What it's really like for military families when troops are deployed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.

The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.

To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.


Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.

“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.

Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)

Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.

Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”

A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.

Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.

Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.

One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.

Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.

Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.

UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.

For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.

When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.

One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.

Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.

Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.

Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey

A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”

Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.

A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.

Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.

While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.

Studies show that factors such as increased social support and cognitive behavioral therapy, where people learn to challenge their patterns of thought, can greatly help families during and after a loved one’s deployment.

Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 steps you need in your battle plan for marriage resiliency

If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.

It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.


While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.

1. Understand your mission 

Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.

Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.

2. WARNO

The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.

“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”

In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.

3.  Identify obstacles

A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.

“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”

“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”

What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.

If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.

4. Call for support if necessary

Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.

Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.

Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.

Articles

Separation delayed for Green Beret who allegedly beat up Afghan commander

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland is being forcibly separated from the U.S. Army because officials say he beat up an Afghan commander, but he recently received a extension on the period in which he can appeal this decision.


In 2011, the Green Beret and Bronze Star recipient admitted to assaulting a local Afghan police commander who he says laughed about raping a boy in Kunduz province. Martland was recommended for involuntary separation through the Army’s qualitative management program in 2015, but wishes to remain in the Army. Then-Army Secretary John McHugh gave him a temporary reprieve. He now has until May 1, 2016 to file an appeal.

 

Martland, an 11-year veteran currently assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, had the support of California Representative Duncan Hunter, himself a Marine Corps veteran, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Hunter sent a letter to Senator Pat Roberts stating that Martland he has “the full support of his command and immediate leadership.”

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
Martland (left) with General Petraeus (center).

Capt. Daniel Quinn was with Martland during the assault and has since left the army.

Quinn and Martland were told by the boy and his mother that the boy was tied to a post and raped repeatedly. Quinn verified the story with locals from other villages. The two Green Berets invited the commander to their base. Martland says he and Quinn only roughly removed the commander from their shared base, while the commander alleges Martland beat him up.

“After the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy, Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland wrote in a statement ordered by Rep.Hunter. Martland then proceeded to “body slam him multiple times,” kick him in the rib cage, and put his foot on his neck. “I continued to body slam him and throw him for fifty meters until he was outside the camp,” Martland writes. “He was never knocked out, and he ran away from our camp.”

The incident lasted no more than five minutes, according to the statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Top US general wants more firepower to counter Russia

The top US general in Europe told Congress March 5, 2019, that he needs a lot more firepower to counter the threat from Russia.

“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported.

“While the US maintains a global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage,” he explained. He told lawmakers there continue to be shortfalls across all warfighting domains.


He requested more troops and warships, as well as more cyber assets and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to confront Russia, which boldly seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces to “erode” the US military’s advantage.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe.

“In light of Russia’s modernizing and increasingly aggressive force posture,” the general explained, “EUCOM recommends augmenting our assigned and rotational forces to enhance our deterrence posture.” He added that he has requested the addition of two more US Navy destroyers to bolster strength of the four ballistic-missile defense capable ships already stationed in Spain.

“I’ve asked for two more destroyers for EUCOM,” he said, according to CNN. “We need greater capacity particularly given the modernization and growth of the … Russian fleets in Europe.” He said that he would like to see carrier and amphibious strike groups rotating through Europe more frequently.

He also encouraged regular naval activities in the Black Sea. “They frankly don’t like us in the Black Sea,” the general said. “It’s international waters and we should sail and fly there.” As is, the US routinely sends destroyers into the waterway, where they are shadowed by Russian vessels.

Russia is in the process of bolstering the strength of its forces on NATO’s doorstep, adding new tank and missile units to its Baltic forces.

Russia argues that its actions are a direct response to NATO’s military build-up. “We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently told Russian state media.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued for greater deterrence capabilities March 5, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes, stating that any “perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from Putin.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Semper Fi’ trailer explores what happens when a hero breaks bad

West Point graduate Sean Mullin (Amira & Sam) returns to writing with Semper Fi, a film about a police officer and Marine Corps Reservist who is faced with an ethical dilemma when it comes to helping his brother in prison. Murderball director and co-writer Henry-Alex Rubin directed the film, which is filled with stars like Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad), Finn Witrock (Unbroken), and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl).

But it’s perfectly reasonable if you’re most excited about Recon Marine Rudy Reyes, who plays a role in the film and served as a military advisor for the production.


SEMPER FI Official Trailer (2019) Nat Wolff, Jai Courtney Movie HD

www.youtube.com

Watch the trailer:

Courtney plays Cal, a police officer and Marine Corps reservist who decides to break his younger brother Oyster (played by Paper Towns’ Nat Wolff) out of prison. In doing so, he’ll question the system he has sworn to uphold, whatever the cost.

Also read: 3 major reasons you should hire veterans in Hollywood

Some of the initial reactions to the trailer have included veterans and Marines saying the film goes against “what it means to be a Marine” but, given that the film doesn’t come out until Oct. 4, 2019, I’d say it’s probably too soon to tell. Furthermore, what “semper fi” means to one Marine might be different from what it means to another.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Besides, Mullin has a history of writing non-traditional veteran stories. Amira Sam, which Mullin wrote and directed, was about a veteran who comes home from war and his relationship with an immigrant. “I think every single ‘veteran comes home from war’ movie that’s ever been made is about a veteran with post-traumatic stress, and I wanted to tell the first story about a veteran who comes home and he’s okay but his country’s lost its mind,” Mullin told Military.com.

Sometimes vets are heroes and sometimes they break bad. It sounds like Courtney portrays a Marine who is navigating both roads — it’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out.

Either way, you can find out for yourself in October. In the meantime, feel free to keep the conversation going on our Facebook page: what is Hollywood’s responsibility when telling military stories?

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
Articles

7 awesome features JSOC wants for future vehicles

Two U.S. military commands involved in buying and fielding new gear for special operators have released a list of what features they would like to see in future military vehicles — and the list shows some serious upgrades for warfighters.


The Joint Special Operations Command and the Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior released their wish list in a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation. While some of the upgrades they’re searching for are pretty standard — such as more reliable drivetrains and cheaper brakes — these five technologies could be game changing:

1. Invisible armor on civilian vehicles

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
American EOD sailors and Marines test a light armored SUV against a variety of munitions. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James Frank)

The document calls for low visibility “Armor materials/panels, etc., that can be transferred and integrated from one commercial vehicle to another with minimal manpower and in a minimal timeframe.” This could allow operators to fortify a civilian vehicle for a mission. Then, if that car is compromised, quickly move the armor to a new ride for the next mission.

2. Transformer vehicles

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jad Sleiman)

Spec ops buyers are looking for a chassis that could survive after the car body wears out. In other words, operators would have a truck or SUV that they use for some operations, and after the vehicle gets banged up, worn out, or just stops looking cool, the troops could trade out the body for a new one for cheap.

3. Engine starters and batteries that work at -50 degrees

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
When you’re running out of the cold after hours of shoveling, you really want that heater to start. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. David Bedard)

Batteries and starters that work at 50 degrees below zero would give soldiers confidence that they can always make a quick getaway, even in the Arctic Circle. In addition to delivering power in extremely frigid weather, the batteries should provide electricity for a longer time between charges. This would allow users to run the heat and electronic devices in the field for longer without turning on the engine.

4. Lighter, hidden armor

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Philip Diab)

In addition to the transferability of the armor described in the first entry, JSOC and PEO-SOF are asking for the hidden armor for civilian vehicles to be lighter. This would reduce the low gas mileage and high rollover problems associated with current vehicles using hidden armor.

5. Hybrid military dune buggies

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed
(Photo: US Army)

The solicitation calls for electric or hybrid electric vehicle technology for LTATVs. The Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle is basically a souped-up ATV for light troops like special operators and paratroopers. Now, soldiers want an all-electric or hybrid version of the vehicle that would “increase range, reduce maintenance, and lower the audible signature.”

6. “Low Profile Antennas for Line of Sight, SATCOM, and ECMS”

This is exactly what it sounds like, a variety of antennas that work as well as current models while also being harder to detect. It would allow all vehicles — commercial and military — to be outfitted with more communications devices without drawing undue attention and enemy fire.

7. “Visual, Audible, and Thermal Signature Reduction”

The commandos want vehicles that are harder to detect, track, and target. Quieter vehicles are more difficult to hear, cooler vehicles are harder to see with IR, and better-camouflaged vehicles are challenging to pick out with the naked eye. Operators want all three upgrades.

See the full solicitation at fbo.gov (until it gets archived on Nov. 30).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the legendary Stinger missile is about to get more dangerous

The Stinger missile is America’s premier short-range air defense weapon, featuring in-flight guidance and an almost 7-pound warhead that sends shrapnel ripping through planes, helicopters, and pretty much anything else flying low. It can even be shot against ground vehicles when necessary.

Recently, the missile’s manufacturer has created a new proximity fuse for the weapon — and it just passed qualification testing with flying colors.


What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Kiser, assigned to the USS Bataan (LHD 5), practices target tracking with a Stinger missile training system aboard the Bataan, May 8, 2014.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)

The Stinger is a hit-to-kill weapon, meaning it always tries to physically impact the enemy target before it goes off. That turns the skin of the targeted aircraft into shrapnel that rips through the rest of the aircraft, maximizing damage to engines, fuel tanks, and even the pilots. It usually ends up near the engine, since the weapon uses heat to track targets.

But making contact with the target isn’t always necessary, as the missile itself creates some shrapnel that will tear through the target’s skin. So, if it were to explode nearby its target, it’s still likely to damage or destroy the craft.

Now, the missile is being outfitted with a better proximity fuse that achieved a 100-percent hit rate during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

That’s great news for Stinger missile shooters. The weapon can be carried by ground troops or mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, but firing the weapon is risky, especially against ground-support jets or helicopters.

If the Stinger crew fires the weapon and misses, whether because of a malfunction, shooter error, or the target’s defenses, they’re potentially in for a world of hurt. That’s because it always takes time to fire a second missile, especially for ground troops firing the MANPADS, which is a tube with a single missile in it.

That means a very pissed off and scared pilot is going to turn around and follow the smoke plume back it its source, and the pilot is likely going to hit the missile source with everything they have available to drop and fire.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua L. Field, a low altitude air defense (LAAD) gunner, with 2nd LAAD Battalion fires an FIM- 92 Stinger missile during a live fire training exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)

But with a proximity fuse, a missile that would otherwise be a near-miss will still go off, generating as much damage and shrapnel as it can. That means the helicopter that would be pivoting to attack is now suffering from damage. Hopefully, the damage is in the cockpit, control surfaces, or engine. A proximity detonation might even still be enough to destroy the target outright.

If not, then at least the crew on the ground has some breathing room as the air crew tries to get an idea of how damaged they are. This could be enough time for troops on the ground to get under cover or concealment or even to get off another shot.

This is especially useful against drones which typically don’t require as much damage to be completely destroyed. And, considering just how much more prevalent drones are becoming, that could be key for future air defenders trying to maintain an air defense umbrella as Chinese or Russian forces test their defenses. All four Department of Defense branches carry the missile in combat.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, speaks with Avenger team leader, Army Sgt. Jesse Thomas, and Avenger team member Army Spc. Dillion Whitlock with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, South Carolina National Guard, during an air-defense live-fire exercise in Shabla, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores)

Currently, the weapon is most widely deployed in single-shot missile tubes and carried by air defense squads on the ground. There’s even an Army air defense battery that can jump these tubes into combat with other airborne troops. There’s also the Avenger system, a modified Humvee with eight missiles mounted on it.

Finally, there is an Apache variant that can carry the missile, and all new Apache’s come with the necessary mounting point and other hardware.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How concertina wire became such an effective defense tool

It doesn’t seem like much. It’s just a spool of metal wiring, dotted with small, sharp, evenly-dispersed bits. If you happened upon some of it strewn across the ground, you could maneuver around the teeth fairly easily and make your way through, unscathed, with ease. It’s more of a flimsy annoyance than a deterrent — but that’s the beauty of it.

Since the turn of the century, troops have implemented it when setting up defensive positions. It’s only ever placed by itself in training situations — since the worst damage it can inflict is a small cut and maybe a tear on one’s uniform — but when it’s used in conjunction with other defensive emplacements, it becomes substantially more difficult to navigate.

Its relatively cheap price tag has made it the perfect option for training scenarios. It’s become so integral to training warfighters that every troop, regardless of branch, occupation, or era, has had to learn to crawl under it at one point or another.


What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

This was also back in the day when C-wire had to be made by hand. Each and every barb was tied on manually. Thank God for mass-production because that must have been one sh*tty detail.

(U.S. National Archives)

Barbed wire was first created in 1876 for ranchers. Ranchers had difficulty keeping their cattle on their land and the big, lumbering cows could just knock over any puny fence. Then, an Illinois cattleman by the name of Joseph Glidden came up with the idea to cut small strips of metal and tie them to his metal fences to poke the cows when they got too close, deterring them from trying to break through barriers.

It worked and, in just four short years, the U.S. military caught on. They started using it as a deterrent to enemy forces and, seeing the success, nearly every other military quickly followed suit. Barbed wire saw use in the Spanish American War, the Second Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War.

The heyday of barbed wire was the First World War, the first time it was spooled for quick transport and deployment. This spooled barbed wire became known as concertina wire, named after the tiny, accordion-like instrument the spools resembled. The wiring spread across the vast battlefield, nearly engulfing the entire Western Front. It’s been said that there was enough concertina wire used in WWI to encircle the globe forty times.

The prevalence of barbed wire made it impossible for infantrymen or cavalry to cross areas with ease. In fact, one of the earliest selling points for WWI-era tanks was their ability to roll over barbed wire unaffected.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

From personal experience, I can tell you that the gloves the Army issues to soldiers are garbage when it comes to protecting your hands as you set it up — just throwing that out there.

(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)

Today, concertina wire is much less of a headache to deploy. It comes pre-packaged and simply opening the packaging unravels it from its spool, like a compressed slinky being set free. A single platoon in today’s military can “bounce out” an entire kilometer of concertina wiring in just a single hour — even faster if they unspool it from the back of a vehicle.

You can deploy it in a single row to cover a long distance or place it next to another to create a wider row. Toss a third strip on top in a sort of pyramid shape, anchor it with a post, and, voila, you’ve created and impromptu barrier that no one is getting through any time soon.

Modern concertina wiring is so effective, in fact, that all it takes is eleven rows of it staked down to stop most vehicles.

Sapper Lessons: Counter Mobility – Concertina Wire

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There are three goals when using concertina wire:

  1. It multiplies the difficulty of crossing a defensive position — this is why you’ll so often see it wrapped along the top of a fence line. A normal fence can be easily climbed, but not when there’re little razor blades at the top!
  2. Even alone, it’s great at slowing down enemy movements. Anyone rushing a concertina wire line will have to slow down and watch their step — all while the guards are lining up their shot.
  3. And, finally, concertina wire adds to an intimidation factor. If you’ve worked with the wire up close, you’re probably not very afraid of it — but from afar, those little metal bits can look pretty mean.

To watch a sapper veteran explain concertina wire, check out the video below:

MIGHTY GAMING

8 reasons why ‘Apex Legends’ is the best Battle Royale game

It’s 1 a.m. again, and I’m wearily crawling into bed hours after my partner.

This is the effect of “Apex Legends” on my life — the latest major Battle Royale game to demand the attention of tens of millions of players. Since “Apex Legends” arrived in early February 2019, it’s become the standard background game in my life.

Unlike “Fortnite” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex Legends” has its hooks in me deep and I don’t foresee them letting go anytime soon. Here’s why:


What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

There are ziplines in “Apex Legends” that defy the laws of physics in delightful ways.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

1. “Apex Legends” feels better to play, from gunplay to movement to strategy, than any other Battle Royale game available.

Everything about the act of playing “Apex Legends” feels good, and the more I dig into the game, the more I find to love.

The simple act of moving around is so thoroughly, thoughtfully detailed that it bears praising.

Here’s a very basic overview: Every character moves at the same speed, whether walking or running. While running, you can push the crouch button to slide — this offers you a minor speed boost if you’re on flat or sloping ground. Every character can jump, and if you hold jump while leaping into a wall you’ll clamber up the wall.

It’s a very simple set of rules, but the way that “Apex Legends” makes all movement feel so fluid and smooth is remarkable. It’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Apex Legends”: The game simply feels good to move around in. The same can’t be said for any other Battle Royale game.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

2. It’s a tremendously detailed game, despite being straightforward and accessible to anyone.

Allow me an example: For the first few weeks, I rarely used hip-fire (shooting without aiming down the sights). Why would I do that if I could aim more carefully by aiming with a sight?

It turns out there’s a massive benefit to using hip-fire shooting in “Apex Legends,” and blending your shooting between aimed shots and hip-fire is a crucial component to successful play. Due to the relatively accurate spread of fire, hip-firing is critical for winning close-quarter fights with most weapons in “Apex Legends.”

That’s one tiny detail of myriad tiny details that make every little thing you do in “Apex Legends” feel so good. It’s actually my favorite component of the game: I’m still learning finer nuances of each specific weapon, of how to move through the environment more swiftly, of how to reach a place I didn’t know I could.

It’s a game that still feels remarkably fresh to me even after dozens of hours played.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

The full “Apex Legends” island.

(“Apex Legends”/Electronic Arts)

3. The way players can interact with the extremely detailed world in “Apex Legends” is a testament to its excellent world design.

On our way to the next circle, my friend pinged a location for me to see — a tiny little hole he’d discovered that could be used to sneakily get away in a desperate Skull Town fight.

It was the most recent discovery he’d made after over 100 hours spent running, sliding, and shooting through the single map in “Apex Legends.”

There are dozens of these little quirks to the map, and it’s clear that an absurd amount of attention was given to exactly how each area of the map was laid out. There are always more angles to take, or ways to flank enemies, or a carefully placed boulder that’ll have to serve as cover — the hands of the game’s development team are all over the map if you look close enough.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

“Fortnite” recently added a bus that acts a lot like the Respawn Beacons in “Apex Legends.”

(Epic Games)

4. “Apex Legends” is the evolution of Battle Royale — every other game in the genre feels old by comparison.

Watching a video recently of a popular Twitch streamer playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” I was struck by how stiff it was. Movement had no sense of weight to it, and the sound of the player running made it look like they were tiptoe-running across a field.

Frankly, it looked outdated and unpolished compared to “Apex Legends.”

The closest any Battle Royale game gets, in terms of movement and gunplay and feel, is “Call of Duty: Blackout.” It’s quick, and has solid gunplay, and there are some interesting gameplay twists that make it unique. But it is inherently a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode, with all the baggage that comes with — movement isn’t very fluid, and guns mostly sound like toys.

And that’s before we start talking about the respawn system, or ziplines, or the pinging system, or dropships, or care packages, or the jumpmaster system, or any of the other dozen innovations that “Apex Legends” brings to the Battle Royale genre. It adds so much new stuff that it feels like a full step forward past every other game in the genre.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Level 1 Shield here!

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

5. The ping system!

It’s hard to overstate how impressive the ping system is in “Apex Legends.” It should be the number one takeaway for any game developer working on a new multiplayer shooter.

The idea is simple: See an enemy? Tap the right bumper on your gamepad, and your character will call out those enemies and even mark their last movement for your teammates. See ammo your teammate needs? Tap the right bumper! It’s a brilliant, robust system for “spotting” various things — from items to enemies.

Smarter still, that system is contextual. If you’re looking at a level-three helmet and “spot” it, your character shouts out, “Level-three helmet here!” and marks it for your teammates. It’s this system that enables teammates to communicate a wealth of information without having to literally speak to strangers.

The spotting system cannot be overstated in its importance — it’s such a smart innovation that I outright expect it to show up in most multiplayer shooters going forward. It better!

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Even with a sight, shooting someone from this distance with an Alternator is a tricky proposition.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

6. It’s the best shooter of any Battle Royale game — shooting specifically.

The team behind “Apex Legends” has a serious pedigree behind it, having created the “Call of Duty” series and the “Titanfall” series.

It’s no surprise, then, that the shooting in “Apex Legends” feels so good — it’s from developers who more or less set the standard in video-game shooting.

To this end, bullets fall appropriately over a distance. Gunshot sounds are directional. Headshots feel substantial, and submachine guns feel like high-powered BB guns.

The shooting looks, feels, and sounds as good or better than the best shooting games, from the latest “Call of Duty” to “Destiny 2.”

This may sound obvious but, in the most popular Battle Royale games, the shooting is pretty terrible. “Fortnite” has notoriously lackluster shooting mechanics. The only great Battle Royale shooter is “Call of Duty: Blackout,” and that shooting is held back by the relatively stiff movement of the game.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

7. Since each Legend has their own abilities, learning how to mix those abilities with your friends is a blast.

In “Fortnite,” every character you play as has the same abilities. It’s a third-person shooter with building mechanics, and every avatar — visuals aside — is identical.

The same can be said for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and the Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”

But in “Apex Legends,” each player has unique abilities. There are various “classes” of characters — soldiers, tanks, healers, etc. — and various specialties within each class. In this way, “Apex Legends” is more similar to “Overwatch” than its direct competition.

And blending those characters into a team made up of complementary players is part of the delight of “Apex Legends.” Better yet: The game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, has already added one new character, Octane. And more are promised for the future.

So, what are these powers? They range from the ability to conjure a healing drone that can heal multiple teammates at once, to a grappling hook for reaching high places, to the ability to deploy noxious-gas containers. Using Bangalore’s smoke grenade combined with Gibraltar’s air strike ultimate is one combination I’ve been particularly enjoying.

Since it’s still early days for “Apex Legends,” many of the best ways to use various abilities are still shaking out. And that’s thrilling! There’s a “meta” to “Apex Legends” that is deeper and smarter than games like “Fortnite.” It feels like there are many ways to win, with a variety of different team setups, rather than a “best” way to win. And that leads to the kind of experimentation that keeps the game fresh.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Picking up wins with friends is absolutely delightful.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

8. Playing with friends is critical, and makes the game so much more enjoyable.

I’ve had lots of good matches of “Apex Legends” with total strangers. I’ve won many games where my teammates and I never spoke a word, using only the in-game pinging system to communicate while moving from fight to fight. It is entirely possible to play this game with strangers and have a blast.

But nothing is better than playing with friends, using both your voice and the game’s pinging system to detail your words. Saying “Enemies right here” and pinging the location at the same time is a great way to immediately convey complex information to your teammates. Even better is the tactical planning you convey to each other afterward as you head into battle. “I’ll take left flank,” for instance, or “Getting height” — common refrains while sneaking up on an opposing squad.

Better still, you learn each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s chosen character. You laugh at each other’s faults and call out items you know friends are looking for — yes, I’m always looking for an R-301. Thank you for remembering!

It’s why I’ve been staying up way past my normal bedtime almost every day to play more “Apex Legends.” It’s the best game that’s come out this year by a longshot, and by far the best Battle Royale game available.

Apex Legends Gameplay Trailer

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Hollywood honors the behind-the-scenes liaison who makes military movies happen

As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.

While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.


Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.

One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.

The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.

One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.

As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.

This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.

While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.

If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.

It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy has 1st coronavirus case on a ship days after family event onboard

A sailor from the amphibious assault ship Boxer is believed to have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease just nine days after military family members visited the ship at sea.


This marks the first coronavirus, or COVID-19, case for a sailor who was aboard a Navy ship. The person is now quarantined at home, Navy officials said in a Sunday night news release. The sailor’s test result for the sometimes-fatal virus is considered presumptive positive, pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This will likely be a new challenge for the sea service, since infections and viruses can spread quickly among crew members who live in close quarters. That has been the case for several civilian cruise liners, which has resulted in widespread cancellations for the industry.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

Sailors and their family members watch an AH-1W Super Cobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, take off on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC).

(Logan A. Southerland/U.S. Navy)

The San Diego-based Boxer on March 9 held a family day cruise, allowing military families to visit the crew on the ship in the Pacific Ocean, according to official Navy photos. Civilians can be seen riding a Landing Craft Utility vessel into the Boxer’s well deck and standing on the ship’s flight deck observing Marine Corps helicopter takeoffs at sea.

Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions from Military.com about whether one of those family members is believed to have unwittingly exposed the crew member to the coronavirus. It’s not immediately clear how many family members were on the ship as part of the event or how many sailors and Marines were onboard.

Personnel who came in close contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation in their homes, according to the Navy news release. None of those people are currently onboard the ship.

Military health officials are working to determine whether any additional personnel were at risk of exposure, the release adds.

“Depending on the results of that investigation, additional mitigations may be taken,” it states.

Navy ships are routinely cleaned to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

“USS Boxer is taking appropriate preventative measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the CDC and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center,” the release says.

The service closely coordinating with state, federal and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of Navy personnel and the local population, officials said.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How Keanu Reeves learned to shoot guns for ‘John Wick’

The following is a video transcript:

Joe Avella: In the span of three movies the “John Wick” films have racked up a body count of nearly 300. And to do that, you need guns.

John Wick: Lots of guns.

Joe: Meet Taran Butler. He’s a world champion competitive shooter. He’s also the owner of Taran Tactical. They’re responsible for teaching some of Hollywood’s top action stars how to handle firearms for film and television. Today, for the first time ever, I’ll be shooting a pistol, a shotgun, and an assault rifle just to see how Keanu learned to look like an expert marksman for the big screen. What’s the worst that could happen?

Could you imagine if we were doing this with the loaded guns? I would’ve shot all my feet off.


First, the stars of “John Wick” had to learn some basics before they could start shooting like international assassins.

Jade Struck: So we have this thing called 180-degree line. So when you’re the shooter on the firing line, think of it like there’s a force field pulling your muzzle downrange. Never bring the muzzle back past the 180-degree line. Finger off the trigger, unless you’re shooting. And always treat every gun as if though it’s loaded. I’m gonna teach you how to check to make sure that they’re not.

Joe: After getting a feel for the pistol, it was time for the real deal.

How Keanu Reeves Learned To Shoot Guns For ‘John Wick’ | Movies Insider

www.youtube.com

Taran Butler: So we’ve got the three primary pistols of “John Wick” two and three. This is the gun you were training with with Jade. The gun that you see Keanu training with here on the range with a lot. In “John Wick 3,” Charon suggests, he goes, “John, since you’ve been gone something new has come out. The 2011 Combat Master. Loaded in 9 millimeter major, 125 grain bullet, major business.” So both guns shoot 9 millimeter.

Joe: Yeah.

Taran: The difference is, is this gun here can shoot 9 millimeter major. This is the 9 millimeter major, it’s a lot taller ’cause it’s got a lot more powder in it. The only difference is more powder. So, regular 9 millimeter on the left, 9 major on the right.

Joe: Yeah, that was awesome.

Taran: This gun here is Halle Berry’s Glock 19 from “John Wick 3.” So when the shoot-out takes place, she grabs this gun off one of the bad guys. She enjoyed the hard work and training. She had three broken ribs through most of the training here. So she wasn’t at her top. Same with Keanu, getting beat up on the horses. But she just got really good at it, and I’d say, hands down, she’s the best female weapons handler in Hollywood.

Joe: Taran has Hollywood’s action stars start with a small firearm and a simple combo.

Taran: Let’s do something fun and fast first. First off, no surfing, you were laid back like Jeff Spicoli. OK, start on this guy, easiest guy in the world. I’m gonna say, “Shooter ready, stand by.” When you hear the beep, you’re gonna come up, two to the body, one to the head. It’s called the Mozambique.

Joe: Two to the body, one to the head.

Taran: Yeah. Shooter ready, stand by.

Joe: Did I get him? Taran: You got in the head, it counts. Pop the safety on when you’re done. Finger off the trigger. OK, that’s 4:41, let’s destroy that time. Just do one more clean one, no box-offices fiascos. Shooter ready, stand by. Good, OK, that was 1:63.

Joe: Hey, all right!

Taran: You went from 4:41 to 1:63 in a couple rounds.

Joe: Booyah. It’s easy.

The next level is rifle handling. Placement is key, as is learning how to smoothly replace your ammo.

John Wick: I need something robust, precise.

Sommelier: Robust, precise. AR-15. 11.5 inch, compensated with an iron-bonded bolt carrier.

Joe: All right, so it’s, like, here?

Jade: Left hand out farther. Boom boom boom, drop. Yep, you’re good, keep it going.

Joe: As I’m going.

Jade: Watch it go in. Button. Paddle.

Joe: What button?

Jade: It’s this paddle right there.

Joe: Oh, why do I…? Oh, Jesus!

Jade: So, drop the bolt. Drop the bolt, and then you’re back on.

Joe: Gotcha. Boom boom, boom boom. Oh no, I’m out.

Jade: Feed, button, on. Good! We’re learning how to manipulate our weapons without ammunition in them so we know all of the functions.

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

(Lionsgate)

Joe: Could you imagine if we were doing this with the loaded guns? I would’ve shot all my feet off.

Jade: Oh, goodness.

Joe: The true test was a more complicated combo. One similar to the kind Keanu and Halle had to master before hitting the set.

Taran: The director, Chad Stahelski, he wanted everything. He wanted three-gun loading, he wanted all kinds of ways to load the shotgun, all kinds of pistol reload, transitions, rifle, shotgun, pistol, everything.

Boom boom boom, boom boom, boom boom, ding. That’s it.

Joe: All right, this might take a while.

Taran: You can do it, Mr. Wick. Shooter ready, stand by. Faster. Little guy. Good!

Joe: All right.

Taran: Safety on? Joe: Yes, sir.

Taran: You’re at 13:67, a lot better than 27 seconds. You want to do it again?

Joe: Yeah, of course.

Taran: Are you sure you’re not bored yet?

Joe: Yeah, this is awesome.

Taran: Let me fix that one plate so it’s not in your way this time.

Joe: It’s funny, he’s so good with guns, he’s just like, “Let me move that for you,” ba-bam. Now, it was Taran’s turn. Shooter ready, stand by. 5.17, that’s ridiculous. Last but not least, it was time to try out a “John Wick” fan favorite.

Sommelier: May I suggest the Benelli M4? An Italian classic.

Taran: In “John Wick 3,” by far the coolest part was the quad loading with the shotgun. That’s something, no movie would ever have done that. Quad loading is a very difficult thing to learn, and only a few people can do it really good. So we got that going, and towards the end he did amazing.

Joe: Is this thing gonna, like, have a real big kick that’s gonna hurt?

Taran: No, there’s no recoil at all on this one. Good, that guy. Little guy.

Jade: Lean into it.

Joe: Ah, I think I’m out.

Taran: Oh, match saver! Ah, “You set me up!” All right.

Joe: Oh, that’s what that last one was for.

Taran: Yeah, the match saver.

Joe: Awesome.

Jade: Good job!

Joe: Thank you very much.

Joe: How come those guys didn’t fall down?

Taran: They did, but they came back up.

Joe: Oh, OK. Thank God.

Taran: I’ll finish them off.

Joe: I love this habit you have of being like, “Let me take care of that,” bang. Are you walking around the house like, “Let me get the lights,” pow pow?

Taran: Pretty much.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Beyond the Green Line: From British civilian to Israeli paratrooper

One of the great perks of this job is that sometimes things, which you had missed or had never heard of before, get tossed into your lap and you wind up with something special. Kind of like Christmas in July. So, when the SOFREP editors asked me if I would be interested in reviewing Marc Goldberg’s book, “Beyond the Green Line,” I accepted.

Goldberg’s story is a very interesting one. It takes him from his home in Britain to the ranks of the Israeli paratroopers during the Al Aqsa (Second) Intifada. Goldberg made his aliyah to Israel during a turbulent time.


Goldberg came to Israel from London. Despite speaking poor Hebrew, he joined an elite reconnaissance unit (Orev) of the Israeli paratroopers. The book recounts his relationships with his fellow military members and his tour of duty which mainly consisted of counter-insurgency operations in the West Bank.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada stretched from September 2000 to February 2005 and was marked by as many, if not more, civilian deaths as combatant deaths. It began when Palestinians unleashed waves of suicide bombers against Israel after the 2000 Camp David Summit failed to reach a final agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in July 2000.

What makes Goldberg’s case and his service unique is that he was a Briton, but being born in Jew in the U.K., he “felt like an outcast.” He hated life in the U.K., as a young man. He had dreams of grandeur, of making the Aliyah to the birthplace of his people and becoming an elite Israeli paratrooper and an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

He thought that Israel was the answer to all of the questions that troubled him. It would be the reason he existed and would erase the centuries of powerlessness that he felt his people and he had keenly suffered from.

Despite his language barrier, Goldberg passed the selection course for the IDF paratroopers, went through his training, and joined the ranks of the unit. His parents traveled from Britain to see him be awarded his maroon beret and silver paratrooper wings. He did so well in his training that his NCO gave him his own beret at his graduation and his commander gave him a watch.

His service in the IDF during the counter-insurgency campaign in Nablus is much like any operation in any military in the world. Hours upon hours of preparation and sheer boredom interspersed with brief periods of adrenaline rush. Intermingled in with the boredom were moments of head-scratching ridiculousness that mark many veterans’ career in Special Operations.

During one rock-throwing incident, where Palestinian youths climbed onto a roof of an apartment building and were throwing everything they could get their hands on, one older Palestinian man was intermittently yelling at the youths and the Israeli soldiers. He was upset that the youths broke into his apartment and were tossing all of his possessions, including the man’s washing machine, off the roof and onto the armored car the paratroopers were riding in.

One uncomfortable episode takes place in an apartment that the paratroopers are occupying to hunt for a wanted terrorist. Goldberg had to watch over a Palestinian family as well as leftist “volunteers” from the United States and the U.K.

But like many other veterans involved in a counter-insurgency campaign, Goldberg grew disillusioned with his job, the mission, and their reason for being there. He even grew disillusioned with the very terrorists they were hunting. One wanted terrorist, who was responsible for the deaths of an untold amount of Israelis and Palestinians, was trapped in a house with a boatload of ammunition. But rather than shoot it out and die a martyr’s death, as he preached to so many others, he surrendered sobbing and crying while pleading for his life.

He later fell into depression and had a classic case of PTSD, not able to interact with the civilians in Israel, while he was off-duty, anymore than he could back in England. This was despite not seeing the type of pitched combat that many of his contemporaries did.

In the end, Goldberg realized that Israel isn’t the land of milk and honey where everything is perfect and all of his questions would be answered. It is a land as troubled as anywhere else.

“Now I had seen the truth, Israel was just as beset with problems as anywhere else and the people who lived there were exactly the same as everyone else. The best were wonderful, the worst were awful, and the majority somewhere in between.”

The IDF had given him so much but also took a big piece out of him. Things got worse upon his return to England. Like many ex-servicemen, the mundane life awaiting him left him, he felt, with no challenge. He hit rock bottom and briefly contemplated suicide. But he entered therapy and ever so slowly made his way back.

In 2010, Goldberg returned to Israel, not “to a paradise, a place of milk and honey, or some kind of holy place the Messiah was imminently arriving to. I was going back to the land and country of my people. Dirty, dusty, imperfect but ours.”

He never experienced the war that he pictured in his boyhood; the war that would make him a Jewish war hero like he read and dreamed about. But he did his duty to his country and his people. He’s at peace with that. Now he’s married and living in the place he belonged all along.

Goldberg’s book is an easy, outstanding read. His style is such that while reading it, the reader has the feeling that the author is talking to you in a quiet bar and telling his story. This makes it a great page-turner and instantly hooks you; the pages will turn faster than you could imagine.

Make this book part of your counter-insurgency collection.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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