Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

In 2017, two vets went into an active war zone to document testimonies from survivors of the Yazidi genocide begun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in August 2014.


They were lucky to get out alive.

According to the United Nations, “ISIL committed the crime of genocide by seeking to destroy the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, forcible displacement, the transfer of children, and measures intended to prohibit the birth of Yazidi children.”

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Director Andrew Kabbe in the white cowboy hat center. Two American actors sitting on the rock: J. Teddy Garces (left) and Josh Drennen (right)

Navy diver Andrew Kabbe and Air Force pararescueman David Shumock were in the Kurdish region of Iraq working in refugee camps when they were approached by a Yazidi tribal council.

The Yazidi people were desperate to tell their story and they were funding a feature film that depicted the early events of the genocide.

They needed help.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
A testament to the tension in the area, the crew carried food and weapons at all times. (Photo by: J Teddy Garces)

After careful deliberation — and a few false starts — Kabbe and Shumock committed to the project.

Kabbe decided to write and direct the film, while security fell unto Shumock, who had been in the region during the events of 2014 and not only had experience fighting ISIL, but had strong Peshmerga connections that would allow the crew to shoot in what was functionally a red zone.

“Without him we would have been lost,” Kabbe told We Are The Mighty.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
David Shumock keeps a watchful eye on set. (Photo by J. Teddy Garces)

Much of the crew consisted of Yazidi volunteers who had been forced to live in refugee camps, as well as Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Muslims. They came from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the US, England and even Poland. There were three main languages on the set: Kurdish, Farsi and English. Arabic was spoken as well. Two translators were required to communicate to the entire crew.

But the growing need to tell the story of what the Yazidi people continue to endure took over.

And now the film is near completion, but the crew needs help to complete it. Check out their page to learn more about the project and how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to their efforts.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

www.youtube.com

Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it’s like to jump into an NFL stadium with SOCOM Para-Commandos

USAA and the NFL are displaying military appreciation across the league through Salute To Service.


Fox Sports host Jay Glazer interviews SOCOM Para-Commandos as they prep for a jump into Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These professionals train day after day, jump after jump, to perform better as a team and execute with precision.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.


That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.

The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

 

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex. The 146 Airlift Wing was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Technicians perform repairs on a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo bay of a C-130J of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, California, Dec. 9, 2017. The MAFFS units, which are owned by the U.S. Forestry Service, can be loaded and made ready for operations in about three hours. A mixture of water and fire-retardant chemicals is deployed through a nozzle attached to an orange door the replaces the paratroop door on the C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

Also Read: Here’s how the Guard is helping mudslide victims after fires

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

Articles

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. | US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley


In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.

Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.

The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.

He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.

Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.

Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”

The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.

Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.

Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.

Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.

When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.

“This is my decision,” he said.

Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.

Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”

However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.

Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”

Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.

“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.

Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.

The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.

“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.

“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”

The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.

Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.

Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.

By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.

Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.

On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.

The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”

— Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis: For the first time in 70 years, Pentagon will audit defense spending

The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.


Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.

DoD funding process

He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.

“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.

And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”

This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.

“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”

More lethal military

Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”

Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.

“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.

Pentagon reform

After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”

New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.

“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now we know why Kim Jong-un killed his brother

Kim Jong Nam was the heir apparent to the world’s only dynastic Communist regime. His fall from grace came when he was apprehended in Japan trying to get into Disneyland Tokyo. Since then, the son of the late Kim Jong-Il and half-brother to current North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was stripped of his inheritance and eventually exiled, paving the way for Kim Jong-un’s rise to power. Even that came to an end.


Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in a Malaysian airport in 2017, under the guise of a prank, with VX nerve agent. And now we know why – he was informing the CIA.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

The avid gambler was sprayed in the face with the toxic agent and would die after a seizure before he could ever reach the hospital. VX is the most potent of all nerve agents. Colorless and odorless, it will trigger symptoms in seconds if inhaled. It can cause paralysis, convulsions, loss of consciousness, respiratory failure, and death. Kim Jong Nam was dead within minutes of his exposure. Two women approached him on his way home to China and rubbed their hands on his face.

Worst of all, Kim was carrying atropine autoinjectors on his person at the time, an indication that he was expecting such an attack from his younger brother. Reports indicate that Kim Jong Nam had been marked for death for at least five years – since his brother first took power.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012 after the death of Kim Jong-Il.

Now, the Wall Street Journal reports the reason why Kim Jong Nam was doomed to die was his cooperation with the American Central Intelligence Agency. For years, Kim regularly met with agents and contacts in the CIA, though the exact details on the nature of his relationship to the agency are unclear. Since Kim Jong Nam had been exiled from the Hermit Kingdom for more than a decade, what he could tell the CIA about the situation in Pyongyang is not known. The Wall Street Journal added that Kim was likely in contact with intelligence agencies from other countries, especially China’s.

Kim’s purpose for going to Malaysia was to meet with a Korean-American businessman, suspected of being a CIA operative himself, on the resort island of Langkawi. After his killing, members of his family were taken from Macau by North Korean dissident groups and are now in hiding.

Articles

The Army has broken ground on its first national museum to celebrate a history of service

The Marine Corps opened its newest one to great fanfare in Quantico, Virginia, in 2006. The Air Force has had once since around 1950 and the Navy opened one in 1963.


So now, it’s the Army’s turn to get with the times.

Senior officials with the service and supporters recently broke ground on a new National Army Museum to be housed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The museum will be free-of-charge to visitors, and is expected to open in 2019. Plans for the 185,000-square-foot facility include more than 15,000 pieces of art, 30,000 artifacts, documents and images.

It’s the first of its kind for the Army.

“This museum will remind all of us what it means to be a soldier, what it means to serve with incredible sacrifice, with incredible pride,” said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

“And most importantly, this museum is a tribute to those 30 million soldiers who’ve worn this distinguished uniform … and their loved ones who supported them,” he said.

Milley, Army Sec. Eric K. Fanning, other Army leaders, donors, guests and Gold Star families attended the ceremony and groundbreaking  at Fort Belvoir Sept. 14.

The Army’s chief of staff said he believes the museum will offer visitors an experience that can’t be found in history books or online, and that a visit to the museum will enhance for them what they might have learned in school about both the United States and its Army, as well as “the cost and the pain of the sacrifice of war, not in dollars, but in lives.”

The National Army Museum, shown in this conceptual design, will be built at Fort Belvoir, Va., partly with funds from the Army Commemorative Coin Act signed by President Obama. (Photo from U.S. Army) The National Army Museum, shown in this conceptual design, will be built at Fort Belvoir, Va., partly with funds from the Army Commemorative Coin Act signed by President Obama. (Photo from U.S. Army)

In the museum, Army weapons, uniforms, equipment, and even letters written by soldiers at war will help visitors better connect with their Army, Milley said.

The Army, Fanning said, is even older than the nation it defends, and their history has been intertwined now since the beginning.

“We’ve waited 241 years for this moment,” Fanning said of the groundbreaking for the museum. “It’s almost impossible to separate the Army’s story from this nation’s story. In so many ways, the history of the Army is the history of America.”

From the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has borne the greatest share of America’s losses, Fanning said. Fully 85 percent of all Americans who have given their lives in defense of the United States and its interests have done so while serving in the U.S. Army.

Besides fighting the nation’s wars, Fanning said, soldiers have also been pioneers for the United States. He cited as an example the efforts Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Army 2nd Lt. William Clark. Together, the two led a team to explore and map the Western United States — an effort that came to be known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Another example of Army pioneering is the effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help build the nation’s roads, railroads, canals and bridges, Fanning said.

In the 20th century, he said, it would be Army scientists that took America through new frontiers, such as aviation, creating solar cells and the launching of America’s first satellite into space.

Fanning said he’s reminded of the Army’s history and pioneering every day by a framed piece of regimental colors in his office. Those colors, he said, are what remain of the standard carried in the Civil War by the 54th Massachusetts, the Army’s first African-American regiment, he said.

That small piece of flag will be displayed in the National Army Museum, “joining thousands of artifacts that will help tell our shared story,” Fanning said. “The museum will strengthen the bonds between America’s soldiers and America’s communities.”

Retired Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who now serves as the chairman of the Army Historical Foundation Board of Directors, said the museum is meant to “tell the comprehensive story of the Army history as it finally deserves to be told.”

That story, he said, will include all components of the Army, and will also include the story of the Continental Army, which existed even before the birth of the United States.

The museum, he said, will be a “virtual museum, without walls, having connectivity with all of the Army museums.”

Also significant, Sullivan said, is the museum’s location. The site chosen at Fort Belvoir is less than 7 miles from Mount Vernon — the home of the Continental Army’s first commander-in-chief, Gen. George Washington.

Retired Gen. William W. Hartzog, vice chairman of the Army Historical Foundation Board of Directors, said one of the first things visitors will see when they enter the museum is a series of pictures and histories of individual soldiers.

“We are all about soldiers,” Hartzog said.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, attendees were able to hear some of those stories for themselves.

Captain Jason Stumpf of the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for instance, took the stage to talk about his wife, 1st Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf.

“She was doing what she did for a greater good and she always believed this,” he said. She was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

“She only wanted to help and answer the call,” he continued. “Ashley would be the first to stand in the entryway and say she’s not the only one that answered the call. Many before and many after her will do the same thing.”

White-Stumpf’s story will be one of the many relayed to visitors to the new Army museum.

Another story that will be told at the museum is that of now-deceased Staff Sgt. Donald “Dutch” Hoffman, uncle to Brig. Gen. Charles N. Pede, who now serves as the assistant judge advocate general for Military Law and Operations.

Pede said his uncle got the name “Dutch” because he’d been a tough kid growing up on the streets of Erie, Pennsylvania, and was always in trouble or “in Dutch.”

Dutch enlisted at age 17, Pede said, and soon found himself in Korea. During his first firefight, Pede relayed, Dutch had admitted to being scared. Shortly after, he attacked an enemy machine gun position by himself, rescuing wounded soldiers and carrying them to safety. He earned a Silver Star for his actions there.

He’d later be wounded in battle and left for dead, Pede continued. But a “miracle-working” Army doctor brought him back to life.

Finally, now-retired Brig. Gen. Leo Brooks Jr. spoke about his late father, retired Maj. Gen. Leo A. Brooks Sr. When Brooks the senior entered the Army in 1954, his journey was filled with challenges, the junior said, as the Army had only recently become desegregated.

Brooks senior had to earn the respect of others as a leader, his son said. That he became a leader was due to the sacrifices of others before him.

Brooks junior said he and his brother, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who now serves as commander of U.S. Forces Korea, U.N. Command and Combined Forces Command, both looked to their father for guidance — and followed him into the Army.

We “naturally followed in his profession because we could see and feel the nobility of the Army’s core values he instilled,” Brooks junior said.

Today, the Army is the only military service without its own national museum. The National Museum of the United States Army, to be built on 80 acres of land at Fort Belvoir, will remedy that.

Articles

The Air Force is looking for more pilots to fly like the Russians and Chinese

Air-to-air dogfights have been lacking in recent years.


In one sense it is a good thing – it means the United States has been able to take control of the air very quickly. But American pilots still need to be able to practice – and not everyone can get to Red Flag or the Navy’s equivalents.

Recently the Air Force has been using Northrop T-38 Talons to help alleviate the problem. The T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer that served as the basis for the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” and the F-5E/F Tiger. The F-5s were light, day-time fighters that were very maneuverable, and they have served as Navy and Marine Corps aggressors for the long time.

The Air Force has been using T-38s to supplement F-16s at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Aggressor training, developed after the Ault Report showed shortcomings in naval aviation, has helped keep American airmen good, and emerged in the late stages of the Vietnam War. The famous “Top Gun” school, in particular, had a marked effect, sending kill ratios skyrocketing to over 13:1.

Many of the aggressor pilots are currently members of the military, but according to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, that is changing as the Air Force seeks to hire contractors. Part of the reason has been an ongoing pilot shortage.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter was used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

The other reason is that some of the private companies can offer planes beyond the T-38 for these missions. A 2016 report from DefenseOne.com noted that one company has a mix of F-21 Kfirs, A-4 Skyhawks, Hawker Hunters, and L-39 Albatross jets. Among the companies getting into the mix is Textron, which makes the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

The final reason. though, maybe the most important.

That is because turning the aggressor training over to contractors could make them even tougher opponents for Air Force and Navy pilots. While many an Air Force pilot has non-flying billets at various points in their career, contractors will be able to just keep flying and dogfighting. This will make the military pilots they face off against sweat more, but it may prove the wisdom behind one old saying: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists want to give you artificial, robot muscles

Remember that LS3 Mule robot the Marines tested but then decided against deploying because it was just too noisy for use on the frontlines? That was sort of crazy, right? But Army researchers are doing a large amount of work to make quiet, robotic muscles to reinforce soldiers, exoskeletons, and robots of the future.


LS3 Robotic Pack Mule Field Testing by US Military

www.youtube.com


It might sound sort of odd that the servos on a robot could be too noisy for the place where mortars and machine guns are fired. But Marines and soldiers try to stay quiet and stealthy until the fight starts. Then they start firing, and it’s fine to be super noisy. But a new problem pops up, then: you don’t want any systems to run out of power in the middle of a firefight. And firefights are some of the worst times to change out batteries. You need to be efficient.

But those two problems with the Legged Squad Support System, as the robot program was officially known, could be fixed with one—albeit major—breakthrough. Humans can move without any sound of motors and can go for days or even weeks when necessary with little new energy input. All it takes is muscles instead of motors.

And muscles can use chemical fuels much more efficiently than most motors and other machines. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories, enough to propel a fit human 912 miles on the bicycle or 260 miles running.

Muscles are very efficient both in terms of energy consumed and weight. That makes them very attractive to engineers, especially ones that need to make stealthy machines.

And scientists are working on that. So, yeah, welcome to the future.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

A graphic shows how proteins are structured.

(U.S. Army-Shutterstock)

The Army Research Laboratory has recently highlighted two related tracks that scientists are currently moving down. One group of researchers is focusing on a much better understanding of how human muscles work, and other scientists just enjoyed a 10-day visit from a professor who helped them understand how polymer, or plastic, strands can be made to coil and uncoil like a muscle, to function like a muscle.

So, the first group is seeking to reverse engineer biological muscles, and that second group is basically studying ways of making plastic muscles.

BTW, if that first group sounds like a bunch of flunkies, “How do they not know how muscles work? I eat carbohydrates and proteins, and I get bigger muscles. Not complicated,” then realize that none of us know how muscles really work on a micro level, the level needed to really engineer a muscle. One of the researchers put it well. Dean Culver said:

These widely accepted muscle contraction models are akin to a black-box understanding of a car engine. More gas, more power. It weighs this much and takes up this much space. Combustion is involved. But, you can’t design a car engine with that kind of surface-level information. You need to understand how the pistons work, and how finely injection needs to be tuned. That’s a component-level understanding of the engine. We dive into the component-level mechanics of the built-up protein system and show the design and control value of living functionality as well as a clearer understanding of design parameters that would be key to synthetically reproducing such living functionality.

Both the projects would result in chemically powered muscles. One group would just create the muscle “fibers” out of plastic instead of proteins. Either way, future warriors could use the extra muscles from the scientists.

But the science is still in the nascent stages, so the real muscle suits probably won’t be available until you need them more for getting around the retirement home than the battlefield.

Until then, you can always get a sweet Halloween muscle suit instead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

The US dispatched the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to a tour of Middle East on April 11, 2018, as tensions between the US, Russia, and Syria reach a boiling point over a pending US strike.

“The strike group, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, USS Normandy (CG-60), several destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), is scheduled to conduct operations in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility,” a US Navy statement read.


Though the specifics of the deployment haven’t been revealed, the presence of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets will pose a massive challenge to Russia and Syria.

Rear Adm. Eugene Black said at the ship’s departure, “We’re ready for any mission, anywhere, any time … The president can send us wherever he wants, with whatever mission he’s got, and we’re ready to go.”

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
USS Harry S. Truman
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)

The US previously used navy destroyers when it struck Syria in April 2017. This time, experts expect the strike to be bigger. Russia has threatened to shoot down US missiles and the ships that fire them, but the US has a massive advantage over Russia’s forces, should they try to fight back.

Once the Truman carrier strike group arrives, “the US will be able to clean up the eastern Mediterranean in a conventional fight any day,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, previously told Business Insider.

Russia, for its part, has not left its navy dormant, and mobilized 11 ships for fear for its safety as the threat of Trump’s strike looms.

The Truman’s strike group should arrive in the region by early May 2018.

In the video below see how the US Navy sailors in Norfolk, Virginia set off the Truman:


Articles

The MOAB hails from Florida, and these folks are proud of it

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — known colloquially as the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs” — was born and raised at Eglin Air Force Base.


On April 6, the enormous weapon was used for the first time in combat, dropped in Afghanistan by an MC-130 from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field. While the Air Force would not confirm if the aircraft was connected to Hurlburt, the bomb’s local roots run deep.

On March 11, 2003, the Air Research Laboratory at Eglin performed the first test detonation of a 21,000-pound MOAB over Range B-70 north of Wynnhaven Beach, Florida. Residents reported feeling shock waves and hearing loud noises miles away from the drop site.

“My dog shook for 15 minutes,” Santa Rosa County resident Stephanie McBride told the Daily News at the time. “The house, a little bit.”

With tensions with Iraq at a fever pitch (the United States would invade that country just nine days later) the military-friendly Emerald Coast embraced the concept — and the name — of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The day of the blast, Nancy Benaquis and Greg Haymore at MannaTee’s Castle in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.,  designed a MOAB T-shirt complete with a mushroom cloud and the words, “We tested the big one!” At $9.98 each, the shirts sold briskly.

“We sold one to a man who told us he worked on the bomb,” Haymore told the Daily News in May 2003.

In 2005, local chef Chris Shrunk created a different kind of MOAB — the “Mother of All Burgers” — and in 2011 local gamers were excited to see the MOAB featured in that year’s version of the “Call of Duty” video game.

Eglin’s Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate developed the massive bomb in less than three months. The Prototype Munition Fabrication Facility produced the precision guided munitions, and the base’s 46th Test Wing tested them.

“What makes Eglin particularly valuable is that it can do research, development, and testing all in one place,” local economist David Goetsch said. “The base was able to turn around that bomb in a very short time frame because they had all three capabilities.”

On May 20, 2004, the 14th (and final) MOAB to be produced was put on display at the Air Force Armament Museum. On April 13, mere hours after the bomb detonated, visitors to the museum gathered around the exhibit to take photos and selfies in front of the famous weapon.

“Bombs, and the scientists and researchers who produce them, are an important part of our community’s economy,” Goetsch added. “Air Force leaders have a bias toward aircraft, but they’re just fancy airliners if they don’t have weapons.”

“At Eglin, we make weapons.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz weighed in on April 13 on the decision to use the MOAB.

“President Trump’s decision to drop the GBU-43 shows his deep commitment to eradicating ISIS worldwide,” said Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Eglin.

“This message was part of his campaign, and eliminating ISIS is critical to the long-term security of the United States. The president’s actions also send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate attacks on our troops — and that those who do so can expect a swift and strong response.”

“As Northwest Floridians, we are proud to train the most lethal warfighters and to test the most advanced weaponry in the world,” Gaetz added. “The president’s decision highlights our military’s need for expanded testing facilities — in particular, the Gulf Test Range south of Eglin Air Force Base.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea wants a powerful carrier full of new F-35s

As tensions between the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea reach a fever pitch, military planners in Seoul are considering turning one of their small Dokdo-class helicopter carriers into an F-35B carrier.


“The military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters” to new South Korean helicopter carrier ships, a military source told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea operates a small but capable navy featuring a single 14,000 ton helicopter carrier known as the ROKs Dokdo. Seoul is planning to build an additional two ships of this type, with the next expected to be ready in 2020.

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film
An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo

The ships can support up to 10 helicopters. For scale, US Nimitz class aircraft carriers displace 100,000 tons and can support around 80 aircraft, both planes and helicopters.

But the F-35’s Marine variant, the F-35B, isn’t a regular plane. It can takeoff almost vertically and also land straight down. With minor adjustments to the already-planned aircraft building — mainly strengthening the runway material to withstand the friction and heat of jet engines landing — South Korea’s small helicopter carriers could become potent F-35B carriers.

South Korea already plans to buy 40 F-35As, the Air Force variant that takes off and lands on runways like a normal plane. The F-35B would be a new addition that would require additional planning and infrastructure.

Also Read: According to a US official, South Korea’s military is ‘among the best in the world’

Should South Korea decide to make the leap into the aircraft-carrier club, they would end up as a potent sea power and with a plane that’s capable of taking down ballistic missile launches. With its advanced sensors and networking ability, the F-35 could provide a massive boost to South Korea’s already impressive naval capabilities.

Additionally, the presence of stealth aircraft in South Korea presents a nightmare scenario for Kim Jong Un, whose country’s rudimentary defenses and radars can’t hope to spot advanced aircraft like the F-35.

The F-35B has excellent stealth characteristics that mean North Korea wouldn’t even know if the planes were overhead.

The US built the F-35 to penetrate the most heavily guarded airspaces on earth and to fool the most advanced anti-aircraft systems for decades to come. Built to counter superpowers like China and Russia, the F-35 could handily overpower anything North Korea could throw at it.

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