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Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times

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Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants to recall 1,000 retirees to active duty

Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.

To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.


It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.

“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.

Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Capt. Brad Matherne, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.

Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.

“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.

Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.

“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.

To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.

“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.

Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.

“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.

Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.

The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.

In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.

The Air Force has said it does not plan to force anyone back on active duty involuntarily in any capacity. Officials said at the time they would work through how they could best use the executive order to voluntarily recall pilots.

Officials said additional VRRAD application procedures and eligibility requirements can be found on the VRRAD page of the AFPC public website.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

2 of Asia’s strongest militaries working deal to gain edge against China

A meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October 2018 may yield more progress on a deal that would allow their armed forces to share military facilities.

The proposed agreement, likely to be discussed during the 13th India-Japan summit in Tokyo on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, 2018, would increase their security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region by allowing the reciprocal exchange of supplies and logistical support, according to the Deccan Herald.

The proposed deal was first discussed in August 2018, when Japan’s defense minister at the time, Itsunori Onodera, met with India’s defense minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, in New Delhi. It came up again in October 2018 during a meeting in Delhi between Modi and Abe’s national-security advisers.


Sources with knowledge of preparations for the summit told the Herald that the deal would allow Japan and India to exchange logistical support, including supplies of food, water, billets, petroleum and oil, communications, medical and training services, maintenance and repair services, spare parts, as well as transportation and storage space.

It’s not clear if any agreement would be signed in October 2018, though there are signs India and Japan want to conclude it in the near term, given plans to increase joint military exercises next year and in 2020, according to The Diplomat.

The deal would not commit either country to military action, but it would allow their militaries — both among the most powerful in the world — to access ports and bases run by the other.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and the US Navy sail in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise Malabar, July 17, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

For India, that means it would be able to use Japan’s base in Djibouti, which is strategically located at the Horn of Africa between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, overlooking one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

In addition to Japanese troops, Djibouti also hosts a major US special-operations outpost at Camp Lemonnier, just a few miles from China’s first overseas military outpost, which opened in 2017 and which US officials have said raises “very significant operational security concerns.”

In turn, Japan would be able to access Indian bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which sit on important sea lanes west of the Malacca Strait, a major maritime thoroughfare between the Indian and Pacific oceans. (The majority of China’s energy supplies currently flow through the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait.)

India has started stationing advanced P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes and maritime surveillance drones at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

At the summit in October 2018, Japan is also expected to raise India’s potential purchase of 12 Shinmaywa US-2i search-and-rescue and maritime surveillance planes, which would also be stationed at the islands.

Delhi reached a similar logistical-support deal with France— which has territories in the southern Indian Ocean and a base in Djibouti — in 2018 and with the US in 2016. (India and the US reached another deal on communications and technical exchanges in September 2018.)

Further discussion of an India-Japan logistical-support deal comes as those two countries and others seek to ensure freedom of movement in the Indian Ocean and to counter what is seen as growing Chinese influence there.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF/Twitter)

Japan, which, like India, has territorial disputes with China, has sought to expand its military’s capabilities and reach.

In October 2018, Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, sailed into the port at Colombo, in Sri Lanka — a visit meant to reassure Sri Lanka that Japan would deploy military assets to a part of the world where Chinese influence is growing.

A few days after the Kaga left Colombo, Sri Lanka navy ships were scheduled to conduct exercises with both the Indian and Japanese navies.

Japan has also expanded its security partnerships with countries around the Indian Ocean and pledged billions of dollars for development projects in the region.

Beijing’s activity around the Indian Ocean region is particularly concerning for Delhi.

China’s base in Djibouti, its role in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, its 99-year lease of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and other infrastructure deals with countries in the region have set Delhi on guard, Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia expert at the geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor, told Business Insider in October 2018.

“India’s view is that South Asia’s our neighborhood, and if another rival military power is expanding its presence — whether in Bhutan, whether in the Maldives, whether in Sri Lanka, whether in Nepal — that is a challenge, and that is something that we need to address,” Pervaiz said.

India’s focus is likely to remain on its land borders with rivals China and Pakistan, Pervaiz said, but Delhi has made moves to bolster its position in the Indian Ocean region — a change in focus that has been called “a tectonic shift.”

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

(Indian navy photo)

India is working to develop a port at Chabahar on Iran’s southern coast, which would provide access to Central Asia and circumvent existing overland routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

India is particularly concerned about Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean and has held anti-submarine-warfare discussions with the US and is seeking to add more subs to its own force.

“For India, the concern now is that although it maintained this kind of regional hegemony by default, that status is beginning to erode, and that extends to the Indian Ocean,” Pervaiz said. “India wants to maintain [its status as] the dominant maritime power in the Indian Ocean, but … as China’s expanding its own presence in the Indian Ocean, this is again becoming another challenge.”

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

Articles

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’


Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”

Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.

“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.

Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.

“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.

It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.


The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.

A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.

It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.

The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Sea of Japan / East Sea between North Korea and Japan.

It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.

A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.

It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.

Also read: This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.

The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.

Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):

“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.

“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”

She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.

“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.

Related: It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.

She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”

Further reading: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.

The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.

It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.

He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.

“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.

“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”

Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.

“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Harry Humphries is a Hollywood legend. But did you know he was a Navy SEAL?


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

Born in New Jersey and raised on the Jersey Shore. The Atlantic Ocean was my playground where I became skilled in most things aquatic. Under the tutelage of strong family leadership, specifically from my grandparents, the concept of Love of nation, Pride of Family and God was deeply instilled in my psyche.

This was during and shortly after World War Two, as with most Americans, my pride of country was deeply instilled. My four uncles fought in Europe — all came home safely….naturally, at this early age in my life I knew I would serve as well.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My parental experiences resulting from their divorce was a split upbringing for my sister and myself. Actually, our grandparents filled that role, however, that is not to say that my mother wasn’t a wonderful mom, a very strong woman, and extremely supportive of me through my mistakes and successes. Her remarriage was a blessing, as my stepfather became my first athletic coach and as a former college athlete and 101st Airborne Master Sergeant who made all five combat jumps in Europe became my mentor. Fairness on the athletic field and a pursuit of excellence in athletics was deeply ingrained in me as a result.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

Faith, pride in self and pride in family, a strong sense of determination, tenacity, whatever you start finish, if it gets dark look towards your faith and most importantly, never quitting and finishing what was started.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Navy and SEALs, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I joined the Naval Reserve as a Prep School senior, 1st classman at Admiral Farragut Academy in Pine Beach, New Jersey. My goal was to attend the Naval Academy, the reserve program at Farragut guaranteed an appointment, however the goal was not to be achieved. After attending Rutgers and Monmouth College for a few years, my reserve unit was called to active duty. I chose to serve out my two-year active obligation at that time which ultimately led to me extending several years in order to get Underwater Demolition Training UDT/R at Little Creek VA. Class 29 where I graduated as class Honor Man. Clearly my most treasured achievement.

I received orders to Underwater Demolition Team 22, UDT 22, where I made several Platoon deployments to the Caribbean after which a billet became available for an enlisted slot in the new command, SEAL TEAM 2. Again, another excellent achievement which changed my life. Reporting aboard was an experience I shall never forget, the quality of personnel, professionalism, all the attributes of becoming part of this outstanding organization was life changing to me.

The early days of the SEAL program were extremely secretive, not as publicized as today’s teams. One didn’t volunteer to punch a ticket and get out. The incentive was to operate with personnel at a level of professionalism not equaled in most commands.

My period was pre, during and some post-Vietnam. Having made two tours, one with Dick Marcinko’s 8th Platoon, ST2 when we were heavily engaged in the TET Offensive of 68 operating on the Cambodian Border supporting the CHAU DOC PRU led by DREW DIX MEDAL OF HONOR recipient for these actions. The 8th Platoon performed excellently going into the city seeking, engaging with the VC. I went with DREW and a fellow SEAL, Frank Thornton into the city on a “company” vehicle armed with an M-2 HMG in the rear. Our mission was to rescue some USAID Medical Personnel who were held captive in their villa by the insurgent VC. After several intensive firefights, the mission was successful, but unfortunately we lost one of our SEALs later in the day, Ted Risher, Frank and I were with Ted on a rooftop prepping a 57 recoilless rifle position overlooking the VC Command Center when Ted took a round in the head.

After several days operating in and around Chau Doc with Drew and his PRU, the platoon was ordered back to Can Tho base. The VC had been killed, captured or melded back into the local population. The city was free.

I returned to country, assigned to MACVSOG operating as a detached SEAL working for the CIA’s Phoenix program as The PRU Advisor in CAN THO Province. I remember this assignment as a dream job, working undercover, if you will, as an enlisted guy telling O-5s and 6s how we were going to execute our battle plans. I split my 150-man team into smaller units and spread them around the province. The plan worked very well increasing our operational tempo many fold.

My last action leading my PRU team was on a VIP Capture Kill mission for a high-ranking VC Commander when I was wounded in both legs. I’m here today only because of my troops. We fought our way out of the ambush and coordinated an air assault on the VC forces covered in a tree line. The UH-1 “POP POP” sounds are truly magnificent to hear, and the sight of WP rockets (no longer in the inventory) hitting as directed is beautiful to see in such times as these.

I eventually wound up in YOKOSUKA Naval Hospital recovering from leg wounds. It was during this time I spent weeks in a ward filled with young Marines ages 18 to 21ish. Mostly amputees. As the senior enlisted guy on the floor, I became their Gunny, sometimes maintaining discipline, sometimes feeding those who had no limbs to feed themselves, sometimes coaching those who needed a prod to get up and rehab their abilities to walk. Truth be told here; it was them who gave me the drive to get up and walk from bed to bed initially until I was able to get around to help them.

The lessons I learned here are immense but simply put, all warriors have a mutual respect for one another. I swore I would never forget these troops, a memory which has instilled a burning passion in me to help my fellow veterans, a passion which lives on to this day.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Dick Marcinko (left) and Harry Humphries (right) in Vietnam, 1968. Photo credit unknown.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the SEALs into advising and producing?

Whether factual or fantasy, the characters playing military or law enforcement rolls must be as realistic as possible, we owe that to them.

I see my role as the reality conscience of the Writer, Director, Producer and HODs. Then on to the training of talent enabling them to appropriately play a role in many cases totally unfamiliar to them.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
A shot of the SEAL Team (actors and real SEALs) in The Rock. Photo credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

Without hesitation I can say that BLACK HAWK DOWN was my thesis as an advisor and Co-Producer. My role entailed acquisition of period correct Equipment; Weapons, and to some extent Costume, assisting the departments in accuracy as pertained to their areas. My role as liaisons to DOD was immense. Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley wanted the training to be as realistic as possible, once we had DOD’s Production Assist Agreement in place all specific training was provided by USASOC components, the commands being portrayed; the 75th Ranger Regiment provided a gentlemen’s RIP program, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment DELTA actors were trained at Bragg blowing and kicking doors, etc. the 160th SOAR provided UH-60 training on the simulators at FT. Campbell, etc.

USASOC stood up a detachment of Rangers, 160th Black Hawks and Little Birds, AIRSOC provided transport of all personnel and equipment to Morocco. A remarkable support effort, probably never to be repeated.

Most importantly, I was blessed to have Colonels Tom Mathews (OIC of the 160th element in Mogadishu) and Lee Van Arsdale, ( the C Squadron Commander of the CAG unit). As part of the Military department with me.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Bruce Willis, Paul Francis, Cole Hauser, Johnny Messner, and Eamonn Walker in Tears of the Sun. Photo credit IMDB.com
Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor. Photo credit IMDB.com
Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
David Denman, John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa in 13 Hours. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Thad Luckinbill, Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban in 12 Strong. Photo credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Ridley Scott, Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Tony Scott and Dominic Sena on projects like The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Gone in 60 Seconds, Tears of the Sun, GI Jane, Bad Boys 2 and the like?

This is a tough question, all you mention have been great to have worked with. I’d have to say my projects with Ridley Scott all were excellent experiences. Ridley is without question one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. As a director, few can compare with his talent, to call him friend is a blessing.

Mike Bay is a loyal friend, working with Mike is like an uncle/nephew experience. I understand and respect his drive for excellence, he truly stands out as a master of the work he does in the action genre. Not only is he truly a friend but also the guy who has worked me the most throughout our careers.

Working with Mike, thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, on The Rock stands out to be more than just my first project but has to be the most enjoyable yet to be surpassed. Additionally, 13 HOURS stands out to me as my second favorite film. It tells an action story that had to be told accurately.

My projects with Tony Scott stand out in my mind as another exceptional talent and friend, may he rest in peace. We truly lost a great one with him leaving us.

Pete Berg, another friend for life. Working with Pete has always been a pleasure. His work on Lone Survivor was outstanding. I was proud to have played a small role in that project as military Liaison, consultant and Co Producer. Pete is the only director I’ve worked with who shoots as fast as Mike Bay, a joy to watch.

Antoine Fuqua, another artist in his field was also a pleasure to work with on Tears of the Sun. Working with Bruce Willis, we had an outstanding time both shooting and training. Hawaii locations weren’t shabby either.

Most recently Kevin Kent, (my #2 and SEAL war hero) and I had the pleasure of working with SPIKE LEE on DA 5 BLOODS, in retrospect, a Vietnam War period film. Spike was the consummate professional knowing what he wanted and how to get it. The recent loss of Chadwick Boseman, the lead, was a shock to us all. His athletic performance always at top speed was no indication of his condition. An excellent actor, another loss to the world.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Mike Moriarty, Harry Humphries and Kevin Kent on set, 13 HOURS. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the SEALs have helped you most in your career?

The most important element of leadership is to create a team and to love the members of that team. The rest will follow if you do that right. Without the team there is no success.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Bruce Willis and Harry Humphries on (HS TRUMAN CVN 75) set for Tears of the Sun. Photo credit Wikipedia.

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in Hollywood?

Veterans in Media and Entertainment is probably the best source of veterans in the industry. I did a talk with them several years back. Since The Rock I have put over a 100 SEALs, Marines and Rangers as special skills extras or talent in films and projects. I have been able to help a bunch of veterans in the industry.

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

My greatest pride resides in assisting veterans as with the VETNET program with Jerri Rosen, who started Working Wardrobes in Orange County offering dress clothing and job training for people who couldn’t afford them. Many veterans were coming through Working Wardrobes for suits and/or dress clothes for work and interviews, so VETNET was created to focus more directly on veterans.

Many of the California veterans are poverty stricken or homeless where they need help restarting in the civilian world. With VETNET we help them write resumes and get prepared for job interviews. We focus on the transitioning veterans as well as those that have come upon hard landings. The core of our program stresses that Veterans having fallen on hard times need to remember who they are and where they came from. It is imperative they believe that and then the pride in self returns. It makes no difference if you came from a high-speed combat unit or support. We all took the same oath essentially offering our lives to support and defend The Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…..

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
Jerri Rosen, Harry Humphries and the Plank Owners of the VETNET team. Photo credit Harry Humphries.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress was just briefed on those UFOs

U.S. Navy pilots off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, spotted Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) during recent training missions, which has true believers and Space Force enthusiasts grabbing their tinfoil hats and “I told you so” smirks.

But just because the objects aren’t identified (publicly, anyway), that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re extraterrestrial.

So what are they?


Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Ten bucks says they’re Amazon same-day shipping drones…

If the Navy knows, they’re not saying, but similar sightings in the past have turned out to be tests the pilots weren’t briefed on, foreign aircraft, or “weather balloons.”

Did U.S. Fighter Pilots See a UFO?

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Did U.S. Fighter Pilots See a UFO?

Video shot by U.S. fighter pilots on a training mission off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, is making even skeptics do a double take. The incident gained enough attention to merit a a congressional briefing. On Wednesday, June 19, a group of senators received a classified briefing about the series of encounters.

“Navy officials did indeed meet with interested congressional members and staffers on Wednesday to provide a classified brief on efforts to understand and identify these threats to the safety and security of our aviators,” Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, told CNN.

Politico first reported the story, who spoke with the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern Senator Warner believes we need to get to the bottom of,” said Warner’s spokesperson, Rachel Cohen.

Related: Real classified CIA docs provide guidance for ‘UFO Photographers’

No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents. But the objects have gotten the attention of the Navy.https://nyti.ms/2I0QubS

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At this time, the details of the sightings remain classified, but that doesn’t mean you Space Force warriors shouldn’t be getting in shape for your PT tests. Planet Earth is counting on you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Army paratroopers jump from a perfectly good Chinook

Helicopters have long been valuable to the military for a bevy of reasons — perhaps most importantly because they expand where you can put troops down. For these versatile aircraft, landing zones can be just about any clearing that a helicopter can fit.

Sometimes, however, the best option may not be to land the helicopter at all. Why? For one thing, when a helicopter is touching down to drop off troops, it’s vulnerable. As it hovers in place, it is, for all intents and purposes, a sitting duck. So, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, a bird is sometimes better off delivering paratroopers.


The CH-47 Chinook is a very good fit for that mission. Boeing notes that this helicopter has a mission radius of 200 nautical miles, far enough to get some Rangers or Green Berets well behind enemy lines. A single helicopter can hold up to 55 troops (or 12 tons of cargo). And, to top it all off, its rear ramp is similar to those on the C-130 and C-17, both planes used by paratroopers

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with British, French, Spanish and Italian Paratroopers, board a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an airborne operation at Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Aviano, Italy.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

One reason this is so valuable is that America has a lot of Chinooks. Between CH-47D/F and MH-47G helicopters, the United States Army has 483 Chinooks on hand with another 40 on order, making for a grand total of 523 airframes. By comparison, the United States Air Force has a total of 204 C-130H and 115 C-130J airframes on hand, with another 62 C-130Js on order. These accompany 60 MC-130H/Js on hand with another 43 on order. That’s a total of 484 C-130s.

For those unfamiliar with the whole “math” thing, 523 is greater than 484.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

From a C-130? No, these paratroopers came from a Chinook.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

But how does one make a successful jump from a Chinook? Well, it’s actually not much different than jumping from a fixed-wing plane. Normal paratroopers will hook up a static line that will automatically open their parachutes. Free-fall parachutists can just run out the back ramp (again, just as you would from a fixed-wing plane).

Watch the video to below to see troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade carry out some practice jumps from a Chinook!

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: F-35As in position to fight ISIS

The Air Force’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35A, has officially been deployed to the Middle East. In the air, the F-35A is supposed to be the most capable variant of the plane, and it has been sent to a base used to generate sorties against ISIS. The base is also well-positioned to support potential U.S. operations in Iran or across the Middle East.


The planes have been sent to the 4th Fighter Wing at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates. The base is too far from Syria for warplanes to reach it without aerial refueling, so it may seem like an odd place from which to attack ISIS. But with the help of aerial tankers, planes like the F-22 and F-35 can take off from there, refuel in the air, and then hit targets across Iraq and Syria before heading from home.

And the F-35A has all the stealth features and sensors of the other F-35 variants without any of the airframe compromises made by the Marine Corps and Navy to help their versions take off from carriers and amphibious assault ships.

So, while the Marine Corps’ F-35B has already made its first combat sortie against the Taliban, and the Navy is focusing on incorporating the F-35C into its own carrier fleet and those of allies, the F-35A could become a frontline and regular attacker against elements of ISIS and other terror groups when they rear their ugly heads for attacks or training.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II arrives for first Middle East deployment

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

While ISIS has been defeated territorially, U.S. Central Command believes there are tens of thousands of fighters operating in sleeper cells or other groupings across the Middle East, including in Syria. The F-35A could help other planes spot and target those forces while avoiding triggering the air defenses of countries like Syria.

And Al Dhafra is well positioned for potential future fights as well. The base is less than 200 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, an important trade chokepoint highly susceptible to Iranian interference. And the Iranian capital of Tehran is actually closer to Al Dhafra than Syria is. F-35As and F-22s would be key to defeating Russia-provided air defenses in Iran if America went to war with that country.

Of course, the Air Force has not said exactly what it plans to do with the F-35As at Al Dhafra. The F-35A was declared combat-ready by the flying service in 2016, but the Air Force has focused on improving the plane’s capabilities and commanders’ understanding of it rather than rushing it into combat.

And that makes a lot of sense. The F-35 is famously the most expensive weapons program in history, partially due to just how ambitious the program was from the outset. Its most advanced stealth capabilities, both the passive elements like its coating and physical design as well as its active protections like electronic warfare capabilities, are aimed at advanced adversaries like China.

It’s just not fiscally prudent to spend a lot of expensive F-35 flight hours over Syria where less-advanced airplanes can safely perform. But some stick time there could help season pilots in their planes, allowing them to be more effective in a future fight.

But still, don’t expect to see too many details of too many F-35A missions in combat anytime soon. Even if the Air Force sends them into combat in the coming days, the service will likely want to play the cards close to the chest to prevent Russian air defenses from getting too good of a look at the plane. The more chances that S-400s and similar systems get to look at the F-35, the better their operators will become at tracking and targeting them.

And if the F-35A is flown against Russia or China, we’ll want those operators caught as flat-footed as possible.

Articles

This Iron Man-like exoskeleton is designed to keep operators alive

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’
An early TALOS prototype

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

Articles

112-year-old veteran and his secrets to life will make you smile

When Richard Overton fought at Pearl Harbor, he was already 35 years old. But the Army veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II is still alive and, as America’s oldest known living veteran at 112 years old, has a lot of wisdom to share.


He still lives on his own, walking around his home and driving when he needs to. He even downs whiskey, smokes cigars “the healthy way,” and takes his lady friend out on a regular basis.

Watch the video below to get some life lessons from Overton. The documentary was filmed when he was 109 years old (his birthday is May 11th):

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