This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war - We Are The Mighty
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This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

After serving in Iraq, Army veteran Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.


Tylek said he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst because of his military experience.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

“At the beginning of every semester it was always the same thing,” Tylek told We Are The Mighty. “Kids would ask if I was in ROTC or was a veteran, and [about] what I did and where I was. Without fail, a student who [had] just met me would ask with wide eyes and a big smile if I killed anyone. I didn’t know how to respond.”

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

In his view, most students — having seen popular movies and video games like “Black Hawk Down” and “Call of Duty” — expected to hear a yes from Tylek, who served in Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division in 2009.

“They view our soldiers [as] robotic killing machines who are untouchable in combat,” Tylek said. “And they want that to be you so they can ask all the gory details and raise you to hero status in their minds.”

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlayed text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls. After his own experience in combat, Tylek realized how unrealistic civilian views of warfare can be, and he decided his blog could provide a wake-up call.

“I hope people see what war really is — a massive waste of life and resources — a messy, scary, horrific thing,” Tylek said. “And yet, I hope they see a little about why we do it, the bond that we have with our fellow soldiers is a lot of times closer than the bond that we have with our own families.”

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

Tylek also told WATM that he created the blog in memory of his best friend, Spc. Joe Kenny, who died while serving in Mosul.

Check out more of the powerful collection of images from justWarthings:

 

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: justWarthings

For more of Tylek’s work, check out justWarthings

NOW:  William Shatner is traveling the US on a crazy-looking motorcycle to promote vets

OR: Brad Pitt is starring as Gen. Stanley McChrystal in ‘War Machine’

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6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

With no sales tax and some name-brand discounts, the Exchange is a military benefit designed to help troops and their families save money. But, as most military shoppers know, some items don’t end up being cheaper at the Exchange, especially things that regularly get marked down. Sunglasses, Keurigs, and a lot of other items can be bought for less at Amazon or big box stores.


But many essential or high-demand items are cheaper at the a local exchange or at shopmyexchange.com. Here are 6 last-minute gifts that fit in that category:

1. Fitness trackers

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Photo: Wikipedia/Desmondma

Whether your gift recipients want to track their sleep, their runs, or both, the market is filled with awesome new options. Most trackers, including the popular Fitbits, are available at the Exchange for the same price they would be anywhere else, minus sales tax.

2. Video game consoles

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe

The tax savings on video game consoles at the exchange are typically $20 or more, so it’s a great place to pick up Playstations or XBoxes, if they have the bundle you’re looking for.

Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are primarily sold with a game included in a bundle. While getting a bundle like Gears of War will cost less at the exchange, the LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle isn’t available there. And the cost saving at the exchange aren’t enough to justify buying a game you won’t play.

3. Fragrances

While the Exchanges’ selection of perfumes and colognes is small, what it does have is cheaper than a lot of other outlets and there are a number of “stocking stuffer” sized bottles for $5 or less.

Those looking for a specific scent may have to pick up their bottles somewhere else.

4. Tactical gear

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Getting military gear from a random website can be risky since badly sewn pouches won’t fit properly on a military vest and many items at tactical stores aren’t authorized for wear.

The items at the Exchange are more likely to appear on approved gear lists. But, remember that anything that can be bought used will likely cost less at a military surplus store.

5. Macs

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Photo: Wikipedia/Intel Free Press

Macs usually sell for $10 less than at the military exchange than from the Apple Store. On the more costly models, the tax savings of shopping the Exchange can save over $100.

But, in the Apple store customers can buy upgraded memory or processors that come pre-installed in the computer. These options aren’t available at the Exchange.

6. PCs

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Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy L. Wood

Dell and Office Depot both run online storefronts with special pricing on computers through the military Exchange. Before making the final purchase though, do an internet search of the model number. Some still end up being cheaper at civilian stores.

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The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.

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Pollard released this photo with his wife, Esther.

While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.  The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.

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Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”

The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.

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Pollard caught stealing documents on camera.

The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:

  • Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
  • Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
  • Regular PLO operations plans
  • Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
  • Soviet fighter jet information
  • Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs

“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.

The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.

Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.

Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.

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Bin Laden shooter Robert O’Neill threatened by ISIS as ‘number one target’

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The former Navy SEAL who says he shot Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid had his address made public while being named the “number one target” by a purported member of the ISIS terrorist group, Military Times reports.

After monitoring extremist chatrooms, the UK’s Daily Mirror reported a British ISIS member giving out the SEAL’s name and address to others, which has been shared by jihadis in recent days.

“I leave this info of Robert O’Neill for my brothers in America and Al Qaeda in the U.S., as a number one target to eventually hunt down and kill,” the ISIS supporter wrote.

Since O’Neill is no longer on active duty, the Defense Department told the Times it would likely not be opening an investigation. But the SEAL, who retired in 2012 as a senior chief petty officer, doesn’t appear to be worried.

“All soldiers who serve their country assume certain risks. It’s part of the deal,” O’Neill told The Daily Caller. “But I am alert, I am vigilant and I take precautions. My bigger concern is a lack of a clear strategy for containing and or neutralizing ISIS as a national security threat.”

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10 reasons James Bond is the worst spy ever

By now, we should all understand the life of Ian Fleming’s signature British spy is nothing like the real world of clandestine international espionage agents. The Silver Screen Bond is less clandestine, more clandestish. Even so, there are probably a million reasons any guy would want to be James Bond, and most of those reasons are why he’s a terrible spy.


1. He uses his real name

Secrecy is the most necessary element in the world of spies, so it’s a bad idea to use a real name. Even if James Bond is a cover name, he still uses the same cover name every time. Which is pretty much the same thing and seems like terrible espionage. Knowing how great Bond is with disguises, if he had to make up his own cover name every time, it would probably be just as useless.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Bond is supposed to be Japanese here. No that’s not a joke.

He’s much better at thinking of bad puns after killing people. No wonder he needs so much help on every mission. Helping Bond can be hazardous to your health. For instance, a guy named Quarrel helps Bond throughout Dr. No and 007 lets Quarrel get torched by an armored flamethrower. Valentin Zukovsy saves Bond, his missions, and the world banking system in two films and Bond lets him get shot to death. And then, like a uniquely British STD, there’s the slew of women who die after a night with him.

2. He cares more about bedding women than any mission

That 007 cares more about sleeping with women than completing (or starting) a mission comes up more than once. In fact, in the first few movies, he doesn’t start his super-important missions until after sleeping with some woman he just met.

That those women usually don’t make it to the end credits is more evidence that James Bond should not be the clandestine agent Great Britain depends on for its security. It’s almost as if these women had to sleep with James Bond.

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That’s the actual line from the movie.

If Bond cared about them, they would probably have a higher survival rate. The only woman Bond ever saved without banging was M, and he couldn’t get away fast enough. It literally took 5 seconds. This also probably why she survives to be in other movies.

If Bond doesn’t care about them, he sure takes it personally every time one of them dies or betrays him — another terrible trait for a spy. Natalya Simonova was one the best Bond girls, but driving a tank around St. Petersberg trying to save her is a great way to blow your cover. Speaking of which…

3. He blows his cover on every mission

In Dr. No, Bond spends half the movie trying to convince an islander to help him infiltrate Dr. No’s radioactive island. He finally does and they sneak on in the middle of the night, only for Bond to give them away first thing the next morning when he sees a woman in a bikini.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

In Goldfinger, he’s supposed to monitor Goldfinger, but instead of that, he immediately breaks into Goldfinger’s suite, introduces himself to Goldfinger’s employee, taunts him via radio, forces him to lose thousands of dollars, then bangs his employee! Is anyone surprised when Goldfinger knocks Bond out in his own kitchen? In my opinion, Jill got dipped in gold paint because she makes poor life choices.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
At least she’s wearing clean underwear.

That was Goldfinger’s employee. In Thunderball, 007 sleeps with his mark’s girlfriend.

4. He drinks like it’s his job

The drinking. All the drinking. The guy is clearly an alcoholic. In the U.S., you can’t even get a top secret security clearance with that much alcohol use, let alone be the top field agent. How does Bond not die in alcohol-related incidents? Or of cirrhosis?

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
One thing at a time, man!

He needs booze to do anything. Sure, we can give him a pass for having a drink while gambling. That helps maintain an effective cover. But how many does he need for that purpose? This is the guy who keeps a bottle of chilled champagne in his tricked-out Aston-Martin just in case he has a lady in need of an emergency picnic. And he pops the compartment open in a move that would make Glenn Quagmire proud.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

With the exception of Timothy Dalton’s chronically misdressed Bond (he wears a shabby wool suit to work and a tuxedo to the carnival), 007 always looks impeccable. How does Bond always manage to look so suave and clean? With as much as he drinks and spends all night every night shagging some new girl, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be tired, unshaven, and smelling like liquor.

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ARCHER IS A DOCUMENTARY

 5. He gets captured all the time

Dr. No captures Bond and serves him breakfast. Bond immediately allows himself to be drugged by drinking the coffee like it was life-giving vodka. When he’s trying to turn a Russian general’s girlfriend in The Living Daylights, he CHUGS the martini she gives him. Drugged again. It’s a miracle he ever escapes anything alive. Poisoned vodka should have been enough to kill 007 in 1965 but then again, alcohol poisoning should have done him in a dozen times.

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This should have been the end of every movie.

Alec Trevelyan captures him twice. In Afghanistan, he escapes capture from the Soviets, only to be immediately captured by the Muhajeddin. Elecktra King doesn’t have any special powers or weapons and she captures 007 AND M. Goldfinger captured 007 and carted him around the world for at least a week. James Bond drove up to Harlem in the 1970s, tailing a gangster, then walked right into his nightclub. He was captured and held at gunpoint in about thirty seconds. Later in the same movie (Live and Let Die) he does it again.

6. He never notices the mole in MI6

Every time he travels, every where he goes, the enemy always knows his exact schedule. It doesn’t matter if it’s Eastern Europe, Turkey, or Jamaica, enemy agents always know when his flight arrives and what the world’s top secret superspy looks like. It also doesn’t matter who the enemy is, SPECTRE, Russia, or Dr. No.  Ignoring M16’s mole entirely, Bond spends a lot of tim in Dr. No trying to interrogate his people. When he finally subdues a geology professor who tires to kill him, 007 just shoots him instead of asking him anything.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

In Casino Royale, he doesn’t even bother to check what bank account Vesper Lynd transfers the money to. That could have been a great clue into what was really going on.

7. He rarely searches his hotel rooms for thugs, bugs, or anything

In Goldfinger, Bond blows up a drug lab and then walk right to the bar (surprise) to bang a dancer (big surprise). He walks into her room and starts undressing, missing the thug waiting to kill him. He only notices in the reflection on her eyeball. As the attacker drops the blow, he spins around and lets the lady take it.

In From Russia With Love, after not being in his hotel for two days, he just waltzes in, disrobes and orders breakfast. He doesn’t search for bugs or bombs or anything. THERE’S SOMEONE IN HIS BED and he doesn’t even notice. When he finds out its a woman, He even allows himself to be filmed having sex with her, his Russian informant, who is double crossing him.

It’s a good thing SPECTRE is as incompetent as he is. Even Blofeld, the most epic of all his nemeses, met an ignominious end when Bond dropped his WHEELCHAIR down a smokestack.

8. He hangs out with the supervillains he’s supposed to take out

In Live and Let Die, 007 disarms and captures a woman by burning the assailant’s drawn gun hand with a cigar while breaking into his hotel room. She says she’s CIA… and that’s good enough for James Bond, even though she can’t do any actual spy stuff or shoot a weapon. He sleeps with her anyway, then spends the next day fishing with her.

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Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but fishing maybe?

Bond spends DAYS with Pussy Galore and Goldfinger without trying to escape even once. He drinks with Emilio Largo, vacations with Electra King, and bangs media baron Elliot Carver’s wife while staying at his house in Hamburg.

9. He’s a huge drain on the taxpayer

And doesn’t James Bond live a really lavish lifestyle for spy? Tuxedos, Aston-Martins, Gambling in the Riviera, not to mention all these other exotic locales? Why doesn’t SPECTRE set up shop in places that are little more out of reach for the West, like Sudan or North Korea? The Bahamas seems like a terrible place to start an evil plan or terrorist group. Bond’s life is one of tuxedos, luxury cars, and champagne.

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Cost Benefit analysis: how much does it cost for James Bond to stop these villains vs. What the villains actually want. How much was that invisible car? How many people died to get Bond in Space? At some point we have to wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper just to let the bad guys win one. But be advised: When he doesn’t get his way, he rebels and becomes an enemy of the state.

10. He destroys everything

He destroys national monuments, kills local cops, and troops who are only doing their job, even when Russia isn’t the bad guy. It’s not like the cops know who he is, they’re just trying to protect the innocent. Someone let James Bond know Blue Lives Matter. And he can’t just kill someone. It takes four cars, two helicopters, and a train to get to the bad guy. Even when he’s assigned to get one guy, 007 blows up half an african embassy to do it (and gets caught on camera in the process).

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Even if Bond is a cover name used by many agents, he just blew his cover (see reason #3).

On that note, who is the bad guy here? Isn’t M16 supposed to be supporting justice and peace? Instead their main guy is blowing up dams and trashing cities. He drove a tank through an apartment in St. Petersburg.

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Because f*ck you and everything you love.

If he pulled this stuff in the U.S. it would be on Fox News in heartbeat, and there goes his cover. He ruins weddings, birthdays, and lives.

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And especially vacations. Rue Brittania.

BONUS: Q Branch isn’t that great either.

Pen grenade? Awesome. Magnet and/or laser watch? Perfect. Crocodile suit? Are you kidding me, Q?

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

 

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The 3 elite Green Berets killed in Jordan earlier this month were working for the CIA

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U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy


The three members of Army Special Forces who were killed earlier this month outside a Jordanian military base were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The three soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on November 4. The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to King Feisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Also read: The US lost 6 elite Green Berets in a 72-hour span last week

According to The Post, the soldiers were working on the CIA’s program to train moderate Syrian rebels. It’s still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding their deaths.

Jordanian military officials said that shots were fired as the Americans’ car tried to enter the base, and a Jordanian military officer was also wounded, according to Army Times. Reporting from the Post seems to suggest that an accidental discharge from the Green Berets inside their vehicle may have led to a shootout, which an official called a “chain of unfortunate events.”

The loss of the three soldiers may be the deadliest incident for the CIA since 2009, when a suicide bomber killed seven members of a CIA team in Khost, Afghanistan.

The CIA often “details” special operations units to operate within its paramilitary force, called Special Activities Division. Some notable examples include the use of Army’s Delta Force in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which was carried out by Navy SEALs assigned to the CIA.

It has been particularly rough time for the Army Special Forces community. Besides the three soldiers killed in Jordan, there were two others killed in Afghanistan and another killed during scuba training this month.

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US intelligence before World War II was basically nonexistent

U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.


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Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.

Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.

Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.

Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.

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Donovan conferring with OSS agents in China

Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.

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OSS classroom training.

Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”

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OSS paratrooper training

Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.

Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.

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A guide to CW5s, the military’s mythical rank

There is a special bedtime story that all platoon sergeants and petty officers tell their troops; there exists a special rank of chief warrant officer that is the premiere technical expert in their field. This mythical rank is called “Chief Warrant Officer 5.”


Young service members typically believe in the story for the first few years, but then begin to question it. If warrant officers 1 and chief warrant officers 3 could really grow up to be chief warrant officers 5, wouldn’t they have seen one by now?

But now, in a We Are The Mighty exclusive, we can confirm that CW5s — a commonly accepted abbreviation for the species — do really, truly exist.

While many of their superpowers are still unknown, here are the ones they’ve demonstrated in view of our crack team of researchers so far:

1. Insane levels of knowledge (probably)

This photo reportedly depicts a CW5 from the New York National Guard dropping some major knowledge bombs on other troops. WATM could not independently verify that this particular CW5 exists, but the chest markings are consistent with the specimen we observed. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Master Sgt. Raymond Drumsta)

The video at the top highlights the power that supposedly makes the CW5s so valuable. Legend says that they know everything about their assigned area. Aviation CW5s can quote the length and placement of each storage panel on the body of an Apache. Signal CW5s can quote frequencies like chaplains quote chapter and verse.

Having witnessed one of the beautiful creatures in action, WATM can confirm that they say a lot of technical stuff that sounds super impressive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if what they’re saying is accurate since it usually involves details so obscure that literally no one else knows where to check for answers.

2. CW5s can appear and disappear at will

A CW5 and chief warrant officer 4 sit in a helicopter together a short time before they disappeared without a trace. Aviation CW5s may be the most elusive of their breed since they can literally fly away from observers. An unsubstantiated report claims that the two chiefs in this photo are brothers. (Photo: U.S. National Guard Sgt. Jodi Eastham)

The only specimen which WATM was able to observe was working in an office with an open door on a separate floor of our building. We, of course, established a 24-hour watch with a duty log filled with hundreds of pages of blank paper that we thought would soon be filled with observations.

But, somehow, after only a few hours, the CW5 disappeared without a sign. According to troops of more common rank in the area, that’s how CW5s work. They’ll be present at a random formation or two and visible in the office for an hour at a time, but then they’ll be gone. When they return, everyone is so carried away with awe that they forget to ask the CW5 where they were.

3. CW5s are masters of camouflage

Think this is a prior service lieutenant? Then he fooled you. That’s a Marine Corps CW5. It takes only a slight amount of glare to render their markings indistinguishable from the lowly LT. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Timothy A. Turner)

One possible explanation for the disappearing act is that CW5s are able to blend in with lesser members of the military thanks to two important features of their markings. First, their skin is covered in the same pattern as other service members, allowing them to blend into the herd like zebras would.

Second, their identifying rank markings are a thin bar of blue, black, or red sandwiched between two silver bars. This causes many observers to mistake them for extremely old lieutenants.

4. Still, there’s a lot we don’t know

While WATM is excited and proud of this advance in warrant officer science, many avenues of research remain open and require answers. Is it true that CW5s retire from the military? Does the president really have to sign off on their rank? Do they really originate from the ranks of chief warrant officers 4?

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dave Dale sprays down Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard Wince following his final flight in a Delaware National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. It’s possible that this ritual allows CW5s to prepare their knowledge to transfer into a new vessel. (Photo and first half of the cutline: U.S. Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Wendy Callaway)

WATM’s working theory is that CW5s do not retire and are not created by promotion. Instead, CW5s are reincarnated in a system similar to the Dalai Lama and Panchem Lama. When a CW5s mortal body fails, its knowledge moves to a new human frame. Other CW5s find this new repository and grant it the ancient markings of their people.

Of course, we will continue our research into this amazing discovery.

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The destruction of these villages shows the complex calculus of the Afghan War

On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.


A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.

Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.

The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.

Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.

The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: Youtube.com

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo: Youtube.com

No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)

Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.

Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.

NOW: ‘The Fighting Season’ nails the gritty realities of the Afghan War

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

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Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

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WWII ‘Ghost Army’ may be up for Congressional Gold Medal

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
National Archives


In the crucial months following the D-Day invasion, the clever foxes of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops repeatedly fooled the Nazis by deploying a Ghost Army; a phantom division of mocked-up tanks, vehicles, and artillery. The artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who made up the unit managed to deceive the Nazis on more than 20 occasions.

Now, more than seventy years later, a bipartisan congressional movement seeks to reward the tricksters for their efforts. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill called “The Ghost Army Gold Medal Act,” according to the Washington Times. “It is finally time that the American people recognize their ingenuity and selflessness which saved countless American and Allied lives,” Mr. King says. “The Ghost Army deserve their due.”

The bill has picked up over 30 co-sponsors in the House, with a companion bill being introduced in the Senate. There are currently surviving “Ghost vets” in 11 states and the District of Columbia. If the Ghost Army is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, they will be joining other specialized WWII units such as the Monuments Men, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Native American Code-talkers.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Plate of Peas Production | YouTube

Though the 23rd was made up of only 1,000 men, they were often able to dupe the Nazi army into believing they numbered closer to 30,000. They did this by strategically placing dummy tanks, trucks, and artillery within enemy line of site, while blasting sound effects of heavily armed infantry on giant boom boxes, while could be heard from more than 20km away. This was often enough to distract the enemy long enough for the non-inflatable Allied Army to get into position on the crucial front lines of Normandy to the Rhine River. It’s estimated that these tactics saved tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
National Archives

The ingenuity of the 23rd wasn’t limited to battlefield theatrics. Actors within the Ghost Army impersonated U.S. general and hi-ranking officers in European towns, brazenly discussing fake military plans over casks of wine and fooling German spies. Architects and set designers even constructed dummy camps and airfields, complete with tents and laundry drying on clotheslines, and fake convoys of empty trucks ferrying back and forth.

Hollywood has taken notice, as well, and a “Ghost Army” film is currently being developed by “American Sniper” actor Bradley Cooper and producer Todd Philips.

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This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.


The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
Photo from DoD

Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.

“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”

Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.

But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”

Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.

In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Zeski.

Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.

“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.

Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.

One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.

The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II.

Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.

Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.

They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.

Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”

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That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

In April 2003, Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz and his men were part of the “Thunder Run” — and armored push through the the city of Baghdad and a test of the new Iraqi resistance.


During the movement through the city, an enemy RPG pierced the fuel cell on the back of the tank and left it immobile and burning in the city streets.

The chaotic battle began as the tanks rushed into the city on its highway system. A gunner in the lead tank spotted troops drinking tea with weapons nearby and asked permission to fire. The tank commander gave it, and the fight was on.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)

While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.

An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.

This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war
A scuttled M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank rests in front of a Fedayeen camp just outside of Jaman Al Juburi, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo: Department of Defense)

The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.

In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.

The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
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