This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

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

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
Bryan Thompson on the set. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)


Bryan Thompson’s path to the U.S. Army was a circuitous one. The Detroit native earned his bachelor’s degree in International Trade from Eastern Michigan University before getting hired by Stahls, a sportswear graphics company. He got the job because he was fluent in Spanish, a skill he attributes to the first military mentor in his life.

“Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jose Rodriguez, my Spanish teacher during my junior and senior year of high school, kind of forced me to learn the language,” Thompson said. “During his class, he would make us do pushups if we failed to do our homework, or whatever.  A Mexican immigrant, he invited me to many family events, where he told everyone not to speak to me in English.  He also invited me and the rest of my class to Spanish-language church services where he gave the public the same instruction.”

Stahls moved Thompson to Miami, striking distance from the places in Central and South America that he needed to travel. He loved Miami right from the start, and while he was there he fed his creative side by singing with a Top 40 band on the side. In time, the company wanted to move him back to the home office in Detroit, but he had no interest in leaving his new life so he quit and decided to make the band a full-time gig.

The band, “Jesse James and Crossover,” travelled extensively to pay the bills, including an extended stop in Singapore. But that work was seasonal, and he soon found himself back in Miami struggling to make ends meet. He took a job with Royal Flowers and moved to Quito, Ecuador.

Thompson was his usual busy self in Quito, working his day job while also starting another band on the side. He also got married to a local girl. Then, like all Americans worldwide, he was hit with the tragedy of 9/11.

He wanted to do something of consequence, so he went back to Miami with his new Ecuadorian wife and immediately joined the Army. In short order, he found himself through basic training and stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia as a watercraft operator attached to the 7th Sustainment Brigade.

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
Thompson humping it Army-style. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)

After a year or so, Thompson decided to leverage his college degree and apply for OCS, and to his surprise, he was accepted on the first attempt. He was commissioned as a transportation officer and shipped off to Camp Liberty, Iraq for 15 months. While there, as well as dealing with the daily challenges the war presented, he also began working on a screenplay, an effort that would eventually inform the next chapter of his life.

But Thompson still had some active duty time ahead of him, and in typical fashion, he made a dramatic pivot, this time getting selected for the Army’s legal education program. He went to law school at William and Mary, and once he got his degree he was transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas to intern with the JAGs there.

All the while he kept his hand in filmmaking, networking with locals wherever he went, even when his workload was at its most demanding.

“The ideas just stayed in my head and just spilled onto the page and I couldn’t turn them off,” Thompson said. “Eventually, I found some experienced filmmakers who mentored me in the use of scriptwriting software and production techniques and before I knew it, I was writing and producing short films, hiring experienced directors to make my visions come to life.  Once I had enough experience, I started directing as well.”

While in Texas, Thompson taught acting and dance at Latin American Talent, a local agency. One day a student gave him a 15-page script to read. The story about two immigrant children whose legal status is threatened by the murder of their parents moved him, and he started to film it with the working title of “The Dream.”

While filming he had a realization: “If I wanted people to invest in my films I had to finish making a film,” he said. So he kept working during whatever free time his Army life afforded him. Eventually “The Dream” was finished and premiered in El Paso to a packed house that included reps from the Spanish-language channel Univision who indicated they were interested in helping distribute the film to a wider audience.

Watch:

El Sueño Official Trailer from Miami Web Fest on Vimeo.

As a JAG he was required to pass the bar exam in whatever state he wanted, so he tried in Florida (where he planned to return after his Army service was over) and failed and then tried in Missouri (supposedly the easiest one to pass) with the same result. But that disappointment was eclipsed by a bigger challenge: He developed severe pneumonia and while treating it, Army doctors found a benign tumor on his lung.

Thompson had surgery to remove the tumor, and while he was recovering he got word that he was most likely going to be declared as “not physically qualified” for active duty and medically discharged. Again, he refused to let disappointment crush his spirit, and, lying in a hospital bed, he decided to start an online film festival.

He’d had some experience with film festivals at that point. His web series “The Cell” won Best Directing and Best Visual Effects at the LA Web Series Festival in 2013, and his film “Noventa” won Best Short at the Miami Independent Film Festival in 2015 and also won Audience Choice at the Film Miami Fest that same year.

So once he got out of the Army he created the Miami Web Fest, a 4-day festival showcasing the best digital content in the form of web series.

“Since web series are increasingly popular among the 18-34 demographic, they have quickly become the preferred form of exposure for independent filmmakers looking to use the internet to make a name for themselves,” Thompson said.  “Miami Web Fest takes that to a new level, by offering those same filmmakers a chance to experience the traditional film festival experience, including theater screenings, panel discussions, an elegant Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, and exclusive Miami-style parties in an environment that is unique and art-savvy.”

And while he was happy that he had started his own business, he’d always wanted to stay connected to the military community in some way, so this year he’s adding a “Vet Fest” to the Miami Web Fest.

“Filmmaking is all about showing the audience a new and interesting perspective on life,” Thompson said.  “I believe that military and veteran filmmakers have seen the world through a lens that most never will, so the stories tend to be amazing and profound.  So, after Miami Web Fest solidified its place in the global market, I decided to do something that would specifically highlight the work of military and veteran filmmakers as well as military-themed productions.”

Miami Vet Fest will include all types of films and web series and takes place on September 24 in Miami, Florida. Veteran filmmakers who want to submit their work for consideration should visit the Vet Fest website.

“The Miami Web Fest has proved to be an effective showcase, and I hope to do the same for veteran filmmakers this year,” Thompson said. “Winners have leveraged their success into deals with Netflix and major production companies.”

Miami Vet Fest winners will also be showcased at We Are The Mighty and its associated social media sites.

For more about Bryan Thompson’s film projects visit his website.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army boosts soldier battery power for greater lethality

Army Futures Command, or AFC, is helping to increase soldier lethality and survivability through the research and development of lighter batteries with more power and extended runtimes.

As the Army modernizes the current force and prepares for multi-domain operations, the quantity and capabilities of soldier-wearable technologies are expected to increase significantly, as will the need for power and energy sources to operate them.

Engineers and scientists at AFC’s subordinate command — the Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC — are making investments to ensure future power and energy needs are met by exploring improvements in silicon anode technologies to support lightweight battery prototype development.


“This chemistry translates to double the performance and duration of currently fielded batteries for dismounted soldiers,” said Christopher Hurley, a lead electronics engineer in the Command, Power and Integration Directorate, or CPID, of CCDC’s center for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — or C5ISR.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

“The capabilities of these materials have been proven at the cell level to substantially increase energy capacity. We’re aiming to integrate those cells into smaller, lighter power sources for soldiers,” Hurley said. “Our goal is to make soldiers more agile and lethal while increasing their survivability.”

Soldiers currently carry an average of 20.8 pounds of batteries for a 72-hour mission. With the Army focused on modernization and the need to add new capabilities that require greater power, the battery weight will continue to increase and have a detrimental effect on soldiers’ performance during missions, Hurley said.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

“The C5ISR Center is helping the Army get ahead of this problem by working on advanced materials like silicon anode,” said Hurley, who noted that incorporating silicon-based anodes into Army batteries will cut their battery weight in half.

The C5ISR Center is incorporating component-level RD of advanced battery technologies into the Army’s Conformal Wearable Battery, or CWB, which is a thin, flexible, lightweight battery that can be worn on a soldier’s vest to power electronics. Early prototypes of the updated silicon anode CWB delivered the same amount of energy with a 29 percent reduction in volume and weight.

The military partners with the commercial power sector to ensure manufacturers can design and produce batteries that meet Warfighters’ future needs. However, the needs of civilian consumers and Warfighters are different, said Dr. Ashley Ruth, a CPID chemical engineer.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

The Army cannot rely on the commercial sector alone to meet its power demands because of soldiers’ requirements, such as the need to operate at extreme temperatures and withstand the rigors of combat conditions. For this reason, the electrochemical composition in battery components required for the military and consumer sector is different.

“An increase in silicon content can greatly help achieve the high energy needs of the soldier; however, a great deal of research is required to ensure a suitable product. These changes often require entirely new materials development, manufacturing processes and raw materials supply chains,” Ruth said.

“Follow-on improvements at the component level have improved capacity by two-fold. Soldiers want a CWB that will meet the added power consumption needs of the Army’s future advanced electronics.”

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the C5ISR Center is maturing and applying the technologies to support the power needs of the Army’s modernization priorities and to inform requirements for future networked Soldiers. This includes leading the development of the Power and Battery Integrated Requirements Strategy across AFC, said Beth Ferry, CPI’s Power Division chief.

As one of the command’s highest priorities, this strategy will heavily emphasize power requirements, specifications and standards that will showcase the importance of power and energy across the modernization priorities and look to leverage cross-center efforts to work on common high-priority gaps.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

Power Division researchers are integrating the silicon anode CWB with the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a high-priority augmented reality system with next-generation capabilities for solider planning and training. Because IVAS is a dismounted soldier system that will require large amounts of power, the Army is in need of an improved power solution.

To gain soldiers’ feedback on varying designs, the C5ISR Center team plans to take 200 silicon anode CWB prototypes to IVAS Soldier Touchpoint 3 Exercise in July 2020. This will be the first operational demonstration to showcase the silicon anode CWB.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

The C5ISR Center is finalizing a cell-level design this year, safety testing this summer, and packaging and battery-level testing taking place from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Advances in chemistry research can be applied to all types of Army batteries, including the BB-2590, which is currently used in more than 80 pieces of Army equipment.

“A two-fold increase in capacity and runtime is achievable as a drop-in solution,” Ruth said. “Because of the widespread use of rechargeable batteries, silicon anode technology will become a significant power improvement for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

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


On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.

About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.

“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”

“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”

Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.

Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.

After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.

“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”

When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.

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

“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.

“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”

The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”

“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”

“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”

Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.

“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”

“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis just finished his review of transgender troops

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has completed his policy review on transgender individuals serving in the military and his recommendations are likely to be forwarded to the White House late February 2018, the Pentagon said Feb. 21, 2018.


Pentagon spokesmen said the review and recommendations would be conveyed privately and disclosure would be up to the White House.

Mattis was under a Feb. 21 2018 deadline to complete the report that came about after President Trump caught the military by surprise July 2017 in sending out Tweets calling for a ban on transgender individuals in the ranks.

Further reading: This is how officials are reacting to White House ban on transgender troops

Trump said he wanted the future policy to be that the U.S. “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”

In August 2017, Trump issued a memo directing Mattis to conduct a review led by a panel of experts and make recommendations by Feb. 21, 2018.

Trump’s ban would reverse the directive issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time.

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. (US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

Trump’s proposals triggered a series of lawsuits by advocacy groups and four federal district courts have now ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional. The courts also ordered that the recruitment of transgender individuals should resume on Jan. 1, 2018 and the military has complied.

Mattis strongly endorsed the new rules for the military setting out that those who cannot deploy for 12 consecutive months should be discharged. Exceptions would be made for pregnancies and troops wounded or injured in combat.

Related: Court blocks Trump administration from changing DoD transgender policy

There has been speculation that the “deployability” rules could be used against transgender individuals, but Matt Thorn, president of the OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) advocacy group said that deployments were not generally a problem for transgender individuals currently serving.

“We don’t expect that policy to have much impact,” Thorn said of the new rules on deployments. “Most transgender individuals are deployable by the 12-month marker.”

The Defense Department has repeatedly declined to give an estimate on how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Local and military community come together for Okinawa Futenma Bike Race

Marine Corps Air Station Futenma hosted the 2019 Okinawa Futenma Bike Race for the local and military community July 14, 2019, on MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

The starting line was crowded with cyclists on edge and eager to hear the crack of a starting pistol. The blank round was fired, the timer started, and the cyclists took off. Friends and families cheered on their loved ones as they departed from the start line to negotiate their way through Futenma’s runways.

175 participants; a mix of Status of Forces Agreement personnel and Okinawan community members participated in the 2019 Futenma bike race.


Participants competing on road bikes took a 44 kilometer route, whereas participants on mountain bikes took on a 22 kilometer route.

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

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)

The airfield was closed for a 24-hour period to allow competitors to test the runways surface. Marine Corps aviation technologies were displayed for all participants to enjoy as they continued throughout the race’s route.

Every rider that made their way past the finish line was greeted with applause and cheers from the audience that awaited their finish.

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

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)

I think this a great opportunity to host people aboard the air station to get people out and exercise.
— Col. David Steele, dedicated tri-athlete, commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, and competitor in the race

“Friendship through sport is a big part of what Marine Corps Community Services and Futenma wants to do”

The event was hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, a comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to open your beer like a breaching team

‘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 the vet who needs his stocking stuffed:

~ .50 cal bottle openers to start the round (and the reminiscing) off right ~

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
Your beer doesn’t stand a chance.

Sometimes getting things rolling is the easy part. Like many entrepreneurs with a good idea, former SEAL Eli Crane found out that success, especially when it comes in a rush, can be a much more difficult hurdle to clear.

In Nov. 2014, Crane, along with his wife and co-founder, Jen, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch for investment in their boot-strapped company, Bottle Breacher. They went into it boasting a homemade (but sturdy) garage manufacturing set-up and $500k in sales of their flagship product, a bottle opener fashioned from recycled, authentic decommissioned .50 caliber bullet shells.

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers
Sound business practice: give the investor a good photo op.

Impressed by their story (and all a’flutter with the patriotic warm’n’fuzzies), Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary went halvsies on a $150k capital investment for 10% equity each. The Cranes had aced the most public version of an entrepreneurial rite of passage. Happy days all the way to the bank, right?

Well, yeah, but also some rough weeks ahead as the instant publicity they received from their appearance flooded their fulfillment queue with some 20,000 orders, drastically overmatching their output capacity. Bottle Breacher was in for a brutal bout of growing pains.

Happily, the same grit that got Crane through BUD/S on his second try – along with the smarts that led him to switch to business after 5 overseas deployments – came together in a massive Bottle Breacher systems overhaul. In just over a month, the Cranes identified and busted through their production bottleneck (yeah, sorry) and caught up on all their outstanding orders.

And that was good news because Crane is a genius at product iteration and the production backlog had also made it impossible for him to release a bunch of his newest designs. These days, Bottle Breacher sells Freedom Frags, Breacher BBQ Tools, Wine Bottle Breachers, Whiskey Bullets and much, much more in their quest to be the #1 supplier of patriotic party ammunition to a grateful and thirsty nation.

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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.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pompeo listed US preconditions for talks with Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 30, 2018, expressed his support for President Donald Trump holding talks with Iran, listing specific conditions for such discussions to occur, just hours after the president said he would not require preconditions to sit down with Iranian leaders .

“We’ve said this before. [Trump] wants to meet with folks to solve problems,” Pompeo told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” in an interview that reportedly came about two hours after Trump’s comments.


“If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them,” Pompeo added.

During a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is visiting Washington, DC, Trump said he’d meet with “anybody” when discussing the prospect of holding talks with Iran.

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President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

(White House photo)

“No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet,” Trump added.

In a speech back in May 2018, Pompeo listed 12 specific conditions that would need to be met for the US to hold talks with Iran after Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The Iranian government swiftly dismissed them as unacceptable.

More recently, Trump and Iranian leaders have engaged in a heated war of words.

After Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a conflict between the US and Iran would be the “mother of all wars,” Trump on July 22, 2018, sent an all-caps tweet warning the Iranian leader not to threaten the US anymore.

Trump softened his tone in a speech in which he said he was ready for talks with Iran, which he reiterated during July 30, 2018’s press conference.

But stating he has no preconditions for talks with Iran seemingly puts Trump at odds with some of his top advisers and potentially other Republicans. Former President Barack Obama was heavily criticized by conservatives when he said he’d hold talks with Iran without prior conditions or stipulations.

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

Articles

Stampeding wild boars kill ISIS fighters

A stampede of wild boars mauled to death three waiting in ambush Sunday in Iraq, Kurdish said Tuesday.


The mangled bodies were discovered by refugees fleeing territory controlled by the about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk, said Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti- forces.

responded by going on a spree of the area’s wild boars, said Brigadier Azad Jelal, the deputy head of the Kurdish intelligence service.

The were preparing an ambush of local tribesmen, al-Assi said. Five other were injured.

“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” he said.

Al-Assi said the executed 25 people attempting to flee three days before the boars .

Anti-jihadist tribesmen retreated to the Hamrin mountains when seized the nearby town of Hawija in 2014.

Articles

US Official says alliance with Philippines solid despite leader’s ‘colorful’ anti-US statements

The top U.S. diplomat in the Pacific told reporters this month strong anti-American statements by the president of the Philippines are more rhetoric than reality, calling them “colorful” and arguing there has been no substantive change in the military relationship with the U.S. ally in the Pacific.


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Philippine Marine Pfc. Japeth Inocencio, from Jamindan, Philippines, shakes hands with U.S. Marine Cpl. Todd Jenkins, from Long Beach, Calif., at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, during Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX), Oct. 10, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nelson Duenas/Released)

In September, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte called for severing military ties with the U.S., saying he would end joint Philippine and U.S. counterterrorism missions in Mindanao and stop joint naval patrols in the South China Sea. More recently he has forged a closer relationship with China, saying his country was “separating from the United States” and would be dependent on China “for all time.”

But U.S. officials caution that Duterte has made no moves to sever its ties with the U.S. military and that what he’s saying in public doesn’t match his actions behind closed doors.

“I’m not aware of any material change in the security cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines,” said Assistant Sec. State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russell during an Oct. 12 interview with reporters in Washington.

“President Duterte has made a panoply of statements … the operative adjective is ‘colorful,’ ” he added. “But what that will ultimately translate to in terms of the ability of the Philippines to work with the United States on issues directly germane to its security and the regional and global challenges that it faces — from piracy to illegal fishing to disaster relief and counterterrorism — is a question that we don’t have an answer to just yet.”

No matter how strongly Duterte denounces the U.S. and its leaders in public, Russell added, the close historical bond between America and the Philippines is something that transcends the politics of the day.

“For our part, we love the Philippines. The relationship between Americans and Filipinos is as warm as you can get,” Russell said. “We’re very close with each other not only by these cultural and personal and historical ties but also by shared interests and by some common threats.”

Russell added that early conversations with the Philippine president, who assumed office in June, indicated he was committed to the U.S.-Philippine military and trade alliance.

But more recently, Duterte has begun to forge closer ties with China despite a decision in July by an international Law of the Sea tribunal that ruled in the Philippines’ favor against China’s control of certain sea lanes close to the island nation — a conflict Russell warned could have led to a war between Manilla and Beijing.

China has rejected the international court’s ruling.

On a recent trip to China, Duterte reportedly forged a $13 billion economic deal with Beijing, calling it the “springtime of our relationship” with China. The apparent shift away from the U.S. and toward the communist nation has caused alarm in some diplomatic circles in the U.S.

But Russell urged calm.

“There’s clearly increased dialogue” between China and the Philippines, Russell said. “In principle that’s a good thing. … As long as that dialogue is … consistent with international law.”

“There’s a lot of noise and stray voltage in the media,” he added. “But ultimately the decisions about the alliance operationally are going to be taken in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Legendary Russian arms maker unveils new combat rifle

The Russian maker of the AK-47 unveiled a new rifle on Aug. 20, 2018, called the AK-308, which it is expected to demonstrate at the Army-2018 Forum on Aug. 21, 2018.

“The weapon is based on the AK103 submachine gun for the cartridge 7.62×51 mm with elements and components of the AK-12 automatic machine,” Kalashnikov Concern said in a press statement on Aug. 20, 2018.

“At the moment, preparations are under way for preliminary testing of weapons,” Kalashnikov added.


The AK-308 weighs about 9 1/2 pounds with an empty 20-round magazine, Kalashnikov said. The gun also has a dioptric sight and foldable stock.

At this point, it’s unclear whether the Russian military will field the new AK-308, but it certainly seems like a possibility.

In January 2018, the Russian military announced it would replace its standard issue AK-74M rifles with AK-12 and AK-15 rifles.

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AK-15 rifle.

(Kalashnikov photo)

The AK-74M fires a 5.45×39 mm round, has a 30-round magazine, and weighs about 8.6 pounds when fully loaded.

On the other hand, the AK-12 shoots a 5.45×39 mm caliber round, and the AK-15 shoots a 7.62×39 mm round, according to Kalashnikov. Each of those two weapons with an empty 30-round magazine weigh about 7.7 pounds.

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

Articles

US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

The Trump administration announced May 9 it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.


The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

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ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Also read: Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

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The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.

The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.

Related: Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

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