Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Let’s face it, when the Army bought the Stryker, in one sense, they were really just catching up with the Marines, who were making an 8×8 wheeled, armored vehicle work for quite a while. Now, though, the Marines are getting a new system for one variant of their Light Armored Vehicles, the LAV-AT, which will make them even deadlier and easier to maintain.


According to a release by Marine Corps Systems Command, the LAV-ATM project gives this version of the LAV a new turret. The LAV will still be firing the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile.

Don’t be surprised that the TOW is still around – the BGM-71’s latest versions could be lethal against Russia’s Armata main battle tank.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
A Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank Modernization A2 model sits under an awning at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., June 15. The turret atop the LAV-ATM is a Modified Target Acquisition System, MTAS, containing a state of the art rocket launcher designed to be more quickly deployed on target with fewer mechanical parts. The MTAS replaces the more than 30 year old Emerson 901 turret. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight,” said Jim Forkin, Program Manager’s Office LAV-ATM team lead.

“The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn’t have before,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer, PM LAV team, explained.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
A Marine tests the enhanced vision capability—part of an upgrade to the Light Armored Vehicle’s Anti-Tank Weapon System—during new equipment training Sept. 18-29, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command completed its first fielding of four upgraded ATWS in September. (United States Marine Corps photo)

The new LAV also makes maintenance easier with an on-board trouble-shooting system that allows operators and maintenance personnel conduct checks on the systems involved with the vehicle and turret. Learning how to use the new turret takes about one week each for operators and maintainers. The Marines have also acquired 3D computer technology to enhance the training on the new LAV-AT.

But the real benefit of the turret is that “Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better,” according to Chief Warrant Officer Lovell. “We’re providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield.”

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines operate a Light-Armored Vehicle equipped with a new Anti-Tank weapons system to their next objective during testing at range 500 aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 16, 2015. The testing of the new system began Feb. 9 and is scheduled to end March 8. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Enemy tanks will hopefully be unavailable for comment on these enhancements.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why John Wick has to be a Marine vet

John Wick’s backstory has never been explicitly explained in the films or accompanying comic series. Though the third film or prequel TV series may give us more concrete evidence, we’ve been given enough puzzle pieces to confidently say he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.


Given his extreme handiwork with firearms, hand-to-hand combat proficiency, cold demeanor, proper posture, and dispensation of absolute wrath towards anyone who harms the things he loves, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he once was a Marine. No single point is definitive proof but it’s fun to speculate.

Chad Stahelski, the director of the franchise, was asked by Collider in a 2017 interview about John Wick’s backstory. He said that the series isn’t about overloading the audience with dry exposition, but rather shows the audience little things. Stahelski said,

“We’re giving you the pieces and I think it’s always good… Hopefully in five years, you and your buddies will talk about how ‘he’s this or he’s that.’ We’ll give you a couple more pieces and let you stitch it together.”

It’s the minor details that give one troop away to another in the civilian world and, right about now, our veteran radars are going off.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

(Summit Entertainment)

The tattoo

The most obvious indicators of military service are his tattoos. While most point to his faith, the Latin phrase on his shoulders is a dead giveaway.

John’s tattoo reads, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” or “fortune favors the brave” in Latin. This is also a lose translation of the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines — although their spelling is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat.” This is common enough that it’s not conclusive evidence alone, but it’s definitely a starting point.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

(Summit Entertainment)

His watch

Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail almost exclusive to the military community is the style of his watch and how he wears it. It’s got a leather band and he wears it on the inside of the wrist of his non-dominant hand.

War fighters chose not to wear anything reflective as to not give away their position and, by wearing it on the inside of the wrist, it’s easy to keep from breaking. This, however, would also be common among professional hitmen.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

(Summit Entertainment)

His relationship with Marcus

It is strongly hinted at that Marcus was a mentor to John in the past — he taught him everything he knows about firearms and helped bring him into the world of underground wetwork. Given that their age difference isn’t too extreme, it would make sense that Marcus was once his NCO. This would also explain why after John walked out on the life of crime, Marcus was able to stay — because he was there before they both became hitmen.

This theory is also backed up by the film’s color palette. Everything in the film is cold or red — except things dear to John. Take, for example, his wife’s gold bracelet, his dog’s tag, and Marcus’ clothing and home decor. There’s definitely a closeness here; it’s up to us to speculate why.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

(Overkill Software)

Apperance in ‘Payday 2’

This one should be taken with a massive grain of salt because it involves evidence from Payday 2, not the John Wick franchise. He was a community unlock in 2014 and had more DLC added during the second film’s theatrical release.

The game doesn’t hold back on explicitly saying that John was a Marine and was brought into the Payday Gang by a series regular, Chains, who is very open about his prior military service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These high-speed cameras ‘basically stop time’

When people ask Chris Insco what he does, his answer is, “I basically stop time.”

Insco, Yuma Proving Ground’s High-speed Section Chief, goes on to explain, “Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second.”

Watching the video captured by the high-speed section is like a scene of the Matrix movie, you can see each and every twist and turn the projectile makes. These cameras are so rapid you can see sound moving through the air, they can capture a sound wave in a photograph.


“We slow things down for the customer to allow them to see what they cannot see with the naked eye” says Insco.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Capturing the high-speed video for a test at YPG entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Capturing the high-speed video for a test at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup. Weeks before a test the crew talk the test officer (TO) to better understand the needs of the customer. From there the senior technicians plan the logistics, this includes deciding on the type of camera, working with Geodetics for assistance with camera placement and setting up generators to keep the cameras running.

Then comes the networking of the cameras which are ran on a local area network. High-speed technicians work with Network Enterprise Center (NEC) range communication to confirm if the test location on the Cibola or Kofa side of the range has the network capability required to run their computer systems. Depending on the location the high-speed technicians will set up the network other times NEC will set up the network.

The coverage of video depends of the type of test, some of the camera angles include, behind the gun, muzzle exit, and impact. Insco explains, “Sometimes it is gun coverage, sometimes it is impact coverage. With the impact coverage it depends on what the TO wants. We had one test where they had 10 different scenarios. As soon as they fired one we had to pick up all that equipment and move it to another scenario.” Adding “It’s a lot of logistics that our senior technicians learn through experience and time out here.”

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

“Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second” explains High-speed Section Chief, Chris Insco.

(YPG archive highspeed photo)

A test requiring high-speed video coverage can require anywhere from two to nine technicians “One of our largest test, I think we had 20 camera systems on one test.”

One high-speed system popular with the TO is the trajectory tracker, “Those can cover from the end of the muzzle to out to usually it is 100-meters but we have tracked them out to 200-meters at time” explains Insco.

The trajectory tracker uses an algorithm to capture the projectile in motion. The high-speed technician will input coordinates and other information given by the TO into the computer software which controls the tracker and a mirror. When a round is fired, the mirror moves and the camera captures images from the mirror. Using the trajectory tracker is equivalent to using 10 cameras.

Another angle is static and moving impacts, “Target systems sets up a tank that is remote controlled and we actually chase it with pan and tilts that we control from a remote location. We can actually follow the vehicle through that course.”

Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller (lab top) from inside a support test vehicle.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller from inside a support test vehicle. Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead (right) and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician (left) are shown monitoring a test site.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician were recently on a test. They monitored the test site and communicated with the TO via hand-held radios to ensure they captured the firing of the projectile.

Mowery explains, “This is the software that operates the camera, we can adjust our shutter, our resolution, our frame rate, it is also the software that arms the camera. We arm-up about 10 seconds out. When we do arm them up, they run on a loop recording so we will have pre and post frames. We will have 200 frames before and 200 frames after that way if a mishap happens and we have an early trigger we will capture it.”

Mishaps do happen because YPG is a testing center, and Insco says that’s when their video become most important, “We can shoot thousands of mortars a day, and if everything is good we just archive it. But we will have that one where a fuze will pop-off, or the round malfunctions outside of the tube and we capture it on video that’s when the customers get really excited about what we capture.”

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

Articles

This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Tony Nadal fought with Hal Moore (of We Were Soldiers fame) at the Battle of Ia Drang in the Vietnam War. In a stunning new documentary short from the team at AARP, Nadal recalls the first heliborne assault against North Vietnamese Army, the battle he’ll never forget.


“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal says. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”

Over the course of three days, 3,500 U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. Then-Captain Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before an Air Force bombardment could be launched.

“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal recalls. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”

The soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have gathered for the last 22 years at an annual reunion. It’s a way for them all to come together, get to know one another, and heal each other’s invisible wounds.

The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.” The advocacy group AARP went to the National Archives of the United States and pulled 16mm and 35mm film reels. The ran the reels through a 4K scanner and cleaned up the footage to produce this amazing piece (though it is presented in HD here).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US soldiers are patrolling with these awesome pocket-sized spy drones

US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.


Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.

Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.

“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.

The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.

A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.

These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.

The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.

Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.

Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why most people don’t have what it takes to be a fighter pilot

What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.

If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.


Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)

First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.

Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.

Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)

Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.

Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.

Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.

If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.

To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mat Best Has Something to Say…

My first impression is that Mat Best is the kind of guy you want to party with. Or at the very least take a shot with. Whether it’s bikini snaps, whiskey or coffee, you can tell within seconds of meeting Mat that he is all about living life to the fullest. For real.


The former Ranger turned contractor is the internet icon behind Article 15 clothing, Leadslingers Whiskey, and most recently Black Rifle Coffee Company. But that’s just the beginning of Mat’s second act. He’s walking into the WATM office as the author of his newly released memoir, Thank You For My Service, and he has something powerful to say to us all…(spoiler alert).

For the first time, Mat’s taken down some walls and opened himself up in his book in a way that even his business partners have never seen. He’s honest. He’s vulnerable, and even better he’s embraced the awkward. Especially when it comes to the most cliche statement in the history of veterans, “Thank you for your service.” A statement that has been awkward and fallen flat to so many veterans is now Mat’s source of strength.

As we mic up for the interview, I am just beginning to realize that my initial impressions don’t even scratch the surface of Mat’s world. This is man and warrior who has garnered billions of views across the internet with his hilarious videos, yet, his humour is the tool that has lifted him from tragedy. This is a very different Mat than we have seen on Youtube or Instagram and for damn sure I am going to listen to what he has to say.

WATM: Can you give us a brief intro about you?

Mat Best: My name is Mat Best. I am an internet influencer. I hate that, just kidding. My name is Mat Best, and I’m the co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee.

WATM: Are you a Navy Seal?

Mat Best: I am not a Navy Seal, although I am taking tips from their hairstylists.

WATM: So if you’re not a Navy Seal, why’d you write a book?

Mat Best: I thought we have to get the message out about the amazing individuals of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is where I came from and grew up. So that’s the story I wanted to tell.

WATM: I love it. All right, Good.

Mat Best:You were happy with that one. He was like, “I gotta hit the Navy Seal jokes.”

WATM: I didn’t even write that joke but yes, it makes me happy. Ok, let’s go back to when you’re in the Army. What kind of soldier would you say you were?

Mat Best: I would say that I was the team room jokester, but then took my job very serious, and I would like to think of myself as an absolute professional while I’m doing my job.

WATM: Is there anything you’ve learned, especially being in the Ranger Regiment, that’s helped you in business and now writing a book?

Mat Best: Absolutely. I think being in the military, specifically the Ranger Regiment, you consistently solve complex problems. It’s you and your buddies on the ground and you’re presented with all these crazy situations, and you can’t ask for help. It’s up to you and the team to execute and follow through with the mission plan. And I think that is so attributable to business, because no one tells you what to do, what the right answer is. You’re just in a gunfight, and you got to fix it. And sometimes it’s ugly. And so, all those lessons learned in the military directly apply to business. And that’s why at Black Rifle, we try to hire so many veterans, because they come from such a diverse background, that they have so many applicable skills that a lot of civilians don’t have.

WATM: What do you think makes Black Rifle Coffee Company special compared to other companies?

Mat Best: Mainly, I would say what makes Black Rifle Coffee so special is our mission statement and our values. We’re very transparent with what we put out there, and we always say, “Vote with your dollar.” And I think it’s refreshing in American culture to know who you’re supporting when you purchase a good, and not only a good, but a very high quality good. So that’s what we take pride in. When you buy Black Rifle Coffee, you know what our mission statement is, and you know what we’re going to do.

WATM: Was there anything specifically from your time in uniform that transformed you into who you are today?

Mat Best: I’ve had a few tragedies with friends while deployed, and honestly, it just really gave me this profound perspective on life. That it’s insanely short, you never know when it’s going to end, and that only supported my goal to make people laugh, humor through horror. We have one shot at this life, there’s no dress rehearsal, let’s just live it to its fullest. And it’s okay to enjoy life. Have fun, laugh. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. And so those experiences really helped develop me to who I am today, to not really sweat the small stuff. Let’s focus on the big stuff, health, well-being, and all that.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

WATM: Did you ever get an article 15?

Mat Best: No. That’s why I laugh. People will say, “You started a company called Article 15 Clothing.” I’ve got a good conduct medal, man.

WATM: What did that transition look like for you?

Mat Best: Yeah, mainly when I got off active duty, I moved here to Los Angeles, and I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. I went through a pretty deep and heavy transition and learned a lot about myself, what I wanted to do. Kind of regaining that sense of purpose and what I wanted to devote my life to, which subsequently made me be a contractor, because I really missed the team mentality and the brotherhood. For a while, I thought I really missed war, but what I really missed was the camaraderie and the brotherhood that was enveloped in that experience. And so, once I became a contractor, that made it very clear in my mind that this is what I want to do. I want to live in this community, and I want to provide value in this community.

WATM: How did you decide to go down this route of entrepreneurship, especially on video content and being an influencer?

Mat Best: I needed an outlet creatively. So I just started making YouTube videos to make five people laugh, and five turned to a thousand, a thousand turned to 100,000 and it kind of snowballed effect. And what I realized is that there was such a want and need for that style of content that hadn’t been done before. And it’s pretty cool to see a lot of other influencers in the military making people laugh, doing callback jokes to basic training, just creating that military experience so we can not relive it, but have those fond memories of service post-service.

WATM: What do you think about the term ‘influencer?’

Mat Best: I think ‘influencer’ applies to certain people. I think influence means you have influence, you’re not just famous for posting a likable photo. And I think people are finding that out on Instagram, where they have followers, and they have certain engagement metrics, but they’re not able to influence a message or a culture or something like that. It’s a tricky term. Overused.

WATM: What do you feel when somebody says, “Hey Mat, thank you for your service?”

Mat Best: It’s a challenging question when people say, “Thank you for your service,” I think there is a sense of empathy and appreciation in the statement, but I think civilian culture has been so conditioned just to say that. Everybody wants to support veterans until it’s time to support veterans. I think a basic statement of, “Thank you for your service,” isn’t enough. Let’s go work on treatment of individuals that have moral grief and transition issues. Let’s actually impact people rather than just say that. And again, that’s my personal opinion. There are a lot of people out there that really appreciate that statement, but that’s why I named my book. “Thank You for My Service,” because I really, really appreciated being part of the community I was in special operations and doing the job. I mean, taxpayers let me go jump out of planes and fast rope out of helicopters. How cool is that?

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

WATM: So let’s get into the book, ‘Thank You For My Service.’ Why should we ‘thank YOU for your service?’

Mat Best: We shouldn’t thank me for my service. I want to thank you for your service and my service. No, I thought it was a funny play. Some people read it immediately and go, “Whoa, that’s super douchey.” And they go, “Oh, I get it. What he’s trying to say there.” So it was a play on that whole societal thing of people don’t know if they should thank veterans for their service. And most importantly, what an amazing experience for me to grow up. I would never even be close to the man I am today if I didn’t serve in such an amazing unit, like 75th ranger regiment. So I’m just proud of it, and I want to share that experience that I’m not a victim. It made me a better individual, even with all the stuff I saw. So I want to be a good steward of that community, and hopefully influence people to serve their country, serve their communities, and know that’s a powerful thing.

WATM: So is writing a book. Congrats man, that is a huge step and powerful.

Mat Best: Thank you. And it’s not in crayon. My book’s not in crayon, guys. This is a big moment.

WATM: Obviously, you put a lot of time into doing this.

Mat Best: I don’t think I ever really set out to write a book. It was never a part of that. I had not journal entries, but I guess you could say that I documented some of the worst times in my life, because I didn’t ever want to forget how crappy it felt. And so whenever I’m feeling down, I can look back at transitioning out of the military. I can look back at losing friends and being like, “This is why I’m here. This is what’s going to motivate me. Get off your suck. Wake up, let’s go f*cking work.” And so it really just transcribed into me talking to people, having influence, and people said, “I want to know Mat’s whole story.” And really for me, the only way to tell my entire story is to put it on paper. I mean you can do videos, you can chat about it, but a lot of people just see the extension of my personality through the entertainment and the skits that I do, which I fully enjoy. But that’s a singular perspective on my personality. So, kind of wanted to put it all in there, make people laugh, write something that no one else has ever seen in their life before, because it’s a completely different book than an average military book, that’s for sure.

WATM: In the book, you talk about how you’ve used humor as a way to get through some very tough points in your life. Are there specific instances in the book that [were] very powerful for you?

Mat Best: Yeah, I think that’s a loaded question, but it’s a good one. I think there’s certain aspects and stories in the book that you’ll see where humor, I applied humor in a very dark situation, where people were just trying to kill us, and now we’re cleaning up the aftermath, and you can tell people are a little shook up and rattled. So I just used humor to kind of offset that, get their head in the game, realize we’re here for a mission. This is really messed up. Because when do you expect ever to, as an individual, to just see people blowing up and body parts flying and shooting people? No one sets you up for that experience until it happens. You’ve got to combat it with humor a little bit. Still being a professional, obviously, but easing the moment, I would say.

WATM: Was there ever a moment you looked at the book and said, “I can’t believe I’m writing this right now?”

Mat Best: There were multiple times in the book, absolutely, where it was very challenging for me to relive a few things and I got kind of caught up and almost definitely pretty much cried a few times where I’m like, “I’ll set that down.” And there was definitely other times in the book where I had to go get a shot of whiskey or a glass of wine because I’m like, “I don’t want to be that open about this, you know? And I’m like, “But that’s how I make a good book. I have to be honest and transparent and show my struggles and my successes, because that’s what’s going to influence people to live their own quality of life.” If I just write this top level crap book that’s like, “Look at me, I served the country, I’m awesome. I do business,” what value does that bring?

WATM: We don’t want to give it all away. But do you think there’s something that maybe the audience doesn’t know that they’re going to find in this book?

Mat Best: For sure. Yeah. I put a lot in this book that no one’s ever known. To quote Evan Hafer, my business partner at Black Rifle Coffee, he said, “I didn’t want to read your book. I didn’t want to read it.” And I’m like, “Well, thanks for being honest, man.” He’s like, “Well, I’ve known you for six-plus years. I know your stories.” And then when he finally read it, he went, “Dude, I couldn’t put it down. It was so interesting, and I got to a see side of my friend I didn’t even know.”

WATM: Would you say you’re fully transitioned out? Do you feel like you’re a civilian at this point, or is there always going to be a part of you that’s related to the military?

Mat Best: At least now in the workings of Black Rifle, I’ll always be part of the military for sure. To say that I don’t go look back at old photos or old experiences and miss it and for some reason still wish I was deployed fighting a war when I have a beautiful wife and a successful business, it’s still in there. So it’s always there, and I’ll always be a part of the community for sure, because I just want to see it be successful.

WATM: You offer a lot, especially to veterans out there, but not always just the veterans. Is there any advice or things that you would love your followers or people that read the book to know that you really live by?

Mat Best: Yeah, I would say as far as the transition piece, it’d be proper planning prevents piss poor performance. You have to have a mission plan going into anything. It’s just like when you’re going to the grocery store, and you have kids, all right, I need the car seat. You’re planning, you’re in that planning phase. And I think what I didn’t do when I got out, I didn’t plan for anything. I’m like, “I’ll figure it out,” in my absolute stubborn ways. And that set me up for a nosedive. And so going forward, I’ve always tried to plan, plan for the worst, expect the best, kind of thing. I know I’m just saying catchphrases, but they actually are applicable if you follow them. I mean, anybody can read a Pinterest quote, right? But if you live it, that’s a different story.

Learn more about Mat and his journey in his new book, Thank You For My Service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This radar could make it very hard to hide – even on land

Radars have long been used to track targets in the air or at sea but, traditionally, radar isn’t known for its ability to track targets on land. Despite its reputation, radar has been used for exactly that purpose as far back as Operation Desert Storm.


Electronics have advanced rapidly since then, however. In the last 25 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktop computers that ran up to 16 megabytes of RAM and a 250 megabyte hard drive to using laptops that hold 32 gigabytes of RAM and have terabytes of storage space. Today, the cell phone you hold in your hand is arguably more powerful than a top-of-the-line gaming PC of 25 years ago.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The E-8C JSTARS had to be based on the Boeing 707.

(USAF photo)

Well, that electronics revolution has helped radars, too. Previously, you needed a jumbo jet, like the 707, to carry a radar system around. Modern radars, however, are a lot smaller. One such radar is the APS-134G from Telephonics. According to an official handout, the radar weighs just under 450 pounds!

Despite being lightweight, this radar can do a lot. Among its capabilities is a ground moving target indicator, synthetic aperture radar imaging, wide-area surveillance, coastline mapping, weather mapping, and an aircraft detection and location mode that can simultaneously process over 300 targets!

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The HU-25 Guardian used an earlier version of the APS-143.

(USCG photo)

The small size of this system means that you no longer need a jumbo jet to get a powerful eye in the sky. Among the planes capable of carrying this radar are Beech King Air planes, Bombardier Global business jets, and the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

In short, this radar will make it very hard for bad guys to hide.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Daniel Craig is driving this iconic car in next ‘James Bond’ film

Movies about sick cars doing impossible things was arguably perfected by the James Bond film franchise way before Paul Walker and Vin Diesel decided car chase movies were also about “family.” And the latest news from the set of the next 007 flick (and last Daniel Craig Bond) confirms a certain old-school iconic sports car is back. But, it’s not exactly the one you might guess.

On June 30, 2019, EON productions and the James Bond Twitter and YouTube pages released images and footage of Daniel Craig filming the as-yet-untitled “Bond 25” movie. And the car is driving is a throwback to 1987, specifically the movie The Living Daylights. (That’s the one where Bond dates a cello player and a-Ha does the theme song.)


The car is an ’87 V8 Aston Martin, which, in The Living Daylights sported lasers, a turbo-boost, and special retractable skis for, you know, snow driving. Though not as famous as Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from the sixties movies like Goldfinger and Thunderball, the Aston Martin is, in some ways, probably closer to what a Bond car should be like in the cultural imagination; assuming, of course, the lasers and rocket-boost still comes standard on this particular car.

The Aston Martin V8 was driven by James Bond when Timothy Dalton played the role in his debut film. For Bond fans of a certain age, it’s very possible Timothy Dalton was the incumbent Bond when you were a little kid. (I know that was true for me!) Dalton only did two Bond movies; The Living Daylights and License To Kill, before a long Bond hiatus that resumed with Pierce Brosnan picking up the part in Goldeneye.

In Skyfall, Bond drives an Aston Martin DB5 that is exactly like the one Sean Connery drove in the sixties and jokes with M (Judi Dench) about an ejector’s seat. So, could the V8 Astin Martin Bond has in the new film also have all the old Timothy Dalton gadgets? Here’s hoping!

Bond 25 is out everywhere on April 8, 2020. Here’s everything we know.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Chinese aircraft carrier stacks up against US ships

China is trying to transform its first aircraft carrier, currently a training vessel, into a combat ship ready to wage war, a senior officer has revealed.

Lu Qianqiang, the Liaoning’s executive officer, told state-run broadcaster CCTV that ship is currently being upgraded to serve in a combat role, making it more than just a training tool as China strives to become a world-class naval power with a modern carrier force, the Global Times reported.

The Liaoning, China’s only operational carrier, is a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that China purchased and refitted. It was officially commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. Beijing is believed to be close to commissioning its first domestically produced carrier, and a third flat top is apparently in the works.


The first Chinese carrier was used to design the country’s second carrier — which resembles the Liaoning and is designated Type 001A, though it has no official name — and was expected to serve as a training vessel for carrier operations.

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Liaoning during refurbishment in Dalian Shipyard

(Photo by CEphoto)

Now China wants to turn the Liaoning, which was technically declared “combat ready” in 2016, into a combat vessel.

Lu Qiangqiang, an executive officer aboard the Liaoning, told Chinese media that the PLAN had upgraded the arresting cables and arresting nets, improved the anti-jamming capabilities of the superstructure, enlarged the flight control tower, optimized the propulsion and power systems, and made changes to the flight deck.

“These changes will definitely help us make the best of the ship, improve our training protocols and boost our combat capability even further,” Lu explained. “The Liaoning is shifting from a training and test ship to a combat ship. I believe this process is going faster and faster, and we will achieve our goal very soon.”

This would be a big change for the Liaoning. Here is how the Chinese ship compares with US carriers.

  • The Liaoning, originally known as the Varyag, is about 1,000 feet long and displaces about 60,000 tons fully loaded. It is the sister ship of Russia’s disappointing Admiral Kuznetsov carrier.
  • The US Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers are over 1,000 feet long and displace roughly 100,000 tons.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The USS Carl Vinson underway in the Persian Gulf.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King)

  • The Liaoning is diesel-powered, and the diesel-fueled steam turbine power plants are inefficient and reduce the speed and service life of the carrier. Its top speed is believed to be somewhere between 20 knots and 30 knots. The range is apparently limited to a few thousand miles.
  • The US Navy’s aircraft carriers are powered by onboard nuclear reactors. These ships have speeds in excess of 30 knots and an unlimited range.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The USS Enterprise underway with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)

  • The Liaoning uses ski jump-assisted short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are harder on the aircraft and can only launch planes running at about 60,000 pounds. That means increased strain on the aircraft, reduced sorties, less fuel, reduced operational range, fewer armaments, and reduced combat capability.
  • US carriers use more effective steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems designed to launch much heavier aircraft.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

F/A-18 Hornets over the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez)

  • The Liaoning has an air wing consisting of 24 Sheyang J-15 fighter jets. There is the possibility that China may replace the fourth-generation J-15s with fifth-generation J-31s in the future.
  • The US Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers can carry a larger air wing consisting of as many as 55 fixed-wing aircraft. The primary fighter is the F/A-18, but the US is in the process of arming carriers with the new fifth-generation F-35Cs.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147, launches off the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren K. Jennings)

  • The Liaoning is armed with a 3D air/surface search radar over the main mast, four multifunctional active-phased array radar panels, a FL-3000 naval missile system, a Type 1030 close-in weapons system, and anti-submarine warfare rocket launchers.
  • US carriers have a number of advanced radar systems, RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Missiles, Phalanx close-in weapons systems, and Rolling Airframe Missiles.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln launches a Rolling Airframe Missile during combat system ship qualification trials.

(U.S. Navy photo)

  • The Liaoning does not appear to have any special armor or protective covering, although it is difficult to know for sure.
  • US carriers have Kevlar covering vital spaces, like critical machinery and weapons-storage areas. In addition to extra armoring, US carriers are compartmentalized and have redundant systems to ensure they can take a hit.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean during a routine patrol.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ricardo R. Guzman)

  • “If you put the two side by side, obviously the US has huge advantages,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. But Chinese carriers are rapidly improving with each new ship.

Aircraft on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The unknown deceased who have received the Medal of Honor

In 1921, after World War I, Congress wanted to find a way to reflect the nation’s gratitude to the many unknown dead who fought in the Great War, so they passed a series of acts authorizing Medals of Honor for the unknown casualties of not only the American Expeditionary Forces, but also the unknown casualties of European allies.


Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The Medal of Honor, Navy version

Oddly enough, the first act of Congress to award Medals of Honor to unknown soldiers was for Great Britain and French soldiers, not American. On March 4, 1921, an act was approved that…

…the President of the United States of America be, and he hereby is, authorized to bestow with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, the Congressional Medal of Honor upon the unknown, unidentified British soldier buried in Westminster Abbey, London, England, and upon the unknown, unidentified French soldier buried in the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France….

The act approving a Medal of Honor for the unknown American followed just a few months later, in August.

By virtue of an act of Congress approved 24 August 1921, the Medal of Honor, emblem of highest ideals and virtues is bestowed in the name of the Congress of the United States upon the unknown American, typifying the gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, of our beloved heroes who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. They died in order that others might live….

An award for the “unknown, unidentified Italian soldier to be buried in the National Monument to Victor Emanual 11, in Rome,” was approved that October. A Medal of Honor for the unknown Belgian soldier was approved in December 1922, and an act was approved for the Romanian unknown soldier in May 1923.

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French Marshall Joseph Joffre inspects Romanian troops during World War I. Romanian forces fought alongside Americans during the war, and Congress approved a Medal of Honor for their unknown deceased in 1923. No award for the unknown deceased of an allied force has been approved since.

The wording for each international award differs slightly — the act for the British and French unknown was “animated by the same spirit of comradeship in which the American forces fought alongside these Allies,” while the Italian act cites the “spirit of friendship,” — but all of the awards to allied unknowns were due to the American “desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by their deeds and to participate in paying tribute to their unknown dead.”

Congress has not approved a new award for the unknown deceased of allied forces since 1923, but it has approved a new award of the Medal of Honor for the unknown Americans interred from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The acts were approved in 1948, 1957, and 1984.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment “Old Guard” march up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for a wreath laying ceremony in commemoration of the Army’s 238th Birthday in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on June 14, 2013.

(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Note that while the unknown deceased are interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the acts approving the Medals of Honor are worded to honor the deeds of the “unknown American” and apply to all unknown Americans who died in service to their country in the respective theater of war.

The unknown American selected from the Vietnam War was later identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. When Blassie’s remains were returned to his family, it was decided that the Medal of Honor should remain at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, since the award was approved to honor the deeds of all unknown deceased who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

All four Medals of Honor for American unknowns are on display at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Military Life

6 things you need to know about being stationed at K-Bay

Being an infantry Marine stationed in Hawai’i is a blessing and a curse. If you get stationed out there, civilians will sarcastically tell you how hard your life is and fellow service members will glare at you with jealousy, but they don’t know the truth — not unless they read Terminal Lance, that is.

When you get orders to Hawai’i, you’ll probably feel excited right off the bat. If you grew up in the mainland United States and you’ve never visited, you’ve likely heard of it as a beautiful, tropical vacation spot. Once you get there, you’ll start to realize that, in some ways, it’s far from an island paradise.

So, to get you prepared, here are a few things you should know about being stationed out there:


Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Luckily, you’ll get compensated for the cost of living.

Everything is expensive

Mentally prepare yourself now for paying insane prices for things like milk or gasoline. If you’re a smoker, you might as well kick the habit now because you’ll be paying for every pack at the exchange on base. If you ever plan on leaving to explore the island, you’ll pay much more than that.

The facilities suck

Marine Corps Base Hawai’i is small and its size can likely be attributed to the fact that it was originally built to be a Marine Corps Air Station. Only after the fact was it then turned into a full-fledged base equipped to house with infantry battalions and artillery batteries. As you might imagine, there aren’t many options for shopping or entertainment on base.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

You’ll become well acquainted with those humid jungles, don’t worry.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

It’s always humid

Hawai’i is an island nation covered with a lush rain forest and surrounded by ocean. Not only is the heat intense, but the humidity is thick, making matters much worse. Not a day will go by where you won’t sweat — unless you spend the whole day in an air-conditioned building.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

At least the sun will be gone for a bit of time.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)

It’s always raining

Remember how it’s always humid? It’s because it constantly rains. If you’re infantry, you already know that rain is somehow magically, meteorologically attracted to where you are in the world so, don’t expect that to change at all in Hawai’i.

The locals hate you

A good amount of them, anyway. If they’re not a tattoo artist or business owner, they’ll probably have a disdain for you being a part of the United States military. Don’t take it personally and just ignore it because there’s no point in getting yourself into trouble when, at the end of the day, you’re not there by choice, anyway.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

It won’t take long before you start to feel the claustrophobia.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)

You’re stuck on an island

Your ass belongs to the Corps, so you best believe you can’t leave that island chain without permission. You can’t really even leave O’ahu unless you do some paperwork, so get used to those islands feeling like a prison.

Enjoy!

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