That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the blistering effect American World War II ammo had on the enemy

We’re all familiar with the weapons the GIs carried during World War II, but a gun just ain’t much use without the ammo. The GIs, as Star Trek‘s Scotty once famously admonished, needed the right bullets for the right job.


The ammo that the GIs used ranged from the famous .45 ACP to powerful artillery rounds. In a training film, released in 1943 and linked below, the Army took the time to show what the more common rounds could do.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo from U.S. Army)

For most WWII-era artillery, the effective range was quite short. Anti-tank guns, for instance, were rarely impactful against targets more than a thousand yards away. Today, anti-tank missiles, like the BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile, reach out about two and a half miles or more. The bazooka, potent at 200 yards, has its modern counterpart in the FGM-148 Javelin, which kills tanks over 2,000 yards away.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
A GI displays proper use of the M-1 Bazooka in a U.S. Army training photo. (Photo from U.S. Army)

It’s also interesting to note that the ammo and weapons are quite versatile. The Browning BAR, primarily known as an automatic rifle intended to send hot lead downrange at enemy troops, was also an effective option against enemy aircraft. The 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns weren’t exclusively useful against enemy tanks, but also against pillboxes and other fortifications. The M2 .50-caliber machine gun was devastating against aircraft and troops alike.

In a sense, today’s ammunition is just as versatile. For example, the AGM-114 Hellfire was originally intended to kill tanks, but has also been used turn high-ranking terrorists into “good” terrorists.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
A 37mm anti-tank gun is used against Japanese fortifications. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Future Army artillery so strong it needs better muzzle brakes

The U.S. Army is asking defense firms to develop prototypes for a new, lightweight artillery muzzle brake that’s designed to work with the service’s future extended-range cannons.

The Army has made long-range precision fires its top modernization priority under a bold plan to field new, more capable weapons systems by 2028.

In the short term, Army artillery experts are working to develop a 155 mm cannon capable of striking targets to 70 kilometers, a range that doubles the effectiveness of current 155s.


As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.

“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.

Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.

Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.

The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.

Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.

The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.

Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.

Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.

The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s only lighthouse is 150 years old

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation hosted a festival on Feb. 10, 2018, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.


The festival, celebrating the only fully operational lighthouse owned by the Air Force, included door prizes, food and beverages, a raffle, lighthouse tours, and live musical entertainment.

The lighthouse was originally built in January of 1894, at a height of 65 feet, but mariners at the time were worried that the height could not allow the lighthouse to sufficiently warn ships of the abundance of shoals offshore; so the lighthouse was moved further inland and was reconstructed to a new height of 151 feet tall. The move and reconstruction took ten months and the lighthouse was relit in July of 1894 at its present location.

Also read: This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers

“It’s a wonderful day to be at the lighthouse,” said Jimmy, an event-goer who did not wish to provide his last name. “It’s great that the foundation made a way to get all of us in the community together and enjoy a day of celebration while learning the lighthouse’s history.”

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation hosted a festival on Feb. 10, 2018, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (U.S. Air Force by Airman Zoe Thacker)

Rocky Johnson, president of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, said the community was invited to join the celebration and help support the foundation’s mission to promote and continue to provide public access to this much treasured local historical site.

Not only was the festival meant to support the lighthouse itself, but also supported the relationship between the foundation, the community and the 45th Space Wing, according to Johnson.

“The intent has not changed, our mission is to support the wing and what they’ve done for the community,” said Johnson. “This lighthouse is what started everything — without it, nothing would be here.”

Event-goers had the opportunity to travel up the first five floors of the black-and-white building’s winding staircase. Visitors could also immerse themselves in the rich historical background of the lighthouse, as each floor was home to carious exhibits and stories from the past.

Related: This foundation exists because the financial needs of vets aren’t being met

“The foundation opening the lighthouse to the public is parallel to the goals and vision of Brig. Gen. Monteith,” said Johnson. “A symbiotic relationship between the community and the 45th Space Wing is very important in preserving the history of not only our lighthouse, but the Cape itself. Today is a demonstration of the wing’s confidence and trust within the community to open the lighthouse to the public and celebrate together.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Behind the scenes of ‘The Outpost’ and other films, this Army vet helps bring authenticity

Jariko Denman loved two things as a kid: the military and movies.

Every day after school, he’d watch films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, or Uncommon Valor.


“I wanted to be in the military, and I was fascinated by war, and that was really the only way I could kind of get a glimpse at it was through movies,” Denman said.

Even then, he could tell when certain things were fake, or not as they would’ve happened in real life.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

“It’s always something that I’ve really kind of been drawn to is making those things better.”

Now, he gets to do it for a living as a tech advisor in Los Angeles, consulting for military films on everything from the screenplay to costumes and props.

“Anytime there’s a firefight or any big gun scenes, I’m working with the stunt department to choreograph those fight scenes to not only get a great shot that’s entertaining and looks good but also authentic — that guys are doing things they’d normally be doing and making it as authentic as possible,” he said.

Denman’s passion stems from a family history of military service; both of his grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II and his father and brother retired from the Army. He joined the Army straight out of high school and spent 20 years in the service, including a dozen or so in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, where he deployed 15 times (and met Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder Mat Best).

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

He ended his career in 2017 as an ROTC instructor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York City, and was thinking about traveling or going to school after retirement. That’s when a friend who knew someone in the film industry asked Denman if he’d be interested in advising on a National Geographic miniseries, The Long Road Home.

“It was something that I thought would just be a cool experience less than would be an opportunity for a future career,” Denman said. But a few months later, he got his second gig. Then another.

So far, he’s worked on a TV series, five recruiting commercials for the Army, and four movies, including The Outpost, which came out earlier this year and is based on the true story of the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

Denman said he’s usually hired during a movie’s preproduction stage to help department heads know the type of uniforms and guns that would have been used at the time a movie is set.

The Outpost producer Paul Merryman said Denman gave him a full education on plate carriers and the type of equipment each soldier would have carried at the time that distinguished him from another.

“It was much more complex than any one of us thought,” Merryman said. “He was crucial because if something was wrong, we were going to get called out for it. Our director knew that early on. Jariko was always like, ‘They’re going to call bullshit on that. This is inaccurate. If you do it this way, you’re going to get laughed at.'”

“Jariko is very unfiltered in the best of ways,” he continued. “That made the collaboration work that much better because we can get straight down to it: What’s wrong? How do we fix it? How do we do this right?”

He said he once saw Denman yell at the director when one of the actors improvised a line and referred to someone as “Sarge.”

“He cares about how his brothers are portrayed, and he will fight tooth and nail to do something properly and make something look good to prevent someone or a group of someones from being embarrassed because he cares about reputation and integrity, and he cares about the craft,” Merryman said.

Denman sees it as a personal responsibility — not just a professional one.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

“Your average civilian doesn’t know any military members or veterans. They’re gleaning all their opinions about who a veteran or who a soldier or a Marine is through pop culture, and that’s through movies and TV now. So, it’s up to us as veterans in this industry to really try to make all these things as […] authentic as possible,” he said.

Denman’s dream is to produce and direct military movies himself, and he’s been using the slower pace of the last few months to work on a few projects.

He’s also currently working on a movie with a famous actor, whose name he can’t reveal just yet. And some days, he still has to pinch himself.

“I was like, Holy shit, I never thought I would be doing this — waking up to go and hang out with this dude all day every day and tell him war stories and wrestle and go shooting, you know,” he said.

“I do enjoy telling people what I do. It’s a cool fucking job. I’m very, very blessed to have it.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The FBI says Chinese spies in the US are the biggest threat right now

Amid rampant discussion about Russian election interference and espionage, FBI Director Christopher Wray has deemed China the largest, most concerning threat to the US.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 18, 2018, Wray was asked whether he saw China as an adversary and, if so, to what level.


“I think China, from a counterintelligence perspective, in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country,” Wray answered.

“And I say that because for them it is a whole of state effort. It is economic espionage as well as traditional espionage; it is nontraditional collectors as well as traditional intelligence operatives; it’s human sources as well as cyber means.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Aspen Security Forum.

“We have economic-espionage investigations in every state, all 50 states, that trace back to China. It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between. So the volume of it, the pervasiveness of it, the significance of it, is something I think this country cannot underestimate.”

The comments follow a 2017 report by the US trade representative that accused China of “trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports.” The report found intellectual-property theft by China was costing the US up to 0 billion annually.

It seems a far more strategic and wide-ranging effort than Russia’s ongoing interference efforts, which dominated headlines in the US in July 2018 amid President Donald Trump’s widely panned summit with President Vladimir Putin.

Wray said Russia needed to be dealt with “aggressively,” but he seemed far more concerned with what he called China’s efforts to position itself as “the sole dominant superpower, the sole dominant economic power.”

“They’re trying to replace the US in that role, and so theirs is a long-term game that’s focused on just about every industry, every quarter of society in many ways,” Wray said. “It involves academia, it involves research and development, it involves everything from agriculture to high tech. And so theirs is a more pervasive, broader approach but in many ways more of a long-term threat to the country.”

This isn’t the first time China’s patience and willingness to play the long game have been described as reasons its interference campaigns are more successful than those of Russia.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Early 2018 John Garnaut, who led a secret government inquiry into China’s political influence in Australia, told the US House Armed Services Committee that Russia preferred “focused, sharp strikes,” while Beijing’s actions were more incremental.

“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time,” Garnaut told the committee.

Garnaut’s report found China had attempted to influence politics at all levels in Australia. The Australian government has since introduced new foreign-interference laws — much to Beijing’s ire — and the issue is frequently discussed and debated in the public sphere.

It’s this widespread shift toward a consensus on China’s influence and interference attempts that Wray described as “one of the bright spots” since he became FBI director just over 10 months ago.

“It’s one of the few things I’ve seen that, in a country where it feels like some people can’t even agree on what day of the week it is, on this I think people are starting to come together,” Wray said.

“I see it in the interagency, I see it up on the Hill when I’m talking to the intelligence committees across the spectrum. I think people are starting to wake up and rub the cobwebs, or sleep, out of their eyes. And my hope is we’re in a moment where we can pivot and start to take this much more seriously.”

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

Intel

These American veterans are fighting against ISIS — for very different reasons

As ISIS continues to expand its reach in Iraq and Syria, a small but growing number of U.S. veterans and foreign fighters from around the world have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the fight against the terrorist group.


Every fighter has their own reasons for joining the fight, but for former Army Ranger Bruce Windorski, 40, and Marine Corps veteran Jamie Lane, 29, the fight is personal. Windorski is fighting to avenge the death of his brother – Philip Windorsky – who was killed when Iraqi insurgents shot down the Army helicopter he was traveling in during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.

Lane is fighting to avenge the sacrifices of his fellow Marines and to keep the promise he made to the locals during a previous tour with the Marine Corps, according to this Wall Street Journal video.

The video shows real combat footage from Windorski and Lane’s GoPro mounted cameras.

Watch:

NOW: General briefs Congress that fight against ISIS is a total mess

OR: Bin Laden shooter Robert O’Neill threatened by ISIS as ‘number one target’

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Fortnite’ announces ‘The End’ as final season powers down

The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”

It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.


If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.

Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

16 Thanksgiving memes that only 2020 could bring

2020 is a different year and this is especially true as we have our Thanksgiving dinners lockdown style. We veterans are like family: we can pick on each other and laugh. Let an outsider pick on us and it’s fighting words. This year is like a deployment — we need to find the little things to laugh about. I hope everyone is staying safe and riding this “deployment” out with a smile. Here are some Thanksgiving memes to bring a chuckle as you are loading up on turkey and likely less fixings.

  1. Military dinners
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

I hope those crayons go well with gravy.

  1. The DI
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

You know trainees are licking their chops for this food, the DI is doing the same to scuff them up afterward.

  1. AF living
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Seems like a valid question.

  1. Beer goggles
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Thanksgiving or not, the BCGs kill the mood.

  1. The kids’ table
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Aww, the Space Force.

  1. Give me a break
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

That’s right, four days of no bs.

  1. Restrict this
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

There goes all the fun on block leave.

  1. Pass the mashed potatoes
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Who doesn’t feel like this after stuffing themselves on a good holiday meal?

  1. Should have skipped the seconds
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

No one is looking forward to that Monday morning run.

  1. Turkey hunting
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Just saying we do have different methods.

  1. Get ‘er done
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

We all know this is going to be trouble.

  1. We can’t help it
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

I may be a tad jealous of having a butler.

  1. Three cheers for propane
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

What could go wrong?

  1. We actually do like the Air Force, I swear
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Just another day for the Air Force.

  1. Poor Joe
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

The military doesn’t do miracles.  

  1. Gas masks 
That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

It’s sad but true.

We hope you have an awesome, safe Thanksgiving, despite a global pandemic and travel restrictions. At least they can’t take your turkey. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are US troops overpaid?

A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?

Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.

But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,” the report’s author wrote.


Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”

The report, which Military Times first wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)

“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.

In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.

Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.

Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.

As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.

“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.

Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.

“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”

The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army announces new Medal of Honor recipient

The Army announced on June 10, 2019, that former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump in recognition of his bravery in the 2004 Battle of Fallujah where his actions were credited with saving the lives of three Army squads at great risk to himself.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppEaa8-0Mo
Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia: Operation Phantom Fury

youtu.be

Bellavia was part of an Army company sent to assist a Marine task force in Fallujah. The task force received intel that some of the over 1,500 insurgents in the city might be hiding in a block of 12 buildings, and the soldiers were sent to root them out.

Clearing house-to-house is grueling, as every closed door that’s kicked open is another chance to stumble into an ambush or suffer an IED blast. The first nine buildings showed no enemy activity, but the kick into the 10th set off a hornet’s nest.

Bellavia described it as a bunker in the video above. The building had been prepared to counter an attack, and the fighters inside were equipped with belt-fed weapons. Bellavia’s rifle was disabled by an enemy round almost immediately, and he kept fighting with an M249 squad automatic weapon. He was able to suppress the enemy fighters, and the platoon withdrew.

But once the enemy had begun firing, they were unwilling to stop. Third platoon, with Bellavia in it, were taking fire from the roof and it was clear they wouldn’t be able to escape unless someone or something cleared out the enemy fighters in the house. Bellavia called for support from an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The armored behemoth pumped 25mm rounds into the structure as the infantryman charged back in to fight.

Bellavia fought his way up three floors, killing and least four enemy soldiers with rifle fire and grenades. One of the enemy fighters he killed was preparing to fire an RPG at third platoon when Bellavia killed him.

The soldier’s actions were credited with saving the lives of the three squads outside the house and with eliminating the enemy strongpoint. Bellavia previously received the Silver Star for his bravery, but will now receive the Medal of Honor.

He left the Army in 2005 and currently works in Buffalo, New York, as a radio host.

popular

Germany’s Puma is a 40-ton death machine

Germany introduced the world to the concept of blitzkrieg. One of the key elements to this strategy is to have a force of tanks and mechanized infantry strike deeply and (relatively) quickly behind enemy lines. This means that to successfully execute a blitzkrieg, one needs not only effective tanks, but also good infantry carriers.

For decades now, Germany has relied on the Marder to be the infantry fighting vehicle accompanying Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The Marder, which entered service in 1971, packs a 20mm autocannon, has a crew of three, and holds seven troops. However, the Marder is starting to show its age — after all, it’s about a decade older than the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. That’s where the Puma comes in.


That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
(Photo by Motorpferd)

A Puma infantry fighting vehicle in the field.

Naturally, Germany have a replacement in mind. This vehicle is called the Puma, and it’s slated to bring a few huge leaps in capability to German armor — but nothing is without its drawbacks. Like the Marder, this vehicle has a crew of three, but only carries six grunts in the rear. That’s a slight hit in one area of capability, but the Puma’s firepower makes up for it.

The Puma is equipped with a 30mm cannon (a big step up from the Marder’s 20mm gun). It also packs a 5.56mm coaxial machine gun and a 76mm grenade launcher. It can reach a top speed of 43 miles per hour and go 373 miles on a tank of gas.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime
(U.S. Army photo by Paula Guzman)

The Marder infantry fighting vehicle has served Germany well for almost 50 years.

What’s most notable is that the Puma is only roughly six tons heavier than the Marder, despite the increased firepower. This is due to the use of composite armors that are both more resistant to modern weapons and weigh much less than older armor technology. This enables the Puma to be hauled by the Airbus A400.

Germany is planning to have 320 Pumas delivered by 2020 to replace the Marder. Export possibilities abound, particularly to Canada, which is looking for an infantry fighting vehicles to pair with its Leopard 2 tanks.

Intel

The military’s best air combat exercise is getting a new twist

Red Flag is legendary among fighter pilots. This exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, located near Las Vegas, is where American combat pilots have gone to hone their skills since the end of the Vietnam War.

“Red Flag-Nellis was originally created to give fighter pilots their first 10 combat missions in a large force exercise before deployment to contingency operations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Cunningham said in an Air Force release. “Vietnam War analysis had proven that pilot survivability increased dramatically after surviving 10 combat missions.”


That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

The success of the original Red Flag has left Air Force pararescue personnel, like those taking part in a 2016 demonstration, little to do.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

In terms of military exercises, Red Flag has been a blockbuster hit. The first major conflict since Vietnam, Desert Storm, saw very few pilot losses. While new technology certainly contributed, Red Flag played a vital part as well, giving pilots their first taste of “combat” over the course of two weeks. Other countries, like Israel and the Netherlands, have come up with their versions of this exercise. One of the unintended consequences of this improved readiness, however, is that it has made combat search-and-rescue missions less frequent. Less real-world experience means an increased need for specific training exercises.

To address that need, a spin-off of Red Flag was created. Red Flag Rescue took place last month at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This exercise replaced Angel Thunder, a program for Air Force pararescue personnel (along with foreign air forces) who are responsible for carrying out the combat search and rescue mission.

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Red Flag Rescue was not just for the Air Force. Army personnel, like this soldier taking part in a 2017 demonstration, also took part, as did the Marines and Navy.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

Red Flag Rescue brings together Air Force pararescuemen and the other armed services for fifteen days to practice combat search and rescue in contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environments. While Air Force pararescue personnel — and others who handle combat search-and-rescue — have gained much from this, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the pilots saved from dire circumstances in the real world.

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