The U.S. wields the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy, but recent developments in China and Russia’s missile inventory severely threaten the surface fleet with superior range and often velocity.
But the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin have a variety of solutions in the works to tip the scales in the United State’s favor by going hard on offense.
For years, the Navy has focused on a concept called “distributed lethality,” which calls for arming even the Navy’s smallest ships with powerful weapons that can hit targets hundreds of miles out.
Yet Russian and Chinese ships and missile forces already field long-range precision missiles that can hit U.S. ships before the forces are even close.
Additionally, both Russia and China are working on hypersonic weapons that could travel more than five times as fast as the speed of sound. These weapons would fly faster than current U.S. ships could hope to defend against.
Lockheed Martin’s Chris Mang, vice president of tactical missiles and combat maneuver systems, told reporters at its Arlington, Virginia, office that “defense is good,” but “offense is better.
“People don’t shoot back when they go away,” he said.
Mang said that promising new missiles like the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile for ships and planes could hit the field by 2020, which would bolster the Navy’s strategy of “see first, understand first, shoot first.”
The LRASM boasts a range of well over 200 nautical miles, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and the ability to strike at nearly the speed of sound.
An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. (U.S. Navy)
It also has a huge advantage that neither Russia nor China have come close to cracking: naval aviation. Lockheed Martin officials said U.S. Navy F-18s and long-range B-1B bombers could carry the LRASM as early as next year.
While the U.S. has been surpassed in missile technology in some areas, the Navy still has a considerable edge in radar technology and command-and-control that can provide intelligence to ship captains faster than its adversaries.
As for the hypersonic weapons meant to redefine naval warfare, Mang said they’re still a long way out. (The U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are working on their own versions, though.)
An artist’s concept of an X-51A hypersonic aircraft during flight. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
“How far do they go?” Mang said of the hypervelocity weapons. “They tend to be fuel-consumption-heavy and thermally limited, so they go really fast for a very short distance. If you can shoot them before they get in range of you, that is a tactic.”
The Navy continues to improve and spread its Aegis missile-defense capabilities so the long-range missiles Russia and China have can be knocked out and the short-range hypersonic missiles they’re developing can be out-ranged.
Though adversaries out-range the U.S. Navy on paper, the U.S. military has and will never be defeated by figures on paper.
Instead, the U.S. and Lockheed Martin seem to be pushing forward with proven technologies that would bolster the United State’s ability to protect its shores.
Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.
According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.
The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.
The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.
“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.
The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.
Everyone can use a little good news. VA employees are no exception. One program office within VHA recently created an opportunity for employees and staff members to share uplifting stories with one another.
Employees within Palliative and Hospice Care at VHA hosted a “Silver Lining Stories” discussion during their national call in May. Staff members from VA medical centers and facilities across the country lifted each other’s spirits with stories about all the good that is happening for Veterans at their facilities as well as in their own lives.
Mary Jo Hughes is the hospice and palliative care program manager at the Grand Junction, Colorado, medical center. She and her team have been using the VA Video Connect (VVC) program to help patients stay in touch with their loved ones. One patient undergoing treatment for cancer was able to speak with their spouse and children by way of VVC.
Family sang for the patient
“It was the most moving experience. I was in tears, along with our chaplain, when the family sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the patient. There is nothing like the power of seeing your family members and feeling nurtured and cared for by them.”
Carisa Sullivan is a hospice nurse practitioner within the Amarillo VA Health Care System Community Living Center (CLC) in Texas. She recently was “part of one of the most memorable things I’ve ever experienced as a hospice nurse practitioner.” Her colleagues organized a drive-by parade for Veterans at that facility.
180 cars in parade for Veterans
“There were supposed to be 55 cars. Somehow it got out into the community and we had 180 vehicles come by. It was just a phenomenal experience for these Veterans to enjoy safely.” Sullivan encouraged other CLCs to explore if something similar could be arranged at their facilities.
Focus on social connectedness
These stories focused on people’s sense of social connectedness, an important social determinant of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environment in which Veterans live, learn, work, play, worship and age.
“VHA and VA colleagues are collaborating to help Veterans, and each other, by sharing good news,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s critical that Veterans and staff members uplift positive events and find social connection right now, through initiatives such as this one.”
A time-honored tradition in the U.S. military, contingency plans have been drawn up for the defense against, and invasion of, most major military powers. In fact, in response to recent events on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea recently signed on to such a plan. One of the most interesting episodes in this rich history of preparing for things that will probably never happen came when Uncle Sam planned to invade Johnny Canuck.
In the years leading up to World War II, beginning in fact in the 1920s, the army began planning for wars with a variety of countries, designating each plan by a different color: Germany (black), Japan (orange), Mexico (green) and England (red); as a dominion of Great Britain, Canada (crimson) was presumed to be loyal to England, and thus was included in the plan against a supposed British invasion (not to be confused with that of the 1960s).
The paranoid U.S. military strategists who devised War Plan Red believed that if the Britain and America were to battle again, it would begin from a trade dispute. Whatever the cause, army planners anticipated that any war with England would be prolonged, not only because of British and Canadian tenacity, but also from the fact that Britain could draw manpower and resources from its empire, including at that time Australia, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa and Sudan.
Canadian Invasion Plan
Different versions of the plan were proposed, and one was first approved in 1930 by the War Department. It was updated in 1934-1935, and, of course, never implemented. Although it was far reaching and addressed some of Britain’s greatest strengths, such as the Royal Navy, one of the chief areas of concern was the U.S.’s long border with Canada. As a result, the plan addressed our northern neighbors with great detail, to wit:
With its vital naval base, military strategists planned a naval attack on Victoria, launched from Port Angeles, Washington, as well as a combined assault on Vancouver and its island. Successful occupation of this area would effectively cut off Canada from the Pacific.
The central hub for the Canadian railway system was located in Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg; army strategists felt that a land assault could easily be launched from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Canada’s rail lines neutralized.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
Military planners apparently hoped to stun the Maritime Provinces with a poison gas attack on Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax, then also home to a major naval base. The chemical battle would then be followed by a sea invasion at St. Margaret’s Bay. It that didn’t work, an overland invasion and occupation of New Brunswick would, hopefully, isolate the valuable seaports of Nova Scotia from the remainder of Canada, effectively stopping British resupply of its forces.
A three-pronged attack, arising from Buffalo, Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie would gain control of the Great Lakes for the U.S. In addition to causing a crushing blow to British supply lines, it would allow the United States to control most of Canada’s industrial production.
An overland attack launching from adjacent New York and Vermont was planned. Control of this French-speaking province would, when combined with control of the Maritime Provinces, stop Britain from having any entry point to the remainder of the country from the Eastern seaboard.
Revelation of the Plan
Although it was declassified in 1974, portions of the plan were inadvertently leaked long before. During what was supposed to be classified testimony by military brass to the House Military Affairs Committee, two generals revealed some of the details of War Plan Red. That testimony was mistakenly published in official reports, which were picked up and printed by the New York Times.
Also revealed in the New York Times was the fact that the United States Congress had assigned $57 million in 1935 (nearly $1 billion today) in order to build three air bases near the U.S./Canadian border in line with War Plan Red’s recommendations, in case the U.S. needed to defend against or attack Canada. These air bases were supposed to be disguised as civilian airports, but the Government Printing Office accidentally reported the existence of the air bases on May 1 of 1935, blowing their cover.
Interestingly, War Plan Red’s recommendations also proposed that the U.S. not just invade in such a war with Britain and Canada, but take over, adding any conquered regions as states to the United States.
The Sad History of Americans Invading Canada Badly
Americans have a history of underestimating the Canadians:
In September 1775, Benedict Arnold (when he was still on our side) led an unsuccessful assault on Quebec City overland through difficult Maine wilderness; over 40% of Arnold’s men were lost making the attempt, and yet, inexplicably, he was promoted to Brigadier General.
War of 1812
During the second war with Britain, Thomas Jefferson opined that to occupy Canada was a “mere matter of marching” for U.S. troops. Yet attacks in the Old Northwest, across the Niagara River, and north from Lake Champlain, all failed.
Proxy “War” for Ireland
Over a period of five years from 1866 to 1872, Irish Catholics from the U.S. engaged in a series of raids on Canadian targets, including forts and customs houses. Known as the Fenian raids, the Fenian Brotherhood had hoped that their actions would force the British to withdraw from Ireland. They were unsuccessful.
Post Cold War
In 1995, Michael Moore created a fictional war between the United States and Canada in the comedy, Canadian Bacon. Like the real-life Americans who went before them, the fictional invasion in this farcical political commentary failed.
What Comes Around Goes Around
Before you get the idea that only Americans are aggressive bastards, you should know that the Canadians had developed a plan to invade the United States before the U.S. ever started on its scheme.
Characterized as a counterattack, the 1921 plan more accurately resembles a preemptive war. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Buster Sutherland Brown of the Canadian Army, the plan called for a surprise attack on the U.S. as soon as the Canadians had “evidence” that America was planning an invasion; it was felt that a preemptive strike was required, as it would be the only way Canada could prevail in a battle with its larger, southern neighbor, which benefited from a far greater arsenal and much more manpower.
Other advantages of the quick strike included the fact that the war would be fought on American territory, so losses in civilian life and infrastructure would be borne by the Americans. Finally, the colonel thought this plan would best buy the Canadians time for their allies, the British, to come to their rescue before the Americans could launch an effective counterstrike.
In 1933, a certain group of wealthy businessmen were very upset at the idea of Franklin D. Roosevelt being elected President. These titans of American industry thought the U.S. would be better off with a Fascist-style government akin to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.
But America thought Hoover sucked.
So these early one-percenters teamed up to allegedly overthrow the government and FDR’s impending New Deal reforms. And while newspapers at the time called it a “gigantic hoax,” a House of Representatives Committee found the allegations “credible,” according to Today I Found Out.
The conspirators included the leaders from Maxwell House coffee, General Motors, Standard Oil, Goodyear, DuPont, Chase Bank, and famously, Prescott Bush, forerunner of America’s own Bushes 41 and 43. They also included the President of Heinz… And we make fun of Canada for using mayo instead of Ketchup.
But Americans don’t change governments through coups d’état. And because of then-retired Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, America never has. A two-time Medal of Honor recipient, Butler was also a patriot and a fan of FDR. Butler supported the rights of veterans from the First World War to receive their promised benefits early, given the state of the economy at the time. Those veterans marched on Washington in a demonstration as a group now known as the Bonus Army.
In 1932, Butler was a widely respected military figure, along the lines of how Colin Powell is thought of today. When Hoover ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to destroy the makeshift camps of the Bonus Army, Butler threw his support to Roosevelt in the election of that year.
As the story goes, the businessmen planned to raise a coup army of 500,000 men through various American Legion posts, and then present Roosevelt with an ultimatum which would end with Butler holding absolute power with Roosevelt as a figurehead.
The businessmen failed to anticipate Butler’s reaction to the plot. If they had even tried to anticipate this, they would have noticed Butler actually was a vocal supporter of FDR. Butler let Congress in on the business plot in 1934 and the conspirators avoided being charged for their disloyalty to the United States.
Congress appointed the McCormack-Dickstein Committee to investigate. They found the plot actually did exist, but never made it past the planning stage. The conspirators were still not brought up on charges, even though asking a Marine general to lead the coup seems as if it’s well beyond the planning stage.
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
As the confetti of the New Year celebration is swept away, love begins to take over. We watch the red and pink heart covered “things” fill the stores in anticipation of February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The history of this day is long and can be traced back to ritualistic goat sacrificing for fertility long before we heard the ruminants of “roses are red and violets are blue” poems and exchanged sweet cards.
Weird sacrifices aside, the modern-day Valentine’s Day is aimed at celebrating love. Gone are the days of it just being about the special someone in your life. Now, Americans are also buying gifts for family members, children’s classmates, coworkers, and even 27% of Americans are celebrating with gifts for their pets!
The National Retail Federation reports that 2020 will be the biggest spending year for Valentine’s Day; the average person is planning to spend upwards of $196.31 each this February 14. Although spending is definitely up, that same report showed that only half of Americans are actually celebrating the holiday down from 61% in years past. Those that are choosing to rebel against all things V-Day related in strong protest against what they feel is an over-commercialized and single person ostracizing holiday.
For a military spouse, this day can come with its own set of challenges, especially if their service member is deployed. When the service member is gone, military spouses are already fighting internal debilitating mental health battles and balancing already overloaded plates. The idea of celebrating a day which is traditionally aimed at couples – hurts. But who says love has to hurt?
Love has long been associated with kindness. Did you know that random acts of kindness have been found to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure for the person performing the act? That same study also found that it reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and increases happiness. This year, random acts of kindness week kicks off on February 13th – the day before Valentine’s Day! It’s a sign.
So, despite the disdain for cupid’s day – whatever your reasons – you can make it your own special kindness-filled day. Here’s are 5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day:
Go buy those annoyingly pink cards and candies, then leave them for strangers to find. Their smiles will make you forget how much you dislike V-Day, promise.
Give a valentine to your community
Remember that park filled with trash? Clean it up. That foul-mouthed graffiti on the wall? Scrub it off. Love doesn’t have to be directed at a person, go love on your community.
Visit a nursing home
Feeling blue about being alone? I promise the residents of your local nursing homes are even more lonely. Go spend some time with those that are forgotten, you’ll feel better for it. One study found that those that are kind to others have reduced feelings of depression.
Go serve a meal
The best way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Go feed a meal to those with next to nothing. Volunteers taper off after Thanksgiving and Christmas – shelters are desperate for help to continue their good work. Find your local homeless shelter and get to work.
The Humane Society is always in need of someone to love on the animals in their care. Did you know that when humans love on dogs, the love hormone oxytocin increases for both man and their best friend? Go walk some dogs and snuggle some kittens.
This Valentine’s Day, try and check your automatic reflex to grimace as you walk through the stores covered in pink. Instead, make the day your own special day filled with love and kindness. What are you waiting for?
It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.
Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.
At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!
(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.
And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via 1st Civ Division)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)
A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”
Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.
Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”
The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”
In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.
He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).
On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.
In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.
Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”
Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.
The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).
He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This op/ed by We Are The Mighty co-founder and CEO David Gale originally appeared on the Hollywood Reporter website on May 22, 2017.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, I decided to re-watch William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, which follows three WWII servicemen facing the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and proves that a well-told, honest and authentic story is still the most powerful way to instill empathy and provide some understanding of even the most complex emotions and human experiences.
While our military is still a quintessential part of American culture, today’s Hollywood rarely gets it right, often resorting to stereotypes and common tropes to portray veterans as either dysfunctional misfits or larger-than-life heroes. Perhaps this misconception is an expected result when less than 1 percent of our population is currently in uniform. Those who come home to work in the entertainment industry, are more likely to be offered jobs making coffee and copying scripts, than to encounter an employer who authentically appreciates and values the leadership, skills and responsibilities of military service.
While there is a handful of successful vets in this business, most notably Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCU, in my 30 years in entertainment, I never met an executive who served in the military and who has responsibility for making important creative decisions. This, even though we have been at war for 16 years and millions of veterans have returned home. While some studios and networks have helpful veteran hiring programs, and nonprofits such as Veterans in Film and Television are there to support veterans who work in this industry, there are few clear paths for vets to move into the creative and executive ranks of the business.
On the contrary, the cast and crew of The Best Years of Our Lives had veterans in nearly every major creative position. Wyler, the director, served in the Army National Guard; actor Fredric March served in the Army; the author of the book on which the film was based, MacKinlay Kantor, was a war correspondent who flew on bombing missions over Europe; Robert Sherwood, the screenwriter, fought with the Royal Highlanders of Canada; and Daniel Mandell, the film’s Academy Award winning editor, served in the Marines. Gregg Toland, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer, was a lieutenant in the Navy’s camera department; he also co-directed with John Ford a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, of course, Harold Russell, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, was a WWII veteran and double hand amputee.
War and homecoming are undoubtedly part of the American experience, yet according to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe that the American public has no understanding of the difficulties facing this current generation of veterans and military families. While we cannot expect the average person to comprehend what it is like to serve in the military, we can expect the media to do more to find and empower the storytellers who have served. Making sure veterans have more opportunities to play meaningful roles in entertainment and media is the best way for us all to begin to have some understanding of our military community and the challenges they face. This will allow us to discover the kind of extraordinary talent this next great generation has to offer. Not only is this good for our veterans, it is good for business; The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge financial success. In a time of perpetual conflict, in which so few are asked to do so much for so many, getting veterans right is also good for our country.
Seen = killed. This was the objective of our entire marksmanship program when I served as a Special Operator in the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Seen” was the critical precursor to action; shoot the enemy combatants. Leave the non-combatants be.
Some of us out there have forgotten this critical point, today in America. Some of us are attacking the wrong people without “seeing” who we are targeting before we pull the trigger.
(2003. Konar Province, Afghanistan.)
The flash identified the origin of fire before the rocket motor etched a line across the night sky, burning a streak into my night optical device. Enemy contact. Only it was directed at the walls of our firebase, not our patrol.
We halted the convoy, a few kilometers from the safe house, identified the enemy position and marked it while air support was scrambled to the area. Bad situations turn worse quickly when you have multiple friendly elements in the battle space and you make enemy contact. Because of this, we knew how critical it was for our Joint Task Force to know where we were.
We confirmed our location with the JTF Command and then the men within the walls returned fire on the enemy. All of this happened within moments. Silently, invisible to all but our friendlies engaging the enemy position, we waited.
We felt helpless watching the fight. Our distance was too great to maneuver on the enemy, so our fires would do little more than give our position away. Masked by the night, we had the only dominant position in the fight. We did all we could: maintain discipline, calm our adrenaline and direct fires from the shadows. The engagement did not last long, but the feelings never left me. Helplessness. Guilt. Gratitude. Rage.
In all of this, I was angry. My strong sense of justice had been assaulted by these people who attacked us. We are here to help.
Our patrol had just escorted Civil Affairs soldiers into the valley to conduct meet and greets with the local mullahs. A rare mission for our JTF. They had gathered intelligence and offered assistance to the village. They provided generators and school supplies and promised to return with a MEDCAP (medical civil action program). Weeks prior, our medics had treated a boy with a near leg amputation from a construction accident in town.
Why are they attacking us!? We’re the “Good Guys!”
Things move fast overseas. Often times the lives of your teammates depended on your ability to react to contact with speed and accuracy. Two things stood out most from my experience that night: the discipline of the American Soldier and the feelings of betrayal by a people we were trying to help.
Both themes — discipline and betrayal — stand out today as I observe the way the veteran community reacts before understanding the facts.
I work with and for veterans every day and it is one of the greatest honors of my life. I humbly submit that veterans are the leaders America is reaching for right now, but sometimes I fear we do our community a disservice when we fail to seek the facts before we fire away with our voices. Once silent servants of the Republic, we did our jobs, regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed with the policy.
Today, as veterans, we have the opportunity to speak our minds. To opt in or out on a topic. Our countrymen are starving to hear from us and in some respects, we have a responsibility to them still, to serve and to lead.
In most cases I see veterans seizing that opportunity to make a big difference in their communities. They are leading within the home, the corporate sector, small business, government and nonprofits. Sadly, I also see entitlement, outrage and misplaced attacks from those of us who fail to do the work and lazily fall for the title of the hottest “click bait” article in the news cycle. I see outrage and indignation with little to no understanding of the facts. And I see made up controversies.
Two timely examples are with Walmart and Starbucks.
On Veterans Day 2015, Walmart rolled out their Green Light a Vet campaign. Many veterans were outraged at the fact that Walmart was selling green light bulbs in their name, and claimed it was all for profit. As if the sales of $.96 light bulbs would move the financial needle for Walmart!
Fact is that Walmart donated all the profits of the sales of green light bulbs to worthy Veteran Serving Non Profits. It was a statement: Veterans, we see you and we are here for you. We support you.
Why were we attacking them? They were the “Good Guys.” As a community, we should have just said, “Thank you.”
Fast forward to today. Recently, Howard Schultz announced that Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees worldwide and the response from some in the community, again, is outrage. Many in our community are indignant that Starbucks would hire refugees over veterans or military. Fact is, Starbucks made a declarative to hire 10,000 veterans and family members back in 2013, and have since hired 8,800 veterans and military spouses. Meanwhile, Howard and Sheri Schultz’s Family Foundation has poured millions of their own dollars into supporting the veteran community.
Neither Walmart nor Starbucks (nor the Schultz Family) were even given a chance by the raw and reactive. The facts were never even examined. Some of us failed to “see” before going for the “kill”.
We know better.
We know to gather the facts of the situation prior to formulating our plan of attack. It has been beaten into us since day one of our time in service. We are no longer in service and the intel is no longer fed to us, which means we must be more responsible, more discerning in where we seek out the facts. It also means we must take our time and seek to understand prior to the “ready, fire, aim” attitude that is counterproductive to our unity as citizens. Counter-productive to our ability to coexist as Americans: different, yet united.
I fear that at some point, America is going to get tired of trying to support us if even the smallest “we” criticize the attempts to assist with little (to no) context and with such vitriol in our responses. That would be a shame, especially since we risked all to protect those who are now reaching out to us. Especially since many of the folks who work at these establishments and lead these programs are also veterans themselves. And especially since many of us know exactly how it feels to be attacked by the very people we are there to help.
If you’re looking for the next fight on social media, it has nothing to do with what’s on your news feed. It has nothing to do with a company’s policies, who’s the President or what the hottest controversy of the day is. It has everything to do with what’s going on inside of you.
I hope we are willing to investigate the next story before we react. I hope we stop falling for the title of the next “click bait” article.
I hope we can we stop sharpening our swords just to fall on them and use them to attack the real issues. I hope we will fight for, not against, one another.
Brandon Young served 11 years in the U.S. Army, primarily with the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the 75th Ranger Regiment and conducted four combat rotations to Afghanistan. A Mighty 25: Veterans to watch in 2017, Brandon currently serves as the Director of Development for Team RWB, whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans.
While 2016 took a lot from us (Carrie Fisher being one of the most recent losses), it also provided us with glimpses into the future.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the new tech of 2016.
1. Carbon Nanomaterials
This article from April outlines the potential of aircraft made in one structure as opposed to many components that have to be assembled. Lockheed Martin made its mark in aviation with its famous Skunk Works in the 20th Century. The nanomaterials could lead to new developments in a wide range of products, from medical applications to building ships.
2. Russia Gets Its LCS Right
Russia began work on the Derzky-class littoral combat ship this year, as WATM reported in November. While the American versions have been in the news with engineering problems, Russia seems to have taken the time to think about what its navy wanted.
Derzky will not be in service until 2021, according to reports. Perhaps, by then, the American LCS will have the kinks worked out of it.
3. New Round for Snipers?
In November, WATM also noted that snipers were taking an interest in the .300 Norma Magnum round. This round offers an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua Magnum round currently used by snipers. The round will be used in the Advanced Sniper Rifle that SOCOM is trying to procure.
4. No More “Feeling the Burn”
The Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble is slated to help keep Marines and sailors assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command from “feeling the burn.”
When the Army began testing the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, comparisons to the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi were quick in coming.
This October, WATM noted it was also being eyed for use in combat re-supply missions. While the Marines have used an unmanned K-Max, this is much smaller and could help resupply a platoon in a firefight.
6. A Bird of Prey that hunts subs
This April, WATM reported on the ACTUV, which could make life very difficult for enemy subs. ACTUV, which stands for Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, displaces about 140 tons and is 132 feet long.
Equipped with sensors and a datalink, this is a robotic scout that can track submarines or other targets, and it has a sustained speed of 27 knots.
7. Russia’s Killer Robot
On Dec. 3, Russian FSB troops carried out a raid that took out the top dog of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Dagestan chapter.
Earlier this month, WATM took a closer look at the gear displayed in a video that was released. The star attraction was a little robot packing what appeared to be a PKM machine gun and two RPG-22s. Now, isn’t this robot cooler than BB-8?
8. Bigger guns on Stryker and JLTV
Since relations between the Russians and Americans seem to be heading south, two vehicles are getting bigger guns. In October, the Stryker got a 30mm turret, and became the XM1296 Dragoon. But this September, WATM reported that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle got a bigger gun in the form of a modified M230. Now, these vehicles can take out BMPs.
So, those are some of the big tech stories out there for 2016. Which military tech story from 2016 is your favorite?
Air Force Special Operations Command is taking the mantra of “you can never have too much firepower” to heart.
The AC-130 — a modified cargo plane-turned-close air support platform outfitted with a deadly array of weaponry — is about to get a big weapons upgrade, to include another 105mm cannon added to the rear of the plane.
“I want to have two guns,” AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said at a recent Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla, while also calling it “the ultimate battle plane,” according to the Air Force Times.
AFSOC plans to add a 105mm cannon to the rear of the plane. That is in addition to the weapons the aircraft is already slated to carry — dual electro-optical infrared sensors, a 30mm cannon, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, all-weather synthetic aperture radar and GBU-30 small diameter bombs. The package was developed to let the gunship identify friendlies and targets at night and in adverse weather.
The upgraded AC-130J “Ghostrider” is currently in the test phase and is slated to replace the AC-130H “Spectre,” AC-130U “Spooky,” and the AC-130W “Stinger II.”
With sophisticated sensors and electronics, the plane is a favorite among ground troops in need of close air support. The AC-130 was used extensively over the skies of Fallujah in 2004, where a reporter embedded with the Marines there remarked: “It’s the air power that really [tipped] the balance towards the Marines.”