4 years ago

The little-known Alabama connection to Clint Eastwood’s upcoming ‘American Sniper’ film

"American Sniper" became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)
“American Sniper” became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)

Clint Eastwood’s new film “American Sniper” is set to begin production today in Morocco, and it will feature an Alabama connection that few people are aware of.

The movie will focus on the life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, commonly referred to as “the most lethal sniper in American military history” with 160 confirmed kills and 255 claimed kills. So legendary were his exploits on the battlefields of Iraq that insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi.” His longest confirmed kill was from an incredible 2,100 yards — roughly 1.2 miles. He was shot twice and involved in six IED attacks during his four tours in Iraq. For his service and valor he received two Silver Stars, five bronze stars, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and a Marine Corps Commendation.

Upon returning to his home state of Texas, Kyle took an active role in helping fellow veterans — especially those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — get re-acclimated to life at home. But in February of last year, Kyle and a friend of his named Chad Littlefield were gunned down at a shooting range by 25-year-old Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, while they were trying to help smooth his transition back into civilian life.

Before he was tragically killed, Kyle penned an autobiography called “American Sniper” detailing his transition from Texas rodeo cowboy to sniper. The upcoming film of the same name is being directed by Clint Eastwood and will star Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, The Hangover, Limitless) as Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as his wife, Taya Renae Kyle.

Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle's 2013 autobiography "American Sniper."
Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle’s 2013 autobiography “American Sniper.”

In addition to the movie stars, at least one real-life Navy SEAL will play a significant role in the film. Kyle’s close personal friend and fellow SEAL Team 3 sniper Kevin “Dauber” Lacz (pronounced “lace”) is serving as one of the movie’s technical advisors. In short, Lacz will be showing the actors how it’s done in real life. On top of that, he’ll have an on-screen role in the film playing himself.

Lacz is Alabama’s connection to what is undoubtedly the year’s most anticipated military-related film. Now retired from the SEALs, Lacz currently works for Birmingham, Ala.-based defense contractor XTreme Concepts.

XTreme focuses primarily on providing venture capital to early stage companies focused on defense initiatives, but they also offer security services and employ a host of former U.S. special forces operatives, including SEALs and Green Berets.

“It’s important to us that we play an integral role in putting veterans to work,” XTreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash told Yellowhammer. “The sacrifices these guys and their families make secure the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. So when they come home, we feel like it’s our responsibility to provide a job for as many of them as possible.”

Ash said “American Sniper” is moving forward quickly, as is usually the case with Eastwood-directed films.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be involved in this project,” said Ash. “Dauber’s already in Morocco where they’re shooting a lot of the film. We know it’s in good hands with Clint Eastwood at the helm.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz

Yellowhammer also had an opportunity to speak to with Lacz’s wife, Lindsey, Sunday evening. She detailed the unlikely sequence of events that led to her husband not only becoming the technical assistant on the movie, but also landing an on-camera role.

“Back in early 2012 when Warner Brothers optioned the rights to the film’s script, I was bored and Googled the screen writer and ended up finding him on Facebook. I sent him a message and told him my husband was in the book and basically asked him not to screw it up,” Mrs. Lacz said. “These men are impressive enough as they are, there’s no need to make it something it’s not. I figured I’d never hear back from him, but he actually messaged me back almost immediately and Kevin and I developed a friendship with him. Several months before Chris (Kyle) was killed, Kevin began helping out a lot on the technical stuff for the screen play. After Chris died, they moved Kevin into the advisory role. When he went out to train Bradley Cooper, they ended up asking him to audition to actually be in the movie. That wasn’t at all what we expected.”

Mrs. Lacz also filled us in on more of the back story between her husband and Chris Kyle, and on how Dauber ended up in the SEALs to begin with.

“One of Kevin’s best friend’s father was killed in one of the towers in 9/11. At the time he was going to school at James Madison University, but he decided he wanted to go into the military. He had no idea what job he wanted to do, though. When he went to the recruiter’s office, he saw a SEAL poster on the wall. He always says, ‘When I saw the poster of a frog man coming out of the water I knew that was it. That’s what I wanted to do.’

“He ended up in SEAL Team 3, Charlie Platoon, which is where he linked up with Chris,” she continued. “They deployed together to Ramadi. Mickey Monsoor, who was awarded the Medal of Honor, was over there, too, in their sister platoon. Chris ended up getting moved to Delta platoon, but he wanted to make sure someone he was already close to would be there with him. He tells a great story in his book about how he went into the office and moved Kevin’s name on the board over to Delta platoon with him, so they could be together. He wanted to serve with him.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.

Mrs. Lacz said that Dauber got connected to the Alabama-based XTreme Concepts team through the company’s COO, Bradley Stegmeier, who is also a former SEAL. Stegmeier was in a leadership position inside SEAL Team 3 while Dauber was serving.

“We got a call from Brad and part of what they were looking for was someone with some medical experience,” she said. “Prior to becoming a SEAL, Kevin had been a corpsman, part of the Navy’s medical personnel. When he got out of the SEALs, he went to the University of Connecticut and got his bachelors degree in political science, but then decided to go to PA (physician’s assistant) school at Wake Forest. So when Brad was looking for someone with some background in medicine, it was a good fit.”

Mrs. Lacz said Dauber is enjoying the opportunity to be in the movie and tell their story.

“Overall, Kevin just really enjoys being involved with the SEAL community. Being on the SEAL teams is so demanding and requires so much time away from home. So we decided if we were going to have kids, we’d need to go in another direction. But he loves having those experiences with them. This movie is a great opportunity to continue that connection.”

A release date for “American Sniper” is not yet set, but it could be in theaters as early as the fourth quarter of this year.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

8 hours ago

End the shutdown politics

For far too long, Congress has relied on short term, stop-gap funding bills to keep the federal government open and running — and have done so when up against holidays and midnight deadlines.

Take the most recent continuous resolution: last month, as a member of the House of Representatives, I voted around 5:30 AM on a Friday morning against a massive spending bill that raises America’s deficit next year to about $1 trillion.


Yes, you read that right. While you and your family were sleeping, a handful of your duly-elected representatives were making deals in the middle of the night. For the last 40 years — but increasingly more so in the last decade — this has been and is the way Washington operates. It needs to end now.

Put simply, this is how it works: time is running out as Congress approaches a funding deadline. In exchange for their votes, appropriators demand more money for “insert name of pet project” and the spending bill balloons as more and more wish list items are added. Inevitably, one party demands more or they’ll threaten to walk from the deal.

A small leadership team from both sides then hammer out a deal behind closed doors — with Republicans agreeing to spend even more money America does not have, has to borrow to get, and cannot afford to pay back. This is what Washington did in February with its “debt junkie” spending bill and what it’s poised to do again this week.

Moreover, these last-minute side deals for unrelated, often deemed “must-pass” legislation, have no business being in a continuing resolution and should be voted on as stand-alone bills. But because of threatened government shutdown risks, the bulk of Congress is subject to the spending demands of the powerful few.

The party in power almost always loses in the game of shutdown politics, as it suggests the party does not know how to govern and does not deserve to govern. In the late-night rush to negotiate a deal, the powerbrokers eventually concede, bad policy is enacted, and Congress is pressured to vote for the deal to please some segment of their constituency. It’s a loss on both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps even worse, the country loses — big time — as bills are introduced and voted on before the public has time to digest them and submit their views to their elected officials. Transparency in government becomes nonexistent. And the deficit increases exponentially.

Let’s take a quick look at previous short-term continuous resolutions.

Remember the cromnibus back in 2013? At the time, the last-minute Christmas bill seemed monstrous with the approved $63 billion increase in spending authority over two years. That’s pocket change compared to the McConnell-Schumer Deal that passed last month and busted the discretionary budget spending caps by $296 billion over two years. All this adds up to trillions of dollars, and as a result of the February continuous resolution vote, deficits will blow through the $1 trillion mark annually and indefinitely.

While Congress seems hell-bent on passing unaffordable spending bills and adding trillions to America’s debt, eventually the gravy train is going to an end and become a train wreck because America simply can’t afford these expensive deals.

That’s why last week I introduced H.R. 5313: The End Federal Shutdowns Act. This legislation automatically requires continuity of spending at the previous year’s levels should Congress fail to pass spending bills on time. Hence, government shutdowns become a thing of the past.

The concept is simple: whatever the spending level was for the previous year becomes the spending level for such time as it takes Washington to pass legislation that changes priorities and reallocate different spending amounts. If this legislation were enacted, leadership of both parties would have no choice but to aggressively seek timely regular order agreement and passage of appropriations bills to achieve new funding and policy objectives. A flat-spending alternative would be a strong incentive for constructive compromise involving a majority of representatives.

Providing for an automatic continuous resolution should be the easiest vote most of us in Congress make this year. It provides stability for the federal government and prevents rank and file members from being held hostage to the demands of special interest groups, leadership, and powerful appropriators.

I’m urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together and do what’s right for the Congress and for the country. A vote for H.R. 5313 is common sense — something that seems to be lacking in Washington these days.

Let’s stop shutdown politics once and for all.

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks is a Republican from Huntsville

Christy Swaid is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

When pro sports star Christy Swaid first moved to Alabama in 2002, she said she immediately fell in love with her new home, but it broke her heart to learn that the state ranks in the top three nationally for diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and hypertension and that Alabama children are developing type 2 diabetes at one of the fastest-growing rates in the nation.

Swaid, a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, is a six-time world champion professional jet ski racer, the winningest female in the history of the sport, and was twice named “One of the Fittest Women in America” by Competitor Magazine in 2000 and by Muscle and Fitness in 2001.


After years advocating for marine safety, Swaid channeled her extensive fitness experience and passion for service into launching a nonprofit in 2006 named HEAL (healthy eating active living) with a mission to use evidence-based methods and education to “measurably improve children’s health and reverse the growing epidemic of childhood obesity,” according to HEAL’s website.

“My heart and mission is to help children prevent diseases before they get established, but then follow them throughout their school experience with more healthy eating, active living techniques and encouragement,” Swaid said in a January Alabama Public Television interview.

Swaid tested her curriculum-based fitness and nutrition program in a six-month pilot program that measured results in fifth grade PE classrooms at 10 Alabama schools and found promising results among participating children: 75 percent showed improved fitness, 57 percent of overweight and obese children reduced their body mass index (BMI), and all participants reported improvements in healthful eating.

The program has steadily expanded, serving 130 Alabama schools in 27 counties and reaching 27,000 students across multiple grade levels. There are 175 schools on a waiting list pending funding; HEAL raises their own funds to offer the program to schools at no cost.

Last year, four Alabama schools using the HEAL curriculum earned an “America’s Healthiest School Award” from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, whose judging standards include the healthiness of meals and snacks served, how much students move at school, and the quality of physical and health education.

“I am so proud of our state,” Swaid told APT. “Ten years ago, this was a kitchen table conversation, and I was able to glean the brightest and the best minds who also have big hearts to help put their fingerprints in making the most progressive solution to our nation’s worst epidemic, and that is what HEAL is … a genius cluster.”

Swaid developed her research-based curriculum in partnership with professors from UAB and Samford University.

“It is all science-based and it’s friendly, and it includes every child, including children with special needs,” she said.

Swaid will be honored with Gov. Kay Ivey in an awards event March 29 in Birmingham. The Yellowhammer Women of Impact event will honor 20 women making an impact in Alabama and will benefit Big Oak Ranch. Details and registration may be found here.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.

9 hours ago

Alabama eyes potential economic impact of fatal deer disease

A fatal deer disease is inching closer to Alabama, where whitetail deer are the most popular game animal and hunting generates a $1.8 billion yearly economic impact.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that a dead buck tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Mississippi’s Issaquena County last month; until then, the closest state to Alabama with the neurological disease was Arkansas.


Chuck Sykes with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division says it’s unlikely a diseased deer would wander “over an imaginary line on a map,” but that infected meat or animals could be brought in knowingly or unknowingly. Alabama has banned the import of carcasses from states where CWD has been confirmed.

The department says states with CWD have seen an up to 40 percent decrease in hunting license sales.

(Image: Outdoor Alabama)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

9 hours ago

Alabama ranks 4th most federally dependent state

Alabama is the fourth most federally dependent state in the union, according to analysis done by the personal finance website WalletHub.

The details:

Researchers compared the 50 states by examining both the dependency of state governments and of state residents.


To determine state government dependence, researchers looked at federal funding as a share of state revenue in each of the states.

To determine the dependency of residents, researchers used returns on taxes paid to the federal government and each state’s share of federal jobs as metrics.

Alabama’s state government was ranked the thirteenth most federally dependent and Alabama’s residents were ranked fourth most dependent.

New Mexico, Kentucky and Mississippi were ranked the three most federally dependent states.

In January, WalletHub ranked Alabama the tenth most affected state by the federal government shutdown, which was determined by various metrics indicating the state’s dependence upon the federal government.

That analysis examined Alabama’s share of federal jobs and contracts, its access to federal lending programs, and its percentages of children reliant upon the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Click here to read the experts’ analyses.

10 hours ago

Fort Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base and more recently discussed in House defense appropriations subcommittee hearings

Serving on the House Appropriations Committee gives me a valuable and unique opportunity to participate in the conversations surrounding funding for the various functions of our federal government.

It’s hard to believe it, but the debates on funding for the Fiscal Year 2019 have already begun. I’ve been glad to be part of these important discussions and advocate for programs that are critically important to the State of Alabama and our country as a whole.

Recently the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, on which I’m grateful to serve, held hearings to review the Fiscal Year 2019 budget requests from various services. So far during this budget request season, our subcommittee has heard from the Navy and the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Army.


I was glad to take part in all these discussions for several reasons. I have always been a strong advocate for properly supporting our military so that our men and women in uniform have everything they need when we send them into harm’s way. Secondly, our state and district have a very large military presence, and I consider fighting for our interests one of my greatest responsibilities in Congress.

When the Air Force testified before Defense Appropriations, I was glad to have the opportunity to have a conversation with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein. You may remember that Secretary Wilson was the key decision maker for the F-35 mission. We talked about the Air Force’s priorities for the next year, and I thanked her in person for making the decision to send the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery. As I told Secretary Wilson, the men and women of the 187th could not be more thrilled about this extraordinary opportunity, and our entire state and community share in this excitement.

When the Navy and Marine Corps came before the subcommittee to discuss their budget request, I asked Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson about the F-35 mission’s potential to enable the Navy fleet as a whole to be more capable. I was thrilled when he assured me that yes, this would definitely be the case. In my role on the Appropriations Committee, I will also continue to support the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program manufactured in Mobile as well as the other important priorities for our state.

During the Army’s testimony before Defense Appropriations, I reviewed the Army’s budget request with Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. The people of Southeast Alabama care greatly about the Army, and we are so proud that our very own Fort Rucker is the home of Army Aviation. Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 2019 budget request for Army Aviation aircraft is significantly reduced from this year, so I pressed Secretary Esper about this. I appreciated his response and his assurance that operations will proceed as usual at Fort Rucker. This news on top of the announcement we recently received that 17 Lakota helicopters will soon be added to the fleet at Fort Rucker are both great indications that this proud military installation in our backyard will continue to excel for years to come. Of course, in my role on the Appropriations Committee, I will continue push for strong Army Aviation funding.

I deeply appreciate these distinguished military leaders for taking the time to review their budgets and priorities with us. Each of these individuals have led lives of dedicated service to our country, and I am grateful to their families for the many sacrifices made on our behalf. I will continue to prioritize the national security of this great nation, and as always, I will never stop advocating for the important work being done in Alabama’s Second District at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.