That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by 'Duffel Blog' - We Are The Mighty
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That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

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You might think that, somewhere along the way, someone in the staff of a senior senator from Kentucky would have figured out what Duffel Blog really was. Instead, in 2012, a concerned constituent actually had the Senator’s office send a formal letter to the Pentagon concerning Duffel Blog’s report of the VA extending benefits to Guantanamo Bay detainees.


What Duffel Blog is, on its face, is a satirical news website that covers the military. At the very least, we all laugh. We laugh at the brave Airman who sent his steak back at the DFAC and the Army wife who re-enlisted her husband indefinitely using a general power of attorney. We laugh because the stories’ absurdities are grounded in the reality of military culture.

Duffel Blog and its writers are more than brilliant. What it does at its best is play the role of court jester – delivering hard truths hidden inside jokes. In the case of Senator McConnell’s office sending a letter of concern to the Pentagon over a Duffel Blog piece, the site was hammering the VA, equating using its services to punishing accused terrorists in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.

We laugh, but they’re talking about the VA we all use – and we laugh because there’s truth to the premise.

Paul Szoldra is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Duffel Blog, former Military and Defense Editor at Business Insider, and was instrumental in the creation of We Are The Mighty. He’s now a columnist at Task & Purpose.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’
Szoldra speaks the the Got Your 6 Storytellers event in Los Angeles, Calif.
(Television Academy)

Speaking truth to power is not difficult for Szoldra, even when the power he speaks to is one that is so revered by the American people that it’s nearly untouchable by most other media. We live in an age where criticizing politicians is the order of the day, but criticizing the military can be a career-ending endeavor. You don’t have to be a veteran to criticize military leadership, but it helps.

“If you go back on the timeline far enough, you’ll find a lot of bullsh*t,” Szoldra says, referring specifically to comments made by generals about the now 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. “And I have no problem calling it out, highlighting it where need be.”

Szoldra doesn’t like that the top leadership of the U.S. military exists in what he calls a “bubble” and can get away with a lot because of American support for its fighting men and women — those fighting the war on the ground. Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2010, was one of those lower-enlisted who fought the war. When he writes, he writes from that perspective.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’
Szoldra as a Marine in Afghanistan
(Paul Szoldra)

“If we’re talking about sending troops into Syria… I wonder what does that feel like to the grunt on the ground,” Szoldra says. “I don’t really care too much about the general and how he’s going to deal with the strategy, I wonder about the 20-something lance corporal that I used to be trying to find IEDs with their feet.”

His work is thoughtful and, at times, intense, but always well-founded. Szoldra also does a semi-regular podcast with Terminal Lance creator, Max Uriarte, where they have honest discussion about similar topics. Those discussions often take more of a cultural turn and it feels more like you’re listening to Marine grunts wax on about the way things are changing – because that’s exactly what it is, with just as much honesty as you’d come to expect from Paul Szoldra and his ongoing body of work.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’
Szoldra and Max Uriarte record their podcast.
(After Action with Max and Paul)

If you liked Szoldra on the show, read his work on Task & Purpose, give After Action with Max and Paul a listen, and get the latest from Duffel Blog. If you aren’t interested in the latest and just want the greatest, pick up Mission Accomplished: The Very Best of Duffel Blog, Volume One at Amazon.

And for a (potentially) limited time, you can get the Duffel Blog party game “WTF, Over? The Duffel Box” by donating to the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

Resources Mentioned

3 Key Points

  • The very best of Duffel Blog
  • The times Duffel Blog articles were mistaken for real news
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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why advanced fighters still carry guns

When Maverick told Goose his quarry was too close for missiles, and he was switching to guns, the Navy was still flying the F-14 Tomcat, a twin-engine interceptor whose first flight was in 1970. Today’s newest fighters, the F-22 and F-35 took their first flights in 1997 and 2006, respectively and can hit targets miles away, before the enemy will ever see them.

So why do they still carry internally-mounted guns? The short answer is that fighter pilots want them.


That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Old dogfighters like Robin Olds hated that their planes didn’t have guns.

In the air war over Vietnam, American pilots took a hard lesson while engaging a skilled enemy air force with planes on par with those in the American arsenal at the time. F-4 Phantoms, while being fast and powerful, were heavy, and going up against the MiG-19 and MiG-21 could often find themselves struggling to get out of the kill zone, unable to respond in kind because of the lack of a close-range weapon.

They needed onboard internal guns.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

The F-22 Raptor carries a six-barrel 20mm vulcan cannon.

Just like in the days of the Vietnam War, many missiles have a minimum kill range. If an enemy fighter can get inside that range, even a fifth-generation fighter can find itself in deep trouble if it has no means of defending itself. Today’s fighters may only carry enough ammunition for a few seconds burst of fire, but the technology in both targeting and individual rounds is far greater than in days gone by. A one-second burst from the onboard guns of an F-22 or F-35 is dozens of large explosive rounds on a target, more than enough to make a few passes at a target or bring down an enemy aircraft.

The enemy could be just as skilled as any American pilot, that’s something the U.S. military can’t plan for. What they can plan for is to fight the same technology used by the U.S. and its Western allies. The DoD has to assume they could be going up against aircraft comparable to the F-22 and F-35. If a Chinese J-20 can defeat missile targeting and get in close to one of ours, the pilot will likely need to hit his target at close range, using a weapon he can point.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin threatens to ‘react’ if US pulls from nuclear treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was “ill-considered” and warned that Moscow will follow suit if the United States arms itself with weapons banned by the pact.

Putin spoke on Dec. 5, 2018, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.


His remarks came shortly after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it received official notification that the United States intends to withdraw from the INF unless Russia remedies what Washington says is a serious violation of the treaty.

Putin claimed that the United States was seeking to use Russia as a scapegoat for the demise of the INF by accusing it of a violation.

BREAKING! Putin Responds To US Ultimatum: Russia’ll React Swiftly If Trump Withdraws From INF Treaty

www.youtube.com

“They are looking for someone to blame for this…ill-considered step,” Putin told journalists in Moscow, adding that “no evidence of violations on our part has been provided.”

It is “simplest” for the United States to say, ‘Russia is to blame,'” Putin said. “This is not so. We are against the destruction of this treaty.”

President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that the United States would abandon the INF, citing the alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

Putin said he understands the second argument.

“Many other countries — there are probably more than 10 — produce these weapons, but Russia and the United States have restricted themselves in a bilateral fashion,” he said. “Now, evidently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have these weapons.”

“What will be the response from our side? Very simple: We will also do this,” he said, indicating that Russia will develop and deploy weapons banned by the treaty if the United States does so.

The United States says that Russia has already done that by deploying the 9M729, or Novator, which Washington says breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

In a joint statement on Dec. 4, 2018, NATO foreign ministers said that Russia has “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The NATO ministers called on Russia to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance,” saying it is now “up to Russia to preserve the INF treaty.”

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands and Putin gave no indication that Russia plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, that the official notice from the United States cites unspecified evidence of alleged Russian violations.

“The Russian side has repeatedly declared that this is, to say the least, speculation,” Zakharova said of the U.S. allegation. “No evidence to support this American position has ever been presented to us.”

Zakharova claimed that Russia has always respected the treaty and considers it “one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told foreign defense attaches in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2018, that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a “dangerous step that can negatively affect not only European security, but also strategic stability as a whole.”

At the NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF in 60 days unless Moscow dismantles the missiles, which he said were a “material breach” of the accord.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo told journalists in Brussels.

“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply with the INF, “we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. ultimatum was an “escalation of the situation.”

Peskov accused Washington of “manipulating the facts…to camouflage the true aim of the United States in withdrawing from the treaty.”

In a tweet on Dec. 3, 2018, Trump expressed certainty that “at some time in the future” he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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

Articles

5 Quotes that explain the barbarism of World War II

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German Federal Archives


1. “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity.”

—George Patton, General of the US Seventh Army

The Maginot Line has come to symbolize a lack of foresight and the dangers inherent when conservative military planners fail to accurately anticipate changes in technology and tactics. The French spent much of the 1930’s constructing the impressive, but ultimately futile Maginot line – a series of defensive fortifications stretching from the French Alps to the Belgium border – to prevent a repeat of the 1914 German invasion. Of course, the Germans basically just drove their tanks around it, encircled the French defenders and in a little more than a month, Nazi tanks were rolling through Parisian streets.

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Wikimedia Commons

But not everyone was so blind to the changing times. George S. Patton, known primarily for his leadership during the Allied invasion of Europe, the Battle of the Bulge and the allied advance into Germany, had become interested in tank warfare as early as 1917, when he was charged with establishing one of the first American tank schools, the AEF Light Tank School. Patton was the most experienced tank operator of WWI and led the first American tank offensive of the war. As the new tanks helped break the stalemate of trench warfare, it was becoming clear to men like Patton that the future of land warfare would be dominated by mechanized infantry and tank battalions, rendering defensive fortifications, such as the aforementioned Maginot Line, largely obsolete. The inability of European military planners to anticipate the effectiveness of the German Blitzkrieg is one of the leading contributors to the scale and devastation of the war.

2. “If we come to a minefield, our infantry attacks exactly as if were not there.”

Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union

While Zhukov was probably making the case that advancing directly through a minefield (rather than slowly progressing through a breakthrough point, allowing Germans to concentrate their fire) would lead to fewer overall casualties, this quote has nonetheless been used to substantiate claims that the Soviet Army did not value the lives of its soldiers. While I think that is an exaggeration, the reality of total war on the Eastern Front dictated that equipment, artillery, planes and tanks were far more valuable than the lives of ordinary soldiers.

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Wikipedia

The story of the Shtrafbat battalions that fought on the Eastern front highlight this reality. The Shtrafbat were Soviet penal units, composed of deserters, cowards, and relocated gulag inmates. Assignment to the Shtrafbat was basically a deferred death sentence. Often not even given weapons, the Shtrafbat were used as decoys, sent on dangerous reconnaissance missions, and in general deployed as cannon fodder to absorb heavy causalities that would be otherwise inflicted on more effective and battle ready battalions. The most dangerous of such assignments was “trampler duty,” which entailed the Shtrafbat units running across mine fields shoulder to shoulder to clear the area of any enemy mines ahead of advancing troops.

3. “Prussian Field Marshals do not mutiny”

Field Marshal Erich von Manstein

The Prussian Military tradition has a long and storied history stretching as far back as the Thirty Years War (1618 -1648). The main doctrine of the Prussian army was to achieve victory as quickly as possible by making use of mobile, aggressive flanking maneuvers. Prussian military theorists also refined the concept of drill for infantry troops and implemented a severe disciplinary system to instill obedience, loyalty and unwavering professionalism in the army.

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Wikipedia

Erich Von Manstein, a Prussian with a long family history of military service, was arguably Hitler’s most effective commander. During Fall Gelb, the Nazi invasion of France, it was Manstein’s plan that was ultimately put in place with resounding success. Manstein was not a member of the Nazi party and while he disagreed with many decisions made by the Nazi high command (especially towards the end of the war), he followed his orders unwaveringly. At the battle of Stalingrad, Manstein repeatedly urged Hitler to allow him to attempt to break out of the city with the 6th Army, potentially saving it, however Hitler refused, leading to the surrender of 91,000 German troops and the deaths of many more.

The following year, the July 20th conspirators approached Manstein to secure his support for Claus Von Stauffenberg’s infamous attempt on Hitler’s life, but he refused, giving the above quote as an explanation. This unquestioning loyalty was all too common among the top German commanders, many of whom were either Prussian or trained in the Prussian tradition, including Field Marshals Heinz Guderian, Gerd von Rundstedt, Fedor von Bock and others. Most were reluctant to disobey or even disagree with orders from the High Command even as their Führer, who had assumed direct control of military decisions, made blunder after blunder on a certain path to total disastrous defeat.

4. “In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.”

Isoroku Yamamoto, Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy

This quote might go down as one of the most prophetic of all time. The Japanese strategy to defeat the Americans was to deliver an initial blow at Pearl Harbor and then whittle down the American Navy further as it made its way across the Pacific. The Japanese Navy would then engage the Americans in a final decisive battle after which the Americans would hopefully be willing to sue for peace. There were several problems with this approach, for one, even in war games this strategy hadn’t worked. Secondly, the Japanese were aware that America’s industrial output capabilities could outpace their own and thirdly, some, such as Yamamoto himself in all likelihood, felt that a surprise attack would eliminate the possibility that the U.S. would accept a brokered peace. These miscalculations ensured American entry into the war, further expanding the scale of the conflict.

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Wikipedia

Admiral Yamamoto made other prophetic statements as well, including this one: “the fiercest serpent may be overcome by a swarm of ants”, in opposition to the construction of the Yamoto Class of Battleships, which he feared would be vulnerable to relentless American dive bombing attacks launched from aircraft carriers. He was right about that too but one thing Admiral Yamamoto could not predict was Magic, the American code breaking operation that led directly to the destruction of the Japanese fleet at Midway and Yamamoto’s own death at the hands of American fighter pilots who, acting on intelligence provided by Magic, intercepted and shot down the plane he was flying in on April 18, 1943.

5. “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.”

Curtis LeMay, Major in the US Air Force

The Pacific War took the concept of total war to horrific new heights with atrocities committed on both sides. The air-raid campaign against Japanese cities being particularly brutal with its large scale use of incendiary explosives. The key to Curtis LeMay’s strategic bombing campaign was saturation bombing – of military installations, industrial areas, commercial zones and even dense residential urban centers – with the hopes that it would weaken the resolve of the Japanese people and stunt their ability to wage an ongoing war.

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Wikipedia

It is estimated that between 250,000 and 900,000 civilians alone were killed during the air-raids. Sixty percent of the urban area of 66 Japanese cities was burned to the ground, leaving many millions of people homeless. Whether you think LeMay’s firebombing campaign was justified or not, his estimation of his fate should Japan have won the war is probably correct.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what being labeled a terrorist organization means for Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump Administration has long had a target for Iran. The Islamic Republic, for its part, makes it an easy antagonist for the United States. Now, the U.S. is taking the war of words one step further by designating the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.


While many groups are labeled as foreign terrorists by the United States, the IRGC is the first official military apparatus of an internationally recognized country to be labeled as such. Now what does that mean for the Revolutionary Guards and for Iran?

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

The United States and Iran have not been friends since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 ousted the Shah and installed the Islamic Republic – who allowed American citizens to be held hostage for 444 days. Ever since, the two powers have always stopped just short of an outright shooting war, choosing instead to cause malicious harm to one another behind the scenes. Iran provided material support and outright aid to insurgent groups fighting the U.S. military during the 2003-2011 Iraq War while the United States has consistently backed anti-Iranian operations throughout the region for decades. Labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization changes the game a little.

The Revolutionary Guards are a unit intended to defend the Iranian government, not just its borders; and its mandate extends to anywhere in the world that could pose a threat to the Ayatollah and his system of government. Its main concern isn’t limited to potential invaders, the IRGC will go after any group or person who poses a legitimate threat to Iran, traditionally through any means necessary.

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

Iranian soldiers in Iraq.

As of April 8, 2019, the Trump Administration has designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Now the IRGC is subject to a slew of financial restrictions that must be followed by citizens of the United States, and the move will pressure U.S. allies to follow suit. Americans and American companies cannot knowingly provide material support to institutions that might support the IRGC, specifically “currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, transportation, and other physical assets, except medicine or religious materials.”

Revolutionary Guards members and people related to them can also be removed from the United States and any company holding IRGC assets must now retain them and report them to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. More importantly, this gives the U.S. more combat options under the most recent authorization for the use of military force.

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IRGC Commander Qasam Soleimani with Iraqi troops fighting ISIS in Iraq.

The United States has been operating on the post-9/11 AUMF passed by Congress since 2001. In that time, the AUMF has allowed the military to deploy to more than 150 countries in support of anti-terror operations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. If the Trump Administration tries to extend the AUMF to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, it could be tantamount to using the full force of the U.S. military against known IRGC units anywhere, under the 2001 AUMF.

Basically, all the President has to do to get the funds to invade Iran is to make a compelling argument that it’s harboring al-Qaeda. Which, to be clear, it is not. The brand of Islam espoused by al-Qaeda, and the brand taught by the mullahs in Iran have been at each others’ throats for centuries – so that argument would have to be incredibly compelling.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Star Trek’s ‘Kobayashi Maru’ test is a must for military leaders

Over the years, the varied iterations of the Star Trek franchise have inspired countless young men and women to pursue careers in cutting edge technologies, space sciences, and the like. As a kid growing up on a steady diet of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” however, I saw something else that spoke to me: a command structure that each and every crewmember had the utmost faith in.

The crew of the Enterprise each knew where they fell within the decision-making hierarchy, what their role and responsibilities were, and most importantly, who to look to when it came time to make hard decisions.


Breaking the chain of command or violating direct orders, of course, played a pivotal role in a number of episodes and movies–but in my young mind, that only further emphasized the importance of command: where starship captains were forced to decide between their orders and what they knew to be right. Almost universally, the captain that erred on the side of ethics got off scot-free, no matter how egregious their crimes. Good leadership, I learned, is about looking failure in the eye, accepting the consequences, and doing what has to be done.

Leadership in Starfleet, like in today’s real-world military, is a near constant life-or-death matter. Fortunately for the Star Trek universe, they have a test to see if you have what it takes to lead in such an environment.

Wrath of Khan – Kobayashi Maru

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The test

The Kobayashi Maru test was first shown on screen in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The premise is simple: a cadet is placed in command of a starship simulator and tasked with responding to the distress call of a damaged fuel carrier: the Kobayashi Maru. The stranded vessel is adrift in the neutral zone dividing Starfleet’s Federation Space from the Klingon Empire. The cadet-turned-captain has to make a hard decision: do you risk war with Star Trek’s Cold War Russian stand-ins, the Klingons… or do you allow the civilians to die?

The right thing to do, of course, is rescue the civilians–but the moment a cadet issues that order, things go bad. Communications with the civilian vessel are immediately lost just as multiple Klingon warships appear in pursuit. In clear violation of the treaty between their peoples, the cadet-in-command can try to talk their way out of trouble, turn and fight, or leave the civilians to their fate and run, but it doesn’t matter. The cadet’s ship is invariably destroyed. All crew members are lost. It’s a failure that’s spectacular in measure, both in terms of the lost vessel and in terms of lost lives. For an aspiring Starfleet captain, it’s a living nightmare… and that’s the point.

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Kirk didn’t learn from the Kobayashi Maru, so he went on to learn the hard way.

The “no win scenario”

No matter how long you serve in the military or how competent a leader you are, failure comes for us all. If you’re fortunate, your most egregious failures will all come in training environments, and you’ll never have to go home with the weight of lost brothers or sisters on your conscience. In the worst of scenarios, victory or failure may be entirely outside of your control, but the burden of loss remains. When someone dies under your command, be it in combat or otherwise, it sticks with you.

You’ll keep moving, you’ll keep working, but late at night, when you’re alone with yourself, you can feel the weight of it bearing down. Good leaders know they’re going to hurt, but importantly, know how to get the job done anyway. They know that sometimes failure is unavoidable… often because they’ve faced their own Kobayashi Maru somewhere along the way.

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(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)

The measure of a good leader

I lost a Marine to suicide only weeks after being given my own squad. It tore our team apart and reshaped my approach to leadership and service. If I could be called a good leader after that, it wasn’t because I was born with an innate ability to rally the troops or because I had the decision making prowess of Jean Luc Picard. It was because I’d already felt the crushing weight of failure pulling me down into the darkness. I’d already been up at night, assessing what I did wrong. I’d already looked a grieving mother in the eyes and choked as I stammered an apology.

Failure is an unavoidable part of any military operation, but good leaders know how to roll with even the most crushing of punches. Some may come to the table with that ability, others, like me, have to learn it the hard way–by failing. The measure of a leader is their ability to recover from those failures, their ability to lead in adverse conditions, and their ability to shoulder the weight of their conscience without compromising the task at hand.

Every military leader needs to face the Kobayashi Maru sooner or later. Starfleet is just smart enough to add it to the training schedule.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This medieval warrior was the first to use a now-famous insult

Götz von Berlichingen was known for a lot of things. The most obvious was that he lost an arm to cannon fire in the heat of battle. Unfortunately for him, it was his right arm, the one that swung swords and dealt death. Unfortunately for all of his enemies, he wouldn’t die until age 82 – and he had a mechanical arm built just so he could keep killing them all.

That’s not even his most enduring legacy.


He was the first to tell an enemy to kiss his ass.

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The phrase caught on like wildfire.

When your name is literally pronounced “Guts,” it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took him only three years to get sick of fighting for God and country for the Holy Roman Empire. So, the young von Berlichingen turned to fighting for something more tangible: money. He and his squad of Teutonic mercenaries fought for all levels of feudal lords and barons — anyone who could afford to have a soon-to-be legendary badass on their side.

It was in 1504, while fighting to take Landshut for the Duke of Bavaria, that a cannonball lopped his arm off at the elbow. He had two prosthetic arms created for himself – and one of them could still hold his sword or shield. So, von Berlichingen continued to make money the best way he knew how.

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This time, he was more machine than man.

The knight seized merchant shipping, kidnapped nobles for ransom, and raided towns around Germany as a means of making money. This, unfortunately, earned him few powerful friends, and he found himself banned from the Holy Roman Empire on multiple occasions. He was even captured and held for ransom himself.

After his final ban, he joined the German peasants in exacting revenge on the leadership of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite that failure, he fought on until he was captured again. When finally liberated by Charles V, he was forced into a sort of house arrest, only allowed to come out in case Charles needed his services.

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Of course Charles needed his services. You would, too.

Berlichingen would assist German knights in fighting the Ottoman under Suleiman the Magnificent and invade France against the famous King Francois I. By then, however, he had already uttered his famous phrase. It was somewhere near Baden-Wurttemburg, while under siege, that the seemingly-immortal knight received a surrender demand. He was not impressed by it at all. He returned it with a famous response, telling the Swabian army (and their leaders) to kiss his ass.

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Though some translations have it as “lick my ass.”

After he was sick of mercilessly slaughtering Europeans all over the continent, Götz von Berlichingen decided to sit down and write his memoirs, which were apparently the greatest story ever told in German for the longest time. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned a 1773 drama that is still retold to this very day, based solely on the story of von Berlichingen’s account of his life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What you need to know about POW/MIA Recognition Day

Written on the flag that commemorates U.S. service members that are being held as prisoners of war or have gone missing in action is a promise: You are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, those who aren’t directly affected by a loved one or military coworker who is a POW or MIA likely only actively remember these service members at important functions, with the setting of the POW/MIA table. That being said, there is a less well-known moment to take time to remember those who served and have not yet — or may never — make it home.

In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution declaring the third Friday in September to be the date in which we, as a nation, remember those whose fates remain unknown.


The remembrance day is not just to honor those who have been lost fighting for the United States, it’s also to assure current and future service men and women that the people of the United States and its military will do everything they can to find those who were captured or went missing. And we will bring them home.

A 2005 Congressional Research Service report documented tallies of American military members who were captured by the enemy and notes those who died in captivity. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, who never stops searching and trying to identify the repatriated remains of those missing in action, also keeps a tally.

The following is an accounting of all those who’ve been captured or have gone missing since World War II.

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American airmen held in a Nazi Stalag Luft POW Camp during World War II.

World War II

As of 2005, Congress reported 130,201 service members were imprisoned during World War II, 14,072 of which died. There are approximately 73,014 from World War II who are still missing, but those numbers are incomplete at best due to limited information from the time period.

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Americans captured by Communist forces in the Korean War.

Korean War

Of the 7,140 service members who were imprisoned during the Korean War, 2,701 of them died as a result of their captivity. There are still 7,729 missing in action.

In 2016, the DPAA accounted for 61 missing from the Korean War. Recently, President Trump’s efforts to repatriate remains from North Korea yielded the return of 55 sets, two of which have been identified.

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Americans held by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War were marched through the streets of Hanoi.

Vietnam War

Roughly 64 prisoners of war held by the enemy during the Vietnam War died as a result of being held captive out of a total 725 held prisoner. An estimated 1,603 are still unaccounted for from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

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Pfc. Jessica Lynch (left) was captured by Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her friend, Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa (right), was killed in that action.

Conflicts Since 1991

Since 1991, a further 37 servicemen and women have been captured by the enemy during various conflicts, including the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan. None are still in captivity, but six are still missing from those conflicts.

This brings the total number of American missing from conflicts since World War II to a whopping 82,478. A full three-fourths are believed to be lost in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, with 41,000 presumed lost at sea.

You are not forgotten.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China parks unmanned vehicle on dark side of the moon

China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.

The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.


China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.

Six payloads

According to the award-winning US space author and journalist Leonard David, upon landing, the robotic probe will survey the geography, geology, and atmosphere on the previously unexplored moonscape.

Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces us down here on Earth. The side that does not face Earth is called the “dark side” not because it’s pitch black, because it’s lesser-known.

‘Dark side’ of the moon: China’s Chang’e 4 probe makes historic landing

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The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.

The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”

China’s space ambitions

President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.

In 2013, China became the third country after the US and the former Soviet Union to “soft-land” on the moon.

The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.

President Donald Trump has vowed to strengthen America’s supremacy in space, saying he wants to go back to the moon, and proposing a Space Force branch of the military.

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

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The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.


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Sorry, Bruh. (U.S Air Force photo)

Read Now: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.

“I noticed two black dots running across the desert that looked really different than anything I had seen before,” Swain told the LA Times in a February 1991 interview. “They weren’t putting up any dust and they were moving fast and quickly over the desert.”

He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.

So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.

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It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.

“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”

Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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“We tried to identify the type of [helicopter] after we were finished, but it was just a bunch of pieces,” he later told the Air Force Academy’s news service.

After the war, Swain went back to his job flying Boeing 747s for U.S. Air and is still in the Air Force Reserve, now with the rank of Colonel.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why it was so important to make ‘The Last Full Measure’

In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.

During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.

“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.

Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.

“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”

He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

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The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.

One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.

He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.

“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.

Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.

Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”

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Todd Robinson and Ed Harris filming The Last Full Measure, 2017. (Photo by Jackson Davis)

To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.

After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.

He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.

“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”


The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.


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