Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.
One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.
The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.
Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.
The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.
You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who
Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.
The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.
In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.
There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.
Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.
You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.
“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.
In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’
“And we did,” the CNO said.
Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.
But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.
“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)
The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.
Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.
“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”
The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.
If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).
Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.
To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:
Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”
Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.
Often when service men and women return home from a long military deployment, they can have a sense of feeling lost being back stateside.
Many troops believe they still have plenty of unfinished business “over-there,” extending years down the line after their return. In the interim, they can be found struggling with various forms of depression.
Many veterans seek counseling, but one former Army captain found relief by revisiting the place that caused him so much anxiety — Iraq.
“We all have to ultimately take care of our own healing process and so that’s where I wanted to go back,” Iraq veteran and former Army Capt. Stacy Bare says.
U.S. Army captain, Iraq veteran, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Stacy Bare smiles bright while on his cathartic journey. (Source: Adventure Not War/Screenshot)
In February 2017, Bare, CEO of Combat Flip Flops and Army Ranger Matthew Griffin, and former helicopter pilot Robin Brown embarked on a ski ascent and descent from Mt. Halgurd — the tallest mountain in Iraq — to the hallowed battlegrounds from which Bare once served.
This incredible journey of healing spawned filmmaker Max Lowe to create the compelling documentary Adventure Not War.
This film shows a rarely seen beauty in a location known for devastation. For Bare, it created a stable place for healing wounds that are deeper than those seen on the surface.
Coming out to his military parents was difficult for Julian Woodhouse. It didn’t turn out the way he thought. He tried to suppress his sexuality and with that, any interest in being a fashion designer.
“I not only found myself as a person, but I also rekindled my interest in fashion and design,” he told the New York Times.
That didn’t stop his interest in joining the military, however. Woodhouse is now a 26-year-old Army officer who also has a burgeoning fashion collection.
“I really love being in the military,” he told the Times. “I love serving my country, and I love the life.”
Woodhouse came to New York on leave so he could present his creations during New York Men’s Day, which opened fashion week.
Woodhouse is currently stationed in Korea, where his label Wood House is based. The New York Times’ Guy Trebay described his clothes as having “elements of soft suiting … infused with sensuality, but they are emphatically made for guys.”
“I’m inspired a lot by the design philosophy and aesthetics designers in South Korea are going for,” he said. “I don’t want to push men outside of their comfort zones, but I think they are looking for something a little more directed.”
Hyper-vigilant during his military stint in Iraq, always on the alert that he was in danger of being killed, Steve Kennedy found he could not turn it off.
An Army soldier who had led several teams during his time in Iraq, and won numerous awards, Kennedy uncharacteristically started using alcohol and putting himself in dangerous situations, hoping to get hurt.
Diagnosed with major depression they could not treat, the military gave Kennedy a less than honorable discharge blamed on an absence without leave to attend his wedding. Once out of the service he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to RAND, 20-30% of veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. (Courtesy photo illustration)
Alicia Carson took part in more than 100 missions in less than 300 days with an Army Special Forces unit in Afghanistan, and served in combat on a regular basis. When she returned home, she was found to have PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.
After presenting a physician’s diagnosis, she asked to be excused from National Guard drills. The National Guard then discharged her with a less than honorable discharge because of her absenses.
The two Army veterans filed a federal class-action suit April 17 asking that the Army Discharge Review Board give “liberal consideration” to their PTSD diagnoses as former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel had instructed in 2014.
They are being represented by supervisors and student interns at the Jerone N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School.
Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, members of the Yale Law School team and others held a press conference on the suit at the law school after it was filed with U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton in Bridgeport’ federal court.
Kennedy and Carson are filing on behalf of themselves and more than 50,000 similarly situated former military personnel.
In 2014, only 42% of veterans were enrolled in the VA. (Veterans Affairs photo)
Blumenthal had worked with the former secretary of defense to put in place the Hegel memo to correct discharges that were based on actions tied to brain trauma and PTSD.
“This cause is a matter or justice, plain and simple. …Steve Kennedy has been through hell. The special hell of a bad paper discharge resulting from post-traumatic stress, one of the invisible wounds of war,” the senator said.
He introduced Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran, who was part of a different war but experienced the same bad papers due to actions committed while suffering from PTSD, something that was not even recognized medically in that era.
Monk, however, benefitted from the review board following Hegel’s memo after a lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense.
Blumenthal said the discharges resulted in a stigma for both of them and Carson, as well as a loss of benefits.
Kennedy has since put himself through school and is expected to get his doctorate this year in biophysical chemistry at New York University. With an honorable discharge, he would have been eligible for $75,000 in benefits he never received.
The senator said a lawsuit should not have been necessary to move the review board to do the right thing and follow the law.
“The Department of Defense has failed to provide the relief the law requires,” Blumenthal said.
The Army does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Blumenthal said he has spoken to Secretary of Defense James Mattis about this issue.
“He has been sympathetic, but these men and women are not seeking sympathy. They want real results. …They deserve consistent standards and fair treatment,” he said. Blumethal said they are not seeking any financial renumeration.
Kennedy lives in Fairfield, while Carson lives in Southington. She was not at the press conference.
Carson suffered from severe PTSD-related symptoms, such as nightmares, loss of consciousness, loss of memory, trouble sleeping, irritability, feelings of being dazed and confused, and photosensitivity, a vision problem recognized as a symptom of traumatic brain injury.
Jonathan Petkun, who is among the law students representing Kennedy and Carson, is also a former Marine and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“With this lawsuit, we are asking the Army to live up to its obligations and to fairly adjudicate the discharge upgrade applications of individuals with PTSD,” he said.
Petkun said since 2001, more than 2.5 million military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than half deployed more than once. At the same time, some 20 percent are estimated to be suffering from PTSD or PTSD-related conditions.
“Instead of giving these wounded warriors the treatment they deserve, too often the military kicks them out with less than honorable discharges based on minor infractions, many of which are attributable to their untreated PTSD,” Petkun said.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.
In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”
It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”
“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.
Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.
The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.
Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.
The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.
“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”
On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.
“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.
Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.
A Russian lawmaker said that Su-57 stealth jets will be way cheaper than F-22s and F-35s, according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“The fifth-generation fighter jets are undoubtedly competing with US F-22s and F-35s, but it is considerably cheaper even though it has similar characteristics, while in some aspects, for example, maneuverability, it does better than the US jets,” Vladimir Gutenev, a member of State Duma’s expert panel on the aviation industry, told Sputnik.
Gutenev added that Su-57s will be two and a half times cheaper than F-22s and F-35s, even though the two US aircraft have different price tags and their prices range greatly.
Sputnik reported that F-22s cost 6.2 million and F-35s cost between and 8 million. The Pentagon published a report late last year, however, saying that F-22s cost 3 million, while Lockheed Martin published a report in June 2018 saying that F-35s cost between .3 and 2.4 million (depending on the variant).
Lockheed Martin F-35 “Lightning II”
The Russian lawmaker’s comments came after Moscow ordered a dozen Su-57s, which are expected to be delivered in 2019, Russian media reported.
Gutenev also said Russia gained “additional information” about F-22s and F-35s from the Su-57s deployment to Syria.
“The time our four Su-57 aircraft spent in Syria definitely allowed us to get additional information on this aircraft’s ability to detect [using communications systems] US F-22 and F-35 aircraft which are operating in the same airspace,” Gutenev said, Sputnik reported.
While Russia may have learned “about Western air operations and capabilities in the shared skies over Syria,” Justin Bronk, an expert on aerial combat at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider in early 2018, “that process goes both ways since whatever Russian military aircraft do is done within airspace heavily surveilled by Western assets.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Welcome banner from the 2009 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Since its founding in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle has been held every year with the exception of the three year period between 1939 and 1941; the rally did not take place due to gas rationing in support of the war effort overseas. However, the rally returned in 1942 and has been held every year since.
Here are 5 reasons why Sturgis is nothing short of extraordinary.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is no exception to Sturgis’ longstanding run. On June 16, the mayor of Sturgis announced that the city council had decided to move forward with the 80th Sturgis motorcycle rally. During a Facebook broadcast, he outlined that the rally will include, “modifications that provide for the health and safety of our visitors, and our residents and our town.” Ten days/nights of riding, food and music will take place in Sturgis, South Dakota from August 7-16.
A ride during the 2019 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Historically, attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has averaged around 500,000 people. Official attendance peaked in 2015 at 739,000 for the rally’s 75th anniversary. Billed as the largest motorcycle rally in the world, people come from all across the country to be a part of Sturgis’ famed rally. Many riders make it a family event, towing their motorcycles behind a camper and riding the last few miles into town. Others transport their rides via shipping companies and arrive by plane. In 2005, when the official attendance was 525,250 people, the rally’s director estimated that fewer than half the attendees actually rode there, a testament to just how many people came from far and wide to experience Sturgis.
Rally Headquarters features vendors, rally registration, and city info booths (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
With so many people descending on the small town every year, the city of Sturgis capitalizes on the rally which makes up 95 percent of its annual revenue. In 2011, the city earned nearly 0,000 from the sale of event guides and sponsorships alone. On average, the rally brings in over 0 million to the state of South Dakota annually. While the Lakota Indian tribe has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the rally so close to the sacred Bear Butte religious site, they have also acknowledged the importance of the revenue that the rally brings into the region and the tribes.
(Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a bunch of bikers standing by their bikes in parking lots. Rather, the rally originally focused on motorcycle races and stunts. In 1961, the rally introduced the Hill Climb and Motocross races. Other forms of motorcycle entertainment included intentional board wall crashes and ramp jumps. Over the years, the rally was extended in length from a three day event to its current 10 day length. Entertainment and attractions also expanded to include vendors and live music. The first concert at the Sturgis Rally featured the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Other big names have followed like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Montgomery Gentry, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson. This year, notable bands scheduled to perform include 38 Special, Quiet Riot and Night Ranger.
Panels of the memorial (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
5. Veteran recognition
Regularly attended by veterans, especially Vietnam Vets, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes great pride in recognizing the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces. In 2019, the Sturgis Rally held a Military Appreciation Day presented by the VFW. Activities included a reception to honor a local veteran, entertainment and a flyover by a B-1 Lancer bomber. For 2020, the Sturgis Rally will feature the Remembering Our Fallen photographic war memorial. Highlighting service members killed during the War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos.
If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.
Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.
1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War
Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.
Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.
2. The Finns — Continuation War
As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.
Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread. Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.
3. The Swedes — Ingrian War
Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.
To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.
4. The Poles — Livonian War
Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.
The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.
5. The Central Powers — WWI
During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.
This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.
6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests
And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.
Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.
It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.
We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.
But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:
Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)
So you don’t get complacent
It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.
You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
So you’re prepared for the next real mission
You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.
Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)
So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way
If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.
Train your boots like their life depends on it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)
So you can prepare the next generation
Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.
Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
So you can prepare other countries
If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.
War is just as much a psychological battle as it is physical. If you’re able to convince your enemy that they have no chance of surviving before the first drop of blood is spilled, you’ve already won. No warriors in history have embodied this concept better than the Anausa or, as they’re more commonly known, the Persian Immortals.
Even their very name, “Immortal,” is a part of the mind tricks they played on their enemies. In order to keep up the image of being unkillable, they wore matching uniforms and hastily recovered their dead or wounded, fueling the illusion that none fell in battle. But that barely even scratches the surface of the psychological warfare the Persians employed to conquer 44 percent of all humanity at the height of their power in 480 B.C.
As over-the-top as the rest of the film was, this is an entirely accurate scene. The rest of the movie though? Ehhh…
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
As with many early civilizations, much of the history of Achaemenid Empire (to Empire for which the Immortals fought) has been lost to time. The history we do have comes from the Greek scholar, Herodotus. Though he opposed Persia, he kept detailed battle plans of the Immortals and those that faced them.
One such example happened to make its way into the 2006 film, 300. A Spartan at Thermopylae scoffed at a Persian envoy who said their arrows could “black out the sky” by replying, “then we’ll fight in the shade.” That wasn’t just a boast — that actually happened.
The Immortals were well aware that their arrows were inferior to Spartan steel. So, instead of making them stronger, they made more of them so that every archer could unleash them in one, rapid moment, literally blacking out the sky with arrows.
“Cats! Our only weakness!” – Some Egyptian, probably.
(Ancient History Museum)
Another example of the ferocity of the Immortals was when the Persians defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Pelusium. The Persians knew that the Egyptians were faithful to the Egyptian Goddess of Cats, Bastet. To the Egyptians, any harm done to a cat was considered great sacrilege.
Knowing this, the Persians simply drew cats on their shields and let loose a bunch of cats onto the battlefield. This alone was enough to make many Egyptians immediately surrender. When the other Egyptians manned their catapults, the Persians would let them know that they had cats with them — and that unleashed the artillery could mean killing a few felines.
If the Immortals didn’t have enough time to prepare for an individual opponent, they’d resort to their shock-and-awe cavalry, armed with sagaris, or long axes. The lightweight ax made it easy for Immortals to twirl them over their heads and swing fast enough to make an enemy’s blood splash far enough back to intimidate their foes.
At the Battle of the Granicus in 334 B.C., Alexander II of Macedon was nearly scalped by an Immortal cavalryman named Spithridates. His ax sliced clean straight through Alexander’s helmet and was just millimeters away from being a fatal blow.
After that moment, Alexander swore to the destruction of Persia. He studied their tactics and instructed his men on how to counter their advances. This took away the Persian’s edge in battle, and Alexander, from then on, took on the moniker of “the Great.”
The last major movie of the summer is upon us, and you’re in for a good time and a few surprises with “Hobbs and Shaw.”
The “Fast & Furious” spin-off puts Vin Diesel in the backseat as the Los Angeles lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the former British military elite operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are forced to reluctantly work together to save the world.
What went so wrong that Dominic Toretto couldn’t be called? The two enemies need to save the world from Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba), a cybergenetically enhanced superhuman who, along with an evil global organization, is trying to get his hands on a virus to make more of the human race just like him.
Does the premise seem a bit silly? You bet! But if you’ve been following this franchise since 2001, then you know what you’re in for — fast cars, big action sequences, and a bad guy who needs to be stopped. It’s just another day at the office for the Fast fam.
This is a fun one that feels right at home in the “Fast and Furious” universe.
How much did you want to see a movie with these two after this scene?
(Universal Studios image)
Why you should care: It’s the first ‘Fast & Furious’ spin-off movie, and it features two fan-favorites from the franchise.
This is simple. It’s the Rock/Dwyane Johnson and Jason Statham in a movie. If you saw 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” you’ve been waiting for this team-up since their memorable prison-escape sequence.
According to the film’s production notes, the idea for a spin-off Hobbs film had been floated around since he joined the “Fast” franchise in 2011’s “Fast Five.” The “Deadpool 2” and “John Wick” director David Leitch is in the directing chair for this one, so buckle up for some great fight sequences.
The fate of the world is in these guys’ hands… if they can stop fighting long enough.
(Universal Studios image)
What’s hot: The chemistry of The Rock and Jason Statham, the addition of Vanessa Kirby, some unexpected surprises, and two of the big action sequences.
If you told me years ago that I’d be rooting for Deckard Shaw, the man who killed off one of the most beloved characters in the “Fast” franchise (RIP Han), I’d think you were joking. But here we are. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Johnson and Statham in a movie together made the right call.
You can easily watch Johnson and Statham banter for a full two hours. One of the jokes may get old after its third run-through, but their inability to cooperate for a majority of the film to save the world makes for a fun watch.
One of the biggest delights of “The Fate of the Furious” was seeing the Academy Award winner Helen Mirren join the cast as Shaw’s mother. She had said she really wanted to be a part of the franchise, so it was great to see her in “Hobbs and Shaw,” if only for a bit. You can tell she has so much fun doing these films. Mirren told Entertainment Weekly she wanted to drive in the next “Fast and Furious” film. She’ll be in next year’s ninth film, so here’s to hoping.
Helen Mirren is in “Hobbs and Shaw” and in jail for some unknown reason.
The addition of Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s little sister Hattie is simply great casting. Not only does she look and sound like a young, feisty Helen Mirren, but Hattie is exactly what Johnson and Statham needed to ground their characters so they simply weren’t bickering for over two hours.
Vanessa Kirby is convincing as Helen Mirren’s badass daughter.
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If you felt as if you saw the majority of “Hobbs and Shaw” in the trailers released, that’s relatively true. However, Universal did a great job of leaving two major surprises out of the film I won’t name here. You’ll never guess them, but one of the major additions received the most laughs of the entire movie.
While watching, I couldn’t stop thinking that one or two of the large action sequences would make for a great ride at Universal’s theme parks. Yes, they already have “Fast and Furious” rides at the Hollywood and Orlando, Florida, parks, but two, even three, chase scenes felt immersive enough to make for good additions. You’ll feel as if you’re on a ride yourself.
And pay attention to the music while watching. Elba, who’s also a DJ in real life, also wrote and performed a song that appears in the movie called “Even if I Die (Hobbs Shaw).”
I love Idris Elba, but when did the “Fast and the Furious” become “The Terminator”?
(Universal Studios image)
What’s not: There are some really silly moments, and the entire premise of the movie’s villain starts to take the franchise into the sci-fi genre.
Over the years, the “Fast” franchise has gotten more ridiculous in pushing the limits of where the films can go. If you’re along for the ride, you kind of just go with it. (The seventh film had Dom’s team go after a device called God’s Eye.)
But the villains thought up for “Hobbs and Shaw” make the “Fast” franchise feel as if it’s moving from action genre to sci-fi. And it should probably stick to action.
The bad guys want to genetically enhance and evolve the human race for unspecified reasons I’m guessing we’d learn more about in a sequel. That’s textbook villainy from a superhero movie.
That’s not all. There are a few moments when Idris Elba’s character, Brixton, starts to feel like a “Terminator” villain who just keeps coming back for more.
I guess at some point heist movies and chasing after drug cartels aren’t large-enough stakes when you’re 10 movies into a franchise.
(Universal Studios image)
Brixton is even referred to as such at one point on-screen because his character has been fused with some sort of machine so he can accurately predict others’ hits and movements. As a result, he’s a super soldier who’s more machine than man and appears unstoppable. At another point in the film, he’s called Black Superman.
Then there’s a faceless omniscient machine that’s pulling the strings behind-the-scenes. I’m sure the wizard behind the machine will be revealed to be someone with a grudge against Hobbs or Shaw in an inevitable sequel. But in this film, at least, the machine is a bit over-the-top. Every time its booming voice comes on-screen, it feels as if you’re watching a cheesy superhero film from the early 2000s.
It would all be a lot tougher to swallow if the chemistry between Johnson and Statham weren’t so good. Their wisecracks and fight scenes against Brixton’s goons are good enough to keep you distracted from thinking about how silly the villains are.
Jason Statham fight scenes? Sign me up.
(Universal Studios image)
Other than the villain, the entire third act of the film gets a bit silly when the group abruptly heads to Hobbs’ birth place of Samoa (eagle-eyed viewers will notice that they actually filmed in Hawaii) to enlist his estranged family to take down some high-tech baddies. What about the rest of the Fast fam? Where are they? Shaw only saved Dom’s baby in the previous movie. Surely, they owe him one.
I’ll let the location slide because the Rock himself is from Samoa. Throughout the “Hobbs and Shaw” press tour, he has repeatedly said he wanted to honor his culture on-screen. He even speaks in Samoan in the film. That’s sweet.
But once the Rock meets up with his older brother, Jonah, it’s a little bit tough to take Cliff Curtis seriously as someone who’s related to Hobbs. Curtis is fine in the movie, but he’s given two giant braids of hair to wear for the part. If you’re familiar with the actor from “Fear the Walking Dead,” it’s a jarring look that you never get used to while watching the movie.
It’s not a perfect film, but it has family at its heart. That’s the mainstay of a “Fast and Furious” film.
(Universal Studios image)
The bottom line: The Rock and Jason Statham keep the energy high in this crowd-pleasing spin-off. Expect more from these two.
I say this every time a “Fast and Furious” movie comes out. These aren’t movies that you take too seriously. They’re a good, fun time with explosions, high action, fast cars, faster car chases, and a few good brawls. If that’s what you go in expecting, that’s what Universal delivers with “Hobbs and Shaw.”
Is it a bit silly? Sure. Did I laugh and enjoy watching the Rock and Jason Statham bicker back and forth? Definitely. But most important, the film doesn’t forget its franchise roots. For as ludicrous as some of the film’s plot becomes, family is always at the heart of the spin-off.
If “Hobbs and Shaw” performs well at the box office, and I expect it will, get ready for a whole lot more of Luke, Deckard, and maybe Hattie as well. Make sure to stay until the film’s very end for a few unexpected end-credits scenes.
“Hobbs and Shaw” is in theaters Friday. Watch a trailer for the movie below.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer #2 [HD]