Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Army veteran and entertainment icon Lou Pitt

Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.

Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.


WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.

WATM: Were you involved in any sports?

Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.

Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.

WATM: Did you serve in the military?

Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).

While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.

At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.

WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?

Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).

While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.

Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?

Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

KMI Insignia.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.

WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?

Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”

The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.

WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.

Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.

Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.

Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.

Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.

Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora

WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?

Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.

WATM: What are words that you live by?

Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”

Character Makes The Man

Respect for all no matter the rank or position

Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Lou on stage in “Look Homeward, Angel”.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
MIGHTY TRENDING

US has a secret knife missile that kills terrorists, not civilians

The US has developed a secret missile to kill terrorists in precision strikes without harming civilians nearby, and it has already proven its worth in the field, The Wall Street Journal reported on May 9, 2019, citing more than a dozen current and former US officials.

The R9X is a modified version of the Hellfire missile. Instead of exploding, the weapon uses sheer force to kill its target. “To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky,” The Journal wrote.

What makes the weapon especially deadly is that it carries six long blades that extend outward just before impact, shredding anything in its path. The R9X is nicknamed “The Flying Ginsu,” a reference to a type of high-quality chef’s knife.


The missile, which can tear through cars and buildings, is also called “The Ninja Bomb.”

Development reportedly began in 2011 as an attempt to reduce civilian casualties in the war on terror, especially as extremists regularly used noncombatants as human shields. A conventional missile such as the Hellfire explodes, creating a deadly blast radius and turning objects into lethal shrapnel. That’s why it’s suitable for destroying vehicles or killing a number of enemy combatants who are in close proximity, while the R9X is best for targeting individuals.

The weapon is “for the express purpose of reducing civilian casualties,” one official told reporters.

The US military has used the weapon only a few times, officials told The Journal, revealing that this missile has been used in operations in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. For example, the RX9 was used in January 2019 to kill Jamal al-Badawi, who was accused of masterminding the USS Cole bombing in 2000.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

The USS Cole is towed away from the port city of Aden, Yemen, into open sea by the Military Sealift Command ocean-going tug USNS Catawba on Oct. 29, 2000.

(DoD photo by Sgt. Don L. Maes)

While the Obama administration emphasized the need to reduce civilian casualties, the Trump administration appears to have made this less of a priority. In March 2019, President Donald Trump rolled back an Obama-era transparency initiative that required public reports on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes.

Officials told The Journal that highlighting the new missile’s existence, something they argue should have been done a long time ago, shows that the US is committed to reducing civilian casualties.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens to an Abrams tank if hit by a battleship shell

The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank is arguably the best in the world. Yeah, Russia is generating some hype for the Armata family of tanks, but the Abrams is combat-proven and very hard to kill.


Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

How hard? Well, in his 1994 non-fiction book, Armored Cav, Tom Clancy recounted a tale of how an M1A1 Abrams got stuck in the mud during the ground war of Desert Storm. It was then set upon by three tanks, Iraqi T-72s specifically. A round fired from roughly a thousand yards away bounced off, and the Abrams responded by blowing the T-72 that fired it to bits. A second round fired from 700 yards, bounced off, and the offending T-72 was blasted. The third T-72, at a range of roughly 400 yards, fired a round, which left a groove in the armor of the Abrams. It, too, was destroyed by a shot fired through a sand berm. These were, supposedly, Russia’s state-of-the-art tanks.

Then, when help arrived, and the tank couldn’t be freed from the mud, a platoon of Abrams tanks tried to destroy it. After several rounds, they detonated the onboard ammo, but the blow-out panels functioned as designed. Then, when the tank was retrieved from the mud, they discovered that it was still functional. The only issue? A sight was out of alignment.

So, what would it take to reliably destroy an M1 Abrams? Well, someone at quora.com asked what would happen if an Abrams was hit by a round from a 16-inch gun on an American Iowa-class battleship.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

The 16-inch armor-piercing rounds fired from the battleship weigh in at 2,700 pounds. The 120mm rounds fired at that Abrams stuck in the mud? They’re about 20 pounds. Do a quick bit of math and you’ll see that the Iowa‘s main gun round is 135 times as heavy as an Abrams’ main gun round. The Abrams may be the world’s toughest tank and can take a ton of abuse, but not this level of abuse.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

To put it simply, a main gun round from the Iowa-class battleship will destroy the Abrams easily. In a way, this speaks well for the Abrams – one can’t really imagine anything short of an Iowa‘s main gun being able to destroy one.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hate meetings? Maybe it’s your fault. Here are 3 steps to making meetings great again

Most people hate meetings –especially with large groups.

Sure, meetings are a great opportunity to get business done in the military, but many of the meetings I have attended and personally ran were squandered opportunities. I hate thinking about the hours of productivity lost sitting in meetings. Sometimes this was because of how they were structured; at other times, the people who called the meeting had no idea what they wanted to get out of it in the first place.


In my experience, most meetings fail because many of the participants don’t come to the meeting prepared, fail to read the room and end up sucking the productivity out of the room before any real work can get done. Yes. I’m pointing fingers, but one of them is pointing toward a mirror.

For me, meetings have been trial and error experiences, and it took me about 16 years before I came to the realization that I’ve been part of the problem. Below are three lessons I’ve learned over the years:

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

live.staticflickr.com

1. Don’t shoot from the hip and have your top lines ready.

I’ve gone to way too many meetings unprepared, not sure of what I wanted to contribute prior to walking into the room. I don’t recommend ever bringing a script, but definitely figure out your topline message ahead of time. Your topline message is the idea that you want the boss or other people in the room to take with them when they walk away from the table. Once you figure this out, write down 3-4 key points that support your message and talk through them.

Even if you have your topline ready and your supporting points in hand, step back and ask, “So what?” If we identify a threat, what are we doing about it? If we identify a risk, how are we mitigating it? By asking, “so what” we not only ensure what we’re communicating is relevant to the listener, and not wasting our time or theirs, but we also ensure that we’re not presenting problems without solutions to our leaders.

2. Don’t go too deep.

I might know 1000 details on the topic I’m briefing in a meeting, but you have to ask yourself: Is it helpful? Maybe not. Therefore, it helps to know what is “above the line” or “below the line” in communication. Above the line is all the information the leader needs to know to make a decision or form a judgment about a topic. Below the line are all the details that aren’t necessary. These two characterizations change as you rise in the organization.

What’s above the line for a battalion commander is (hopefully) different than what’s above the line for a division commander. I’ve lost the attention of many leaders by mixing the two and going into too much detail in meetings, wasting minutes and confusing my messages.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

p2.piqsels.com

3. Listen. Read the room. Adjust as needed.

I can’t tell you how many times I failed to pay attention and either covered an issue that was already addressed or tried to push through with my prepared briefing even though I knew time was running out (because the major talking ahead of me wasn’t prepared and went into excruciating detail on his topic).

Nothing will take the energy out of a meeting faster than when someone fails to read the room. Even when I’ve sat there with my notecards and top lines ready to go, I’ve learned that I need to continue to edit based on the atmospherics in the room. Is the boss fidgeting in his chair? Did someone bring up a topic that dampened the mood of everyone else, therefore your good idea will fall on deaf ears? These are a few areas that we need to read when in meetings and adjust accordingly. Maybe my three-minute briefing can be shortened to one minute for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

One last thing. Don’t ever walk away from a meeting without understanding the due-outs and the next steps on the topics discussed. If you do, then the meeting was a waste. If there’s time at the end or before everyone leaves, do a quick check and make sure you heard and understood your obligations.

Meetings don’t have to be wasted time. We all have a responsibility to play a part. We need to come prepared, maybe even rehearse, so we aren’t reading a piece of paper. We need to understand what’s important to the people in the room and not show off our brilliance on a topic. And finally, we need to actually pay attention, read the room and adjust our contribution to the meeting as needed. I will probably never utter the words, “I can’t wait for this meeting,” but at least I can play my part not to make it a wasted opportunity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what being labeled a terrorist organization means for Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump Administration has long had a target for Iran. The Islamic Republic, for its part, makes it an easy antagonist for the United States. Now, the U.S. is taking the war of words one step further by designating the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.


While many groups are labeled as foreign terrorists by the United States, the IRGC is the first official military apparatus of an internationally recognized country to be labeled as such. Now what does that mean for the Revolutionary Guards and for Iran?

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

The United States and Iran have not been friends since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 ousted the Shah and installed the Islamic Republic – who allowed American citizens to be held hostage for 444 days. Ever since, the two powers have always stopped just short of an outright shooting war, choosing instead to cause malicious harm to one another behind the scenes. Iran provided material support and outright aid to insurgent groups fighting the U.S. military during the 2003-2011 Iraq War while the United States has consistently backed anti-Iranian operations throughout the region for decades. Labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization changes the game a little.

The Revolutionary Guards are a unit intended to defend the Iranian government, not just its borders; and its mandate extends to anywhere in the world that could pose a threat to the Ayatollah and his system of government. Its main concern isn’t limited to potential invaders, the IRGC will go after any group or person who poses a legitimate threat to Iran, traditionally through any means necessary.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Iranian soldiers in Iraq.

As of April 8, 2019, the Trump Administration has designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Now the IRGC is subject to a slew of financial restrictions that must be followed by citizens of the United States, and the move will pressure U.S. allies to follow suit. Americans and American companies cannot knowingly provide material support to institutions that might support the IRGC, specifically “currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, transportation, and other physical assets, except medicine or religious materials.”

Revolutionary Guards members and people related to them can also be removed from the United States and any company holding IRGC assets must now retain them and report them to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. More importantly, this gives the U.S. more combat options under the most recent authorization for the use of military force.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

IRGC Commander Qasam Soleimani with Iraqi troops fighting ISIS in Iraq.

The United States has been operating on the post-9/11 AUMF passed by Congress since 2001. In that time, the AUMF has allowed the military to deploy to more than 150 countries in support of anti-terror operations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. If the Trump Administration tries to extend the AUMF to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, it could be tantamount to using the full force of the U.S. military against known IRGC units anywhere, under the 2001 AUMF.

Basically, all the President has to do to get the funds to invade Iran is to make a compelling argument that it’s harboring al-Qaeda. Which, to be clear, it is not. The brand of Islam espoused by al-Qaeda, and the brand taught by the mullahs in Iran have been at each others’ throats for centuries – so that argument would have to be incredibly compelling.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NFL player gives the ultimate Father’s Day surprise

Christian McCaffrey is one of the best players currently playing in the NFL. As a running back for the Carolina Panthers, McCaffrey has made a tremendous impact on the field turning into one of the best rushers in the NFL. He’s notched numerous league and franchise records in his still-young career. I mean, just look at these highlights. But McCaffery isn’t just NFL skills – he has a heart for the military community as well.


McCaffrey had an amazing college career, playing for Stanford. He took after his dad, Ed, who was a solid receiver for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos while earning three Super Bowl rings. The influence of Ed on Christian is evident and draws a lot of comparison to how military members will follow in their parents footsteps.

Military service runs in the family — 80% of military recruits come from families where at least one family member has served; 25% have a parent who has served. In celebration of Father’s Day this year, USAA brought together two fathers who’ve inspired their kids to follow in their footsteps.

Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey and his dad, Ed, a former NFL wideout, teamed up with USAA and the USO of North Carolina to virtually surprise a military family (both dad and daughter are active duty service members and Panthers fans) for a special Father’s Day celebration in honor of their service. The military and the men and women who serve in it mean a lot of McCaffery.

The surprised father/daughter service members are longtime Carolina Panthers fans. Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy is active duty with the United States Marine Corps and has 16 years of service who is currently based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Senior Airman Ella, is active-duty with the United States Air Force with three years of service. She is based at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.

Watch as this NFL star (and his NFL Dad) virtually visit with these unsuspecting military members for a surprise Father’s Day celebration that they’ll never forget:

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The experience was hosted by USAA, Official NFL Salute to Service Partner as part of its commitment to authentically honor the military through “Salute to Service.”

This isn’t the first time that USAA and Christian have teamed up to help military service members. Back in January, McCaffery sent a Marine SgtMaj to the Super Bowl. We can’t wait to see what Christian and USAA come up with next!

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The top 8 disasters to prepare for in 2018

For most, if not all, of us, surviving is our number one priority. We may not be consciously craving it, but every little thing we do is to survive this race called life. So, it’s important to know all the things most likely to end that life.


We pursue education to be prepared for the future. We work because we need money to buy what we need to sustain ourselves (and enjoy a lot of other luxuries in between). When we watch our favorite TV shows and geek out on fictional characters, we take care of our mental health.

And all of that is crucial to surviving life. But what if there are threats that are beyond your control? What if the danger to your life is something that you can’t prevent from happening? What if, for example, a new disease has spread worldwide and everyone is vulnerable to catching it – even you? What would you do then?

It sounds like a plot for a fictional story, but it’s actually a very plausible scenario. We have had many outbreaks of deadly diseases in the recent times, and we could have them again in the future. With all the political and social unrest happening these days, it’s also not unlikely that we’ll see civil turmoil close to our neighborhood. How would you keep yourself safe then?

The world is not a perfect place, much less safe. We always have to look out for ourselves to survive. Keeping ourselves safe in normal situations is already a challenge, but with all the disasters that are possible (or expected, in some cases) to happen to us, it’s going to be much more difficult. You don’t have to be helpless, though.

Here are some tips on what you can do to survive in case of disasters presented by the guys over at Mike’s Gear Reviews.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
(Mike’s Gear Reviews)

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ISIS beheads Russian, tells nation ‘we will kill your children’

The ISIS media group in Raqqa, Syria released another execution video. This time, the victim is Khasiev Magomid, an alleged member of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB – successor to the Soviet-era KGB.


Magomid admitted he entered ISIS territory to gather names, photos, and information about Daesh fighters.

The video, titled “You Shall be Disappointed and Humiliated O Russians,” shows the standard Daesh execution video, with Magomid on his knees. His captor, standing above him, claims he’s a Russian national from Chechnya before cutting the victim’s throat.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

The video also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and threatens all of Russia’s citizens.

“Listen, Putin the dog, the [Assad] regime bombed us before you came and then America and its coward allies bombed us. Oh Russian infidels, we’ve been waiting for you…You have been taken to a new defeat. You will find no security in your homes and we will kill your children for every child you killed here.”

Putin vowed retaliation against ISIS for the bombing of a Russian commercial jet over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015. There has not yet been any official reaction from the Russian security forces or foreign ministry over the murder of Magomid.

In January 2015, Chechen leadership told the Interfax News Agency, Russia did have an intelligence network inside ISIS.

“This allows us to track the movement of those who are of interest to us,” said Ramzan Kadyrov, former Chechen rebel and now head of the Chechen Republic. “Moreover, it allows us to send those who, even as a joke, direct the barrel towards Russian on an eternal trip with a one-way ticket.”

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Kadyrov confirmed the Russian in the video was indeed a Chechen citizen and expressed his desire to join the anti-terror operation in Syria with Chechen special operations units. He promised to avenge Magomid’s death.

“Chechens remember, know and will not leave this unanswered,” he said.  “Those who slaughtered our citizen will not live long.”

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US Navy is going to arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles, a top Trump official says

The US Navy is going to eventually arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles that are still being developed, White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien said Wednesday, according to Defense News.

“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


“This capability,” he continued, “will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”

Hypersonic missiles — high-speed weapons able to evade traditional missile-defense systems — are a key area of competition between the three great powers. Earlier this month, Russia test-fired its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile from the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.

Given the ongoing hypersonic missile arms race, it is easy to see why the US Navy might want hypersonic missiles for its destroyers, something the Navy has previously discussed, but there are challenges.

The CPS missile is a combination of the developmental Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) and a two-stage booster, according to the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget overview.

Newer Zumwalt-class destroyers have larger vertical launch system (VLS) cells that could accommodate a large diameter missile with a hypersonic warhead in a boost-glide vehicle configuration, but older Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have much smaller VLS cells that would need to be modified or replaced altogether.

“I think it’s a terrible idea to try to outfit these destroyers with hypersonic missiles,” Bryan Clark, a retired Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute told Insider. Retrofitting dozens of Navy Arleigh Burkes to carry new hypersonic missiles would be expensive, he said.

What the Russian military appears to be doing is developing a new hypersonic missile to fit existing warships. The US military would be going about this in reverse, refitting existing ships to suit a new missile, a weapon that could be quickly replaced by a smaller, cheaper alternative down the road given the rapid pace of technological development.

“If the Navy makes this massive investment in retrofitting only to find in five years that these smaller weapons are now emerging, that money will be largely wasted,” Clark said, adding that the plan “doesn’t make sense.”

In addition to the steep costs of retrofitting dozens of destroyers and arming them with expensive missiles, of which the Navy may only be able to afford limited numbers, other challenges include taking warships offline and tying up shipyards for extended periods of time, potentially hindering other repair work.

Changes risk making the 500-ship plan ‘unaffordable’

Defense News reported that O’Brien also pushed the Trump administration’s vision for a 500-ship Navy, a vision that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper unveiled earlier this month to counter China’s growing naval force.

The plan, known as “Battle Force 2045,” calls for a mixture of manned and unmanned vessels and is based on recommendations from the Hudson Institute, which presented what Clark said was an affordable path to a 500-ship Navy.

A major difference between the Pentagon’s plan and the Hudson Institute study is that the Pentagon wants to build a larger submarine force, which could drive up sustainment costs, making the vision impossible to realize from a cost perspective. Each Virginia-class attack submarine with a larger missile launcher is estimated to cost .2 billion.

Retrofitting destroyers to carry hypersonic missiles would pull away funding as well. “This missile launcher thing, the additional submarines, all the additional ornaments that the Navy is looking at hanging on this fleet are going to make it unaffordable,” Clark said.

He argued that the Navy should focus on arming Virginia-class submarines with hypersonic missiles and let the destroyers be. “You don’t have to rebuild the ship to do it,” Clark explained. “That makes more sense. The Navy should be pursuing that for its boost-glide weapons.”

“That would be sufficient to provide maritime launch capability to complement what the Air Force and the Army are doing,” he said. Both the Army and the Air Force have been pursuing hypersonic weapons for existing launch platforms, such as the AGM-183 ARRW for the B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

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

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Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.


But did you ever think about where they all might be today?

Well, we look into it and here’s what we found:

Related: 7 ways to prove your spouse is a spy

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Joker

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Joker on patrol. (Source: WB)

After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Animal Mother

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
A man of few words (Source: WB)

This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.

Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4”  Fox)

After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Gomer Pyle

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Hey, Joker. (Source: WB)

You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.

After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.

She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.

Nobody liked him anyway.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Gunny Hartman

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Gunny’s classic stoic look. (Source: WB)

After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.

Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the sad legacy of land mines continues to haunt the Balkans

It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.


Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.

“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.

The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.

The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.

“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.

BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.

The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.

In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.

Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.

Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.

“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.

The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.

This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.

One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.

In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.

Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.

According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.

“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.

Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”

Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.

Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment
Members of the Kosovo Police Bomb Squad prepare their ordnance for a demolition range in Orahovac, Kosovo, April 4. The demolition was part of the International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day, this day represented the start of the humanitarian demining Season in Kosovo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.

Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.

Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.

Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.

The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.

“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”

Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.

Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.

“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 demo team will debut new moves during 2019 air shows

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson soared above RAF Fairford, England, piloting an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in July 2018. It was the first time Olson had given aviation geek enthusiasts and skeptics alike a taste of maneuvers the fifth-generation stealth jet can perform at the world’s largest military air show.

Now, Olson will be showing off those moves and more on tour.


“This show is going to solidify the F-35 in its rightful place, just [as] the absolute, cutting-edge stealth fighter jet [that’s] here and it’s ready and so capable,” said Olson, an instructor pilot and commander of the F-35A Heritage Flight Team.

Military.com recently spoke with Olson, with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, about the upcoming 2019 demonstration season, in which he will be the solo F-35 performer at 17 shows across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s just a total, absolute rage fest within 15 minutes,” Olson said.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during a demo practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)


The F-35 Lightning II has been part of the Heritage Flight for three seasons and is gearing up for its fourth starting March 2019, officials said. The Heritage Flight Foundation is a contractor with Air Combat Command and performs across the U.S. and overseas, flying old warbirds such as the P-51 Mustang.

Only four aircraft — the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptorand F-35 — are certified to fly alongside the planes from a bygone era.

But this is the first time the F-35 will have a breakout role in the 30-minute, full-narration air show, with its own 13-minute demo featuring state-of-the-art aerobatics.

“We’re going out there to showcase the jet, [and] we’re doing it fully aerobatic … fully showcasing the maneuvering envelope of the F-35,” Olson said.

That means a minimum of 16 maneuvers, including rolls, loops, high-degree bank turns, and inverting to be fully upside down, among other actions. There will also be two new passes with the older warbirds, including a “fun bottom-up pass where the [audience] can see the bottom of the aircraft as it arcs over the crowd,” he said.

Olson said the show pulls from the strengths and maneuvers of multiple airframes that came before the F-35. For example, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is “very impressive at a slow-speed capability, being able to do things like a square loop” and the F-16 Viper demo “is very fast and agile,” he said. Audiences will be able to see the F-35 do both.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, taxis after a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

The F-35 “will be able to power out of other maneuvers” more swiftly because of its F135 engine, which propels it with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, Olson said.

He will perform a pedal turn similar to the F-22, in which the F-35 banks and climbs high, eventually simulating a somersault-like move. But Olson will not use thrust vectoring or manipulate the direction of the engine’s to control altitude or velocity.

“This is really just a testament to the design and the flight control logic that’s built into the jet. And all these maneuvers are repeatable under all conditions … no matter what kind of temperature, or elevation, all these maneuvers are safe,” Olson said.

“For the first three seasons, we wanted the public to see the F-35, but it wasn’t fully ready,” Olson said, meaning that not every jet used for demonstrations was configured to the latest Block 3F software. “The F-35 program involved concurrent production and test. … There was a little extra amount of testing still left to do … and software and hardware modifications.”

That restricted pilots to a maximum of 7 G-forces, but now Olson can pull a full 9Gs if he wishes.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, flies inverted during a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

And he has: During the RIAT show in July 2018, Olson climbed to a full 9G configuration because that specific jet was fully capable. But he said he still wasn’t performing the high-banking maneuvers he now can for the upcoming season.

Olson and a small team at Luke have been working on the first-of-its-kind show since December 2018. They traveled to manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 simulator facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, to develop the show alongside Billie Flynn, Lockheed’s experimental test pilot.

The demo moves also simulate how the F-35 will perform in combat, Olson said.

“Through our narration, we attempt to succeed in connecting the maneuver at the air show to its real world, tactical application,” he said, adding that he flies the F-35 like he’s in a combat configuration but he won’t be carrying an ordnance load.

Still, “you are seeing the jet and how it would perform in actual combat,” he said.

As additional jets came to Luke for pilot training, it gave the demo team breathing room to practice because they weren’t taking planes away from the primary training mission, Olson said.

The base now has 87 of the jets, with more than 90 percent configured to the Block 3F software.

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, practices the F-35 demonstration.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

“As far as flying operations go at Luke, [we now have enough] jets to support a demo team,” said Olson, who was previously an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.

The show routine has been flown more than 40 times. Each time, he and other pilots, maintainers, avionics specialists and others involved in the show watch the tape from the cockpit and another recorded from the ground to see what can be perfected.

“We grade ourselves down to the foot, and down to the knot of airspeed,” Olson said. “When you travel at 1,000 feet per second, that’s a tight tolerance. But that’s the precision in which we designed this thing.”

He added, “No one has seen the F-35s perform this way and I … think it really sets the bar for what a demo [show] can be.”

Olson says he doesn’t see additional F-35 jets being added to the demo, though maneuvers may be tweaked or added in future seasons.

“That work is never finished,” he said. “Connecting the U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force with the American public is the goal. And the F-35 demonstration is the conduit for which we forge that connection.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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