrative military occupational specialties, Mannweiler said. He did not disclose their identities or ages.
Mannweiler said he couldn’t say how many started the AS class for operational security reasons, but noted that 32 Marines, including the female staff sergeant, have departed the course so far.
The first phase of assessment and selection tests physical fitness and a range of aptitudes to ensure Marines are physically and mentally prepared for what will be 10 months of intensive follow-on training to become Marine Raiders. Alongside physical training, Marines receive classroom instruction in land navigation skills, MARSOC and special operations history, and nutrition and fitness.
In January, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, called AS Phase 1 a holistic profile for the Marines who qualify to enter the training pipeline.
Military.com broke the news in March that a female staff sergeant had been accepted for AS, just months after a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter had required all military services to open special operations jobs and other previously closed fields to women.
Osterman said then that MARSOC leadership had leaned into the new reality, reaching out to all eligible female Marines through the command’s recruiting arm to give them the opportunity to apply.
The current AS phase is set to conclude Aug. 22. If the female corporal in AS can make it through this phase, she will enter a second, more secretive three-week AS phase. Following that is MARSOC’s individual training course, which covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and more over the course of nine intensive months.
Those who wash out of AS have up to two chances to re-enter the pipeline, Mannweiler said, as long as they have enough time left on their contracts and until their next promotion, and the command has enough boat spaces to accommodate them.
While MARSOC recruiters have received interest from other female Marines, the command is not currently processing any other applications from women, Mannweiler said.
The tank was introduced in World War I when Britain unveiled the then-secret weapon against German forces and were able to run these rolling fortresses right over German barbed wire and trenches, firing cannons and machine guns into German fortifications. Now, armored columns are a commander’s fist, punching holes in enemy lines and then rushing through them to annihilate enemy formations.
1. British Centurion
Originally designed to give British tankers and edge against German Panthers and Tigers, the Centurion arrived months after the end of World War II and ended up being the greatest Cold War tank instead. It had plate armor while cast armor was still the norm, and its 105mm gun was beefy for the time.
The Panzer Mark II was, to say the least, not a “Tanker’s tank.” It was a stopgap design to hold the line in the 1930s until the Panzer Mk. III and IV were ready. It was a light tank with limited range, an only 20mm gun, and thin armor.
But it made this list because it did perform well on the battlefield and changed future tank design for one reason: It had a dedicated gunner and a dedicated tank commander. Many tank designs, especially smaller ones with smaller crews, combined these two roles, forcing the commander to ignore the larger battlefield for crucial moments while firing. The Mark II broke from that tradition and essentially all modern tank designs have a commander and dedicated gunner.
By 1945, this resulted in a Panzer IV with a longer 75mm gun, widened tracks, and thicker armor than most medium tanks. It even had armored skirts to protect against infantry anti-armored weapons. This allowed it to tackle the Allies most numerous tanks—such as the Sherman and the T-34—with relative ease. But larger tanks were able to shred it, hence Germany’s growing reliance on the late-arriving Panther as those made it to the front.
5. Char B1
France’s tanks saw limited fighting in World War II since, you know, France fell so early in the war. But a couple of French tanks made a real impact, including the Char B1 with its sloped armor, two large guns, and decent speed. Its smaller, 47mm gun could kill many tanks while its 75mm could slaughter nearly anything available in 1939.
But, you know, France still fell, so that part sucked.
6. British Mk. I
Look, to be honest, we’re including this little fellow because, for a while, it was the only deployed tank in the world. The British Mk. I was the first tank, dreamed into existence by British Royal Navy engineers under the “Landship” concept that would see America’s new tractors developed into weapons of war.
Ah, the legendary Tiger, the tank so powerful that it immediately became the focus of any battle in which it fought. Its thick armor could shrug off 75mm rounds from most guns at 50 yards. But its 88mm gun could open most Allied tanks like a can opener.
Russian crews often preferred the Sherman to the T-34, and they had good reason. The tank was easy to maintain and spare parts were almost always available, leading to an 80 percent rate of damaged Shermans returning to combat. In fights, the Sherman was able to kill Mk. IIs and Mk. IVs, but could only attack Tigers in desperation and Panthers in strength. It was a “commander’s tank,” great strategically but few tankers wanted to face a heavy tank in one.
The Germans were forced to call on any weapon they thought could pierce the armor, deploying anti-aircraft guns and infantrymen carrying shaped charges to try and take the T-34 down. It was a leading factor in the Russian victory at the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, and it eventually became the most-produced tank of the war.
Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There’s an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it’s time to go back to school — or does it?
Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo in Maryland, we got a chance to see the glasses that just might change the face of training for sailors — and, eventually, all other military personnel.
Sailors remove a steam-powered catapult chamber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Augmented reality could help train sailors to perform such maintenance tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Jahnke)
A demo program showed how (in real-time) to disassemble a diesel engine. All nineteen steps were shown on the glasses, which rested (a bit heavily) on the nose. The smart glasses in use were Microsoft HoloLens, which work with Windows 10. As the operator worked on the engine, they used voice commands to cycle through the steps displayed, easily allowing trainees to learn as they work.
This new technology, known as Augmented Reality Training, could go far beyond just training sailors on maintenance tasks. Having a few pairs of goggles available while doing maintenance, however, will help keep every single step of a complicated process fresh in the mind of the technician. Anyone who’s dealt with assembling IKEA furniture can relate — wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to drop everything to reference the manual every step? Cheap furniture is one thing, but forgetting a step when doing work on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean can lead to disaster.
Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jordan Urie, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, performs corrective maintenance on the aft transmission system of Landing Craft, Air Cushion 31. Imagine if he could see how to disassemble and re-assemble the system while working.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
With Augmented Reality Training, the classroom can be taken out to sea. Even though most ships have the manuals nearby, this technology is a huge step forward in blending theoretical and practical education.
In short, technology could very well make it easier not only to train sailors before they go out to sea, but it may also help them keep their skills fresh at sea. That is a very good thing.
The PAK-DA will be a subsonic aircraft designed for high payload and long-range flight. It’s expected to replace the aging Soviet-era turbo-prop Tu-95 “Bear” and the Tu-160 strategic bombers. Developed by Russia’s Ministry of Defense and Tupolev, the PAK-DA is scheduled to begin testing in 2019, according to KRET, the Russian company responsible for designing its radar system.
About three months ago an animated video surfaced showing the PAK-DA’s blended wing-body design, which looks a whole lot like a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber knock-off. It’s probably not the aircraft’s final design considering the style of the video, which is strikingly similar to those published by Russia’s propaganda media arm, Russia Today.
Here are two other articles with the same animation style we’ve written about:
Peter Meineck is a New York University professor who had the idea to get American combat veterans – from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan – to read classical literature. These are the Classics, with a capital C, stories from the ancient Mediterranean worlds of Greece and Rome. They are filled with tales of great wars, the men who fought them, their voyages home, and what they found when they got there. These are the tales of warriors whose names echo through history: Odysseus, Philoctetes, Ajax, Hector, and many more.
Who better to read and interpret them now than the warriors of today? The combination of modern warriors and Classical terminology is what gives Meineck’s project its name: Warrior Chorus. In a Greek tragedy, the chorus was a group of players who would comment on the main action. They could simply talk or they could sing and dance. It’s an apt summation of what veterans do at Meineck’s Warrior Chorus. The veterans relate to the stories very differently than a Classics student, or even someone with a Ph.D.
“The veterans interpret the stories based on their own experience of service,” says Nathan Graeser from the University of Southern California’s Department of Social Work. USC is an important partner in Warrior Chorus. The success of the program at New York’s Aquila Theatre (where Meineck is the founder and Artistic Director) earned a large grant for its work from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It’s now a national initiative focused on three regional centers in New York, Austin, and Los Angeles. USC is the partner bringing it to Southern California.
“This is about a public conversation with these classics,” Graeser says. “To engage in a deeper conversation about how the ethics and dilemmas of war are still in existence and how we see those through our current veterans, from Vietnam and further on.”
Graeser is not just a social worker but also a member of the Armed Forces. As a chaplain in the National Guard, he sees the power of service and the need to make the unique experiences more meaningful to those in the military.
“The [Classical] chorus is interjected throughout a story. It doesn’t advance the story at all. It’s something that just comments on everything happening in the story,” Graeser explains. “The Warrior Chorus is really a way for warriors to one, have a voice in the public but also to offer some insights and their own perspectives to the public as a public.”
After the study period, the students produce live stagings, readings, workshops, lectures, and other presentations of their reflections based on their study of the books and their own interpretations. Warrior Chorus is centered around four themes, each of which are particularly insightful for present-day veterans to focus on and repaint their own understanding. They develop their own interest within the program and are guided by Warrior Chorus scholars. The most important aspect is that veterans present their own interpretation through their unique skills and interests.
“Those that serve in today’s context, where the majority of people have not served, get back and now they are able to share their voice and be the modern day chorus,” He says. “Their’s is a definitive commentary on what it’s like to serve.”
The Los Angeles program is nearly finished with its study period and its veteran students will soon be creating their classical pieces for public consumption.
“I have been amazed at the great sense of solidarity between [the veterans] them as they’ve explored,” Graeser recalls. “As they’ve put pieces together in their own lives based off of what had happened 3,000 years ago, they come to say to themselves thing like: ‘No one ever listens to your story when you come home. Crazy. Oh my gosh, it’s always been this way.’ There’s something wonderfully normative about that, that they just feel like they’re suddenly in good company.”