A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

The nation’s highest court may soon decide the fate of one of Fayetteville’s most infamous criminals.


Ronald A. Gray, a former-Fort Bragg soldier and convicted serial killer, has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to answer several legal questions still hanging over his case.

Gray, who committed a series of murders and rapes in Fayetteville and on Fort Bragg in the 1980s, is the longest-serving inmate on the military’s death row.

He is also the only military prisoner whose execution has been approved by a president.

Lawyers for Gray filed their petition to the Supreme Court in February 2018. Lawyers for the U.S. government have a March 19, 2018 deadline to respond, according to the court.

At issue is which court system — military or civil — is responsible for hearing appeals Gray has filed since 2008, when then-President George W. Bush approved Gray’s eventual execution.

Also read: Two SEALs are under investigation for the murder of a Green Beret

Timothy Kaine, Gray’s lawyer, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court that Gray’s appeals have been delayed by a “nearly decade-long contest of hot potato between military and civil courts.”

Numerous appeals were dismissed or delayed in recent years as the courts struggled over how to handle Gray’s appeals.

During that time, Gray has sought a review of claims of constitutional error during his military trial and subsequent appeals. He has claimed that his original appeals lawyer was ineffective, that his sentence is the result of racial discrimination and that military authorities failed to disclose evidence about his competency.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Fort Bragg, the home of the Airborne and Special Operation Forces. (Fort Bragg Official Facebook)

In recent years, the case has been heard by officials from a U.S. District Court in Kansas, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

In Gray’s petition, Kaine wrote that the military and civil courts have repeatedly declined to review his client’s claims “in the vain hope that the other court system would do so.”

The “litigation ping pong” has resulted in a system in which convicted enemy combatants have a clearer system in which to appeal their cases than do many military prisoners, Kaine said.

Related: The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

The latest appeals are part of a nearly 30-year legal battle related to Gray’s crimes, which the Supreme Court declined to review in 2001.

Appeals have taken on an added urgency since late 2016, when a federal judge removed a stay of execution that had been in place since 2008, potentially clearing the way for the Army to schedule Gray’s death.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

A former resident of Fairlane Acres near Bonnie Doone in Fayetteville, Gray was an Army specialist working as a cook before he was convicted of a series of rapes and murders that were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and near Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park off Santa Fe Drive.

Gray killed cab driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident and soldier’s wife Tammy Wilson.

Gray was convicted during two trials. A Fort Bragg court sentenced him to death in 1988, after convicting him of the rape and murder of two women and the rape and attempted murder of a third woman, among other offenses.

More: This reporter covered war up close before he was murdered by ISIS

A civilian court in 1987 sentenced him to eight life sentences, including three to be served consecutively, after convictions on charges of two counts of second-degree murder, five counts of rape and a number of other offenses all related to different victims.

Gray has been confined at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since he was sentenced to death.

If he is executed, it would be the first death sentence carried out by the U.S. military since 1961. An execution would likely take place at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana — the same facility where, in 2001, terrorist Timothy McVeigh was executed for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

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These 6 heroes of Desert Storm may warrant medal upgrades

With some recent upgrades to medals for heroism during the War on Terror, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some awards from Desert Storm. During that conflict, no Medals of Honor or Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, but there were two Navy Crosses and two Air Force Crosses.


Without further ado, here are six people whose awards may warrant an upgrade:

1.William F. Andrews

Awards to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross

Then a captain flying the F-16, Andrews received three awards for valor during Desert Storm. Two of them were the Distinguished Flying Cross, one was the Air Force Cross.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (Dept. of Defense photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The DFC awarded for his actions on Jan. 23, 1991, looks like it should be upgraded – Andrews pressed his attack through heavy fire to put ordnance on the target.

The other medal warranting an upgrade should be the Air Force Cross for his actions on Feb. 27, 1991. After ejecting from his damaged F-16, Andrews was injured upon landing. Despite his injuries, Andrews chose to remain in the open and warned fellow pilots of threats until he was captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

2. Richard A. Cody

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
The pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade fires AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during the combined arms live fire training exercise for Saber Strike 16 at the Estonian Defense Forces central training area near Tapa, Estonia on June 20, 2016. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

Then a lieutenant colonel commanding an attack helicopter battalion, Richard Cody drew the tough task of leading Task Force Normandy to forcibly open a gap in Iraqi radar coverage. It was a very high-stakes mission – if Cody failed, Saddam’s regime would have plenty of time to give Coalition pilots warning. Task Force Normandy succeeded, and the Coalition lost only one aircraft on the opening night.

3. Randy S. Wenzel

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

At the time, Wenzel was a major, and took part in a massive strike on Jan. 18, 1991. Wenzel pressed his attack despite heavy fire from enemy surface-to-air missiles, putting his bombs on the Habbiniyah artillery mission. According to his citation, the successful strike “severely reduced” the ability of Saddam’s regime to produce replacement artillery pieces.

4. Richard Balwanz

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
ODA 525, which Richard Balwanz led. Shortly after they infiltrated, they were discovered by civilians. (DOD photo)

Over a decade before the events that would be described in the book and movie Lone Survivor, Richard Balwanz faced the same situation Michael Murphy did. He made the same decision. As the Daily Caller notes, Balwanz brought his entire team back.

As an interesting trivia note, William Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross flying support for Balwanz’s unit.

5. Keith Dewayne Andrews

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

Andrews was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of the “left hook” that flanked the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, when he received the Silver Star for rescuing five troops who were pinned down by two Iraqi machine gun positions. According to his citation, Andrews made his way through a minefield to take out the first position with a hand grenade. Then, like Brian Chontosh did during Iraqi Freedom, he grabbed an enemy weapon and took out the second position.

Pure badass stuff.

6. Thomas J. Trask

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low. Thomas J, Task flew a similar helicopter within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While he is a three-star general today, Thomas J. Trask was a captain when he received the Silver Star as a MH-53J Pave Low pilot. While it is not exactly unarmed (GlobalSecurity.org notes it has three .50-caliber machine guns or 7.62mm miniguns), it’s not exactly the best option if you face off against enemy SAMs or AAA. Yet Trask went within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot.

That took a ton of guts and skill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.


The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

Foreign suspects

It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Edward Snowden speaks to a crowd via video conference. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

Renewal for six years

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Photo from Senator Feinstein’s website.

Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 10 ways civilians can simulate military life are just wrong

From adopting military customs to incorporating jargon and acronyms into everyday language, there’s a certain sector of the civilian population that just loves to play “military.” They might say sixteen hundred hours to mean 4 p.m., or call flashlights moonbeams, refer to dinner as chow, bedtime as rack time. Or they might consider doing one of these absurdly ridiculous things on this list.

What we’re including here is part of straight Internet Gold of unknown origins. What we do know is that there’s a list floating around the interwebs somewhere that covers over fifty ways civilians can pretend to be in the military … and it’s so bad, it’s good. For brevity’s sake, we’re only including the top ten most absurd ideas. They’re bad. Like, really, really bad.


1. Dig a big hole in your backyard and live in it for 30 days straight. (Because how else is a civilian going to truly understand what it feels like to suffer through an FTX?)

2. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over and dig their own holes. Then, let them live in your yard inside their holes. Make sure your family waves to you from the comfort of the living room. After thirty days, fill in the holes and set out for a 25-mile walk and After-Action-Review. (Keep sharp and don’t you dare think about wearing a field uniform on this ruck.)

3. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it, including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference. (It’s ideal to make several copies of these and post them in the most ridiculous places. But make sure that the copies are faded and almost ineligible.)

4. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower. (We’re talking a full-on disassembly all the way down to the smallest parts. Make sure there’s someone watching while you do this, too. Otherwise it doesn’t count.)

5. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway three times a day, whether they need it or not. (Cleanliness is next to …?)

6. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red. (The color scheme is very important here, so don’t go trying to paint your rocks yellow and rings around the trees red. We’re not sure why it’s important; it just is.)

7. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake. (This is mission-critical even though no one can tell you why. Also, we’ll know if you try to get some sleep in the early hours on Tuesday.)

8. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside. (Make sure you only bring out cold weather gear when the temperature drops below a certain pre-decided point.)

9. Walk around your car for 4 hours, checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away. (If you miss a 150minute check-in, you have to start all over.)

10/When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to cover their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days. (Once the enemy is gone, make sure you all set out as a family in full gear for an After-Action review.)

We couldn’t make this up even if we tried … but wow. The lengths civilians will go just to feel like they’re in the military. Might we suggest a visit to a local recruiting office instead?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia allegedly threatened nuclear war in Europe in 2017

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.


According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May 2018.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’

Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.

Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”

Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.

During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.

The US had a similar plan.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.

It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)

Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.

“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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China tests missile that could muscle US out of the South China Sea

Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.


As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Related: Marine F-35 Lightning fighters arrive in Japan

Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US. | dafeng cao via Twitter

“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.

According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”

The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
US Navy E-3 Hawkeyes fly above Japan’s Mt. Fuji. | US Navy photo by Lt. J.G. Andrew Leatherwood

This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.

Also read: Trump picks former Army intel officer to be SecNav

In combination with China’s massive, networked array of multiphase radars across artificial, militarized islands in the South China Sea, these missiles and the coming J-20 strike aircraftshow that China has leveraged multiple technologies to side-step the US’s emerging stealth capabilities.

According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Older Chinese jets like the J-11s could be devastating with extremely long range missiles. | Xinhuanet

Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”

As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.

“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of May 5

Memes call! Find your favorites, share them with your buddies, or don’t. We’re not your supervisor.


1. A training video on “Abdominal Circumference” may actually help some units (via Air Force Memes Humor).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
And Troy McClure videos would be a huge upgrade from all these Powerpoints.

2. Being outside a firefight without your rifle is worse than being in a firefight with it (Weapons of Meme Destruction).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Feels like death, and might be worse.

3. Allow the E4 to teach you a little about the military (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Starting with: Never go back to the unit right away.

4. Back blast area clear!

(via Team Non-Rec)

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Gonna be hard to explain this to the homeowner’s association the next morning.

5. It’s always embarrassing to remember that next generation’s history books will include this generation’s actions (via Decelerate Your Life).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
At least you can write some of the histories ahead of time.

6. Will pay to see “You’re Welcome” parody with Coast Guard swimmers (via Coast Guard Memes).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
The Coast Guard used this exact same pun two years ago while talking about teaching rescue swimmers to swim.

7. Senior enlisted problems:

(via Terminal Lance)

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Decisions, decisions. Sorry, junior Marines.

8. Some NCO better fix that little guy’s gig line (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Can’t tell if the label in the top right corner is from the past or future …

9. Last guy to switch from BDUs is definitely the first guy to crack a beer (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Love the shades.

10. Your recruiter lied to you (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Better volunteer for some cool-guy schools and get into some high-speed units.

11. Kinda hard to take the new guy on a welcome-to-the-unit bender if someone has to make him a fake ID first (via Military World).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Highly recommend ordering the apple juice so at least no one else in the bar can tell.

12. It’s all about composite risk management (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Dirt raking is dangerous.

13. Remember all those grinning, proud faces when all the boots got their new uniforms?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Of course, those uniforms get pretty salty before the end of the contract.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Midway’ Director profiles unknown heroes behind Navy’s greatest comeback

Roland Emmerich is the writer and director behind some of the most badass military military movies of our time. He loves to combine state of the art computer graphics with amazing battle sequences. You can thank him for the dogfights in Independence Day and for the famous “Aim Small, Miss Small” quote from The Patriot (I still whisper this line every time I snap in at the rifle range). But now, Emmerich is taking on the most pivotal moment in the U.S. Navy’s 244 year history: the Battle of Midway.


We Are The Mighty joined the director for a sneak peak into the film’s key scenes and to discuss how he had to convince the Navy that he was the right man to direct a film about their greatest comeback — a film that he’s been trying to make for over 19 years.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Roland Emmerich speaking with us at his edit bay in Hollywood

“You can’t tell the story of Midway without Pearl Harbor,” Emmerich explains before we watch the opening sequence. He’s right. That infamous day, December 7, 1941, was arguably the U.S. Navy’s greatest defeat, but it was also the first key moment that led the American Navy towards their victory at Midway. The film’s depiction of the surprise Japanese attack is incredibly accurate — especially the scenes on battleship row, as well as the salvage operations afterwards. The U.S. carriers were away from Pearl Harbor that day and this stroke of luck would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet.

“The Navy is a family and I wanted to show that,” Emmerich tells us. Many of the Naval Aviators who would be pivotal during the Battle of Midway returned to Pearl Harbor as the fires still raged and oil slicks covered the water. In the following hours and days, the sailors of the carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet would learn that their friends from basic training, prior deployments, and even the Naval Academy had been killed in the attack. Midway depicts the personal toll that the attack took on these sailors and we watch the seeds of revenge being planted.
A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Woody Harrelson stars as ‘Admiral Chester Nimitz’

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy and the entire military struggled to determine a response. With only a few carriers and support ships left to fight against the massive Japanese Navy, there could be no room for mistakes. The U.S. needed to make a comeback and fast. “It’s important for the audience to understand how bad the situation really was for Nimitz… morale was low,” Emmerich describes. He goes on to explain how Admiral Nimitz, played by Woody Harrelson, took command of the Pacific Fleet facing not only a daunting enemy but also a shortage of experienced sailors to strike back. The coming battle would depend upon a series of unknown heroes.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Patrick Wilson stars as ‘Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton’

However, Nimitz did have one advantage: the intelligence unit under command of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, played by Patrick Wilson, had broken the Japanese code and were ciphering through thousands of messages in an underground bunker nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Even members of the Navy Band were pulled in to help with the effort. However, the codebreakers could only guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet and the leaders in Washington decided it was time to hit the Japenese homeland instead.

Despite their desire for revenge on the Japanese fleet, the crews of the carriers Enterprise and Hornet were assigned to escort duty, and to make matters worse they would be escorting Army Bomber pilots. The mission known as the “Doolittle Raid” is a key moment both in history and in the film. As the massive waves of the North Pacific rage over the carrier decks, we are transported into the ready room where dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best, played by Ed Skrein, is frustrated that the Army pilots are given the chance to strike the Japanese first.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Aarron Eckhart stars as ‘Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle’

When the fleet is detected before the scheduled departure point, the bomber pilots under Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, played by Aarron Eckhart, make the pivotal decision to launch despite the weather and the risk of running out of fuel. Emmerich reinforces the tension in this scene on the flight deck where Navy pilots take bets that the massive B-25 bombers won’t even make it into the air. The entire scene is incredibly powerful and only reinforces Emmerich’s reputation for blockbuster filmmaking. While this is a scene we can watch over and over again, it was a moment the carrier crews would never forget. They wanted their own piece of history and it would soon come with a gamble from a gutsy Admiral Nimitz.

With only one chance left for a strike on the Japanese fleet, Nimitz relied on Layton’s codebreakers to determine the exact location of the next battle so that the U.S. could surprise the enemy just as they had surprised the U.S. months before. Layton and his team were not able to directly read the Japanese code, but they could make predictions based on bits of information. All signs pointed to Midway as the target, and even with the risk of failure, Nimitz ordered the two carriers into battle. In addition, Nimitz knew that his Naval Aviators, especially Lt. Dick Best, were prepared for the gloves to come off.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Dick Best (Ed Skrein, left) and Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank, right)

“The World War II generation was special and I wanted to ensure their heroism was not forgotten,” Emmerich explains, as we prepare to watch the final battle of Midway. We are in the cockpit of an American Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber above the same Japanese fleet that struck Pearl Harbor. With enemy aircraft swarming overhead and massive fires from anti-aircraft guns below, Emmerich’s Midway shows the insane odds these pilots faced as they thrust their aircraft into nosedive attacks. In a matter of minutes, a series of bombs strikes the Japanese fleet. The explosions and smoke remind us of the first few moments of the movie, when the Americans are left bruised, but not broken. As the lights come on, it’s obvious that Emmerich has indeed created a film that honors the U.S. Navy’s greatest comeback.

However, as we discuss the challenges of making a movie of such epic portions and detail, Emmirch recounts how the production was a series of endless problems. “None of the carriers from that time still exist, and it’s hard to even find aircraft… I knew we would need the Navy’s help,” Emmerich explains. But the Navy had to make sure Emmerich was the right man for the job.

The Battle of Midway is such a pivotal moment in U.S. Navy history that it had to be told right. When Emmerich met with the U.S. Navy Admiral he’d have to convince, he explained that this is “a movie about Dick Best and the other unknown heroes of the Enterprise and Hornet.” That’s what the Admiral needed to hear, and the Navy agreed to support the production and even provided current Naval Aviators to ensure every scene was as accurate as possible. In some cases, Emmerich had to start from scratch to rebuild 1942-era planes and carrier decks.

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Director Roland Emmerich (right) behind the scenes on the set of Midway

From first look, Midway is poised to not only to be an iconic depiction of the Navy’s greatest comeback but also a film that depicts the human variables that are so crucial in determining the fate of battles. Roland Emmerich’s film Midway releases on November 8th, 2019, and will be an amazing way to honor the sacrifices of all servicemembers this Veteran’s Day.

Articles

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.


IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.

On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.

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Drones like this are easy to acquire but can be very lethal targeting tools. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.

It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.

But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.

Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.

Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.

Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.

Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.

Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.

Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.

Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.

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A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.

They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.

If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.

But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.

This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.

The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This is a deadly combination.

The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.

Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.

If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.

After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.

Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.

The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

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Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to visit America’s Gold Star Families

In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.


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The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.

Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”

Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Price literally even wrote the book on the subject, “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.” the story of their 2018 ride, which covered 18,000 miles over 58 days, visiting 64 families of fallen troops. The proceeds of which go toward the Gold Star Ride Foundation.

“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”

The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.

The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.

To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.

“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”

MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army astronaut may be first prosecuted for space crime

The legal community is getting geared up for what might be the first trial involving criminal activity in space as a decorated Army officer and astronaut faces accusations of identity theft after she accessed a bank account belonging to her former spouse while on the International Space Station. If formal charges are filed, it would be the first prosecution of a space crime.

(Yeah, we were hoping that the first space crime would include theft of a rocket or mounting a laser on the Moon, too. But this is the world we live in.)


The World’s First Space Crime? IN SPACE! (Real Law Review)

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First, a quick rundown of the facts: Lt. Col. Anne McClain acknowledges that she used the login credentials of her former spouse, fellow Army veteran Summer Worden, to access their shared finances from the ISS. Technically, that act could constitute identity theft, but McClain says her actions were a continuation of how the couple managed finances while married.

The two women are going through a divorce that also includes a contentious custody dispute.

You may know McClain’s name from the planned all-female spacewalk in March 2019 that was canceled because there was only one spacesuit that would fit the two women scheduled for the spacewalk. Fellow astronaut Nick Hague took McClain’s place on the spacewalk, and Saturday Night Live did a fake interview with McClain the same week.

When it comes to the law that pertains to McClain in space, it does get a little murky. According to attorney Devin Stone, a practicing lawyer who runs the YouTube channel LegalEagle took a look at what laws could be brought to bear on McClain if it’s deemed that she committed a crime.

Well, for that, Stone points to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1967. (It’s more commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.)

Article VI of that treaty says that governments are responsible for ensuring that all activities undertaken by their representatives or nationals conform to the rules of the treaty. The treaty also charges national bodies with creating the laws necessary for controlling their nationals’ conduct in space.

And Article VIII of the same treaty says that each state that is a party to the treaty will retain jurisdiction and control of any object that state launches into space as well as any personnel it sends into space.

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(NASA/Roscosmos)

And, as Stone points out in the video above, the ISS is controlled by another agreement signed in 1998 that further defines criminal jurisdiction aboard the ISS. Basically, Article 22 of that agreement states that any governments that are part of the ISS program retain criminal jurisdiction of their nationals while that national is aboard the ISS.

So, those articles together mean that McClain was subject to all applicable U.S. laws while in orbit. And presenting the digital credentials of another person in order to gain access to their financial information is identity theft.

If a U.S. attorney brings charges against McClain, it would be under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1028 Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information. The maximum punishment for a single offense under that law is 30 years, but McClain’s actions, as reported in the press, would constitute a relatively minor offense under the code.

If McClain did not remove any money and only presented one set of false identifying documents—if she just logged in with Worden’s username and password, but didn’t create a false signature or present other false credentials—then the maximum punishment for each false login would be five years imprisonment.

And even then, the law allows for judges to assign a lower sentence, especially if there are mitigating factors or if the defendant has no prior criminal history.

But there are still some potential hiccups in a potential prosecution of McClain. As Stone discusses in his video, a murder investigation in Antartica was derailed after competing investigations and jurisdictional claims prevented a proper inquiry into the crime. The rules governing space jurisdiction has a strong parallel in the treaties and laws governing conduct in Antartic research stations.

Hopefully, for McClain and the Army’s reputation, no charges are filed. But if charges are filed, someone gets to become the first space lawyer to argue a space crime in space court. (Okay, it would just be normal federal court, but still.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.


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