MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out United’s new ‘Star Wars’-themed Boeing 737 plane

Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.

To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).

The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.

Here’s what the plane is like inside.


The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.

(United)

The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.

(United)

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY FIT

Here’s who will face the new Marine Corps PFT rules first

Marines will soon get the option to swap crunches on their physical fitness test with a plank. Officer candidates reporting to training in January 2020 will be the first to see the change.

The Marine Corps updated its graduation requirements Nov. 8, 2019, for candidates reporting to Officer Candidates School in 2020. Members of Officer Candidate Course No. 233 will be the first to have the option to perform a plank on their PFT.

Candidates will have to hold a plank for at least a minute and three seconds to get the minimum score required on that portion of the PFT to be admitted to and graduate from OCS.


The requirement is the same for men and women, regardless of age. Marine recruits who ship to boot camp after Jan. 1, 2020, will also have the options of doing a plank in place of crunches.

Marine officials announced in June 2019 that a plank would be allowed on the abdominal strength section of the PFT. The exercise must be held for four minutes and 20 seconds to receive the full 100 points.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

In September 2019, the Force Fitness Division and Force Fitness Readiness Center put out a video detailing the proper form. Marines must be in a push-up position with feet hip-width apart, with arms bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow so the forearms rest flat on the ground. The Marine’s hips must be raised off the floor, and hands must touch the ground either lying flat or in fists.

Officer candidates can opt for the plank in place of completing 70 crunches within two minutes.

All candidates need at least a 220 on their PFT to be accepted into OCS and then a 235 or higher to graduate.

The new rules will apply not only to candidates reporting to OCS in January 2020, but all future classes, according to a Marine Corps administrative message announcing the new requirements.

Sailors will replace sit-ups with a plank on the Navy Readiness Test sometime this year. That service is currently gathering data from about 600 sailors before setting new scoring requirements.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How General Patton’s granddaughter is honoring his legacy

History books will forever speak of the countless heroics and astonishing life of General George S. Patton. He’ll always be remembered as the Army officer who became an Olympian, the “Bandit Killer” at Columbus, the “Father of Armor” in WWI, and the liberator of Europe. It’s hard for anyone to stand in that shadow, but Helen Patton, his granddaughter, would have made him extremely proud.

Like every member of the Patton family, Helen has done many great things with her life while also carrying the torch for her father and grandfather. From attending ceremonies commemorating WWII anniversaries to heading up the Patton Foundation, which aids returning troops and veterans in need, Helen continues the Patton tradition of giving to our great country.

Her work with the Patton Foundation and the Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust keeps the memory of the WWII generation alive.


A yearly tradition of hers is to lay flowers and wreaths at the American cemeteries and memorials in Europe.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

She also set out to fix a missed opportunity in history by hosting the soldiers of the 101st Airborne in a game of football. In 1944, there were plans for the troops to play what was dubbed “The Champagne Bowl.” These plans were cut short on Christmas Day because they needed in a march toward the Battle of the Bulge.

With Luxembourg firmly liberated for the past 74 years, Helen Patton played in integral role in hosting what was renamed the “Remembrance Bowl.” The game was played on June 2nd, 2018, in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France by men of the 101st. Patton told the Army Times,

“I felt that we should play the game that never happened for them. It’s a new way to commemorate. It’s a way to turn the page of history.”

The event will now be an annual tradition.

(Army)

Helen Patton champions military history as well. She has produced two award-winning documentaries, one about General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing and another about the continued struggles of war long after troops return.

She also hosted an amazing TEDxTalk about her grandfather, which can be seen below:

Humor

11 hilarious Marine memes that are freaking spot on

Marine humor is super dark and most people outside of our community will never understand it.


But it’s all good — so long as we’ve got these memes, we know we’re not alone.

Related: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. Maybe this is why Marines are so obsessed with pull-ups (via Marine Corps Memes).

And faster than a speeding bullet.

2. They must have been a 0311 Marine. But still saltier than a staff sergeant…

And still gets more respect than any POG… ever.

3. When you’re so excited that you forget how to speak proper English.

Yeah, what he said.

4. The main difference between a Marine and an Airman (via Pop Smoke).

Killers vs. paper pushers.

Don’t Forget About: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

5. I can no longer see these rhyming pairs without hearing Taylor Swift… (via Military Memes).

It’s all fun and games until gunny finds you skating this hard.

6. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with his legs, he’ll probably be fine.

7. Becoming a Marine means you change forever.

F*ck yeah, the change is forever! Semper Fi!

8. The Marine Corps Fashion show is very hit or miss.

But you know you still want to bang one of them.

Also Read: 12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

9. Don’t complain, boot.

It’s better than using your toothbrush.

10. The legend has finally been proven.

We never doubted it. We swear we didn’t.

11. Sgt. Pennywise was just named recruiter of the year. True story.

Even his nameplate says Pennywise. That’s freakin’ classic!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Army Ranger saves man’s life on commercial jet

Before his flight left from Charlotte, Norvel Turner Jr. heard a fellow passenger yell for help.

After running to catch the flight heading to Columbia, South Carolina, a 59-year-old man had collapsed in the aisle a few rows behind Turner.

Not sure what had happened, Turner, a former Army Ranger instructor, watched as another passenger rushed over and started to do chest compressions.

Turner’s military training then kicked in. He went over and noticed the man, Mark Thurston, was not moving and his skin had turned purple and mouth was frozen shut.


Turner, currently the safety director at Army Central Command, grabbed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation device from a nearby first aid kit and pried open Thurston’s mouth.

“I was able to get his mouth open, get the tube in there and then blow into his chest while the other guy did compressions,” Turner said in a recent interview.

Safety first

Long before he found himself on this flight, Turner had spent over 30 years in the Army.

He retired in 2004 after serving as an 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major in Afghanistan. He now travels throughout the Middle East to help reduce risks across ARCENT’s area of operations.

On June 27, 2019, he was flying home from a work trip in Florida where he attended safety meetings at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.

Safety has been paramount throughout Turner’s life.

Norvel Turner Jr., left, safety director for Army Central Command, poses for a photograph with Mark Thurston, the man he helped save June 27, 2019, while on a commercial jet awaiting to depart from Charlotte.

(Candy Thurston)

In the military, he attended several CPR and combat lifesaver courses like many other soldiers do. He was also a Ranger instructor, responsible for his students who sometimes got hurt or passed out from the grueling tasks.

“If someone goes down, you got to be able to administer basic lifesaving skills,” he said.

Turner recalled that while he and other soldiers were in Rhode Island for paratrooper training in 1980 they came across a car that had just crashed into a tree on a nearby road.

They stopped, got out and saw two teenagers pinned inside the vehicle.

Turner attended to the driver, a girl whose chest was pressed up against the steering wheel. After he pulled her out, he performed CPR on her until emergency crews arrived.

About a month later on Thanksgiving Day, Turner received a heartfelt letter in the mail.

“I received a letter from the mother thanking me for saving her daughter’s life,” he said, “and as a result of that she was able to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter.”

Flight to Columbia

After a short time performing CPR, Turner began to feel a faint pulse from Thurston.

“Every once in a while we would get a pulse, but then it would go out,” he said.

Turner continued giving lifesaving breaths to Thurston as the other passenger did the chest compressions. He also tilted Thurston’s head back to open up his airway.

About 15 minutes later, emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to electrically shock Thurston to life. His pulse grew steady, he took breathes on his own and he was rushed to the hospital.

The diagnosis: a massive heart attack.

That hit close to home for Turner. In 2012, Turner’s wife convinced him to get a thorough physical. Once the stress test and other data came back, the doctor told him he had three blocked arteries.

(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

At first, Turner said he couldn’t believe it since he was an avid runner and ate healthy. He later discovered his collateral blood vessels near his arteries had grown to compensate the blood flow.

“So I had no problems,” he said, “but in order to fix it they had to go in and do a triple bypass on me.”

Thurston, now back from the hospital, called Turner and invited him to his home near Columbia on Tuesday so he could thank him in person.

“He wanted to give me a hug and sit down and talk to me,” said Turner, who considers himself a quiet professional who sought no gratitude for what he did. “At first, it was very emotional that one would do that.”

A little more than a month after his heart attack, Thurston said he is now walking, driving and expected to make a full recovery.

If it wasn’t for the quick action of Turner and the others on the plane, Thurston said it would have been a different story.

“I was told later on by the doctors that had they not started CPR when they did, that would have been it. I would not have survived,” Thurston said. “They seriously saved my life.”

Turner said he just reacted instinctively, using what he had learned as a soldier.

“All those skills and training that I had just kicked in automatically,” he said. “That was amazing to me. I never really thought about it until it was over. We were able to save this gentleman’s life and there were no previous rehearsals or anything.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia condemns British plan for new military bases

Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.


Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.

He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.

Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.

“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.

Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Vietnam’s modern frigate is ready for Chinese aggression

As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.


In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.

A starboard quarter view of a Soviet Petya-class light frigate underway. (DOD photo)

Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.

The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.

One of two Gepard-class frigates in the Russian Navy. Vietnam has six vessels, either in service or on order. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vissarion)

The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.

These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.

If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.

MIGHTY SPORTS

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

The sound of cheering carried across the Alliant Energy Center as the top athletes from over 100 countries took the field Aug. 1, 2019, during the 2019 CrossFit Games opening ceremony.

Amongst a sea of U.S. competitors, Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz and Capt. Chandler Smith took it all in as they looked around the crowded North Field. Kurz proudly displayed his Army Special Forces flag as a nod to the Special Forces community. Those cheering included members of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Warrior Fitness team who were there to support their teammates and engage with the fitness community.

It took Smith and Kurz years to get to this moment, as they stood ready for the “world’s premier” CrossFit competition. At this level, victory would not come easy, considering each workout would test the limits of their athletic ability and resolve.


Capt. Chandler Smith

Just hours after the opening ceremony, Smith was back on the field for his workout in the men’s individual bracket. He was ranked 40th overall at the start of the games.

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. During the first workout of the day, Smith placed second overall and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

There was a lot at stake during the first cut of the competition. Out of the 143 men participating, only 75 would make it to the next round. The first workout was also designed to be a true test of strength and endurance.

Each competitor would need to complete a 400-meter run, three legless rope climbs, and seven 185-pound squat snatches, in under 20 minutes. The field of competitors would then be ranked based on their overall time. For some athletes, the first workout was more than they could handle.

Smith came out strong and maintained his overall pace. In the end, he took second place — 35 seconds behind the leader, Matthew Fraser.

“I knew my competitors were going to come out fast,” Smith said. “I wanted to stay within that top three. By the third set, I wanted to pick up on my squat snatches. This was a good start for the rest of the weekend.”

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2, 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

Moving into the second cut of the competition, Smith looked loose and determined to continue on his previous success.

Competitors had 10 minutes to complete an 800-meter row, 66 kettlebell jerks, and a 132-foot handstand walk. Like the first round, athletes would be ranked and scored on their overall time.

Smith was not far behind the leader after the first exercise. Sitting in a good position, he moved into the 16-kilogram kettlebell jerks and quickly fell behind after a series of “no-repetition” calls by the judge.

Smith placed 48th overall in the workout and only 50 athletes would move on to compete on day two.

Through it all, he wasn’t overly focused on his position, he said. For the first time in a long time, Smith said he was having fun, and he planned to approach each workout with the same high level of intensity.

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

“The experience has been phenomenal because I have been around a lot of folks that stayed positive,” he said. “I have learned so much about what it takes for me to perform at my peak. This will hopefully help me in the future in regards to maximizing [my] performance potential.”

On day two of the competition, Smith competed in three events.

The day started with a 6,000-meter ruck with increasing increments of weight. Competitors then moved to the “sprint couplet” event, where they had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and a second sled push back to the finish line. Smith placed fourth in the ruck and 32nd in the sprint couplet.

The last event of the day took place in the arena, where athletes had 20 minutes to complete as many reps as possible. Each rep included five handstand pushups, 10 pistol squats, and 15 pull-ups. Smith placed 13th in the final workout of the day, landing him a spot in the top 20.

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, takes a rest after completing in the first round of the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. Smith placed second overall after the first workout and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge)

“I would give my performance a nine out of 10,” he said. “I met my goal of making it to the last day and maintained the right competitive attitude throughout the competition.”

Moving on to day three, Smith had one last workout to try to break into the top 10. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across North Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

Smith gave his all, but at the end of the workout, he tied for 13th place. Officially cut from the competition, he held his head high as he walked off the field ranked 15th overall.

“I controlled everything I could, and gave my absolute maximum effort on all events,” he said. “I feel like I made significant growth this year. I will try to replicate my training and couple it with my improved mental onset to achieve a better result here at the CrossFit Games next year.”

Overall, Smith is honored to represent himself as both a soldier and an athlete, he said. He feels lucky to represent the force at large, knowing there are so many talented soldiers in the fitness field throughout the Army.

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“The biggest lesson I can pass on: keep a positive perspective,” he said. “The nature of the Army means our schedules are unpredictable and constant [athletic] training can be hard to come by.”

Soldiers that learn to work past those scheduling conflicts will have a better respect for their journey, Smith said. In the end, there is always an approach a soldier can take to be successful — they just have to find it.

“Leaders in the Army don’t see problems, they see solutions,” he added.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz

The men’s master competition started on day two of the CrossFit Games. Kurz, a Special Forces officer assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade, Maryland, was competing in the 40- to 44-year-old age bracket.

Kurz got into CrossFit shortly after graduating from the Special Forces qualification course. While assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he received his level-one CrossFit certification and delved deeper into the sport.

Whenever he deployed as an Operational Detachment Alpha, or ODA commander, Kurz and his teammates would often engage in CrossFit-type workouts to keep them fit for the fight, he said.

“In an ODA, everybody is always competitive. We would do our [CrossFit] workout of the day and post them on the board. That healthy rivalry makes you better,” he said.

“We have some phenomenal athletes in the Special Forces community, but they train for something different,” Kurz said. “It was good to represent them [at the CrossFit Games].”

Coming into the Games, Kurz was ranked 4th overall and 1st in the online qualifier. On the floor, he appeared healthy and determined, but behind the scenes, he was quietly recovering from a minor shoulder injury, he said.

During his first timed workout, Kurz completed a 500-meter row and 30 bar-facing burpees. He placed fifth out of 10 athletes in his bracket. Hours later, he was back on the floor for his second event. He maintained an excellent position to move up the ranks.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

During the second workout, athletes needed to complete five rounds of exercises. Each set included three rope climbs, 15 front squats, and 60 jump rope “double-unders.”

The combination of upper body exercises exacerbated his pre-existing injury, Kurz said. In frustration, he let out a loud yell during the event as he finished in last place.

“I was only pulling with one arm,” he said. “At this level of competition, if something goes wrong, there is nowhere to hide. It is frustrating, but it was also a great learning experience. Everybody wants to be on top of the podium.”

The final event for the day was a 6,000-meter ruck run with increasing increments of weight after each lap. Kurz placed 5th in the workout.

On day three of the games, Kurz had to complete two workouts. The first event was the sandbag triplet. Athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line. Kurz placed 7th in the event.

The second event of the day, known as the “down and back chipper,” was the most taxing workout thus far. Kurz had to complete an 800-meter run, 30 handstand pushups, 30 dumbbell thrusters, 30 box jump-overs, and 30 power cleans. Competitors had to then go back through the same exercises, finishing the event with the run.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz set a deliberate pace, knowing the event would depend on how his shoulder fared on the second set of handstand push-ups. On the last 10 reps, fatigue and a series of “no-reps” bogged him down, he said. Time expired while he was on his last 800-meter run, and judges were calling on him to stop. He kept running and crossed the finish line while the event crew was setting up for the next heat.

“I never quit on a workout, and I wasn’t going to start today,” he said. “You have got to take the small victories. I was once told: ‘Persistence is a graded event.’ It is something that has always stuck in my head.”

Kurz laid it all on the line on the final day, submitting two of his best workouts of the competition. During the two-repetition overhead squad workout, Kurz lifted 280 pounds and placed second in the event. Moreover, he took first place in the final workout, known as the “Bicouplet 1.”

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During his second event, Kurz had to complete three rope climbs 15 front squats, and 60 double-unders over five rounds for time.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz placed 9th overall.

“I’m glad I was able to fight back on the last day and go out with an event win. Looking back, 9th isn’t what I expected, but I’m proud of my performance,” he said. “I think I turned in the best performance possible given the limits of my body.”

“We always say that in combat you can have the best plan, but the enemy always gets a vote on how things go. This is no different. I had solid plans going into the WODs, made the right adjustments on the fly, and pushed through the adversity. I capped it all off with an event win — I’ll take it.”

In the end, Kurz was proud to represent the Army and the Special Forces community, he said.

“As I look back at my old [Special Forces] team and I feel like many of them could have done the same thing if given the opportunity and the time to train,” he said. “I feel very lucky. My life led me in a certain way, and I was able to take all this time to get to this level.

“I’m super stoked that people are still excited, given how the weekend has gone for me,” he added. “It has been frustrating and humbling. Even though there were setbacks, I gave everything I had and I’m walking away with my head high.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Steeler went to four Super Bowls after being wounded in Vietnam

Rocky Bleier was unique among Americans in the late 1960s. He was drafted – twice. In the same year. First, the Notre Dame running back was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the college graduate was drafted by the U.S. Army to head to Vietnam. And he did. Unlike many athletes at the time, the 1-A draftee was not put in reserves, so he put his NFL career on hold to answer the country’s call to arms.


Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bleier was sent to combat duty in southeast Asia after leaving basic training in 1969. He joined well over half a million American troops there, more than 11,000 of which would die in combat. Rocky Bleier was not one of those men but he came very, very close.

“There were a handful of players who had been drafted in their career, and I got drafted in the latter part of the year,” He told Fox Sports. “Next thing I knew, I was in basic training and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time –€ shipped over because they needed bodies.”

Bleier arrived in Vietnam in May, 1969, a mortarman with the U.S. Army’s 196th Light Infantry Brigade. His company was in an area called LZ Siberia near Hiep Duc. One day, in August, 1969, his unit got word that their sister company was ambushed by an entire regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. Bleier’s Charlie Company was sent in to help Bravo Company.

But the moment they arrived in the area, they had to extract. It was a bloody mess. Charlie company had to carry out the dead and wounded bodies of Bravo Company, and as they did, they were ambushed themselves. Bleier and his fellow soldiers had to go. Two days later, they would have to come back for those bodies.

They were ambushed again.

“Obviously, we knew there was some enemy in the area, and we had just taken a break early in the morning and were moving out on an open rice paddy,” Bleier said. “So we’re moving out into that open rice paddy and all of a sudden we kind of ran into, accidentally, enemy soldiers. Our point man got excited and opened up fire, and then they started to run. We started to chase them, the machine gun leveled the area, and now we’re in a firefight in open rice paddies and that’s when I got hit the first time.”

Bleier was wounded in the thigh in that action; the bullet tore through his body. It felt like a punch to the leg and the Pittsburgh running back wasn’t sure if he could run. Or walk. Or even crawl. Somehow, he tied gauze around the wound and made it back to his commanding officer.

But that was far from safety. As the day wore on, the NVA were able to advance on the Americans. The communist troops were able to get a grenade into the position Bleier and his CO occupied.

“It hit my commanding officer, who I was lying next to,” Bleier said. “It bounced off his back and rolled between my legs, and by the time I jumped to get up, it blew up. I was standing on top of it and it blew up on my right foot, knee and thigh and my commanding officer caught a lot of that shrapnel as well.”

it was during that exchange that the North Vietnamese troops suddenly retreated from the battlefield. No one is quite sure why, but the Americans suspected the NVA field commander had been killed or wounded. It was dark by then, the two sides had been fighting almost the entire day. With the break in fighting, Bleier’s unit decided to leave. It took them hours to get to their landing zone.

Bleier suffered from a bullet wound in the thigh, shrapnel wounds in both legs, and a torn-up right foot. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from him throughout several procedures, each a threat to his football career. Doctors told him he would never play again. Bleier set out to prove them wrong.

And the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to help.

Bleier was placed on Injured Reserve for the 1970 NFL season and on waivers for the 1971 season, where he went unclaimed. By 1972, he was good enough to make the team again. He had few touches on the ball before the 1974 season, where he helped take the Steelers to the first of his four Super Bowls.

After doctors told him he would never again have the flexibility and strength to perform at an NFL level, Bleier ran for 3,826 yards on 922 carries, scoring 23 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards and two touchdowns.

“I was one of a few Vietnam veterans that our fellow soldiers could identify with and say, ‘Hey, he’s one of ours, and God bless him,'” Bleier later said. “I was telling the story and giving a different image than one of baby-killers or derelicts or post traumatic stress or unemployment or homelessness. It was that kind of image that needed to be changed and I got to be a part of that, of changing that image.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.

Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.

On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).

Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.

Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).

These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.

As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).

In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”

The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.

Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).

Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.

In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).

It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The 6 types of people you meet outside of every military base

There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation.


Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.

1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.

You’re at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. “Oh, are you a soldier?” she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn’t give it away. “What rank are you?”

Just run away. Now.

2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.

Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn’t always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.

And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.

3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.

The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don’t really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect “USMC” in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.

4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.

The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone’s throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read “E-1 and Up!” along with “We Support our Troops!” Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.

“Oh hey, I’m a former Marine too, so I’ll definitely hook you up, brother,” is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don’t end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.

5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week.

You may have heard the phrase “gear adrift, gear a gift.” As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.

6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn’t cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.

You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn’t a good strategy.

Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.

What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.