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

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 HISTORY

What it was like to land behind enemy lines in a glider on D-Day

D-Day, June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history. Over 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, but over 15,000 airborne soldiers dropped in behind enemy lines on D-Day. Most parachuted in, but over a thousand landed in Normandy inside gliders made of plywood.

Ninety-seven-year-old Millcreek, Utah, resident John “Jack” Whipple piloted one of the hundreds of gliders to set down in the fields of France on that June morning.


Tow planes delivered Jack and hundreds of other fearless flyers to the air over Northern France. Whipple was behind the controls of an Airspeed Horsa the day of the invasion.

“When we came over Utah Beach we received some ground fire,” said Whipple. “Then we flew over the Germans, and received a lot more fire.”

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

Allied forces used two gliders in the invasion: the Waco CG-4A and the Airspeed Horsa. These were not the modern sail planes of today, but cargo and troop carriers. The CG-4 carried a pilot and co-pilot, 13 soldiers and their equipment, or a jeep and two or three soldiers.

Whipple’s Horsa carried him and co-pilot, a jeep, an anti-tank gun, four soldiers that morning, but the Horsa could also be configured to carry 30 soldiers and their gear. The total weight of a loaded Horsa hovered around 15,000 pounds.

After the tow planes cut the gliders loose, pilots had just moments to find their landing zone.

“The quicker the better,” said Whipple. “They were shooting at us – probably 3 to 4 minutes.”

To make matters worse, reconnaissance photos given to pilots were months old.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Jack Whipple, 1944

“The photos had been taken in January or February and the trees had no leaves,” Whipple recalled. When we got there, the trees were in full leaves and we missed our main check point.”

Losing altitude, Whipple picked a field to land in, but quickly realized it wasn’t big enough. He slammed the glider in to the ground, ripping off the landing gear. He then performed an intentional ground loop, digging one wing into the ground, thus slowing the glider and protecting the fuselage. A maneuver, which all these years later, Whipple points out, was authorized.

“We landed, didn’t hurt anybody or the major equipment,” he said.

At this point, his role shifted.

“Glider pilots did the flying, and right after we landed we became infantry men. Most glider pilots were trained as infantry men, but we couldn’t wear the infantry badge because we weren’t in their unit. We were still in the air corps.” Whipple said.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Troops aboard a Horsa glider

“We landed behind enemy lines. We had about perhaps five or six Horsa gliders. We got together after landing and helped those who were injured. We got attacked that night, but we were able to keep the group together and able to keep the enemy away.”

The airborne assault on German forces was a key part of the allied invasion.

“It made it easier because the Germans then had to fight both sides of a squeeze,” said Whipple, squeezing his hands together. “The people coming on the beach—and the airborne.”

And while hundreds of gliders may not sound like a lot, the gliders provided the airborne units equipment to combat heavy and mechanized infantry, and needed supplies to operate behind enemy lines. Whipple flew two additional combat glider missions—one in Holland and the final one as part of the Rhine Crossing.

After returning from the war, he earned his private pilot license, and flew all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy is looking for a ship that was a hero of the American Revolution

A team of sailors and scientists from the United State, Great Britain and France searched for the wreckage of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard in early September in the frigid waters off the coast of England.


Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, sailors from Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center, sailors from the French Mine Clearance Dive Unit and members from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration embarked on the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) to survey a late 18th or early 19th century-shipwreck in the North Sea.

The site is interesting to researchers since it’s considered a region of the sea where the final battle of John Paul Jones’ famous warship Bonhomme Richard went down. While some evidence from the site suggests the wreck researchers found could be Jones’s ship, other information suggests it sank much later.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Joe Gregory, an able seaman aboard the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), watches as the ship’s workboat is driven alongside Grasp during a magnetometer survey of a shipwreck site. Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command are aboard Grasp conducting a remote sensing survey of a shipwreck that may be that of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard was lost Sept. 23, 1779 following her victory over the much more heavily armed HMS Serapis. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“The site has potential to be from the late 18th to early 19th century,” said George Schwarz, an underwater archaeologist from NHHC. “Although the site has some intriguing features, including a buried wooden hull, well-preserved organic artifacts and large concentrations of concreted iron objects, we also have later material on site such as sections of 19th century iron chain.”

Different Navy units surveyed areas around the shipwreck site using various pieces of equipment. NHHC used a magnetometer towed behind a rigid hull inflatable boat to map possible concentrations of iron along a predetermined grid over the site. NOMWC used unmanned underwater vehicles to survey other areas of the site and MCDU used a towed side scan sonar. MDSU 2 accompanied the mission and provided logistical and small boat support.

“The teams worked well together to collect seafloor and sub-seafloor features in and around the wreck,” said Schwarz. “These new data sets will aid considerably in the interpretation of the site, and we’re looking forward to future collaboration with project partners.”

Both NHHC and NOMWC often had to trade off using the RHI, but MCDU had their own and surveyed the site whenever weather and sea conditions allowed. The many hours they spent out on the water allowed them time to reflect on their mission and their part in it.

Acknowledging Bonhomme Richard was given to Jones and the U.S. Navy by France, one of the participating French scuba divers explained he’s glad to be a part of the survey mission.

The identity of the shipwreck under investigation is currently unknown but future surveys of the site are in the works. In addition to the wreck site surveyed, the teams conducted remote-sensing operations over an additional 2 square nautical miles, expanding the previously surveyed areas.

During the Revolutionary War, the French crown loaned Bonhomme Richard to the United States. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard’s crew was an early example of sailor toughness. The ship and her squadron were ordered to the United Kingdom to cruise for prizes off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England.

About a month into her mission Sept. 23, 1779, she encountered a convoy of merchant ships underway from Flamborough Head, which immediately turned back once they caught sight of Jones and his ships. Jones pursued and around 6:30 p.m. engaged HMS Serapis, which had been covering the retreat. More than three hours later, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious-but mortally wounded. Jones shifted his colors to Serapis, the wounded were transferred over and her riggings were repaired. Bonhomme Richard sank somewhere in the North Sea.

Her logs were not updated in her final hours and so her resting place remains a mystery.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. The command is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is DARPA’s massive push for next-generation AI

The Pentagon’s science and technology research arm is launching a vigorous push into a new level of advanced artificial intelligence, intended to integrate advanced levels of “machine learning,” introduce more “adaptive reasoning” and even help computers determine more subjective phenomena.

It is called the “AI-Next” effort, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to leverage rapid advances in AI to help train data to make computer analysis more reliable for human operators, agency Director Steven Walker recently told a small group of reporters.

DARPA scientists explain the fast-evolving AI-Next effort as improving the ability of AI-oriented technology to provide much more sophisticated “contextual explanatory models.”


While humans will still be needed in many instances, the 3rd Wave can be described as introducing a new ability to not only provide answers and interpretations, but also use “machine learning to reason in context and explain results,” DARPA Deputy Director Peter Highnam said.

In short, the AI-Next initiative, intended to evolve into a 3rd Wave, can explain the reason “why” it reached the conclusion it reached, something which offers a breakthrough level of computer-human interface, he added.

“When we talk about the 3rd wave, we are focused on contextual reasoning and adaptation. It requires less data training,” Highnam said.

This not only makes determinations more reliable but massively increases an ability to make more subjective interpretations by understanding how different words or data sets relate to one another.

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

A computer can only draw from information it has been fed or given, by and large. While it can add seemingly limitless amounts of data almost instantaneously, AI-driven analysis can face challenges if elements of the underlying stored data change for some reason. It is precisely this predicament which the 3rd Wave is intended to address.

“If the underlying data changes then your system was not trained against that,” Highnam explained.

For instance, 3rd wave adaptive reasoning will enable computer algorithms to discern the difference between the use of “principal” and “principle” based on an ability to analyze surrounding words and determine context.

This level of analysis naturally creates much higher levels of reliability and nuance as it can empower humans with a much deeper grasp of the detailed information they might seek.

“That is the future — building enough AI into the machines that they can actually communicate, share data and network at machine speed in real time,” Walker said.

Yet another example of emerging advanced levels of AI would be an ability to organize hours of drone collected video very quickly – and determine moments of relevance for human decision makers. This exponentially increases the speed of human decision making, a factor which could easily determine life or death in combat.

“In a warfighting scenario, humans have to trust it when the computer gives them an answer…through contextual reasoning,” Highnam said.

Given these emerging 3rd Wave advances, making more subjective decisions will increasingly be a realistic element of AI’s functional purview. For this reason and others, DARPA is working closely with the private sector to fortify collaboration with silicon valley and defense industry partners as a way to identify and apply the latest innovations.

DARPA’s 1st, 2nd & 3rd wave of AI

The third wave, described in DARPA materials as bringing “contextual explanatory models” and a much higher level of machine learning, is intended to build upon the 1st and 2nd Waves of DARPA’s previous AI progress.

The 1st Wave, according to available DARPA information, “enables reasoning over narrowly defined problems.” While it does bring certain elements of learning capability, it is described as having a “poor level of certainty.”

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

This points to the principle challenge of AI, namely fostering an ability to generate “trust” or reliability that the process through which it discovers new patterns, finds answers, and compares new data against volumes of historical data is accurate. Given this challenge, certain existing models of AI integration might have trouble adjusting to changing data or determining sufficient context.

The 2nd Wave enables “creating statistical models and training them on big data,” but has minimal reasoning, DARPA materials explain. This means algorithms are able to recognize new information and often place it in a broader context in relation to an existing database.

The 2nd Wave, therefore, can often determine meaning of previously unrecognized words and information by examining context and performing certain levels of interpretation. AI-enabled computer algorithms, during this phase, are able to accurately analyze words and information by placing them in context with surrounding data and concepts.

With this 2nd wave, however, DARPA scientist explain that there can be limitations regarding the reliability of interpretation and an ability to respond to new information in some instances; this can make its determinations less reliable. Highnam explained this as having less of an ability to train existing data when or if new information changes it. Therefore, this Wave is described by DARPA information as having “minimal reasoning.”

Can AI make subjective determinations?

Raytheon, for example, is currently exploring a collaborative research deal with the Navy to explore prognostics, conditioned-based maintenance and training algorithms to perform real-time analytics on otherwise complex problems. It is a 6-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore extensive new AI applications, company developers said.

Raytheon developers were naturally hesitant to specify any particular problems or platforms they are working on with the Navy, but did say they were looking at improved AI to further enable large warfigthing systems, weapons, and networks.

Todd Probert, Raytheon’s Vice President of Mission Support and Modernization, told Warrior Maven in an interview what their effort is working on initiatives which compliment DoD’s current AI push.

“Part of deploying AI is about gaining the confidence to trust the AI if operations change and then break it down even further,” Probert said. “We are training algorithms to do the work of humans.”

Interestingly, the kinds of advances enabled by a 3rd Wave bring the prospect of engineering AI-driven algorithms to interpret subjective nuances. For instance, things like certain philosophical concepts, emotions and psychological nuances influenced by past experience might seem to be the kind of thing computers would not be able to interpret.

While this is of course still true in many ways, as even the most advanced algorithms do not yet parallel human cognition, or emotion, in some respects, AI is increasingly able to make more subjective determinations, Probert said.

Probert explained that advanced AI is able to process certain kinds of intent, emotions, and biases through an ability to gather and organize information related to word selection, voice recognition, patterns of expression, and intonations as a way to discern more subjective phenomena.

Also, if a system has a large enough database, perhaps including prior expressions, writing or information related to new information — it can place new words, expressions and incoming data within a broader, more subjective context, Probert explained.

AI & counterterrorism – Torres AES

Other industry partners are using new levels of AI to fortify counterterrorism investigations and cyber forensics. For example, a US-based global security firm supporting DoD, the US State Dept. and friendly foreign governments, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, employs advanced levels of AI to uncover otherwise obscured or hidden communications among terrorist groups, transnational criminals or other US adversaries.

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

While much of the details of this kind of AI application, company developers say, are naturally not available for security reasons, Torres cyber forensics experts did say advanced algorithms can find associations and “digital footprints” associated with bad actors or enemy activity using newer methods of AI.

As part of its cyber forensics training of US and US-allied counterterrorism forces, Torres prepares cyber warriors and investigators to leverage AI. Torres conducts cyber forensics training of US-allied Argentinian and Paraguayan counterrorism officials who, for instance, often look to crack down on terrorist financial activity in the more loosely-governed “tri-border” area connecting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

“The system that we train builds in AI, yet does not eliminate the human being. AI-enabled algorithms can identify direct and indirect digital relationships among bad actors,” said Jerry Torres, Torres AES CEO.

For instance, AI can use adaptive reasoning to discern relationships between locations, names, email addresses, or bank accounts used by bad actors.

To illustrate some of the effective uses of AI for these kinds of efforts, Torres pointed to a proprietary software called Maltego — used for open-source intelligence analysis and forensics.

“AI can be a great asset in which our defensive cyber systems learn about the attackers by increasing the knowledge base from each attack, and launching intelligent counter attacks to neutralize the attackers, or feign a counter attack to get the attacker to expose itself. AI is critical to countering attackers,” Torres added.

The software uses AI to find relationships across a variety of online entities to include social media, domains, groups, networks, and other areas of investigative relevance.

The growing impact of AI

AI has advanced quickly to unprecedented levels of autonomy and machine learning wherein algorithms are instantly able to assimilate and analyze new patterns and information, provide context, and compare it against vast volumes of data. Many now follow the seemingly countless applications of this throughout military networks, data systems, weapons, and large platforms.

Computer autonomy currently performs procedural functions, organizes information, and brings incredible processing speed designed to enable much faster decision-making and problems solving by humans performing command and control. While AI can proving seemingly infinite amounts of great relevance in short order — or almost instantaneously — human cognition is still required in many instances to integrate less “tangible” variables, solve dynamic problems or make more subjective determinations.

When it comes to current and emerging platforms, there is already much progress in the area of AI; the F-35s “sensor fusion” relies upon early iterations of AI, Navy Ford-Class carriers use greater levels of automation to perform on-board functions and Virginia-Class Block III attack submarines draw upon touch screen fly-by-wire technology to bring more autonomy to undersea navigation.

Other instances include the Army’s current experimentation with IBM’s AI-enabled Watson computer which, among other things, can be used to wirelessly perform real-time analytics on combat relevant maintenance details on Stryker vehicles. In a manner somewhat analogous to this, a firm called C3IOT uses AI-empowered real-time analytics to perform conditioned-based maintenance on Air Force F-16s.

“Despite higher levels of autonomy, in the end a human will make the decision, using computers as partners. We see the future as much less having machines do everything but rather humans and machines working together to fight the next battle,” Highnam explained.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

If 2020’s stay-at-home order told us one thing, it’s how much we rely on entertainers to keep us sane. Music, movies and online entertainment have been our lifeline to the outside world. Many of the celebrities who have kept us amused have also spoken out about the importance of recognizing the achievements of Black Americans — and that includes veterans!


Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!

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

Montel Williams

Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

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

Sunny Anderson

Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

MC Hammer

Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

Ice-T

Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.

Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.

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

Harry Belafonte

Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.

He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

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

Shaggy

Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

Jimi Hendrix

James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

Berry Gordy Jr

American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.

He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
2016 Invictus Opening Ceremony

Morgan Freeman

Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.

After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

James Earl Jones

Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!

These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.

The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.

Articles

The 8 people you can’t avoid at the base gym

Physical Training is part of the military way of life. Every base or post has its fitness center. Sometimes, those facilities allow retirees and even dependents to use the gym and other morale, welfare and recreation services. This sometimes creates an interesting mix of people.


Base gyms are different from civilian gyms for many reasons — from the enlisted personnel working there to the fact that some of the people are working out only because they were ordered to. But clearly there are some distinct characters that every service member runs into when he’s got to pump some iron or burn some miles in the base gym.

1. The Naked Retiree

It must be nice to be retired. Retirees get a good pension and all the fringe benefits of being in the service – including gym access. They definitely deserve it. What does one do with the extra time? Hang out in the locker room naked, of course.

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

And when they need to dry off their unit, they look no further than the hand dryer.

2. “The Serial Farter” aka “Stinky”

It’s not a secret that protein gives people gas. But the rest of us shouldn’t have to lift weights at MOPP 4 because you don’t get enough fiber. Stop crop-dusting your wingmen and try a Lactaid if it bothers your stomach so much.

3. “The Couple Conducting Foreplay”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
(BodyBuilderTime.com)

We get it. You married in AIT or Tech School and you’re so in love you never want to be apart — even when you work out. Can you wipe off the stability ball when you’re finished?

4. “The Grunt”

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

No, not infantry. This is the guy who grunts way too loud at every rep, as if it was sheer heroism that allowed him to pump the 30-pound dumbbell every time. He’s working out and he wants you all to know it.

5. “Mando-PT”

Unlike the previous characters, this is the tragic one: the one who doesn’t want to be there but has to be.

Maybe it’s not his fault he gained some weight. An injury, being a Navy Nuke, or the food in the Charleston, South Carolina, area are all pitfalls that could happen to any one of us.

6. “The Pharmacist”

They take some vitamins, a pre-workout, and some creatine before they even change for their workout. Then they mix a blender bottle full of ULTRA MAXX PUMPZ protein powder. Then they carry around a repurposed gallon jug of water (or worse, multiple bottles) to drink while they bang out some squats.

 

At least supplements have come a long way in the past 30 years.

7. “Boots n’ Utes”

These are the people working out in camo pants, boots, and undershirt instead of regular workout clothes or PT uniforms. Full ruck optional.

8. “The Pork Chop Platoon”

Another bunch of tragic figures, this is the group of people who failed a PT test and now have to be there – as a group – seven days a week.

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

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam war hero Charles Kettles has reportedly passed away

According to reports from the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, the Michigan Heroes Museum, and others, Lt. Col. Charles Kettles — the Vietnam war hero and Army pilot who received the Medal of Honor in 2016 for his resupply and rescue efforts in 1967 — died Jan. 21, 2019, at his home in Michigan.


Charles Kettles, at the time an Army major and flight commander in the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division, led a platoon of UH-1D Huey transport helicopters to resupply soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force near Duc Pho. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire, the White House says.

Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and wounded personnel were loaded on the helicopters to capacity,” the Army said in an official account of his actions. “Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
The satellite image of the Song Tra Cau riverbed, near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. The graphic overlay depicts then-Maj. Charles Kettles flight path during the emergency extraction, May 15, 1967, as part of Operation Malheur.

Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Jan. 9, 1930, Kettles left the Army in 1956 to start a car dealership with his brother, then returned to the ranks in 1963 as the Vietnam war began to heat up. He served two tours in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 1978 as a Lt. Colonel.

According to the Detroit News, the Veterans History Project launched a formal campaign to elevate Kettles’ Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor, with Congress waving the time limit to consider the Army aviator for the MOH.

Kettles earned a host of awards during his career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, an Air Medal with Numeral “27” and the Army Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, the Army says.

Editor’s Note: This piece was original written by Christian Lowe. The story was updated by Team Mighty upon hearing about the Kettles’ passing. Our very best goes out to this hero and those he leaves behind.

Articles

This is why the M320 kicks the M203’s ass

The M203 grenade launcher entered service with the U.S. military in 1969 during Vietnam. It replaced the M79 “Blooper” stand-alone launcher, almost always being used as an under-barrel addition to an assault rifle.


This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Jaggers, rifleman, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV), loads an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at the Infantry Platoon Battle Course as part of a Deployment for Training (DFT), on Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 12, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)

Though it has served faithfully and effectively for over 40 years now and will continue to do so for years to come, the M203 is being phased out of Army service and is being replaced by the new M320 designed and built by Heckler Koch.

For now the Marines are sticking with the 203, though many top infantry advocates in the service want the Corps to replace its current ones with M320s.

The M320 won a competitive bidding process and entered production in 2008 with over 71,000 of the weapons planned for the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were the first to field the weapon operationally.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Spc. Travis Williams, a grenadier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, looks through the the sights of his M320 grenade launcher March 24, during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

While the M203 was capable of operating independently, in practice it is rarely used in standalone configuration. In fact, the old M79 resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a superior option for grenade launcher duties without a rifle.

The break-action blooper (or ‘thumper,’ based on who you ask) was touted as a superior tool for the job when the whole rifle/launcher combo was too heavy or unwieldy, and standalone M203 units were not up to the task or simply unavailable.

The M79 has greater range and better accuracy than the M203. While it has performed admirably since Vietnam, no one has ever claimed that the M203 provided pinpoint accuracy.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The M79, introduced in 1961, is even older than the M203. Much more importantly, it’s not capable of being used as an under-barrel launcher on an M4 or M16 rifle. While stand-alone launchers definitely have their place, the need for a grenadier who is also a rifleman is a crucial one in most cases. A new, better, under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher was needed.

The M320 filled that need. Using the same high-low propulsion system of the M79 and M203 to keep recoil low while firing a heavy 40mm projectile, the M320 has the same range as the M203 while increasing accuracy and coming with a number of improvements over the older model.

One of the most noticeable upgrades over the M203 is the M320’s side-loading mechanism. The barrel swings out for loading, rather than the M203’s forward-sliding pump-like barrel. This allows the use of additional, longer, ammunition, particularly non-lethal rounds. With the weapon’s introduction, the Army is able to move forward with the development of new, high-tech rounds that wouldn’t fit in the M203.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
(Photo from PEO Soldier)

Another obvious feature of the M320 is the folding foregrip. The grip is intended primarily for use when the weapon is used separate from a rifle, but it can also serve as a forward vertical grip when mounted under a barrel. When not needed, the foregrip can be easily folded back and out of the way.

The sights of the M320 are certainly more advanced than those of the M203, and they benefit from being integral to the launcher itself, being mounted on the side of the unit. The M203’s sights were attached separately and had to be re-zeroed every time.

The M320’s leaf sight simply flips up when needed, and the integrated electronic sighting system allows users to dial in the range as determined by laser and tell if they’re on target. This alone makes the M320 easier to field and more accurate in more conditions more of the time. While operating the M79 was an acquired ability and accuracy with the M203 was more art than skill, the M320’s sight helps to make every operator a capable grenadier.

The M320 has a double-action trigger compared to the M203’s single-action unit and has an ambidextrous safety. This allows the operator more control over his weapon, its firing, and better capability to handle a misfire or simple unloading.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M320 Grenade Launcher Module (GLM) at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller/Released)

Despite the M320’s technical advantages over its predecessors, its introduction did not come without some hiccups. All new weapons systems suffer from some teething pains, particularly when introduced during a time of war, and the new grenade launcher was no exception.

While intended to be lighter than the M203, the M320 is actually slightly heavier, weighing in at 3.3 pounds compared to the M203’s 3.0 pounds. While this difference is small, combat troops are already overloaded and every ounce counts.

While the new sight provides significant advantages over the M203’s sight, some troops have complained that it’s a little fragile for hard use in the combat zone. This may be due to the fact that the troops are used to not worrying about an M203 because there was so little to break.

Another complaint is that when used stand-alone with the stock assembly, the buttstock is a little short for many operators.

Finally, the single-point sling attachment of the stand-alone M320 meant that the weapon swung around and was often bouncing in the way, with troops calling for a holster of some sort to use while carrying the launcher unmounted. The Army responded by launching an M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program.

The SEP was a “try-before-you-buy” program that used holsters from three different vendors and issued them to troops for testing and feedback. The holster solution will also address some of the concerns about the fragile sights, since the weapon won’t be bouncing around or getting dragged on the ground when the operator hits the dirt.

A comment found online from a soldier claiming to carry an M320 in Afghanistan says that the launcher is a pain in the ass and swings everywhere, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything else in a firefight.” It’s hard to come up with a better endorsement of the M320 than that.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea posted this ISIS-style video showing a mock missile attack on Guam

Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.


“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”

With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22,  upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.

The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.

The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and  appeared to have subsided.

Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Tensions increased in July after  conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.

On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said  shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.

Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgSOp1LfcXo
MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arizona is pushing to improve veteran employment

Over the last several years, a spotlight has been placed on employment challenges for transitioning service members, veterans, and Guard/Reserve members. Arizona is taking strides to combat these challenges for the 600,000-plus veterans in the state. In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed 2018 as the “Arizona Veteran Career Year.” Much of the state’s effort can be attributed to groundwork laid by the collaborative team efforts of the Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers (ACCVC), the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.


Hal Pittman, director of external communications for Arizona Public Service (APS) and the co-founder of the ACCVC, said the efforts have focused on developing a road map for reducing underemployment, career development and corporate investment in military service members. In 2016, the ACCVC collaborated with Arizona Public Service (APS) and USAA to develop a baseline for addressing these issues, along with providing a pipeline between the community, government agencies and corporations.

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

Nick Caporrimo.

Nick Caporrimo, an Army National Guardsman involved with the ACCVC, says these programs and services are imperative for service members and veterans. Caporrimo began his military career in 2010 while he was searching for employment with companies that understand the needs of service members and their families. In 2011, he accepted an internship with APS, which led to a full-time career. Caporrimo got involved in the VETRN program at APS, an employee program geared toward supporting veteran needs within the company. He said APS supports military and veteran employees and understands specific needs. The company provides differential pay to reservists, job security while away at required training and military-related duties, and recognizes the value of hard and soft skills that service members and veterans offer.

Caporrimo said the ACCVC encourages employers to establish a company culture that values military experience and skills such as leadership, teamwork, loyalty, discipline, professionalism and determination. The council is taking this message to human resources professionals at major companies in Arizona through symposiums and trainings geared toward coordinating communication between the companies and the military. The council encourages employers to establish internships and apprenticeships for active duty military personnel prior to discharge. The council has relationships with more than 20 companies.

In 2017 the ACCVC, APS and the Department of Veterans’ Services hired an epidemiologist to develop and conduct a survey that was distributed state-wide to 5,000 participants to further investigate barriers to employment, as well as underemployment, retention and career advancement for service members and veterans. The ACCVC is analyzing this data to develop a statistically supported baseline to further their efforts to combat and reduce employment challenges.

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

Nick Caporrimo.

One of the programs Caporrimo is excited about is the SkillBridge Program, which was piloted at Luke Air Force Base with more than 400 transitioning military service members each year. Companies involved in this program coordinate with transitioning military service members and their commanders to provide an internship or apprenticeship for the last 180 days of their service to allow the service member to gain access to skills related to the corporate career. Those in the program continue to receive their military pay, which provides stability during the transition as they learn new skills related to their civilian career.

Caporrimo described the critical role the ACCVC and collaborators continue to play in examining private sector employment challenges faced by service members, developing a road map and baseline for best practices to combat these issues, building programs to bridge the gap between the military and private sector, establishing corporate investment in service members, and increasing the availability of careers rather than jobs for service members and veterans.

“The active efforts of the ACCVC has led to vast improvements in many areas related to career retainment and hiring for veterans and service-members in the state of Arizona,” Caporrimo said.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

The Defense Department owes the families of the soldiers lost in Niger and the American people an explanation of what the soldiers were doing in Niger and why it was important, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said October 23rd.


Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the four Special Forces soldiers who were killed and the two who were wounded in the Oct. 4 action, were conducting an important train, advise, and assist mission with Nigerien forces.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Building Capacity of Local Forces

“Our soldiers are operating in Niger to build the capacity of local forces to defeat violent extremism in West Africa,” the general said at a Pentagon news conference. “Their presence is part of a global strategy.”

The soldiers were on patrol with forces from Niger, he said, when a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked. “As we’ve seen many times, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida pose a threat to the United States, the American people and our allies,” Dunford said. “They’re a global threat enabled by the flow of foreign fighters, resources and their narrative.”

Related: This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

The four soldiers — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were training local forces to conduct security in their own country. The four Americans were part of a multinational response to the threat these violent extremists pose.

Fighting ISIS

ISIS seeks to survive in the dark corners of the world where local inhabitants lack the power and expertise to control the violent group, Dunford said. ISIS operates where it can exploit weaknesses in local government and local security forces, he added. Libya, Somalia, West Africa, certain places in Central and Southeast Asia are places where ISIS and like groups choose to operate.

“If you think of those enablers as connective tissue between groups across the globe, our strategy is to cut that tissue, while enabling local security forces to deal with the challenges within their countries and region,” Dunford said.

The United States is working with nations around the world to improve their military capabilities and capacities, Dunford said. U.S. troops, he added, have been working with forces from Niger for 20 years, the general said, training more than 35,000 soldiers from the region to confront the threats of ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

“Today, approximately 800 [U.S.] service members in Niger work as part of an international effort, led by 4,000 French troops, to defeat terrorists in West Africa,” Dunford said.

Dunford related what is known about the Oct. 4 operation in Niger.

“On the 3rd of October, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Task Force accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a civil-military reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near the village of Tongo Tongo,” he said. The village is located a little over 50 miles north of Niamey, and officials expected the chances of meeting an enemy were slight.

Also read: Nigerian Air Force takes out Boko Haram leaders

The next day, Dunford said, the forces began moving back, when they were attacked by approximately 50 enemy using small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and technical vehicles.

“Approximately one hour after taking fire, the team requested support,” he said. “And within minutes the remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. Within an hour, French Mirage jets arrived on station.”

Still later, French attack helicopters arrived on station, and a Niger quick-reaction force arrived.

Firefight

During the firefight, two U.S. soldiers were wounded and evacuated by French aircraft to Niamey, and that was consistent with the casualty evacuation plan that was in place for this particular operation, Dunford said.

Three U.S. soldiers who were killed were evacuated the evening of Oct. 4, Dunford said.

“At that time, Sergeant La David Johnson was still missing,” the general said.

“On the evening of Oct. 6, Sergeant Johnson’s body was found and subsequently evacuated,” he said. “From the time the firefight was initiated until Sergeant Johnson’s body was recovered, French, Nigerien or U.S. forces remained in that area.”

Questions to be Answered

The combat was tough and confused, the chairman said. There are more questions that need to be answered, he added, and that is why U.S. Africa Command appointed a general officer to investigate.

The questions that need answers, he said, include: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did U.S. forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? Was there a premission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? And, How did U.S. forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sergeant Johnson?

And, why didn’t they take time to find and recover Sergeant Johnson? Dunford said.

“We owe the families of the fallen more information, and that’s what the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.

The general said the campaign against violent extremists is making progress, but much more needs to be done.

Inflection Point

“Even with the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, we’re at an inflection point in the global campaign, not an end point,” he said.

The general said he’s hosting the chiefs of defense and representatives from 75 different countries will meet to improve the effectiveness of the military network to defeat terrorism.

“In our discussions over the next day or two, we’ll focus on improving information sharing between nations to detect and defeat attacks before they occur, and to improve the support we provide to nations confronted with violent extremism,” he said. “And that’s exactly what our forces in Niger were doing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the AC-130 Gunship

The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”


The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.

The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.

Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.

The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.

The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.

Development and Design

During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.

The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.

The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
The AC-130 gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Missions in close air support are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.

The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.

Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.

The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.

The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.

The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.

Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
An AC-130W Stinger II fires its weapon over Melrose Air Force Range, N.M., Jan. 10, 2013. The AC-130W is one of the newest aircraft being flown at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.

The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.

There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.

Operation and Deployment

The AC-130 Gunship operational history includes:

  • 1960s/70s – Vietnam/Laos
  • 1983 – Grenada – Operation Urgent Fury
  • 1989 – Panama – Operation Just Cause
  • 1991 – Persian Gulf – Operation Desert Storm
  • 1993 – Somalia – Operation Restore Hope
  • 1995 – Bosnia – Operation Deliberate Force
  • 2001 – Present – Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 2003 – Present – Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
An AC-130U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are used as a countermeasure to heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Air Force units that operate the current fleet of AC-130Us and AC-130Ws include:

AC-130U Spooky – 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida

AC-130W Stinger II – 27th Special Operations Group, Canon Air Force Base, New Mexico

VARIANTS:

AC-130A Spectre (Project Gunship II, Surprise Package, Pave Pronto)

Conversions of C-130As; 19 completed; transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1975, retired in 1995

AC-130E Spectre (Pave Spectre, Pave Aegis)

Conversions of C-130Es; 11 completed; 10 upgraded to AC-130H configuration

AC-130H Spectre

Upgraded AC-130E aircraft; eight completed; last aircraft retired in 2015

AC-130U Spooky

Operational aircraft (active duty USAF); 17 in service

AC-130J Ghostrider

Based on MC-130J; 32 aircraft to be procured to replace AC-130H

AC-130W Stinger II (former MC-130W Dragon Spear)

Conversions of MC-130Ws (active duty USAF)

Also Read: This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Did you know?

– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”

– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.

– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.

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

AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:

Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection

Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.

Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine

Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)

Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)

Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)

Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level

Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling

Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)

Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun

Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)

Deployment date:  1995

Unit cost:  $210 million

Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0

Articles

Drone swarms may help Marines storm beaches

The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.


The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.

Also read: The Marines want robotic boats with mortars for beach assaults

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan | We Are The Mighty

“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”

Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon has recently been touting more technologies for multi-domain battle.

Walsh, like many officials across the Defense Department, emphasized that multi-domain battle is how future wars will evolve — through electronic warfare, cyber attacks and drones. And he said adapting to these concepts is a must in order to match near-peer adversaries.

Marines, for example, are likely to first see the use of drones within the infantry corps.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last month said he wants every Marine grunt squad downrange tocarry an unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance by the end of 2017.

“At the end of next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad had got their own quadcopter,” Neller said. “They’re like 1,000 bucks,” he said last month during the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia.

Walsh on Tuesday accelerated that premise. During a talk with reporters, he said he had been ordered to equip four battalions with small UAS as an experimental measure before the end of the year, but did not specify the system.

From previous experimentation, Walsh said, “Having a small UAS — quadcopter-like UAS — that was an easy one. We’re going to do that. We probably want those across the entire force, but what we want to do, as we see this technology change so rapidly, we’re going to first buy four battalions’ worth, and see how that operates.”

Do Not Sell My Personal Information