Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

Who doesn’t love to watch the latest James Bond movie and fantasize what it must be like to use high-tech gadgets, sneak into secret bases and be the ultimate agent with a “license to kill?” A recent Netflix binge-watching “Churchill’s Secret Agents” a reenactment of British Special Operations Executive (SOE) training from World War II showed us that this secret network was way cooler than we ever thought.


Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

Founded in July 1940 when England faced the very real possibility of invasion by Nazi Germany, Henry Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare and brainchild of the new force, envisioned highly-skilled spooks able to hide among local populations and inflict damage from behind enemy lines. Specializing in unconventional warfare which until then was not a common tactic of modern armies, SOE was tasked with sabotage, espionage and reconnaissance missions to disrupt the influence and spread of Nazi Germany and her allies. Long before the foundation of Special Forces, these daring men and women helped turn the tide of the war at a time when victory was far from certain.

The success of a secret agent relied heavily on your ability to appear completely harmless. Small but mighty was not, but totally should have been, the official body type slogan. In the series, not only were pocket-sized people accepted but preferred to their beefcake counterparts.

Taking into consideration the scenarios of an SOE agent, trying to bluff your way past Nazi guards as a woman in a floral dress seems far easier than that of an able-bodied man of fighting age. Few armies outside of the Soviets put women on the front lines and so the average German Soldier would not have detected any threat.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

The show’s cast was composed of an eclectic mix who tackled operational tests quite differently, as would any drafted agent of the SOE. Grandmother Debbey Clitheroe was an unlikely front runner, but through the assessments overcame fears to become a favorite in the eyes of the instructors. Her best cover was the unlikelihood that she could ever be a threat.

Other top-ranking contestants hailed from ordinary fields like “math graduate” or “researcher” showing us that there was plenty more to espionage than close-hand combat and looking great in a tux.

Real agents relied on trustworthiness and a subtle way of doing things to build their networks. Accounts of spy networks during World War II are fascinating reads, including characters from all walks of life. There was, quite likely, a butcher, baker and candlestick maker somewhere in the mix, all pulling weight for the effort.

Double taps and shooting from the hip were highly unlikely to ever be taught at any gun course or any field manual in 1940. Unchivalrous but effective was what gave a single agent the advantage on a run-in with a pair or group of soldiers.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

SOE’s impact on the war effort was immense, especially leading up to and during the Allied Invasion of Normandy. The Allies had been planning to invade France as early as 1942 and British Agents, along with their American counterparts in the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), were airdropped into occupied France to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign. The first SOE agents made their way into France in 1941 and quickly linked up with the French Resistance. From blowing up strategic railway tracks reinforcing the Normandy region with German troops to cutting telephone lines key to Germany communication efforts, SOE and their French allies caused chaos in the lead up to “D-Day.” SOE’s handiwork behind enemy lines was critical in ensuring the Allied spearhead into France did not fail.

The ingeniousness of what was taught and invented for SOE operatives became material to inspire films like James Bond. Everything from exploding pens to rat bombs were unconventional tools for unconventional warfare.

Although SOE’s usefulness was questioned as the war came to a close and the organization would be disbanded, the battlefield contributions of the agents would have an enormous impact on England, and the West’s perspective in the post-war world.

The need for an unconventional force capable of operating behind enemy lines quickly became a necessity as the Cold War highlighted the frequency of smaller wars rather than massive, highly detailed battlefields seen during World War II.

The lineage of today’s Special Forces and their tactics and procedures can be traced back to the framework laid by the SOE agents operating in occupied Europe. The men and women of SOE made enormous sacrifices by going where few dared to go to rid the world of tyranny by any means necessary.

Raise your hand if you’ll be applying for the next season.

Articles

US Navy Blue Angels will fly over Disney World

You don’t see too many planes flying over Walt Disney World, but that will change on April 6 when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels make two flybys over the Magic Kingdom.


This isn’t the first time the performance squadron has graced the skies above Mickey’s place. The Blues did a flyby back in 2015, when six F/A-18 Hornets flew right over Main Street and performed a Delta Break in which they split into six different directions. The two planned flybys on April 6 will happen between 9:30 a.m.-10 a.m., according to the Disney Parks blog.

The Blue Angels are set to perform at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida. They practice at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on April 6 and April 7 and have performances on April 8 and April 9.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
Smoke on! (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While they are based in Pensacola, the Blue Angels are making their first Florida appearance of the year. Their Air Force counterparts, the Thunderbirds, have already made two of their three planned air show appearances for 2017 ,having just performed at the Melbourne Air Space Show the weekend of April 1.

A highlight of that was the transportation of 87-year-old Buzz Aldrin, who can now say he’s walked on the moon and flown in a Thunderbird. They earlier performed at the TICO Warbird Airshow in Titusville, Florida, and had their own flyby of an American icon, when they took to the skies over Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Daytona 500.

The Thunderbirds finish their Florida schedule for 2017 with a stop up in the Panhandle for the Gulf Coast Salute at Tyndall Air Force Base on April 22-23.

The Blue Angels will make three more stops in the state stretching into November: the mid-summer Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 8, a two-day performance at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Nov. 4-5 and the Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Nov. 11-12. Air shows held at military bases are free.

The Sun ‘n Fun will also feature the French Air Force’s Patrouille de France Jet Demonstration Team, which this year is making its first U.S. appearances in 30 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These historical sidearms of the US military perfectly show its evolution

A good sidearm is the ultimate plan B. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you do have to — it better work. They’re kind of the last line of defense for American freedom and they’ve come a long way in 240-plus years.

The sidearm has gone from a smoothbore, muzzle-loaded, single shot to SIG Sauer’s new, modular, 59-round monster which is also customizable for every user. No matter what your opinion of them might be, if they’ve ever kept you in the fight for even a minute longer, then they did their job.

These are most important sidearms the U.S. military has adopted over the last couple hundred years.


Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

1. Harper’s Ferry Model 1805

This was the first pistol ever made by a U.S. national armory. It was a flintlock pistol that lasted well into the Mexican War – but not for any particular reason besides apathy. They were heavy and tended to misfire. The Military Police Corps insignia still bears crossed 1805s to this day.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

I think we missed our chance for the Chuck Norris-Clint Eastwood movie about the 1847 Walker…

2. Colt M1847 Walker

Welcome to the dawn of a new era. This was the first mass-produced revolver and, at an astonishing 15 inches long, it was able to make its way down south in time to win the Mexican War. The “Walker” in its name comes from the Texas Ranger who helped design the .44-caliber weapon (no, it was not Chuck Norris).

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

“Colt: Now explosion free.”

3. Colt M1848 Dragoon

The 1847 held a lot of black powder, so when they exploded (as they sometimes did), it turned people off to the idea of buying another Colt firearm, which was bad for business. The 1848 revolver didn’t require so much powder — for a .44-caliber pistol, anyway. This weapon lived on all the way through the Civil War.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

4. Colt M1860 Army

This is a more powerful, updated version of a similar model Colt made for the U.S. Navy. It was widespread in the American Civil War by anyone who carried a sidearm (and by many who weren’t supposed to).

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

5. Remington New Model

Colt’s weapons production factory burned down in 1864 and the Army was still in the middle of fighting the Civil War, so they had to turn somewhere. Meanwhile, Remington’s sidearms had became more accurate without sacrificing the stopping power needed to tame the American frontier.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

6. Colt M1873 Single Action Army

Remington had a good run, but when it comes time to win the west, you need an American classic. And what could be more classic than a name that’s still known over 100 years later? We’re talking, of course, about the Colt .45. It was the standard-issue sidearm until 1892 and “The Peacemaker” also became synonymous with cowboys. This sidearm was commonly seen well into the 20th Century.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

7. Colt M1892 Double Action Army-Navy

This was Colt’s first double-action sidearm with a swing-out cylinder made for the U.S. military. The caliber was reduced to a .38, which was fine in most cases, but it famously was unable to stop charging Filipino freedom fighters, even with multiple shots, even at close range.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

8. Colt M1911

The legend. This weapon is more than 100 years old and is still used by Army and Navy special operators. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Easily one of the most common firearms in the world to this day, this bad boy fought in almost every conflict from World War I to today.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

9. Beretta M9

The Beretta had a troubled history. From the ammunition pressure to slide failure injuries to a lack of confidence in the weapon’s performance and stopping power, the M9 was generally not accepted as one of the premiere firearms in American history. It had the lowest approval rating of any weapon used by troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The M1911 is a tough act to follow.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s first jet fighter was made by a company known for helicopters today

Today, Bell is a company known for its UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, but Bell was once much more than a helicopter company. The corporation built front-line fighters during World War II and was also responsible for making America’s first jet fighter.

The P-59 Airacomet was never much more than a flying testbed. It had an armament that consisted of three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a single 37mm cannon — the latter being a common feature in Bell’s primary propeller-driven fighters, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. The P-59 was also able to haul a fair load for air-to-ground ass-kicking, in the form of either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 60-pound rockets.

The P-59, however, would make its greatest impact without ever firing a shot at the enemy.


By the early 1940s, both the Germans and the British were pursuing jet technology, having flown experimental jets before. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, General Henry Arnold saw England’s E-28/39 jet in 1941 and asked if the Americans could use the then-groundbreaking technology. The British gladly handed it over, and General Electric was given the task of building the engine.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

While Bell is known for its helicopters today, during World War II, they built fighters.

(USAF)

Bell, which was located next to GE’s jet engine plant, then got the contract to build the jet fighter around the new engine. The process was kept very secret — a “black project.” The project was dubbed XP-59, a designation recycled from an older Bell design for a propeller-driven fighter that had a “pusher” arrangement. That design was modified to carry two J31 turbojet engines.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

In addition to the three .50-caliber machine guns and the 37mm cannon, the Airacomet carried eight 60-pound rockets or two 1,000-pound bombs.

(USAF)

The Airacomet never made it to the front lines. Despite being technologically advanced, it just didn’t have the performance needed to join the fight. The two jets were heavy and while it had a top speed of 413 miles per hour, its range was very short. On internal fuel alone, the P-59 only could go 240 miles. External tanks more than doubled its range (carrying it up to 520 miles), but a P-51 Mustang could go as far as 2,300 miles.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

The pilots who flew the P-59 didn’t see combat, but did learn lessons that paid off for pilots of more advanced jets down the road.

(USAF)

The P-59, despite never seeing combat, was very valuable for the United States. It taught pilots how to fly jets — and this experience that would pay off big time when more practical aircraft emerged for the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

Learn more about this jet-powered pioneer the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrXNGAIYE3I

www.youtube.com

Articles

This veteran A-10 pilot has three Super Bowl rings

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
Chad Hennings played for the Dallas Cowboys and was part of three Super Bowl winning teams. Before his NFL career, he flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II in 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq during two deployments in 1991 and early 1992. (Courtesy photo/Dallas Cowboys)


Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s, and his first appearance was within a year’s time of flying his A-10 Thunderbolt II in a combat sortie in northern Iraq.

Hennings, a 1988 Academy graduate, led the nation with 24 sacks and was awarded the Outland Trophy during the 1987 season — an award that recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman.

Committed to serve

Following graduation, Hennings — now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame — was drafted by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1988 draft. Before he could even suit up in the NFL, Hennings had to first fulfill his military commitment, a move that was initially hard to accept.

“I wouldn’t say there were regrets, (but) it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete,” Hennings said.

From a character perspective, he knew without a doubt what he needed to do because he made a commitment and he was going to stick to it. The drive to compete, however, made his transition from school to pilot training and then into his active-duty squadron a difficult one. That void would eventually be filled with friendly competition as an A-10 pilot.

“We did compete on the range; we competed for performance,” he said. “There (was) always competition and it was a healthy competition.”

After pilot school, Hennings was stationed in the U.K. and deployed twice to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 1991 and 1992. While deployed, he flew 45 combat sorties in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort, an international relief effort after the Gulf War.

After getting settled into the Air Force, Hennings said he contemplated making a career out of it.

“Football was a distant memory and something in the past that I never really thought about until the Air Force went through the reduction in force and they started the waivers in the spring of ’92,” he said.

Pro player

Hennings separated from active-duty Air Force in April 1992 and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. He continued to serve in the Reserve individual mobilization augmentee program for almost 10 years.

The next month, Hennings found himself in Dallas working out for the Cowboys.

“It was extremely stressful, initially transitioning in ’92, because I’m leaving one career for another,” he said. “I’m moving from one continent to another, taking on a whole new different position. There were a lot of just stress factors there, and it wasn’t assured that I would make the team.”

Hennings said it was tough coming into the league and competing at a level of competition that was much higher than he experienced before.

But all the downtime spent in the weight room and working out when he wasn’t flying during his deployments and TDYs paid off. He would go on to secure a spot on the team, and kick off what would eventually be a nine-year career with the Cowboys, playing in 119 games and recording 27.5 sacks.

In his first season, Hennings and the Cowboys would go on to beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 27.

“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “I essentially flew a combat mission and then played in the Super Bowl all within a year’s time.”

He compared that Super Bowl experience to his first combat mission. He said he knew he had a job to do, and being around a set of guys who were experienced made it easier to navigate and process all of his emotions.

During his next three seasons, Hennings would go onto win two more Super Bowls with the Cowboys.

“You got to a point in our culture of being a Dallas Cowboy, that that’s what was expected. We knew we were the best team out there,”

Hennings said. “I kind of compare that analogy to being a fighter pilot. It’s kind of that confident arrogance, where you know you’re good, you know your abilities; you walk out there, you don’t flaunt it, but you walk with an extreme amount of confidence.”

It wasn’t until the latter part of Hennings’ career that he fully appreciated winning three Super Bowls, he said.

Two decades after he appeared in his last Super Bowl, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30, Hennings has a sincere admiration for those moments in time and truly appreciates how special those teams really were.

“As a kid growing up, all your heroes, the role models that you looked up to on the gridiron — you know those guys — they were able to hold that trophy up,” Hennings said. “I was a Minnesota Vikings fan, so they went there four years and they never won one, and that’s where I realized too how difficult it is, not only to just get to the Super Bowl, but to win one — how truly special that is.”

Hennings said one of the best memories is from Super Bowl 30, where he recorded two sacks — a Super Bowl record that he shared with several other players before it was broken the next year.

Humble beginnings

Being a solid performer on the gridiron and in his jet, Hennings has always tried to strive for excellence.

Growing up in Elberon, Iowa, Hennings would sometimes put in 12-plus-hour days helping his father and grandfather on their farm, where they predominately raised corn and a feedlot operation for cattle. He’d help wherever needed, whether feeding the cattle, bailing hay, driving tractors, or performing maintenance.

“The work ethic came from watching my father, my grandfather, but a lot of it I can attribute it to my older brother, who really pushed me to workout with him,” he said.

Hennings’ older brother, Todd, was a couple years older and was the quarterback for their high school football team. Hennings said he was a tight end, and he recalled his brother dragging him off to run routes and lift weights.

“When I started to see the success of all the hard work that I put in, then it became more of a self-driving motivation than having somebody externally motivate me,” he said.

That motivation to be a better player and better person carried over when it was time to attend college. Hennings had several scholarships, but said he wanted a “holistic experience.” He yearned to be challenged academically and wanted to have the experiences a typical college graduate wouldn’t have.

Looking back, the leadership skills gained, the experience of flying jets, and the camaraderie within his fighter squadron are things that gave him skills he used on the gridiron and in his everyday life.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
Chad Hennings graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1988 and went on to fly 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq in an A-10 Thunderbolt II in support of Operation Provide Comfort. Hennings received a waiver in 1992 to be released from active duty as part of the Air Force’s Reduction in Force. He would go on to serve almost 10 more years in the Air Force Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee program. During his time as a reservist he also played for the Dallas Cowboys for nine seasons. He was part of three Super Bowl winning teams and played in 119 games, recording 27.5 sacks. (Courtesy photo)

“You know, it all worked out great,” Hennings said. “I had an experience flying that I would never trade. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same.”

Where he is now

Today, Hennings lives outside of Dallas, where he’s a partner in a commercial real estate company and does a lot of public speaking, which he said is his way of giving back.

“That’s my passion now in this last half of my life, is to be an evangelist, in essence, for that aspect of a need of character in our community and for us as individuals,” Hennings said.

An author of three books, he’s also married with two children, who are both in college.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Normalcy bias can make you lose a fight before it starts

Sometimes you just know something’s not right. You feel a twinge in the pit of your gut, a growing sense of uneasiness, and you start to notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Is that guy acting weird or am I just being paranoid? You ask yourself before dismissing the thought. Come on, nothing’s gonna happen in this neighborhood.


Despite the headlines saturating every media outlet in the country, the United States is (statistically speaking) an overwhelmingly safe place to live. Regardless of our ever-present concerns about violent crime, mass shootings, and terror attacks, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself faced with a violent end are far lower than you’ll find throughout much of the world… and as a result, Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to cultivating a high level of situational awareness.

Instead, Americans tend to develop what’s called a normalcy bias. Put simply, normalcy bias is our natural inclination to shrug away concerns about potential threats, because we’ve developed a deep-seated sense of what’s normal.
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I’m sure these guys are just waiting for an Uber.

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, US Army)

Our minds are evolutionarily hard-wired to assess and prioritize risks, and after decades of living in a world where you’ve never faced an active shooter or a terror attack, our brains tend to file those potential threats way in the back, after more pressing concerns like crashing our cars or falling down the stairs. The sheer unlikelihood that we could find ourselves in the middle of a fight for our lives just tends to make us ignore those fights until they’ve already landed right in our laps.

Normalcy bias manifests as a delay in our processing of what’s going on around us, as we hush away our gut instincts and dismiss our seemingly “unfounded” concerns as paranoia. In a nutshell, it’s our way of clinging to reality as we’ve come to know it through a lifetime of nervous twinges that we’ve ignored, followed by confirmations that we were safe. Those times you hesitated before dragging your trash can through the dark alley behind your house growing up helped you to overcome a fear of the dark, but also helped to establish a bias toward dismissing your concerns about what could be a threat.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

Instead of dismissing your nervousness about dark alleys, listen to your gut and be objective about any potential threats.

(Courtesy of Franck Michel on Flickr)

That intellectual buffer is the source of normalcy bias. We discount concerns that seem unlikely and scold ourselves for being afraid of the dark, but those gut feelings are often actually the sum of a series of parts assembled subconsciously by the incredible, pattern recognizing computers we call our brains. The evidence of a threat may not be irrefutable, but something has our hair standing on end. We dismiss it as a product of our overactive imaginations and eventually, this even stalls our ability to process real evidence of threats; as they break through the cognitive barriers between what our lives have been to this point and what they are about to become.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to overcome the mental inhibitors of normalcy bias: simply practice maintaining an objective mindset when it comes to threats. When you catch yourself dismissing concerns about a bulge in the waistband of the rowdy drunk at the bar or the chances something dangerous could be waiting for you at the other end of a dark alley, stop and put some real thought into your situation instead of allowing normalcy bias to silence the warning bells in your head.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

I snapped this photo of the closest rooftop to us with my phone as we got out of dodge.

While in Alexandria, Egypt with my wife a few years ago, we were given a tour of a large building near the city’s port. As our tour reached the roof, our tour guide left us to enjoy the views and see ourselves out at our leisure, but before we could really take in the sights, I noticed a two-man sniper team perching themselves on a nearby roof. A bit further down the closed road to the port, I saw another team moving into position as well, and then another.. Chances were good that these guys were members of law enforcement preparing security for an arrival, or port security conducting training. Honestly, we’ll never know–because the minute I spotted what could be a sign of impending trouble, I made the decision that we were leaving.

I never heard any news about something terrible happening at that port in Alexandria that day, but as an American traveling overseas with my adorable (but not all that good in a fight) wife, I try my best to avoid situations that involve armed overwatch from guys that aren’t wearing Old Glory on their shoulders.

Overcoming normalcy bias isn’t about living in a constant state of paranoia, but rather about listening to your gut and making a rational decision. Sometimes the things we perceive as threats are nothing more than bumps in the night… but when those bumps in the night are caused by real people that mean you harm, it pays to trust your gut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marine saves Okinawa resident from drowning

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan- Okinawa is well known for its beautiful beaches. The last thing anyone wants to visualize while admiring the ocean’s natural wonders is getting caught in the natural conditions of tides and overwhelming currents.

Staff Sgt. Billy C. Dixson, a recovery crew leader with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, was enjoying his time in Mermaid’s Grotto, a popular diving location, on Oct. 4, when he noticed a woman frantically signaling him for help. The woman herself was not in danger, but her friend, Ms. Miyagi, a member of the local Okinawa community, was losing a battle with a rip current. Ms. Miyagi soon found herself disappearing from the surface.

According to Dixson, he knew the time he spent wondering what to do could be used helping someone in need. With complete disregard for his own safety, Dixson swam toward the location Ms. Miyagi’s friend was pointing toward. He then rushed over as fast as he could. He didn’t see anybody. It wasn’t until he swam to her last location; he dove three meters and spotted Ms. Miyagi struggling to resurface. He swam with the rip current to reach her. When he reached her, he managed to resurface and drag Ms. Miyagi to shore. It was a quick extraction, taking only a few minutes to release Ms. Miyagi from the ocean’s strong grip.

Dixson credits his ability to perform the way he did to his physical fitness and Marine mindset.

“As Marines, this is something that is ingrained into us. We stay vigilant and we’re always looking to assist,” said Dixson. “I’m no different from any other Marine. I’m sure if you put any other Marine in that position, they would have reacted to the best of their abilities just as I did.”

According to Dixson, he did not seek appreciation or notoriety for his heroic actions. He did not let his chain of command know what had happened. In his eyes, his actions were not extraordinary. It wasn’t until Ms. Miyagi, the woman Dixson saved, left a letter of gratitude at the gate of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, that his chain of command was notified of what had happened. According to Col. Henry Dolberry Jr., commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, the humility shown by Dixson struck a chord with the command – it communicated to them the caliber of Marine Dixson is.

“Being able to take your qualities, your physical and mental attributes, to help others is very rewarding,” said Dolberry. “In an ocean that has claimed many lives over the years; [Dixson] went out there and did that! Good swimmers go out there and never come back. [Dixson] went out there and performed above expectations by saving a life, so I’m very proud.”

Dixson received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his selfless act of bravery on Nov. 13 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The award was presented to him by Dolberry

“We use the term “Japanese local”, but I would like to say they’re more family. Last time I checked we are members of the Ginowan family, right?” said Dolberry amongst a group of Marines. “Just like your brother or sister needing some assistance, you’re going out there to put your life in danger to save theirs.”

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat alleges new evidence that Russian suspects are spies

The independent Bellingcat research organization claims to have more information that the two men suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

Bellingcat said on Sept. 20, 2018, that a joint investigation with Business Insider “can confirm definitively” that the two suspects, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, have links to the GRU, “based on objective data and on discussions with confidential Russian sources familiar with the identity of at least one of the two persons.”

On Sept. 14, 2018, Bellingcat said it had reviewed Russian documents that indicated the two men had no records in the Russian resident database prior to 2009, a sign they may be working as operatives for the government.


“Crucially,” Bellingcat added at the time, “at least one man’s passport files contain various ‘top-secret’ markings which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives.”

In its latest report, Bellingcat said it and Business Insider obtained Petrov’s and Boshirov’s border-crossing data for several European and Asian countries. It said the men’s names are believed to be aliases.

“Their globe-trotting, unpredictably meandering itinerary is at times reminiscent of characters out of [film series and television program] Mission Impossible, yet a focus on the countries of Western Europe is clearly visible,” it said.

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A handout picture taken in Salisbury of two Russian men who have been identified as Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

Bellingcat said a source in a Western European law enforcement agency informed it that the suspects had been previously arrested in the Netherlands, but “no information has been provided as to the time and context” of the arrests.

Passport numbers

Bellingcat said it discovered there were just 26 intervening passport numbers between Petrov’s document and the cover passport issued for Eduard Shishmakov, aka Shirokov, a former Russian military attache in Warsaw expelled by Poland in 2014 for espionage.

Shishmakov’s passport was issued in August 2016, the report said.

The finding suggests that the special authority that issued the passports had only granted 26 passports between April and August 2016, Bellingcat said.

It has been previously reported that the passport numbers of Boshirov and Petrov differed only three digits and that they held “Top Secret” and “Do Not Provide Information” markings.

The documents were allegedly issued by an authority normally reserved for intelligence officers and important government officials, it said.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but later made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government for the attack.

In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.

The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time, but claimed they were there as tourists.

Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning.

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

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Russian bombers fire cruise missiles at ISIS in Syria

Russian strategic bombers on July 5 struck the Islamic State group in Syria with cruise missiles, the military said.


The Defense Ministry said that Tu-95 bombers launched Kh-101 cruise missiles on IS facilities in the area along the boundary between the Syrian provinces of Hama and Homs. The ministry said three ammunition depots and a command facility near the town of Aqirbat were destroyed.

It said the bombers flew from their base in southwestern Russia and launched the missiles at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the target.

Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The Russian military has used the campaign to test its latest weapons, including long-range cruise missiles, in combat for the first time.

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Russian TU-95 bombers take to the skies. Photo by Alan Wilson.

Meanwhile, a two-day round of Syria cease-fire talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, ended without conclusive results. The Syrian government and the opposition blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement.

The negotiations, brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, were to finalize specifics related to so-called de-escalation zones, including their boundaries and monitoring mechanisms. But the talks failed to produce a deal, with the parties agreeing only to set up a working group to continue discussions.

“We so far have failed to agree on de-escalation zones, but we will continue efforts to achieve that goal,” Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentyev said after the talks, according to Russian news reports.

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Vladimir Putin and President Nazarbayev of Kazahkstan. Photo from the Moscow Kremlin.

Lavrentyev said that Russia plans to deploy its military police to help monitor de-escalation zones and called on Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet nations to also send monitors. He said police will have light arms to protect themselves.

Lavrentyev also noted that the involvement of the United States and Jordan would be essential for setting up a de-escalation zone in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.

Syria’s warring sides have held four previous rounds of talks in Kazakhstan since January, in parallel to the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made much progress. A cease-fire declared in May, has been repeatedly violated.

MIGHTY FIT

Engineers develop new strength-based physical readiness program

Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood is one of a small handful of training units piloting a new concept in physical readiness mirrored on characteristics of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

The Strength Training Program was developed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine’s Training and Education Development Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, who looked at an assessment of Soldier physical fitness in relation to the Army Physical Fitness Test.

“The APFT does not adequately assess the domains of muscular strength, explosive power, speed, agility, flexibility and balance,” said Capt. Jeffry O’Loughlin, Company D commander. “This new physical training program was developed to better prepare a Soldier’s readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield by focusing on all aspects of combat fitness — similar to the aim of the ACFT.”


According to Maj. Donny Bigham, head strength coach for the Tactical Athlete Performance Center at Fort Benning and developer of the program, the pilot’s purpose is two-fold.

“First, it will increase lethality and survivability through physical dominance,” he said. “Second, it will increase readiness by reducing musculoskeletal injuries in order to improve a unit’s mission capability in the operational force.”

According to O’Loughlin, the program has a balanced design to attain the new physical readiness training goals to develop strength, endurance and mobility. The current fitness model has 47 aerobic sessions, 18 anaerobic sessions, zero strength sessions and zero mobility sessions.

“The Strength Training Program Delta Company implemented consists of 16 aerobic sessions, 16 anaerobic sessions, 19 strength sessions and 19 mobility sessions,” he said. “It deliberately integrates more strength and mobility workouts into the schedule to increase physical readiness in all aspects. The current model only builds muscular endurance — we instead instruct proper form while lifting heavier weight. Correspondingly, trainees are better prepared to complete warrior tasks and battle drills, such as casualty extraction.”

The program allows for strength and endurance development into the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling and combatives.

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Staff Sgt. Daniel Yeates, a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, demonstrates to trainees the proper technique for a kettlebell bent-over row. The company is piloting a new concept in physical readiness called the Strength Training Program, which is designed to reduce injuries throughout Basic Combat Training.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeffry OLoughlin)

“The ACFT will utilize six assessments at a minimum to capture all of the essential attributes of a Soldier to ensure nothing is overlooked in training the Soldier as a tactical athlete,” Bigham said. “The combination of fitness components, along with the performance fitness skills provide a better picture of the true functional competence required to physically dominate any mission related tasks. This program ensures exercise order, variation and the specificity necessary to be successful on today’s battlefield.”

As part of the new program, an assessment divides trainees into three ability groups — advanced, trained and untrained — and the results seen so far in Company D over 18 months show an overall increase in APFT scores and decrease in injuries. From 2018 through the most recent training cycle to be completed, Company D went from 26 injuries to 11, eight, seven, and finally just four. At the same time, O’Loughlin saw average physical training scores jump from 212 to 227 (237 to 248 in advanced individual training).

O’Loughlin said he feels much of that success can be equated to this new way of thinking in Army physical training.

“This program is not just about lifting kettlebells,” he said. “We also consider active recovery with mobility sessions with rollers and balls to break up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing process and help prevent over-training.”

According to Bigham, seven training units have completed the program so far, and currently all trainees assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning are piloting the program as of Oct. 1 of this year. Across the board, he’s seeing injury numbers halve, while APFT failure rates are about a third of what they were previously

“Physical training should be the number one aspect when it comes to improving lethality on the battlefield,” he said. “It must be mandatory to ensure Soldiers have the tools in their kit bag to win the last 100 yards. This strength-based program will be a force multiplier that will increase lethality, combat effectiveness, moral and ethical decision making, overall readiness and survivability on any battlefield that enemies pose a threat to our nation.”

This article originally appeared on Army.mil. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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These Guardian Angels just pulled off their 1,105th rescue

When a teenager became seriously ill Tuesday morning on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.


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Sailors assigned to the frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG48) help rescue a family with a sick infant in the ship’s small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard effort in the Pacific Ocean, April 6, 2014. The family and four Air National Guard pararescuemen were safely moved from the sailboat to Vandegrift, which then transited to San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo)

From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.

Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.

That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.

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A Guardian Angel pararescueman from the 131st Rescue Squadron, prepare a litter carrying a civilian patient to be hoisted onto an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during an over water rescue mission, Jan. 17, 2017. California Air National guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing performed a personnel recovery mission of the seriously ill 14-year-old boy on board a cruise liner, the STAR PRINCESS, approximately 450 miles off the coast of San Diego, California. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col Kathryn Hodge)

The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.

The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.

The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.

When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”

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An HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing hovers over the Chinese fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu #871, March 12, 2012. Guardian Angel Pararescuemen from the wing rescued two fishermen who were burned in a diesel fire onboard the vessel more than 700 miles off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class John Pharr)

The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.

While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This 87-year-old grad still enjoys marching with new cadets

Through 20 years of March Backs, Wallace Ward has seen it all.

In the beginning, the march was 15 miles, now 20 years later it is only 12. Over the years it has moved from taking place in the middle of the night to starting in the morning. There has been rain and thunderstorms that soaked and threatened the marchers. There was a hamstring injury that slowed him down, but couldn’t stop him.

No matter the obstacle, the distance or the weather, since members of the Long Gray Line were invited to the March Back 20 years ago, Wallace Ward has completed every single one.

This year, as he stepped off from Camp Buckner before dawn with India Company, Ward, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1958, earned the distinction of being the oldest graduate to participate in the annual tradition.


He first joined the March Back at 67 and now aged 87 he once again walked the entire way from start to finish.

“I come back to March Back every year because I love to run,” Ward said. “I’ve participated in 10 marathons and one ultramarathon that was 62 miles. I have been running and walking all my life so when they said they wanted people to hike back with the plebes I thought that was a great opportunity since I love being outside running and walking.”

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Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023. Ward, 87, was the oldest grad to participate in the 2019 March Back.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

The decision brought him full circle as it was running that first introduced Ward to West Point.

A track athlete in nearby Washingtonville, New York, Ward competed at a regional track meet at West Point as a high schooler. He entered the meet with a single goal — earning the one point he needed to secure his varsity letter for the season — and determined to do whatever it took to secure it.

With the finish line nearby and his goal within reach, Ward dove across the line. His last bit of effort earned him his letter, but it also left shrapnel in his left elbow that has served as a, “reminder of West Point for the rest of my life.”

It would prove to be the first of many marks West Point would leave upon him as the track meet set him upon a path that eventually allowed him to enter West Point as a prior service cadet after he was not accepted directly from high school and enlisted in the Army in 1951.

“I’d never been to West Point,” Ward said of that track meet roughly 70 years ago. “I got there and saw this great fortress over the Hudson River and said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic. I’d sure like to be able to go there for school.'”

His time at West Point changed the course of his life after being abandoned along with his brothers in a Brooklyn flat by his mother. They bounced through different foster homes before finding stability and discipline after moving near Washingtonville.

West Point continued the process of instilling discipline and helped to keep him from becoming, “a kid in New York, running the streets, stealing and things like that, getting in all kinds of trouble,” Ward said.

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Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1979 after a career as an air defense officer. Now 61 years after his graduation from West Point, Ward uses his time with the new class during March Back to encourage them and teach them about the place that means so much to him.

“We spend half the time (talking), except when we are going uphill. I always tell them, ‘Cut if off, wait until we get to the top of the hill. Then we can resume the conversation,'” Ward said. “When we are walking and having a conversation with the plebes we tell them it is going to be a tough year, stick it out, keep your nose clean and work hard and things will come out alright and you will be proud of the fact you went to West Point.”

With 20 years and more than 200 miles of March Backs under his belt, Ward hasn’t decided if he’ll be back for number 21. He said he will have to, “think about it,” before lacing up his sneakers and hiking through the woods with another class seven decades his junior even though he enjoys his time spent with the plebes and talking with them as they traverse the hills.

“I get the enthusiasm of going back to West Point every year and seeing that great fortress on the Hudson River, meeting old friends and comrades and enjoying the atmosphere,” Ward said of why he has come back for the last 20 years.

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

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Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

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The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.

“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.

The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.

The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.

The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.

The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.

An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.

Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.