Stephen Funk grew up with a lot of speaking problems. For a long time, he was actually mute. He would be able to speak again one day, however, in a voice that would stand out because it belonged to a United States Marine.
Funk enlisted in the Marines at age 19, right after high school and the attacks of 9-11, to go to Afghanistan. His father served, so did his grandfather. In boot camp, he qualified as an expert rifleman, but something about it bothered him. When his instructor told him he wouldn’t shoot as well in combat, Funk told the instructor he was right, because he thought killing was wrong.
“Throughout the training, all the conditioning is trying to make you think its okay to kill and go to war,” Funk says. “But the whole time it felt wrong to me. At the end of it, I ended up not wanting to go anywhere to fight at all. I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Funk would soon gain international notoriety for becoming the first U.S. troop to refuse to fight in the Iraq War.
“I didn’t really expect it to be a big deal,” he recalls. “I could have easily gotten out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am gay and they could have discharged me without the hassle. But I had this moral awakening about my service. I didn’t feel that it was right to get out under DADT, which I didn’t believe in either.”
He applied for conscientious objector status. There were many other conscientious objectors Funk knew of, but none served time in jail. Funk was sentenced to six months confinement (he served five), a demotion to E-1, forfeiture of pay, a fine, and a bad conduct discharge. The crime: Unauthorized Absence.
“Unauthorized Absence is really common,” Funk explains. “Anytime you’re not where you’re supposed to be, that’s unauthorized absence. As a reservist, if you miss a weekend, that’s unauthorized absence, but they’re not going to put you in the brig for that. They might make you come in on an off-weekend to make up for it, but they’re not gonna send you to jail.”
Funk felt the level of punishment didn’t fit the crime. He felt the Corps was making an example of him. The 27 other conscientious objectors with Funk who applied (16 were granted CO status). The Marines’ stance was the other objectors avoided prosecution because they reported for duty on time.
More than a decade later, Funk remembers being surprised about the public response to his story.
“I figured it would be a more local story in the U.S.,” Funk says. “I remember thinking how weird it felt on both sides. I was mischaracterized by both sides. I was vilified by people on one side, which I thought was unfair. By other side I was lionized, and all of a sudden I had to represent all the antiwar veterans and that didn’t seem right either. I felt it was covered a lot more fairly in international media, especially in the UK and Japan. But the coverage led to me being punished more than I might have been. If I had left under DADT there would have been no repercussions, but I felt the punishment was harsher since I had a more public stance.”
People still remember Stephen Funk. Every once in a while, someone looks him up and reaches out. After 13 years, many wonder if he would do it all over again.
“If placed in the same position, I probably wouldn’t join in the first place,” Funk says. “But I had a lot of great experiences afterward and I did get to meet a lot of veterans with all sorts of different backgrounds who I never would have had the chance to meet.”
Funk just graduated from Stanford with a degree in International Relations. He spent much of his school years founding and working with Veteran Artists, helping veterans through creative arts.
“I don’t want to distance myself from everything veteran related,” he says. “because this was still a big part of my life. So I helped veterans express themselves through art, no matter what their views were.”
The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.
Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.
Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.
That’s how Art Arfons would make history.
Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”
In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.
When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.
The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.
Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
Early on the morning of December, 5 NASA launched the Orion rocket — the first American spacecraft designed for manned space exploration since the Saturn V rocket powered the Apollo missions to the moon. According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft – unmanned for this first mission – orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean.
“[This mission was] a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”
And with the success of this mission astronauts once again think about going into space instead of hanging around Houston like a bunch of glorified academics. The sense of purpose that evaporated with the last Shuttle flight is back, and in a big way. We’re on our way to Mars!
You remember Mars, right?
So do you want a chance to be among the first to walk on the Red Planet? Then you need to be an astronaut. And there are two surefire ways to be selected: You can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics or something else equally boring and be selected by NASA as an astronaut mission specialist or you can join the military and go to flight school on the government’s dime and earn your pilot’s wings and be selected as an astronaut pilot.
But there’s more to it than just being a military pilot. According to NASA’s website, candidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The website also states that “flight test experience is highly desirable,” which undersells the requirement a little bit in that the fact is that the large majority of the pilots who have ever been selected to become NASA astronauts have been test pilot school graduates.
There are only three sanctioned military test pilot schools in the world: U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, and Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down in the U.K.
Here’s a video produced by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School that gives an overview of the command:
Military pilots of various branches and nationalities attend each of these schools, but generally pilots prefer to stick with the school that fully focuses on their warfare specialty, for instance, flying off of aircraft carriers.
Test pilot school is about a year long and very rigorous both in the classroom and airborne. The instruction is designed to teach students how to take the principles of science, math, and engineering into the cockpit and then back again in order that they can quickly and effectively analyze performance characteristics and assist in creating better designs if required. At test pilot school you’ll learn how to take an airplane beyond its design limits without destroying it, and you’ll also learn how to write accurate reports
Like everything else cool and kick-ass, getting into test pilot school is very competitive. Applicants need fleet experience, and they also need to have been graded at the top of their peer group every step of the way. And it’s not a “hard” requirement, but because of the intensity of the syllabus most test pilots schools look for candidates with engineering degrees.
Classes convene twice a year and each class is only comprised of about 20 students.
For more on what being a test pilot is all about read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Unlike the movie based on the book, the first half of the book provides great insights into the history of what life is like in the world of military test and evaluation.
And here’s a video from World War II era that describes some spin recovery techniques . . . techniques developed by test pilots:
We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.
Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291
Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.
BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.
The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.
Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.
Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.
The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.
The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.
Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.
“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”
The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.
Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.
Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.
“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.
In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.
“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.
Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.
“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.
But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.
Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.
“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.
While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.
“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.
When Gen. Stanley McChrystal began working on his memoir after retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he realized that his perception of himself as a leader was different from reality. In the past eight years, he’s had time to reflect on his career and the notion of leadership itself.
During that long career, McChrystal led America and its allies in the Afghanistan War before retiring as a four-star general in 2010. He revolutionized the Joint Special Operations Command. And he’s best known for taking out the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
He’s now the managing partner of the leadership-consulting firm the McChrystal Group, and he’s the lead author of “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”
In an interview for Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” he breaks down what he learned from key points in his life, including how recently revisiting the legacy of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee helped him realize it was time to redefine leadership.
Listen to the full episode here:
Subscribe to “This is Success” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. Check out previous episodes with:
Stanley McChrystal: By the time we finished this book, we really arrived at this conclusion that leadership isn’t what we think it is, and it never has been. It’s much more complex. It’s not two-dimensional. And for me, one of the representative incidents is my relationship with Robert E. Lee. I grew up, figuratively speaking, with Robert E. Lee.
Rich Feloni: You grew up in Virginia.
McChrystal: I grew up in Northern Virginia, not far from his boyhood home, and I went to Washington-Lee High School. And when I turned 17, I went to West Point, as Robert E. Lee had done, and when you go to West Point, you don’t escape Robert E. Lee. I lived in Lee Barracks. There were paintings of Robert E. Lee. And while every other leader at West Point is famous, he’s special.
And then when I got older and I was retired and I had this picture that my wife had given me 40 years before. My wife had paid for it when I was a second lieutenant, and I hung it proudly at every set of quarters we ever had, because for me it represented “This is what I believe in.” When someone came into my quarters, they’d see, “Oh, Robert E. Lee. Those are the values that he believes in.” And I was proud of that.
Then, after Charlottesville, in late spring of 2017, my wife, Annie — we’d been married 40 years at the time — she goes, “I think you ought to get rid of that picture.” And my first response was, “You gave it to me, honey. I could never get rid of that?” And she says, “No.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she says, “I think it’s communicating something you don’t think it is.” And I said, “What do you mean? He was a general officer. He just did his thing. He was a military guy, not a politician or something.” She said, “You may think that, but people in our home may not think that, and they may think you’re trying to communicate something deeper, white supremacy and all those things. So one morning, I took it down and literally threw it away. And it was a pretty emotional moment for me.
And then as we started writing this book, and we had already begun the initial work, I realized I couldn’t write a book about leadership unless I wrote about Robert E. Lee. And I knew that was dangerous, because Robert E. Lee had become a controversial character. There’s a part of American society that is just passionate in his defense, part of it that is passionate against him, and everybody’s going to weigh in. But you know, I’d grown up with Robert E. Lee, both as a person in my mind, but also as an ideal. And just recently, I walked down, just to walk the distance between his childhood home and the slave-trading house in Alexandria, Virginia, which was the second-busiest slave-trading house in the United States. And this is where northern African-Americans were bought. Some freed men were captured, but others were bought from farms that weren’t profitable and shipped to the deep South, where cotton was so profitable. And so it was right in front of him. It was 10 blocks from his home. You don’t hide from the fact that this very ugly thing is a reality. And he spent the next four years defending it. And so there’s this contradiction. Here’s a guy who in some ways, is so admirable. His soldiers loved him
Feloni: From a military perspective.
When McChrystal attended West Point in the ’70s, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had transcended his connection to the Confederate cause, and had become a symbol of military discipline and honor.
(The Library of Congress)
Feloni: Yeah, but it would have to be removing from the context of basically a traitor to his country, ignoring that and kind of replacing it with a myth.
McChrystal: That’s right, and I couldn’t.
Feloni: And were you not aware of that link that people could make when you had that painting in your quarters?
McChrystal: Here’s the point. On one level, yes I was. On another level, what I did was I just said, “Yeah, but.” And I think a lot of people, with Robert E. Lee, go, “Yeah, but.” And the real point of the book is, everybody is a complex person like that. Every memory of every leader that we profiled and everyone we could think, may not have that clear a contradiction, but they all have them. And we as followers, we as observers, we have to make a decision on how we look at those, how we process that, because if we’re looking for the perfect person, woman or man, we can wait forever. They’re not coming.
The ‘Great Man Theory’ of leadership is a myth
Feloni: Yeah. Well, when you’re looking at that and kind of leading into your thesis here, what is the way that we define leaders and leadership, and what is wrong with that, and what were you looking to correct?
McChrystal: I wrote my memoirs starting in 2010, and I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened. And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me. And yet, when we went to do … I had a young person helping me that was brilliant. We went to do the research. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we went to things that I had been very much a part of and given credit for. We found that I would make a decision and issue some order and there would be an outcome. And I thought, “OK, my order produced that outcome.” And in reality, we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.
Feloni: So you didn’t realize this until you were writing your memoirs?
McChrystal: No, I mean, you get to this point in life because you sort of believe the Great Man Theory. You sort of believe that the leader is central to everything. And then when I get this, it’s very humbling, and I realize, leaders matter, just not like we think they do. And as we put in the book, it’s also the way we study leadership. We study biographies, which puts the person at the center. And so the spotlight tends to stay on them, and everything else tends to be a bit in shadows. You very rarely see a statue of a team. You see a few, but usually there’s a person on the pedestal. But in reality, a team, and sometimes a very large team, made it happen or didn’t make it happen. And yet, it’s hard to explain that.
Feloni: In this book, you picked a very interesting collection of profiles, and you even included the al-Qaeda leader that you defeated in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. So what can you learn about leadership from studying someone that you morally oppose, even on an extreme example. This was your enemy. What do you gain from studying that?
McChrystal: Well, we didn’t just oppose him — we killed him.
As the head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal hunted down and assassinated al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. McChrystal got inside Zarqawi’s head during the hunt.
McChrystal: I stood over his body right after we killed him. So for about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth. But then what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs, if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot other people were attracted to him. He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do. Later, when he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way; he wore all black, looked like a terrorist leader. He actually killed himself — he was the person who held the knife when they beheaded Nicholas Berg. A gruesome thing to do, but what he’s showing people is our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific. And so he would lead around the battlefield courageously. And so what he did was he was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam, when most of them really didn’t. The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to al-Qaeda, but he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.
Feloni: Yeah, and so by looking at this was, are you saying that to benefit your own leadership you had to get in the mind of him and understand that?
McChrystal: Well, the first thing you have to do is understand him. Your first desire is to demonize him, but the reality is, I had to respect him. He led very effectively, very, and if you really get down and put the lens another way, he believed and he fought for what he believed in. And who’s to say we were right and he was wrong?
Feloni: And that was something that you were thinking when you were in Iraq?
McChrystal: Not initially. Initially, you just say, “We’re just gonna get this guy.” And then after a while you watch him lead and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent — he’s making me better — but you’re also going after someone who truly believes. Who do you want to hang out with, who do you want to go to dinner with? You want somebody who believes what they’re doing. Now, his techniques I didn’t agree with. In many ways he was a psychopath. But I know a lot of people for whom I have less respect than I do for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Feloni: Interesting. When you were having the collection of people in this book, what were you looking for? Because in some ways you were saying that taking a look at profiles of individuals is the opposite of what you wanted to do. Because if you elevate someone above the context that they’re in, it’s counterproductive, but you’re proving that through elevating people so how do you navigate that?
McChrystal: Yeah, that’s an absolutely great point, and we actually didn’t realize that at the beginning of the book. We started writing and we said, “Hey, we are almost running in absolutely opposite directions of what we’re proposing.” You can write a theoretical book on leadership, and there will be a small community of people who read it. We learn through stories, all of us do, and we learn through stories of people. We picked these 13 diverse people and we had these six genres, we had founders, we had geniuses, we had power brokers, we had Coco Chanel, we had Boss Tweed, we have Martin Luther, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have Harriet Tubman. We wanted something that would be universal, give us a wide look at different kinds of leaders and context. We wanted diversity in sex, we wanted diversity in nationality, we have a Chinese admiral from the 15th century. And so we thought that if you could bring it wide like that you can draw the universal lessons out, that we couldn’t do if we just took politicians or soldiers or something.
Lessons from success and failure in war
Feloni:Yeah, now I want to talk about these lessons with the lens of your career as well. You became known for the approach that you took to join Special Operations Command, re-imaging the approach to Special Operations, particularly in Iraq, which led to the death of Zarqawi. And so when you had such transformations at JSOC, what was that like coming into a role where you had to adapt on the fly but every change, every risk that you took had lives in the balance?
McChrystal: Well, it was frightening, but it was very, very important. I had grown up essentially in joint Special Operations Command and the Rangers and then on the staff. I was very familiar with this very elite counterterrorist force. And this force was, you’ve seen it in movies, bearded guys with big knuckles and fancy weapons and these surly arrogant attitudes and that’s pretty accurate but the hearts of lions. But we very insular, we were designed to do counter-hijacking, hostage rescue, precise raids, and so we were almost in an insular part of the military and no one else interacted much with us. We would be directed to do certain missions and we loved that because we didn’t have to be affected by the big military bureaucracy. And then in Iraq what happened is, starting in 2003, really after the invasion, we ran into a problem that was bigger and more complex than we’d ever faced before, and that was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And we found that very narrow insulated way of operating before, tribal way, it didn’t work because you had to have this synergy of a real team and at first we almost were in denial because we’re so good at what we do.
We said, “Well, we’ll just do what we do and everybody else will figure everything else out.” But that wasn’t going to work. Really starting in early 2004 we came to a collective understanding that we were losing, and we were likely to lose if we didn’t change. Now we had no idea how to change, there wasn’t a road map, I wasn’t the visionary leader to provide that. And so what we said was, “Well, we will do anything but this. Now we’ll change.” And because I didn’t have this vision or clear blueprint to put in front of the organization, I essentially put it out to the team. I said, “We’re going to start changing to whatever works, so what we do that works we’ll do more of, what we do that doesn’t work we’ll stop.” And that freed the organization to constantly adapt. We’re able to modify, adapt ourselves and constantly change without the limitations of a doctrine that says, “You can’t do that.”
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal in his official portrait as head of ISAF.
Our doctrine became, “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid and we’ll push it.” And as it came it started to change the way we thought about leadership. When I took over I was approving every mission because I’m the commander and I found there’s no way you can be fast enough, so my role changed. I went from being the micro-manager, the centralized director, to being a commander who creates this ecosystem in which this group of really talented people figure it out. And my goal was to keep the ecosystem going, grow it with new participants and keep everyone supported and inspired.
Feloni: When you’re saying that when you had to take big risks with these changes, that there was a level of fear involved. Were you mitigating that fear by learning to trust the people that you were working with?
McChrystal: Yeah, and you have to — sometimes you can’t completely mitigate it. In an organization like JSOC, when you take casualties it’s deeply emotional because it’s not like new privates coming in, you get a new private. It takes about a decade to build an operator, everybody’s the godparent of other operator’s kids, you know. And so when you lose people, you lose people who’ve been around a long time, it took a long time, so it’s very emotional. T.E. Lawrence talked about the ripples in a pond.
Feloni: That’s “Lawrence of Arabia.”
McChrystal: That’s right, “Lawrence of Arabia.” He talked about when you lost one of the better ones, it was like ripples because it went out into their families and whatnot. Every casualty was much more costly and therefore you had to try to minimize them. And so as we went into this risk period there was a lot of uncertainty and I couldn’t, I don’t have the wisdom or courage or any of that to bear all that together, so we had a team and we supported each other.
Feloni: Distribute that.
McChrystal: Yeah, exactly.
Feloni: Yeah, and in terms of looking at something continuing after you leave, so you led the US-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan. That was eight years ago when you left; the war is still going. How does that look to you, because, for example, I could speak to a CEO who left a company and they can comment and be, like, “Oh, here’s what worked and what didn’t.” But as we were talking about, the stakes are just so much different in war. How do you process that?
McChrystal: You can process it in a lot of ways. You could take a strict business sense you could say, “Well, it hasn’t succeeded thus far, so it’s a bad investment.” And then I can also look and see that as of 2001 when we entered Afghanistan there were no females in school under the Taliban. There weren’t that many young males in school and now we’ve had almost 17 years of young ladies going to school, young men and so we’ve got a different young generation in Afghanistan. And 4.4 million Afghans voted this week and it wasn’t a presidential election. Is the glass half full, is it half empty, is there a hole in it? The answer is yes to all of those. There’s deep corruption, there’s huge problems inside the country, but in many ways I think that rather than say, “OK, it’s a failure,” I’d say it’s a complex problem, one of which you work on over a long period. I know I would not subscribe now to thousands of American troops or unlimited amounts of money, but I wouldn’t recommend walking away. I think our partnership with the Afghan people and the signal we send to other countries in the region is important. And if we think about the world as a completely connected place now, not just by information technology but culturally, I think the ability to have relationships, to demonstrate our willingness to be a part of things is more important than ever. It was critical really right after the Second World War, we gave both Asia through Japan and Europe enough cohesion to grow back. It doesn’t feel as easy or as good in Afghanistan but I would tell you, I look at the world through that lens is how I come at it.
Feloni: In “Leaders,” your memoir, it’s giving you a chance to be introspective of your own career. And on the nature of leaving the military when it came in this much publicized, there was a Rolling Stone article that reporter Michael Hastings portrayed you as a renegade general and that ended up leaving your position. How do you process that now, looking back at your role since it’s been eight years?
McChrystal: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of ways that maybe I could or should. The first thing is it happened, and I didn’t think that the article was truly reflective of my team. It was about me and my team and the runaway general and that is obviously not a good title. And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible and we have this negative article about a senior general shows up on the president of the United States’ desk. And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation. President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not. I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, “I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.”
Now that’s phase one, and I feel very good about that decision. I’m not happy it happened, but I feel good about that. Then you have a moment when you have a failure like that in your life and you get to make a decision. You’re either going to relitigate that for the rest of your life and I could be a retired bitter general, I could be whatever, the CEO got fired or whatever or not. And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, “She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror.” And so we made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future.” We made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future. There is no point in being bitter because nobody cares but you.” So I decided to look forward, I decided to think about, “What can I do now?” Now, that’s easier said than done. Every day there’s some hurt.
Feloni: Even now?
McChrystal: Occasionally. Not every day, but occasionally something will come up. Last week, Rolling Stone queried if I wanted to do another interview. The answer was no.
Feloni: That seems like … yeah.
McChrystal: Yeah. I kind of went, “Really?” But the reality is, it always kind of comes back up, and you have to remake that decision on a constant basis. But it gets easier over time because you start to see how healthy that is. I would argue that every one or your listeners is going to fail. They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision, “OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?” Because you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, “For God’s sakes, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.” And if you make the right decision, to lean forward, I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that.
McChrystal in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Feloni: And if you were to write a biographical profile for yourself in “Leaders,” what would the theme of your leadership style be, and what would be the reality versus the myth of it?
McChrystal: It would be evolution. One of the things we see in some of these leaders is they didn’t evolve. Walt Disney was this extraordinary animator, and with a small team he was exceptional. When the team got big, he didn’t adapt well, and his brother basically had to run it, and he focused on projects. Mine was a journey … I was a very different leader as a lieutenant colonel than I was as a company commander captain. I was very centralized when I was young. I started to loosen up, by the time I was a general officer I was, I think, completely different. I was much more decentralized. So I think the theme of a profile of me would be the evolution of that.
Now, the myth is the opposite; the myth is the counterterrorist leader who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I went out, wrestled him to the ground, buried to the waist, and that’s total B.S. At times do I like the myth because people go, “Wow, look at him!”? Yeah, it’s kind of cool, you never want to go, “No, that’s not true.” But it’s not true. The reality is that I built a team. Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team that I would be of wrestling to his death. But it still feels kind of cool when people say that. [laughs]
Feloni: So it’s the evolution of you as someone who is a very centralized commander to decentralizing.
McChrystal: Yeah, and thinking about it entirely differently.
Applying these lessons to the workplace
Feloni: And we’ve been talking about leadership on a grand scale, but you’re also the head of the McChrystal Group, which works with businesses on leadership development. So after having worked with a bunch of different industries, often on much smaller scales, what would you say are some of the most common mistakes a new leader makes?
McChrystal: I think often a new leader comes in and wants to prove themselves, because they’ve been hired, typically they’ve been given a role and a fair amount of money, and so they think they’ve got to prove themselves. There’s a reticence to say, “I don’t know.” There’s a reticence to look at the team and say “What should we do?” and to have the team do it. Because you’re worried about your own credibility. I think leaders actually, if they’re willing to, I’m not saying take a subordinate role, they’re responsible, but take a much more inclusive role, a much more role in which you ask people to help lead, actually works much better. Some of the best I’ve ever seen that have particularly been in jobs awhile have reached that, and it’s magic to see.
Feloni: And on the flip side of that, should people who are followers, should they see leadership in a new light, maybe their relationship to their boss, their boss’ boss?
McChrystal: Yeah, think about it — how many times have we sat back and you’ve got either a new leader or your leader in the auditorium, in the room, and they’re saying, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” and you’re sitting back kind of the smart-ass, going, “This is stupid, that won’t work, boom, boom, boom.” Rear up on your hind legs and bark, and maybe we’ll think about doing it. Leaders have a role, but the followers have a huge role, huge responsibility. Huge responsibility in doing their part, but also shaping the leader. You see the leader making a mistake and you don’t say something to them? You fail in your job. And then when you see them fail and you get smug and you go, “Yeah, I thought that she was never that good, he was never that good,” shame on you. Because you own part of that, and in reality when it’s firing time they had to fire all of you.
Feloni: So not only should we not put figures of the past on pedestals. We shouldn’t do that with our own bosses.
McChrystal: Absolutely, and bosses shouldn’t put themselves on pedestals either. There are a few who keep wanting to step up there, and then … I think it’s much better for the leader to stay away from the pedestal.
Feloni: And at this point, how do you personally define success?
McChrystal: It’s the team I’m part of. I’ve got this company that’s now 100 people, it’s grown, and I’m not critical to the business, except my name’s on the door. I show up occasionally, and they’re very nice to me and whatnot, but the reality is the work gets done by the team, and I take the greatest pride in the world when I sit in one of our meetings and I’m not saying much, and it’s happening. They’re just doing things, they’re pulling, they’re saying we’re going to go in this direction, and nobody looks to me to say, “Can we go in that direction or should we?” And they’re not being discourteous. They know that that’s not the best thing to do. If they turn to me or somebody else to let the old gray beard do it, it’s too slow. It’s often not the right answer. So I am really happiest when I see that, and it gives you great pride.
Feloni: So success to you, would it be having a non-integral role among your team?
McChrystal: No — I want to be integral to it, I want to feel like a part of it, but I don’t want to feel like the critical cog. I don’t want to feel like the keystone to the arch. I want the company, the organization, to be confident in themselves. If I got hit by a car, they’d say, “We’re going to miss Stan, but guess what? In his honor, we’re going to move forward and we are going to do X, X, X.” That’s when I really feel best about things. Or they don’t even tell me about things they’re doing, and suddenly we’re doing very well on a project and I hear about it, and I go, “Wow, that’s good — when did we do that?” They say so and so, I say, “Well, why didn’t I know?” They say, “Well, you didn’t need to know. It’s not important.” And they’re right.
Feloni: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? It doesn’t necessarily have to be military — it could be a sense of leadership.
McChrystal: When I think about the two things that I hope leaders have, first is empathy. Understanding that if you’re sitting on the other side of the table you have a different perspective, and they might be right. So just being able to put yourself in their shoes. Doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve, but being able to see it is really important. And then the second part is self-discipline. Because most of us know what we ought to do as leaders. We know what we shouldn’t do. It’s having the self-discipline to do those things, because you’re leading all the time. You’re leading by example all the time — it’s a good example or a bad example. It’s not just the leadership in your job; it’s an extraordinary responsibility. I had a battalion commander whose battalion I joined, and he had just left when I got there. But all the lieutenants are wearing their T-shirts backwards. And I’m going, “All right, what’s going on here? Did they get up after drinking all night or something?” And the battalion commander had done that because it showed less skin when you’re out there in the field and the enemy couldn’t see the white skin and shoot you. I didn’t think that was that smart an idea, but the fact that just because he wore his T-shirts backwards, his whole cohort of young lieutenants was doing it.
Feloni: He didn’t tell them to.
McChrystal: I don’t think he told them to. I got there right after he’d left, so it was kind of like this clinical thing. I got there ‘ “Why have they got their T-shirts backwards?” And this guy had done that. Just the power you find that if you are charismatic and whatnot, anything you do, how you treat people, how you think about things, the little things, you’ll start to see it mimicked by people through your organization, and there’s great power in that. And you’ve got to be careful with it.
Feloni: Thank you, general.
McChrystal: It’s been my honor. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.
Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.
Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.
“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”
Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.
At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.
All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.
“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”
In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.
The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.
Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.
“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”
The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.
Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.
Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.
“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.
Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.
Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.
The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated. They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”
Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”
“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”
The Philadelphia Experiment is one of the most grotesque military urban legends ever — and it has endured as an infamous World War II conspiracy theory. But is there any truth to it? Let’s take a look.
According to legend, on Oct. 28, 1943, the USS Eldridge, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, was conducting top-secret experiments designed to win command of the oceans against the Axis powers. The rumor was that the government was creating technology that would render naval ships invisible to enemy radar, and there in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, it was time to test it out.
Witnesses claim an eerie green-blue glow surrounded the hull of the ship as her generators spun up and then, suddenly, the Eldridge disappeared. The ship was then seen in Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia before disappearing again and reappearing back in Philadelphia.
The legend states that classified military documents reported that the Eldridge crew were affected by the events in disturbing ways. Some went insane. Others developed mysterious illness. But others still were said to have been fused together with the ship; still alive, but with limbs sealed to the metal.
That’ll give you nightmares. That’s some Event Horizon sh*t right there.
I’ll never sleep again.
(Event Horizon | Paramount Pictures)
Which is actually a convincing reason why the Eldridge’s story gained so much momentum.
But before we break down what really happened that day, let’s talk about the man behind the myth: Carl M. Allen, who would go by the pseudonym, Carlos Miguel Allende. In 1956, Allende sent a series of letters to Morris K. Jessup, author of the book, The Case for the UFO, in which he argued that unidentified flying objects merit further study.
Jessup apparently included text about unified field theory because this is what Allende latched onto for his correspondences. In the 1950s, unified field theory, which has never been proven, attempted to merge Einstein’s general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. In fact, Allende claimed to have been taught by Einstein himself and could prove the unified field theory based on events he witnessed on October 28, 1943.
Allende claimed that he saw the Eldridge disappear from the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and he further insisted that the United States Military had conducted what he called the Philadelphia Experiment — and was trying to cover it up.
This is one of the weirdest details. The annotations were designed to look like they were written by three different authors – one maybe extraterrestrial? According to Valle’s article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Jessup became obsessed with Allende’s revelations, and the disturbed researcher would take his own life in 1959. It wasn’t until 1980 that proof of Allende’s forgery would be made available.
Inexplicably, two ONR officers had 127 copies of the annotated text printed and privately distributed by the military contractor Varo Manufacturing, giving wings to Allende’s story long after Jessup’s death.
So, what really happened aboard the USS Eldridge that day?
Somewhere in Delaware there are secret military canals that have all the answers…
According to Edward Dudgeon, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Engstrom, which was dry-docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard while the Eldridge was, both ships did have classified devices on board. They were neither invisibility cloaks nor teleportation drives designed by aliens, but instead, they scrambled the magnetic signatures of ships using the degaussing technique, which provided protection from magnetic torpedoes aboard U-boats.
How Stuff Works suggested that the “green glow” reported by witnesses that day could be explained by an electric storm or St. Elmo’s Fire which, in addition to being an American coming-of-age film starring the Brat Pack, is a weather phenomenon in which plasma is created in a strong electric field, giving off a bright glow, almost like fire.
Finally, inland canals connected Norfolk to Philadelphia, allowing a ship to travel between the two in a few hours.
The USS Eldridge would be transferred to Greece in 1951 and sold for scrap in the 90s, but Allende’s hoax would live on in our effing nightmares forever.
As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.
For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.
The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space.
“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”
The power and propulsion element will be the initial component of the gateway, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the gateway’s position and can move the gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. As part of the agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element. NASA will leverage capabilities and plans of commercial satellite companies to build the next generation of all electric spacecraft.
The power and propulsion element will also provide high-rate and reliable communications for the gateway including space-to-Earth and space-to-lunar uplinks and downlinks, spacecraft-to-spacecraft crosslinks, and support for spacewalk communications. Finally, it also can accommodate an optical communications demonstration – using lasers to transfer large data packages at faster rates than traditional radio frequency systems.
Habitation capabilities launching in 2023 will further enhance our abilities for science, exploration, and partner (commercial and international) use. The gateway’s habitation capabilities will be informed by NextSTEP partnerships, and also by studies with the International Space Station partners. With this capability, crew aboard the gateway could live and work in deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time.
Crew will also participate in a variety of deep space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon. The agency recently completed a call for abstracts from the global science community, and is hosting a workshop in late February 2018, to discuss the unique scientific research the gateway could enable. NASA anticipates the gateway will also support the technology maturation and development of operating concepts needed for missions beyond the Earth and Moon system.
Adding an airlock to the gateway in the future will enable crew to conduct spacewalks, enable science activities and accommodate docking of future elements. NASA is also planning to launch at least one logistics module to the gateway, which will enable cargo resupply deliveries, additional scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.
Following the commercial model the agency pioneered in low-Earth orbit for space station resupply, NASA plans to resupply the gateway through commercial cargo missions. Visiting cargo spacecraft could remotely dock to the gateway between crewed missions.
Drawing on the interests and capabilities of industry and international partners, NASA will develop progressively complex robotic missions to the surface of the Moon with scientific and exploration objectives in advance of a human return. NASA’s exploration missions and partnerships will also support the missions that will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are the backbone of the agency’s future in deep space. Momentum continues toward the first integrated launch of the system around the Moon in fiscal year 2020 and a mission with crew by 2023. The agency is also looking at a number of possible public/private partnerships in areas including in-space manufacturing and technologies to extract and process resources from the Moon and Mars, known as in-situ resource utilization.
May 2, 2018 – Update
As reflected in NASA’s Exploration Campaign, the next step in human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars. The gateway is necessary to achieving the ambitious exploration campaign goals set forth by Space Policy Directive 1. Through partnerships both domestic and international, NASA will bring innovation and new approaches to the advancement of these U.S. human spaceflight goals.
NASA published a memorandum outlining the agency’s plans to collaboratively build the gateway. Learn more:
On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.
Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.
The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.
The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)
Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.
As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.
“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.
The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.
It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.
In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.
The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.
The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.
The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”
The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”
In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.
Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.
“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.
“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.
“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.
The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.
Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.
For years and years, Special Operations Forces (SOF) has been the military equivalent of the easy button. And why not? Why commit a large force such as a Brigade in the 82nd with 5,000 soldiers, when you can commit SOF with a much smaller force? And this has been happening for years.
If history is any indicator, Special Operations Forces will be downsized and, more than likely, more troops will be brought home by the Biden Administration. Biden is less likely to pull the trigger on a bomb than Trump was, and will most probably have a more diplomatic approach when it comes to foreign policy.
Well, what about Iran and China? Yes, we always will have countries to worry about, but I don’t see giant troop movements to invade another country and I don’t believe we will anytime soon. I’m not sold on the right’s belief that we are on the cusp of WWIII.
In March 2008, Obama declared of Iraq, “When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war.”
In many ways, Obama kept his word. He ended Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom — the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, that Bush had passed down to him — and drastically reduced U.S. troop levels from their peaks in both countries. In the midst of the Arab Spring, the president led a limited military campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi with the support of the United Nations and a multinational coalition.
The Special Operations Budget
In 2000, our defense budget was a mere $300 billion. Today it’s more than doubled to over $700 billion. I foresee the Biden Administration cutting this by at least 10 percent by the end of his first term.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. Let’s think about supply and demand. We aren’t graduating as many Green Berets as we used to. Between 2012 and 2014, Special Forces was graduating between six and eight classes per year. That was a healthy number with 600 to 800 Green Berets heading to the Groups. Teams easily had 10 or more operators on them during this time. Nowadays, with only four starts per fiscal year, Special Forces is looking at half of those graduating numbers.
This includes training budgets as well. “Do more with less” has become a popular mantra. Let’s be honest, do special operators have to go to some exotic location to train when they can do it at home? Teams will argue that off-site training is the best (and I agree), but Special Forces soldiers can shoot, move, and communicate at their home base.
Putting a team in the middle of Africa, alone, with little to no support does help build relationships between the team. You get to know each other on a much deeper level. In Africa, my team lived in two tents. I mean, we knew who had sleep apnea for goodness sake. Being that far from anyone also instills a deep connection but you fully rely on each other to do the job, because you are all that you have. But there is a difference between need-to-have and nice-to-have.
Let’s get back to the basics, boys.
Changes to the Special Forces Companies
Special Forces Companies have six teams. That 6th team in the company might go away. If recruiting numbers continue to drop, Groups will be forced to either reduce the size or the number of teams. Some readers may remember when the 6th team was a ghost team, meaning nobody actually worked there.
The Geographic Combatant Command (GCC). There are currently 11 unified combatant commands that ultimately cover the entire globe. Each is established as the highest echelon of military commands to provide effective command and control of all U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, during peace or wartime.
The geographic commands have essentially two tasks: war planning and fighting, and military engagement programs. Both tasks are and will always be the Department of Defense and the military’s fundamental responsibilities.
These guys meet every two years and basically hash out the requirements and who can fill them.
If you were to ask the AFRICOM Commander General Stephen J. Townsend, he might say that we are not at war, the Africans are, and that the American population doesn’t have a taste for losing its soldiers in Africa. So the Army created the Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB).
The SFAB concept is intended to relieve the Brigade Combat Teams of the combat advisory mission and enable them to focus on their primary combat mission.
There is definitely a fight in Africa, but we are generally there to advise and assist. Not the answer the Special Forces guy wants to hear. The young, eager captain will basically be trying to figure out how to get on target and get his gun on. Sorry, sir, probably not going to happen.
This would also include Special Forces missions.
SF is a tired force. However, this is currently improving with the mandated dwell times: one day gone away from home, two days at home. I do think that this needs some tweaking; however, generally speaking, after over a year of this being implemented, Group is figuring it out.
For this piece, I won’t go into how the State Department and the geopolitical landscape affects the military, but it’s worth mentioning. Most Ambassadors are State Department careerists. They don’t need some new Captain coming in every six months thinking he’s going to change the world and go kill a bunch of people, making his job tougher.
So Special Forces has fewer people going to selection and fewer people graduating. Our requirements overseas should be slowing down or are being forced to slow down by the mandatory dwell. Teams are either undermanned or borrowing from other teams to fill requirements.
Therefore, for now, a smaller SF force is a good thing. Everything comes in rotations, and I certainly believe within 10 more years, we will be in another conflict, and our numbers will go back up to meet the demand.
But for now, Special Operations cannot be the easy button it once was.