How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with 'target art' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

On Sept. 11, 2012, a retired SEAL sniper took a small team to Blackwater’s former facility in the swamps of Virginia where he shot at a target from 911 yards 79 times — once for every Naval Special Warfare casualty since 9-11, those killed in both combat and training.


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

He sent the first round downrange at 8:46 AM, the time the first airliner hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in honor of Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts — the first SEAL killed during the war in Afghanistan. The shot found the target, and the bullet hole was labeled with Roberts’ name by a volunteer spotter downrange.

“I’d take the shot, and they’d find the bullet hole,” the sniper recalled. “They’d write the name down next to the hole. I’d hand the brass to my wife who had the list of names and she’d label it. It was kind of a sacred process.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Until It Hurts target artwork.

Several days after the shoot, the SEAL sniper’s wife convinced him to show the target to one of the contractors working on their house who had a brother who supposedly did “target art.” The SEAL Googled him — Ellwood T. Risk — and realized the guy was the real deal.

The contractor called his brother on the spot, and without hesitation the artist said, “I’m in; I’ll do it for free.”

Risk had been saving military-related front pages of major newspapers since 9-11, waiting for just such an opportunity. The result is a powerful piece of art called Until It Hurts.

Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. The target is flanked by the front pages with headlines announcing the news of the wars over the years. At the bottom of the piece the 79 names of the fallen are listed in chronological order.

Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman, a well-known wounded warrior, author, and founder of Wounded Wear, a company that specializes in providing free clothing to wounded vets, heard about the artwork and contacted Norfolk-area businessman Todd Grubbs, who eventually bought the piece at auction for $10,000. That money was put towards clothing for wounded vets and the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that funds education for the dependents of fallen SEALs.

Redman and Grubbs see the sale of the piece as just the beginning of its utility.

“The art should be perceived as a celebration of life,” said Grubbs, who has no desire to let Until It Hurts languish on a wall in his home.

“My biggest fear is we give guys clothing and they kill themselves in it,” Redman said. “We’re not helping them find their purpose. The American people aren’t helping. You see nothing on the news anymore. Even those we’re still losing guys. We have to keep the discussion going, to contextualize the sacrifice for the entire country. This artwork helps.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Former Navy SEAL and vet entrepreneur Jason Redman addresses the audience following the premiere of Until It Hurts in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

Among Grubbs’ business concerns is film production, so naturally he thought of turning the artwork and the events surrounding it into a film. He enlisted the help of director Scott Hanson and together they created Until It Hurts, which premiered in Norfolk, Virginia on Feb. 21.

“Doing this documentary gave me the chance to work with SEALs and learn more about their families and what they do,” Hanson said following the premiere. “It makes me way more appreciative that I can do what I do.”

“It hits everybody in different ways,” Redman said. “A wounded warrior sees one thing, a Gold Star family member sees something else, and a civilian sees something else. And that’s what’s so great about it.”

“This was the first showing to a civilian audience,” Jake Healy, son of Senior Chief Dan Healy who was killed when the Chinook attempting to extract four SEALs trapped on a mountain was hit by an RPG — a tragedy well-documented in Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor and the associated major motion picture. “Their response to the movie tonight was powerful and reassuring.”

“I hope it will…highlight the sacrifice of Americans who understand what it took to make this country.” Redman said.

You can watch the full documentary right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjUgPYiM2gg
WATM field correspondent Briggs Carroll contributed to this article.
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is about to lose the last of its territory in Syria

The US military, together with its coalition partners, is close to liberating the last of the ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, the Pentagon’s top official said Jan. 29, 2019.

“I’d say 99.5% plus of ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians,” Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan told reporters. “Within a couple of weeks, it will be 100%.”

“ISIS is no longer able to govern. ISIS no longer has freedom to mass forces. Syria is no longer a safe haven,” Shanahan added.


The secretary’s update that the fall of the physical caliphate in Syria is imminent comes weeks after President Donald Trump declared victory over the terrorist organization.

“We have won against ISIS,” President Donald Trump announced in December 2018, as he called for the withdrawal of American troops. “We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And, now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

Despite the president’s claims, many observers argue that ISIS is far from defeated, despite the organization’s crumbling caliphate.

Direct of National Intelligence Dan Coats, commenting on the Worldwide Threat Assessment, stated Jan. 29, 2019, that ISIS “has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide,” adding that “ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”

ISIS forces targeted a coalition patrol recently, killing two US service members, a Department of Defense civilian employee, and an American contractor.

Shanahan said, as others have, that there is still more work to be done, explaining that the planned troop withdrawal is still in the “early stages.”

Since Trump’s victory tweet, administration officials have said conflicting things about the timeline and full scope of the pullout, often indicating that this may be a long, drawn-out process.

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

Articles

4 reasons why Maverick would be a sh*tty Top Gun instructor

It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.


“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.

While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.

From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.

Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:

1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Mav barely even showed up at his graduation from Top Gun, so how on God’s Green Earth could he one day become an instructor? (Photo from Top Gun YouTube screengrab)

Far from it.

In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.

In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.

Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?

2. He’s definitely not a team player

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)

This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.

Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.

Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.

3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.

It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.

At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.

Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.

4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
The Navy retired the F-14 Tomcat, made famous by Top Gun, 11 years ago (Photo Top Gun)

Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.

The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.

With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.

OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The destroyer that took on WWII kamikazes is coming to the big screen

During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.

Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.

Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).

(U.S. Navy)

Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.

It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.

Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.

www.youtube.com

Articles

Top general says US commandos and Arab allies squeezing ISIS in Syria

American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.


Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.

“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.

“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.

The success in Manbij comes as an opposition watchdog group claimed a U.S.-led airstrike on the town killed 56 civilians July 19. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report, the dead include 11 children.

Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.

“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
A Peshmerga soldier fires at a target from his foxhole during a live-fire exercise near Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/Released)

Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.

“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”

“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

White House warns of retaliation against chemical attacks in Syria

The White House warned the Syrian regime and their allies Russia and Iran on Sept. 4, 2018, that the US would retaliate if the Regime used chemical weapons on the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province.

“Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.


“President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Sanders added.

Since at least 2013, the Assad regime has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in multiple Syrian provinces, with the most recent one coming in Eastern Ghouta in April 2018.

Russia and the Syrian regime have denied using chemical weapons, often arguing that the West or militants staged the attacks.

The US, the UK and France responded to the alleged chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta with multiple airstrikes, but the strikes had minimal effect.

In the end, the Syrian regime drove the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam from Eastern Ghouta, raising questions about how far the US is willing to go to stop the alleged chemical attacks.

On Sept. 4, 2018, Russia began conducting airstrikes once again on Idlib, according to the Washington Post, raising fears that a full-on assault would soon begin.

Assad and Russia have had their sights set on Idlib for months, but an all-out attack has yet to be launched.

“The Turks are blocking the offensive,” Jennifer Cafarella, a senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, previously told Business Insider. “The Turks and Russians continue to frame their discussion from the lens of cooperation, but that’s not actually what’s happening.”

Cafarella said that Turkey may allow a partial offensive in Idlib, but that Ankara can’t afford “to have another massive Syrian refugee flow towards the Turkish border.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the most incredible photos of the US Marines in 2017

The Marine Corps had an active 2017.


Among their many accomplishments, Marine units were responsible for massive artillery barrages that helped defeat the terrorist group ISIS in Raqqa, Syria; tested a fully autonomous helicopter; and graduated their first female infantry officer.

Aside from that, Marines participated in several air and ground exercises around the world.

Here are some of this year’s best shots of the Few and the Proud.

A crew chief assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 observes the landing zone from a UH-1Y Huey during a training operation at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue in North Carolina on March 9.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines working with III MEF Marines fly the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom past Mount Fuji in Japan on March 22.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

A Marine with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fires an M777 howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve on March 24.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Machine-gunners assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa move toward an objective area during a Military Operation on Urbanized Terrain exercise in Alicante, Spain, on March 29.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

An F-35B Lighting II aircraft prepares to land during a training exercise with Airborne Tactical Advantage Company at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina on April 14.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

An AV-8B Harrier II, an F/A-18 Hornet, and an F-35B Lighting II fly over the 2017 Air Show at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on April 30.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines fire an M777-A2 howitzer in northern Syria on May 15.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 conducts flight operations during exercise Distant Frontier on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska on May 17.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

A color guard detail with Marine Forces Europe and Africa presents colors during a French Memorial Day ceremony at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France on May 28.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs for a crowd at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in New York following the 2017 Freedom Run on May 28.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

A Marine waits to conduct a fire mission in Syria early on June 3.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Staff Sgt. Caesar visits the K9 training facility to boost volunteers’ morale during the K9 upgrade project at Camp Pendleton, California, on June 7.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa exit an MV-22B Osprey during assault training at Sierra Del Retin, Spain, on June 26.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

A set of MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft flies in formation above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Sydney, Australia, on June 29.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams main battle tank with 1st Tank Battalion, Marine Air Ground Task Force 8, is seen at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California on Aug. 5.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

1st Lt. Harry J.D. Walker, left, communicates with his platoon while taking simulated fire during Korean Marine Exchange Program 17-14 aboard the North West Islands in South Korea on Aug. 11.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

An AV-8B Harrier II assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 214 conducts a flyover above the Coeur d’Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field in Idaho as part of a cross-country flight on Aug. 12.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 on Aug. 25.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs at the Marine Week Detroit opening ceremony on Sept. 6.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Cpl. Suzette Clemans, a military-working-dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and Denny, her Belgian Malinois patrol explosive-detection dog, prepare to search for explosives on the beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California on Oct. 21.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Lance Cpl. Luis Arana fires the Carl Gustav rocket system during live-fire training at Range 7 at Camp Hansen in Japan on Oct. 25.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 conducts aerial refueling during Integrated Training Exercise 1-18 over Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California on Oct. 28

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Capt. Gregory Veteto, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, punts a football sent by his wife revealing the sex of his baby during a weekly formation on Nov. 1.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicles from the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment fire on fixed targets as part of a combined arms engagement range during sustainment training in Arta Plage, Djibouti, on Nov. 9.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, transports Marines to land from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima during an exercise in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 7.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division utilize an M1A1 Abrams tank during exercise Steel Knight 18 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California on Dec. 10.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

A Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 flies over the Rocky Mountains during a cold-weather training exercise on Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado on Dec. 13.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Articles

These US soldiers spent Christmas Eve raining hell on ISIS

On Christmas Eve, Soldiers in Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker’s section shiver as freezing rain falls upon their position.


U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“Fire!” yells Walker as he makes a cutting motion through the rain with his hand. A round leaves the tube of the M777 artillery piece with its trademark boom and smoke, and the artillerymen begin to move again. The sounds of their boots impacting the mud and gravel echo through the gun pit.

It may be the holiday season, but the mission for the Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, continues. The Iraqi Security Forces are battling ISIL in Mosul, and the artillerymen are supporting them with indirect fires.

U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“We provide overmatch capability to the maneuver commander,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Scott Young, the platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon, Battery C, during his rounds of the gun line. “When air support isn’t available, either due to weather or not having the assets in the area, we can bring effects onto targets. As long as there is an observer out there, we can shoot.”

“Task Force Top Guns” has provided fire support for the Iraqi Security Forces ever since arriving in early May. The battery has fired more than 4,000 rounds in support of their maneuvers.

They’re also credited with conducting the first conventional air assault mission during Operation Inherent Resolve, during which they rapidly moved artillery pieces by air to establish a new firing position. At the completion of the fires, the guns were moved back to their starting location.

“We’ve denied territory so the enemy can’t maneuver, obscured friendly movements, and we have precision capability, which is critical in this fight,” Young said, pointing in the direction of Mosul to emphasize his point.

“If there is a target in a built-up area, we can hit it while minimizing damage to the surrounding area. We pride ourselves on our accuracy.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

The rain picks up and a slight fog takes shape in the distance as Walker’s crew awaits their next command. The weather has changed in Iraq, and the Soldiers have switched from their summer lightweight combat shirts to multiple layers in an attempt to stave off the wind-chill.

“Fire mission at my command,” comes the transmission over the radio, and the artillerymen spring into action, beginning the crew drill to load the artillery piece, just as they have done for the past eight months. The Soldiers move quickly through their tasks, and Walker gives the signal once more. Another boom reverberates in the pit.

“It feels good to know that we’re being called on to support the fight and we’re having an effect,” Walker said in between missions. During each crew drill, he encourages his men to keep up the effort. “That’s the reason why we’re out here. We do everything with a sense of urgency and there’s no room for mistakes.”

Battery C has received multiple calls for fires as the Iraqi Security Forces have moved deeper and deeper into Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the site of a major operation with the goal of liberating the city. ISIL has been dug into the city for two years.

“There’s a lot more variables in weather like this,” said Walker. “People move a little slower, the rounds are slippery, and morale may drop. It’s the job of crew chiefs on the line to keep on pushing the sections to complete the mission. Rain or shine, when we get the call, we have to react.”

The radio sounds soon after, and the artillerymen are once again called to action.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban officials deny report that top leader died from coronavirus

Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.

Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.

Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”


But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.

Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.

In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”

Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”

But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.

Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.

The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.

An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.

Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.

Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.

Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.

The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.

With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.

Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.

Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.

It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the major lessons I learned from carrying the M27

Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.

This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.

We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Accuracy

Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.

Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)

Ammo conservation

It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.

The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

Control

Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.

This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.

Articles

The Army experimented with bio weapons on conscientious objectors

Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.


“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.

Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.

What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.

Operation Whitecoat (2017) Trailer from Randall Larsen on Vimeo.

 

The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.

Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.

“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

A lasting legacy

Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.

“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”

To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.

Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.

“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”

There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Operation Whitecoat consent letter

While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.

As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.

He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.

“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”

Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.

In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.

“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Operation Whitecoat helped improve the use of gas masks and biohazard suits

Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.

The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.

Ethical implications

Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.

“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”

One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.

“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aging Russian fighter spotted with new, mystery weapon

Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.

The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.

The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.


Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.

The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.

The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.

President Donald Trump has sought to address the threat of space-based warfighting with a new military branch, the Space Force, though experts remain dubious what all such a force could accomplish in this early stage.

It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.

But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.

While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Former Marine Sgt. Donald P. Bellisario loves the Marine Corps and cherishes what he learned during his time in service. He has developed and produced some of the greatest tv shows of all time such as Magnum, P.I., JAG, NCIS, Airwolf and Quantum Leap to name a few. He is proud of his military service and wrote many strong and real veteran characters for his shows. The main character of Magnum in Magnum, P.I. was one of the first positive veteran characters in TV up to that point. 

He  joined the Corps in 1955 and served until 1959. He was raised in a coal mining town which was 20 miles from Pittsburgh. His father owned a tavern, Al’s Place, since his first name was Albert. It was filled with miners that would come off of a shift and all black except where the cap was on. It was a man’s town where women were not allowed in the bar. Bellisario shared, “I only once saw a woman in the bar and she was from out of town. The miners were aware of her presence and took note not to swear in her midst. Swearing in front of a woman at that time was deemed not right.”

His father taught him a strong work ethic and ingrained in him that you don’t take something for nothing, which has stuck with Bellisario all his life. He has one brother that is seven years younger than him that lives in Boston where they are as different as two brothers could be. Honesty was stressed at home. The work ethic was really stressed too, “when you start a job and you finish it.” He started working at a very young age for his father at the tavern including tending bar way underage. He did road construction while growing up and helped build the superhighways around Pittsburgh that were being built at the time. His job was to put burlap sacks over the concrete so it wouldn’t dry out too quick in the sun. He had to come by a week later to pick up the sacks and sweep four lane highways. He also was a brick layer which he believes he inherited from his grandfather who was a stonemason. His grandfather built homes, buildings, wells and sewers.

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Bellisario as a toddler. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

His mother worked in the bar in the morning. Bellisario’s job was to sweep it up, clean it and prepare the glasses. His father never got in until 5:00 in the morning after closing the bar. He would get up around 4:00 pm and be in the bar until closing at 2:00 am. His father was a generous man where if a person needed money, he would give it to them, knowing that he would likely never get it back. His mother was tight with money. He took after his dad where his brother took after his mom. 

He shared, “I was raised in World War II and we had a large bowl in the bar that would collect letters from people that wrote letters to us from the service.” They also kept the photos on the wall of everybody from the town that went into the service. Quite a few went in and the town lost three in the war. Bellisario said, “All the propaganda that comes out during a war I was inundated and loved it.” He had an uncle in the Corps that served in Guadalcanal and was injured on Tarawa, where he came to the bar in his blues after he came back from being wounded. Bellisario just liked the way he looked in his uniform. 

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Bellisario (left) with his parents and brother. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

It was interesting how he joined the Corps where he spent a year and a half in college. He always had an interest in flying and becoming a Naval Aviator, so he went with some friends to join the Navy and he saw a Marine recruiter first. The Marine recruiter told them they could be Marine Naval Aviators. He signed up for the Corps for four years and left a couple of days later. He went to Parris Island and was designated an infantryman initially where he still remembers his serial number to this day! He applied for Marine Corps Aviation and passed all the exams. The Marines flew him up to Cherry Point for testing as well. He graduated with his platoon and didn’t leave with them where he was to be assigned to Pensacola. He stayed at PI and was put in charge of the platoon of misfits. He had to form them up and march them to chow.

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Bellisario during his time in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario. 

He was assigned to guard a prisoner and to take him to chow by himself. The prisoner had to eat by himself as well. His head DI GySgt West came through the chow hall and saw Bellisario with the prisoner. The DI liked Bellisario and his sing-song cadence. There was another DI with his platoon in the chow hall where he saw Bellisario and started going after him like he was still a recruit. Bellisario doesn’t know why he did, and he informed the DI to stay away from his prisoner. The DI kept coming where Bellisario pulled his M1911 from the holster and put it to the DI’s head. Bellisario shared that the next day they shipped me out and he figures the Corps had given him enough punishment for wanting to be an aviator. 

He then went up to Great Lakes to be trained as an aviation technician. He met his wife up there as she was in the Navy. The Marines cordoned her off from the Navy personnel at the school during the breaks and free time. This opened the opportunity for Bellisario to ask her out. He asked her for a date many times and finally got one. He showed up an hour and a half late for the first date. He shared, “She wanted to know why I was late to a date that I had persisted about for so long. I made up some story about being stuck in Chicago where she forgave me.” The first year of their marriage she got pregnant and was discharged from the Navy. He said, “You could not be in the Navy and pregnant at the same time during that era.” His first duty station was in San Diego after the schoolhouse. 

He did two and a half years of living in Mojave California at Marine Corp Base Twentynine Palms in a Quonset hut. He painted the hut dark green and got sidewinder missile boxes, broke them down and made a white picket fence out of them. He put down grass outside of the hut where he said, “you could watch it grow, literally.” Bellisario elaborated, “People wondered why I was putting so much time into where he would have to move it would go to someone else.” He told them, “I am living here now, and am going to make it as comfortable as I can.” He put a new floor down of Masonite for his children that were crawling around. Marines lined up for his Quonset hut when he shipped out.

Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

While at MACS-9 he had to go over to another unit to pick up a part in the supply office. A junior Marine was sitting on the floor cross legged and reading Pravda. He said, “This was in the late 50’s and you didn’t read Pravada.” The young Marine started spouting off to Bellisario about the Russians, and Communism which angered Bellisario. It got to the point that they were going to fight where one of the Marines in the Marine’s unit grabbed Bellisario before he hit him. The Marine that grabbed him told Bellisario told him, “Leave him alone, he is harmless.” Bellisario said, “I will never forget that.” 

When President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Bellisario was at Penn State University when he saw a picture of former Marine Private Lee Harvey Oswald on the TV he said, “My God, I know that man.” Bellisario’s wife said, “You don’t know him, you just think you do.” He argued back and believed he did know Oswald. It came to him later that Oswald was the same man that he got in an argument within the Marine Corps in that supply office. He said, “Oswald was totally spouting propaganda, and no one did anything about it.” 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario speaking at his alma matter Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He is most proud of his service in the Corps, just being a Marine and he loves the camaraderie of the Marine Corps. Bellisario loves the inclusion of a small group where the Marine Corps is better than the Army. He said, 

“I am proud to be a Marine even though I have a love/hate relationship with the Corps. Once I got married, I couldn’t go through flight school in Pensacola. At that time, you couldn’t be married and go to flight school unless you were commissioned. Once I was in college, I had a Naval Aviator show up at my door and ask me if I wanted to go to Pensacola with me.” Bellisario responded with, “What’s the difference between me now and five years ago, see those two little kids crawling on the floor. That is the difference and I can’t go now because I have two little babies. Going to Pensacola as a cadet at the time would have been tough and take a pay cut from where I was working so it wasn’t a good idea.”

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The cast of Magnum, P.I.. Photo courtesy of closerweekly.com.

He got his pilot’s license himself in single engine planes and helicopters. He flew the helicopter in Magnum, P.I. sometimes for the filming of the show. The Air Officer, former Marine Captain  J. David Jones, on Magnum, P.I. was a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot that was stationed in Marine Corps Air Station Tustin at the same time Bellisario was, but they never met. Jones taught Bellisario how to do everything with a helicopter. He said, “We did things that were not in the book.” Jones was a great guy and was patient as an instructor. On the show they flew Hughes 500s and a Bell 206 helicopter.

Magnum, P.I. is his favorite project he has done in Hollywood. It was his first time creating a show and working with Tom Selleck is great. They got along really well. It was his chance to run the show. The Corps set me up for success where nothing bothered me, I wasn’t afraid to do anything. I took charge when I needed to.” In year two of Magnum, P.I., his federal and state income taxes exceeded his lifetime earnings up to Magnum. He said, “I used to think that a loud voice coming from above would tell me they made a mistake and it wasn’t supposed to be me.” 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario working on set. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He wanted to make a film while he was making commercials where he shared, “I wanted to make something that lasted longer than 28 seconds.” Bellisario turned 40 and decided it was time to take the leap. He was at a Raoul Walsh retrospective in Dallas where they were screening a famous film. Virginia Mayo was in attendance with fellow Hollywood stars. He was in a group of six guys and was drinking beer. In walks Jack Nicholson and he has a beer with Bellisario and his friends. Bellisario told Nicholson that he wanted to make films. At the time he was living in Dallas, TX where Nicholson said, “If you want to make films you can’t do it from here, you have to come to Hollywood.” Bellisario’s wife at the time heard Nicholson’s discussion and yelled a profane comment at Jack over the crowd. Nicholson responded with surprise and questioned why he was being cursed at. Bellisario’s wife did not want to take the family with four children to the Hollywood “drug culture.”

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Tom Selleck, Larry Manetti and Frank Sinatra on the set of Magnum PI. Photo courtesy of bamfstyle.com.

A year later he went to Hollywood without his wife and family. He said, “I didn’t have anything but the ability to direct commercials, which most were done for free and were Public Service Announcements.” He decided he had to do something where he wrote a screenplay and he had copies of it on his desk in his office. A casting director came into his office and wanted to read it. He let her read it and she gave it to her husband who was a B director at Universal Studios. Her husband wanted Bellisario to shoot some film with him and write something. He also wanted to introduce Bellisario to his agent, which is serendipitous because getting an agent is so hard and to get that first gig you need an agent. Bellisario said the director introduced him to the agent and the agent said, “I liked your script and you are a good writer.” He asked the agent how long it takes to sell a script. The agent said, “You’ll sell a script within a year.”  Bellisario had enough money to last six weeks. The agent said the fateful words, “Have you ever thought of writing for television?” Bellisario said no – – “It had never occurred to me to write for television.” 

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The cast of Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula (right) and Dean Stockwell (Left). Photo courtesy of sears.com.
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Scott Bakula as Sam and Dean Stockwell as Al in the Quantum Leap two-part episode about Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo courtesy birth.moves.death.com.

The script was sent to Stephen J. Cannell at Universal where Cannell called him in for a meeting. Bellisario spent about 30 minutes in the waiting room and when he walked in Cannell did a double take because of his age. Cannell said, “I can make this script and will make this script right now without any changes.” Cannell dropped the script on the desk and asked Bellisario if he wanted a job as a story editor. Bellisario asked, “What does a story editor do?” Cannell said, “A story editor turns out scripts.” Bellisario agreed and he got a job as a story editor for Cannell. That started the whole thing for Bellisario’s career. Bellisario is a self-taught writer where most of it comes from writing advertising commercials. He had to write something that entertained the public and sold a product in 28 seconds. Learning to write short and crisply where only what is necessary is carried over to the script. He wrote the screenplay the same way without anything extraneous in it. 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario gearing up for a flight. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
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Major Joel Searls with Bellisario back in 2019.  Photo courtesy of Joel Searls.

Throughout his career Bellisario enjoyed working with all of his leads in the series. He said, “Some were nicer than others, all of them were okay.” Thankfully he didn’t end up with anyone who gave him any problems. Bellisario comments, “Catherine Bell was very nice to work with.” One actor, Jan Michael Vincent, the lead of Airwolf  was having alcohol problems on set. Bellisario talked to him one day where he said, “Jan, why are you doing what you are doing? Why don’t you straighten up and work on the show, this is your chance to be a hit again?” Vincent responded with, “Bellisario, I am a drunk, I have always been a drunk and I only want to be a drunk.” Bellisario refers to it as a sad moment for him and for Vincent. Bellisario credits actor and star Ernest Borgnine with keeping Airwolf professional and helping the show get done. 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario and friends at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

The values Bellisario had when he went into the Marine Corps were strong and he said, “The Corps just reinforced them.” The values were devotion to duty, do a job the whole way through without much delegation, he shared, “Parris Island wasn’t a chore for me where it was something I had prepared my whole life for.” He was made Platoon Guide at boot camp and was the Honor Man for the platoon. He had a great DI, GySgt. West, and when he was kept at PI after graduation, GySgt. West and he would go out fishing together. He shared, “Not too many Marines get invited by their DIs out fishing.” 

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The cast of Airwolf. Photo courtesy of amazon.com.

The best leadership lesson Bellisario shared is to finish the job you start and take charge when needed. You must go above and beyond what you must do, which is what he learned in the Corps. He encourages Marines that work in Hollywood to write more and about their time in the Corps. You need an accurate portrayal where those who have never served in the Corps don’t write the best Marine scripts because they lack the experience. 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario on set with actors David James Elliott (left) and Patrick Labyorteaux (right) on JAG. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario shared, “I am most proud of Quantum Leap in his career and it is the most creative show I have done.” He stated that, “I loved making it and considered it the best show I created where Quantum Leap was a different movie every week.” He said,  “It made it challenging and made it interesting.” Bellisario did a two-part episode of Quantum Leap focused on Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination where it is worth re-watching the episode.  

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario with the cast of JAG at his star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of cheatsheet.com.

It is a time travel show and when he pitched it to Branden Tartikoff, Tartikoff responded with, “I don’t get it.” Bellisario said, “Branden, your mother would get the show.” Tartikoff replied, “Yeah, but I don’t get it.” Bellisario replied, “Yeah, but your mother gets it Branden.” Tartikoff retorted, “Get out of here and go make it. You’ve got a pilot.” Bellisario always gets a kick out of a Marine Corps sergeant telling the head of a studio what to do. 

He does know how to sell and uses his advertising skills even in Hollywood. His children work in the industry where some worked for him on his shows. He held them to a higher standard where his kids worked extremely hard so that no one thought they got the job just because of their father. 

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Bellisario with his wife Vivienne in front of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario and his family are grieving the loss of one of his sons, David Bellisario, who recently passed away. David had worked on a lot of his father’s shows where Bellisario is, “Extremely proud of him and the work he did.” Bellisario described him as, “A good man and he was disciplined.”

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