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An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.


Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.

“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
The Patrouille de France flying over Paris during Bastille Day 2015. (Photo by wiki user XtoF)

This year marks the centennial of formal U.S. involvement in World War I, with America declaring war on the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German monarchy on April 6, 1917.

The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.

America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.

The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.

Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.

“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”

The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.

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The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

The Air Force has been holding out on us. Over 50 years ago they developed a functional robot that stood over 26 feet high, could carry 2,000 pound loads, and punched right through concrete walls.


So why, 50 years later, does warfare not look like this?

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
GIF: Youtube/GerritE82

Besides the obvious answer (the Air Force hates fun), it’s because the “Beetle” was designed for just a few missions, all of which were eliminated before it was completed.

The 85-ton robot was ordered by the Air Force to provide a maintenance capability for their nuclear-powered bombers. The Beetle would have been used to change out nuclear materials, payloads, and irradiated parts on the bombers in situations where a normal mechanic or ordnance worker would be irradiated.

The cab of the Beetle housed a single driver behind one-foot-thick walls of lead lined with 1/2-inch steel plates. The materials cut the radioactive exposure of the driver to a 3,000th of ambient levels.

The bomber program was canceled. But the Beetle was undergoing its final stages of construction, so the Air Force finished and tested it.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Historians agree the tests looked nothing like this. GIF: Youtube/Cellidor .

It did alright in testing, accomplishing all of its major goals despite throwing a track during a pivot test and suffering problems with the air conditioner/filtration system.

The test report also notes the high level of maintenance required to keep the robot working, something a 1962 Popular Mechanics article also highlighted. The system was prone to leaks and short circuits, among other issues.

After testing, the Air Force allowed the Beetle and one of its support vehicles to be transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to aid with a nuclear rocket program. But, that program was also canceled as scientists found better ways of creating chemical propellants for rockets and missiles.

So the Beetle found itself without a job and just disappeared. The Air Force has never said what happened to the giant robot. So while no one can prove they started a robot fighting league in the desert, no one can prove they didn’t.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops guarding oil fields in Syria wait around for military orders

United States troops stationed in Syria have yet to receive guidance on their mission, including the basic rules of engagement, according to a military official in a CNN report published Nov. 4, 2019.

Some military commanders deployed to Eastern Syria were reportedly still waiting to receive their directives to guard oil fields in the region. For some of these troops, it was unclear where their destinations would be and how long they were expected to stay there, according to CNN.

President Donald Trump and his congressional allies in recent weeks have shown interest in the oil fields in the country, even deploying additional troops and armored vehicles to protect the oil reserves.


“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” Trump said on Oct. 27, 2019, adding that he wanted to “spread out the wealth.”

“The oil is so valuable for many reasons,” Trump added.

US troops in northeastern Syria were called back after Trump ordered their withdrawal, ahead of Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces earlier this month.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

US troops in Northern Syria.

(Public Domain)

But Trump also ordered troops into the region to protect oil fields from Islamic State militants, Syria, and Russia.

Roughly 1,000 US troops were deployed to the region when Turkey embarked on its offensive on Oct. 9, 2019. After accounting for the new troops, around 900 US service members are expected to remain.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, the majority-Kurdish forces that were allied with the US for the war against ISIS, have operated the oil fields after seizing them from the terrorist group in 2017. The SDF has been selling the crude oil to the Syrian regime through a sanctioned broker, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing sources familiar with the situation.

The confusion wrought from the abrupt military repositioning also comes shortly after artillery rounds landed about 1 kilometer away from US troops. US forces patrolling northeast Syria on Nov. 3, 2019, reportedly noticed the artillery fire, according to the Military Times. No US service members were injured.

The event follows another similar incident on Oct. 11, 2019, when Turkish artillery fire landed a few hundred meters away from a location with US forces. Following the incident, a US official demanded that Turkey “avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action.”

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

Mighty Moments

Army holds private BCT graduation for hospitalized soldier

A new Soldier who led his unit on the rifle range and on the PT field got a special BCT (Basic Combat Training) graduation from his command after suddenly taking ill and being hospitalized.

New Pvt. Angel Hernandez began his basic training journey last November with Company B, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment at Fort Leonard Wood. Almost immediately, he set himself apart from the pack and made it clear he was a high performer. By the time training had concluded, Hernandez had earned not one, but two Army Achievement Medals: One for having the highest marksmanship score in his unit, and another for having the highest ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) score.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

But despite Hernandez’s remarkable effort in training, he wasn’t able to attend his unit’s BCT graduation on February 4th due to suddenly taking ill. After being admitted to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, he was then transferred to University Hospital in Columbia, where he awaits another transfer to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. While the Army has not revealed what illness took Hernandez out of training, they did point out that he had managed to complete all of his graduation requirements prior to taking ill.

Had Hernandez not fallen sick, he would have been able to graduate with his friends and peers in February. With that clearly impossible, the Army chose to do something a little bit different: They held a private graduation ceremony for Hernandez right there in the hospital he’s staying in. The Army even set it up so his family could watch the ceremony virtually.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Pvt. Angel Hernandez, a Soldier assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, receives his Basic Combat Training certificate of completion and two Army Achievement Medals(Photo by Brian Hill)

“He completed all of the graduation requirements; he just wasn’t able to walk across the stage with his peers,” said Capt. Lee Johnson, Bravo Company commander.

“We just decided to seize on the opportunity while he’s here now to graduate him in person and recognize him for his achievements — give him the recognition that he deserves.”

On March 3, just under a month after he would have graduated, Hernandez participated in the private ceremony, which saw Lt. Col. Christopher Scott, Hernandez’ battalion commander, present the young Soldier with both of his Army Achievement Medals and his graduation certificate. Scott emphasized Hernandez’ tenacity during training as he spoke.

“This is really special for all of us to be able to come up here and make sure he knows that he has graduated and is a Soldier in the United States Army,” Scott said.

“He is resilient; he is exactly what the Soldiers of this nation need to be. He’s exactly what the people of this nation deserve.”

Hernandez accepted his command’s praise with a great deal of humility and went on to say that the sort of support he was receiving in the hospital felt as though it was in keeping with how he felt throughout training, thanks to a positive atmosphere throughout BCT.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot during basic training,” he said. “You develop a really close relationship with your battle buddies because you learn to rely on them and they learn to rely on you as well.”

“It feels great to be able to recover … I joined the Army because I want to serve my country.”

Hernandez will be close to home while undergoing treatment at Walter Reed. His family only lives about 30 minutes from the military hospital–But Hernandez isn’t looking to take it easy. He’s already planning on getting back into fighting shape.

“When I come back, I want to come back stronger,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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The Air Force is joining the race to bring back American rocket superiority

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Flickr


For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.

While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.

On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.

And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.

But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.

After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.

Now is the right time

As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.

Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Blue Origin

But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.

In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.

The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.

While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.

If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.

ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.

“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sunset ceremony honors USS Utah’s 58-member crew

As prior and present service members are gathered for the public USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony, there is one thing on everyone’s mind: remembrance. Remembering the bravery of the crew that was lost 78 years ago, remembering the honor possessed by each soul onboard and the legacy they left behind. Fifty-eight members of the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) crew were lost that day, but today they are celebrated.

The capsizing of the USS Utah is honored every year on the eve of December 7. The former battleship, that was once used for target and gunnery training, was the first ship to be struck by two torpedoes during the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.


As the amber rays of the sunset reflected upon the island of Oahu, USS Utah survivor Warren Upton along with World War II veterans Roy Solt and Burk Waldron were greeted by applause from those attending the ceremony.

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, gave thanks to those that served and showed gratitude to everyone honoring the fallen ship.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, says a speech during the USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael Amani)

“There’s often a phrase that is associated with the USS Utah,” said Ashwell. “That somehow she is the forgotten ship of Pearl Harbor. It is obvious that the USS Utah is not the forgotten ship. We are all here to remember her and her crew.”

Ashwell recounted the memory of the late U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who served as a full-time volunteer to Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office until his passing earlier this year. He served as a liaison for the survivors of Pearl Harbor and their families.

“He helped lay to rest many Pearl Harbor survivors who chose to come back and have their ashes spread in these waters around the Utah and for those who served on the Utah to be placed within the ship,” said Ashwell.

USS Utah Survivor Warren Upton was embraced by many families in attendance as he shook hands and gave hugs to those that thanked him for his service.

“This ceremony was very good,” said Upton. “I really miss Jim. He was a friend to all of the old Utah sailors.”

The ocean breeze and the water washing up against the memorial site are the only sounds heard as Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow, from Herndon Va., plays “Taps” upon his bugle. Sailors of many different ranks render a salute as the melody flows from his instrument. The ceremony comes to an end as everyone is reminded to never forget USS Utah.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA postpones 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration events

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the COVID 19 virus, is postponing Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice.


As a commemorative partner to the Department of Defense led 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration program, hundreds of events were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance on March 29.

VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

For Veterans with a Facebook account, they can download a frame at www.facebook.com/profilepicframes/?selected_overlay_id=908037382943967 to place a picture and show their pride for serving. The frame ­­­­shows the Vietnam War Veteran day pin and the text “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

For more information about coronavirus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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

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What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

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‘Terminal Lance’ creator gets real with ‘The White Donkey’

It was tempting to make the headline for this review-interview “‘Terminal Lance’ creator Maximilian Uriarte gets dark with The White Donkey. That wouldn’t be truthful, at least not completely.


Much of Uriarte’s self-published graphic novel could be considered dark — and likely will be. But the word “dark” could also be substituted with the word real. Though the book opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will find a lot of familiar feelings in its pages.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

It’s 90 percent true and then there’s a lot of fictional elements put into it,” Uriarte says. “I don’t like saying that it’s a true story because it’s not. It’s fictional. I feel like once you add one fictional element to anything it becomes a fictional story. The white donkey was real. I really did run into the white donkey in real life, which I write about it in the back of the book. In real life, I only saw the donkey once when we stopped for convoy and that was it. I thought about it a lot every day after that though.”

The White Donkey is a departure from his bread and butter work on Terminal Lance. But Uriarte’s graphic novel was a long time coming. He first conceived the idea in 2010, and launched the Kickstarter for the project in July 2013, a funding process Uriarte will not soon repeat.

“I don’t think I would ever do a Kickstarter again because I hated that. I still hate it,” he says. “It’s one thing to have an investor to answer to. It’s another thing to have 3,000 investors to answer to when things take too long. It’s really stressful.”

Uriarte may be producing the first graphic novel written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran about the Iraq war, but the process of telling this story far outweighed the stress of the financing, in Uriarte’s opinion.

He loves writing, even though he didn’t even know how to make a graphic novel at first. But writing is writing, except when it comes to novels. It’s important to note there’s no corporate ownership to his work. His graphic novel is an independent endeavor, the culmination of more than five years of work.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

“I love writing,” he says. “I wrote this book as a screenplay first and that was how I approached it. I went through a few different processes of trying to figure out how to make this into a graphic novel because I had no idea how to make a graphic novel when I got into it. I started writing it out really novel-like, as a book. It didn’t really do me any favors because I needed a screenplay. I needed a script for the graphic novel. Waxing poetic in sentences and paragraphs didn’t really do me any favors. I thought, ‘Why write all this beautiful poetic language that no one is going to see?'”

Fans of Terminal Lance may wonder why The White Donkey seems so different from the comic strip. The reason is because that’s the reality of war, or at least Max Uriarte’s experience with war.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

I wanted it to be a grim war story,” he says. “I wanted it to be more self-aware in a way. I think the usual Hollywood narrative is always very heroic. I feel like a lot of being a Marine is not heroic in the slightest sense of it. I think I wanted to have a narrative that combats that idea of that glorified American ideology, that going to war is heroic. Even the “personal journey” aspect of it is pretty arrogant of people to think they’re going to experience some enlightenment at the expense of people dying. It’s a very sad and a very false reality I think.”

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

The White Donkey is a thought-provoking, poignant work, on the level of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and is bound to raise Uriate’s profile beyond the large and loyal audience he’s already earned. Still, no matter how successful The White Donkey is, he wants fans to know Terminal Lance isn’t going anywhere.

“Terminal Lance is going to be around for a while if I can help it,” he says. “There’s going to be some changes on the site. I want to open it up more for op-eds and some other content. I want it to be a place any branch can come to for entertainment.” 

The White Donkey will available on Amazon in February.

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How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.


Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.

Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Image via Sharon Williams and the Military Museums of Calgary

Metallica is one of the most beloved bands by U.S. troops and they have fully embraced the troops in return. They have invited veterans and their families on stage and they’ve also been “honored” by the use of their music in Guantanamo Bay.

But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.

Related: 7 killer songs that use Morse code

The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.

(MetallicaTV | Youtube)

“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left.  The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.

Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.

Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Article via The Winnipeg Evening Tribute

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.

His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.

Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”

After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.

Rock on, Curley. Rock on.

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Actor Joe Mantegna Is Pushing Hard For Veterans’ Issues On ‘Criminal Minds’


If not for a high draft number, Joe Mantegna might have chosen a career in the military instead of a forty-year career in entertainment. On Criminal Minds, Mantegna portrays David Rossi, an ex-FBI agent who was also once a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. This aspect of his character is especially important to Mantegna, who comes from a military family and is very passionate about military and veterans’ issues.

Also Read: Bob Ross Was An Air Force Drill Instructor Before Becoming Television’s Most Beloved Painter 

In the video above, Mantegna talks about his experiences with the military and why veterans mean so much to him. He and freelance writer Danny Ramm also talk about how and why they decided to highlight the plight of homeless veterans in multiple episodes of one of the biggest shows on television.

The CBS procedural is the second highest rated drama on the network. In its tenth season, its ratings are actually rising. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “aging most gracefully” as one of the top ten shows of the Fall of 2014. Mantegna and Ramm decided to use Rossi’s background as a Vietnam veteran to highlight the struggles of homeless veterans.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates there more than 8,000 homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. This is the largest population in the United States. They struggle with substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress, and many chronic health issues.

Two past episodes of Criminal Minds feature subplots about the man who was Rossi and Mantegna’s commanding officer in Vietnam, Harrison Scott, played by the late Meshach Taylor. On the show, Scott is a homeless veteran who transitions with help from the New Directions shelter in Los Angeles. Through Rossi, we get to know Scott, his issues, and the every day problems he and those like him face, living on the streets. Mantegna and Ramm also wanted to bring attention to the New Directions shelter.

New Directions was founded in 1992 to provide services to help these homeless veterans. These services include substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, job training and placement, and parenting classes. Veterans leave New Directions with a savings account, housing, a job, and most importantly, a sense of confidence in the future and a support system to see them through.

A third episode of Criminal Minds will air Wednesday, January 21st with another story about Harrison Scott. In this episode, Rossi discovers his friend has died. He flies to Los Angeles to make funeral arrangements and lay his friend to rest with the honor he deserves. It is also a tribute to actor Meshach Taylor, who died of cancer last year. The episode also feature two real-life three-star generals as well as real veterans instead of extras, with an emphasis on Vietnam-era vets.

Mantegna is also the national spokesman for the campaign to build the National Museum of the United States Army (museums for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy already exist).

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS and can be watched at CBS.com.

NOW: The Crazy Time When Soldiers Stopped Fighting Each Other In WWI To Celebrate Christmas Together 

OR: How Jane Fonda Became The Most-Hated Woman Among Vietnam Veterans 

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Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

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This Ranger and adaptive athlete recaptured the military bond at the Warrior Games

Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Howard “Howie” Sanborn was an all-star on active duty. He was an Airborne Ranger infantryman who conducted long-range surveillance for the XVII Airborne Corps before doing five years as a member of the U.S. Army’s premier high-altitude demonstration team, the Golden Knights.


As a Golden Knight, it was Howie’s job to share his experiences in the Army with civilians and act as a brand ambassador. Now, he uses a wheelchair and is off active duty, but he still spreads the Army message far and wide as an adaptive athlete.

“For me,” Howie said, “the Warrior Games are an amazing opportunity to get back with my team. I’m part of Team SOCOM. Once you leave the military and you’re retired or you just get out, you don’t necessarily lose that sense of camaraderie but you’re kind of separate from your buddies. So when you get to do events like this together or training events together, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with guys who’ve been through the same thing you’ve been through.”

At the 2016 Warrior Games, Howie competed in his racing chair in track events, taking home three gold medals for Men’s 1500 Run 2.0, Men’s 800 Meter Run 3.0, and Men’s 400 Meter Dash 3.0, as well as one silver medal in Men’s 200 Meter Dash 2.0.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
Military veterans and adaptive athletes prepare for the start of the 2016 Warrior Games. Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn is in the grey shirt in the foreground. (Photo: WATM)

Author’s Note: The events are broken down by each athlete’s functional ability. The 2.0 and 3.0 notations in the event titles refer to Howie and his competitors’ functional ratings.

Outside of the Warrior Games, Howe competes on the Parathriathlon Team for the U.S.

As an alumni of the Golden Knights and an adaptive athlete, Howie was the obvious choice for narrator during the Golden Knight demonstration in the opening ceremonies.

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy
A US Army Golden Knight parachutes into the 2016 Warrior Games. (Photo: WATM)

As part of his duties in the opening ceremony, Howie presented a special award to Gen. Frederick M. Franks. Franks was pioneer in the wounded warrior community, fighting his way back into combat units after losing his left leg below the knee.

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