Well, the Army’s secret is out – specifically its secret operation in the U.S. capital that has Blackhawk helicopters flying American troops around the Washington, D.C. area. The accidental leaker is, surprisingly, the United States Army and its bureaucracy. What the purpose of the mission is isn’t readily apparent, but the method of moving from one location to another sure is a great way to beat the beltway traffic.
It seems the once-classified operation made its way into the light after the Army requested the movement of some id=”listicle-2639564128″.55 million from Congress to move aircraft, maintainers, and aircrews in support of what the Army called an “emerging mission” in Washington, D.C. The project is a part of the Army’s greater effort to reappropriate funds to other, more important programs than the ones currently funded in its budget for the fiscal year 2019.
The Army told Bloomberg Defense that the duration of the mission is “undetermined,” but declined to discuss where the focus of the mission would be, be it either a potential political target, like the White House, or protecting a populated civilian area.
The request says the Army would not be able to meet its training requirements in the National Capital Region without the transfer of funds to this “new” training mission, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year. On top of the movement of personnel and equipment, the funding request includes money for a sensitive compartmented information facility, funding for 10 UH-60s and enough money to support those aircraft for four months. The mission is set to be based from Davison Army Airfield, Va.
The “Army Secret Op in D.C. Area saga” was first broken by Bloomberg reporter Anthony Capaccio.
A total of four clergymen-turned-soldiers rose to the rank of general during the American Civil War. Three of these four holy men would fight for the Confederacy. The “gallant preacher soldier” of the Confederate Army of Tennessee proved to be the ablest military commander of the bunch, and arguably lived the most remarkable life.
Mark Perrin Lowrey was born in 1828 and grew up in Tennessee, one of 11 children. His father passed away at an early age, leaving the Lowrey family “with little means.” The widowed Mrs. Lowrey relocated the family to Mississippi in 1845. Mark embarked on an endless hunt to pull his family out of poverty beginning in his adolescent years, dirtying his hands to make a dime at the expense of his education.
At the age of 19, Mark Lowrey joined the Second Mississippi Volunteer Regiment as a private with thoughts of finding laurels on the battlefield in Mexico. His service in the Mexican-American War was far from glorious and rewarding. He contracted a nasty case of measles and was bedridden for weeks. His regiment never had a chance to see active service before the war ended. At a minimum, he at least gained a “taste of military discipline and tactics” that would serve him well a decade or so later.
After the war, Lowrey found work as a brick mason. He provided room and board to a local teacher in his home, who in exchange helped to advance his meager education. He impressed and later married the daughter of a wealthy farmer in 1849 at the age of 21. Most likely under the influence of his new bride, Lowrey “yielded to the call of my church,” abandoning his dogged pursuit of wealth. He took his religious vocation a step further when he entered the Baptist ministry in 1853 and “never indulged a moment’s thought of turning from the old calling to make money.”
Pastor Lowrey was “quietly pursuing” his theological studies when the Civil War erupted in 1861. He attempted to remain neutral in the war that tore friends and families apart and fueled many to rash behavior stating, “In political questions I took no part, as I did not think it became a minister of the gospel to engage in the heated discussions that then prevailed throughout the country, and naturally led to the indulgence of immoderate feelings and passions.” The influential pastor found it nearly impossible to avoid the topic of secession since “there was no neutral ground to occupy” in his home state of Mississippi. Many parishioners of his community petitioned him to make speeches related to fighting for the independence of their state, while at the same time serving in his customary role as a spiritual guide and instructor.
Despite his neutral position on secession and his vow to non-violence, Pastor Lowrey was urged to accept a field command in the Confederate Army, owing to his Mexican War experience and social position within his community. “All felt that every man who could bear arms should rise up and stand between his home and the enemy, and he who would not do so was deemed unworthy to be called a Mississippian. Churches felt they had no use for pastors then – fighting men were in demand,” Lowrey afterward evoked. He was elected captain then colonel by a vote from a sixty-day regiment in 1861. He reluctantly hung up his clergyman’s jacket and donned the uniform of a Confederate officer. The thought of his home state being overrun by an invading army was the final shove that led him to modify his stance of neutrality explaining that, “The thought of sitting still until the enemy would overrun my home and family was more than I could bear.”
His regiment was discharged after sixty days without seeing any fighting, and Lowrey anticipated a peaceful return to his congregation. The clamor for his service was initiated for a second time when the call for a new regiment surfaced following the Battle of Fort Donelson, and those he commanded from disbanded sixty-day regiment “begged me to go with them.” He was elected colonel of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment and led the regiment at the Battle of Perryville on October of 1862. He was wounded in the left arm but refused to leave the field. He fully recuperated eight weeks later and rejoined his regiment, fighting at the Battle of Murfreesboro. He received a promotion to brigadier general in October of 1863 after hard fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga, winning the commendation of his division commander, the fabled Patrick Cleburne.
The “Christian warrior” still practiced his religious profession while in camp and encouraged the soldiers under his command to embrace Jesus as their savior. He led passionate sermons and was rumored in one instance to have baptized 50 men in two weeks in a nearby creek. He was a superb orator and natural leader of men, and also proved to be an efficient soldier who transformed into a “stern, determined, and unfaltering” commander on the battlefield. He was one of the four brigade commanders Major General Pat Cleburne praised in his division declaring that “four better officers are not in the service of the Confederacy,” and had the notoriety of being the only general of the division who was not killed or severely wounded during the war. St. Michael was certainly looking over him.
The high-water mark of Lowrey’s military career came at Ringgold Gap in 1863. There his 1,330-man brigade and the remainder of Cleburne’s division fought a rearguard action against a Union corps in a bid to save Braxton Bragg’s fleeing army in the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. His brigade stabilized the Confederate right wing inspired by his bold exploits. General Cleburne noted in one dispatch after the battle that “My thanks are due to General Lowrey for the coolness and skill which he exhibited in forming his line…without a doubt saved the right of this army.” His brigade afterward received official thanks from the Confederate Congress.
Lowrey afterward fought in the Atlanta Campaign and at the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. He barely avoided death in Nashville from the bullet of a Union sharpshooter. The bullet killed an unassuming soldier instead of the preacher general. Disenchanted with the war, he resigned in March of 1865 and returned to his religious vocation, declaring that he would rather be remembered “as a Christian and a minister of the gospel than as a soldier.” He established the Blue Mountain Female College in 1873 and died in February of 1885 from a heart attack.
Lowrey was a rare case of a clergyman taking up a rifle to defend his flock, when necessary, against the wolves.
The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.
“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.
Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.
The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.
BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”
The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.
Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.
NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.
Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.
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The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.
US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.
Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’
The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.
Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.
“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”
Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.
Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.
Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.
Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.
“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”
Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.
The Trump administration has been seeking closer ties with India and trying to further isolate Iran, but the desire to do the former may be complicated by efforts to do the latter.
The US’s latest move to increase pressure on Iran has been to ask some of the country’s biggest oil customers to cut their purchases of Tehran’s crude — including India, one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.
“Sanctions are coming (on Iran), and we’re going forward on that, and with India and the US building strong relationships we hoped that they would lessen their dependence on Iran,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 27, 2018.
“Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran. He didn’t question it. He didn’t criticize it,” Haley said. “He understood it, and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the US is strong and important and needs to stay that way.”
(U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers)
The request comes after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the US, Iran, and five other major world powers in 2015.
Trump said the US would reimpose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended under that deal, and while India has said it adheres to UN sanctions rather than unilateral US sanctions, the oil ministry in New Delhi has reportedly asked refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports of Iranian oil starting in November 2018.
But Haley also said the US would not try to quash India’s deal with Iran to develop the port at Chabahar, Iran’s only oceanic port and a vital point of access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“We know the port has to happen and the US is going to work with India to do that,” Haley said. “We know that [India’s] being a great partner with us in Afghanistan and really trying to assist the US and trying to do more. The port’s vital in trying to do that.”
“We realize we’re threading a needle when we do that,” Haley said of the effort to balance between isolating Iran and developing Chabahar.
Chabahar is strategically important for India. The port allows Indian goods to reach Afghanistan without going through Pakistan. The port also gives Afghanistan more direct access to India, opening a path for trade that could help stabilize the war-torn country and diminish the appeal of the illicit drug trade. Both India and Afghanistan have had contentious relations with Pakistan, which currently allows overland trade between the two countries to cross its territory.
Rail and road routes would allow Indian goods to travel from Chabahar further north to Central Asian markets.
The port-development project was officially launched in 2016 but has faced numerous delays. Iran agreed to lease operational control to India for 18 months in February 2018, and India hopes to have the port fully operational by 2019, but there has been little major traffic there aside from wheat donated by India. The first shipments of dried fruit from Afghanistan to India are expected in July 2018.
In the weeks since Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, more uncertainty has piled up for the port and the countries hoping to do business there.
Haley said the impact of Iran-related sanctions on Indian companies would be discussed when the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers met in Washington. That meeting was scheduled for July 2018 but has been delayed, likely until later in the year.
US officials have said the US is unlikely to grant waivers for foreign companies doing business with Iran, complicating matters for Indian firms. And in the wake of Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal in May, contracts to build facilities at Chabahar were delayed as bankers sought more details from Washington.
Afghan workers and businesses hoping to do work at and through the port were also left hanging. Afghan government officials have asked for the port to exempt from looming anti-Iran sanctions.
“President Trump’s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters in late May 2018. “It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s no shortage of media featuring the good, bad, and ugly aspects of life at war or in the military. In fact, as we come out of the biopic zeitgeist and set our sights toward the digital era, the number of films, television shows, movies, and other forms of content featuring these elements is only growing. But not all depictions of combat are created equal.
It’s easier to make a film about war than it is to stay true to its source — so, which movies treat its combat with the most respect and realism? We asked some veterans, and here’s what they had to say.
While Christopher Nolan didn’t take home the 2018 Oscar for this particular war blockbuster, “Dunkirk” has gained universal acclaim as one of the best World War II films to date. It tells the story of trapped British and French forces attempting to evacuate a war-torn beach in May 1940, while German forces closed in. The clean-shaven soldiers may not be a testament to the details, but “Dunkirk” thrives on its atmosphere and closed cinema, which is used to communicate the overall gravity of the battle.
“‘Dunkirk’ succeeds in recreating the plight of tending to your fellow soldier while being under constant threat of bombardment,” said Tan Vega, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. With gritty visuals and stellar performances, the film uses tight angles and extreme close-ups to create and emanate panic, desperation, and fear to its audience. In moments of true cinema, we can examine the bonds forged between the troops, as well as the intense pressure they’re under to survive.
With Empire Magazine lauding the Omaha Beach landing as “the best battle sequence of all time,” this entry should come as no surprise. “Saving Private Ryan” uses its artistic license to enrich its characters and depict realistic events of war in a way that had never been done before. The movie focuses on the personal journey of a few soldiers venturing behind enemy lines to save fellow soldier Private James Ryan.
“The most realistic thing about ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is nothing is off the table,” said Gay Dimars, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “The water’s bloody, the soldiers are nauseous, and as an audience, we’re there with them.” However, Steven Spielberg did sacrifice historic authenticity in favor of dramatic effect — the film’s climax is strewn with inaccuracies, but with top-notch performances depicting the effect of war and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the film solidifies its place among the best war movies ever made.
Platoon 1986 Final battle scene with Charlie Sheen
“Platoon” is the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War. The script capitalizes on Oliver Stone’s experiences in various combat units to expertly depict the severity of combat as well as the rippling effects of war. As such, the toughest critiques of the movie come from Stone’s former platoonmates, some of whom say they felt too exposed after the film’s release. “Platoon” was shot on location in the Philippines and utilizes long lenses, careful lighting, and talented actors to craft the atmosphere of the Vietnam War and inform the audience of the confusion, psychological trauma, and deep-seated violence Vietnam veterans endured.
Black Hawk Down Battle Scenes 2001 NO FINAL BATTLE
The film “Black Hawk Down” has faced criticism for wavering from the highly accurate book upon which it was based. “The combat is realistic, but many details miss the mark,” said Sharm Ali, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “What it does really well is explain how a noble cause could go south really quickly.”
“Black Hawk Down” tells the story of the Battle of Mogadishu, during which U.S. service members were sent to kill or capture Somalia’s key warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, in a broader effort to stabilize a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. However, Somali forces shot down their helicopters and effectively trapped them on the streets of the foreign country, forcing them to fight their way out. The film is most impressive in its depiction of the harsh realities of urban combat that soldiers were forced to endure during the Somali conflict, and was notable in that it lifted the curtain on the types of operations the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) were conducting at the time.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was a game-changer in terms of naval battles. Not only did it mark the first time the Allies turned the Japanese back during World War II, it was the first time ships fought without sighting each other. That means the primary weapons weren’t guns, as they had been for centuries — they were planes.
At that point in World War II, the air groups on fleet carriers usually consisted of three types of planes: fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes. We’ll look at the aircraft that did most of the fighting.
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats from USS Yorktown (CV 5) prior to World War II.
The Grumman F4F Wildcat walked a long road in becoming one of the most successful naval fighters of all time. At first, the US Navy didn’t even want the plane, opting instead to field the Brewster F2A Buffalo. By the time the war started, however, the Wildcat won out. The F4F-3 that fought at the Coral Sea packed four .50-caliber machine guns. 20 F4F-3 s were on USS Yorktown (CV 5), and 22 were on USS Lexington (CV 2).
A Mitsubishi A6M Zero takes off from the Zuikaku.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero – “Zeke”
This was Japan’s best fighter in World War II. In China, it racked up a huge kill count and went on to dominate against British, Dutch, and even American fighters over the first six months of World War II. It packed a pair of 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannons. The Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 Zekes on board, and the light carrier Shoho added 12 more.
A Douglas SBD Dauntless assigned to VS-2 on USS Lexington in flight. “Lady Lex” had 36 of these planes at the Coral Sea.
Douglas SBD Dauntless
This plane became America’s most lethal ship-killer in World War II —and it did so using 1,000-pound bombs. The plane also packed two .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and a twin .30-caliber machine gun mount used by the radioman. That combination proved lethal to a number of Zekes. USS Yorktown had 38 on board, USS Lexington had 36.
An Aichi D3A Val during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had 41 of these planes on Shokaku and Zuikaku.
Aichi D3A – “Val”
Japan’s primary dive bomber was only capable of carrying a 550-pound bomb, which left it unable to land a killing blow. Even after suffering repeated strikes, a target could still float, lingering. Still, it was capable of doing damage. Shokaku had 20 Vals on board, Zuikaku had 21 at the start of the battle.
A Douglas TBD Devastator drops a Mk 13 aerial torpedo just prior to World War II. The two American carriers at the Coral Sea had 25 of these planes.
Douglas TBD Devastator
The Douglas TBD Devastator is best known as the plane that was decimated at Midway. It could carry a single Mk 13 torpedo, but also was able to be used as a level bomber. It had a single .30-caliber machine gun in the nose, and was built for a single .30-caliber machine gun to be used by a rear gunner, who doubled as the radioman. USS Lexington had 12 planes on board, USS Yorktown had 13.
A Nakajima B5N “Kate” on Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese carriers brought 51 of these planes to the Coral Sea.
(Imperial Japanese Navy)
Nakajima B5N – “Kate”
This was the plane that a Japanese carrier used as its ship killer. It carried a crew of three and could carry a torpedo or be used as a level bomber. Unlike the Devastator, the Kate’s mark in history can be listed in the ships it sank: USS Arizona (with a level bomb), USS Oklahoma (with torpedoes), and USS Lexington (torpedoes) were three of the most notable prior to the Battle of Midway. It had a single 7.7mm machine gun used by the radioman and some additional guns in the wings. Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 of these planes on board, and Shoho added nine more.
Bryan Thompson on the set. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)
Bryan Thompson’s path to the U.S. Army was a circuitous one. The Detroit native earned his bachelor’s degree in International Trade from Eastern Michigan University before getting hired by Stahls, a sportswear graphics company. He got the job because he was fluent in Spanish, a skill he attributes to the first military mentor in his life.
“Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jose Rodriguez, my Spanish teacher during my junior and senior year of high school, kind of forced me to learn the language,” Thompson said. “During his class, he would make us do pushups if we failed to do our homework, or whatever. A Mexican immigrant, he invited me to many family events, where he told everyone not to speak to me in English. He also invited me and the rest of my class to Spanish-language church services where he gave the public the same instruction.”
Stahls moved Thompson to Miami, striking distance from the places in Central and South America that he needed to travel. He loved Miami right from the start, and while he was there he fed his creative side by singing with a Top 40 band on the side. In time, the company wanted to move him back to the home office in Detroit, but he had no interest in leaving his new life so he quit and decided to make the band a full-time gig.
The band, “Jesse James and Crossover,” travelled extensively to pay the bills, including an extended stop in Singapore. But that work was seasonal, and he soon found himself back in Miami struggling to make ends meet. He took a job with Royal Flowers and moved to Quito, Ecuador.
Thompson was his usual busy self in Quito, working his day job while also starting another band on the side. He also got married to a local girl. Then, like all Americans worldwide, he was hit with the tragedy of 9/11.
He wanted to do something of consequence, so he went back to Miami with his new Ecuadorian wife and immediately joined the Army. In short order, he found himself through basic training and stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia as a watercraft operator attached to the 7th Sustainment Brigade.
After a year or so, Thompson decided to leverage his college degree and apply for OCS, and to his surprise, he was accepted on the first attempt. He was commissioned as a transportation officer and shipped off to Camp Liberty, Iraq for 15 months. While there, as well as dealing with the daily challenges the war presented, he also began working on a screenplay, an effort that would eventually inform the next chapter of his life.
But Thompson still had some active duty time ahead of him, and in typical fashion, he made a dramatic pivot, this time getting selected for the Army’s legal education program. He went to law school at William and Mary, and once he got his degree he was transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas to intern with the JAGs there.
All the while he kept his hand in filmmaking, networking with locals wherever he went, even when his workload was at its most demanding.
“The ideas just stayed in my head and just spilled onto the page and I couldn’t turn them off,” Thompson said. “Eventually, I found some experienced filmmakers who mentored me in the use of scriptwriting software and production techniques and before I knew it, I was writing and producing short films, hiring experienced directors to make my visions come to life. Once I had enough experience, I started directing as well.”
While in Texas, Thompson taught acting and dance at Latin American Talent, a local agency. One day a student gave him a 15-page script to read. The story about two immigrant children whose legal status is threatened by the murder of their parents moved him, and he started to film it with the working title of “The Dream.”
While filming he had a realization: “If I wanted people to invest in my films I had to finish making a film,” he said. So he kept working during whatever free time his Army life afforded him. Eventually “The Dream” was finished and premiered in El Paso to a packed house that included reps from the Spanish-language channel Univision who indicated they were interested in helping distribute the film to a wider audience.
As a JAG he was required to pass the bar exam in whatever state he wanted, so he tried in Florida (where he planned to return after his Army service was over) and failed and then tried in Missouri (supposedly the easiest one to pass) with the same result. But that disappointment was eclipsed by a bigger challenge: He developed severe pneumonia and while treating it, Army doctors found a benign tumor on his lung.
Thompson had surgery to remove the tumor, and while he was recovering he got word that he was most likely going to be declared as “not physically qualified” for active duty and medically discharged. Again, he refused to let disappointment crush his spirit, and, lying in a hospital bed, he decided to start an online film festival.
He’d had some experience with film festivals at that point. His web series “The Cell” won Best Directing and Best Visual Effects at the LA Web Series Festival in 2013, and his film “Noventa” won Best Short at the Miami Independent Film Festival in 2015 and also won Audience Choice at the Film Miami Fest that same year.
So once he got out of the Army he created the Miami Web Fest, a 4-day festival showcasing the best digital content in the form of web series.
“Since web series are increasingly popular among the 18-34 demographic, they have quickly become the preferred form of exposure for independent filmmakers looking to use the internet to make a name for themselves,” Thompson said. “Miami Web Fest takes that to a new level, by offering those same filmmakers a chance to experience the traditional film festival experience, including theater screenings, panel discussions, an elegant Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, and exclusive Miami-style parties in an environment that is unique and art-savvy.”
And while he was happy that he had started his own business, he’d always wanted to stay connected to the military community in some way, so this year he’s adding a “Vet Fest” to the Miami Web Fest.
“Filmmaking is all about showing the audience a new and interesting perspective on life,” Thompson said. “I believe that military and veteran filmmakers have seen the world through a lens that most never will, so the stories tend to be amazing and profound. So, after Miami Web Fest solidified its place in the global market, I decided to do something that would specifically highlight the work of military and veteran filmmakers as well as military-themed productions.”
Miami Vet Fest will include all types of films and web series and takes place on September 24 in Miami, Florida. Veteran filmmakers who want to submit their work for consideration should visit the Vet Fest website.
“The Miami Web Fest has proved to be an effective showcase, and I hope to do the same for veteran filmmakers this year,” Thompson said. “Winners have leveraged their success into deals with Netflix and major production companies.”
Miami Vet Fest winners will also be showcased at We Are The Mighty and its associated social media sites.
For more about Bryan Thompson’s film projects visit his website.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.
MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.
Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the “euphoria-inducing traits” and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.
His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.
Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA’s approval of the new study, Marmar is “cautious but hopeful,” according to The New York Times.
“If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use,” Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a “feel good drug” and prone to abuse.
According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.
It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.
Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.
It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.
The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.
Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)
Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.
There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.
Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.
The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.
The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.
If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.
(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)
Operation Northern Delay
In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.
This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.
Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!
Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan
Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.
RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.
This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.
We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.
Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.
Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.
The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.
Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.
“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.
In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.
Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.
“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”
Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”
“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.
In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.
Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.
AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.
At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.
The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.
The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.
Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.
“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.
Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.
“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”
Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.
Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)
The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.
The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.
In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.
The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.
If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.
In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.
While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.
Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.
“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.
She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.
The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.
“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”
Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.
Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.
Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.
Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.
Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.
“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”
The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.
The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.
“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”