10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl at his first duty station

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

MIGHTY GAMING

Everything we know about the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ game

A huge new “Star Wars” game is on the verge of being fully revealed: “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is expected to arrive later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Even better: The game is being made by Respawn Entertainment, the same studio behind the excellent “Titanfall” series and recent blockbuster “Apex Legends.”

So what is it? Here’s everything we know so far:


10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

No, not this Jedi — “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” takes place long before Rey was born.

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

1. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is a third-person action game starring a Jedi as the playable character.

Given the naming convention, you probably already guessed it: “Fallen Order” stars a Jedi.

That means, unlike “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” this game is no shooter. Instead, it’s a third-person action game that focuses on lightsaber-based combat.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(LucasFilm)

2. It takes place between the events of “Episode 3” and “Episode 4.”

Spoilers for “Episode 3” ahead! In “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (“Episode 3”), a very moody Anakin Skywalker — before turning into everyone’s favorite cyborg, Darth Vader — sets out to destroy the Jedi Order.

It’s part of a bigger jedi purge, known as “Order 66.” Few Jedi survive the purge, but apparently the main character in “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is one of those few.

The game follows “a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66,” according to Disney.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

3. It’s likely to involve stealth gameplay.

In a tweet this week, the official “Star Wars” gaming account from Electronic Arts published the image above with the text, “Don’t stand out.”

Given the time period of the game, it’s very likely that the main character — a Jedi — is trying to stay out of sight. When the game was announced in June 2018, Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella referred to its setting as “dark times.”

What that means for gameplay is that stealth is almost certainly involved. After all, even the most adept Jedi couldn’t withstand the collective force of the Imperial Clone army.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

4. It’s scheduled to arrive in “holiday 2019.”

When the game was announced in June 2018, it was given a “holiday 2019” release window by Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella. Given that the next major “Star Wars” movie is set to arrive on Dec. 20, 2019, we’d guess that “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” will arrive somewhere in the vicinity of December or November 2019.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

The image above leaked ahead of the official reveal, and it offered fans an early look at what to expect from the upcoming game.

(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

5. There appears to be a droid of some form alongside the main character.

As you may have noticed in the image above, next to the Jedi is an adorable little droid. It appears as though that droid will star alongside the game’s main character — perhaps as an assistant? Or maybe it offers help in puzzle-solving situations? We’ll see!

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(Apex Legends/Electronic Arts)

6. It’s being made by the folks who made “Apex Legends” and “Titanfall,” Respawn Entertainment.

Respawn Entertainment, an EA-owned game studio, has only produced excellent games. Starting with “Titanfall” and, most recently, “Apex Legends,” Respawn Entertainment has a near-perfect record.

That said, Respawn Entertainment is known for creating first-person shooters — before Respawn, many of the studio’s employees developed the most iconic “Call of Duty” games. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is the studio’s first attempt at character action.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(Disney)

7. The game is getting detailed during a panel at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on April 13, 2019.

Ready to learn more? Good news: Disney’s about to tell everyone a lot more about “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” on April 13, 2019!

During a panel at the Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago, Disney is scheduled to reveal many more details about the upcoming game.

Here’s the full panel description:

“Join the head of Respawn Entertainment, Vince Zampella, and Game Director, Stig Asmussen, along with many special guests, to be the first to learn about this holiday’s highly anticipated action adventure game, ‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.’ Hear how Respawn and Lucasfilm collaborated on this original Star Wars story, following a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66. And of course, we’ll have a few surprises in store.”

You can watch the panel live on Saturday at the Star Wars YouTube channel right here.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Deadline to transfer GI Bill benefits coming this July

Soldiers with over 16 years of service who want to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to a dependent must do so before July 12, 2019, or risk losing the ability to transfer education benefits.

Last year, the Department of Defense implemented a new Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Education Benefits, or TEB, eligibility requirement, which instituted a “six- to 16-year cutoff rule,” said Master Sgt. Gerardo T. Godinez, senior Army retention operations NCO with Army G-1.

Further, soldiers who want to transfer their education entitlement must have at least six years of service, he said. All soldiers must commit to an additional four years of service to transfer their GI Bill.


However, soldiers who are currently going through the medical evaluation board process cannot transfer GI Bill benefits until they are found fit for duty under the new DOD policy.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

(U.S. Army photo)


“For Purple Heart recipients, [all] these rules do not apply,” Godinez said.

Prior to the new policy, there were no restrictions on when a soldier could transfer their education benefits.

Since 2009, over 1 million soldiers have transferred their GI Bill benefits, Godinez said.

“To transfer their GI Bill, soldiers have to go into milConnect website, login with their common access card, then select the tab there that talks about the transfer education benefits,” Godinez said.

If a soldier needs additional help, they can visit their installation’s service and career, or education counselors. In July 2019, the new rules will be in effect and those soldiers with more than 16 years of service will not be eligible to transfer education benefits.

“Soldiers need to [review this benefit] to make an educated decision,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Mayans MC’ star Vincent Vargas ‘didn’t think it was fair’ that Adam Driver was bullied for serving in the war

Lockdown measures have meant that almost everyone is spending nearly all their time on Twitter. Those familiar with the social media platform would know that every new day during these difficult times sees a new celebrity being canceled. One of those celebrities was Adam Driver, for his supposed Islamophobic sentiments for enlisting.

On April 20, the hashtag #adamdriverisoverparty started trending on Twitter after a 2019 interview of the actor resurfaced. In the interview, Driver spoke about how he joined the Marines after 9/11 because he felt a deep desire for retribution against an invisible and unknown enemy.


“It wasn’t against Muslims,” he said. “It was: We were attacked. I want to fight for my country against whoever that is.”

What followed was a horde of Twitter users using Driver’s comments to accuse him of being Islamophobic and launching the hashtag. “#AdamDriverIsOverParty forget that ugly Islamophobic troll stream my amy adams fancam,” said one.

‘Mayans M.C.’ actor Vincent Vargas spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) on what he thought about Driver being subjected to the cancel culture. He said, “I think right now, people are completely polarized and completely divided on opinions on everything in the world. I believe they took Adam Driver’s quotes on what he talked about, why he wanted to serve our country and turned it against him as if he [were] an Islamophobe.”

He added, “I just didn’t think it was fair to someone who [served] our country, someone who decided to join for whatever reasons that might be and then to turn around and try and damage his career because of unpopular opinions of other people. It’s a small demographic of individuals that use social media to essentially bully someone on their own opinion.”

Vargas also said that Driver’s 2019 interview might have resurfaced as people are bored of being on quarantine and stuck indoors. He added that Driver is “a brilliant actor,” and that he did not think “any kind of assumption of his character is going to ruin his career.” Vargas said, “Whatever they took out of context, that’s on them.”

He said, “For it to kind of blow-up again was kind of weird. I was almost amazed by it and kind of blown away that someone who serves in America, who [makes] the kind of entertainment that we enjoy that is mostly made in America — the land of opportunity that actors from other countries come to — was [bashed].”

Vargas believes that it’s “honorable and commendable” that Driver chose to serve in the war, whether “people believe in the [purpose of the] war or not.” He said, “[Driver] was trying to serve a greater purpose than himself.”

Vargas himself is a veteran. The actor enlisted for the military and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007 and did three tours. At the time, Vargas enlisted partly for financial reasons. He had a child he needed to support, but also because he wanted to do his part to help. He said, “I wanted to try and do it the right way and try and do special operations.”

The actor was part of both Operation Iraqi Freedom (the United States’ invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2011) and Operation Enduring Freedom (what the Global War on Terrorism was called by the United States government).

Vargas was sent to learn Pashtu for several months so he could communicate with the Afghani population in the hills. He said he would check on them to see how things were going as well as to establish that “we’re here looking for terrorist fighters.”

Vargas said there was an interesting dynamic between the soldiers and the civilians of those countries. He told MEAWW, “Are we there for the right reasons? That’s a question to answer, but I’m here to do [the] job that has been asked of me by the military.”

On being asked his opinions on the civilian casualties during the United States’ operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vargas said, “I think we all know and [have] seen that there are civilian casualties in war all the time and it’s a super unfortunate thing to happen.”

He added, “It’s obviously not something I condone or support but I also know that there’s this crazy thing that happens in the fog of war and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that a lot of terrorist acts happened in our country and some civilians, innocent people, and bystanders get hurt in those as well. When you have a country at war, those things are to be expected and it’s not a good thing. It’s not something to be proud of, but it is something that we have to acknowledge exists.”

Vargas plays the role of Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez on FX’s ‘Mayans M.C.’. Crucially, he also serves as a technical advisor on the show. Vargas tells us that it is just him and Tyler Grey (of ‘SEAL Team’) who are veterans who served in active combat duty who work as actors on mainstream television today.

Vargas said, “I believe it’s kind of my place to make sure that veterans are represented in the right light and not to be bashed on for serving our country. Think about Hollywood. In the 50s and 60s, it was [run] by veterans who served in Vietnam and before that in World War 2.”

As the technical advisor, Vargas helps make sure that everything done on the show regarding law enforcement, military, and border patrol are authentic. When the writers want to include material on those aspects, Vargas, makes sure that it is something that is correct and “valid toward the truth.”

While it may seem that veteran representation in Hollywood is aplenty, veterans often lament that their on-screen counterparts are often portrayed in extremes. Veteran Chris Marvin told the New York Times that veterans were being stereotyped by what he believes has become the dominant image on television and in Hollywood today: the “broken hero,” as he puts it, “who once did incredible things but is now forever damaged and in need of help.”

“The truth is, 99 percent of us are neither heroic nor broken,” Marvin said. “We are people — people the public has invested in who have a lot of potential. And it’s time to get over the pity party.”

Marvin believed that the portrayals may color the public’s perceptions, causing people to think that veterans are more likely to be unemployed and to commit suicide than their civilian peers, which he insisted is not true.

This article originally appeared on Meaww. Follow @MeawwOfficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What to know about the Combat Controller who will get the Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the family of a fallen U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller at a ceremony on Aug. 22, 2018, for his extraordinary heroism in March 2002 while deployed to Afghanistan.

According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.


“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman

During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.

During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.

Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.

He continued, “I extend my deepest thanks to the members of Tech. Sgt. Chapman’s family, his military family, and the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were his brothers on the battlefield and who have remained committed to honoring his legacy. He is a true American hero.

“This is a reflection of our commitment to recognizing the heroic actions of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “As Chapman’s story reminds us, we have a sacred duty to honor the actions and sacrifices of all our service members. I share our Airmen’s deepest gratitude to the Chapman family, as well as the family members of all those who gave their lives serving our great nation.”

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.

Chapman will be the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He will be the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan earlier this week as members of the 82nd Airborne Division.


The Fort Bragg-based soldiers were part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, deployed in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire
Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. (DOD photo)

Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, officials said. Jackson Springs is in western Moore County, about an hour from the All American gate of Fort Bragg.

The soldiers were part of a convoy that was attacked south of Kandahar on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said the four wounded soldiers were receiving care at a coalition medical facility and that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Resolute Support Mission, I offer our deepest condolences to the families of our fallen comrades,” said Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and a former commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. “These soldiers gave their lives in service of a mission that is critically important to the United States, our allies and partners. We will honor their sacrifice with our dedication to protect our homeland and complete the mission for which they sacrificed.”

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Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense announced the names of the two soldiers killed in the attack late Thursday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Harris and Hunter.

On Thursday, a separate attack killed another coalition soldier and injured six other personnel during a patrol near Kabul, officials said. The wounded were reported in stable condition at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield.

The patrol was struck by an IED during a partnered mission alongside Afghan soldiers.

There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team alone has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country. Most of the soldiers deployed in June, led by Col. Tobin Magsig and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb.

The soldiers have a variety of missions providing base security, protecting high-ranking military and government officials, serving as Theater Reserve Forces and training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.

Harris and Hunter’s battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, has been tasked with overseeing security for a tactical base in southern Afghanistan and serving as a quick reaction force to deal with nearby attacks.

“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members,” Magsig, the brigade commander, said in a statement released Thursday.

“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal paratrooper,” Magsig said. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the nation expects from its warriors.”

“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for — strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous,” the colonel added. “He was revered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit.”

Both of the soldiers were on their first deployment, officials said.

Harris joined the Army in October 2013 and Hunter joined in April 2014, according to the 82nd Airborne Division. Both men attended Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 1st Brigade.

“Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors. They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow paratroopers,” Magsig said. “Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”

Articles

5 insane military projects that almost happened

1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg

Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.


What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.

Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.

Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.

Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.

2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats

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A bat bomb in action Photo: schoolhistory.org.uk

Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.

Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.

Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.

FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.

Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.

The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.

After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.

At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.

3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”

Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?

The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.

The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.

The project was still considered viable in 2002, when the proposal’s findings were sent to the National Academy of Sciences.

At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.

4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system

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Photo: the brigade.com

WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.

The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.

Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.

5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds

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Maybe Forrest Gump was experiencing Operation Popeye Photo: duels.net

This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.

And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.

The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.

The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia took Israel’s most advanced missile from Syria

The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel’s most advanced air defense missiles from the David’s Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.

The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn’t breach Israel’s border.


The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.

The David’s Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.

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David’s Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.

(United States Missile Defense Agency)

“It’s certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I’d be nervous right now,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.

The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. “If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now,” he told Insider.

But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David’s Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.

“If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran,” Williams said.

David’s Sling Missile System -⚔️ New Israel Missile Defense System [Review]

www.youtube.com

Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — “both offensive and defensive.”

“In terms of air defense interceptors, they’re no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is,” Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.

SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is preparing for a war without satellites

Exercise Red Flag is the much-less famous, Air Force version of TOPGUN. It had the same impetus as TOPGUN – the Vietnam War highlighted some very serious shortcomings in how the service prepared to fight a war. Red Flag, however, doesn’t just feature the air-to-air stuff. Red Flag takes it a step further and trains pilots in air-to-ground combat as well.


Sometimes, Red Flag is a very international affair, with participants from all over the world. The current Red Flag, though, is going to be a much more… private affair. According to Popular Mechanics, the United States is only bringing in some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia. This is because this Red Flag is being run without the use of the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

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A four-ship formation of F-22 Raptors from the 94th Fighter Squadron and 1st Fighter Wing fly in formation over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The four aircraft were in transit back to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. after participating in Red Flag 17-4 Aug. 26, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Why? Just take a look at the news: Both Communist China and Russia are working on deploying systems that can destroy American satellites. Among the satellites at potential risk are those of the GPS system. This would put a serious crimp in not just navigation, but also in munitions guidance. Weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Joint Stand-Off Weapon use GPS to get within about 30 feet of a target.

The good news is that GPS is not the only tool that American pilots have. There are inertial navigation systems and radios that don’t rely on the satellites. GPS, however, has become the preferred tool. As such, if an enemy were to knock some or all of the constellation out, American forces would be greatly disadvantaged.

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A B-1B Lancer taking part in Green Flag, an exercise similar to Red Flag, over Nellis Air Force Base. (USAF photo)

This year’s Red Flag is recreating that scenario to prepare pilots for the worst. The United States will be getting a good idea of how to fight without GPS. Participants will be getting plenty of practice doing so when the stakes are little more than a bunch of bruised egos.

How did they shut off GPS over the deserts of Nevada? They aren’t saying — after all, no need to give the enemy ideas.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The CIA takes on Marvel Comics tech it considers a real possibility

Before you laugh it off and remind us all that Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War are just movies (and/or comics) and should not be taken seriously, let me remind you there are numerous examples of sci-fi and fantasy leading to the development of real-world technology. Video calling, holographic projections, tablets, Bluetooth devices, and even tractor beams were all inventions of fiction that later became reality. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the U.S. is currently building the TALOS suit, an Iron Man-inspired suit of mechanical armor.


So, it’s not all that surprising that a CIA scientist would break down Wakanda’s advanced, fantastic tech to see what’s possible — and to see what could become a real threat.

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Um… one thing at a time, guys.
(Marvel)

The analysis was part of the agency’s #ReelvsRealCIA series, and the scientist (whose name was not revealed) is an expert in emerging technology and digital innovation. She pitted Marvel’s Wakandan technology against the limits of today.

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Inching toward being the first supervillain, one day at a time.

1. Vibranium

Vibranium is the rare metal that Wakanda has in abundance, deposited there by an asteroid 10,000 years ago. The metal can absorb vibrations from all kinetic energy, which includes both conventional and energy weapons. The ability of the metal to absorb vibration also means it absorbs sounds. This material is what makes Captain America’s shield indestructible.

A real-world metal with these comic-book properties doesn’t exist, but there are a few substances that come close, according to “Rebecca,” the CIA’s scientist.

  • Tungsten Carbide – This chemical compound can compress materials and store energy to be released later.
  • Diamond nanothreads – Carbon atoms bonded together the way they are seen in diamonds can hold a lot of energy when woven into fabric.
  • Vibranium – Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is developing a material they call “Vibranium” (because of course Elon Musk is), a woven carbon alloy that is eight times stronger than steel and five times lighter. The threads can also store and send data about its condition.

2. Tactical Sand

Vibranium-infused sand forms real-time depictions of tactical situations — it’s data visualization using sound waves to form shapes in the sand. The technology may be fictional, but the theory behind it is very much a reality. Rebecca says it’s based on Chladni’s law, which states that different sound frequencies cause sand to form different patterns.

But a pattern isn’t a tactical display. What about the actual data coming in, can that be represented in sand? The answer is yes, and MIT is doing it right now. Researchers can make sand respond to real-time movements, using it as they would pixels, allowing people who are in a remote area to interact with data in real time.

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(Marvel)

3. Kimoyo Beads

Tiny beads of vibranium that can hold personal data or perform specific functions, all triggered by touch, are a feature of every Wakandan.

Devices that can be engaged via touch clearly exist (most of you are reading this on a touchscreen device, after all) as does remote control technology. The problem, at the moment, is in the holographic communication. The physics of light waves and the space required for holographic projections restricts this technological function.

What excited “Rebecca” most about Kimoyo beads is the use of blockchain technology in storing personal information. Blockchain technology means data is not stored in a central server and is therefore much less vulnerable to hacking and theft than traditional databases.

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Unfortunately the nanomachines just shred whatever clothing you’re wearing.

(Marvel)

4. The Panther Habit

T’Challa’s Black Panther suit is comprised of woven Vibranium nanoparticles, tiny machines that emanate from his necklace, swarming over his skin and forming a protective suit that can absorb energy, regenerate, and self-replicate.

Rebecca notes that nanotechnology is primarily being developed in the medical field right now, but swarm intelligence like the kind used by the Panther Habit is being developed for use with drones. As for lightweight cloth that can absorb vibrations and shocks, there are a few companies who are working on similar technologies that have a lot of interest from national sports leagues, the U.S. military, and law enforcement.

5. Invisibility Cloaks

Using lens technology to bend light around objects, like the tech being developed at the University of Rochester, gives researchers the ability to hide objects. Right now, this technology only works on human vision, and must be seen through the lens, but the evidence below is pretty amazing.

Nanotechnology opens the door to real invisibility cloaking, and is already being done on a very, very small scale. But the CIA’s scientist points out that hiding a whole country from satellites that have radiation and heat detection is still going to be very unlikely, even if it can’t be seen with the human eye.

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6. Basotho Blankets

Basotho blankets are the amazing tribal blankets worn by the border tribe that just happen to double as deflector shields. Unfortunately, even if we consider vibranium to have near-magical properties, light will never be able to stop a physical object or other light, as Rebecca points out.

She does point to another way to create an energy shield:

“In Physics of the Impossible, physicist Michio Kaku says that you’d need a “plasma window,” a frame in which gas could be heated to 12,000°F, to vaporize metals (even vibranium?) Alternately you might use high-energy laser beams that crisscrossed each other, to vaporize objects, but both of these require more rigid structure than a cloak. Back to carbon nanotubes! If you could weave those into a lattice (or a cloak), they could create a screen of enormous strength, capable of repelling most objects. The screen would be invisible, since each carbon nanotube is atomic in size, but the carbon nanotube lattice would be stronger than any ordinary material. Add in some cool hologram effects, and you could have a pretty nifty shield that would be the envy of any intelligence service operating in a warzone.”
Articles

ISIS is so worried about the coming Mosul invasion they’re cutting off the Internet

A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.


Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.

“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.

It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”

The crumbling situation for rebel forces inside Mosul comes as U.S., Iraqi and Syrian Democratic forces continue to squeeze ISIS in the east of Iraq and to the north in Syria, with nearly half of the critical junction town of Manjib, Syria, taken from ISIS and troops flowing into the newly recaptured Q-West airfield near Mosul.

Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.

“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”

Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.

“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”

As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia tried to sneak vodka to North Korea

When Kim Jong-un returns to North Korea after his summit with President Donald Trump, he may find his liquor cabinet running low.

On Feb. 22, 2019, officials in the Netherlands seized a shipment of 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka that they believe were bound for North Korea, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported.

The bottles of Stolovaya vodka were reportedly found in a shipping container, nestled underneath an airplane fuselage, on a vessel bound for China.


But Dutch officials told Algemeen Dagblad that they have information leading them to believe that the shipment was really intended for Kim and his military commanders, which would be a violation of United Nations sanctions against the country.

“We do not want to release more information than necessary about our control strategy,” customs official Arno Kooij told the paper. “But what I can tell you is that, based on the information available, we suspected that this particular container was subject to the sanctions regime for North Korea.”

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Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at the 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit.

The UN bans member countries from trading luxury goods to North Korea, where nearly half of the population is malnourished, according to estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

But Kim is believed to regularly flout these rules.

In 2018, a South Korean lawmaker estimated North Korea had spent billion on luxury goods from China since Kim took power in 2011.

“Kim has bought lavish items from China and other places like a seaplane for not only his own family, and also expensive musical instruments, high-quality TVs, sedans, liquor, watches, and fur as gifts for the elites who prop up his regime,” lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun said in a statement, according to Reuters.

An investigation has been launched to determine where exactly the shipment was headed.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s won’t save NATO from a war with Russia

Much of NATO’s hope to remain a relevant fighting force in the coming decades has been pinned on the introduction of the F-35, but a simple look at the numbers shows that one airframe alone won’t turn the tide against Russia.

“If we think we’re going to wait for the next generation to sort the problems out, I can categorically tell you we will fail when next major conflict occurs.” Simon Rochelle, the Royal Air Force’s air vice-marshal, told the Royal United Service Institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference on March 20, 2019.


“In 2030, 80% of the European NATO forces — should one of those situations occur, God forbid — will be gen 4 fighters. You can’t walk away from that,” he continued, referring to pre-stealth jets as belonging to a fourth generation of fighters.

While Rochelle sounded confident in the F-35’s ability to meet current and future threats, he stressed that NATO wouldn’t hit critical mass in its fifth-generation fleets in time for the next big conflict.

But instead of demanding a deeper well of F-35s, Rochelle said the only practical way was to spread the benefits of the F-35 horizontally, to other airframes.

“I need the F-35’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) information off boarded,” he said. “We have F-35s and Typhoons, and I have to use those symbiotically. I can’t afford poor interoperability.”

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(Crown Copyright)

Too little, too late

While the UK has its own fifth-gen fighter planned, the Tempest, Rochelle said the slow pace of fielding the fighters slightly defeated the purpose.

“If both those airframes take 10 years to mature to the next level, they won’t fit the purpose,” he said.

In the meantime, Russia has come up with a slew of new, low-cost, and potentially potent weapons systems meant to down NATO jets.

“The threats, in terms of how it is progressing, [are] significant,” Rochelle said of Russian systems such as the S-400, which has begun to proliferate across the globe with China, Syria, and even the NATO member Turkey looking to buy.

“Those systems are so complex and so capable that a price point for those systems of defense is far cheaper than the long running programs we have in the aircraft to development,” Rochelle said. “We can’t afford not to respond at pace, because our adversaries are responding at pace.”

An S-400 can spot even stealth aircraft such as the F-35 and, using a relatively cheap missile, down a jet that costs many hundred times its own value.

Additionally, Russia may have the even more advanced S-500 system online by the time fifth-generation fighter aircraft hit the front lines en masse.

“They are formidable beasts,” Rochelle said of Russia’s new systems, which include directed energy weapons.

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Eurofighter Typhoon.

(Photo by Ronnie Macdonald)

Think fast

At the Rapid Capabilities Office in the Royal Air Force, Rochelle’s job is to innovate new solutions to these mounting problems and get them done fast.

Rochelle discussed cutting down extensive, sometimes grueling testing requirements for non-mission critical components of fighter aircraft. He also explained how his office was able to get Tornado jets fighting ISIS in 191 days.

When it came to fitting the F-35 into the bigger NATO fight against Russia, Rochelle was full of ideas.

“I want to be able to connect a Rivet Joint, through space, into the cockpit … We need to be thinking in those dimensions,” he said, referencing the US and UK’s standard airborne signals-intelligence plane that can help spot anti-air batteries like Russia’s S-400.

“Ideally, I’d like to reprogram the F-35 in flight” with new information, potentially including things spotted by Rivet Joints and other legacy aircraft.

Essentially, Rochelle knows that Europe won’t have B-21s, F-22s, and F-35s of its own on day one of a conflict with Russia, and has launched a series of programs to make his Typhoons fight harder with the benefit of targeting and threat data pulled from F-35s.

In effect, he’s gunning for a much cheaper, lighter air force that takes the cutting edge of the F-35 and spreads it out across the entire mass of NATO’s jet fighter fleet.

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

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