Archive for category Cool Stuff

Cool Stuff: The Flying Tigers Heritage Park In China

“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the Royal Air Force over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”-Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Flying Tigers

Folks, this is quite the thing. I recently stumbled upon this massive memorial park project in China, and no one knows about it. At least I have never heard about it and I track this kind of stuff. And how cool is this?

So why is this significant? I am speculating here, but this would qualify as probably the worlds largest park ever dedicated to the sacrifice and efforts of a private military company, in the history of private military companies.( AVG or The Flying Tigers were a private military company/air force, and the work they did during WW 2 is the stuff of legends.)

The park is being built in Guilin, China. The site itself is located next to Claire Chennault’s command cave, which has been a tourist attraction over the years.  Now, there will be a massive park built right next to it.

The Flying Tigers Heritage Park committee are still seeking donations for the project, but obviously they have received some serious funding to get the park to this level. I recommend checking out the links below, and following their progress via their Facebook page. -Matt

Website for park here.

Facebook page for park here.

 

This is the artist’s rendition of what it will look like when complete.

Here is some of the progress made.

Here is a photo of the command cave with some tourists heading up there to check it out.

With this artist’s concept overhead view, you can see the size of the project.

 

Why the Flying Tiger Historical Park?
The obvious answer is it is a chance to honor, preserve the memory of, and record for history the remarkable story that is the Flying Tigers, the Chinese and the CBI theater of World War II. A story that for many reasons has been overlooked, forgotten, or buried.
Many books have been written about the Flying Tigers and the pilots who flew the Hump (Air supply route from India to China across the Himalayan Mountains… the most dangerous air supply route in the world.) but for the most part the story and record set by these combatants has been passed over when reporting on the larger history of the Pacific War in WW II. The Chinese contribution has all but been ignored and yet their sacrifices were what made it possible for our American fighting men to achieve the success they did.
So, within the park grounds, the museum and the cave, we will tell their story. We will have memorial walls and statues honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on foreign soil. The museum will have archives which will hold records, books and personal accounts of that dark period in our world history. Photographs and artifacts, both military and personal, will be on display. Archival film footage will allow one to revisit that time and experience a little of what these warriors experienced.
The Less Obvious Answer Is More Compelling…
 
Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , ,

Film: Go See Captain Phillips!

Finally, a film that I can rejoice about. I wrote about this film back in 2011 and I have been anxiously anticipating it’s release ever since. I was not disappointed either and I highly recommend this film.

For those that are not familiar with this incident, here is a quick snippet from wikipedia.

The Maersk Alabama hijacking was a series of maritime events that began with four pirates in the Indian Ocean seizing the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the port city of Eyl, Somalia. The siege ended after a rescue effort by the U.S. Navy on 12 April 2009. It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century.It was the sixth vessel in a week to be attacked by pirates who had previously extorted ransoms in the tens of millions of dollars.

The story of the incident was reported in the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010) by Stephan Talty and Captain Richard Phillips, who had been master of the vessel at the time of the incident. The hijacking also inspired the 2013 film Captain Phillips, with Tom Hanks playing Richard Phillips in the title role, Barkhad Abdi playing Abduwali Muse and Faysal Ahmed playing Najee.

What is unique about this film is that the audience already knows what has happened, so the directors/actors/writers all had to make a movie about the journey or story, and make it compelling enough to keep the audience’s attention. I believe this film accomplished this task. The director Paul Greengrass is also famous for directing the Bourne movies, and you can totally see that style of film making in this film.

For Captain Philips, Tom Hank’s performance and portrayal of the man was excellent. He did not over act the thing, and you really got a sense of the frustration and fear he and the crew experienced prior too and during this incident. The last scene of the movie was especially gut wrenching, and this performance among others will make this movie a strong contender for the Academy Awards. (six nominations by the way…)

The other star of this film is the Somali pirates. The movie did an excellent job of summarizing what drives these pirates and not choosing a political angle. At first I thought they would justify why these pirates are doing what they are doing because of a lack of fish or some other lame excuse. That these were ‘poor fishermen’ and all the fish have been removed by larger commercial operations so they had to turn to piracy.

Nope, the pirates mentioned this angle briefly as an excuse, but at the end of the day, a pirate is a pirate. And you see the Captain Phillips character go through this arc of perception of his captors as well. At the end of the day, he came to the right conclusion that these were greedy and violent men, bent on doing whatever it took to get the job done. So I was glad that the movie portrayed these guys correctly, yet still gave you something to think about as to their reasoning for being pirates.

Which by the way, the Somali pirate leader Muse was played by Somali actor Barkhad Abdi and he did an outstanding job! He played the role perfectly as a ‘Captain Ahab style leader‘, driven to capture his whale called the Maersk Alabama. Barkhad is also an Academi Award nominee.

I have been following the maritime security industry for the last couple of years, ever since piracy became a huge deal. The Maersk Alabama hijacking brought some seriously needed attention to the matter. It is just one incident of many, that really drove my thoughts and opinions on what needed to happen in the maritime security industry. That less than lethal was a joke when it came to dealing with pirates armed with RPG’s and AK 47′s.

As I watched the film I kept thinking that these guys needed armed guards–which was my mantra back when this first came out in the news. If anything, this incident got the ball rolling as to why armed guards are so important, and the film did an excellent job of showing why. I am sure the audience came to the same conclusions as well.

To that point, it was the outstanding accuracy and cunning of the Navy SEAL sniper team that ended this ordeal. I thought this aspect of the movie was well played, and proportional. The SEAL aspect of this film did not drown out the Somali pirate crew story or the Maersk Alabama crew and captain story. It was all equal parts of the story, as it should be.

I was also taken aback by the enormity of the shipping ports and these vessels. The actual Maersk Alabama vessel was used in this film, thanks to Maersk, and the US Navy contributed aircraft and vessels as well for this film. All of it added realistic detail to the film and made it very believable. You actually felt like you were there with Captain Phillips and the pirates and the Navy SEALs, as they all were living through such horrible and complex ordeal.

A big hat tip to director Paul Greengras and executive producer Kevin Spacey, and the rest of the crew/actors/writers for getting this movie made. This thing gets a big Feral Jundi thumbs up and definitely check it out on the big screen if you can! -Matt

Buy the DVD box set on Amazon here.

Facebook page for film here.

Official page of the film here.

 

Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Paul Greengrass.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Music: A Marine Christmas Song

A hat tip to the guys at SOFREP for finding this one. Merry Christmas to all of those contractors and military that are deployed, and to their friends and family keeping the home fires burning.

Merry Christmas to all of my readership, FB fans, authors, veterans, PMSC’s, associations, academics, journalists, think tankers and fellow bloggers out there whom have all contributed to the discussion about the ever evolving world of the private military and security industry. -Matt

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Finance: 2013 Taxes For Contractors, By CPA Luke Fairfield

This is the annual letter that Luke sends out, that is filled with excellent tips for this year’s tax season. What is new this year is that Luke has a website you can go to for your own research. When he gets a Facebook or any other social network stuff up, I will post that as well.

For tax news, Luke is up on the whole tax thing going on in Iraq and how that is playing out for contractors. Also he has some valuable tips for how to deal with audits–meaning use a professional to deal with the IRS! Check it out and please contact Fairfield Hughes at their website if you want services. I am not working at this office and I am not the guy to ask if you have tax questions.

Also, I have posted the 2013 newsletter under the Taxes For Contractors tab up top so you can find it easily. A quick search and you will find my past postings on taxes as well. -Matt

 

 Greetings!

For all you ex-teams, ex-pats, ex Special Forces, security contractors and operators out there I hope this letter finds you well.  In an attempt to keep you current with your tax filings I am sending out this letter as a year-end reminder that 2013 is almost over.  There are some very important changes this year that could impact many of you as it relates to the IRS’s continued, heavy audit interest in the foreign income exclusion.  If you read nothing else, read the section below updating you on this topic.  As always feel free to pass this email on to anyone in your situation who could use the help or anyone that I missed on this email. As always, I will do my best to minimize your tax bill and provide relevant advice for your situation.

Important Updates for 2013:
1) Please check our website at www.fairfieldhughes.com.  It has some valuable info and answers to many frequent questions.
2) It is critically important that you retain copies of your Diplomatic passport and regular passport, overseas orders, LOAs, overseas expense receipts, VISAs and anything else that can prove you were overseas in a combat zone.  Keep these for at least 5 years.  Do not turn in your passports without making a scanned, color copy of them.
3) Should they choose to do so under audit, the IRS now has the ability to obtain an entry report from CBP and Homeland Security to verify your time in the US.
4) Zac Silides has joined our firm and is a licensed attorney.  He is able to assist with many business tax issues such as starting business entities as well as preparing family and living trusts.
5) Iraqi tax withholding.  Employees of Triple Canopy as well as Global have had Iraqi tax withheld on their salary in 2013.  Your company facilitated this by reducing the amount of federal withholding.
a. You are allowed to claim a credit for the Iraqi tax paid which directly offsets federal income tax.
b. Be aware that if you claim the foreign income exclusion, you are not allowed as large of a foreign tax credit.
6) Audits on the foreign income exclusion have greatly increased.  If you worked for Blackwater in 2009 chances are you were audited.  With Triple Canopy taking over the Blackwater contract, IRS audits followed this change and 90% of all audits on our clients were current or ex TC employees. If you have not heard of a teammate or fellow employee who has been through an audit I would be surprised.  These audits continue to spread from ex-Blackwater and TC employees to nearly anyone filing for the foreign income exclusion.  As a result, I would recommend being even more cautious in claiming the foreign income exclusion in 2013.  After a year of dealing with these audits, the below points stand out as noteworthy and important.
a. It is EXTREMELY important that you contact me in the event that you receive an audit notice.  Do not make contact with the auditor for the same reason that you do not file your own tax return.  Leave it to professionals with experience dealing with these situations; the results will almost certainly be better with less risk to you.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Books: Civilian Warriors, By Erik Prince

This is the much anticipated book by Erik Prince about his former company.  You can go to Amazon and pre-order, or wait until November and check out all of the various book stores and sites that Penguin Group is releasing it at.

One thing that has come up recently about the book is a lawsuit between Prince and one of his ghost writers. We will see how that turns out and how the book sells. -Matt

Pre-order the book here.

Edit: 12/17/13– Prince has been doing tons of interviews to promote his book. Probably the best one has been The Daily Show. Check it out.

 

 

Summary of Civilian Warriors
The founder of Blackwater offers the gripping, previously untold story of the world’s most controversial military contractor

Blackwater is one of the most misunderstood companies of our time. As Erik Prince, its founder and former CEO, writes:

“Hundreds of American citizens employed by private military contractors, or PMCs, would lose their lives helping our government wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to have their memory tarnished by the unfair and/or ignorant depiction of PMCs as profiteers, jackbooted thugs, or worse.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Executive Protection: So Who Does Warren Buffet Use For Security?

This is a great show on the protective details of the rich. Have you ever wondered who protects guys like Warren Buffet?

In the video they identified Clark International as the folks that Mr. Buffet uses. Pretty cool, and if the Oracle of Omaha chose them, then they must have the juice.  Buffet is the king of finding quality companies and investing in them for the long haul. According to the video, Buffet has used Clark International for several decades now. -Matt

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,