Oh boy, picking just one military news story and riffing on it is going to be hard this week.
Let’s see… The Coasties beat the Marines in a sniper competition. The Marines drew another skydick over Miramar. Civilians learned that the Air Force has enough money to waste hundreds of thousands on easily broken coffee mugs. A soldier got arrested in South Korea for kicking a policeman in the nads. And the Commander-in-Chief said he’d, “send in the military — not the guard — but the military,” effectively discrediting the efforts of over half a million guardsmen.
Because I can’t come up with anything funnier than reality has been this week for the military, I’ll just remind you that your Cyber Security cert is almost expired. You should probably get on that.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via Battle Bars)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)
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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
13. The perfect Halloween costume doesn’t exi-
No, seriously. You should probably get your Cyber Security training done.
Landing Home takes you right into the trenches, forcing you to acknowledge the impacts of America’s 20-year war. Viewers must confront the reality of veterans struggling after they return home.
Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran returning home after serving in Afghanistan. Taurel himself is best known for his gripping one-man play, The American Soldier, in which he plays multiple characters, bringing the viewer from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in the Middle East. The play itself and all of his unforgettable relationships built with veterans of every walk of life inspired Landing Home.
The child of Jewish Argentinian immigrants, he grew up with his father who was in love with America and her promises. A deep love he passed to his son.
“The thing that got me going was being involved in 9/11. I was coming out of the second tower when that second plane hit it,” Taurel shared. “I couldn’t join [the military] because I was blind in my left eye. But that’s what got me involved in working with veterans.”
Taurel began furiously reading and following America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While researching other wars he read letters from soldiers who’d been involved in all of America’s conflicts, describing their experiences. As he was reading, he made a shocking revelation. They were all the same, whether it was written during the Civil War or modern times, the struggles of these veterans couldn’t be differentiated. That discovery led him on a six-year journey to creating The American Soldier.
But he wasn’t done yet.
“The series really came from the QA we always have after the play. Vets would come up to me after the show and share their stores. Everyone always said ‘you have to turn this into a movie’,” Taruel said. While he didn’t think it was feasible to fit all his characters into a movie, he decided to create a modern soldier who embodied those characters for a web series.
Taurel wanted it to be a real and true compilation of all of the veteran stories he’d been privy to. On set, 17 of the cast and crew were veterans themselves. Launched through Vimeo, the first episode is an immediate poignant reminder of how difficult reintegration is for veterans. Something as simple as a birthday party is overwhelming for a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Landing Home brings viewers along on the journey of a former soldier trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The obvious struggle Luke walks through is a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of war, as his story is an accurate depiction of a true veteran. Each episode is filled with moments that bring you deep inside to feel the effects of combat.
“We have a history as a nation of not taking care of our veterans, that goes back to the Revolution,” Taurel said. “It is a beautiful country, but it has been paid in blood. If we honored our veterans more, we’d think about war a whole lot differently. It’s easy to go to war when you aren’t involved.”
There’s another scene, in a bar that stands out. Luke is obviously struggling and an older gentleman sits beside him. A quiet and heavy silence sits in the air. Then the man says, “Where did you serve?” This moment stands out because one veteran immediately knew another and their fight, on sight.
“We owe our veterans so much. I think we’ve become selfish as a country. We’ve forgotten the people who have given us the liberties and freedoms we have,” Taurel explained. He continued, “That’s why I do the projects that I have, I want people to understand what service really means.”
The series does not hold back. The raw and true compilations of the experiences of America’s veterans in Landing Home will move you. Taurel hopes that viewers walk away with a deep understanding of what “Thank you for your service” really means.
You can watch Landing Home by going to Vimeo. To learn about the other work Taurel is involved in, click here.
Contractor mechanics failed to follow proper maintenance procedures leading to the contamination of the oxygen system on an Air Force VC-25A aircraft undergoing regular heavy maintenance, according to an Accident Investigation Board report compiled by Air Force Materiel Command.
The contamination occurred in April 2016 while the plane was at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility in Texas. The mishap resulted in approximately $4 million in damage, which Boeing repaired at its own expense.
The VC-25A, one of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B aircraft, is flown by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is used to transport the President. When the President is on board, the plane is referred to as Air Force One.
According to the report, three Boeing mechanics contaminated the aircraft’s oxygen system by using tools, parts, and components that did not comply with cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The contamination was discovered after an unapproved regulator was found connected to the passenger oxygen system.
The report also identified other contributing factors to the mishap, including the failure of a Boeing maintenance technician to observe explicit cautions and warnings when working on oxygen systems, Boeing’s failure to exercise adequate oversight of the quality of maintenance being performed on the VC-25, and the failure of mechanics to “absorb and retain” training received on oxygen systems.
Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, convened the AIB. Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was the AIB president. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and substantially contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an actor and all-around American treasure. But things were almost very different.
On June 12, 2018, Johnson revealed his long-held dream to be a CIA agent on Instagram. In the post, The Rock said he would have pursued his dream if his academic advisor didn’t give him a reality check.
“In college, my goal was to eventually work for the CIA,” he wrote. “Until my criminal justice professor and advisor (Dr. Paul Cromwell) convinced me that the best operative I could become for the agency is one that also had a law degree.”
But Johnson realized that wasn’t exactly the right path for him.
“I thought that’s a great idea until I realized no respectable law school would ever let me in with my pile of steaming s— grades,” he wrote.
At the time, Johnson was a self-described “Smirky Beefy McBeef,” 22-year-old football player for the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. After college, The Rock went on to play football for the Calgary Stampeders, a football team based out of Alberta, Canada. However, he was cut from the team two months into the season, The Globe and Mail reported.
But, you know, things turned out just fine for The Rock.
The Cold War ended in 1991, taking the threat of global nuclear annihilation with it. For over 45 years, America and Russia endured a stalemate that spawned the arms race, the space race, land grabs, proxy wars around the globe and more.
But like a bad eighties movie remade for today’s audience, the same elements that shaped the first one are defining the Cold War part two. So far it’s the same plot. For starters, there’s the Russian land grab of Crimea, the forces placed near the Russian border and the proxy war shaping up in Syria.
In Cold War 2.0, VICE does an incredible job making sense of the events leading up to this undeclared conflict. VICE founder Shane Smith meets with Kremlin officials and American leaders, including President Obama, to figure out what’s driving the new standoff.
You can view Cold War 2.0 in its entirety on VICE.com or YouTube. Here is a quick four-minute debrief about the report.
Get ready for two minutes and fifty-six seconds of glory because the latest trailer from the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise just dropped. This is why The Rock wakes up at 4:00 to work out while the rest of us sleep like lazy jerks. Hobbs & Shaw looks like it will be completely ridiculous — and that’s why it’s going to be perfection.
Hobbs Shaw will be the 9th film in the Fast Furious franchise and just like its predecessors, it’s completely bonkers. But it knows that it’s bonkers — and that’s why it’s brilliant.
The franchise started out in 2001 with street racing, thieves, and an undercover cop (played by the late and very much missed Paul Walker), and since then it has exploded into a billion franchise that burns physics like NOS. In the latest film, they’re upping the ante and throwing in super powers.
No complaints here.
“I am human evolutionary change. Bullet proof. Super human,” purrs Idris Elba, the self-proclaimed “bad guy” of the film. According to The Rock, Elba plays a “cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist [who] gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever,” and former nemeses Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must team up together to stop him.
Even though they hate each other but actually share similar ideals. So silly.
Vanessa Kirby plays a rogue M16 agent in there somewhere, too, and I’ll be watching with my Bechdel checklist…
This is the party I signed up for.
Johnson has made a career out of over-the-top roles that he absolutely pulls off. He’s not making dark action flicks — he’s making films designed to give the viewer some fun. Hobbs Shaw looks like it will be no exception. The creative team doubled down on action thriller endorphins by playing up that ol’ “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trope — and they did it because it works.
The trailer reveals a peek at what we can expect from the film: car chases, explosions, destroyed buildings, and dudes who have spent a lotta hours in the gym beating each other up.
And a girl. Somewhere. Getting captured it looks like. So probably also rescued. She better have some of her own agency is what I’m saying. We can talk about it later, writing duo Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson…
Ultimately, my bet is that the trailer is advertising the exact film it represents: an action-packed, fun-filled, no brainer experience, which is perfect.
The Travis Mills Foundation is renovating a massive and historical spa in Central Maine to serve as a retreat for veterans and their families.
The Maine Chance Lodge Retreat was originally built by cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden and served distinguished guests like former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Judy Garland, and Ava Gardner, according to The Travis Mills Foundation. Soon, it will serve veterans.
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit founded by Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills who began inspiring other wounded veterans while he was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after an IED strike amputated all four of his limbs. He and his foundation have continued to help wounded veterans ever since.
Christine Toriello, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, told the newspaper Central Maine that when renovations are complete, the resort will have smart home features like voice controls and automated systems to make it simple for disabled veterans to use during their stay.
Mills told the Kennebec Journal that one of the goals of founding the retreat is to help wounded veterans get outdoors. He told Central Maine Cable TV that recreational sports are an important activity he does with his own family, and he hopes that the retreat can give that experience to other veterans. In addition to the main house, the property includes 17 acres of Maine wilderness and horse stables.
Renovation plans call for a crafts room and areas for massage therapy, boating, and other water and adaptive sports, Toriello said. Once it is running at full capacity, the retreat is expected to host 30-45 people per week.
Every military branch makes it plain where exactly you stand. It is worn on your uniform, printed on your CAC, you are greeted by it every day. “It” is rank and it plays a significant role as it entails your duties and expectations, job notwithstanding. It seems one rank reigns supreme in every service, though.
Below are 6 of the top reasons why being top of the lower enlisted ranks is the best rank.
25 is the age that many of us have the time of our lives. We are far enough removed from teenage angst and the crap that often associates with it but still a lot more than a few wake-ups away from the big three-oh.
Old enough to get good insurance rates, but young enough to fit in most everywhere.
That is the Air Force’s Senior Airman. That is the Marine’s Lance Corporal. That is the Army’s Specialist. This is the Navy’s Seaman (heh). It’s far enough removed from boot but quite a ways from retirement.
5. Watch and learn
This is the perfect rank to watch and learn.
You may have been mentored and exposed to some supervisory duties earlier (if you weren’t assigned to a POS) but it’s at this level where you are allowed to flex some of what you’ve learned.
Sometimes that power comes in an official supervisory capacity, sometimes as a makeshift assistant to your actual supervisor. It’s like being a Non-Commissioned Officer, but with training wheels.
The opinion of the Senior Airman/Specialist/Lance Corporal is respected. Those beneath the look up to them, or they should anyway, and those who outrank them will look to them as the bridge between the NCO and junior enlisted tiers.
It is literally the best of both worlds.
3. Introductory supervisory roles
As stated above, you may have some actual, official supervisor duties depending on how long you’ve been there and what type of performance you’ve turned in to that point.
Even if you haven’t been granted such access, you are still going to be entrusted with certain responsibilities just based on the necessity for you to grow up and fill the role.
2. You know all the tricks
At this point, you know what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, most of the time. You also know exactly what you’re not supposed to do…and what rules will really get you in trouble.
You know how to maximize your sleep and how to quickly get your uniform together. You can commit large passages of regulation to memory, verbatim. You know what you’re doing and what you want to do.
Good news is you’ve mastered this rank just in time to promote. Now the game changes.
You’ve been in for a some time now and have likely earned a good amount of respect and responsibility and that feels great. Conversely, you’re still junior enlisted yourself and won’t be thrown into the deep end just yet.
How is this better than being an NCO? From my experience in the Air Force, Staff Sergeants are typically viewed in a more infantile manner than the Senior Airman.
I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, it is a fact of life.
“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”
During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.
“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”
“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.
One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.
When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.
This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.
When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.
As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.
Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.
After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.
“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”
There was a lot of new technology brought to the battlefield during World War I. Two of those were used in tandem – and somehow managed to perfectly compliment each other. It was the fighter plane and the machine gun, mounted perfectly for the pilot’s use, without shooting up the propeller that kept the bird aloft.
Was it the gun that was designed to fire through the propeller or the propeller designed to be used with the machine gun? Yes.
The system worked because of its synchronization gear which kept the gun from firing when the propeller would be hit by the bullet. While airborne the prop would actually be spinning five times as fast as the weapon could fire, so there was little margin of error. The problem was solved by the addition of a gear-like disc on the propeller that would only allow the gun to fire in between the blades’ rotation.
Often called an “interrupter” the disc did not actually interrupt the firing of the weapon, it merely allowed it to fire semiautomatically instead of at an even pace. When the prop spun around to a certain position, it would allow the weapon’s firing mechanism to fully cycle and fire a round. Usually, when the round was supposed to be interrupted, the weapon was actually just in the process of cycling.
Synchronization gear was also needed for later planes, such as the German Me-109 fighter, seen here in World War II.
So pulling the trigger would essentially connect the weapon to the propeller, and the prop would actually be firing the gun. Letting the trigger go would disconnect the weapon from the propeller.
Later versions, such as the Kauper interrupter used on the Sopwith Camel, allowed for multiple machine guns at different rates of fire. The interrupter was a welcome change from the early days of combat aviation, where props were sometimes metal plated just in case mechanically uncoordinated rounds hit the propeller, so the bullet would ricochet.
As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.
When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.
A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.
At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.
So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.
Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.
In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)
Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).
Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.
On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.
General Martin Dempsey served as the 37th Chief of Staff of the Army and the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2011 to 2015. He 41-year career went from 1974 to his retirement in 2015. A proud Irish American, Dempsey learned a bit of Irish during his childhood summers in the Emerald Isle. His cultural heritage shone through during his time in the Army. As a general officer, Dempsey delivered a lot of speeches. He was well-known for ending his speeches with a little tune, especially an Irish one. In many cases, he would perform alongside bands at events like dining outs. Here are a few of the best performances by the general.
1. “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears”
In 2013, tenor Anthony Kearns was General Dempsey’s guest at a Pre-Inaugural Brunch for the Medal of Honor Society at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Dempsey held his own alongside the famous singer and the two men delivered an Irish tune that no one in attendance would soon forget.
2. Connecting with kids
In 2015, General Dempsey attended an event with children of military and veteran families. He cited Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and sang a short line from Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars. But the general took it a step further a taught the kids the Irish classic “The Unicorn” and the corresponding motions.
3. “Christmas in Killarney”
In 2004, then Major General Dempsey joined the 1st Armored Division Band and Soldier’s Chorus for this festive tune during a special holiday concert. Despite the event being held in German monastery, Dempsey managed to bring a bit of Irish flare to the performance.
4. “New York, New York”
One of the general’s favorite songs to sing is this Sinatra classic. In 2010, he performed at the International Reception in Fort Monroe.
5. “Red is the Rose”
Another Irish classic, General Dempsey sung this tune two years after his retirement. At the 2017 Irish America Hall of Fame awards luncheon, Rosamond Mary Moore Carew, also known as Mema, celebrated her 106th birthday. In addition to everyone singing her “Happy Birthday”, Dempsey gave a special performance of “Red is the Rose.” Truly beautiful.
6. “My Kind of Town”
Though he usually sings about New York, the general is no stranger to this other Sinatra classic about Chicago. He teamed up with the folks at From the Top and the Military Child Education Coalition to celebrate military kids and gave them this fantastic performance.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, General Dempsey teamed up with the Army Band for a socially-distanced performance of a brand new song. Titled “America”, the tune speaks of our country’s resiliency and strength in our unity. If you missed it when premiered in 2020, take a listen.
8. “The Parting Glass”
Perhaps General Dempsey’s most emotional performance was this farewell tune at his retirement ceremony in 2015. Joining the Army Band, the general sang goodbye to his friends and comrades in uniform. As he passed off the microphone, the band continued to play him out. The general returned to his family and was swarmed by his grandchildren as he saluted the band. The emotion in this performance gives me goosebumps every time.
When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.
Neall Ellis isn’t most people.
After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.
With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.
Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.
In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.
But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”
Ellis’ response was epic.
Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.
Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”
And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.
Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.
His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.
In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.
Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.
Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.