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MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

When Private First Class Ethan T. Ford first thought about joining the military, he immediately had his hopes set on being a combat photographer.

“Joining the military has given me a lot of options and I’ve done a lot of things I would have never had the option to do before. I wouldn’t have traveled to Korea, cover historical events, or be in a movie,” Ford said.

As a 25V Combat documentation/production specialist, Ford is his unit’s official videographer, tasked with shooting and editing footage and capturing every moment of garrison operations.


Like all soldiers, Army photographers get trained on basic combat skills and learn how to operate weapons, expertly engage in hand-to-hand combat and administer basic first-aid.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan Ford practices photography techniques while on assignment in Seoul, South Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

But being an Army photographer requires dedication and resilience. When the rest of the unit goes home or finishes the mission, the Army photographers get to work to upload their photos and videos and create products for the historical record.

When his friends in Oregon ask him what it’s like to be in the Army, he says he gives them the honest truth.

“Being in the Army is not hard, at times it can be mentally draining, but anyone who is physically capable can do it.”

This is not a typical assignment, according to his supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Pedro Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yongsan Visual Information Support Center.

His team is made up of creative types who strive on challenges.

Army photographers have to be able to quickly react to any situation in any environment. You have to make sure you’re ready and that your equipment is in good shape and your batteries are charged.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Dancers perform traditional acts during a community relations event at US Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Between assignments, the soldiers are back in the office learning new skills, teaching each other new tips and critiquing each other.

Other parts of the job include handshake photos and designing PowerPoint slides, which isn’t the most inspiring for the truly passionate photographers like Ford, but meeting expectations is important.

One of the advantages to enlisting as a combat photographer, according to Santos, is that the experience and education you gain is unmatched.

“When it comes to someone who is passionate about something and they want to pursue that in the military as well I sometimes you get lucky and you get someone like Ford who is passionate about it,” Santos said.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford reflects on his various assignments while stationed in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

Santos encourages his team to speak to the customer, usually a senior leader like a first sergeant or commander and find out what their goals are, what type of video or photography they would like and then you have to be creative and find out what kind of angles you are going to take the shot from and how you are going to prepare for it.

Some assignments can take up to one month of preparation and rehearsal.

“One thing you can’t really reach combat photographers is post editing, from my experience, you can take an amazing photo and be done with it, but when someone takes the time to perfect their work, it is impressive and it shows,” Santos said.

“You are in a great area, one of the biggest cities in the world. There is inspiration everywhere.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford captures a nature scene near his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

On weekends, Ford goes out on his own on the weekend and practices different techniques and works on improving his craft. His favorite style of photography is capturing candid moments and doing street photography.

One of the highlights of his tour in South Korea was a special assignment in October 2018 when Ford witnessed history in the making and was the only photographer allowed in a meeting between North Koreans and South Koreans in the blue building at the Joint Security Area. The event was one of the first steps in a negotiation that is expected to result in officially ending the war between the two countries.

Outside of photography, Ford is a movie buff. He loves war movies and his favorite movies include Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Hacksaw Ridge to name a few.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A river photographed near McMinnville, Oregon, the hometown of Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Early 2019, Ford got to skip his normal routine of morning physical training, chow and VISC photography duties and was granted a two-day pass to play a movie extra in a Korean War film set in 1950 with actors Megan Fox and George Eads.

“Playing a movie extra was a lot like being in the military,” Ford said, “It was a hurry up and wait situation. It took several hours to drive there and several more to get dressed.”

One of the best parts of the experience was getting one-on-one acting advice and mentorship from actor George Eads, who plays MacGyver on TV.

Although the Department of Defense does not keep track of the numbers of service members who appear in television and film projects, there are many opportunities to play extras in movies because It is it is incredibly difficult for civilian actors to realistically portray the discipline of the U.S. warfighter without having served, according to Brian Chung, a military advisor to big Korean production studios in Seoul and in Los Angeles.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Private First Class Ethan T. Ford cast as an officer in a movie shot in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

In fact, 90 percent of DOD-supported projects, including documentaries and reality television programs are unscripted, according to Master Sgt. Adora Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Film and TV Entertainment Liaison in Los Angeles.

“All service members have been trained since basic training to stand, walk and talk a certain way on duty,” Chung said.

Chung is a former U.S. Army Captain and was previously stationed in Yongsan as a military police company commander.

He understands how challenging it can be for soldiers stationed in Korea to be working long hours while displaced into a new culture, which is why he reached out to leaders at United States Forces Korea to get approval for the soldiers to be part of the movie.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

“It was personally satisfying as a U.S. Army veteran of Korean decent, to honor the warriors of the Korean War with authentic portrayals that could only have been achieved by their successors serving on the same peninsula that they sacrificed so much to protect. Seeing the look of excitement on the young troops’ faces as they hustled around set from wardrobe, to the make up chair, to an authentic 1950’s set was an amazing icing on the cake,” Chung said.

The movie will be released around the same time that his tour ends in June 2019, when he will report to duty at his new assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland.

“I’m going to miss going out and eating in Itaewon, especially the fried chicken and ramen,” Ford said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You won’t find anything like it in the U.S.”

After his time in the Army, Ford plans on taking more advanced courses and going back to Oregon and becoming a professional photographer.

“The Army is what you make of it. You can make it be miserable or make it be the best time of your life,” Ford said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tehran says missing former FBI agent left Iran ‘long ago’

Tehran says that Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, left the country “long ago” and doesn’t know where he is, rejecting a claim by his family saying he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said in a statement on March 26.


He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

“Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody. Those facts have not changed,” added Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission at the United Nations.

The Iranian comments come in response to a White House statement saying that the U.S. administration believed Bob Levinson may have passed away “some time ago.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

“Iran must provide a complete accounting of what occurred with Bob Levinson before the United States can fully accept what happened in this case,” White House national-security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement about the American, who disappeared in Iran 13 years ago, when he was 58.

Before that statement, Levinson’s family posted on social media that it had received word about his likely fate from the U.S. government.

“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” the Levinson family said in a statement.

“We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

Following the family’s announcement and before O’Brien’s comments, President Donald Trump told reporters that “I won’t accept that he’s dead.”

Levinson had been “sick for a long time” before he was detained, Trump said, adding that he felt “terribly” for the family but still had some hope that Levinson was alive.

“It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he” dead. They haven’t told us that he’s dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that’s the case,” he said.

Levinson disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort of Kish Island in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

The Levinson family said he would be alive today “if not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime.”

“How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands,” the statement added.

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

These are the 13 funniest military memes that supply didn’t keep for themselves. Check them out below:


1. Seriously sir, just a peek (via Funker 530).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

2. Lightweight, plenty of space, climate control.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
What’s the problem, Army? Marines would literally kill for this.

SEE ALSO: That time a Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

3. Operators gotta operate (via Sh-t my LPO says).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Not sure where that camouflage mix works. Maybe an underwater sandbar?

4. You could put them in your pockets (via The Salty Soldier).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Well, if it weren’t for first sergeant.

5. Invisible tanks cause more crashes than texting while driving (via Sh-t my LPO says).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

6. Better hope you’re not doing partner assisted exercises (via The Salty Soldier).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Good news is: that guy usually falls out of runs pretty quickly.

7. Air Force basic training is serious.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Don’t make it before lights out, don’t get a stuffed bear.

8. The Marines like stuffed bears* as well.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
*Bears stuffed with cougars stuffed with wolves stuffed with coyotes stuffed with badgers.

9. This is a Navy corpsman acting like there are tests:

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
We all know the socks/Motrin dilemma is decided by how much Motrin you happen to have.

10. Stand real still and listen very closely …

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
… or run as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter much.

11. The process is slow, but will get you every time (via Enlisted Problems).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Got ’em!

12. Coast Guard: Part military branch, part law enforcement agency …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
… part leisure activity.

13. Remember to dive at the end of the run (via Awesome Sh-t My Drill Sergeant Says).

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Otherwise, this still ends badly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.

Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump.

(VietnamSoldier.com)

Sh*t burning

Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.

No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Counting bodies

Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.

What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Body bag duty

When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.

That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Amazing but fictional.

The new clueless LT.

Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.

But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.

Military Life

5 reasons why the deployment guitarist is so phenomenal

There’s always at least one person in every deployed unit who brings their guitar with them. Sometimes it’s because they want to learn how to play and decide their down time as the perfect opportunity to practice. Sometimes they just can’t part with their baby for 12 months.


Either way, you’ll find them hanging around the smoke shack playing for the masses. If they’re at the point where they’re willing to play for their squad in between missions, they’re probably pretty good at it. Here’s why:

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

If you start playing, others will stop what they’re doing — giving you even more free time. Just saying.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They’ve got plenty of time to practice.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually is down time on a deployment. Which unit you’re serving in will determine how much time that is, but everyone can at least have a moment to breathe.

If the guitarist brought an acoustic guitar, they can play it whenever and wherever they feel like it.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

But thankfully they’ll stop caring before the guitar solo comes up.

(Photo by Pfc. Nathan Goodall

They learn to take requests.

There’s a handful of songs everyone who first picks up a guitar has to learn how to play. Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, Seven Nation Army, and eventually Stairway to Heaven. They’re kind of ‘rite of passage’ songs.

But not everyone on the deployment gets that and everyone will always request Free Bird.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

It’s always a great time when other musicians get together.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They play all genres.

When you first pick up a guitar, you’ll play what you know and play what you like. But the deployment guitarist, after taking requests from everyone, learns to play all sorts of genres of music. Especially if they find other gifted musicians or singers in the unit.

Rock guys learn to play gospel. Country guys learn to play pop. And everything in between. As long as you’ve got someone to play with, you’ll learn their style too.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

And I’m just saying, from personal experience, it’s also very common in the aid station since the guitarist is often times a corpsman or medic.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

They’ll play to the battalion or just a handful of smokers.

An odd thing happens when command teams find artists in their unit. They’ll single them out and voluntell them to share their art with the unit. Normally, this never bothers them because they just love playing.

But more often than not, they’re usually in the smoke pit — just strumming away at whatever comes to mind.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

If they brought an electric guitar, oh yeah…they have passion.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)

They really do have the passion in their art.

A good guitar isn’t cheap. A beginner’s guitar can run you around 0 but the ones our semi-pros play on are up in the 0-00 range.

If they’re willing to risk losing that money by having their guitar get damaged though out a deployment, play in front of their brothers-in-arms, risk ridicule if they suck, and still get out there and perform — they’ve got as much passion as any recording artist out there.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Midway’ looks like it’s everything ‘Pearl Harbor’ was supposed to be

Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.

The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.

For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.

The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.

The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.

Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.

Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 22

America has a new tax code, no one at the UN cares what Nikki Haley thinks about Jerusalem, and this week, the President presented his plan to keep us all safe.


Those are just a few of the more political stories we didn’t cover because we don’t really do politics.

I present you the gift of memes. These memes. Merry Christmakkah.

1. When the father of our country wants to stab people, you let him.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Father knows best.

2. It only took 3 uniform changes over 10 years, but…

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
And Navy still comes in with ridiculous blue uniforms. They never learn.

3. Turns out ‘Groundhog Day’ was the story of one man’s enlistment. (via Marine Corps Memes)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Also read: 6 crazy things actually found in amnesty boxes

4. Does it count if a recording answers the phone?

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Or any millennial.

5. Who calculated this?

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
And where are they stationed?

6. “And you better dress for it.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Also, any pills you take will end your career.

Now read: This is why the U.S.military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

7. Oh look, the Empire has a National Guard.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

8. But… Pew. Pew?

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
The learning curve in Vietnam was a b*tch.

8. “Honk if parts fall off.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
There’s no in-between.

9. Now show me Petty Officer 1st Class Keef before his promotion. (via Pop Smoke)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
I don’t want to be in that safety briefing.

Classic: That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

10. “This song’s about me!”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

11. That’s the Christmas spirit. (via Decelerate Your Life)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Be not led into temptation.

12. Somebody call the medic, we have a sick burn. (via the Salty Soldier)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
When a recruiter is on an all-salt diet.

13. This is only the half-truth. (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
We wouldn’t eat that garbage cut. Filet or nothing.

Now Check Out: 9 reasons you should have joined the Army instead

MIGHTY HISTORY

Listen to a sailor tearfully recall losing a shipmate in the deadly terror attack on his ship USS Cole

The US Navy released a powerful video Monday of retired sailors and a Gold Star mother recounting the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole twenty years ago today.

In one heartbreaking scene, retired Master Chief Paul Abney breaks into tears as he remembers the loss of fellow sailor Operation Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Saunders. Abney said he stood watch with Saunders every day.


“Both of his legs were busted up so bad,” he recalled. “They were out of shape, they were all twisted on the Stokes stretcher they were carrying him on.”

Tears fill his eyes as he continues. “Still the same cheery personality, he gives me two thumbs up and says, ‘They’re taking care of me, master chief,’ as they were carrying him off on a Stoke stretcher.”

“He was the only shipmate who made it off and to the hospital that passed away over there,” he said. “Every other one that we got off the ship and triaged to get off soon enough they made it. The rest of them died before we ever got them off the ship.”

USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives while in port in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The explosion tore a hole in the ship so large the crew spent several days containing the flooding that endangered the ship. “We almost lost her,” retired Command Master Chief James Parlier said in the video.

“The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair,” Abney said. “Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing that I can really recall from the blast was this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was kind of hard to breathe. Everybody was choking from the smoke.”

Seventeen sailors were killed, and another 39 others were injured in the attack.

Among the deceased was James McDaniels. His mother, Dianne McDaniels, learned about the attack on the news. That evening, she was informed that her son was gone. “I’m glad he did what he did as far as serving because that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.

“These were young men and women that you knew personally. We had a crew of 275,” Parlier said. “Respectfully, to put them in a body bag is the worst thing I can ever think of.”

The attack was attributed to al Qaeda, which carried out attacks in the US a little over a year later on September 11, 2001.

It took a little over a year to repair USS Cole and return her to sea. Parlier said that when the ship was finally fixed and sailing again, he felt pride “because we told them son of a b——s that we were not defeated and that we were coming back.”

Remembering the Terrorist Attack on USS Cole (DDG 67), Oct. 12, 2000

www.youtube.com

In January of last year, the US military killed Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al Qaeda operative believed to have helped orchestrate the bombing of USS Cole, in an airstrike in Yemen.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s billion-dollar robot program

The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.

The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.


Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”

“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.

In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.

The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
The RIPSAW-MS1 demonstrates its off-road capabilities during a lanes exercise at the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo. The RIPSAW is equipped with six claymore mines, can carry 5,000 pounds and tow multiple military vehicles. The RIPSAW is designed to be an unmanned convoy security vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo)

But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.

‘These can be weapons of terror…’

Along these lines, over two dozen countries have called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, but the US is not among them.

In August 2017, Tesla’s Elon Musk and over 100 experts sent a letter to the United Nations urging it to move toward banning lethal autonomous weapons.

“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.

Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.

America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.

Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.

The killer robots debate

Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.

“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.

As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
While being dragged, 225th Engineer Brigade Soldier Sgt. Kasandra Deutsch of Pineville, La., demonstrates the power of the Talon robot.
(U.S. Army photo)

“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”

Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.

In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.

In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.

Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.

“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.

Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens when you hit an RV with a Civil War mortar

After reading the headline of this article, you might be thinking, “why?” We think it’s better to start with, “what?”

In this case, “what” is a replica of the “Roaring Meg,” a mortar used in the English Civil War in 1646 to absolutely devastate the final holdout of Royalists who resisted the Parliamentarians.


See, in mid-17th century England, there was a very spirited debate about just how much of a monarchy England should be. To make a very long story short, King Charles I and the Parliament at Westminster were prosecuting a war against Scottish forces and then Irish rebels from 1639-1641. In 1642, differences of strategy led to the King’s parliament starting a civil war against him.

Yeah, the whole thing was really messy.

The war didn’t go well for the King, and he lost entire sections of his country in 1642 and 1644. By 1646, he had only one good castle left, Goodrich Castle at Herefordshire, but it was defended by a very loyal knight. In June 1646, Parliamentarians demanded that the Royalists surrender, but were politely rebuffed.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Except for some missing lead, this is basically what Goodrich Castle looked like after ole’ Meg was done with it. Note that the castle builders hadn’t designed the walls and towers to have those gaping holes in them.

(David Merrett, CC BY 2.0)

So, a siege ensued. For six weeks, the Parliamentarians attacked with artillery and managed to destroy the castle cisterns and a number of other structures, but the defenses held. So, the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel John Birch, commissioned a massive mortar from the local blacksmith.

“Roaring Meg” could fire an approximately 200-pound ball loaded with about 4 pounds of gunpowder that would explode in the courtyard, devastating nearby buildings with the blast wave and shrapnel. Meg destroyed buildings and walls and, combined with the mining operations happening at the same time, forced the defenders to surrender.

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Now, Meg is a historical display, but a group of men got together to see what, exactly, a replica Meg could do. Because of modern ideas of “safety,” and “survival,” and “not being horribly maimed for the purposes of entertainment,” the men decided to fire the mortar at a caravan without any explosives loaded inside the ball. Then, after getting their hit, they would place explosives with similar power into the caravan and blow it up that way.

The video is pretty sweet (even if it took them a lot of shots to actually hit the caravan, which is normal with an old-school mortar). Check it out above.

Articles

The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”

“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.

“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”

Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.

The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.

Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.

But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.

“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”

Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.

“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”

Articles

This filmmaker is the first Post-9/11 vet to be nominated for an Oscar

Henry Hughes deployed twice to Afghanistan as an airborne infantry officer and is now hoping his debut short film, “Day One” will bring home an Oscar on February 28.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Day One, which follows a female Afghan-American interpreter named Feda on her first day of patrols in Afghanistan, is Hughes’ first movie.

“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” Hughes told WATM about being nominated for an Oscar for his first film. “It’s a wonderful, serendipitous, golden ticket-type thing.”

In the film, the interpreter and the infantry platoon she works with go to the home of a suspected insurgent. At the house, the mission quickly gets complicated as the insurgent’s pregnant wife goes into labor. The interpreter, the platoon leader, and the insurgent all have to navigate the needs of the mother, the child, and the social and religious customs of Afghanistan.

It’s complicated stuff and very intense.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Henry Hughes and his interpreter purchase items from a stall in Afghanistan during a deployment. (Photo courtesy Henry Hughes)

The story is inspired by real events, and most of the details come from Hughes’ experiences in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He decided to focus on the interpreter instead of the platoon leader so the movie would feel fresh to audiences used to seeing things from a soldier’s point of view.

“On my second tour I had a female interpreter,” he said. “She is an American, an Afghan-American. And I kind of just realized that if I was going to tell a story about our community, about our experiences, we needed a new way to get into it.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Following this woman who was new to the war gave him a chance to show the dual nature of combat.

“I thought, maybe we hadn’t seen something that was as enlightening as some of the moments in combat felt to me,” Hughes said. “Very sublime, hyperbolic. Where things are beatiful and kind of harsh at the same time. And I thought a way to do that would be to go through this woman who has to deal with both these gender issues and the culture issues.”

Learn more about the movie at its website and check out the trailer below. “Day One” will be available as a streaming movie for rental or purchase March 15th on Vimeo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV3IgCTIDYkfeature=youtu.be

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American jet killed the top Air Force ace of all time

When it comes to American fighter aces, Chuck Yeager is arguably the most famous for breaking the sound barrier. Other famous World War II-era aces include Jimmy Thach (of “Thach Weave” fame), Gregory “Pappy” Boyington (known for commanding the “Black Sheep Squadron” and later making a game show appearance), and Robin Olds. America’s top ace, however, is less famous today than these other flyers — and America’s first combat-ready jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star, is arguably to blame.

Major Richard Ira Bong racked up 40 kills during World War II flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. That plane became an icon of the war, famous for being the mount of Captain Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. as he took down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Unfortunately, Bong never got the chance to serve for decades, like Yeager and Olds, nor did he get a chance to cash in, like Boyington. On August 6, 1945, he was killed while testing the P-80A.


At the time, the United States had fallen behind a bit on operational jet fighters. The Germans had deployed the Me-262 operationally and it had been used against the Allies. The British countered with the Gloster Meteor. It would take a full year before the P-80 was ready to join the fight.

But it would be very unfair to the P-80/F-80 (the ‘P’ for pursuit was replaced by ‘F’ for fighter in 1948) to talk about it just as the plane that killed a top ace. It was, in reality, so much more.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

In 1945, Richard Bong died while test-flying a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. This new shared the front page with the use of the atomic bomb.

(Mikejfm)

The P-80 was affected by the large-scale cancellation of contracts that occurred at the end of World War II. As a result, only two pre-production models ever made it to the front. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, an initial buy of 1,000 was followed up by a second contract requesting 2,500 more planes. After Japan threw in the towel, however, the second contract got the chop.

The U.S. continued to produce Shooting Stars after the war, but at a slow boil. By the time the Korean War broke out, F-80Cs were ready for their combat debut.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Napalm delivery for Commies! The F-80C’s service in the Korean War was primarily as a fighter-bomber.

(USAF)

During the early stages of the Korean War, the F-80 held the line, scoring 37 kills (including six MiG-15s) while only suffering 14 air-to-air losses. It primarily served as a fighter-bomber during the conflict, especially while the F-86 Sabre dominated the skies.

After the Korean War, many of the F-80Cs that survived were handed down to air forces in Latin America and served into the 1970s.

To learn more about America’s first jet-powered fighter, check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ykqiCUBfXQ

www.youtube.com