A central tenet of Iran’s Persian Gulf naval defenses is the use of speedboats — lots and lots of speedboats. The tactic is so widespread that retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, in command of the fictional Iranian navy, used explosives-laden speedboats to take on the U.S. Navy in a massive war game in 2002. He won that war game and managed to sink an entire carrier battle group.
One of those Iranian speedboats — run by the very real Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — recently encountered the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, and filmed the entire episode.
The crew of the IRGC naval vessel filmed the massive American aircraft carrier as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz. The whole of the video was aired on Iranian state television.
The waterway is the passage for nearly a third of all the world’s oil shipping and the United States maintains a naval presence there as a means of keeping the way open for use by everyone. Meanwhile, the Islamic republic has recently been the target of economic sanctions from the Trump Administration.
The video also shows Iranian sailors taking high-resolution photos of the ship with a very, very long lens as American helicopters hover overhead. Sailors can be seen walking on the flight deck next to American fighter and intelligence aircraft. With a fleet of other speedboats in tow, the video shows the reality of serving in the Persian Gulf, as two ideological adversaries share the same body of water during a tense international standoff.
Iran had a similar encounter with the Theodore Roosevelt in the past, using a drone to shadow the carrier in 2017 and came close to threatening the lives of American F-18 pilots. The most egregious encounter came when Iran captured 10 American sailors in 2016 that they said drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
Photos of that capture were also broadcast on state television.
The video aired on Iranian state television as part of a documentary about the situation in the Persian Gulf. It’s thought by many to be a show of strength in the face of tough American sanctions as the Trump Administration slashes at Iranian oil exports.
The Air Force initially halted deliveries of the Boeing 767 airliner-based tanker planes for two weeks in early March 2019. At the time, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Will Roper, told reporters that debris such as tools was left in parts of the plane that could be a potential safety hazard, Defense News reported.
According to Reuters, the Air Force decided to halt deliveries again on March 23, 2019.
“The Air Force again halted acceptance of new KC-46 tanker aircraft as we continue to work with Boeing to ensure that every aircraft delivered meets the highest quality and safety standards,” a USAF spokesperson told the Air Force Times in an emailed statement. “This week our inspectors identified additional foreign object debris and areas where Boeing did not meet quality standards.”
A KC-46 Pegasus flies over the flightline of the 97th Air Mobility Wing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)
“Resolving this issue is a company and program priority — Boeing is committed to delivering FOD-free aircraft to the Air Force,” Boeing told Business Insider in a statement. “Although we’ve made improvements to date, we can do better.”
“We are currently conducting additional company and customer inspections of the jets and have implemented preventative action plans,” the Boeing statement went on to say. “We have also incorporated additional training, more rigorous clean-as-you-go practices and FOD awareness days across the company to stress the importance and urgency of this issue. Safety and quality are our highest priority.”
Boeing commenced deliveries of the KC-46 tanker in January 2019. The plane was originally slated for delivery to the Air Force in 2017. However, development delays pushed the plane’s entry into service back.
The KC-46 is expected to replace the USAF’s aging fleet of Boeing 707-based KC-135 tankers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With Russia’s announcement of a new permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria – long a port used by Russian (and prior to 1991, Soviet) forces, Moscow’s expansion into that war torn country continues even as the Assad regime is wracked by civil war.
But Russia has had a long history in the Med.
Tartus Naval Base has been used by the Russians since 1971. In those 45 years, it served as a forward operating location for the Fifth Eskadra (5th Operational Squadron). This unit was intended to counter the presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Med. The base had not been able to permanently support major vessels like the Kuznetov-class carrier; the Kirov-class battlecruisers; the Slava-class cruisers; or even modern destroyers and frigates in Russian service. The new construction at the base is intended to make it a permanent base for carriers and larger vessels as opposed to just a place to park.
The Fifth Eskadra was formed in 1967 after the Egypt-Israel Six Day War. The Soviets had been unable to find a way to inflict damage on the Sixth Fleet in the event of a war with the United States. This was not a solid strategic position from its perspective, and Russian naval legend Sergei Gorshkov pestered his superiors until the unit was formed.
The unit usually consisted of as many as 80 vessels, including two guided-missile cruisers and a number of smaller escorts like the Mod Kashin-class destroyer or Krivak-class frigate, ten diesel-electric submarines, and a host of auxiliary vessels. The Sixth Fleet usually had half that total, but much of its strength would be concentrated in a carrier battle group which could make life exciting (not to mention short) for the Soviet vessels.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians disbanded the Fifth Eskadra at the end of 1992 — a little over 25 years after the squadron was formed. Two decades later, in 2013, the Russians re-formed the squadron as the Syrian civil war heated up.
Now with about 10 vessels, it is a shadow of the force that faced off with the Sixth Fleet. Still, it is a sign that Russia is reasserting itself in the region.
A Virginia teenager has received an appointment to all four major US military academies, a rare feat he’s been working on since he was a child.
Tim Park of Fairfax, Va. recently received appointment letters for the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., according to USA Today.
Getting into just one military academy is an achievement in itself, since it takes a bit more than having good grades and submitting an application. Applicants need to first receive an official nomination from their congressman (with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy), ace an interview with an officer at the school, and have exceptional grades and civic achievements to boot.
Park told USA Today he was inspired by his own family’s service in and around the military, which began with his grandfather — who was a child during the Korean War. Park’s grandfather, who went on to become a doctor, offered free medical care to Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania.
“What he said is he had a debt of honor he wanted to repay,” Park told USA Today.
Park’s father currently serves in the military in the US Army Reserve. That may explain why he’s leaning toward West Point, the academy in upstate New York that has been commissioning Army officers since 1802.
“I would say when I was about 8 years old, there was a documentary on the History Channel talking about these four service academies and I thought to myself that day, I want to do that,” Park told Fox5 DC.
Today is the mighty Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday! In honor of this landmark (uh, how is this not a national holiday?) day, we wanted to go back to the good old days of the internet. Before arguing over the color of a dress or if Jordan or Lebron is better (don’t start), we bonded over Chuck Norris facts. Those statements that if attributed to another person would be unbelievable but totally plausible when it referred to the great Norris.
So, we wanted to share our top Chuck Norris facts! Make sure to share any of your favorites too.
Before we do, we also want to shout out Chuck for his amazing life. He was born Carlos Norris in Oklahoma and his family eventually settled in California. After high school, he joined the Air Force and ended up being stationed in South Korea where he picked up both martial arts and the nickname Chuck.
Coming home, he opened his first martial arts studio and started participating in tournaments. After winning multiple karate world championships, he opened more studios and became a trainer for the stars. He taught Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, the Osmonds and Bob Barker (that’s how he beat up Happy Gilmore so easily).
He also gave us the Total Gym and Chuck Norris jeans.
And with that, our favorite Chuck Norris facts!
1. Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded. 2. Chuck Norris’ leg was once bit by a cobra. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died. 3. Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies do. 4. Chuck Norris can kill your imaginary friends. 5. Chuck can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.
6. Chuck Norris once went to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life. 7. Chuck Norris knows Victoria’s secret. 8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is. 9. Chuck Norris created giraffes when he uppercutted a horse. 10. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death. He wins fair and square.
11. Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter.” 12. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird. 13. Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records. 14. Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi. 15. Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.
16. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear. 17. Chuck Norris can delete the Recycling Bin. 18. Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone. 19. Chuck Norris can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon. 20. Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but Jack still couldn’t dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.
Making Alita, the humanoid main character in “Alita: Battle Angel,” work next to live-action characters onscreen was the biggest challenge for the visual effects team to bring to life in the film.
You may not have realized it, but a lot of work went into making the character’s big, bright brown eyes look just right, especially after the film’s first trailer.
“We had our original design, all based on the original artwork and [producer] Jim [Cameron]’s artwork and [director] Robert [Rodriguez]’s artwork, and even after the first trailer that came out, we got some criticism online about, ‘Hey, the eyes are too big. They don’t look right. Uncanny valley,'” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon told Insider during a visual effects press day for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot.
Here’s how Alita looks in the first trailer released for the film.
(20th Century Fox)
Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” the film follows a female cyborg, Alita, who has trouble remembering her past.
Saindon said the visual effects team spoke with Cameron and Rodriguez after the trailer came out in December 2017 to see what they thought of the criticism and whether or not they should change Alita’s look at all as a result.
“‘Do we want to shrink the eyes?'” Saindon said. “They came back and both said, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to go bigger on the eyes.'”
“We didn’t actually go bigger on the eyes, but we did enlarge the iris,” Saindon continued. “We reduced the amount of sclera, the white around the eyes, and it sort of just popped everything back together. It popped her to be that manga character, but to be able to sit next to a live-action character. You never questioned it.”
You can see how Alita changed from that first trailer to the final film here. It’s a subtle change you may not have noticed:
Alita’s face is also softened a bit more in the final film. The lighting in this scene is a bit brighter on her face now.
(20th Century Fox)
Why Alita’s eyes were the most important to get just right
For the team, it was important to get the eyes right because not only is that the first thing you see when you meet Alita, but they believed that was going to be one of the main things that helped sell the believability of the character to audiences.
“Eyes are really critical in an actor’s performance,” said animation supervisor, Mike Cozens. “That’s why, you know, as shots get more intimate, we cut in closer and closer… Eyes are sort of what are telling you what’s going on inside the head, keeping that performance alive in the eyes, beyond the design and into performance was really critical, a critical part of the storytelling.”
Here’s how Alita looks when she opens her eyes for the first time in the films first trailer versus the final film.
(20th Century Fox)
“Truly, the eye size shouldn’t matter,” added visual effects supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment, Richard Baneham. “Ultimately, when we look at a screen, I think it’s point-four of a second for us to read whether there are eyes onscreen or not. We immediately, as humans, go to that, because we want to understand how somebody is emotionally, what their state is. It’s what we do when we meet people, it’s how we read the room.”
Baneham said that regardless of the eye size, you can usually tell a person’s emotional state almost instantly through posture and their facial expression. That’s why it was important to get Alita’s eyes just right.
“So long as you communicate properly the emotional state of the character, the eye size, not that it’s irrelevant, it shouldn’t be the thing that’s in the way,” added Baneham. “We often say on our side, you don’t smile with your face, you don’t smile with your mouth, you smile with your eyes… As soon as you, you can cut to a pair of eyes and tell whether somebody’s smiling.”
If you covered up everything but Alita’s eyes in this image, you would be able to tell she’s smiling.
(20th Century Fox)
This isn’t the first time a trailer’s criticism has resulted in changes to a film.
After the release of the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film in April 2019, the video game character’s design sparked criticism and jokes online.
The image on the left shows Sonic’s original design. The image on the right shows how Sonic looks after the redesign.
How does the “Alita” visual effects team feel about receiving audience criticism right away after a trailer’s release?
“I didn’t mind hearing input from the outside world. It really solidified us, though,” said Saindon of reactions to the first trailer. “It kind of got everybody together and the real choices that were made beforehand kind of held. There was hardly any change, if you will, because I remember having, we had various different sizes and stuff out there and we were pretty big on the trailer, and it just kind of stayed there. It just made everybody reconsider what they were doing.”
“Whether she had big eyes or not, towards the end, I think all of us realized it was worthwhile worrying about it, and certainly it’s all about this expression that’s getting through or not getting through and worrying about that.”
Most of Alita’s design comes directly from the performance of actress Rosa Salazar who embodies the character.
(20th Century Fox)
Baneham added that it’s about making sure the audience invests in the character and comes along for the journey.
“That’s what you care about first and foremost, is making sure when the audience watch the movie, they’re not thinking about the technical aspects of the movie in any way, sort or form. They go on this, hopefully, immersive journey with the character,” said Baneham of what he wants viewers to get out of watching “Alita.”
“All the changes that happened afterward were not about, you know, pandering to the noise in any way. It was about bettering the character,” Baneham added.
“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of 10 finalists in the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced Monday morning.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”
Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.
“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.
The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.
Trump’s NATO grudge
Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.
NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.
Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.
Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The moments leading up to a bloody engagement are frightening. Troops, knowing the end may be near, stand and wonder what lies beyond the next bend.
Every so often, Hollywood recreates this moment on film. Invariably, we see our hero take to ramparts to deliver a rousing speech. It takes some well-written words of encouragement to lower troops’ stress levels and get them ready for the fight.
These are a few of the best battle speeches to ever hit the screen.
Directed by Cy Endfield, this classic film follows a group of outnumbered Welsh infantrymen as they defend a hospital and supply dump for 12 long hours from a massive force of Zulu warriors.
In this case, the battle speech was more like a war song. Each man belts out lyrics to grant them the courage they need to take on the brutal, blade-wielding charge.
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Directed by Peter Jackson, the third installment of this juggernaut trilogy dominated the Hollywood box offices for weeks on end and, hopefully, taught a lesson to a few military leaders on how to deliver speeches to their troops.
Directed and starring Mel Gibson, this Oscar-winning film centers around one poor Scotsman as he rallies a country to fight against English oppression — and it all started with this famous battle speech.
It’s a good thing that, in modern war, we don’t to ride into battle on horseback or clash with enemy swords. However, if we did, we’d want to hear words of encouragement from a general who isn’t afraid to fight alongside his men.
3. Independence Day
If the earth is ever attacked by aliens, someone better revive this exceptional battle speech word-for-word to rally up the troops. The world might feel like it’s legitimately going to end, but it only takes a few minutes of a truly inspiring speech to get everyone on the same patriotic page.
Based on the life of the legendary Gen. George Patton, the opening speech to 1970’s Patton is one of the best pieces of motivational dialogue ever recorded on film.
300 follows a small squad of elite Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas, as they stand their ground against a massive Persian army. After the King’s death, a Spartan named Dilios delivers a speech that motivates the crap out of the rest of the men to take out the remaining Persian army.
The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.
“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.
The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.
The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.
“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.
“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”
Happy Disney+ Day, everyone. After all the hype, The Mandalorian has finally been released and it’s the perfect Star War for anyone who has ever Star Wars’d.
It’s clear right from the start that creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) gets it. He gets what makes Star Wars so special. From the mythos to the humor and even down to the silly-ass wipe transitions, The Mandalorian just feels right.
So let’s get right into Chapter One. SPOILERS AHEAD:
“He’s young, his musk will be sweet.” Thank you for that line, Jon Favreau.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian quickly sets the stage for our hero, a bounty hunter who is good at his job and who doesn’t take any (forgive me) poodoo. The tone is light with moments of comedic release while still building the new world we’re entering. Remember, this series takes place seven years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire.
Exclusive: @Jon_Favreau confirms that his live action #StarWars series takes place 7 years after Battle of Endor, between #ReturnOfTheJedi and #TheForceAwakens. Will feature all new characters, using cutting edge tech a la THE JUNGLE BOOK. Story coming to @nerdist…pic.twitter.com/iRyPS8hPDR
There are other hints peppered in to keep us intrigued, such as when The Bounty, played by Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz, asks “Is it true you guys never take off your helmets?” and then is quickly frozen in carbonite. The helmet thing will apparently be important because it’s brought up again later in the episode. I predict we’ll see Pedro Pascal’s debonair face eventually, but it sounds like it will be later rather than sooner.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian delivers his bounties and accepts a curious new target from The Client, played by Werner Herzog (Rick Morty, The Simpsons). The target is wanted alive — and The Client will pay well, but he will accept “proof of termination” at a lower rate.
He hands over a block of beskar steel stamped with the Imperial insignia as a sort of down payment. We know from The Mandalorian’s first mission (or from Star Wars Rebels) that beskar steel is significant, and Favreau politely informs us why in the next scene.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian heads to a fellow Mandalorian armorer (played by The Mindhunter’s Emily Swallow), who melts down the block of steel to forge a new pauldron for our hero, saying the excess will be used to sponsor “foundlings.” Here we get the only heavy-handed backstory in the episodes: a series of flashbacks to a family fleeing during an attack and, I assume, the death of The Mandalorian’s parents, which will eventually lead to him being found by his tribe.
“Has your signet been revealed?” she asked him. It hasn’t, and I don’t know what this means, but dammit Jon, you’ve got me for life and I trust that you’ll let me know when you feel it’s necessary.
“I have spoken.” — my new catch phrase
The Mandalorian, Disney+
With that, our bounty hunter is off to a new planet to track down his bounty and learn to ride some blurrg (30 Rock, anyone?). He meet’s Nick Nolte’s Kuill, who drops some nice backstory for us (he wants to help The Mandalorian so he can restore peace to his planet) and some nice easter eggs (riding blurrg won’t be a problem because the Mandalorians rode the legendary mythosaurs, don’t you know).
Shout out to female blurrgs, who eat the males during mating. ?
This is the buddy comedy I want to see.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
With a nice clock wipe transition, it’s time for some action, but before he can muster up a plan, The Mandalorian spies a bounty droid who we learn is IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). The droid attacks the settlement and a blaster fight ensues. The Mandalorian joins in, suggests an alliance with the droid, and together they take out their many attackers.
This is the best sequence in Chapter One, not necessarily because the action was anything new (although IG-11’s circular design is very clever) but because the banter between the two was very amusing. IG-11’s programming won’t allow for surrender, so, in the face of overwhelming odds, he continually tries to initiate a self-destruct sequence, which would kill them both. Lolz.
But of course our hero does some quick thinking, seizes his enemy’s laser cannon, and defeats all of his attackers. Finally, we get to see who this important and secretive bounty is.
And guys? The reveal is…perfect.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
This little angel will never not be known as “Baby Yoda,” am I right?
Of course, it’s not actually Yoda, but here’s what we know so far: the baby is fifty years old (this species, while remaining unknown, ages differently than humans; Yoda was over 900 years old when he died) and is probably Force sensitive (Yoda was a powerful Jedi Master and Yaddle, the only other member of the species we’ve seen so far, was also on the Jedi Council).
The Mandalorian kills IG-11 after the droid tried to terminate Baby Yoda the baby and then shares a nice little Adam-and-God moment with the child.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Altogether, I have to say that this show promises to be one of the best creations in Star Wars canon. It feels nostalgic and new at the same time. It impressed me more than any of the recent films.
What did you think of it? Leave a comment on Facebook and let me know.
The Mandalorian IS a prequel to the sequels https://redd.it/dxvg8f pic.twitter.com/cd2AJbZW8X
A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.
Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.
“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”
Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.
“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.
“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”
Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)
“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”
Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”
After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.
The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”
Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.
With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.
This week, nearly 10 years after he was killed in combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces brought home the remains of F-16 pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died saving the lives of U.S. service members and coalition allies.
On Nov. 27, 2006, Gilbert and his wingman were flying back to base when they got the call that an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter had been shot down. Enemy insurgents had the crew, along with the coalition forces called in to support, outnumbered and pinned down.
With little fuel left, the two F-16 pilots changed course and headed to the hotly contested warzone just outside of Taji, Iraq. Due to fuel limitations, the pilots were forced to take turns refueling and providing air support to the troops under fire. By the time Gilbert was able to make his first approach, the calls for support had grown more urgent. Insurgents attacked with truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars.
Gilbert, a friendly Texas Tech graduate dubbed “Trojan” by his fellow aviators, acted quickly and aggressively. To avoid causing civilian casualties by dropping the bombs he carried under his wings, he opted for low-altitude strafing passes using his 20-milimeter Gatling gun. Gilbert made his first pass, destroying one truck and dispersing the others which were almost upon the friendly forces 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Keeping his eye on the enemy targets moving at high speed, he conducted a second pass from an even lower altitude.
He continued firing on the enemy forces during a dynamic and difficult flight profile, impacting the ground at high speed on the second pass. Reports say the crash killed him instantly. However, Al Qaeda insurgents took Gilbert’s body before U.S. forces were able to get to the scene, leading to 10 long years of a family waiting for their husband, father, son and brother to come home.
He was survived by his wife Ginger Gilbert Ravella, sons Boston and Greyson, and daughters Isabella, Aspen and Annalise.
In a letter to Gilbert’s wife from the Army element commander whose troops the F-16 pilot was supporting that day, the commander wrote that Gilbert saved his unit from “almost certain disaster” as insurgents prepared to attack their position with mortars.
“With no ability to protect ourselves on the desert floor, we most certainly would have sustained heavy casualties,” he wrote. “Troy, however, stopped that from happening. His amazing display of bravery and tenacity immediately broke up the enemy formation and caused them to flee in panic. My men and I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice your husband made for me and my men on Nov. 27th, and we will always be in his debt.”
“Major Gilbert’s motivation to succeed saved the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces,” then-president of the accident investigation board and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in his safety report.Goldfein saluted as Gilbert’s remains were solemnly carried from the C-17 that brought him home this week.
Also on hand was Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. Rand regarded Gilbert as a friend, first meeting him when he was an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and eventually crossing paths again when Gilbert became his executive officer at Luke. The relationship continued when Gilbert served under Rand’s command in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2006.
“Troy fought like a tiger in battle that day,” Rand said. “No doubt, his actions on Nov. 27, 2006 illustrate greatness, but those actions that day aren’t what made him great. What made him great was his commitment to adhere in every facet of his life to our three treasured core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”
Rand recalled how Gilbert spent much of his off-duty time at Balad volunteering in the base hospital or supporting the unit chapel. He said base medics were so overcome by Gilbert’s death that they came to see him, asking if they could name a wing of the hospital after him, and enlisted groups petitioned to have the Balad Air Base chapel annex renamed “Troy’s Place.”
Following the accident, U.S. forces recovered DNA which provided enough information to positively identify Gilbert. His funeral, with full military honors, followed Dec. 11, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 2012, some additional, but very limited, remains were recovered and interred during a second service Dec. 11, 2013.
Then, on Aug. 28, an Iraqi tribal leader approached a U.S. military advisor near al Taqaddam, Iraq, and produced what he claimed to be evidence of the remains of a U.S. military pilot who had crashed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraqi said he was a representative of his tribe, which had the remains and the flight gear the pilot was wearing when he went down.
The tribal leader turned over the evidence to the U.S. advisor who immediately provided it to U.S. experts for testing at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. AFMES confirmed the evidence Sept. 7 through DNA testing.
With this verification, U.S. military advisors in Iraq reengaged the tribal leader who subsequently turned over the remains, including a U.S. flight suit, flight jacket and parachute harness.
Gilbert’s remains, promptly prepared for return to the U.S. for testing, arrived Oct. 3 at Dover AFB. Airmen at Dover conducted a dignified transfer upon arrival at the base, which was attended by Gilbert’s family, base officials and senior Air Force leaders, to include the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Goldfein, Rand, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
AFMES confirmed Oct. 4 through dental examination and DNA testing that all remains received were those of Maj. Gilbert. His lost remains had been recovered and fully repatriated.
“First and foremost I want say God is forever faithful,” Gilbert Ravella said. “He was good whether this recovery ever happened or not. But we praise Him, in His infinite mercies, for granting us this miracle after almost 10 years of waiting, hoping and praying.
“Second, I want to thank not only the brave Special Operations Forces that ultimately found Troy’s body but also each and every single Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine who searched or supported the recovery mission during these last 10 years,” she said. “As each of them put on the uniform and gave their best efforts, not fully knowing if they made a difference, I can assure them that they laid the stepping stones which led to this final victory. Justice was served.
James also praised the unwavering commitment of those who endeavored to bring the fallen fighter pilot back to U.S. soil.
“We are grateful to all those within the U.S. military, the U.S. government and beyond who never gave up and worked so hard to help return this American hero home to his final resting place,” James said. “As an Air Force, we are absolutely committed to leaving no Airman behind and to honoring the memory of warriors like Maj. Gilbert who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”
Goldfein echoed James’ sentiments saying Gilbert represented the best ideals of America’s Airmen.
“As an Air Force officer, husband and father, Troy Gilbert truly represented what being an Airman is all about,” Goldfein said. “He was committed to serving his country, his team and his family in everything he did. On the day he died, he characteristically put service before self when he answered the short-notice call to support coalition ground forces who had come under attack. He put his own safety aside and saved many lives that day.”
Now, finally, a decade later, Gilbert has returned to the country he so valiantly served. At the request of his family, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming months along with the remains originally recovered in 2006 and 2012.
“The memory of my five children watching their father’s flag-draped transfer case being unloaded from the cargo hold and carried by his brothers-in-arms back to American soil renews my hope for all mankind,” said Gilbert Ravella. “Attending the dignified transfer at Dover Monday night was the closest we have been to Troy in 10 years. That was bittersweet.
“However, the memory of his sacrificial selflessness, his passionate love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to his family and to his beloved country echoed in their footsteps long after the transport vehicle drove him away,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart I want everyone to know how grateful the kids and I have been for your years of prayers. There is no doubt they reached the very ears of God.”
“As our military promised, no one was left behind on the field of battle,” Gilbert Ravella said. “Troy is home.”
Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.
Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber.
“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.
Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.
However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.
Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.
Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.
“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.
Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.
Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.
“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.
Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.
Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets
Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.
Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.
Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”
And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.
NOW WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with laser cannons