The GI Film Festival is an annual event that introduces new and established filmmakers that honor the stories of the American Armed Forces.
“From the very beginning, it has been about fostering a positive image for men and women in uniform,” said Brandon Millet, co-founder and director of the GI Film Festival. “We’ve expanded that image to also connecting service members to society given that only one percent serve. We want people to come to the event and be highly entertained and walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for what are men and women in uniform do for us on a daily basis and if we accomplish those two missions we’re happy.”
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Here’s a short video featuring some of the directors, actors, and producers at the GI Film Festival this year:
Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.
#IAVAforum if you want to truly represent service members and vet’s then why didn’t you include #GaryJohnson in the forum?
“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”
Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.
“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”
The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.
They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.
“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.
“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”
Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.
“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.
In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.
“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”
And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.
“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”
But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.
Just caught up with @NBC‘s #CiCForum. What on earth was @MLauer thinking? All the mental acuity of a boiled potato…
“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”
But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.
“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”
The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.
“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”
That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.
“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”
It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.
“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.
For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”
She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”
The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.
“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.
Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.
Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.
“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”
Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.
Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”
Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.
“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.
Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.
The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.
Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.
Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.
Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.
A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”
Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”
“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.
Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.
While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.
One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”
On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.
Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”
Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.
The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.
By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.
Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.
The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.
The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.
Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.
The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.
Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)
The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.
After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.
It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.
To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.
During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.
Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.
Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.
Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.
Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.
More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.
There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.
It was 2006, and Army Staff Sgt. Brett Johnson of the 1st Ranger Battalion peered through night-vision goggles, slowly moving with his squad toward a house in Iraq with a high-value target inside. They knew there were armed militants nearby, but they had no idea they were about to run into one.
“Right as we were about to break the corner of the building, a guy — unbeknownst to us — was literally coming around the corner with an AK-47,” now-Sgt. Maj. Johnson of the 3rd Ranger Battalion recalled 13 years later.
But the insurgent didn’t make it, thanks to a sniper.
“As we broke the corner, he took the most perfect, well-aimed shot and put him down,” Johnson recalled. “Had he not been there, that guy … definitely would have shot one of us.”
“It was pretty incredible for him to take that shot. An error of one foot to the right could have hit one of us,” Johnson continued.
Things happen quickly in a firefight, and even the best technology can’t always keep up with the changing battlefield environment. That’s why the sniper’s reconnaissance skills and ability to relay intelligent information to the commander are crucial.
“We’ve got drones, we’ve got robots, we’ve got all kinds of stuff … but we still need that real-time battlefield information that keeps soldiers safe,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Turner, a sniper course instructor.
Becoming a sniper isn’t easy. The qualification course at the Army Sniper School in Fort Benning, Georgia, is seven weeks long, and any military branch or federal agency can send candidates. Instructors say there’s currently about a 60 percent attrition rate.
An Army Sniper School graduate prepares for a final challenge at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 28, 2019.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
“As you go through it and see the maturity and discipline that it takes in order to take a shot and execute the orders … that takes an emotional toll on you, Turner said. “That’s why you need a more disciplined, intelligent soldier to process those emotions.”
It takes someone who knows how to manage resources and someone with serious patience — there’s a lot of observing and waiting for something to happen.
“They’re some of the most patient people I’ve ever met in my life,” Johnson said.
Take the stalking portion of the course. Using their homemade ghillie suits — camouflage uniforms they’ve personally retrofitted for durability and protection in all sorts of weather conditions — the sniper candidates get to “veg out” by incorporating vegetation into those suits to blend in with their surroundings. They then spend the next couple of hours moving at a snail’s pace through an area of woods. The goal — take a shot at the instructors who are looking for them in the brush, hoping to find them first.
An Army sniper school graduate walks past spotters after completing a stalk course where snipers try to evade detection from the course instructors at Fort Benning Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 28, 2019.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
But school instructors said a lot of candidates fail that part. When we visited, not a single sniper team got to take their shot.
“The hardest part about this school so far has been stalking for me, because I’m a big, gawky guy, so crawling through the woods is tough,” explained Staff Sgt. Johnnie Newton, who passed the course.
Then there are the technical aspects. They’re always refining their skills for every possible circumstance, like wind and distance.
“If I’m operating in a rural environment like Afghanistan, I have longer lines of sight and I’m at higher elevation. What that means is I’m able to extend the capability of my weapons system to a greater distance,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, team leader of the Army sniper course. “In an urban environment, things are a lot quicker, a lot more dynamic, with shorter field of views.”
Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”
He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”
The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.
U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen
Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.
Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.
The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.
The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.
Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.
Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.
“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
One thousand service members from around the U.S. are set to call Tyndall Air Force Base’s “Tent City” their temporary home while supporting base recovery efforts.
In just over two weeks since Hurricane Michael made landfall along the base’s coastline, a blend of civil engineering airmen have worked around the clock and successfully brought basic necessities to the installation, which was heavily damaged in the storm.
Master Sgt. Angela Duran, 49th Civil Engineering Squadron team lead, arrived on Tyndall AFB Oct. 13, 2018, just a few days after the storm hit. She and her team of 27 from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, landed in a C-17 Globemaster III filled with equipment.
“When we came in, we had to build our tents first to house us,” she said. “We didn’t really have anything. We brought everything with us so we were able to start tent city.”
The team has since grown to 41, and what started as a 60-tent project has now expanded to 80.
“We put up the first 60 in three and a half days,” said Master Sgt. Jeremie Wilson, 49th CES team lead. “The new 20 will be done in two days.”
Tents aren’t their only task. They have also put in latrines, showering facilities and air conditioning units for the tents – bringing comfort to the city’s inhabitants.
Airmen from the 23rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron, Holloman AFB, N.M., add to the dozens of housing tents they have helped construct on Tyndall AFB, Fla., Oct. 25, 2018.
“It is so rewarding to see people actually be able to go in and use the showers and have a climatized environment to sleep in after their hard day of work,” Wilson said. “They are able to come home, a deployed home, and have some kind of normality.”
Being able to help is especially important to Wilson, who is from New Orleans.
“When Katrina hit, I was deploying and a lot people did a lot of great things for my community and family,” he said. “It feels good to be paying it back, since I have been on the other side.”
For the other members of the team who may not have such strong emotional ties, the work is still rewarding, Wilson said..
“It can be trying work and repetitive,” Wilson said. “They are constantly counting parts and operationally checking equipment, but they are getting the opportunity to actually see the equipment working and being used for a purpose. Everyone is taking a lot of pride in that.”
Duran echoed his sentiment.
“They enjoy it,” she said. “They get to say, ‘this is what we do and what we do it for and we are helping these people out.’ They are getting fulfillment and satisfaction. For some, it is their first time putting training to work.”
A hundred years ago in a blinding fog, a U.S. Coast Guard ship was sailing off the coast of Southern California when it smashed into a passenger steamship.
The USCGC McCulloch sank within 35 minutes and lingered on the ocean floor undisturbed by people for a century.
On the 100th anniversary of the vessel’s June 13, 1917, disappearance, the Coast Guard announced that it found the shipwreck — not far from where it went down. And officials plan to leave it there.
Strong currents and an abundance of sediment would make moving the delicate ship too difficult, officials said in detailing the discovery of the San Francisco-based USCGC McCulloch. They also paid tribute to its crews, including two members who died in the line of duty, but not in the crash.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Todd Sokalzuk called the ship “a symbol of hard work and sacrifice of previous generations to serve and protect our nation” and an important piece of history.
The ship sank shortly after hearing a foghorn nearby and then colliding with the SS Governor, a civilian steamship. The McCulloch’s crew was safely rescued and taken aboard the steamship.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard discovered the wreck last fall during a routine survey.
Researchers focused on the area of the shipwreck 3 miles (5 kilometers) off Point Conception, California, after noticing a flurry of fish. Sunken ships offer a great place for fish to hide. The site is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Commissioned in the late 1800s, the McCulloch first set out to sea during the Spanish-American War as part of Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron in the Battle of Manila Bay.
Cutters based in San Francisco in the late 1800s and early 1900s represented American interests throughout the Pacific. They also played important roles in the development of the Western U.S.
After the war, the cutter patrolled the West Coast and later was dispatched to enforce fur seal regulations in the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska, where it also served as a floating courtroom in remote areas.
The archaeological remains, including a 15-inch torpedo tube molded into the bow stem and the top of a bronze 11-foot propeller blade, are draped with white anemones 300 feet (90 meters) below the surface, officials said. A 6-pound gun is still mounted in a platform at the starboard bow.
Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.
But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”
Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.
However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.
Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.
However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.
Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”
No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.
U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.
But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.
Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Having completed their missions, some troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are heading back to their home bases, US Northern Command reported Dec. 13, 2018.
The number of troops at the border, which peaked at 5,900 troops from across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, has been decreasing. Around 750 service members serving in Texas and Arizona redeployed to their home bases to prepare for other missions on Dec. 12, 2018. The Department of Defense currently has roughly 4,200 active-duty troops at the southern border.
By state, there are 1,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,000 in Arizona, and 1,500 in California. There are also approximately 2,100 National Guard units deployed to the US-Mexico border. For the active-duty troops, the mission, originally known as Operation Faithful Patriot but later renamed “border support,” was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018, but the Department of Defense agreed to extend the mission to the end of January following a Department of Homeland Security Request.
Army engineers install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, on the Anzalduas International Bridge, Texas.U.S Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure the southern border of the United States.
(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)
The troops that have left the southern border are certain engineering, logistics, and headquarters units, some of which were involved in hardening points of entry and erecting barriers. Since late October 2018, troops have set up 70 miles of wire obstacles and moveable barriers at 22 ports of entry.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Among the remaining troops are military police units, which have completed 10,000 man-hours of unit training — including tactical and riot control training — in recent weeks, while military rotary wing aviators flew more than 740 hours in support of the border mission. These units will continue their service in border areas.
Several thousand troops were sent to the border toward the end of October 2018 to support Customs and Border Protection as large caravans consisting of thousands of Central American migrants marched northward. While the mission initially focused on barrier emplacement, a force protection element has also been incorporated for the active-duty military personnel deployed to the border.
U.S. Soldiers and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, practice non-lethal crowd control drills at the Calexico West Port of Entry in Calexico, California on Nov. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Nyatan Bol)
While there was a clash between migrants and CBP personnel at the San Ysidro port of entry November 2018, there have not been any serious escalations since. Some of the migrants have actually started heading home.
President Donald Trump stated Dec. 11, 2018, that the military could be directed to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but the Pentagon explained the same day that there is no plan at this time for service members to do so.
Many of the president’s critics have accused Trump of using the military for a political stunt. These accusations have been rejected by the Department of Defense and the administration.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In Los Angeles, a staple of the genteel fitness regime is what practitioners unironically refer to as “going for a hike,” but which, to the veteran eye, more closely resembles a Zoolanderian walk-off between sweat-averse yoga pant models.
It’s this, but with sneakers. (Photo from pixabay,
Catching wind of this lunacy, Army vet and elite trainer Max Philisaire advanced on Runyon Canyon and surveilled the Hollywood hiker in his/her habitat. The rumors, he found, were all too true. Crushing an unripe avocado in each furious fist, Max declared that “this soft hipster fitness tourism
Because this is Max. Max doesn’t hike — he rucks. Max signs his autographs “Good Night and Good Ruck.” If Max were an action star? He’d be goddamned Ruck Norris.
Suffering in good company is a furnace in which pride — and great big useful slabs of muscle — are forged. Max doesn’t want to be rucking Runyon Canyon alone. So he’s extending an invite. To you.
Don’t have 50 lb weights for your ruck sack? Use avocados. It’s LA. You
know youcan ethically source 100 of them. Don’t have a ruck sack, you say? A blue IKEA tote on each shoulder should more than get you to muster.
The point is, once you finish Max’s workout, no ruck march on earth will feel hard to you again. Because marching ain’t sprinting. And if you make it through the inclined lunges, that’s what you’re doing next. Eating Max’s ruck dust all the way to glory.
Watch as Max trains for his new movie, The Hud-Rucker Proxy , in the video embedded at the top.