A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who walked off his post in Afghanistan and triggered a search that wounded some of his comrades, will serve no prison time, a military judge ruled Nov. 3 at the end of the politically divisive case that stirred debate during the president campaign.
The charges centered on a decision by one soldier that affected many other lives. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, until President Barack Obama traded Taliban prisoners to bring him back. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump called for Bergdahl to face stiff punishment. He could have received up to life in prison.
The judge also gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, reduced his rank to private and ordered him to forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months. The judge made no other comments.
In court, Bergdahl appeared tense, grimaced and clenched his jaw. His attorneys put their arms around him and one patted him on the back.
He pleaded guilty last month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The judge had wide leeway in deciding the sentence because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his punishment.
Prosecutors had sought a stiff penalty because of wounds suffered by service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009.
The defense sought to counter that evidence with testimony about Bergdahl’s suffering as a captive, his contributions to military intelligence and survival training and his mental health problems. The argument for leniency also cited harsh campaign-trail criticism by Trump.
The White House said it had no comment on the sentence and referred back to a statement from several weeks ago that said Trump expects everyone in the military justice system “to exercise their independent professional judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations.”
A punitive discharge deprives Bergdahl of most or all his veterans’ benefits.
Capt. Nina Banks, a defense attorney, said it would not be justice to rescue Bergdahl from the Taliban “only to place him in a cell” now.
During the multi-day sentencing hearing, Bergdahl testified that he was sorry for the wounds suffered by searchers. He also described brutal beatings by his captors, illness brought on by squalid conditions and maddening periods of isolation.
A psychiatrist testified that his decision to leave his post was influenced by a schizophrenia-like condition called schizotypal personality disorder that made it hard to understand the consequences of his actions, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder brought on partly by a difficult childhood.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 14 years in prison.
Bergdahl “does not have a monopoly on suffering as a result of his choices,” Maj. Justin Oshana said.
The sergeant already has a job offer from an animal sanctuary, and a military official who helps design survival training said he would like to use Bergdahl as a part of lectures to service members on how to survive captivity.
The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. He has been stationed at a military installation in San Antonio.
At the time of Bergdahl’s release, Obama said the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield. Republicans roundly criticized Obama, and Trump went further while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a traitor who deserved serious punishment.
We don’t like being called “medics” — if we wanted that title we would have joined the Army (shots fired).
With all that said, the military is known for its rivalry as each branch’s medical department wants to be defined as being the most dominant force. Although there will never be a clear winner, competing for the title is the fun part.
We could brag all day about having the most Medal of Honor recipients, but that just wouldn’t be dignified. So here’s proof that the rate of Hospital Corpsman is the sh*t. Come at me.
Back in the day, we were referred to as Surgeon’s Mates, Apothecary, and Loblolly Boy, among a few others. But it wasn’t until June 17, 1898, when President William McKinley signed an act of Congress that created the Navy Hospital Corps, which allowed enlisted personnel to assist surgeons with the wounded on the battlefield.
It was the Corpsman’s job to keep the irons hot while assisting the doctors with cauterizing patient’s limbs after amputation, as well as keeping buckets of sand at the ready to help the medical staff from slipping on the floor from all those massive bleeds.
Since those days, Corpsmen served right alongside the Marine Corps, fighting and patching them up; and that tradition has carried on through the eras as they continue to earn each others’ respect.
Just some of the different types of Corpsman
With all the many types of Corpsmen out there these days, let’s start from the beginning.
In the modern era, the basic Hospital Corpsman earns the NEC “quad zero” or “0000” rating when they graduate from A-school, and can either head right out to the fleet or get additional orders for more specialized training called “C-schools.”
Some Corpsmen will go on to become laboratory techs, dental techs, or attend one of two the Field Medical Training Battalions.
Also known as field med, this tough training is a few steps down from Marine boot camp and is modified with medical classes catered to performing life-saving interventions in combat.
In field med, Corpsmen learn basic patrolling tactics and infantry maneuvers that will help when they deploy to combat zones with their Marine platoons.
In some cases, Corpsmen can request additional schools if they qualify and decide to re-enlist at the end of their active contracts. Many Corpsmen at the pay grade of E-5 request to attend “Independent Duty Corpsman” or IDC school.
Remember when I told you we were better than Army medics? Here’s what I meant:
After completing training, Independent Duty Corpsmen are allowed to take care of patients, prescribe medications and perform minor surgical procedures without the presence of a medical officer.
No Army enlisted personnel can do that. Write that down.
Unfortunately, with all the valuable training IDC’s go through, when they exit the Navy, they can take the knowledge with them, but the accreditation doesn’t transfer over to the civilian world. Bummer.
It’s official; Corpsmen are not Marines — we’re sailors.
Because most of us have served at one time or another on the Marine side of the house, also known as the “Greenside,” many confuse us with Marines due to our stature and uniform.
The truth is, we don’t mind this because of the brotherly bond we’ve earned. If we’ve taken good care of our Marines, that bond will stretch far beyond our years of military service.
The FMF Corpsman
FMF stands for Fleet Marine Force.
Corpsmen can earn this pin after studying their asses off and answer a sh*t ton of questions about Marine knowledge.
It’s a lot to learn and can take a year to scratch the surface of everything you need to know. In some cases, Corpsmen end up learning more facts about the Marine Corps than Marines.
Plus, if you do receive the honor of getting pinned, it’ll make you look cool in front of your platoon.
It’s also a common practice that you pass down your FMF pin to an up and coming Corpsman who appears to have a promising career.
There are three different types of FMF pins and they all look the same. The Marine Air Wing, Logistic Group, and Division (infantry) all have different knowledge the Corpsman is tested on to earn the plaque.
The Division pin tends to be harder to earn since infantry Corpsmen spend a lot of time in the field without much time to study.
Another impressive aspect of being a Greenside Corpsman is that you’re entitled to wear most of the Marine uniforms except their legendary dress blues — provided you sign a “Page 2” document saying you’ll abide by all Marine Corps regulations.
This includes all uniform inspections and annual exercise tests.
The modified Corpsman dress uniform. That’s badass, Chief — look at the freakin’ stack!
Watch the Corpsman tribute video below, and brothers, stay safe out there. We salute your hard work and dedicated to the Corps.
Old Ironsides touched her native Boston waters once again July 23. A full moon reflected the highest tides of the season as the 219-year-old warship pulled out of a flooded dry dock in Charlestown Navy Yard.
A large crowd gathered around Dry Dock 1 in the Navy Yard, the country’s second-oldest dry dock, built in 1833. After 26 months of heavy restorations, the shiny, restored warship returned to Boston waters in a slow undocking process.
“It went perfectly,” said Historian Margherita M. Desy, an expert on all things Ironsides. “When you plan and you know what you’re doing, it goes on flawlessly, and that’s what we had tonight.”
Desy said through the USS Constitution Museum’s social media pages, thousands of people across the world tuned in to the undocking event.
Those tuning in may have seen the hundreds of spectators cheering and singing patriotic tunes, waiting hours for the grand undocking spectacle. Despite starting a half hour earlier than planned, an illuminated USS Constitution officially crossed the sill (where a modern caisson is usually stationed to block out ocean waters) right on time at 11:30p.m., according to Desy.
Just as the ship began to move, crews had to pause the operation for several minutes as a member of the undocking team was transported for a medical emergency.
The individual was not aboard the ship, but standing in the Navy Yard viewing area when the emergency occurred. Lieutenant Commander Tim Anderson, Executive Officer of the USS Constitution, said the individual was a military member and appeared to be recovering well. The ship continued to slowly move along following the medical response.
Old Ironsides, whose nickname honors the ship’s proud performance in the War of 1812, boasts being the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. The $12-15 million restoration project breathed life into the historic landmark operated by the US Navy and the Naval History Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
Since May 18, 2015, crews have applied much more than elbow grease to the American landmark: besides the removal and replacement of the lower hull’s copper sheathing, crews caulked various planks and the ship’s keel (the bottom-most part of the ship) with coveted white oak timber.
The ship’s bow (or “cutwater”) was inspected and restored, support shoring and scaffolding were installed, and a few other restorative measures were completed to ensure Old Ironsides was capable of hosting an estimated 10 million or so more tourists in the next two decades, when she is likely to be worked upon again.
Organizers said the high tide helps ensure there is enough water to allow the ship to float. The Dry Dock was flooded steadily over several hours as crews inspected the ship to ensure operations flowed smoothly.
And smoothly she sailed, right into Pier 1 East in the Navy Yard, where Old Ironsides will remain for the rest of the summer season.
Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing “Avengers: Infinity War?”
Nobody has time for that.
To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see “Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.
From “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Thor: Ragnarok,” here are the 8 MCU movies you need to catch up on.
(To see where to watch, check this list of where to stream all 18 movies in the MCU.)
Here’s 7 MCU movies to watch before seeing “Infinity War”:
1.”Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
In addition to debuting Captain America, this movie introduces us to the Infinity Stones, setting up the story years before “Infinity War.” The film’s villain, Red Skull, is trying to gain the power of the Tesseract, which contains the blue Space Stone.
2. “The Avengers” (2012)
In “The Avengers,” Loki is working for Thanos. He makes a failed attempt to get the Tesseract and take over Earth. It’s also an introduction to the Avengers team, and Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk. In 2012, this movie felt like the biggest movie of all time, but now it feels so small.
3. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
“Civil War” is important because it divides the team right before “Infinity War.” It’s also essentially an Avengers movie. Captain America and his friends are now on the run from the law because of what happens in this movie, so it will be interesting to see how a team that is so divided sets aside their differences and comes together.
“Civil War” is available to stream on Netflix.
4. “Doctor Strange” (2016)
Doctor Strange will play a pretty prominent role in “Infinity War” since he has the Time Stone, which Thanos needs to achieve his goal of wiping out half the universe. “Doctor Strange” is a really good movie, and it will help you better understand Strange’s complicated and cool powers.
“Doctor Strange” is available to stream on Netflix.
5. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
“Ragnarok” — which is a weird, fun action-comedy that defies all action movie laws in the best way — directly sets up “Infinity War,” so you absolutely have to see it. If you don’t, you’ll be very confused. The film focuses on Thor and Loki’s complicated relationship, which could be important in “Infinity War,” depending on where Loki’s loyalties lie.
6. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
Since Thanos, the primary villain in “Infinity War,” is the father of two Guardians of the Galaxy, these films are worth revisiting to get an idea of how Gamora and Nebula feel about their dad. They don’t like him, but it’s complicated. This dynamic could play a huge role in “Infinity War.”
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is available to stream on Netflix.
7. “Black Panther”
You’ve seen the trailers. There’s clearly a huge battle scene in “Infinity War” that takes place in Wakanda, and it looks like some of the characters from the movie will make an appearance. You’ll have to go to a theater to see “Black Panther,” since the DVD and Blu-ray release isn’t until May 8, 2018, but it’s worth it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.
It wasn’t easy.
But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.
“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.
It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.
Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.
“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I feel like I have a purpose.”
For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.
So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.
And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.
“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”
In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.
“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”
The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.
The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.
For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.
“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”
Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.
“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”
There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”
“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.
“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”
Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.
Author’s note: If you haven’t seen “The Mandalorian” yet, go watch it and come back — spoilers ahead. For the rest of you: this is the way.
The internet has been buzzing about “The Mandalorian,” the “Star Wars” series that follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter (of the same tribe and iconic armor as Boba Fett) who finds a young, force-sensitive creature who looks like a baby Yoda. The series hasn’t just produced a slew of new memes, it’s crushed the ratings on several platforms — IMDB has it at an 8.9, and Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 94 percent on the Tomatometer (with an audience score of 93 percent).
It has all the familiar, nostalgic elements of “Star Wars” — spectacular scenes in space, fun action-adventure, weird creatures, the conflict of good and evil, and, of course, the force. However, “The Mandalorian” also includes a host of cowboy movie tropes, which adds a freshness to the story. It’s not like any old Western we’ve seen — after all, it’s set in space with little alien wizards. It’s also not a repeat of other “Star Wars” stories because it’s basically an old Western set in a fantasy universe.
We can’t publish an article on “The Mandalorian” without showing “the child” at least once.
(Photo courtesy of Disney+)
In order to understand old Western films, we need to understand where they came from. Many of the old Western tropes are American, but some are borrowed from older Japanese cinema. The obvious connection is the Japanese classic “Seven Samurai” being remade into the American cowboy classic “The Magnificent Seven.” While this is the most famous connection between the two genres, it’s not the only one. The music, the stories, the filmmaking techniques — watch any film by Akira Kurosawa and you’ll see elements of the Western left and right.
“The Mandalorian” borrows from both.
It makes sense to begin with the Mandalorian’s religion — his weapons. Our protagonist carries around his handheld blaster and a disintegration rifle (known as a modified Amban Rifle). These are clearly the equivalent of a revolver and a rifle, the cowboy’s typical loadout in most Westerns. Mando generally draws and fires his blaster from the hip, just like the classic Wild West draw. Any bigger weapons brought onto the battlefield are typically large, mounted weapons — the equivalent of the evil antagonist breaking out a Gatling gun mounted to a train or on a tripod. The lasso is another quintessential tool for the cowboy of old Westerns — depicted in “The Mandalorian” by his grappling line. Mando wraps a few enemies up in his “lasso” throughout the story, hog-tying his targets.
Several specific moments also call directly back to the films of the Wild West. For example, the classic “horse whisperer” scene where Mando tames and breaks a blurrg. He is bucked and thrown as the wise, old man watches from the edge of the corral. Finally, our hero mounts the beast and they ride into a few sunsets together.
We mentioned that the Japanese film “Seven Samurai” was the direct inspiration for “The Magnificent Seven” — both films feature bandits who are hell bent on raiding a village, forcing the townspeople to enlist the help of some elite warriors to train them and defend them against the next onslaught. Sound familiar? This same story played out in a chapter of “The Mandalorian” with some unique, sci-fi twists — we don’t remember an AT-ST in “Seven Samurai.”
The comparisons are obvious.
(Photo courtesy of Disney+.)
On top of congruent storylines, one of the most significant ways that Japanese cinema inspired old Westerns was with its music; “Star Wars” also features some of the most iconic music in film history. Ludwig Goransson’s score of “The Mandalorian” fuses the two by combining elements from old Westerns (and perhaps old Japanese films) like the heavy beating of drums with “primitive” sounding percussion, bizarre flutes, and interesting stringed instruments. The hollow melody of the main title would be just as at home if it was played over a lone gunslinger in the Wild West, riding off to save a small town from nefarious bandits. The score cloaks the Mandalorian himself in a shroud of mystery.
Start with some old Japanese film score elements, mix in a bit of Ennio Morricone, then top it off with heavy sprinkles of classic “Star Wars” sweeping scores — and you’ve got yourself a soundtrack fit for the halls of Mandalore.
“The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” (left), and “The Mandalorian.”
(Photos courtesy of United Artists and Disney+.)
The setting and wardrobe also highlight the connection of this magical, dystopian science-fiction narrative to the Wild West. Most of the events in “The Mandalorian” are set in barren places — not on the lavish planet of Naboo or the bustling cities of Coruscant, but out in the lawless desert where guns and criminals abound. And Pedro Pascal (the Mandalorian) sports a cape eerily similar to how Clint Eastwood wears his poncho in classics like “A Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Instead of high-tech visors, many of the inhabitants of these barren locations wear old-school goggles, and they wear their blasters low on their hip just like the cowboys we know from the Old West. The Mandalorian even keeps rounds strung across his chest — one wouldn’t expect the need for that in a science-fiction universe, but it all falls in line with the classic Western aesthetic.
A lot of old Westerns are films about rugged individualism. They follow rough characters who have to navigate their way through an even rougher world. The protagonist then finds at least one redeeming aspect about the unforgiving, desolate landscape on which they fight — something precious among the thorns. Upon that discovery, the cowboy or lawman or mercenary finds that their ability to fight, to be strong, to kill — it all suddenly has meaning — it suddenly turns into the ability to protect a village, a woman, a friend… or a child.
Jon Favreau has taken a beloved franchise and breathed new life into it by fusing it with these classic elements from old Western films, and it’s been a wild success. Audiences around the world have expressed how thrilled they are at this new installment of “Star Wars,” and I, for one, can’t wait for the second season.
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.
My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.
I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.
While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.
It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.
We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.
On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.
He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.
To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.
Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.
The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.
Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.
Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.
It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.
While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.
The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.
I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.
We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.
My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.
We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.
“I don’t know what story you can write about me except that I’m here,” quipped the dapper 78-year-old during an interview in his modest apartment just off the Clemson University campus. Dressed in his typically stylish manner, with dress slacks, a button-up shirt and fine leather shoes, Williams certainly doesn’t look 78 and, as a college sophomore studying computer information systems, doesn’t act 78 either.
But there’s nothing extraordinary about that, he says. He isn’t back in school in his late 70s because of some insatiable zest for life. He just needs a good job.
“Everything I’ve done in life I’ve done late. I’m the only clown in my whole family that didn’t get a degree,” he said. “When they started dying on me I said I’d better get back to school.”
Both of his parents and his only sibling, a younger sister, have passed away, and since he’s fairly new to the Upstate he doesn’t have any close friends in the area.
“Basically, I don’t have anybody,” he said matter-of-factly. “Let’s face it, it’s all up to me now.”
Malcolm Williams, 78, a rising sophomore at Clemson University studying computer systems, in his apartment in Clemson.
Williams has a tendency to downplay his life and didn’t particularly relish telling his story, but as he talks it becomes clear that, despite what he may think, he is quite extraordinary.
Born in 1939 in Highland Park, Michigan, his mother, Esther, was a substitute teacher, and his father, David was a graduate of Columbia University who spent 50 years working at Ford Motor Company.
Because of his father’s position, Williams enjoyed a privileged upbringing and could rely on support from his parents throughout his life. Nevertheless, he joined the Army in 1956 straight out of high school and served in both Korea and Vietnam as a surgical technician and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.”
He experienced the South for the first time when he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for medical training. It was his first time away from Michigan.
“When I got to Fort Sam, I had never seen signs that said ‘Black Only’ or ‘White Only’,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener. I said, ‘Oh mercy this is going to be pure hell and it was.'”
Williams was sent to a Nike missile base in Illinois, and then to Fort Campbell, Tennessee. They gave him the nickname ‘Doc.’ One night he went to a local bar with two dozen soldiers from his company and experienced a scene right out of a movie.
“The guy behind the bar looked right at me and said ‘I don’t serve n——’,” calling him a racial slur, recalled Williams. “The guys in my group said, ‘You ain’t going to serve who?’ They said, ‘Well guess what – if you don’t serve Doc you won’t serve any of us. We all walked out together and never went back.'”
That was his first taste of a brotherhood that would follow him all the way to Clemson.
Williams attends an introduction to sociology class in Brackett Hall.
Williams’ Army career took him all over the country and the world. He was stationed with the 249th Surgical Detachment at a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) in Korea, and then in the U.S. Army 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. All told, he spent six years in the Army caring for soldiers.
He downplays that too, balking at being called a hero, or even a veteran.
“I never saw war,” he said. “I got to Korea after the war, and then I got to Vietnam before the war, so I’m a peacetime veteran.”
His fellow veterans disagree with that assessment.
“The military needs all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs to make it work,” said Sam Wigley, a Marine veteran, Clemson graduate and outreach director for Upstate Warrior Solution, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans in the Upstate area of South Carolina. “I’m sure if Malcolm asked those wounded fellows he was working on if they thought he was an important part of the military and a veteran they would not hesitate to agree.”
Williams got out of the Army in 1962 as a specialist second class and spent the next few years trying to figure out what to do with his life. He describes a definitively 1960s Detroit existence during those years. He tells of dating songwriter Janie Bradford — who wrote “Money, (That’s What I Want)” and several other hits — while he was still in the Army. He said that while he was with her he became something of a fixture at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio.
“Janie and I dated for four years. She had three secretaries at one time at the Motown office and I had to go through all three just to meet her for lunch,” he laughed. They also put him to work. At one point he was enlisted to chauffeur The Supremes to appearances.
“My dad had a convertible Thunderbird and [Motown founder] Berry Gordy would ask me to ride the Supremes around in it. I didn’t like him, but at the time The Supremes were struggling, so I said, ‘I can’t do this all the time, because it’s my father’s car, but I’ll take you around,'” he chuckled.
He landed work as a bartender in the Detroit club scene, where he rubbed elbows with people like Jackie Wilson and Dinah Washington. After that he moved to California for a time (“People are kooky there – I think they get too much sun.”), then returned to Michigan to attend college at Ferris State College in Big Rapids, where he became a charter brother of the school’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter in 1966. He left before graduating when state funding to the school was cut, leaving him without the means to continue.
He spent the next portion of his life as an auditor for technology companies, which kept him moving around the country until an old Army friend convinced him to move to Greenville in 2001. He worked for Columbus Serum Company until the company was sold in 2008.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, he was 68 and unemployed. Retirement was not an option — that’s what old people do. It was time to figure out the next chapter. In the meantime, he found a place in the Brockwood Senior Living center.
“I didn’t like the ‘senior’ part,” he said. “Everybody there was just vegetating.”
Williams knew that he couldn’t become stagnant. He recalls Henry Ford II at his father’s retirement ceremony asking, “Well Dave, what are you going to do now?”
“My dad said ‘I’ll keep at it,'” said Williams. “But he didn’t. He only lived two years after his retirement. It was tragic. He was 72 when he died and he should have had all kinds of years left.”
Williams chats with a student on the way to class. “Apparently I’m an inspiration because of my age,” he told her when she asked why a photographer was following him around.
Already having outlived his father by several years, he enrolled at Greenville Technical College to avoid the same demise.
“I have a Ph.D. in dressing. I can tie a bow tie,” he said. “But I’m tired of just looking like I’m educated, so I enrolled because I want to be educated, not vegetated.”
After several semesters at Greenville Technical College, Williams decided to seek a four-year college degree. He set his sights just down the road on the home of the Tigers. He’d heard nothing but good things about Clemson since moving to South Carolina, so he figured he might as well go for the best.
He applied and, being an honor student at GTC, was immediately accepted. Now his only problem was getting to class. Clemson was an hour-long bus ride away, and that sufficed for a while, but it was exhausting. He needed to move closer, but he hadn’t worked since 2008, so he had no resources to make that happen.
That’s when his brothers-in-arms stepped in. When Wigley and the other administrators of Upstate Warrior Solution found out Williams was in need, they contacted the Clemson Student Veteran Association to help. On a cool and overcast Saturday in January 2018, a squad of Clemson student veterans, strangers until that moment, showed up at Williams’ apartment in Greenville. They loaded his belongings into their cars and moved him to an apartment they had found for him in Clemson. He was one day away from the end of his lease.
Williams with the group of student veterans that moved him into his new apartment.
It was a reminder from his fellow veterans that, even though he might feel alone sometimes, he is not and never will be.
“This is anecdotal evidence of what every veteran knows: that the bond between service members transcends race, gender, generational gaps, political affiliations, military branches and occupations, and even wars,” said Brennan Beck, Clemson’s assistant director for Military and Veteran Engagement, who was one of the vets that helped Williams move that day. “Despite all of our differences, we’re connected by what unites us: our sworn service to defending and serving our country in the U.S. military. That’s the strongest bond.”
Williams said those student veteran Tigers probably kept him from becoming homeless that day. He’d had a few reservations about coming back to the American South, where he first experienced blatant racism, but those fears abated as his fellow vets and the greater Clemson family welcomed him with open arms.
Williams adjusts his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity hat in his apartment in Clemson.
“I did have a few unpleasant thoughts about coming back to the South,” he said. “However, while I have struggled to adapt to university life, Clemson’s administration and its faculty continue to encourage me and treat me with dignity and respect.”
Now, Williams gets up every day and goes to class like very other student and hopes to become a consultant after graduating two years from now at the age of 80.
“I used to say, ‘Oh well I’ve got time,'” he reflected. “Well, you don’t have time. Believe me. You get to be 20, all of a sudden you’re 30, then all of a sudden you’re 40. Hey, time flies. Next year I’ll be 79 and I’m still trying to get an education.”
Williams has taken up studying German in his spare time and likes to recite his favorite quote: Wir werden zu früh alt, schlau zu spä.
“It means ‘We get old too soon, smart too late,'” he said, nodding gently. “Don’t I know it.”
Whether he knows it or not, he’s having an impact on the people around him just by being here.
“He inspires me,” said Ken Robinson, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice and a charter member of Clemson’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. “To hear his story is very encouraging. I was introduced to Malcolm by a graduate student who knew that he was an Alpha and recommended that I meet him. Well, I reached out to Malcolm and I’m very pleased that he’s here. I think it’s really good for his fellow students to interact with him and to learn from his rich experience.”
Williams remains nothing if not pragmatic about what lies ahead for him.
“I’m going to stay with it until I graduate, if I live,” he said, pensively. “When I dress up I want that big Clemson ring on my hand. Dylan Thomas said ‘Don’t go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ That sticks in my mind all the time. If I go out of here I’m going out kicking and screaming, and that’s a fact.”
Making it through selection to serve in one of America’s elite special operations units marks an unusual milestone in a service member’s career. Making the cut serves as the culmination of a lifetime of preparation and hard work, while simultaneously ushering in a new era full of brutal challenges, higher stakes, and even longer days ahead. Becoming a Green Beret is a lot like earning a spot on a professional football team: when everyone is elite, it takes something special to stand out.
Former Green Beret and current Director of Player Development for the Indianapolis Colts Brian Decker knows that, and he’s managed to quantify that something special into a model that improved candidate selection rates by thirty percent in his last Special Forces unit. Now, he’s brought that same model to the NFL.
(Courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
“What Brian did was change the paradigm,” said Col. Glenn Thomas, Decker’s former boss at Fort Bragg. “People get accustomed to looking at things the same way and applying the same solutions to the same problems. Brian challenged our assumptions. He took things that had generally been intangibles and turned them into tangibles.”
Football is, in many ways, analogous for war, with a combination of strategy and brute force playing out in a melee of individual skirmishes with the singular goal of advancing deep into enemy territory. The stakes in a football game are lower than in war, of course, but in the minds and hearts of those playing, themes like sacrifice and commitment are just prevalent between the hash marks as they are on the battlefield.
The thing is, despite the hard metrics both NFL teams and military units have been measuring for decades (using tests to assess things like speed and strength), many would contend that once a person has proven their physical ability to perform at that level, the real elements that dictate success or failure tend to be less tangible. A timed run can’t measure a soldier’s ability to dig deep in a firefight, nor can a series of drills determine if a rookie could handle the incredible pressure of playing at the professional level.
Decker believes there are some things that set elite operators apart in all fields, whether we’re talking combat operations or professional football.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
“One of the things about professional sports, rock climbing, parachuting, jumping from 123,000 feet in space to Earth, they’re all really hard things to do,” Decker explains.
“I think if you remove the sport, specific skills and domain from it, you find that (elite performers) are a lot alike. I think the demands placed upon greatness look a lot alike, regardless of field.”
Roughly half of all first-round draft picks in the NFL wash out of the league, and with so much money riding on these decisions, NFL teams have spent years trying to devise ways to predict a player’s success before they sign the contract. From Decker’s perspective, however, they simply haven’t been measuring the right things.
Teams are taking big financial risks with their draft picks. The entire franchise could be effected by these decisions for years to come.
So Decker set out to quantify the unquantifiable–to find a way to use numerical measurements for seemingly intangible elements of a player’s personality like their drive or desire to succeed, their responses to stress, and their emotional intelligence. If all other things are equal, Decker’s approach states, it’s those qualifiers that will indicate the likelihood of a player’s (or Special Forces candidate’s) success.
The hard part is assigning hard numbers to such things in a uniform way, and while Decker won’t reveal the exact metrics he uses for his assessments, the success his program has been enjoying in the Colts’ locker room seems to speak for itself.
“Every team in the league is doing a lot of work in terms of psychological evaluations, and has been doing it forever and ever,” says Joe Banner, the former Browns CEO who gave Decker his first job in the league in 2014.
“But his approach, and the types of questions he asks, and his ability to synthesize information and get to the right conclusions, that part of it is absolutely groundbreaking. There is nobody in the league doing what he’s doing as effectively.”
Last season the Colts went 10-6, marking a turnaround for the franchise.
Once Decker has met with a prospective player and made his assessments, he always follows the math up with five specific questions meant to steer his line of thinking:
Does this player have a favorable development profile?
Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?
Does he have a good learning and support system?
Is he a character risk, and if so, how do we understand that risk and help this player?
Is he a good fit?
But it takes a lot more than assigning some figures and asking lofty questions. Prior to this season’s draft, Decker interviewed and assessed over 160 players. Next year, he plans to top 300.
“This is a commitment industry,” Decker, who served in the military for 22 years, explains. “That’s another thing I like about football. You can’t just be here for the T-shirt. You gotta give a pound of flesh to do this.”
I am in a scotch and cigar club and occasionally I’ll bake something for the crew. Last week I decided to make stout brownies with a stout frosting. These were such a hit that I was politely told that they had replaced my usual chocolate chip cookies at the top of the favorites list.
For those who are not that familiar with stout beer, stout is a dark beer commonly associated with undertones of coffee or chocolate. The word stout itself was first used in 1677 in the “Egerton Manuscript” and implied a strong beer. You may have heard the term porter which—for much of history was used interchangeably with the word stout—and was used to describe a dark beer. The word porter was first used in 1720 to describe “the thick and strong beverage…consumed by the working class.” Nowadays, in an age of craft breweries, there is a distinction between the two: brewers have come to a consensus that porters are made with malted barley while stouts are brewed with unmalted barley. Historically, stouts were the strongest of beers, 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV) but don’t have to be! Guinness Draught, the world’s best-selling stout is 4.1-4.3% ABV.
This recipe calls for you to reduce the stout (Guinness or any other type of stout) to 2/3 of its original volume. I made these in the morning before work and I thought this wouldn’t take very long but I was late to work that day on account of slowly simmering beer for longer than expected at 7:00am.
one 12 oz bottle stout beer (you could use Guinness, I found Founder’s Breakfast Stout at Grove Market)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s)
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-3 Tablespoons reduced stout (from step 1)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower to medium heat and allow to simmer until reduced down to 2/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.
Place the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt using the microwave on high in 30 second increments, whisking after each, until completely smooth. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 cup of reduced stout until completely combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, and espresso powder. The batter will be thick and shiny. Pour and spread evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes, then test the brownies with a toothpick. Insert it into the center of the pan. If it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and cutting into squares.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the remaining reduced stout, the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.
Taste. If it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled brownies.
Cover and store leftover brownies at room temperature for up to 1 week but if your friends are anything like mine, you won’t have any leftovers.
The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.
Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.