4 of the funniest boot camp stories we've ever heard - We Are The Mighty
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4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Far from just marching around and being yelled at by sadistic drill sergeants, basic training can be the source of hilarious stories.


Case in point comes from an awesome AskReddit thread. The thread, which originated with Reddit user mctugmutton, asked the military community for “the funniest thing they witnessed while in boot camp.” The answers run from LOL to LMFAO and glimpse at basic training differences between service branches.

Reddit user sneego: The time half my squad decided to clean their training gear naked.

Our last week of basic training, we basically spent days cleaning all of our TA-50 (pretty much all your issued gear- rucksacks, ponchos, etc).

The drill sergeants decided it would be more efficient for us to pile up some of the major items as a platoon and organize cleaning teams. Well, the cleaning team in charge of doing ponchos decided to use the showers to make things go faster and to free up the faucets in the laundry room for others to use. So they begin cleaning and then decide to go one step further: Why be careful about getting wet when you can just get naked and get things done even quicker?

Next thing you know, half of first squad is butt naked chatting like nothing unusual is going on when our drill sergeant walks in. The DS just looks in, makes a David Silvermanesque WTF look, says in his thick Puerto Rican accent, “Jesus LORD privates, what the F–K!” and walks out.

Reddit user allhailzorp: The time my friend got an imaginary bathroom siren.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Photo: Sgt Reece Lodder/USMC

Not me, but my best friend who recently went through USMC boot camp.

It’s about Week 2. All the recruits are still scared s–tless. Literally, some of their a–holes are clenched so tight they haven’t gone number two since they got there. And by this point, with Marine chow being what it is, there’s quite a backlog building up. My buddy desperately needs to go. He wanted to wait until his individual time that night, but it was too late, he was touching cloth. So, braving his fear of the DIs, he speaks out. “Sir, this recruit requests a head call, SIR”. Then, he blurts out, “Sir, it’s an emergency, Sir!”

The DI, with his infinite sense of humor, “Oh really? An emergency huh? Well, you better put on your SIREN.” My buddy has to wave his hands above his head, and scream “Bee-Boo Bee-Boo” as he ran to the restroom. This continued for the entirety of boot camp, every time he needed the bathroom.

One Reddit user witnessed E.T. phone home during Air Force basic training.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Photo: imdb screen grab

We had a really pasty kid with huge coke bottle glasses with a really high pitched almost robotic voice in our flight that seemed to be a lightning rod for TI abuse.

One morning our TI told the kid that he was on to him and he wasn’t going to allow him to complete his mission. Suffice to say the kid was extremely confused and asked the TI what he was talking about to which he replied “You’re an alien and I know you’re here to gather intelligence about our military.”

At this point, I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer and went to the other side of the barracks as quick as possible before I got dragged into it. Well, I just got to the other side when the kid comes barreling around the corner and stops right in front of his locker and starts screaming into it that the TI was on to him and that the mission was unsuccessful.

I guess the TI told him that he had to report to the mothership through the communicator in his locker that the mission was unsuccessful and he’d been found out.

From Dan Caddy, author of Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said: The time the DS found a Chinese boy in a wall locker. (Not in the book)

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

My Basic Training Battery had twin brothers in it, Chang L , and Chang K . Chang L was in fourth platoon and his brother was in third. One evening, there were combatives happening in the fourth platoon barracks. Chang K had sneaked into our bay to be a part of this unsanctioned event, specifically so that he could wrestle his brother. Everyone was wearing PT uniforms, except for some reason our Chang, who was wearing nothing but his issued brown briefs, and had removed his glasses for the fight. Suddenly, a wild Drill Sergeant appeared! Chang L, in his underwear, was grabbed by someone and stuffed into their wall locker.

His twin brother, Chang K, ran up to the front of the bay to take his brothers place for mail call. It was a disaster waiting to happen. After mail was handed out, the Drill Sergeant decided to hang around for a bit and have a serious heart to heart talk with us about something that had happened recently (an attempted suicide). The Drill Sergeant had gathered us close and was quietly talking about loyalty and brotherhood when all of the sudden, he was interrupted by the metallic squeal of a wall locker opening.

There was a hushed silence as the skinny little Chinese man, blind without his glasses, peeked out around the door and stepped out, in plain view of the Drill Sergeant. Apparently, we had been so quiet, that he thought we had all left.

DS: “WHY IN THE F–K IS THERE A NAKED CHINESE BOY IN YOUR WALL LOCKER?!”

Pvt 1:”Drill Sergeant, I put him there, Drill Sergeant!”

DS: What the f–k?

Pvt 2: “We were wrasslin’, Drill Sergeant.” It was silent for a few seconds as the DS’s face contorted as though he were about to have an epileptic seizure. His eyes were cartoonishly huge.

The DS pointed at the practically nude Chang L and screamed at him to get his f–king ass over to the third platoon barracks. Chang L started to interject, presumably to inform the DS that he had confused him for his brother, but was unable to finish because at this point the DS was knocking things over and screaming his lungs out. Chang ran away, blind and naked, stumbling into furniture as he fled, leaving his terrified twin brother in his place. I don’t believe that we actually got our Chang back until PT the next morning, when they were able to switch back.

Get Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said via Amazon or Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.

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Air Force advances massive B-52 overhaul

The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.


Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Photo: US Air Force

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over  Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. Photo: U.S. Air Force

Weapons Upgrade

The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch celebrities challenge each other to push-ups for veterans

Pairing athletes with military veterans just makes sense. Both have a team mentality, dedication to their uniform and all the meaning associated with it, and — most importantly — a deep connection to their fellow teammates. It may (or may not) surprise some to learn that making film and television is very much a team sport as well. The cast and crew have to operate in tandem and rely on one another for success. Physical fitness is also a very important aspect to all three lifestyles.

So, it makes sense that movie stars are getting into the latest social media trend: push-ups for veterans.


In 2015, FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer created the nonprofit Merging Vets and Players to match separated combat veterans and former professional athletes to help the vets deal with transitioning out of their old team — the U.S. military — and into civilian life. He wanted to show that the country cared about what happens to them when the uniform comes off, that the skills they picked up in service to the United States are still applicable in their new lives, and that professional athletes could help show them their true potential.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Glazer was soon joined by Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and player for both the Texas Longhorns and Seattle Seahawks who is very active in the veteran community. He believes the two worlds have a lot in common.

“Both war fighters and football players need something to fight for once the uniform comes off, and your service to country or time on the field is over,” Boyer says. “Without real purpose for the man on your right and left, it can be easy to feel lost.”

Related: Nate Boyer climbs Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

With Glazer’s access to the world of the NFL and its players combined with Boyer’s impeccable credentials in the military-veteran community and unique knowledge of the struggles returning veterans face, the nonprofit offers peer support between the athletes and veterans, as well as physical training and challenges at locations across America.

One of those challenges recently caught on with another group: movie stars. Glazer challenged all the members of his elite LA-based training center, Unbreakable Performance, to a 25 push-up challenge. For every member who publicly posts their 25 push-ups, TV personality and NFL alum Michael Strahan will donate fitness equipment to Merging Vets and Players. It immediately got a response.


Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World was challenged by Strahan specifically. He answered the call, then challenged Jack Ryan star, John Krasinski, who challenged both Captain America Chris Evans and The Rock to pump out 25 for Merging Vets and Players.


They both did their 25. In the days that followed, Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Dave Bautista answered the call, as did Caleb Shaw, and Sylvester Stallone. Recently challenged stars include Mark Walhberg, LeBron James, and even Snoop Dogg.

The 25 push-up challenge didn’t stop with celebrities, though. Veterans who follow Merging Vets and Players, as well as MVP alumni, are also posting their 25 push-up challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Glazer’s @unbreakableperformance or @mergingvetsandplayers on instagram to keep track of the latest responders to the #25PushUpChallenge.

For more about Merging Vets and Players, visit the MVP Website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

Russian military aircraft — everything from long-range bombers to advanced fighters to spy planes — have ventured close to Alaska three times in one month, twice prompting US F-22 stealth fighters to intercept the aircraft.

Two pairs of unidentified Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past northern Alaska Sept. 21, 2018, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced in a statement, noting that while the surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, they remained in international airspace.


The flight follows an alarming incident Sept. 20, 2018, in which two unresponsive Russian Tu-160 bombers approached the British coastline, causing France and the UK to scramble fighters to intercept the supersonic aircraft.

“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement, adding, “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160.

Japan encountered similar problems on Sept. 19, 2018, when it sent fighters to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching Japanese airspace. The same thing happened in early September 2018.

Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets approached western Alaska on Sept. 11, 2018, leading the US to dispatch two F-22s in response.

A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, 2018, when two of the same type of bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighters were sent out to deal with that situation as well.

Following the first incident early September 2018, American defense officials speculated that the Russian bombers may have been practicing for possible cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems in Alaska, although the true purpose of the flights is difficult to discern.

While seemingly disconcerting, Russia does this sort of thing fairly regularly. Russian Tu-160 bombers flew past Alaska in August 2018, and another pair of bombers did the same in May 2018. These flights come at a time in which tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise.

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

Articles

It looks like the Saudis are going to get their new US smart bombs after all

The US Senate on June 13 narrowly averted a bid by a bipartisan group of senators to block President Donald Trump’s $500m sale of guided, air-to-ground bombs for use in Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.


The vote was 53-47 to defeat a resolution of disapproval that had been offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Senate Republicans were joined by five Democrats to defeat the measure. Four Republicans joined most Democrats to vote against the arms sale.

“We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East,” Paul said in remarks during Senate debate, citing the famine and Cholera outbreak in Yemen and Saudi domestic rights abuses as reasons not to support Trump’s munitions sale.

What is happening today in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis,” Murphy said in floor remarks. “The United States supports the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has had the effect of causing a humanitarian nightmare to play out in that country.”

At issue are JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are guidance systems to be used with 230kg bombs and bunker busters on Saudi F-15 fighter jets.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 19, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

President Barack Obama withheld sale of the guidance systems in 2016 out of concern the Saudis were deliberately attacking civilians and critical infrastructure in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest nations before the war.

Speaking for majority Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blamed military threats posed by Iran.

The Iranian theocracy is the most destabilizing force in the Mideast,” Graham said. “They have aggressively pursued military action through proxies and directly been involved in military action in Syria. Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and now Yemen have to be pushed back.”

More than 4,125 civilians have been killed and more than 7,200 civilians have been wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led air campaign started in March 2015, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.  Most of those casualties resulted from Saudi coalition air strikes.

The June 13 Senate vote was close enough and the outcome sufficiently uncertain that Vice President Mike Pence was briefly called to the chamber to break a tie had there been one, a rare occurrence. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.

Though largely symbolic, the close vote signals a potential shift in congressional willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing campaign in Yemen. By comparison, a similar resolution last year attempting to block tank sales by Obama failed by a 71-27 margin.

The disputed sale of guided missiles is a small part of a major, $110B package of arms, including M1 tanks, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters – arranged by Trump on his May 20 visit to Riyadh. There’s been no real move in Congress to challenge that larger transfer, begun under Obama following the Iran-United Nations nuclear deal.

Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, Congress requires presidents to notify it of any pending arms sale, and in the case of sales to the Middle East to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbors. Congress can block any arms sale simply by passing a resolution of disapproval.

Articles

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump granted the Pentagon the authority to manage troop levels in Afghanistan, administration officials said.


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who is believed to support sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, will determine if the approximately 9,800 U.S.troops currently deployed there should be reinforced. Trump gave Mattis similar authority over troop levels in Syria and Iraq in April.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

A formal announcement on ceding the authority to the Defense Department is expected June 14. The move comes earlier than anticipated; it was expected that any action on changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan would come after mid-July, when the administration’s strategy review is completed.

Giving more authority to the Pentagon allows military leaders more latitude in planning and conducting operations. Options were developed to deploy up to 5,000 more U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, to augment the international coalition force of about 13,000 troops presently in Afghanistan. About 2,000 U.S. troops there are currently assigned to fight al-Qaida and other militant groups.

Mattis told the Senate Armed Service Committee on June 13 to expect the Trump administration to unveil its Afghan strategy within weeks.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis said in testimony.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

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A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

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Air Force pilots drop bombs from F-35s for the first time

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


Air Force pilots attached to deployable squadrons have started dropping real bombs off of their F-35s during training missions, according to a report posted at CNN.com.

“This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Lt. Col. George Watkins said in an Air Force statement.

The inert precision guided bombs were dropped from airplanes based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, could use whatever good publicity it can manage at this point. The test program has been plagued with failures at every turn, from wrestling with the millions of lines of code needed to make the cockpit suite communicate with the $500,000 helmet the pilot is supposed to wear to having to redesign the tailhook so the airplane will actually catch the wire across the flight deck and stop when trying to land on an aircraft carrier.

The program’s original “initial operational capability” or “IOC” date was in 2012, but that goal was missed due to setbacks. The overall program cost is currently at $400 billion, and that’s expected to go up to more than $1 trillion over the life of the airplane.

F-35 supporters marvel at the fighter’s “fifth generation” capability, which includes radar-evading stealth technology and data sharing between airplanes.  Critics say the Joint Strike Fighter is a procurement nightmare that can’t match the A-10 as a close air support asset or the F-16 as a dogfighter.

MIGHTY GAMING

This video game had an economy almost as strong as Russia’s

In late 2001 an economist called Edward Castronova made tsunami sized waves in the world of economics when he published a paper claiming that an isolated place called Norrath had a currency stronger than that of the Japanese Yen — an especially bold claim considering Norrath had less than a million inhabitants, had only existed for about two years and didn’t exist physically. Yes, Norrath was entirely virtual and populated exclusively by players of the video game EverQuest.


Released in 1999, EverQuest is an immensely popular and influential massively multiplayer online role playing gaming (MMORPG). Set in the magical fantasy world of Narroth and boasting an impressive (for the time) near half million subscribers at the apex of its success, EverQuest came to the attention of Castronova at first much in the same way it came to the attention of anyone — he just thought it sounded like a fun game to play.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

The original box art for ‘EverQuest’

However, as he became more familiar with the game, he noticed some rather fascinating things about how the virtual economy had developed within the game. This all culminated in him publishing on the Social Science Research Network a humorous but excellently researched, and ultimately groundbreaking, paper titled, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. By his own admission, Castronova stated, “I thought maybe seventy-five people would read it and that’d be great.”

Instead, it quickly received over 16,000 downloads (and today is sitting at closer to 50,000). While this might not seem like much, let’s remember context here — this was an academic paper published on an online academic journal. Needless to say, that number of downloads made it the most downloaded paper in the history of the Social Science Research Network, which at the time featured almost 50,000 academic papers, including many dozens written by Nobel laureates.

Why was this paper so fascinating to the world of economics? As economist Yanis Varoufakis noted, “Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s. But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”

What Castronova had stumbled upon was essentially an economist’s dream — virtual worlds the researchers could use to analyze in a scientific manner various concepts in their field using large data sets and real people populating those worlds. Or as Washington Post journalist Brad Plumer succinctly stated, in virtual worlds, “The data is richer. And it’s easier to run economy — wide experiments in a video game — experiments that, for obvious reasons, can’t be run on countries.”

In short, economists in academia were intrigued with Castronova’s paper and its implications for future research.

So what did Castronova find? After painstakingly pouring over the available data surrounding the world of Norrath, he was shocked to discover that in real world dollars Norrath had the 77th highest GNP per capita, placing it squarely between Russia and Bulgaria at the time.

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The world of Norrath

How was this possible for a virtual world with only virtual currency?

At the height of EverQuest’s popularity, sale of in-game items ran rampant and at one point in time a player could pretty much buy anything they wanted in-game, regardless of how rare or powerful it was, so long as they could flash the cash to make it happen.

Although Sony, who published the game, would make several attempts to quash this practice, claiming amongst other things that all of the items for sale were their intellectual property, as well as outright banning players they caught doing this, the sale of in-game items and avatars became a thriving industry on sites like Ebay.

In fact, former child actor Brock Pierce (perhaps best known as a kid for his roles in Mighty Ducks and First Kid, and as an adult for his work in crypto currency) even started a surprisingly successful company, Internet Gaming Entertainment Ltd (IGE), which dealt in these virtual goods in exchange for real money. The company maintained a rather large staff of low-waged workers who worked in Norrath and the real world, doing things like meeting to exchange goods, as well as building up avatars and acquiring virtual goods for future sale.

In any event, Castronova analysed over 600 illicit sales outside the realm of Norrath on sites like Ebay and then simply compared this to the value of the item in-game in the principle currency of Norrath- Platinum Pieces.

When he did this, Castronova discovered that the relative value of a single Platinum Piece compared to the US Dollar was .01072. While this may not seem all that much, as Castronova pointed out, at the time, “its value exceeds that of the Japanese Yen and the Italian Lira.”

With this value in hand, Castronova was then able to roughly calculate a number of other interesting things about the economy of Norrath. For example, it turned out the average citizen of Norrath earned around .42 per hour (or about an hour today) when taking into account the value of the items and in-game currency they could realistically acquire during normal play per hour on average.

Combining this with the estimated time extreme players sunk into the game (according to data gleaned by Castronova in surveying over three thousands players), Castronova calculated:

Many users spend upwards of 80 hours per week in Norrath, hours of time input that are not unheard of in Earth professions. In 80 hours, at the average wage, the typical user generates Norrathian cash and goods worth 3.60. In a month, that would be over id=”listicle-2633077434″,000, in a year over ,000. The poverty line for a single person in the United States is ,794.

Looking at players of every time commitment level, Castronova determined that, despite the game being extremely new, the average player of EverQuest already had over ,000 worth of sellable goods locked up in the game.

But we’re not done yet because Castronova was then able to roughly calculate the gross national product of Norrath based on the value of the (entirely virtual) goods it produced in 2001. His final number? About 5 million.

While, again, this may not sound like much, divided amongst the estimated total number of Norrath denizens, that meant the GNP per capita of the virtual kingdom was ,266 — a figure that, as previously mentioned, theoretically ranked the computerised state the 77th highest on Earth at the time.

Naturally, this information peaked the interest of Castronova’s fellow economists, as did other observations he made about the virtual world and economy he was studying.

For example, according to Castronova one of the more curious things he noticed during his research was that, despite every effort being made by Sony to give everyone an equal footing when the game began, financial inequality was quickly rife amongst the denizens of Norrath.

Additionally Castronova also observed how, much like in the real world, the wealthiest players would often hoard their wealth and use their vast resources to pay poorer characters to do all of the pointless busy work they didn’t want to waste time with, in effect becoming pseudo-employers who kept the lion’s share of any profits made via the work of the plebeians to themselves.

Anecdotally, Castronova would say of his own time in-game as a low level player with no resources: “My problem is that I am under-equipped. I have been basically naked, carrying only a simple club, a caveman in a world of cavaliers. My poverty is oppressive – no amount of rat fur is sufficient to buy even a simple tunic at the ludicrously high prices of the merchant biots.”

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Screenshot from EverQuest featuring a combat involving a sand giant.

Naturally, as the game evolved, the whole “initial equality” thing also died off for some, thanks to those markets where players who had disposable income in the physical world could simply buy whatever they wanted for real money and enter the game vastly more powerful and capable than a player without this option.

Since Castronova’s paper, and partially as a direct result of his work studying virtual economies, the one time self professed “academic failure” and “schmo at a state school” managed to leverage this to level up in real life — securing a tenured position at Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of Telecommunication and Cognitive Science, as well as coming to be known as the “founder of the field of virtual economics”.

And as many other virtual worlds with complex virtual economies have likewise sprung up, economists and other scientists continue to study them, as they make great petri dishes to observe how various variables result in changes in economy and human behavior.

Going the other way, gaming companies like Valve have taken to hiring economists to help them manage their virtual worlds. As economist Robert Bloomfield notes, “If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system so that it doesn’t spin out of control.”

As for Castronova, he concluded his ground breaking paper by waxing poetic about the potential virtual worlds could have with the application of new technology, stating

The impact on Earth society is hard to overestimate. With the development of voice technology, communication in Virtual Worlds will move from cumbersome chat to telephone-like conversation, thus greatly enhancing the Virtual World as a place of social interaction. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky.

Bonus Facts:

  • To trade items they’d bought illegally via Ebay and the like, Castronova observed that players would generally sell the item online first and then agree to meet in a designated place in-game, at which point the seller would then trade the item to the buyer for an item of trivial value they had in their possession. Castronova was amused to learn that, much like in real life, many of these illicit trades took place in abandoned buildings and dark alleys.
  • In 2017, the value of Venezuelan bolivar sank so low that it was quite literally worth half that of the principal currency of Azeroth, the kingdom the game World of Warcraft takes place in.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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The Air Force is looking into disposable drones to be ‘unmanned wingman’

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.


The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.

4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)

Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.

Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.

Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.

James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.

“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.

But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.

Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”

Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”

Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.

Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”

He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.

“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.

“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.

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This recreational drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress

Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.


As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”

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Pure MDMA in crystal form (wikimedia commons)

Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.

Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.

In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.

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Every Illuminati conspiracy theory is based on a hippie prank from the 1960s

In a way, the story of the modern “Illuminati” is a conspiracy theory in itself. But unlike many other Illuminati conspiracy theories, the origin story of today’s Illuminati is hilariously real. 

Modern day conspiracy theorists put the Illuminati in cahoots with other conspiracy regulars, including the Rothschild Family, billionaire George Soros, and the Freemasons. While the Illuminati were a real organization, there’s no evidence to support any ongoing activity.

The modern Illuminati were conceived as a prank between Marine Corps veteran and 1960s counterculture activist Kerry Thornley and Journalist Robert Anton Wilson. The idea was to create mass paranoia so that American would begin to question everything they read. It was called Operation: Mindf*ck and it seems to have worked all too well. 

The illuminati logo
The Illuminati logo looks so real, but it all started with a prank.

Around 1776, liberal, nonreligious scholars of the Enlightenment formed a secret society in Bavaria to oppose superstitious and religious encroachment on public life, to liberate people from the laws of religion. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t sit well with the Catholic Church, who pressured the ruler of the German state to outlaw the group. By 1788, the group functionally ceased to exist.

But that didn’t stop believers from blaming their troubles on the Illuminati. Some believed the society lived on, but simply got better about hiding their existence. The first conspiracy theories popped up around 1798. They claimed Illuminati were going to incite slave rebellions in the Caribbean and that they started the French Revolution. They even made an appearance in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

In the first years of the American Republic, fear of the Illuminati gave way to fear of the Freemasons. These fears even led to the formation of an Anti-Masonic political party. Somewhere along the way, the mass fears barely died down, and they never disappeared entirely. 

In the 19th century, European monarchs blamed the Illuminati for fomenting revolutions. In the 20th Century, the rise of international communism was put at the feet of the Illuminati. Then came Thornley and Wilson.

Kerry Thornley rose to prominence in the 1960s, having written a book about Lee Harvey Oswald in 1962, the year before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Oswald and Thornley served together in the Marine Corps and knew each other well. Thornley’s book, The Idle Warriors was about his time in the Corps with Oswald. Thornley would go one to become a major counterculture writer in underground media, as well as a founder of Discordianism, a satirical religion.

Robert Anton Wilson was a Discordian adherent and Playboy staff writer who was also active in the counterculture movement. A New York Magazine article claims it was Wilson who detailed a plan to create paranoia in American media by attributing “all national calamities, assassinations, or conspiracies” to the secret Illuminati order. 

illuminati symbol on the dollar bill
See? It’s even on the dollar bill. It MUST be real.

The plan was laid out in a memo and named Operation: Mindf*ck, a name only hippies would come up with and execute. But Wilson and Thornley were more than just hippies. Wilson had access to reporters in the popular mass media. Thornley was already a producer of underground media. Through both means, they began to spread the idea of a secret Illuminati force that drove national news events. 

The movement got a real boost when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison tried to pin JFK’s murder on Thornley due to his association with Oswald. Thornley was not found guilty and Wilson sent a letter to a Los Angeles Free Press reporter claiming that the jury were all Illuminati and he knew because all 12 were missing their left nipple. 

Since then, the Illuminati have been accused of creating a nuclear defense bunker in North Dakota, masterminding the 9/11 attacks, using the Denver International Airport as a headquarters, and of constantly trying to create a New World Order. In reality, it was all a joke that went a little too far. 

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