This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood - We Are The Mighty
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This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Ellis behind the controls of a U.S. Army Blackhawk. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)


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.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Nate Ellis in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“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.”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

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.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Ellis in action as a director. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“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.”

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Food pantries at VA facilities support Veteran whole health

Food pantries are cropping up at various VA medical centers across the country. VA providers screen patients during clinical assessments for signs of food insecurity. If Veterans are in need, food pantries supply them with a week’s worth of groceries before they leave the medical center.

This screening takes place whether the visit is for inpatient or outpatient services. In some cases, Veterans are connected with an on-site coordinator to explore other available resources.


This food pantry program is making it easier than ever for Veterans to obtain and sustain comprehensive support for their whole health. It also extends VA’s commitment to former service members beyond the point of care and takes into account the environmental contributors to a person’s well-being, known as the social determinants of health. Food security is one example of a social determinant of health. Some others that VA supports for Veterans include education, employment and housing.

Food insecurity is not only about grocery supplies. It’s also about planning, social dynamics and the competing demands that many families face.

“I remember one 32-year-old Veteran who worked at a gas station. You could just tell he was malnourished,” says Mary Julius. Julius is a registered dietitian. She also is the program manager for diabetes self-education and training for the Northeast Ohio VA Health Care System.

Ate his kid’s leftovers

“At first, he denied that he was having trouble, out of pride,” Julius said. “But when I asked him what he ate, he said he was eating whatever was left over from the food he bought his kid. We were able to provide him groceries and instructions.”

The pantry project is a public-private partnership between VA and Feeding America, which has a nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks nationwide. There are 18 sites in operation, and Feeding America collaborates with VA to identify potential sites with the need and capacity for enrolling in this program.

Local facilities work through their VA Voluntary Service to make the arrangements for outside donations. As of January, the program has served more than 710,000 meals to Veterans nationwide, including options that account for dietary and health restrictions, such as diabetes.

Partnerships support Veterans’ health and well-being

This innovative resource is an example of what is possible when VA partners with community resources.

“Offering food on-site, when the Veteran is there for a visit, makes it convenient and safe for the Veteran to receive quality food and explore options to meet future needs,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich. Weistreich is the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) acting director. “These partnerships are essential to the well-being of Veterans and support programs available through VA.”

The OCE team helps build relationships with community and national organizations that support Veterans’ health and well-being.

“When you come into the ER with an open wound, we stitch it up right away,” says Julius. “When you come in and need a bag of food, we can provide that too.”

For more information about OCE and its partnership work, visit https://www.va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/partnerships.asp.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Marine killed in Iraq ‘made sure everybody got in the bunker’

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
The remains of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, Calif., arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 21. | U.S. Air Force photo by Zachary Cacicia


The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.

Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.

Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.

“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”

During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.

“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”

In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.

“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”

Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.

About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.

“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”

MIGHTY FIT

6 of the most important core exercises you’ll ever do

When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.

The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.

Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.

Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.

Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.


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The “dead bug”

The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.

Don’t allow that to happen.

Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.

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Scissor kicks

This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.

This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.

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Russian twists

Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.

And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.

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Alternating heel touches

We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.

You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAutegDqdI

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V-ups

Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.

As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.

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Two-point planks

Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.

We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.

Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This convoy system staffed mostly by African Americans kept the invasion of Europe rolling

The night is dark and cold in the French countryside. The sky is moonless and your headlights are dimmed to hide you from enemy planes. You’ve never driven this route before, but the troops at the front desperately need the supplies you’re carrying, so you hurtle down the bumpy dirt road at 60 mph in your 2.5-ton truck. As the sounds of battle ahead grow louder, you realize you’re nearing your destination; and greater danger.

Overhead, the thunderous roar of airplane engines add to the cacophony of gunfire. You pray that the planes are friendly and that you won’t be strafed or bombed, and drive on into the night.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg/310px-Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg

Red Ball Express trucks move through a Regulating Point (U.S. Army photo)

To streamline the flow of supplies, two one-way routes were utilized between the port at Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres, near Paris. The northern route brought supplies to the front while the southern route was used by returning trucks. These roads were closed to civilian vehicles and both the trucks and the route were marked with red balls. Outside of the designated route, the red balls also gave the trucks priority on regular roads.

THE RED BALL EXPRESS (61 K)

An MP waves on a Red Ball Express convoy next to a sign marking the route (Photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

At the height of its operation, the Red Ball Express consisted of 5,958 vehicles carrying about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. In order to staff this massive logistical effort, soldiers were drawn from other support units and trained as long-haul drivers. For some, it was their first experience behind the wheel. A majority of these men came from the Quartermaster Corps and 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African-American.

African American members of the World War II Red Ball Express repair a 2.5-ton truck while a crewman at a machine gun keeps watch for the enemy. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

Soldiers of the Red Ball Express make quick repairs to their deuce-and-a-half truck (U.S. Army photo)

One such driver was James Rookard who was just a teenager when he was assigned as a Red Ball Express driver. “I’ve driven when I couldn’t hardly see, just by instinct. You sort of feel the road,” Rookard recalled. “There were dead bodies and dead horses on the highways after bombs dropped. I was scared, but I did my job, hoping for the best.” In the midst of all the danger, Rookard and other drivers endured a 54-hour long round trip to the front and back with very little rest between trips.

James Rookard, 84, of Maple Heights, flanked by a display case of medals and mementos from his service as a truck driver during World War II, remembers the grueling pace of the Red Ball Express as a great experience but hopes

Rookard with a display case of his medals and mementos from the war (Photo by Brian Albrecht)

To increase their efficiency, drivers often removed the governors from their carburetors which normally restricted their speed to 56 mph. Some drivers even learned to switch seats with their relief driver on the move. “When General Patton said for you to be there, you were there if you had to drive all night,” Rookard attested. The drivers of the Red Ball Express had an important job to do and they got it done.

Members of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston. John Houston is the father of the late singer/actress Whitney Houston, and runs a company created by her. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)Soldiers of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston, father of late singer/actress Whitney Houston (Photo from U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

Their exemplary performance drew the attention and respect of Allied commanders. “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Patton his supplies,” one British brigade commander wrote. Even Hollywood took notice, and in 1952, the film Red Ball Express was released. However, the film was not without controversy.

Poster of the movie Red Ball Express.jpg

Promotional poster for the film (Universal Pictures)

During production, the Department of Defense sent a letter to director Budd Boetticher and Universal insisting that the presentation of race relations be modified and “that the positive angle be emphasized.” Boetticher was displeased with the interference.

In 1979, Boetticher explained, “The Army wouldn’t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didn’t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, they’d save Patton and his tanks.”

A truck driver fills a tire with air along the Red Ball Express highway during World War II. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

A soldier fills a tire with air alongside the Red Ball Express highway (Photo from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

By November 1944, the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were open and enough French rail lines were repaired that the Red Ball Express was no longer required. After shifting 412,193 tons of supplies, the Red Ball Express was shut down on November 16, 1944.

The men of the Red Ball Express were given an enormous task. Only through their enthusiasm, determination, and many sleepless nights were they able to bring their comrades at the front what they needed to fight. The next time you watch Patton, remember the brave men who brought him the supplies to keep his tanks rolling. After all, bullets don’t fly without supply.


MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD aids victims of violence in South America, Yemen

Progress is being made to assist civilians in several parts of the world, including in Colombia and Yemen, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is now docked in Colombia as part of an 11-week voyage to ports of call that have so far included Peru and Ecuador, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing on Nov. 21, 2018.

Thus far, 14,500 people have been treated by a team of doctors and other health providers aboard the ship from 10 partner nations, he said, adding that it’s an international mission.


Colombia, in particular, needs the aid because there are over a million refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis and violence in neighboring Venezuela, Mattis said. Other countries such as Brazil, have also taken in a number of refugees.

Mattis said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “creating a refugee crisis of enormous proportions for our friends and partners … and destabilizing neighboring nations.”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Fighting in Yemen

Meanwhile in Yemen, progress is being made to end the fighting, Mattis said. In recent days, the level of fighting has decreased considerably.

Peace talks will take place in Sweden in early December 2018, with representatives present from the Houthi rebel side; the government of Yemen, under the leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; and Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy.

Mattis credited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for being “fully onboard” with this effort.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are providing relief supplies to feed about 10 million Yemenis for a 30-day period. The aid will be distributed by local and international nongovernmental organizations. This is just the initial effort, he added.

The Saudis also approved moving wounded Houthi rebels to hospitals for treatment.

In Afghanistan, the Saudis, assisted by the UAE, Qatar and others are also working to get reconciliation talks going with the government and the Taliban, he added.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Navy warship just rescued a sinking luxury yacht

The Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) assisted a distressed vessel in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California April 20, 2018.

The civilian vessel, Mahana, reported it was taking on water at approximately 10:33a.m.

Pearl Harbor, approximately nine nautical miles away from the vessel at the time, coordinated with Coast Guard Sector San Diego and Mission Bay lifeguards during the rescue.


“Both the tradition and law of the sea is that mariners assist other mariners in distress,” said Cmdr. Ben Miller, from Mobile, Alabama, Pearl Harbor’s commanding officer. “As a U.S. Navy warship, we have a highly trained team of damage controlmen and medical specialists that are able to respond to any emergency at sea. Pearl Harbor was in the right place at the right time to assist the Coast Guard.”

The Sailors aboard Pearl Harbor loaded their rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with de-flooding equipment and medical gear, and launched within 10 minutes of receiving the call.

“We had line in hand, our team geared up, and were ready to receive orders from the bridge,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Frank Jimenez, from Miami, Florida. “We had eight members manning the RHIB, including the boat team and the rescue and assistance team that were well trained and prepared for this kind of situation.”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
USS Pearl Harbor
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan)

A Coast Guard Sector San Diego MH-60T helicopter was the first on scene and deployed a search and rescue swimmer to assess the vessel and stabilize the water levels. Coast Guard Sector San Diego requested Pearl Harbor’s response team to stand by for further assistance.

“We grabbed all the necessary equipment, manned the RHIB and lowered the vessel as soon as we could,” said Damage Controlman 3rd Class Quinn Connelly, from Las Vegas. “The Coast Guard was in the process of assisting the vessel when we arrived, so we were standing by for further instruction. They were there with pumps at the ready. We were there as back up.”

The Mission Bay lifeguard vessel escorted Mahana and crew back to shore safely.

Pearl Harbor, part of U.S. 3rd Fleet, is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting routine training operations.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions that promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the Pacific.

For more news from Expeditionary Strike Group 3, visit www.navy.mil/local/esg3/.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!


But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?

Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:

1. Al Qaeda

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Osama bin Laden created al Qaeda, executed the 9/11 attacks, and was killed by U.S. Navy Seals on May 2, 2011.

Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.

Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.

After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.

Today, al Qaeda is still a significant threat across the Middle East and North Africa. Though forced to operate underground, the organization cooperates with other terrorist groups and continues to engage in attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

2. The Taliban

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Two Taliban religious police beating a woman in public because she dared to remove her burqa in public. (Hidden camera footage courtesy of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)

Let’s go back to the Afghan War.

From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country.  In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

During OEF, the Taliban lost governing control of Afghanistan and went into hiding along its borders and Pakistan, but it continues to wage its war against the West and the current Afghan government.

Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.

3. ISIS

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
ISIS continues to defend territory in Iraq and Syria, but inspires or takes credit for global attacks, including the November 2015 attacks in Paris, France, and the May 2017 attacks in Manchester, England.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.

They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.

They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.

In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.

In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.

Today, the United States works with Syrian and Iraqi forces to purge ISIS control from Syria and Iraq.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is spying on the South China Sea like never before

China is fielding a far-reaching reconnaissance system reliant on drones to strengthen its ability to conduct surveillance operations in hard-to-reach areas of the South China Sea, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a report Sept. 10, 2019.

The system, which relies on drones connected to mobile and fixed command-and-control centers by way of a maritime information and communication network, stands to boost Chinese information, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities over what was previously provided by satellites and regional monitoring stations.

The highly maneuverable drones can purportedly provide high-definition images and videos in real time they fly below the clouds, which have, at times, hindered China’s satellite surveillance efforts.


“It is like giving the dynamic surveillance in the South China Sea an ‘all-seeing eye,'” the MNR’s South China Sea Bureau explained. “The surveillance ability has reached a new level.”

The bureau added that the application of the new surveillance system “has greatly enhanced the dynamic monitoring of the South China Sea and extended the surveillance capability of the South China Sea to the high seas.”

The system is currently being used for marine management services, the MNR said vaguely. While the MNR report does not mention a military application, the ministry has been known to work closely with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and there are certain strategic advantages to increased maritime domain awareness.

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Sailors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, a contested waterway also claimed by a number of countries in the region that have, in some cases with the support of the US and others outside the region, pushed back on Chinese assertions of sovereignty.

China has built outposts across the area and fielded various weapons systems to strengthen its position. At the same time, it has bolstered its surveillance capabilities.

“The drones have obvious use to improve awareness both of what is on the sea and what is in the air,” Peter Dutton, a retired US Navy officer and a professor at the US Naval War College, wrote on Twitter.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that Chinese surveillance upgrades could help China should it decide to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone in the region, something Dutton suggested as well.

China is also developing the Hainan satellite constellation, which will be able to provide real-time monitoring of the South China Sea with the help of two hyperspectral satellites, two radar satellites, and six optical satellites. The constellation should be completed in two years, according to the South China Morning Post.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military astronauts look forward to ISS mission

A month after a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a two-person crew failed in midair, an Army astronaut slated to head into space remains confident in her crew’s upcoming launch.

Lt. Col. Anne McClain, who is part of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s small astronaut detachment, is currently in Star City, Russia, in preparation for a Dec. 3, 2018 launch of another Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station.


“I am so happy that I’m going to have six months in space,” McClain said Nov. 9, 2018, during a teleconference press briefing. “We’re not just going to space to visit, we’re going to go there to live.”

McClain joined the NASA’s human spaceflight program after being selected to the program in 2013, along with another soldier, Col. Drew Morgan. His space mission is slated for July 2019.

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Then-Maj. Anne McClain, an active-duty Army astronaut, looks out of a mock cupola, a multi-windowed observatory attached to the International Space Station, as she simulates bringing in a cargo load in space with the station’s robotic arm during training at Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

If her launch goes as planned, she will be the first active-duty Army officer to be in space since 2010. Her three-person crew is expected to launch from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft and rocket.

“Feeling the thrust of the rocket is going to be something that I am really looking forward to,” she said. “It is going to be a completely new experience.”

McClain, 39, of Spokane, Washington, will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 58/59.

Once in orbit, the West Point graduate said about half of her crew’s time will be spent on maintaining the space station.

The station is also a laboratory with more than 250 experiments, which McClain and others will help oversee. She will even participate in some of the experiments, including one that evaluates how human bones are regenerated in a microgravity setting.

“That will be an interesting one to see the results of,” she said, adding many astronauts suffer from bone loss since they use less weight during extended spaceflight.

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Mark Vande Hei, a retired Army colonel, trains inside NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory pool near Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Preparing to go into space has been a difficult challenge that the former rugby player has tackled over the past year and a half. During that time, McClain has conducted specialized training from learning how to do spacewalks, station maintenance, robotic operations, and even speaking the Russian language.

“Everybody needs to be a jack-of-all-trades,” she said.

In June 2018, she served as a backup astronaut for the crew that is currently at the space station. Now in Russia, McClain and her crew is doing some final training on the Soyuz launch vehicle.

While her crew prepares to lift off on a similar type of rocket that suffered a malfunction Oct. 11, 2018 and triggered an automatic abort, McClain is still not worried.

The Soyuz rocket, she said, has had an amazing track record. Before last October 2018’s incident, the rocket’s previous aborted mission was in 1983.

“I saw that Oct. 11 incident, not as a failure, but as an absolute success,” she said. “What this really proved was that the Russian launch abort system is a really great design and for that reason we have that backup plan.

“Bottom line is that I would have gotten on the Soyuz rocket the next day.”

Her crew also received a debriefing from both astronauts in the aborted mission — Nick Hague and his Russian counterpart, Alexey Ovchinin.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

Then-Maj. Anne McClain, an active-duty Army astronaut, looks out of a mock cupola, a multi-windowed observatory attached to the International Space Station, as she simulates bringing in a cargo load in space with the station’s robotic arm during training at Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Hague, an Air Force colonel, explained to them the forces he felt and saw when the launch abort system kicked in.

“Our whole crew sat down with Nick and got his impressions,” she said. “I think he helped us get ready and we adjusted a few things for our launch.”

She also gave her friend a hug and jokingly told him that the next time they saw each other was supposed to be in space.

“When I gave Nick a hug goodbye before his launch, we kind of said, ‘Hey, the next time we hug it will be on the space station,” she said, smiling. “When I saw him again, I gave him a hug and I said, ‘Hey, we’re not supposed to have gravity right now. But I was happy to see him.”

Because of the recent mishap, believed to be the result of a manufacturing issue with a sensor, McClain’s mission was moved up to December 2018.

“We’re confident that particular issue won’t happen again,” she said. “But the important thing that we’ve learned from all incidents in spaceflight in the past is that you can’t just look at that one part because there’s a billion other parts on that rocket.

“You have to make sure what caused that particular part to fail is not being repeated on other parts. And they’ve absolutely done that.”

Her crew plans to relieve a three-person crew currently at the space station. Based on the life of their vehicle, that crew needs to return by the end of December 2018, she said.

The quicker she can get into space, the better for McClain.

“I’m just excited for the experience,” she said. “What I do hear from many astronauts is that as soon as you look back at the Earth and all of its glory and realize how fragile it is, you’ll never be quite the same. I’m looking forward to those moments.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Beloved Parris Island mascot has passed away

Corporal Legend, a mascot who has served as a Parris Island morale booster since 2011, passed away Sept. 17, according to a release from the depot.


The English Bulldog was found unresponsive and taken to the depot’s veterinary clinic where he was pronounced dead, according to the release. It states a funeral ceremony will be held on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. at the depot’s mascot cemetery.

Cpl. Legend, the depot’s 20th mascot, was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this year and placed on a limited work schedule pending his retirement, according to the release.

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Parris Island’s mascot, Cpl. Legend, salutes. Photo by Sgt. Jennifer Schubert.

“Legend was a very relaxed dog, ” Lance Cpl. Alicia Stull, administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion along with Legend’s caretaker since August 2016, said in the release. “It taught me how to be more patient as a person, since he was a very laid back dog.”

As a moral booster, he participated in the motivational run on family day, the depot’s morning colors ceremony, and graduation, the release states.

Cpt. Legend enlisted in the Marine Corps on Nov. 4, 2011 and graduated from Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as an honor graduate, earning him meritorious private first class. He was preceded by Sgt. Archibald Hummer, who died in September of that year.

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Cpl. Archibald Hummer, depot mascot, gets the upper paw during a grappling session with Staff Sgt. Michelle Baerman, Parris Island, SC, May 24. Photo by Lance Cpl. Francisco Abundes.

“Each time I left my room he would run behind me and look at me like I was never going to come back,” said Stull. “So I always took him with me wherever I went. He was like my baby.”

Opha Mae is set to take over the post as the depot’s first female mascot. She is currently in training with Platoon 4044, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and is scheduled to graduate on Nov. 17, 2017.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Cpl. Legend (left) and his successor, Opha Mae. Photo from Parris Island Facebook.

“She is excited about anything or everything you put in front of her,” said Cpl. Cameron Philips, an administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion. “She is very social and energetic; her people skills are why she will fulfill her new roll excellently.”

Articles

Air Force wife named 2017 ‘Military Spouse of the Year’

Brittany Boccher, the 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year, was named the 2017 AFI Military Spouse of the Year today in a ceremony held in the Hall of Flags at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.


Boccher, who lives with her husband and two children aboard Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, has been a military spouse for 11 years.

The president of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club and a board member for the LRAFB Thrift Store, Boccher has devoted years to her military spouse community. In 2016, she helped raise $20,000 in funds and donations with her fellow board members, increased LRSC participation by 800 percent, and providing backpacks for over 300 military children, and more.

Boccher was key to the passage of Arkansas’ House Bill 1162, a law designed to offer tax relief to military retirees who settle in Arkansas.

She is the founder and director of the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition, a non-profit organization that creates a partnership across Arkansas between other Down Syndrome organizations in order to better advocate for children with the disorder.

Boccher was also advocated for changes to playgrounds and commissaries aboard LRAFB, pressing the installation to make the playgrounds ADA accessible and to secure Caroline Carts for special needs patrons of the commissaries.

In addition to her philanthropic work with military spouses and special needs children, Boccher has her Bachelors Degree in Community Health Education and Kinesiology, a Masters Degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and runs two companies, Brittany Boccher Photography and Mason Chix apparel.

According to her nomination acceptance, Boccher hopes to spend her year as the 2017 AFI Military Spouse of the Year advocating for the Exceptional Family Member Program families and to continue empowering military spouses to success.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MilSpouse and NASA’s last living ‘Hidden Figure,’ Katherine Johnson, dies at 101

NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.


We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW

twitter.com

Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.

According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”

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upload.wikimedia.org

Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.

Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.

Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”

If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”

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NASA photo

Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”

Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.

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live.staticflickr.com

Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.

“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.

Rest in peace, Ms. Johnson.

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