This Week’s Snag Film: Inside Shock and Awe

This week’s FREE documentary from Snag Films looks back at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and serves as a prescient reminder of the service and sacrifice of our military as we welcome home the combat Troops who served.

For the first time, get a detailed inside look at what happened during the Shock and Awe bombing campaign that launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. Using spectacular exclusive imagery, CGI and powerful survivor interviews, National Geographic investigates the planning, execution and outcome of the most intense bombardment in history—putting it into the context of history’s most dramatic bombardments and providing an inside look at what was going on in Baghdad at the time.

Get an insider’s view of the technology that allows overwhelming firepower to be accurately targeted and learn how exotic missiles, like the thermo baric ‘’bunker busters’’ work. And explore the latest weaponry that may change the future of warfare. Includes Special Bonus Program: Warship.

Coaches USO tour: Day 2

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid (facing camera l) and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox (facing camera, r) sign autographs for soldiers during a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour stop at Baumholder Army Garrison in Germany July 1, 2010. The coaches, along with Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (not pictured) are on their first overseas USO tour visiting troops in Germany and the Persian Gulf over the course of a week. (USO Photo Fred Greaves)

Earlier this summer, four NFL coaches traveled to Germany and the Persian Gulf to spend times with troops as part of a week-long USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.  Included on the tour were Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

Coach Fox recently told a Carolina Panthers reporter about the impact the tour had on him: “It was inspiring. They’re amazing, everybody over there from the leadership to the troops. The sacrifice and commitment they make is probably second to none. It was a neat experience.”

Click here to check in as these former and current NFL coaches meeting and greeting troops in Iraq, courtesy of NFL.com!

News & Notes From Around the World

Baghdad, Iraq – The USO in Baghdad sponsored a “235th Birthday for the Army Jag” 5K run.  For those of you familiar with the terrain, the runners started at Signal Hill on Camp Victory.  Over 450 people show up for this early morning weekend run. The USO had T-shirts for all the runners and plaques for the top 3 fastest male and female participants.  Congrats to all!

Runners stretched in preparation of a 5K run sponsored by the USO. (Photo by USO Baghdad)

Landstuhl, Germany – On July 30, 2010 the USO Warrior Center hosted an event with Heidelberg Sports and Fitness.  A group came down to cook out for the wounded warriors and give away some T-shirts designed especially for the event.  Menu choices included ribs, pork steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, bratwurst, baked beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, vegetarian chili, watermelon, and garlic bread.  Yummy!

The event also fell on their Flashback Friday tradition, so a couple of older sports-themed movies were shown during the dinner, including “Bull Durham” and “Hoosiers.”  The turnout for the event was great, with 100 wounded warriors in attendance.  Nearly every wounded warrior echoed this warrior’s feelings, “this is the best food I have had in a long time.”

The wounded warriors were grateful to the Heidelberg crew for grilling for them and to the USO for hosting another successful event. (Photo by USO Warrior Center)

Basrah, Iraq – Texas Hold’em has quickly become a base favorite at USO Basrah. Every seat in the house was full once again as soldiers competed to make it to the final table. The addition of new trophies for the top card sharks had everyone playing their hands tight and bringing their best game face to the table.  Though not everyone walked away a champion, everyone had the chance to hone their skills and prepare…for next month’s tournament.  For more pictures, visit USO Basrah on Facebook by clicking here.

The poker tables were packed as Troops anted up for a tournament. (Photo by USO Basrah)

USO Basra is Making a Difference

On their Facebook page today, USO Basra is celebrating their volunteers with “Thank You’s” and a treat at the front desk.  In that spirit of gratitude, we want to extend a special thanks to those volunteers and everyone else at COB Basra for pulling together in the wake of a building fire – cause by a rocket launch – that resulted in destruction of property, but thankfully no serious injuries.

Fifteen occupants lost all of their possessions in the fire, but – as Maj. Michael Cobb, the executive officer for Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, told Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st Inf. Div., USD-S PAO for Blackanthem News – people and organizations from across the base quickly mobilized to meet the needs of the displaced individuals.

The door of USO Basra is always open, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. Come on in!

The USO immediately stepped up, providing whatever they could from the PX to augment the items that were destroyed.

“I’m hoping that by me taking care of that little nuisance for them then it will take that little burden off,” Valerie Burnham, the Center Manager for Basra, told Staff Sgt. Smith.  Burnham, a 24-year veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy last year, said her own service ingrained in her a sense of responsibility to help others.

“You see people in trouble, you want to do something about it,” she said. “It’s my human nature now, after being in the military for so long.”

Thank you, Valerie, and all of your staff and volunteers, and to everyone else at COB Basra who turned a tough situation into something that shows the best of the human spirit.  Stay safe, and we’ll see you back home soon…

USO Sponsors 1st Bodybuilding Competition in Basra

The USO at Basra is open for business 20 hours/7 days each week from 1000 until 0600 and features a wide array of USO amenities, including flat-screen TVs, phones, computers, and gaming equipment.

The last month and a half has been more mentally and physically demanding than the entire rest of the deployment for a group of men and women here on COB Basra. In contending in the first bodybuilding competition on base, the group followed a strict diet and training regimen to get in top physical shape in time for the show.

The driving force behind the event was Sgt. Mark Kring of the 206th Military Police Company. As the 2002 Mr. New York State Bodybuilding Champion, he knows the ins and outs of preparing for a competition. However, in a standard event, you aren’t faced with the additional daily requirements of being a soldier in a war zone. What was already an intense undertaking truly pushed these men and women to the outer limits of what they thought they were capable of, learning a lot about what they can really achieve with hard work and dedication in the process.

The USO co-sponsored the event, which also included many generous donations from the professional weight lifting field, and with a turn-out rivaling that of our biggest USO shows, it was a huge success.

Check out the following video for a behind the scenes look at the event!

more about “COB Basra Body Building Competition: …“, posted with vodpod

News & Notes from Around the World: Memorial Day Edition

Sather Air Base is a memorial itself, named for Scott Sather who was the first Airman to be killed in action in OIF. The Scott Sather memorial was dedicated last year and this was the first Memorial Day to further honor him and everyone else who has served with the same distinction as Scott Sather.

Baghdad, Iraq – While millions of Americans take a day of from work to reflect and enjoy each others company, the aerial port of Baghdad and the USO, that serves the 1000 passengers a day, were working at full speed. “Mission Critical” is when important work takes priority above all else, but the meaning of this day is too important to over look.

USO Duty Manager, Courtney Haueter, lead the National Moment of Remembrance and the entire aerial port staff, passengers and visitors paused for a full minute at 3:00pm local time. USO customers ceased all calls, IMs, games and movies while the military crew of Sather Air Base paused operations during that time.

Commanding Officer of the 447th, Col Bruce Taylor USAF, led the Memorial Day ceremony and spoke of heroes gone and not forgotten.  Honor Guard for both the Air Force and Army took part in the remembrance and did outstanding work in saluting their brothers in arms.

An essay by Theater of War‘s Bryan Doerries in today’s Washington Post – After a reading of Sophocles’ “Ajax” and “Philoctetes” for members of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Stewart, Ga., a soldier approached me. His hands were trembling and he was fighting back tears.

“For a while now, I have been separated from my unit, the guys I fought alongside downrange. Being separated from your unit is like being stripped of your humanity. I think Sophocles wrote these plays to bring soldiers together to restore their humanity.” He leaned closer, his eyes locking with mine. “Without our humanity, none of this means anything.”

I held the soldier’s gaze and shook his hand, thanking him for his comment, which I promised to share with military audiences at performances throughout the United States…

Watching the soldier at Fort Stewart exit the auditorium last month, it suddenly seemed un-coincidental to me that the ancient plays that we were performing for the U.S. military during the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan and so many years into Iraq depicted what happened to the Greek armed forces during the ninth year of the Trojan War. Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the visionary leader who made our project possible, has said repeatedly of today’s armed forces: “Never has so great a burden been placed upon the shoulders of so few on behalf of so many for so long.”

We are not a nation at war. We are a nation with a volunteer army at war… Click here to read the full essay.

From Snag Film’s Rick Allen – “For 99% of Americans, Memorial Day is a chance to circle a barbeque grill; for us, it’s about gathering together in a cemetery.” Probably nothing captures the enormous gulf between how veterans and civilians treat Monday’s national holiday than that quick but pointed reminder I heard Wednesday from Paul Rieckhoff.  Paul is the charismatic founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and author of the acclaimed book Chasing Ghosts, about his tour of duty in Iraq.  As most of us celebrate the “official” start of summer this weekend, hopefully the words of Paul Rieckhoff, or the roar of Rolling Thunder, or the quiet comfort that the USO brings every day to service families, will break through our routine.

My generation was the first beneficiary of our modern volunteer armed service, in the sense that no longer would all able-bodied men be expected to spend time in uniform.  The ability to outsource our service keeps us personally untouched by combat, but raises societal issues and comes with countervailing personal trade-offs. Sebastian Junger’s new book War and his companion film Restrepo vividly detail the depth of camaraderie that come from absolute commitment to the safety of your fellow squad members.  Those of us around our family barbeques can instinctively appreciate how common mortal danger binds brothers and sisters-in-arms; our challenge now is to find better ways to hold our veterans close to the whole community and to demonstrate our appreciation for what they’ve given for our freedoms.

IAVA joins many other governmental and non-profit organizations in working on the full range of issues facing today’s returning warriors. At a time when our economy struggles to produce new jobs, an estimated 30% of veterans of our current conflicts are out of work.  The Veterans Administration is more invigorated under Secretary Shinseki than it has been in many decades – but a huge number of vets, particularly the young ones, will never willingly walk into a VA hospital or ask for government help, despite what may be significant need.

Many organizations are hard at work to bridge these gaps. The USO assists service members and their families around the world. IAVA has created an incredible online community of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations, and advocates for federal action on jobs, health, education and other pressing vet issues. There are various levels of government that deliver services as well as recreational opportunities to active duty warriors and their families, and veterans.  But more is needed, from our society collectively and each of us individually.

Leon Cooper will be on CNN Monday morning. Leon is 90, a WWII vet living in Los Angeles and working with a consistency and energy of someone in his 20s. That’s how old he was at Tarawa, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. Leon returned to that atoll when he learned that the beach that held the bones of his fallen comrades was now a garbage dump for islanders without arable land for alternatives.  His final campaign is captured in the film Return to Tarawa, which you can watch here.  Thanks to Leon’s indomitability, the power of the film, and the tools of SnagFilms, Congress last year directed the Department of Defense to identify the remains on Red Beach and bring them home.  In two months, the DOD teams will wing west to begin a task of memory and responsibility we have deferred for nearly 7 decades.

Kyle Maynard spends significant time working with wounded warriors.  An exceptional athlete honored with an ESPY and a shelf of other awards, best-selling author and motivational speaker, Kyle was born without complete limbs.  His motto, “No Excuses”, completely encapsulates how he lives his life. (A new film about Kyle will air on ESPN in November and you can learn more here.) Not long ago, I spent an afternoon at Ft. Myer, Virginia, with Kyle and a group of Iraq and Afghanistan vets with serious physical injuries resulting from their service.  We gathered around an exercise mat, and Kyle put the six men and one woman through a daunting workout – but from my fly-on-the-wall vantage point, the greatest outcome of the day came from the conversation among the participants.  The service members joining Kyle knew he only had a civilian’s perspective … but they also knew that his physical challenges had been life-long. They had in common much more than what they lacked; each was working every minute to turn loss into motivation, not cause for withdrawal.

We too need to make an effort, each in our own way. Memorial Day provides many such opportunities.  At the very least, it provides the chance for reflection and appreciation. Our founder, Ted Leonsis, coined the term “filmanthropy” to combine the communication power of film with the interactivity of the web, and allow an engaged audience new ways to start a conversation or take an action. We’ve pulled 11 films together from different conflicts and perspectives for Memorial Day – you can watch them from the widget below, or at http://bit.ly/SnagMemorialDay .  Enjoy them alone or with others. And make your Memorial Day into something to remember.