Look, we get it. You have an unquenchable thirst — a yearning for the trumpets and cannon-fire, but the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and you have bowling league on Thursdays. What is a would-be operator to do?
High-end training is seeing an incredible boom right now. Whether you’re a Global War on Terror (GWOT) veteran looking to relive some of those glory days or just a red-blooded American looking to add a little spice to your life, there are training opportunities aplenty.
But what about the serious student who wants to challenge themselves at the same level as some of our most elite warriors? We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best private training opportunities available because this is America — and the only reason you need to drive fast, shoot stuff, and jump out of airplanes is that you want to.
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, helocast into the water from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii, Nov. 14, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)
You can’t jump right into a high-level class though, so we’ve provided a roadmap to keep it fun and relevant. If you’re already at a high skill level, go ahead and jump right into the deep end, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Many of the classes and events are also physically demanding, so make sure you prepare before beginning your own special Q course. Once you’ve been training and start feeling good about yourself, amp it up and challenge yourself with our first training event:
1. GoRuck. The lads over at GoRuck have been doing their thing for a while now, and the GoRuck Challenge has evolved into a multi-event destination. As special as the Special Forces are, they’re all ground-pounders at heart, so you’ll need to be able to put weight on your back and get to the objective. If you really want to have some ruck credibility, be prepared to complete the two-day H-T-L, a combination of their Heavy, Tough, and Light events. Before you can be special, you gotta be tough. GoRuck also offers Ascent, a three-day “adventure” that will immerse you in wilderness survival, first-aid, and mountaineering — minus the granola-eating hippie garbage from your REI wilderness survival classes.
GoRuck Ascent is legit wilderness training.
(Screen grab from YouTube video uploaded by Tony Reyes)
2. Courses of Action. Leadership training is paramount in the military. Courses of Action, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO Johnny Primo, offers a Small Unit Tactics course that focuses on rapid decision making, communication as a leader, and other essential skills in highly stressful situations. The four-day course is held in Texas and rotates students through leadership roles and at least 12 missions, always facing an opposing force. Regardless of the small unit you lead — family, work team, weekend softball league — you’ll learn effective skills that will impact every aspect of your life.
Land, sea, air … it doesn’t matter where! If you’re special, you take the fight wherever it shows up. The next two courses are all about that life aquatic. If you can’t swim or haven’t in years, you might want to check out the local Y to get your feet wet before diving in.
3. PADI Open Water Diver. A basic diving certificate is just the beginning — like any other skill, you have to keep improving. PADI provides classes and certifications all over the country, so don’t let a lack of an ocean get in your way. The Advanced Rebreather Diver is where all the cool kids are, so be prepared to put in the time to claim your throne as the King or Queen of Atlantis.
PADI offers courses across the country, including everything from basic diving certification to advanced rebreather diver.
(Photo by Jennifer Small/PADI)
4. OC Helicopter PADI Heli-Scuba Course. Any weekend warrior can dive out of a boat. If that’s not good enough for you, you’re, well, special. And special people dive out of helicopters. That’s right, it’s time to take your diving to the next level with helo-inserts. At id=”listicle-2641265805″,250 per person, it’s not cheap, but think of how impressed that chick over in accounting is going to be. You can’t be the office alpha if you’re not doing alpha stuff.
Well, we’ve covered land and sea — now it’s time to take to the air. Hold on to your security blanket and prepare for the airborne lifestyle. It’s not cheap or easy, but you’re up to the task. Besides, you can’t look down on the regular grunts doing grunt stuff if you’re not Airborne!
5. HALO Loft. There are great skydiving instructors all over the country, but there’s only one civilian High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump, and that’s HALO Loft. How high are we talking? How does 28,000 to 43,000 feet sound? Honestly, it sounds terrible to me, but I’m not special. If you want to claim those bragging rights, tuck your pants into your boots and get ready to regale the world with tales of airborne glory.
You’re almost there. You’ve forged yourself into something better than you were, but now that your body and will are steel, it’s time to sharpen. These are the skills that really set you apart from the pretenders — skills that have real-world, everyday applications for the safety and security of you and your loved ones.
6. ShivWorks ECQC, Extreme Close Quarter Concepts. There are a lot of folks out there teaching great things, but Craig Douglas at ShivWorks has been teaching people how to work in close and nasty with blade work, weapon retention, clinching, groundfighting, and striking, mixed in with plenty of force-on-force. His 20-hour ECQC course has been taught all over the world to all sorts of very special folks and is one of the most refined curriculums out there when it comes to getting it done up-close and personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt or you’ve been sweeping the leg since the 1980s, you’ll learn something that will have an immediate impact on the way you live your life.
7. Jerry Barnhart Training. There are many shooting programs ranging from very good to complete crap, but there is only one Jerry “The Burner” Barnhart. Even though The Burner has been teaching deploying units since 1987, his classes have become a rite of passage in the wake of the GWOT. There are plenty of competition guys who have worked with our special warriors, but none have had an impact on the industry like Barnhart. From helping guys situate their kit to refining trigger presses, he’s next level. He doesn’t publish a training calendar (he doesn’t have to), but get a hold of him and get into a class.
8. Rogers Shooting School. This is one of the granddaddies of the tactical shooting world. Bill Rogers has been training military and police instructors from around the world for more than four decades. This school is recognized as one of the most challenging shooting schools in the world and has humbled some of the best shooters from some of the most elite units. Rogers and his cadre tolerate no crap; be ready to go out into the Georgia woods and come out a week later a whole new shooter. Focusing on targets that stay still for a maximum of one second, this advanced school is not for the easily defeated.
9. Greenline Tactical.Don Edwards spent over 20 years in the Special Operations community fighting everywhere from Operation Just Cause (Panama) to Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent this time perfecting the skill of fighting under night vision, and when he retired, he went to work consulting and teaching for TNVC, cementing himself as a go-to source for all things night vision. When it comes to getting your night-jiggling on, no one speaks with more authority than Edwards. Check him out to find out why the good guys own the night.
Tim O’Neil has won five U.S. and North American Rally Championships; he was a factory driver for Volkswagen and Mitsubishi through the late ’80s and early ’90s and drove for the official U.S. Air Force Reserve team in the early 2000s.
(Photo courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School)
10. Team O’Neil Rally School. Cars kill far more people every year than gunfire, so one of the best things you can do as a prepared citizen is to get some advanced driver training to even those odds. The Team O’Neil Rally School has become one of the most prominent providers of advanced driver training to Department of Defense clients. Their Tactical Mobility Package focuses on skills ranging from recognizing vehicle ambushes to high-speed loose surface training to skid pads — and even high-angle ascents and descents. If you’re going to be driving a Hilux on a crappy road in the dark — or just driving your kids home from school — Team O’Neil is where you need to go.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
Left: Bob Gunton. Right: Bob in Vietnam as an RTO. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
Bob Gunton is a prolific stage actor known for his roles in Evita and Sweeney Todd on Broadway where his most well-known film role is as Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption. He served with distinction in the Vietnam War in the last great multi-unit battle of the conflict, The Siege of Firebase Ripcord. This is his story.
Special Note: “Bob Gunton has just completed a memoir entitled “…OR AM I BEING OBTUSE?…”
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My mom and dad met at a USO dance on Santa Monica pier and within two weeks they were married. I am the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. My parents were from the coal country; my father being from Pennsylvania (Anthracite-hard coal) and my mother being from the coal country of Montana (Bituminous-soft coal), so I have the hard and soft coal running through my blood.
I had been influenced by many folk singers in high school where I was affected by the ethos of folk music through such acts as The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. I put together a trio called The Deacons. We went around to coffee houses to perform, like the Mon Ami in Orange, CA. Around the same time as we performed at Mon Ami, Steve Martin was on the marquee as well since he grew up in Orange County.
I went to the seminary of Paulist Fathers — St. Peter’s College in Baltimore, Maryland for a few years from 1963 to 1966. I had started out as a supporter of the Vietnam War in 1963. I’d even made a speech at my high school for a Toastmasters Speech Contest about the “domino theory,” but then my views changed rather dramatically after the seminary. My opinion shifted especially after Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy moved away from the Democratic party line supporting the Vietnam War.
A friend and fellow seminarian classmate arranged for me to audition for his father, Paul Crabtree, who was a successful Broadway actor, writer and director. He’d written a musical called TENNESSEE, USA! for the new theatre he had founded — The Cumberland County Playhouse — in Crossville, Tennessee. It was going to run during the summer between seminary and Novitiate. I had done a couple of operettas in high school. when my thoughts were of making a difference as a priest. After that wonderful summer I recognized that I was gifted far more in music, acting and performing than in what was required to be a good priest. I left the seminary and had gone to UC Irvine to study theater when I dropped out for a semester to do Carousel in Tennessee. I knew I was chancing being. drafted. And when I returned to California, I was.
When I was called up, I had to spend some time thinking if I was a Conscientious Objector (CO). My father had been in the Marine Corps during WWII in the Pacific and I had grown up steeped in WWII history. My father’s six brothers were all WWII veterans as well. By that time, I was opposed to The Vietnam War. I probably could have gotten a CO because of my divinity school experience. But although I was opposed to the Vietnam War, I was not opposed then to a just war in general. I didn’t feel I had the right to be a CO because of my political beliefs. I also had to ask myself if I could measure up to my father, he was a supporter of the war. My father and I had lots of very agitated and loud arguments about the war.
After my time in Vietnam and I had come home I discovered that my father had grown long hair, sideburns and had himself had come to oppose the war. My willingness to go fight may have affected him in some way. While I was in Nam I had been given the Bronze Star with a V (for Valor.) Our local paper had run a story on it. Many years later, when my father passed as the eldest son, I had to clean out his belongings etc. I found in his wallet a folded-up piece of plastic covered newspaper clipping about my Bronze Star award. He had carried it in his wallet for many years. All of this brought us much closer together than in the first twenty years of my life. I had earned his respect and we could speak to each other as not just father and son, but as survivors of conflict.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
Hmm…It’s a memory shared with me after Dad had died. While he was alive my father’s Marine Corps buddy, Robert Newtbaar, had borrowed my father’s dress blues and wanted to return them. When I came to pick them up, he told me a story about my father. When my father and he were on a troop ship heading to Hawaii, then on to the South Pacific, Newtbaar had become very depressed and anxious about what might happen to him. He decided he was going to jump overboard. Newtbaar made a move and was on his way over the rail, when my father dashed over and pulled him back onto ship amid a volley of curses. Newtbaar said very tearfully that my father had saved his life.
After they got back and were mustered out of the Corps, Newtbar, who was from a fairly wealthy family, came to my father with ,000. He loved to hear my father sing, especially Frankie Lane’s hit songs. like “Georgia,” “Jezebel” and “The Flying Dutchman.” Newtbaar told my father he had the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. He wanted my father to go to Hollywood and be a singer.
However, my father already had a wife and two kids and was working in a grocery store. He was in no position to give up his responsibilities for his family in order to pursue a singing career. He’d actually had to rejoin the USMC at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro just to find housing for our family. A few years later Dad suffered an injury in a grocery store in Santa Monica which resulted in a case of amnesia. He eventually recovered from his injury; however, he lost a lot of memories of WWII and the early post war period. We had some pictures from his time in the service. I also learned from his friends some of what my father had experienced. It was touching for Newtbar to share these stories with me and they impacted my life.
My family would occasionally in the summer and drive up to Montana to visit my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side. Part of the journey up there was along a stretch of highway which was called the Grapevine which is now the I-5, which was full of steep switchbacks and rapid changes of elevation. My father was agoraphobic which I learned through my childhood. As an adult I took my parents NYC and then to Windows on the World, which was a restaurant overlooking the city in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on floors 106 and 107. My father stood at the back of the elevator once the doors opened to the restaurant, saw the tip-tops of skyscrapers. He barely was able to inch his way around with his back against the center walls. It was the most vulnerable I had ever seen him.
The WTC memory makes me flash back to those trips to Montana where my father would look out the window over the rocks and chasms below. After looking he would get anxious and sweaty. My mother would reach out and touch his shoulder. She’d start singing “Whispering Hope”, which is a gospel song, but also popular at the time. As she began singing, my father would join in. All of a sudden, we kids in the back seat, comforted by the sound of their soothing harmony. For us, their duet signified their love for us and their shared history together.
The grapevine highway. Photo credit SVC History.
A view from Windows on the World in the WTC’s North Tower. Photo credit Literary Hub.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
Our Catholic Faith; our blue-collar status; my parents’ Depression-Era values, sense of responsibility. All of us had to pitch in. My father was self-taught and a great reader but was educated only through the seventh grade. My mother had been a schoolteacher in a one room schoolhouse in Montana. There was a strong expectation that all of us would work hard in school and be a good person. Basic, decent 1950’s values.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting. Photo credit artsy.com.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted. Basic and Advanced Infantry training were tough physically in many ways since I was not particularly athletic. I was appointed cadence caller for our early morning five-mile runs probably because of my loud voice. One of my cadences calls was, “…we are the mighty, mighty mighty Charlie, everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them, we are Charlie, mighty mighty Charlie…” Classic. Although I sometimes ad libbed a couple, including: “If you got a half a buck….Call someone who gives a (bleep.)” I was sent to Nam near the end of the war during Vietnamization and was put into an S-1 shop for the 101st Airborne in Bien Hoa. What a relief! My thoughts were of a dry hooch, spit-shined boots, pressed combat fatigues, and weekends in Saigon. I lasted at the S-1 just one week. Because American grunts were being phased out of the war, the Division Commander wanted all soldiers with a combat MOS to be sent out into the field to get the ARVN up to speed. I was an 11B-20 –infantry, boonie rat, ground pounder — so off I went to “the bush.”
I was sent up to I Corps in Quang Tri province, in I Corps. I reported to the 2nd of the 501st Battalion Headquarters and then to their Charlie Company, Third Platoon. The platoon leader, SGT Yonashiru, took a look at me — being six feet tall and husky. the PL asked, “who’s the (effing) cherry?” He scoped me out. Given my height and apparent strength he ordered me to take the “gun” or the “radio”. The “gun” was the .50 caliber machine gun. I chose the radio, which seemed kind of “show business” to me. Apparently, some of the grunts initially thought I might be a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) narc because I showed up by myself to the unit with spit shined boots, crisp fatigues. I was also a few years older than the rest of the platoon. I was warned by a fellow soldier about being viewed as a narc and warned me about “fragging.” Fragging described when someone rolls a grenade under another soldier’s hooch to get rid of a “problem”. For the first time in Vietnam I was really scared.
I went into the company area and went up to a soul brother and asked for a doobie. I’d never smoked grass in my life. He handed me a joint. I stood there in the company area and toked up so anyone watching would see. I then went back to my hooch and passed out for like twelve hours. From then on, I was one of the guys and no longer a target of fragging. I was now “in” in the outfit.
Bob in a UH-1N high above Thua Thien Province, Vietnam 1970. Photo credit Bob Gunton
They made me the platoon, eventually company, and then battalion Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Near the end of my year there in July 1970 our battalion was Op-Con to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st. They were seeking to take over a hilltop above the A Shau Valley where the US had been driven out a few years earlier during the “Hamburger Hill” period. Fire Support Base Ripcord was going to be emplaced during this two-brigade assault operation. At this time, I was just given the battalion RTO job and would be with the battalion CO, XO and the like on Ripcord itself. At the same time, my guys with Charlie company 2nd of the 501st were going to assault the area around FSB Ripcord with fellow companies of the 3rd Brigade. Bn Intel determined that thousands of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were going to assault the FSB. A day or two after the Brigade-sized assault on the AO, my former unit was caught in a command detonated ambush followed by an early morning assault by the NVA. All during this time I had been talking on the radio to my guys, handling supply and normal stuff.
One of my best friends there was fellow soldier Joe Patterson, a funny guy and great audience for my shenanigans. The night before they were hit, we were talking on the Delta One radio which was scrambled so the enemy could not intercept our transmissions. He told me, “Gunton, I have a really bad feeling about this one.” There had been no contact yet, but he still felt bad about the operation. Sure enough when the unit was hit, Joey was gravely wounded. I called in the MEDEVAC for him and for our company commander. We had one KIA from Charlie’s Headquarters Company where this soldier had had to go out to replace someone’s weapon and had to stay overnight and was killed during the assault. It was a terribly fraught and frightening time.
Bob along the Song Bo River. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
There were many major encounters around Ripcord which turned out to be the biggest, final, multi-unit battle in Vietnam. There have been books and films about it. We went on like that for about a week or longer. In the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) we had three RTOs. The intel suggested that the firebase itself would soon be under attack. At one point the NVA got really lucky when they shot down a Chinook over the ammo dump as it was unloading ammo. All of the crew survived the crash, but the entire ammo dump started cooking off: phosphorus, artillery, HE and CS rounds. All of that CS gas started infiltrating into the bunkers where none of us had gas masks, so we had to take our t-shirts and wet them to put over our face so as not to be forced out of our bunkers.
At one point I had to urinate really badly. With the rounds cooking off and NVA mortars coming in, I wasn’t about to saunter outside to one of the “Piss tubes.” The bunkers were well constructed and had screen doors. I got to the door and decided I would open the door, step out halfway or so and then take a whiz. I was just about to finish when I heard, “TROOP!” right behind me. It was the brigade commander whose call sign was Black Spade. I stood to attention and zipped up. Other soldiers were in that part of the bunker when the Brigade Commander told me with cold anger:, “if you have to go take a piss, go find a piss tube. We are NOT animals in here.” It was a very embarrassing moment. I felt lower than snake shit. A few days later the Brigade Commander was evaluating positions outside when a mortar round landed directly on him. He and a fellow officer were killed immediately. The terrible irony of that sequence of events rocked me for a while.
Companies then started being extracted from around Ripcord and then it was our HQ’s time to leave. We knew Ripcord was going to be abandoned and the Army would blow up what they could, then carpet bomb it with B-52 strikes. We got back to LZ Sally and all of us in HQ company gets called together. A member of the battalion staff informed us about how two Delta One radios had been left behind in our TOC on Ripcord. The NVA could potentially use those radios against us. They needed two “volunteers” to go back and get them, which really meant the two who were least “short” would go. I was pretty damn short — but not short enough. I went with another younger RTO on a slick (Huey helicopter) to head back up there. On the way out, one of the pilots turned around in the chopper and made a hand dunking motion. Ripcord was taking incoming fire. We had to jump off the helicopter at about five or six feet off the ground as he was not going to land because of the incoming.
We found a hole to jump in and then found the Delta One radios. There were a lot of wounded soldiers that needed to be taken off the fire base before anyone else could go. We knew that no one could head back to base until all the wounded had been evacuated. So me and the other RTO jumped in and helped load the wounded onto slicks while the mortars and rockets continued falling. Just before the sun set over Laos we were able to get on a chopper to head back. I don’t think any of that involved any kind of valor much less heroism, but the battalion commander put us in for Bronze Stars, particularly for the MEDEVAC loading.
The questions of what is cowardice, what is heroism, what is self-preservation have been with me all my life. I’ve even used them in my acting. Everything is shades of gray, especially when it comes to combat and moral decisions that we make. Was I wrong not to go the piss tube with the self-preservation involved and the death of Black Spade as he followed his own advice and left the 3rd Brigade without leadership for a while. These experiences have definitely shaped my moral view of the universe. I have to accept that even the worst situations, the best remedies are going to be mixed. How we are trained, our wisdom, and education play their parts in our decisions and choices. But we are human, have mixed emotions, and inner conflicts. I have applied these in my life successfully and unsuccessfully.
MEDEVACs are miles ahead of what we had in Vietnam. There was an instance where a soldier from our recon platoon left the wire at night to take a crap. One of his buddies mistakenly set off a claymore on him and killed him. When the chopper came in to evac the body there were huge winds in the AO and they could not get a jungle penetrator through the triple canopy jungle to get the body out so they threw the soldiers a body bag. The soldiers then had to hump the corpse out for three or four days to get to a place where the chopper could get in.
I helped prevent a mutiny earlier that year where a loach (OH-6 Cayuse helicopter) had been shot down where I was a company RTO then. Our company was tasked to go down into this valley area to find the chopper to see if the pilot had survived. Our company commander was against the war and did all he could to stay out of it. He was one of the only officers I had met like that. The company commander wouldn’t lead down and the battalion commander call sign Driver had to fly out. The company commander was ordered to go down after being chewed out by the battalion CO and I told him, “we got a lawful order to go down and we needed to go otherwise this is bad stuff.” We did end up following orders to go down where we found the loach with the pilot dead. The pilot’s body was able to be sent back to Graves and Registration for eventual burial. I was against the war but found myself on the other side of the argument with the company commander. It was gray even then and was not cut and dried. Our mission was, for most of us, to save each other and our buddies got back.
Charlie company had its 50th reunion, almost 50 years to the day many were injured including Joey Patterson at the FSB Ripcord battle. Due to Covid-19 I was not able to fly out to Pennsylvania. However, I did do a Zoom call and got see them all and meet their wives. Joey and I caught up as well. It was a great virtual reunion due to the COVID pandemic. Keeping the threads of your life together along the way can give you a better sense of where you are from and going.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into acting and film?
When filming a movie, you are all in it together where everyone has their own duty. The expectation is that everyone knows exactly what they have to do and to do it as quickly and gracefully as they can. It includes keeping spirits up when waiting out a rainstorm to restart filming and when moving locations and loading up the trucks is like heading to another combat assault. So, I must have my shit together and know my lines cold. There is a lot that carries over from being in the military to working on a film production. You depend on each other and don’t want a weak link and sure as hell don’t want to be that weak link.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling stage and/or film role you have done?
Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption without a doubt is the best role I have ever had. It is the best movie I have ever been in. I have been back to many reunions and celebrations at the prison. People go to visit the prison and stay overnight. They even have a Shawshank trail where people get to see all the outside filming locations and then take a tour of the prison where it has artifacts from the movie. I have been to every continent except Antarctica and everywhere I go people come up to me to speak about The Shawshank Redemption. People come up to me in Europe, South America, Australia where to be a part of a movie that is such high quality and well-known across the board is truly a blessing.
I was invited to Akron for a special day celebrating Shawshank Redemption and by the local AA Akron baseball team the Rubber Ducks to throw out the first pitch. They also ordered from China a thousand bobble head Warden Nortons. The first thousand people to come in would get one where I would sign them. I have one for myself and have given a few away too.
*He shares some of the best quotes people request when he signs autographs from the film are, “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me,” “Lord, it’s a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind,” and “…or am I being obtuse.”
Mr. Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton of Shawshank State Prison. Photo credit to IMDB.com
Mr. Gunton in Akron with the Warden Norton bobble head. Photo credit Lake Highlands Advocate.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such theatrical talents as Hal Prince, Patti LuPone, Theodore Mann, Susan H. Schulman, Beth Fowler and then with such film talents such as Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock and the like?
Hal Prince was a key person in my career and am grateful to him. Oliver Stone was interesting and challenging — a brilliant man. I enjoyed working with Robin Williams perhaps more than anyone else. Jim Carrey is a deep thinker as well as being very charming, well-read and generous. Jim was extremely funny as well. I have liked most everyone I have worked with.
I got to play a chaplain in a film with Stacey Keach named Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis. I enjoy playing priests and military personnel because I feel I can put a little spin on the ball and make them more interesting and factual. My chaplain character got eaten by a shark. I had to do some tricky timing with holding my breath for the scenes of being eaten by the shark. Two divers were holding my feet where they start shaking me and then pull me down really fast. If my timing wasn’t spot on in taking in breath, then having to hold it while they release a blood bag, to show his guy is really gone it can be problematic. It was tricky to film, but nothing like the crew from the Indianapolis though. Floating on a funky, tiny life-raft, off the coast of the Bahamas, with Stacy Keach and I laughing our butts off, was not a hardship assignment.
Working with Clint Eastwood was good. He has a fantastic crew. He was a gentlemen and one of the quietest directors I have ever worked for. He got that from doing so many Westerns where a director would yell “action” and people would get thrown off their horse when it bolted from the shouting. Instead of “action” Clint would just quietly say, “go ahead.”
I have maintained close ties with the Paulist Fathers even done work for Paulist Productions as well. In the film Judas shot in Morocco in 2004, on a huge set representing The Temple in Jerusalem, I played the High Priest Caiphas. Hotter than blazes in very authentic robes etc. But I really enjoyed it.
Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown in The Shawshank Redemption.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
After my service I went to NY hoping for a career in Theater. Many of my peers had gone to Yale or Julliard or Northwestern and other great schools. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t about their not serving in the war, it was because I felt they had a two- or three-year head start on their careers. Establishing a career in theater means doing low paying jobs, children’s theater and dinner theater etc. out in the boondocks. Then, if you are fortunate you work your way up to Broadway. These guys had already networked with people from their professional schools and had jumped ahead of me. I felt I had missed out on that networking.
While on Broadway after finishing “Evita” my agent told me about a play I should look at doing off-off Broadway, with no pay. Having just come from a big Broadway musical hit it didn’t sound that appetizing it was entitled “How I Got That Story”. It was about Vietnam. There were only two actors. One of the roles was a journalist and the other role was every person in Vietnam that the journalist runs into while trying to get the story of why we were in Vietnam and what it all meant. 22 different characters! Because I had been there and seen and heard and lived with a wide range of people, both genders and three races, I knew who these people were, how they spoke, walked and behaved. The roster of characters included: a Madame Nhu character, a nun, a crazy photographer, a Viet Cong officer and, most surprisingly, a 16-year-old Vietnamese bar girl. The man who wrote this play had served as a CO medic in Vietnam. I told my agent: “I don’t care if I don’t get paid, I have to do this.”
We performed in a tiny rooftop theater behind the building where John Lennon had been killed. The play got excellent reviews and was covered by many journalists who’d gotten their start serving in Vietnam as reporters. It got a lot of ink in all the newspapers, especially in the New York Times. We eventually transferred to an actual Off-Broadway theater in the theater district and we ran for nine months or so. The main thing is everyone in town saw that show including casting directors, fellow actors, movie directors including Alan Pakula (To Kill a Mockingbird, All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice). Alan came backstage after a performance. He said he wanted me to play an Arab in the film Rollover. He asked to meet a couple of days later where we talked mostly about Vietnam and the movie. I never auditioned. I knew he was going to have me do it and he did! It was the largest salary I had ever had for acting up to that point and opened a myriad of doors for me.
“How I Got That Story” really kicked off my career as a dramatic actor and not just a song and dance guy. At the Opening Night Party we had among others, the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Also Ed Murphy, my seminarian buddy, who had served in Vietnam as well. This entire chapter was like karma where nothing is ever wasted; that there is always something that even terrible experiences can feed your soul or change your life. In a good way. If, of course, you survive it.
Vietnam was tough, sad, and frightening, although we also often laughed our asses off with our morbid humor in part to expel our anxiety. Vietnam served an important role in my character development as well as my work in theater and in films.
On a side note, Afghanistan is one of the few wars I can say, “yeah we belong there.” We need to be there to keep them from doing anything like what happened on 9/11 ever again. I’d sign up, but I don’t think that they would have me.
“How I Got That Story” featured in the NYT from the Feb 18th, 1982 paper. Photo credit nytimes.com.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?
We need to encourage veterans who have a story to tell them. We have had some good recent movies like American Sniper and The Hurt Locker. Most people who don’t have military experience hear our stories finding them exotic and dramatic. It is life and death with a cast of interesting characters. As an Army draftee I saw the full spectrum of humanity which makes for a lot of interesting stories.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Being a father to my daughter, Olivia. And happily married to a former high school classmate, Carey. Career-wise Shawshank and my last Broadway show, “Sweeney Todd”, which is the toughest stage role I had ever attempted and was well received. It felt like climbing Mount Everest to do it. It was my “swan song” to Broadway and am glad to have gone out on top. I am proud of my friendships from the seminary, Vietnam, theater and fellow film actors. I am also proud to have made it to this age and to still be working.
The Navy announced updates to uniform policy, grooming standards, uniform item availability and mandatory possession dates for new uniform items in NAVADMIN 075/19, released March 25, 2019.
A command/unit logo shoulder patch is now an option for wear on the left shoulder pocket of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II and III in place of the Don’t Tread On Me shoulder patch.
Black leather and non-leather gloves can be worn with the black NWU parka fleece liner.
NWU Type III O-6 rank insignia will be available for purchase and optional wear in silver thread starting June 1, 2019, for easier visual recognition and distinction from the E-4 insignia.
Effective June 1, 2019, all enlisted sailors with 12 years of cumulative service in active or drilling reserve time in the Navy or Marine Corps may wear gold rating badges and gold service stripes on dress uniforms in lieu of red rating badges and stripes.
The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer.
Women have the option to wear smooth or synthetic leather flat shoes (flats) in service and service dress uniforms.
Nursing T-shirts may be worn with service uniforms, NWU Type I, II and III and flight suits.
The message provides clarification on the definition and manner of wear for ponytail hairstyles.
Effective immediately, sailors who are assigned to Joint/Unified Commands are authorized to wear the command’s identification badge only during the period of assignment.
Navy Exchange (NEXCOM) uniform stores will provide a free replacement collar if needed to improve the fit of the officer and chief petty officer (CPO) service dress white coat (choker) effective March 1, 2019.
The NAVADMIN announces the completion of the testing and evaluation of the improved female officer and CPO slacks and skirts.
It also provides the schedule for when the NEXCOM Customer Contact Center and Uniform Centers will have slacks and skirts, the Improved Safety Boot (I-Boot 4) and the optional physical training uniform available for purchase.
The dates for when sailors must possess new uniforms and uniform components are listed in the NAVADMIN.
Sailors can ask questions and provide feedback and recommendations on Navy uniforms via the “Ask the Chiefs” email, on the Navy Uniform Matters Office (UMO) website, through MyNavy Portal at https://www.mnp.navy.mil/. Select Professional Resources, U.S. Navy Uniforms and “Ask the Chiefs”. Sailors can also contact UMO via the Navy Uniform App that can be downloaded at the Navy App Locker https://www.applocker.navy.mil/ and the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.
Read NAVADMIN 075/19 in its entirety for details and complete information on all of the announced uniform changes, updates and guidelines at www.npc.navy.mil.
Army Veteran Kenneth Augustus loved adventure. He loved to rock climb, and scuba dive, and always had a longing for falling hundreds of feet per second from an airplane.
VA Salt Lake City Recreation Therapist Lili Sotolong knew skydiving was a lofty goal considering his condition, but she was determined to make that dream come true.
“I got a call out of the blue to come work with this Veteran,” Lili said. “I was told he only had a few months to live but when I got there he was beyond positive, and so easy to work with. He had made peace with what was happening to him and was really preparing himself for the inevitable; he just had some things he wanted to experience first.”
Lili made several calls and finally arranged the jump through two very generous community partners: Skydive Utah and the Elks Lodge. It was go-time!
“He got to jump with his brother and his son, and they wanted me to do it with them! We had a group hug and were all fist-pumping in the plane prior to the jump. It really was an extraordinary experience.”
On Veterans Day 2017 Kenny Augustus fulfilled his dying wish. Attached to a highly-experienced instructor and with a big smile on his face, he dove out of a prop plane at 13,500 feet. Imagine a free fall at 120 miles per hour for 60 seconds. Moments later, the jolt of a chute opening was followed by a peaceful glide to the ground. Lili remembers Kenny’s smile and a big thumbs-up.
From one extreme to the next: scuba diving one last time (check)
Later that evening, Kenny went scuba diving with his son via virtual reality goggles at the Crater in Midvale, Utah. He was too sick to go in the water, but enjoyed the next best thing. Using a drone especially equipped for water, Kenny followed his son underwater and experienced everything his son was seeing. Kenny was hoping for the real thing, but just being there, surrounded by the love and support of his family, was thrill enough.
A week later, Kenny passed.
“I went to my supervisor and I just broke down,” Lili said. “I am touched and hurt all at the same time. I really got to know him and his family over a short time. I just never thought it would hurt this much.”
Lili agreed to tell this story because of this extraordinary Veteran she came to admire. His spirit and positivity in the face of such pain and uncertainty impacted her in ways she never imagined.
Navy Command Master Chief Eric Kinnaman rescuing turtles along the waterfront at NAS Corpus Christi. (Navy Capt. Christopher Jason).
Although the nation remained devastated over the winter storm which severely impacted Texas in particular, it wasn’t just Americans in harms way. It was catastrophic for animals on land in the water, too.
The Washington Post caught up with Will Bellamy, a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps who is a resident of the Corpus Christi area in Texas. In his interview, he reported how he and his son saw some sea turtles in distress after rescuing a few injured birds. Bellamy immediately reached out to Captain Christopher Jason who is in command of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
Jason used his own paddleboard to rescue a few of the cold-shocked sea turtles, only able to fit three in his lap. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones. The next day, it was apparent to both Jason and Bellamy the situation was far more urgent than they originally thought. During his phone interview, Bellamy told the Washington Post, “It was like an apocalypse of turtles littered on the beach.”
When the water temperature goes below 50 degrees fahrenheit, green sea turtles become lethargic. This causes them to stop moving and float to the surface, leaving them vulnerable to being hit by boats or even washing ashore, like they did in Texas.
The green sea turtle is Texas’ most common sea turtle. The area along the gulf’s coast is where around 87% of them lay their nests during mating season each year. Sea Turtle Inc, based out of South Padre Island, has been working around the clock to save the cold-shocked green sea turtles washing up on the shores of Texas. In a statement the organization wrote, “Cold-stun events happen when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature.”
In an interview with Military Times, Jason said although he was aware of cold-stunning among sea turtles, this was unlike anything he’d ever seen since taking command in 2019. It truly was a military team effort. The Navy base community was also joined by Coast Guardsmen and soldiers. Flight students, military spouses, family members and veterans all dove in to support rescue efforts.
Between all of them, they’ve rescued around 1,100 sea turtles and the numbers continue to grow. Only 20 have perished.
According to National Geographic, nearly 5,000 green sea turtles have been rescued throughout the coast of Texas since the unprecedented winter storm hit. Texans and members of the military community have been bringing them in by the carload, banding together to save the threatened species. In a Facebook post, Sea Turtle Inc. wrote “This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas.”
Despite handling challenging times of their own with loss of power and water, these military members and their supporters went all in to save the turtles. Without their dedicated efforts, it’s apparent the Texas green sea turtle population would have been decimated. It’s a powerful reminder of how working together even during the hardest of times can truly make all the difference in the world.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher was flying his F/A-18 Hornet 100 miles west of Baghdad on Jan. 17, 1991. It was just minutes into the first night of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led coalition’s offensive to expel the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Speicher’s plane was shot down that night – but by what?
He was the first American combat casualty in the war.
Speicher was listed as missing in action, presumed taken prisoner by the Iraqi Army, after being briefly listed as killed. The Pentagon didn’t actually know. The military didn’t even really know how Speicher’s Hornet had been taken down. The Navy’s initial conclusion was that Speicher was taken down by a land-based surface-to-air missile and maintained that throughout the next decade. But other American pilots operating in the area that night reported the presence of an Iraqi MiG-25.
That Foxbat’s pilot was Lt. Zuhair Dawoud, who managed to evade a large formation of attacking American planes, singling out Speicher’s Hornet and firing a R-40D missile that exploded directly beneath Speicher’s cockpit. With the plane shredded, Speicher bailed out as Dawoud turned to find another target. Speicher did not survive long.
The pilots in the air that night knew Speicher was taken down by the MiG-25 Foxbat. His aircraft crashed 48 miles south of Qadessiya, where the wreckage remained. According to “War Is Boring,” the Hornet’s digital recorder was recovered from Iraq in 1995 and confirmed the missile hit. The CIA would not confirm Speicher’s death until 2001, and even then his body had still not been recovered.
Even after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military was not able to determine Speicher’s fate. Eventually, they found that he was never captured by the Iraqis but rather was buried by Bedouins who found his body after the shootdown. Marines occupying Anbar Province in 2008 found his remains and sent them back to the U.S. They were positively identified by his jawbone.
Throughout history, executions have been controversial ways of punishing heinous crimes against individuals, institutions, and governments. From hangings to lethal injection, executions have spanned the gamut of cruelty and, at every point, there has raged a debate over the moral grounds of taking a life for justice.
Historically, one form of execution has been reserved for military personnel: the firing squad. The concept is elementary: a prisoner stands against a brick wall or study barrier and is gunned down by a handful of soldiers. It might sound simple, but there are a few things about this deadly punishment that you might not know
The final walk
Out of grim curiosity, we’ve watched several videos of firing-squad executions found in the war archives. We noticed that the majority of criminals sentenced to die conducted their last walks under their own accord. Although this was likely their last moment of life, criminals weren’t dragged to their position.
We thought that was interesting.
A firing squad in Cuba.
The crimes committed
Throughout many parts of the world, if a troop or civilian was convicted of cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny, or treason, they would be sent up in front of a firing squad as punishment.
That doesn’t happen too often today.
What it’s like facing a Spanish firing squad without a blindfold.
In many cases, the prisoner was blindfolded before stepping in front of his executioners. However, some requested the opportunity to face the men who were about to unload their barrels.
That’s pretty ballsy.
According to the Crime Museum, when the condemned person was able to look into the eyes of their executioners, it diminished their anonymity. This made the event stressful for the shooters who were following orders.
The firing squad
Once given the cue by a superior, each soldier pulled the trigger of their rifle simultaneously, resulting in a kill shot by multiple rounds.
In some cases, only a handful of the executioners were given live rounds. The rest would receive blanks. This way, nobody could know who, exactly, was responsible for the kill.
Ronnie Lee Gardner in the the courtroom
(National Public Radio)
The last use of a firing squad for a convicted criminal.
According to NPR, the last person to be executed by firing squad was convicted murderer, Ronnie Lee Gardner, in 2010. While already faced with a murder conviction in Utah, Gardner attempted to escape and, in the process, killed an attorney.
Gardner’s conviction came through before the state abandoned the use of the firing squads in 2004. He elected to be killed this way.
The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.
However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.
The Soviet-Era Clones
The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.
Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.
The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”
These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.
Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52 or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.
In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.
The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.
The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.
The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.
After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.
Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.
The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.
The Stealth Fighters
In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.
The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.
Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.
Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.
Towards the Future
Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.
However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.
For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.
At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.
Adding large numbers of new next-generation destroyers will substantially change the Navy’s ability to conduct major maritime warfare operations by enabling surface forces to detect enemy attacks at much farther distances, launch long-range strikes with greater precision and destructive force, and disperse offensive forces across much wider swaths of ocean.
The US Navy has awarded deals for 10 new high-tech DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers and built in options to add even more ships and increase the “build rates” for construction of new warships — all as part of a massive strategic push to accelerate fleet growth and usher in a new era of warfighting technology for the Navy.
Six of the new destroyers will be built by Huntington Ingalls Industries in a billion deal, and four of them were awarded to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works for .9 billion, according to a Navy announcement. The acquisition is a multi-year procurement intended to reach from this year through 2022.
“We also have options for an additional five DDG 51s to enable us to continue to accelerate delivery of the outstanding DDG 51 Flight III capabilities to our Naval force,” James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said in a written Navy statement.
Meanwhile, the Navy has now started construction on its first new Flight III DDG 51 surface warfare destroyer armed with improved weapons, advanced sensors and new radar 35-times more sensitive than most current systems, service officials announced.
USS Cole and two other Arleigh Burke-class vessels docked at Naval Station Norfolk in July 2009.
Construction of the first DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Flight III Destroyer is part of a sweeping Navy and Pentagon effort to speed up delivery of new warships and expand the surface fleet to 355 ships on an accelerated timeframe.
Navy Flight III Destroyers have a host of defining new technologies not included in current ships such as more on-board power to accommodate laser weapons, new engines, improved electronics, fast-upgradeable software, and a much more powerful radar. The Flight III Destroyers will be able to see and destroy a much wider range of enemy targets at farther distances.
In fact, a new software and hardware enabled ship-based radar and fire control system, called Aegis Baseline 10, will drive a new technical ability for the ship to combine air-warfare and ballistic missile defense into a single system.
The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar, is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks.
This means that the ship can succeed in more quickly detecting both approaching enemy drones, helicopters and low flying aircraft as well as incoming ballistic missiles.
The Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar is reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.
The farther away ship commanders can see approaching threats, across the spectrum of potential attack weapons, the faster they are able to make time-sensitive decisions about which elements of a ship’s layered defense systems should be used.
The AN/SPY-6 platform will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers. In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a previously completed Navy capabilities development document.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo)
The AN/SPY-6 is being engineered to be easily reparable with replaceable parts, fewer circuit boards and cheaper components than previous radars, according to Raytheon developers; the AMDR is also designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts, Navy program managers have announced.
Service officials say the new ship uses newly integrated hardware and software with common interfaces will enable continued modernization in future years. Called TI 16 (Technical Integration), the added components are engineered to give Aegis Baseline 10 additional flexibility should it integrate new systems such as emerging electronic warfare or laser weapons
In early 2018 the ship’s program manager Capt. Casey Moton said that special technological adaptations are being built into the new, larger radar system so that it can be sufficiently cooled and powered up with enough electricity. The AMDR will be run by 1000-volts of DC power.
The DDG Flight III’s will also be built with the same Rolls Royce power turbine engineered for the DDG 1000, yet designed with some special fuel-efficiency enhancements, according to Navy information.
The AMDR is equipped with specially configured cooling technology. The Navy has been developing a new 300-ton AC cooling plant slated to replace the existing 200-ton AC plant, Moton said.
Before becoming operational, the new cooling plant will need to have completed environmental testing which will assess how the unit is able to tolerate vibration, noise and shocks such as those generated by an underwater explosion, service officials said.
DDG 51 Flight III destroyers are expected to expand upon a promising new ship-based weapons system technology fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA.
The technology, which has already been deployed, enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
Navy developers say NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of attack missiles and extend the reach of sensors by netting different sensors from different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system.
The system hinges ship-based Aegis Radar — designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles.
Through the course of several interviews, SPY-6 radar developers with Raytheon have told Warrior Maven that simulate weapons engagements have enabled the new radar to close what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations. The process involves data signal processing of raw radar data to close a track loop and pinpoint targets, Raytheon developers said.
The radar works by sending a series of electro-magnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed or distance of the object encountered.
The development of the radar system is hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Raytheon developers added.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke transits the Chesapeake Bay on its way back into port.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class RJ Stratchko)
AN/SPY-6 technology, which previously completed a Critical Design Review, is designed to be scalable, Raytheon experts say.
As a result, it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers, and other platforms as well.
Raytheon statements say AN/SPY-6 is the first truly scalable radar, built with radar building blocks — Radar Modular Assemblies — that can be grouped to form any size radar aperture, either smaller or larger than currently fielded radars.
Raytheon data on the radar system also cites a chemical compound semi-conductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.
Raytheon engineers tell Warrior that Gallium Nitride is designed to be extremely efficient and use a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption. Gallium Nitride has a much higher break down voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities, Raytheon developers said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
When considering the origins of legendary cocktails, it’s doubtful that Egypt is the first place to spring into anyone’s mind. Like many culinary innovations made during World War II, “The Suffering Bastard” is a concoction birthed from a world of limited supplies in which everyone had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on – and it shows.
The Suffering Bastard is a legendary beverage, created by a legendary barman, in time and place where new legends were born every day. The unlikely mixture is said to have turned the tides of the war against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Egypt. True or not, it succeeded in its original mission: curing the hangovers of British troops so they could push Rommel back to Tunisia.
In 1941, World War II was not going well for the British Empire. Even though the previous year saw British and Imperial troops capture more than 100,000 Italian Axis troops in North Africa, Hitler soon sent in his vaunted Afrika Corps to bolster Axis forces in the region.
Up against crack German troops led by capable tank strategist and Field Marshal, Erwin Rommel, the British experienced a number of defeats in the early months of 1941. They were pushed out of Libya and the lines were within 150 miles of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. His goal was to capture the Suez Canal and cut the British Empire in two.
During the Battle of El-Alamein, Rommel was quoted as saying “I’ll be drinking champagne in the master suite at Shepheard’s soon,” referring to the world-famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Inside the hotel was the well-known Long Bar and behind that bar was bartender, Joe Scialom, whose stories could rival anyone’s, from Ernest Hemingway to Ian Fleming.
Scialom was a Jewish Egyptian with Italian roots. Born in Egypt, he was a trained chemist who worked in Sudan in his formative years but soon found he enjoyed applying the principles of chemistry to making drinks. The chemist-turned-barman who spoke eight languages would eventually travel the world over, to Cairo, Havana, London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, and Manhattan, drinking alongside folks like Winston Churchill and Conrad Hilton. Much of that would come later, however. In 1941, he was the barkeep at the Long Bar and he was faced with a unique problem.
The war made it very difficult to get good liquor in Egypt. British officers resorted to drinking liquor that wasn’t made of such high quality and soon began complaining about terrible hangovers. In an effort to do his part for the British, Scialom set out to make a drink that would give them the effect they wanted while curing their inevitable hangovers. He used an unlikely combination of bourbon and gin along with added lime, ginger ale, and bitters to create a drink that did the job perfectly.
Many variations on the original recipe exist, to include ingredients like pineapple syrup and rum, but the original Suffering Bastard used bourbon and gin as its base.
The first Battle of El Alamein in 1942 resulted in a stalemate. The Axis supply lines from Libya were stretched out to their breaking point and Rommel could not press on to Alexandria. Before the second Battle of El Alamein, the ranking British general, Claude Auchinleck, was replaced. His spot eventually taken by one General Bernard Montgomery. The next time the two sides met at El Alamein, Montgomery was in command and British hangovers were a thing of the past. Monty and the British Empire troops turned Rommel away and pushed him westward toward an eventual defeat.
The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.
Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins died Wednesday. He was one of 24 American astronauts who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. Collins was occasionally referred to as “the loneliest man in history” because while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, he stayed in orbit around the moon in the Apollo command module, more isolated and alone in those few hours than any person on earth had ever been in history.
Though 24 American astronauts have orbited the moon — and three have made two trips there — only 12 have walked on its surface. Of that dozen, four remain alive today.
Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon July 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he famously said upon stepping down onto the moon’s surface. But before his 17-year career as an astronaut with NASA, Armstrong served as a combat naval aviator, flying 78 missions in the Korean War. He even had to bail out of his F-9F Panther jet after it became disabled on a low bombing run in August 1951. Fortunately, he was rescued. He flew 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders, throughout his career. Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Born in the same year as fellow-moonwalker Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission. The pair spent 21 hours on the moon and collected 46 pounds of moon rocks. Like Armstrong, Aldrin flew combat missions in the Korean War with the Air Force. He flew 66 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre, shot down two MiG-15s, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years before walking on the moon, Aldrin made history by performing the world’s first successful spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), and took the first “space selfie.” In recent years, Aldrin has been known not to put up with moon landing conspiracies. When a denier confronted Aldrin in 2002, Aldrin punched the man in the face.
Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Conrad retired from the US Navy as a captain in 1973 after 20 years of service, 11 of which were with NASA’s space program. The young officer became a naval aviator in 1953 following his graduation from Princeton University and was a flight instructor at the Test Pilot School, among other locations. As an astronaut, he set the space endurance record and put the US in the lead for man-hours in space following his flight with Gemini 5 in August 1965. He also helped set a world altitude record and served as commander on Apollo 12, which completed the second lunar landing Nov. 19, 1969. He flew his final mission with the Skylab II, the first US Space Station.
Conrad died July 8, 1999, at age 69 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Bean had three accomplished careers: He was a naval aviator, an astronaut, and an artist. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean and Charles Conrad completed the second lunar landing, and Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During his two moonwalks, he helped conduct several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generation station to put a power source on the moon. The pair used a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds of moon rocks and soil to study back on Earth. Bean later served aboard Skylab II, the first US Space Station, where he said, “Going outside a spaceship in earth orbit is scarier than walking on the moon.”
“I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come,” Bean later said regarding his post-astronaut life as an artist. “It is my dream that on the wings of my paintbrush many people will see what I saw and feel what I felt, walking on another world some 240,000 miles from my studio here on planet earth.”
Alan Shepard is every golfer’s favorite astronaut. The first American in space and the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon at age 47, Shepard also became the first human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It was during the Apollo 14 mission, the third manned lunar landing, when Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed Feb. 5, 1971, and completed two moonwalks.
The astronaut, who started his career aboard a ship during World War II and later became a test pilot, hit three golf balls in four shots on the moon. In his spacesuit and with one hand, Shepard got “more dirt than ball” on his first shot, sliced the second, retrieved it for a third shot, and then sent the final golf ball “miles and miles and miles” on his fourth shot. That statement isn’t entirely hyperbole — because of the moon’s low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the ball could have traveled up to a mile, more than four times the average professional drive. Shepard died July 21, 1998, at age 74.
Edgar D. Mitchell
While Shepard is remembered for his golf skills on the moon, Edgar D. Mitchell is remembered for his quick thinking that saved Apollo 14 from disaster. When the lunar module encountered two failures, he had to manually punch 80 lines of code into a computer so they wouldn’t have a hard landing on the moon. The former naval aviator was the sixth human being to walk on the moon. He and Shepard set mission records at the time for the longest distance traveled on the moon, largest payload returned from the lunar surface, and longest stay (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon. In his later years, Mitchell voiced his unusual opinions about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. He died on Feb. 4, 2016, at age 85.
David R. Scott
Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, David R. Scott is one of the four still living. He flew in space three times, piloted the command module on Apollo 9 for the first docking of the command module and lunar module, and made history during the Apollo 15 mission by driving the lunar rover on the moon for the first time. He also survived a terrifying spin aboard Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong in March 1966. They were attempting to dock the Atlas Agena target vehicle to complete the world’s first linkup between two spacecraft in orbit when they started to tumble.
“We have serious problems here,” Scott said. “We’re tumbling end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.” They were spinning so fast their vision blurred when the craft reached one revolution per second. Armstrong used almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering propellant to stop the spin and was ordered to return to Earth.
James B. Irwin
James B. Irwin retired a year after exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971 and founded an evangelical religious organization called the High Flight Foundation. He said his experience on the moon inspired him to devote the rest of his life to “spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” He even quoted a Psalms passage to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” Irwin said, according to The New York Times, “but, of course, we get quite a bit from Houston, too.”
The Air Force colonel and David Scott became the eighth and seventh American astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Irwin’s moonwalk was his only space mission. Irwin died from a heart attack Aug. 8, 1991, at age 61.
John W. Young
“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, also a former astronaut, said. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”
Young landed on the moon with the Apollo 16 mission and is the only person to have gone into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. After serving in the US Navy as a fighter pilot, he joined NASA in 1962. He drove 16 miles in a lunar rover through the moon’s highlands and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He retired in 2004 after 42 years with NASA and had acquired more than 80 major honors and awards, including an induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. On Jan. 5, 2018, Young died at 87 after suffering complications from pneumonia.
Charles M. Duke Jr.
“As an American, it was my honor to serve my country by going aboard Apollo 16 and becoming the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface,” Charles Duke said. Gen. Duke received his commission to the US Air Force and earned his pilot’s wings in 1958. He served both as a fighter-interceptor pilot and as a test pilot during his time in the US military before being selected by NASA in 1966 to join the astronaut program. Duke served in five different Apollo missions to the moon, and since his retirement in 1975, he has toured worldwide, giving keynote and motivational speeches.
Eugene Cernan was a captain in the Navy, serving for 20 years (13 of which were with NASA) and flying three historic missions as a pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, and the commander of Apollo 17. Cernan flew to the moon twice and held the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land,” Cernan famously joked in an interview with NASA in 2007. “Made it sort of easy for him.”
Cernan, sometimes referred to as “the last man on the moon,” died Jan. 16, 2017, at age 82.
Harrison H. Schmitt
Harrison Schmitt joined the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods for NASA. A year later, he was selected to become a scientist-astronaut and earned his T-38 jet pilot wings with the Air Force in 1966 and his H-13 helicopter wings with the Navy in 1967. Schmitt became the last of 12 men to have stepped on the moon while he was on the Apollo 17 mission, NASA’s final moon-landing mission. He is the only scientist to have walked on the moon.