French President Emmanuel Macron said that he was the mastermind behind Donald Trump’s airstrike on Syria, and has persuaded him to station troops in the country for the long term.
In a major interview broadcast April 15, 2018, on BFMTV, Macron took the credit for the strike in Syria, which Trump has characterized as a personal success.
Macron said he thrashed out a list of targets with Trump, and persuaded him to limit action to chemical weapons facilities, rather than a broader strike on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
He also claimed to have convinced Trump to ditch an idea to pull troops out of Syria, and instead commit to staying.
Macron told the cameras:
“Ten days ago President Trump said the US wanted to disengage in Syria. We convinced him, we convinced him that it was necessary to stay there.
“I think that on the diplomatic plan there that took place, the three strikes were one element that was for me not the most essential, I reassure you, we convinced him that he had to stay there for the long term.
“The second thing that we were successful in convincing him was to limit the strikes on chemical weapon [sites] after things got carried away over tweets.”
Here’s a video of his comment (in French):
Macron and Trump have made much of their close personal relationship, which Business Insider has previously characterized as a bromance.
The French leader invited his US counterpart to Paris in 2017, to celebrate Bastille Day, where Trump witnessed a grand military parade that inspired plans to do something similar in Washington, D.C.
In return, Macron is the first world leader whom Trump has invited to make a full state visit.
Trump has not responded directly to Macron’s claims. However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to downplay Macron’s influence, and said “the US mission has not changed.”
Got an hour or 24? Starting a new show, especially a really good one, can be as exciting as riding a roller coaster, boasts a much lower risk of exposure to COVID-19 and provides days of entertainment rather than minutes.
Dive into these series about the military and government to keep quarantine interesting. While our recommendations include both the classic and the cutting edge, they’ll all keep you entertained and might even teach you something in the process.
Where to watch: Hulu Rating: TV-PG
Ah, the classic. M*A*S*H is one of the most popular television series of the past 30 years, depicting life in a hospital base during the Korean War. Running from its first airing in 1972 to 1983, the series proved to be a quintessential series of the 70s. It’s a sitcom, but an abnormal one; each episode has a completely different tone and discusses a diverse range of topics.
That’s part of what makes M*A*S*H so great — it’s an excellent show to watch with family and everyone is guaranteed plenty of laughs while watching, but it also delves into heavier scenarios. Its flexibility is unmatched in film today. M*A*S*H boasts well-known actors such as Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, David Odgen Stiers and Gary Burghoff and has won several Emmy awards. If you haven’t already enjoyed M*A*S*H, seasons one through 11 are available for viewing on Hulu.
2: Madam Secretary
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-PG
Heartwarming yet surprisingly suspenseful, Madam Secretary made me proud to live under the U.S. government. The family drama depicts fictional Elizabeth McCord, U.S. Secretary of State, as she navigates realistic diplomatic issues in the White House. The series also showcases her homelife as she balances being a working mom and life with her husband Henry McCord, a CIA operative and ethics professor. Tea Leoni plays the lead role of Elizabeth McCord and produced the series as well. The greatest appeal of Madam Secretary is its versatility – it’s easy to watch with family due to its subplot regarding Elizabeth’s home life, and gripping enough to binge by yourself, too. It sounds hard to believe, but take it from someone with an attention span shorter than the average TikTok – you’ll be invested in Elizabeth’s diplomatic dilemmas. Seasons one through 6 are available on Netflix, and additional episodes are on HBO.
3: West Wing
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
West Wing depicts the political excursions of the White House staff and cabinet members of fictional president Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet. This series is similar to Madam Secretary, but can be seen as more of a “political epic.” As the series continues and each member of the staff’s personality is portrayed, the show’s superb writing and thorough characterization shine. Actors Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe and Allison Janney star in the show, and the series boasts 27 Emmy awards. Additionally, TV Guide ranked it the “#7 TV drama of all time.” While President Bartlet is a democrat, the show stands out for its depiction of modern issues from an apolitical perspective, highlighting the nuance behind bipartisan decision making. Not to mention, incredible acting for well-written characters.
4: TURN: Washington’s Spies
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
This one’s a bit more historical. Set in 1778, Washington’s Spies depicts a seemingly ordinary farmer who spies on British Loyalists and soldiers for the blooming American government. This one will appeal to anyone who’s been into Hamilton, which – be honest – is probably more of us than we’d like to admit. It’s got all the good military action combined with the appealing, tried-and-true trope of an undercover spy, topped off with rich history. Parents will enjoy the espionage and historical subplots, while kids will enjoy the rich action. A crowd pleaser all around. Seasons one through four are available on Netflix.
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
Veep, considering the profanity, probably isn’t a series to watch with younger audiences, but its satirical take on politics brings a hilarity unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The series depicts the career and personal life of Selina Meyer, the newly elected Vice President of the United States, and her dysfunctional relationship with the president and her staff. Veep is refreshing because political roles – even high up ones – aren’t glorified, as they are in so many other series. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina and the show runs for 65 episodes on HBO.
Where to watch: Hulu, Showtime Rating: TV-MA
Homeland, while portraying American intelligence in a gripping way, is leagues above other shows listed because of its plot. It’s exciting above all else, and stays interesting and fresh as it follows main character Carrie Mathison. Carrie’s inner demons provide conflicts just as tangible as terrorism threats, and while the seasons build up to climactic, explosive endings, Carrie’s character pulls the show eight seasons. Available on Hulu and Showtime, Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie as well as Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, and Maury Sterling.
7: Jack Ryan
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video Rating: TV-MA
Those who fell in love with John Krasinski in The Office will be especially attracted to Jack Ryan – and I don’t just mean the grade school kids who obsess over Jim and Pam. Those of us who have seen Krasinski act in and produce other media know he’s capable of amazing character evolution and series production, and Jack Ryan is no exception. In fact, this show very well may be the best example of his abilities. Season one follows Ryan as he tracks bank activity from Suleiman, an Islamic extremist, and is faced with more action than he ever faced in his intelligence work. Originally released on Amazon Prime in 2018, Jack Ryan quickly became very popular and was later nominated for several Emmy awards. Season two depicts Ryan entangled in Venezuela corruption and political unrest. Jack Ryan should be a go-to when looking for a short action series that’s as eventful as our imagined roller coaster.
8: Band of Brothers
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
The 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers reminds me of a mini pack of MM’s. Following “Easy Company,” a battalion during World War II, Band of Brothers dedicates one episode to each central member. The miniseries is historically accurate, and each episode depicts the actual experience of each member, with the narratives engaging enough to compel the viewer to keep watching more. It’s the classic “one more episode!” approach to every show worth binge watching, and realistically, have you ever only eaten a half of a pack of MMs? From the pilot episode, you want to keep going; the tantalizing string of episodes makes up for what it lacks in length by stellar acting, screenwriting and a hell of a plot. Actors include David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, Tom Hanks and David Leland. It’s produced by Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks and won seven Emmy awards.
9: The Spy
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-MA
Ah, another historically accurate miniseries! The Spy portrays the mission of spy Eli Cohen during the often-overlooked six day war between Israel and Syria. Taking place in 1967, the miniseries follows the aforementioned Eli Cohen as he spies on the Syrian government for the Israeli Intelligence Agency (Mossad). Cohen establishes himself among Syria’s elite, and is promoted in the Syrian military. The series is only six episodes, and therefore is a quick watch. Similar to Band of Brothers, The Spy leaves you wanting more after each episode. It’s available on Netflix.
10: The Blacklist
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
The Blacklist depicts the endeavors of ex-crime boss Red Reddington and his requested FBI forensic psychologist partner, Elizabeth Keen, as the duo take down crime lords that Reddington used to work with. Each episode depicts the pursuit of a criminal so cunning and covert they aren’t even known to authorities. Reddington’s assistance in the mission. The Blacklist stands out for its refreshing take on a classic crime trope, and keeps the viewer interested with the clues into the nature of the personal lives of Reddington and Keen. Spanning seven seasons, The Blacklist is easy to binge watch or to fall back onto when tired of other shows. It stars James Spader and Megan Boone and won the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy in 2014.
The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.
The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.
But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.
Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.
Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.
“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”
With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.
“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”
‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.
As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.
Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.
“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”
Welcome to the free market, North Korea
Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.
“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”
But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.
Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.
Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.
The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.
There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.
Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.
Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.
Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.
People like this.
Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.
At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.
“Ownership” being the operative word.
1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy
Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.
These guys, remember?
2. They did not break the back of the resistance
While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.
There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.
The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.
Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.
A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.
In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.
The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.
Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.
3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people
A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.
Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.
The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.
“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”
4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force
The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.
Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.
The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.
This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.
For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).
A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.
G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.
Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.
He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.
When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.
This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.
The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.
Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.
The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.
I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …
Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.
In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.
Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.
And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.
After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.
If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.
Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.
But we aren’t The Old Guard.
A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”
The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.
Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.
A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.
The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.
The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.
Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.
Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.
By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.
Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.
“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.
Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.
In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.
He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.
The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.
“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”
There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.
The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.
“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”
The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”
He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.
“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”
Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.
“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”
And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.
“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”
After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.
He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.
“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”
By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.
“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”
He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.
Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.
Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”
At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”
And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.
“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”
And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.
“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”
Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.
“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”
Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.
“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”
PARIS, France – The U.S. led the way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées for the Military Parade on Bastille Day as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I (WWI) here July 14, 2017.
This marked the first time ever the U.S. was selected as the country of honor – a tradition that highlights a symbolic gesture of friendship from the French government.
“It’s about the partnership – a strong partnership that was forged in war many years ago and endures today,” said Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “France is one of our oldest and closest allies, and so the significance of being the county of honor in their parade today underscores the strength of that partnership – and that we must work to continue to strengthen that partnership.”
Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, stand in ranks during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)
Altogether, almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in support of the military parade that serves as a tribute to the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
“I’m honored and privileged to be here commemorating such a historic event and celebrating the alliance between France and the United States,” said Air Force Senior Airman Jorge Diehl, assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I think it shows a great deal of appreciation and trust for them to allow us to lead the parade. It’s taken a long time to build that trust.”
French President Emmanuel Macron officiated the parade attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and numerous French and U.S. senior military and civilian leaders – including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
In all, this year’s parade included more than 3,700 participants and flyovers by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; two F-22 Raptors; nine French Alpha Jets streaming blue, white and red contrails; and two French C-135s.
For the commander of U.S. troops, Army Maj. Jared Nichols, assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the honor of participating was made even more special by the fact his great-grandfather served on the Western Front in France during WWI.
“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a private first class in the American expeditionary force; his name was Rupert Foust,” said Nichols. “He served as a medic in the 8th evacuation hospital, primarily dealing with clearing casualties off the battlefield and providing first aid. To be here to commemorate our entrance in a war to support [France] and the rest of the Allies and then also celebrate the French nation and their independence as well, is a great experience.”
It was an experience that wasn’t lost on Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class John Holley, assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 37, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. He believes the friendships forged here will be life-long.
“We’ve built a lot of camaraderie so far,” said Holley. “We’ve done a lot of exchanging of patches and telling of stories. We were able to learn why we were here, the history and the importance of it.”
Historically, the 1st Infantry Division was the U.S. Army’s first division – and was formed in June 1917 to serve in WWI. In 2017, as in 1917, the U.S. stands ready with its European Allies and partners to face emerging threats and an increasingly dynamic regional security environment.
“During the centennial of U.S. entry into WWI, we commemorate America’s sons and daughters who defended peace – many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life,” said Scaparrotti. “I just want to salute the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard that keep Europe whole, free and at peace.”
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For tactical dads and tacticool dudes (and dudettes):
~ Military grade apparel and gear by the company that pretty much invented the game ~
As 2017 comes to a close, we at WATM HQ are sitting around sipping ‘nog and musing on bromance. (Make sure you’re reading that right: we’re pronouncing it “bro-mance.“) We’re musing on bromance, brotherhood, and big birthdays.
In 2017, Propper celebrated a big one, it’s 50th year of operation and 50 years of being best bros with the U.S. Armed Forces.
That is no small thing.
You know who else turned 50 in 2017? Vin Diesel. He’s no small thing either, but considering that he rang in his Golden Man-niversary mired in beef with the Rock (who is enormous), we’d say Propper is probably the more deserving of your respect.
You know the Rock would never call Propper a candy-ass. Afterall, he spends a good deal of his time wearing the kind of apparel they perfected.
Over the last 50 years, Propper has become one of the military’s main uniform and tactical gear suppliers. Their bromance with the Department of Defence began in 1967 when Propper’s founder, William S. Propper, received an order from the DLA for Dixie Cups.
Since then,they’ve manufactured more than 120 million garments for all branches of the armed force (and more than 30 million personnel have worn their gear). Check out the stats:
Propper also outfits numerous law enforcement agencies and emergency rescue crews all over the country. In 2012, they added tactical footwear to their repertoire. In 2014, as the Rock was appearing as the title character in Hercules and Vin was voicing Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, Propper got big into body armor. In typical fashion, they left their mark on the standard technology.
Propper values its brotherhood with the military. They are passionate about the servicemembers they outfit. It’s a passion that hasn’t wavered in 50 years. They put incredible thought into all of their gear. We at WATM HQ are huge fans of who they are and what they do. We like them so much, we make high production value internet odes to their products:
Our firm resolution for 2018 is to dupe the Rock into starring in the next video we make about Propper. Or failing that, Vin Diesel. Or better yet, both.
That’s assuming they can remember that beefin’ ain’t the Propper way for brothers to behave.
(Seriously, please don’t beef, guys. It’s weird when Daddy and Daddy fight.)
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
According to Disney, princes are the most charming, handsome men in all the land. Historically, that’s far from the truth. Royal families were typically pretty obsessed with power. No matter how much they had, they wanted more, and they wanted to keep it. One way to do that was by keeping it in the family; AKA, they slept with their cousins. Back then, incest wasn’t so taboo. Marriages between uncles and nieces and other close relations happened frequently.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just power that was passed down to future generations. Genetic disorders that were uncommon among the general population were condensed in royal bloodlines to the point that sickness was as much of a royal inheritance as wealth. The result? A ton of really weird royals, including the infamous Henry the 8th who was known for his paranoia and tyrannical behavior. Keep scrolling to discover all the strange effects that inbreeding had on the royal families of yesteryear.
The Habsburg Jaw
The German-Austrian Habsburg family had an empire encompassing everything from Portugal to Transylvania, partially because they married strategically to consolidate their bloodline. Because of their rampant incest, the Habsburgs accidentally created their own trademark facial deformities, collectively known as the Habsburg jaw. Those who inherited the deformity typically had oversized jaws and lower lips, long noses, and large tongues. It was most prevalent in male monarchs, with female family members experiencing fewer external deformities. Charles II had such a severe case that he had trouble speaking and frequently drooled…yikes.
For most people, cuts and bruises are no big deal. For those with hemophilia, a scraped knee can turn serious. Hemophilia is a rare blood disorder in which your body doesn’t produce enough clotting factor. When someone with hemophilia starts to bleed, they don’t stop. The disease is recessive, so it’s very uncommon; both of your parents must carry the gene for you to develop symptoms. Unfortunately, it was easy for inbred royals to produce unfortunate gene combinations.
Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Consort Albert, both carried the gene for hemophilia, as they were first cousins. Their son, Leopold, struggled with the disease until it eventually killed him when he was only 31. Hemophilia was passed down to Russian Czar Nicholas II’s family. His son and heir, Alexei, suffered from hemophilia, inherited from his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Even in the early 1900s, the life expectancy of someone with hemophilia was only about 13 years.
Spanish royalty was particularly prone to the genetic condition of hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds up deep in the brain. The extra fluid puts pressure on the brain and spinal cord, causing everything from mild symptoms to death. It occurs most frequently in infants, which was often the case in inbred royalty. The royal children who suffered from it were born with abnormally large heads and often suffered from growth delays, malnourishment, muscular atrophy, poor balance, and seizures.
Hydrocephalus also affected British royalty, including Prince William, the oldest surviving child of Queen Anne and Prince Consort George of Denmark. The two royals were cousins, and they were so genetically similar that they struggled to reproduce any healthy offspring, losing 17 children to genetic disease. You’d think they’d figure it out after the first few, but they were determined to produce an heir. Prince William made it until age 11, when he died of hydrocephalus combined with a bacterial infection.
Royal inbreeding existed before the European monarchy was even a thing. Ancient Egyptians practiced marriage within the royal family with the intent of keeping their bloodline pure, and it backfired big time. King Tutenkhamen, AKA King Tut, was one of Egypts most famous pharaohs, but he was a bit of a genetic mess. Modern-day studies showed that he had a cleft palate, a club foot, and a strangely elongated skull. Some researchers believe King Tut’s mother wasn’t really Queen Nefertiti, but King Akhenaten’s sister. Sibling-sibling inbreeding tends to have severe effects, giving poor King Tut a compromised immune system that led to his eventual death.
King Charles II married twice, yet he never successfully fathered an heir. Like many other royals, he struggled with fertility, likely the result of his inbred heritage. Queen Anne, the first monarch of Great Britain, was a great ruler, but not so great at producing healthy children. Only one of 18 of her offspring made it past their toddler years, with eight miscarried and five stillborn. Considering the great pressure to produce heirs to inherit the throne, infertility caused a great deal of royal strife. In some ways, however, it was a boon. Since Charles II never had children, his laundry list of genetic issues, including the infamous Habsburg jaw, died with him.
Speaking of Charles II, he didn’t say a word until he was four and didn’t learn how to walk until he was eight. He was the child of Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria, who were uncle and niece. His family’s long history of inbreeding was so severe that he was more severely inbred than he would have been had his parents been siblings. While inbreeding doesn’t automatically lower intelligence, it does make it more likely to inherit recessive genes linked to low IQ and cognitive disabilities, resulting in a royal family with just as many mental challenges as physical ones.
George III was King of England at the time of the American Revolution, and many wonder if his mental illness had something to do with his failure as a ruler. Another member of Queen Victoria’s highly inbred family, George III was known for his manic episodes and nickname of “The Mad King”. Initially, historians believed that he had porphyria, a chronic liver disease that results in bouts of madness and causes bluish urine. Today, it’s believed that George III actually suffered from bipolar disorder, causing his sudden manic episodes and rash decision making.
Other royals suffered from mental illness as well, including Queen Maria the Pious. She was so obsessively devout that when her church’s confessor died, she screamed for hours about how she would be damned without him. She shared a doctor with King George III, who employed all kinds of strange and ineffective treatments, like ice baths and taking laxatives.
Joanna of Castile, also known as Joanna the Mad, also struggled with irrational behavior and uncontrollable moods. Like most women, she was furious when she discovered her husband’s mistress. Unlike most people, she proceeded to stab her in the face. She remained obsessed with her husband after his infidelity, however. She loved him so much that she slept beside him even after he died. You read that right. She snuggled a corpse. M’kay then.
Monarchs have a reputation for reckless, harsh, and sometimes cruel behavior. Is it possible that many of their worst deeds were tied to inbred insanity? Totally. Does that make their tyrannical reign any less terrifying? Not even a little bit. While their stories are fascinating to read about, let’s keep the inbreeding and dictatorships in the history books, okay? Okay.
Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.
In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.
On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.
Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.
Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.