The differences between America's top special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The differences between America’s top special operators

The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.

Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.

They’re also very secretive.

As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.

So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.

Check them out below.


The differences between America’s top special operators

The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.

(US Army photo)

1. Army Rangers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.

Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”

They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.

The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.

The differences between America’s top special operators

The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.

(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)

Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.

The differences between America’s top special operators

The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.

2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.

Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.

Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.

MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.

Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.

You can read more about the emblem here.

The differences between America’s top special operators

A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.

(US Air Force photo)

3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).

PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.

The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.

The differences between America’s top special operators

(US Air Force photo)

The differences between America’s top special operators

(US Air Force photo)

The differences between America’s top special operators

The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.

(US Army photo)

To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.

The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.

Green Berets, which work in 12-man teams, can perform a variety of missions, including unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, foreign internal defense, and more.

Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.

One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.

The differences between America’s top special operators

(US Army photo)

The two patches below are the other ways to distinguish them.

The patch that reads “Special Forces,” known as the “Long Tab,” is given to operators after finishing the 61-week long Special Forces Qualification Course.

Green Berets also wear patches of a dagger going through lightning bolts, but the colors vary depending on the unit.

Read more about Army Special Forces here.

The differences between America’s top special operators

The SEAL trident is an indicator of Navy SEALs.

(US Navy photo)

5. Navy SEALs.

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.

SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.

And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.

The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

(US Navy photo)

The other is their uniforms.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.

Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.

(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)

6. Delta Force.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.

A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”

Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.

In general, Delta and SEAL Team 6 operators are the most highly trained operators in the US military.

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this Medal of Honor recipient fought his home owners association

Every day, retired Col. Van T. Barfoot treated the American flag with the respect accorded to it by tradition and by the U.S. flag code. He raised the flag to the top of the 21-foot flagpole in his front yard every morning and took it down again – careful not to let it touch the ground and folding it into a perfect triangle – in the evening. But his Virginia homeowner’s association hated the flagpole, saying it brought down the curb appeal of the neighborhood. They told Barfoot to take it down. When he didn’t, they took legal action.

They messed with the wrong Texan. He wasn’t about to cave for some HOA. But they didn’t know that.


The differences between America’s top special operators

Oops.

Barfoot joined the Army infantry in 1940, well before the start of World War II for the United States. In 1944, with the war in full swing, Barfoot was in Italy, flanking a machine gun nest by himself in a battle near Carano. In order to save his men from the deadly fire raining death on them, Barfoot had to book it through a minefield to kill the enemy and knock out the machine gun. He did that and took out two more. He brought 17 prisoners back to friendly lines.

When three Nazi tanks came to retake the positions held by those machine gun nests, Barfoot took those out too. For his actions that day, he received the Medal of Honor. The man would later go on to fight in Korea and Vietnam before finally leaving the Army in 1974. By the time his HOA picked a fight with the old soldier, Barfoot was 90 years old.

“In the time I have left, I plan to fly the flag without interference,” he told the Associated Press.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Barfoot after receiving the Medal of Honor.

The HOA’s law firm even sent out a letter that ordered him to either remove the large flagpole from his property, or the firm would file a lawsuit to “enforce the covenants and restrictions against you.” But unlike the time he was running the minefields of Carano at a Nazi machine gun, Van Barfoot wasn’t alone this time. His story made national news. A heavy-hitting Richmond, Va. law firm offered to defend Barfoot for free, Virginia Senator Mark Warner offered his assistance, and even the 157th Infantry – Barfoot’s old unit – called to offer to help.

Not only did the HOA lose to Col. Barfoot like so many of his other fallen enemies, but the Virginia state legislature even introduced a bill that would prevent homeowners associations from banning flagpoles like Barfoots unless they could prove the harm it caused.

Barfoot died in 2012, two years after his row with the HOA. He will be remembered by many – especially the homeowner’s association.

Articles

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.


Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.

“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.

On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.

Also read: Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.

“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.

‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’

When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.

At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.

The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.

The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.

The differences between America’s top special operators
Courtesy of David Palka

“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”

Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.

Related: 24 photos that show the honor and loyalty of the Marine Corps

On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.

“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.

“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.

Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.

27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.

“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”

The differences between America’s top special operators
Courtesy of David Palka

Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.

“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”

‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’

Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.

Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.

“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.

The differences between America’s top special operators
Courtesy of David Palka

On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.

The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.

The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.

“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”

While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.

“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.

The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.

“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This MoH recipient led one of the most successful hand-to-hand assaults in WWII

Inspired by a WWI veteran, Robert Nett joined the Connecticut National Guard in 1941. Soon after, his unit was activated, and Nett found himself fighting in the South Pacific.


By the winter of 1944, Nett had led several attacks on Japanese forces in the Philippine islands and was already considered a seasoned combat veteran.

But one battle that took place on the island of Leyte proved to be one of Nett’s most significant accomplishments and one of the bloodiest.

Related: This is the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

The differences between America’s top special operators
(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Two platoons were ordered to engage the enemy at once; the first stormed toward the Japanese at full force as the second gave “support-by-fire” position in the rear.

As Nett and the first platoon advanced, they slid Bangalore charges through the enemies’ barb wired defense system, clearing their path. The flamethrowers operators then crawled through the detonated gaps and incinerated the enemy forces, allowing allied troops to create a stable foothold for themselves.

The differences between America’s top special operators
A flamethrower operator doing what they do best.

Nett’s objective was to clear a sizeable fortified enemy building just up ahead. He called to the forward observer to light the area up with 105mm shells to break the structure’s exterior security.

Just as the shells struck the building, Nett took a surprising neck wound — his jugular vein had been nicked.

Ignoring the pulsating wound, Nett crawled from squad-to-squad while engaging enemy that appeared nearby. Nett decided that it was time for him and his men to fix their bayonets.

With adrenaline pumping through their veins, Nett and his fellow soldiers carefully dashed toward their objective. Nett moved his machine gun teams to their new fighting positions while dangerously engaging the enemy in close quarter combat along the way. At that time, he took another enemy round, this time to his chest — collapsing a lung.

Also Read: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

Continuing to advance, Nett’s men made it to the fortified structure and burnt that sucker to the ground — mission complete.

Nett then noticed his feet were getting heavy as his internal blood loss appeared to be collecting there. He was wounded three times before returning to the rear for treatment.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in battle on Feb. 8, 1946, in his birthplace of New Haven, Connecticut.

Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

Medal of Honor Book, YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

These stout brownies will change your life forever

I am in a scotch and cigar club and occasionally I’ll bake something for the crew. Last week I decided to make stout brownies with a stout frosting. These were such a hit that I was politely told that they had replaced my usual chocolate chip cookies at the top of the favorites list.

For those who are not that familiar with stout beer, stout is a dark beer commonly associated with undertones of coffee or chocolate. The word stout itself was first used in 1677 in the “Egerton Manuscript” and implied a strong beer. You may have heard the term porter which—for much of history was used interchangeably with the word stout—and was used to describe a dark beer. The word porter was first used in 1720 to describe “the thick and strong beverage…consumed by the working class.” Nowadays, in an age of craft breweries, there is a distinction between the two: brewers have come to a consensus that porters are made with malted barley while stouts are brewed with unmalted barley. Historically, stouts were the strongest of beers, 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV) but don’t have to be! Guinness Draught, the world’s best-selling stout is 4.1-4.3% ABV.


This recipe calls for you to reduce the stout (Guinness or any other type of stout) to 2/3 of its original volume. I made these in the morning before work and I thought this wouldn’t take very long but I was late to work that day on account of slowly simmering beer for longer than expected at 7:00am.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Ingredients:

  • one 12 oz bottle stout beer (you could use Guinness, I found Founder’s Breakfast Stout at Grove Market)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

Stout Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons reduced stout (from step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower to medium heat and allow to simmer until reduced down to 2/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt using the microwave on high in 30 second increments, whisking after each, until completely smooth. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 cup of reduced stout until completely combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, and espresso powder. The batter will be thick and shiny. Pour and spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, then test the brownies with a toothpick. Insert it into the center of the pan. If it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and cutting into squares.

The frosting:

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the remaining reduced stout, the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.

Taste. If it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled brownies.

Cover and store leftover brownies at room temperature for up to 1 week but if your friends are anything like mine, you won’t have any leftovers.

This article originally appeared on The Booze League. Follow @BoozeLeague on Twitter.

Related articles:

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Austrian Army defeated itself

There has been no friendly fire incident in the history of the world like the 1788 Battle of Karansebes. The Austrian Army had been at war with the Ottoman Turks for more than a year when another contingent of Austrian soldiers stumbled upon another part of their army. What should have been a general misunderstanding turned into a full-on battle with more than ten thousand killed or wounded and the Ottoman capture of Karansebes anyway.


The story starts with a band of gypsies.

The differences between America’s top special operators

As every good story should.

It’s necessary to know that the Austrians of this time weren’t simply Austrian, they were fighting for the Hapsburg Empire, and their fighting force was comprised of several different languages, with no real common means of communicating between units. Still, units made up of these single language-speakers would regularly patrol by themselves, rather than joining other units to learn multiple languages or having a common tongue.

It was one of these units, a cavalry patrol, that was out looking for any signs of enemy Ottomans around. They didn’t find any Turks, but what they found was a group of Romani Gypsies who were just settling in for the night. The Gypsies offered the Austrians a good time with dancing and drinking, which the grateful cavalrymen eagerly took. Then, more Austrians showed up, but these were a group of infantry, and the cavalrymen refused to share.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Anyone who’s ever known infantrymen can probably guess what’s about to happen.

This started a fistfight, of course. As the rival groups started fighting over the booze, shots rang out from across the nearby river. All the fighting Hapsburg men stopped fighting and took cover, quickly making it back to their camp to warn the others that Turks were shooting from the other side of the river. The camp exploded in a frenzy of men who thought Turks were overrunning their camp. When the German officers tried to get their fleeing men to calm down and come back, they shouted “halt,” which in a German accent, was mistaken for “Allah.” part of the Ottoman’s battle cry.

All the sides fought one another until the camp commander believed he was being overrun, at which point he ordered the artillery to pound his own men.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Imagine this but with cannon fire landing everywhere around them.

When the Turkish Army did arrive to take the town two days later, it was completely deserted by the opposition. They rolled into the city immediately, and the Austrians didn’t talk about Karansebes for another forty years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is China’s new mysterious stealth bomber project

China made history as the only nation other than the US to ever field a stealth fighter jet, and a new report on China’s military power from the Defense Intelligence Agency just revealed yet another batch of stealth combat aircraft projects.

China “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the report reads. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025,” it continued.


Today, China holds perhaps the world’s most passive nuclear arsenal with nuclear warheads that never arm missiles and nominally “nuclear-capable” bombers that have never flown missions with nuclear warheads on board.

China’s only current bomber is the H-6K, an updated, licensed knock off of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which entered into service in 1954 and was retired by Moscow in 1993.

The differences between America’s top special operators

A Xian H-6K bomber.

While the H-6K serves the purpose of signaling capability and resolve, by landing on artificial islands in the South China Sea, for example, it’s nowhere near a modern bomber.

Plans and some potential images have leaked for the H-20, a long-range replacement for the H-6K, but until now the second Chinese stealth bomber has remained a rumor and a mystery.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Could China combine the stealth of the B-2 with the fighter prowess of an F-22?

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Fighter/bomber?

Experts who spoke to Business Insider about China’s H-20 described the bomber as likely looking a lot like the US’s B-2, a big, flat, flying wing type design.

But the DIA hinted at something a bit more sporty in its report for the second mystery bomber.

“These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” the report said.

While a long-range flying wing type bomber like the H-20 has little use for fighter maneuvers, a medium-range fighter/bomber aircraft could easily make use of the avionics and tactics China gained in developing its stealth fighter, the J-20.

The DIA in a table later in the report refers to the second bomber as a “tactical bomber” and with a fighter/bomber mission, an advanced radar and long-range air-to-air missiles.

The Drive points out that a bomber like the one described by the DIA would have increased endurance and wouldn’t rely so heavily on refueling tankers, thought to be a weak link with US combat aircraft.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.

(dafeng cao / Twitter)

Secret weapon?

China has long been developing a massive, 19-foot long very long range air-to-air missile that experts say could pose a direct challenge to top US fighters like the F-35, F-22, and all legacy aircraft.

But the J-20 likely can’t carry this long missile. A stealthy platform with a large internal weapons bay, like the fighter/bomber describe by the DIA, in theory, could handle this weapon.

With both an air-to-air and an air-to-ground mission, the mysterious new bomber may represent a missing link in China’s emerging vision of air supremacy against the US.

Every big-deck US aircraft carrier launches early warning radar aircraft to act as long-range sensors for its fighter fleets, and this new missile appears purpose-built to down them.

“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese media of its new long-range missile.

The differences between America’s top special operators

China’s J-20.

(Times Asi / Flickr)

Super-maneuverability is one of the fifth-generation fighter characteristics that China may employ on its new bomber, according to the DIA.

“So the successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” said Fu.China has long hyped its existing J-20 as an air superiority fighter, but that assessment is routinely shot down by Western analysts who say the plane doesn’t stand a chance in close combat with US F-15s or European Typhoons.

For the US, which can bring to bear the tremendous power of large fleets of land and ship-launched fighter jets anywhere in the world, its main weakness in air combat remains short ranges on its new jets, which leads to a reliance on unarmed refuelers.

But China, by following through on a medium range fighter bomber with long range missiles, may have cracked the code of how to dominate the skies of the Pacific while the US pours money into short range fighters like the F-35 or long-range bombers like the B-21.

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

Articles

How the Battle of the Bulge would have gone if GIs had the Javelin

Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”


Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?

The differences between America’s top special operators
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.

The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.

But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.

According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.

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Photo: Wikimedia

Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.

But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.

That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

National Guard chief says ‘tens of thousands’ of Guard members expected to be called up to fight the coronavirus

As the coronavirus spreads in the US, “tens of thousands” of National Guard troops could be called up to assist efforts to combat the disease, the National Guard chief said Thursday.


There are more than 2,000 National Guard members on state active duty in 27 states, but the number is expected to increase. As of last Friday, only 400 Guard members were active in just six states.

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“We anticipate that number going up relatively quickly, in fact doubling by this weekend,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a Pentagon press briefing.

“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” he told reporters, adding that “this could blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs.”

The National Guard has a long history of responding to disasters, including public-health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.

“We are involved in a multitude of mission sets,” Lengyel said. “The National Guard is providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, logistics, command and control, planners, liaison officers, and we will continue to adapt as this unfolds.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 9,400 people and resulted in at least 152 deaths in the US.

Worldwide, more than 222,000 people have been infected and more than 9,000 have died. China, where the virus first appeared, has reported more than 81,000 cases, with 70,000 people recovered and 3,249 deaths.

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As of Tuesday in New York, which has over 3,000 coronavirus cases, there were 900 New York National Guard troops on duty assisting at drive-thru test stations, cleaning public spaces, and distributing food, the Guard said in a statement.

“Going forward, we expect the role of the National Guard will continue to grow and evolve to meet the country’s needs during this historic pandemic,” Lengyel told reporters.

The Guard is having to implement certain force protection measures, however, as six Guard members have already tested positive for the coronavirus.

“My No. 1 priority is taking care of our National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families,” the chief said in a recent statement. “The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 crew members return to earth from International Space Station

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Dec. 14, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.


Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Also Read: Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Together, the Expedition 53 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, as well as Earth and other physical sciences aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their time aboard marked the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the station.

Highlights from the research conducted while they were aboard include investigations of microgravity’s effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals;  growing larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease; and delivering a new instrument to address fundamental science questions on the origins and history of cosmic rays.

The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at station in November as the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission. One Russian ISS Progress cargo craft docked to the station in October. And a SpaceX Dragon completed its commercial resupply mission to station in August, the company’s twelfth resupply mission.

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The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 53 crew members, Dec. 14, 2017. (NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls)

During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory.

Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.

The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command. Along with crewmates Mark Vende Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), are scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking.

Articles

How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.


“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”

Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.

While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.

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USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel testifies before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the grade of general and to be chief of the National Guard Bureau on June 21, 2016. US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez.

The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.

Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.

“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.

For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.

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US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

Coordinating Efforts

The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.

For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.

Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.

Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.

Thousands of National Guard troops remain on the ground in Texas for relief efforts, and the Pentagon mobilized nearly 30,000 military personnel for Irma recovery.

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm. US Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

That’s all thanks to planning.

“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.

Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.

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Emergency supplies are removed from a pallet and stacked by members of the US Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 14, 2017. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier.

Special Mission Unit Milestone

This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.

Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.

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A US flag mounted to a Texas Army National Guard vehicle waves in the breeze during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in Katy, Texas August 29, 2017. US Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson.

The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.

And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Every Marvel movie ranked from worst to best

After 11 years, 21 movies, and billions of dollars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down.

“Captain Marvel” hit theaters March 2019 and is breathing new life into what has been a lackluster box office so far in 2019. “Avengers: Endgame” is also projected to break records at the box office when it’s released next month, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes to theaters in July 2019.

But a lot will change for the MCU after this year.


Disney, which owns Marvel, will own the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after merging with Fox. The producer Kevin Feige has said he expects that to happen within the first six months of 2019, at which point he’ll get the green light to develop projects with those characters.

It comes at a good time, as “Endgame” marks the end of this era for the MCU, and veteran actors like Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) are expected to retire from their roles.

But before the MCU faces a big shakeup, we ranked all 21 movies — including “Captain Marvel” — from worst to best.

Here’s every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, ranked:

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(Marvel Studios)

21. “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau

After the highs of “Iron Man,” it didn’t take long for the MCU to plummet to its lowest.

If the “2” in “Iron Man 2” meant that everything had to be doubled — the villains, the characters, the number of MCU movies Gwyneth Paltrow is in that she didn’t watch— then “Iron Man 2” succeeds. But it’s just too overstuffed for its own good in an attempt to get audiences ready for “The Avengers” two years later.

The MCU has since become a well-oiled machine that knows how to balance it all. But in 2010, it was still working on that.

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(Marvel Studios)

20. “Thor” (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

There’s nothing particularly horrible about “Thor,” but there’s nothing memorable either. It’s impressive that the movie works at all, considering that Thor, an alien god with daddy issues, was such a little-known character at the time, and Chris Hemsworth was not the superstar he is now. But James Gunn managed to turn even lesser-known and weirder characters into MCU standouts in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would take a while for Thor to really come into his own.

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(Marvel)

19. “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Directed by Louis Leterrier

We now know Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but in the second MCU movie, Edward Norton was in the role.

Out of all the MCU movies, “The Incredible Hulk” feels the least connected to the universe. Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, has never appeared again, and neither has Tim Blake Nelson, who was teased as the Hulk’s archnemesis, the Leader.

But even with that tease, a sequel never happened, and the only character besides the Hulk to have any meaningful connection to the MCU has been General “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt, who popped up again in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

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(Disney / Marvel)

18. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Directed by Alan Taylor

It’s almost pointless to compare the first two “Thor” movies, as they’re both toward the bottom of the MCU barrel. But “The Dark World” is a tad more fun than “Thor,” and it’s integral in introducing one of the Infinity Stones (the Reality Stone) that Thanos ends up using to destroy half of humanity.

But Marvel still hadn’t realized that Hemsworth’s best attribute in the role is his humor, and the character — and the first two movies — suffer because of it.

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(Marvel Studios)

17. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

“Doctor Strange” is the most overrated movie in the MCU. By 2016, movies like the Russos’ “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” had progressed the MCU into new territory, but “Doctor Strange” felt like a step back. Sure, the magic was cool, but it also relied on a formulaic plot with a forgettable love interest. (How do you not give Rachel McAdams more to do?!)

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(Marvel)

16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Directed by Joss Whedon

This “Avengers” sequel made the same mistake as “Iron Man 2”: cramming too much into its plot to serve the future of the franchise.

The movie features some cool action sequences, notably the Iron Man-Hulk battle. But it fails to distinguish Ultron, the Avengers’ biggest enemy in the comics, from other two-dimensional MCU villains, and it spends too much time setting up future movies. (What exactly is Thor doing?)

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(Marvel)

15. “Ant-Man” (2015)

Directed by Peyton Reed

“Ant-Man” is a fun little Marvel movie, but not much else. Paul Rudd is charming in the lead role, and Evangeline Lilly is more than just a love interest as Hope van Dyne (the future Wasp). But the movie still falls into familiar territory, including a lackluster villain in Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket.

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(Disney / Marvel)

14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Directed by Joe Johnston

“The First Avenger” is arguably the first movie that “mattered” in the MCU. While “Iron Man” is better, “The First Avenger” sets up “The Avengers” better than “Iron Man,” which basically acts as a prequel to the big team-up movie.

“The First Avenger” would prove essential to the movies that came after — even “Infinity War” with the unexpected return of a character thought to be dead.

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(Marvel Studios)

13. “Iron Man 3” (2013)

Directed by Shane Black

“Iron Man 3” is the most divisive movie in the MCU, and for good reason. It takes some wacky turns, with a major twist that ruined the movie for plenty of people. But I admire that Black just went for it with this movie and delivered something that fans still argue over.

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(Marvel Studios)

12. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

Directed by Peyton Reed

While it’s not necessarily an “essential” MCU movie, it improves on the first “Ant-Man” in nearly every way, with plenty of heart and humor.

Reed came back to direct after replacing Edgar Wright at the last minute on the first movie, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as if he was more adjusted to the job, with some well-polished action sequences and a great handle on the characters.

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(Marvel)

11. “Captain Marvel” (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Maybe in time “Captain Marvel” will inch higher on this list. But for now, it’s a solid entry into the MCU, but not a fantastic one.

Boden and Fleck are at their best in the character-driven aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s the action the movie is lacking, which hurts it by the end.

Brie Larson is perfect in the title role, though, and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes the movie. There are also some surprising twists that elicited plenty of reactions from theater audiences. If anything, this is a worthy appetizer for “Avengers: Endgame.”

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(Marvel Studios)

10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts

I didn’t have a strong positive reaction to “Homecoming” when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. Peter Parker’s motivations throughout the movie to be a hero — impressing Tony Stark — rubbed me the wrong way at first. But it’s hard not to like Tom Holland’s spot-on portrayal of the character, and the movie knows exactly what it wants to be: high-school ’80s classic meets modern superhero flick. And Michael Keaton is truly menacing as Adrian Toomes/Vulture in what began a hot streak for villains in the MCU.

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(Marvel)

9. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Directed by James Gunn

Though “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a step back from the first movie, it’s still the most underrated MCU movie. The “Guardians” movies are unique entries in the franchise, and it’s a shame Gunn was given the boot from the third movie, which is in limbo.

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(Marvel Studios)

8. “Iron Man” (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

The first movie — and still among the best — “Iron Man” kicked off what has become the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. But in 2008, it was just a fun superhero origin movie that defied the odds.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have embodied the role with so much of the necessary charisma to sell a character who casual audiences hadn’t cared about.

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(Marvel Studios)

7. “The Avengers” (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Four years after “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” proved that Marvel had what it takes to pull off a connected universe of movies. It’s even more impressive considering that the early MCU movies, like “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” are some of the worst in the franchise. But “The Avengers” course-corrected, delivering a bona fide blockbuster that hadn’t been achieved before.

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(Disney / Marvel)

6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

2014 marks the point when the MCU really got it together. There have been minimal low points since, and it’s because Kevin Feige and crew finally had the machine running smoothly with low-profile directors who could deliver surprising superhero movies.

Among those filmmakers were the Russos, who have become somewhat of the architects of the universe. After “The Winter Soldier,” an expertly crafted espionage thriller posing as a superhero movie, they went on to direct “Civil War,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame.”

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(Disney / Marvel Studios)

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the most absurd movie in the MCU, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. This is when Marvel finally realized that Chris Hemsworth is an extremely funny guy with loads of charm and built a movie around that.

It’s also probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Hulk movie in the MCU.

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(Marvel Studios)

4. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Civil War” is loosely based on a 2007 comic-book event of the same name that pits Marvel’s superheroes against one another over the ethics of a registration act making it illegal for any superpowered person to not register their identities with the government.

The MCU version is obviously more contained, but that’s what makes it so good. It takes a huge storyline and successfully tells it through Captain America’s perspective, making it even more personal.

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(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

3. “Black Panther” (2018)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

“Black Panther” is a lot of firsts: the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture, the first movie to win Oscars for Marvel Studios, the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.

It was more than just an MCU movie — it was a cultural event. And its box office reflects that. It was the highest-grossing movie in the US in 2018, breaking barriers and riding its success all the way to Oscar gold.

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(Disney)

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Infinity War” is an order of magnitude bigger than “Avengers” or “Civil War.” With a cast of over 20 characters, “Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of universe-building.

The Russos pulled it off, and they’re not done yet. After the most shocking ending in an MCU movie, the story will continue in “Endgame.”

But on its own, “Infinity War” is an impressive balancing act, and Josh Brolin’s Thanos lives up to the hype.

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(Disney)

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Directed by James Gunn

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was the first MCU movie that really felt disconnected from the rest of the universe, but not in a negative way like “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s an important entry in the franchise from a story standpoint — but it’s also just a hilarious, fun, self-contained movie that turned an unknown group of characters into fan favorites.

It’s the most rewatchable movie in the MCU, with a brilliant soundtrack, but it’s the characters that really make it, from the dynamic between Rocket and Groot to the oblivious Drax. They don’t like each other at first, but the audience loves them as soon as they’re introduced.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The Hoyt Sherman Place has been an icon in Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 140 years. Filled with eclectic paintings and sculptures, the structure once hosted some of America’s most powerful and influential people, including former presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley, as well as General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose brother is the namesake. Today, it’s a music and theater venue.

Last November, on an overcast and snowy evening, I visited the Hoyt Sherman to interview Aaron Lewis, who was taking the stage that night. The world-renowned musician rose to stardom in the early 2000s with the rock band Staind. However, Lewis’ current pursuit in the country music genre signifies a path most fans didn’t expect. The journey has brought his career full circle, reconnecting him to childhood memories and his roots. This unique musical dichotomy embodies who he is, was, and always will be — the ultimate outsider who is still trying to make it.


At 6:30 on the dot — just as expected — Pete Ricci, Lewis’ tour manager, found me in the lobby and took me to Lewis’ tour bus. I walked inside from the bitter cold and was immediately pursued by a small dog who jumped on my lap as I sat down. With a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Lewis looked at me and said, “That’s Levi. He must like you.” I laughed and shook his hand while introducing myself. He took a sip of his coffee, sat down across from me, and said, “I’m ready.”

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The stage at the Hoyt Sherman before Aaron Lewis started playing.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

At that moment, I was taken back to my youth — the endless nights as a teenager memorizing his harrowing and cryptic vocals. His two-decade career with Staind spawned seven studio albums — including the five-times-platinum “Break the Cycle” — with over 10 million units sold and worldwide tours but that was only the beginning for Lewis. In recent years, Lewis’ path has taken him in a different direction. A serendipitous voyage back to his first music listening experience: country music.

Lewis began to reveal how he transformed from a rockstar into a country musician whose second country album, 2016’s “Sinner,” debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country albums chart and fourth on the famous Billboard 200. Growing up, Lewis spend a lot of time with this grandfather, a man who had a deep love for the foundations of old-fashioned country music — artists like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr.

Aaron Lewis – “Country Boy” (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“Growing up I didn’t dig it at all,” Lewis said. “It was a forced listening for sure. I ran as far away from that style and type of music as I possibly could and ended up in a rock band. But it’s kind of a funny story with what rekindled it.

“I was on Kid Rock’s bus one night back in 1998. […] It was one of those nights where we stayed up all night drinking and using substances,” he continued. “The whole time he is playing this old country music, and in my head it’s replaying the soundtrack of my childhood. It was the first time I had let any of that style of music, that twang, come back into my life or listening choices.”

That late night alongside Kid Rock was life changing with respect to Lewis’ future. It was the start of something new, a transformation that would lay dormant as he ascended to the top of the rock industry with Staind. It erupted full flame years later.

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Aaron Lewis performing “So Far Away” by Staind in the official music video.

(Screen capture via Atlantic Records/Youtube)

“When I got to the end of my record contract with Staind I was good with that,” Lewis said. “I needed to put that away for a bit and reinvent what I was doing, something that wasn’t going to get compared. So the music of my childhood is where that manifested itself.”

There are endless stories of musicians who tried to transform themselves and failed, but Lewis’ isn’t one of them. His past creations have topped the charts, and his country music has received critical acclaim and best-selling status. Despite that, Lewis still feels out of place. He considers himself an outsider, a man who doesn’t fit in the country-music box.

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(Photo courtesy of Aaron Lewis/Instagram)

Part of the reason is that today’s country music hardly resembles the pillars upon which it was built. It is often conflated with pop culture crossovers in order to appeal to a wider audience and generate more revenue, something that frustrates Lewis. On the business side, Lewis said the conglomeration of radio stations led to the Top 40 industry taking over country radio.

“When [Taylor Swift] came out as a cute little country girl and got airtime on Top 40 radio, all of a sudden [country music] had an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the world,” Lewis said. “It set up a model to strive for. […] Do I get it from the competitive road of radio and advertising? To an extent, but I am also able to see the short-sightedness of it. When you handle the country genre like Top 40, you are alienating a majority of your listeners.”

It’s a conflict that Lewis has never shied away from, even putting it into a hit single from the album “Sinner.”

“Life’s not all sunshine and roses. I mentioned that in ‘That Ain’t Country,'” Lewis said. “Most stuff on country radio these days are tales of good times and happy endings. But guess what? Life isn’t like that. Life is a struggle from the time you realize it is a struggle. But if life wasn’t a struggle, those happy moments wouldn’t stand out so much.”

Lewis’ comments on struggle hit on something he has spoken about over the years. When comparing what he wrote while in Staind to what he is putting out now, there are similar themes. His lyrics are brooding, introspective, and explore the scope of the human experience. It’s curious how a man who has accomplished so much routinely speaks from such a dark place.

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“I just can’t help but be a bit dark with my writing. That’s just the vein of creativity I have that is evoked by music,” Lewis said. “I’m never really inspired to write about happiness. I have a couple of times completely by accident and been really weirded out by recording it, as weird as that sounds.”

He continued: “I tend to tap into the darker side of myself for writing purposes. The things that I can’t say in life and normal conversation are what I tend to express in songs. We can all be socially challenged sometimes when trying to say what is on our mind the right way — to truly express it to the person sitting in front of you in the manner you are trying to. To say it in a manner they won’t take the wrong way for any multitude of reasons. I’m not affected by those limits in the writing process.”

After accepting a cup of coffee and a cigarette from Lewis, the conversation veered into the acceptability of the aforementioned lyrical topics — how it may be okay in one genre but considered taboo in another. I relayed how my parents were conflicted about the music I listened to as a teenager: Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn, and a handful of others. These bands were contemporaries of Lewis and Staind. My stepmother was convinced that this music made me rebellious and was the work of the devil.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“That was a way for parents to define how this music could have such an effect on their children,” Lewis said. “As a parent, to wrap your head around the fact that your child is finding solace in something like that — that can be a tough thing to define. To someone who is super religious, well, it must be the devil for it to have that much of a hold and an impact — but that’s just the magic of music.”

But as magical as music can be, it still takes a toll on someone who makes it their career. Life on the road can present a troublesome and extreme burden. The sacrifices made by artists like Lewis aren’t often recognized by listeners beyond what they hear in a song. Fans aren’t necessarily attached to the plight of their favorite artists, just what they produce.

Lewis mentioned that the Thanksgiving holiday prior to our meeting was one of the only breaks he’d had from touring since February. There is certainly a cost to being in the limelight. But what exact price has he paid — and has it been worth it?

The differences between America’s top special operators

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“As crazy as it might sound coming from my mouth, I still feel I am only as good as the next song that comes out,” Lewis said. “I still have a really, really hard time stopping and smelling the roses. I still feel at times that maybe one day I will make it — it’s really fucked up.

“Most creatives are the walking wounded. We would do just about anything to be seen and heard. We are so broken on the inside that we will wager anything to feel that connection and acceptance. This ride that I’ve been on, this ‘dream come true’ that everybody calls it, that I’m living my dreams — yeah, okay, maybe. But it’s also cost me everything that has ever meant anything to me.”

After letting that sentiment sink in, I took one more drag of my cigarette and one last sip of coffee before asking what advice Lewis would give an aspiring musician.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“Be careful what you wish for. There is a cost to everything,” he said. “There is a lot of truth to that old story about Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroads and selling his soul. That is kind of what you are doing when you sign a record deal. The longer you survive having a record deal, the more your soul fades and pretty soon there is nothing left — because your feet never touched the ground and you never slowed down enough to see it all go away. So be careful what you wish for.”

With those cautionary words, I turned off my recorder. Lewis was set to take the stage in an hour, so after a final handshake, I prepared to head back into the venue.

“Enjoy the show, Chris,” Lewis said as I made my way off the tour bus.

Over the next few hours, Lewis and his bandmates performed a memorable set for the sold-out crowd at the Hoyt Sherman. The set list included most of his recent country efforts, but he also threw in several Staind hits. Lewis played a few new songs from his upcoming album, “State I’m In,” including “The Party is Over,” “God and Guns,” and “Keeps on Working,” the latter of which he joked would make him some more friends in Nashville. “State I’m In” is slated for release on April 12, 2019.

The differences between America’s top special operators

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

Lewis’ musical transformation is a testament to the idea that life isn’t about the destination — it’s about the journey. And while his solo country music career appears to have solid footing, he’s made headlines recently for walking off stage when the audience was being unruly. He also mentioned during a live performance earlier this month that Staind might be making a comeback. “I might be lying, but I might not. There might even be live shows this year. I can’t say for sure. You never know.”

Lewis shows no signs of slowing down, but he also appears to be living in constant conflict. As I left the Hoyt Sherman, I replayed the night’s events in my mind and wondered when, if ever, Aaron Lewis would feel that he had made it.

Aaron Lewis – That Ain’t Country (Official Video)

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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