No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA's Starbucks - We Are The Mighty
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No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

At the Starbucks at the Langley headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency it might be best to just remember your drink order because the baristas won’t remember your name.


No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
They’re not known for getting names right anyway.

“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” a food services supervisor at the CIA, told the Washington Post. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

The agents don’t have to leave the building to get their daily fix, but they won’t get stars to add to their gold card requirements either. Tracking the agents preferences is strictly prohibited, as the Agency fears its data could be used to out secret agents. The receipts just say “Store Number 1.”

The baristas for what is now known as the “Stealthy Starbucks” go through a rigorous background investigation, but still can’t leave the Starbucks without a handler. They are frequently briefed about security risks. During the day, the vanilla latte is the winner. For agents working long hours and night shifts, double espressos and Frappuccinos are what the agents of the world’s most secret intelligence agency need to keep going.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
There might be more secretive agents. Somewhere.

“There’s caramel-macchiato guy” and “the iced white mocha woman,” one barista said. “But I have no idea what they do, I just know they need coffee. A lot of it.”

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A shoulder to cry on? Service secretaries bemoan lack of progress on the job

In what should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the current state of Washington, the three service secretaries complained Oct. 24 about how hard it was to get anything done because of the cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy and Congress’ inability to approve a spending budget on time.


In a forum sponsored by the Center for a New American Security in D.C., Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said she had been surprised by “how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington, how difficult it is to move your agenda.”

James specifically mentioned the political stalemate in the Congress and “the need to get back to compromise.”

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said his biggest surprise and frustration was “how slowly the bureaucracy moves, particularly DoD-wide.” If you want to do something, he said, the response is “we have to study this, or you have to do it DoD-wide” instead of letting the individual services act.

Army Sec. Eric Fanning said he was surprised by “how much time that would be spent on the budget every year,” because “we don’t have any stability” in the congressional budget process.

All three of the secretaries said they were trying to take steps within their service to bypass the ponderous procurement process, with James and Fanning citing the rapid capabilities offices their services have established to get gear fielded quicker — even if it wasn’t “a 100 percent solution.”

The procurement system is set up to seek the ultimate solution, which is a problem because the adversary moves quicker, Fanning said.

Mabus endorsed that view and said the Navy has “been doing pilot programs,” to move prospective systems out to the fleet instead of following the lengthy process for a program of record. The idea, he said, “is to get something out faster,” and possibly to “fail faster.”

He cited the Navy’s deployment of an experimental laser defensive weapon system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf, which is influencing decisions on follow-on weapons.

James said the advice she would offer her successor in the next administration would be to spend less time on review and oversight on smaller programs so the acquisition specialists could have more time for the biggest programs.

The three secretaries, who would be expected to leave office when a new president and defense secretary take over next year, said they are involved in a detailed process run by Defense Sec. Ash Carter’s office to prepare briefing papers on programs, budget and personnel issues for their successors.

The secretaries were introduced by Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS, who is widely rumored to be the next defense secretary if Hillary Clinton becomes president.

The three officials insisted that their services were ready to fight the current battles against violent extremists, such as ISIL, but said they were concerned about their ability to prepare those forces for a future fight against a high-end adversary due to the uncertain and constrained defense budgets, the intense pace of operations and reductions in their force levels.

Among the emerging threats they were trying to prepare for, the secretaries cited cyber attacks from high-end rivals such as Russia, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which already are showing up in Iraq.

James noted the explosive loaded UAV that killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq recently. And she said the Air Force detected an “unmanned system in the vicinity” of its deployed forces and “was able to bring it down with electronic means” rather than shooting it down. She declined to say how that was done.

Asked if they would be able to conduct a “no-fly zone” over rebel-held areas of Syria, which some have advocated, James said, “we know how to do this,” but it would require money, people and resources that would have to come from other commitments.

But because the Air Force would be supported by the Navy and perhaps coalition partners, “I have to believe we would figure out how to do it,” she said

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Photographer Michael Stokes brings sexy vets back with ‘Invictus’ photo book

The photographer behind the ultra-sexy “Always Loyal” coffee table book has created a sequel project featuring wounded and amputee veterans, and it’s even steamier than the original.


Michael Stokes’ newest work, “Invictus,” showcases 15 recent veterans baring (almost) all — flaunting prosthetics and rock-hard abs in a bold celebration of their post-war bodies.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

The photo book includes five British veterans and American vet-turned-comedian Bobby Henline, who was severely burned during a tour in Iraq.

Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”

“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”

Check out Henline’s pose below:

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”

Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns. 

This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”

“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.

Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.

“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”

Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.

The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.

“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”

Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.

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This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

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Green Beret dies in accident during anti-Boko Haram mission

A Green Beret was killed in a Feb. 2 vehicle accident while deployed to Niger, We Are The Mighty has learned.


According to an Africa Command spokeswoman, Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas died and another Green Beret was wounded in the incident, which took place while they were traveling between military outposts in the West African nation.

“The service members were part of a small military team advising members of the Nigerien Armed Forces who are conducting counter-Boko Haram operations to bring stability to the Lake Chad Basin region,” Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz, a spokeswoman for United States Africa Command, said in an e-mail.  “This happened during a routine administrative movement between partner force outposts when the accident occurred. It is clear at this time enemy forces were not involved,”

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, Thomas was in Niger as part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Each Special Forces Group specializes in a different region of the world. The 3rd SFG specializes in operating Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Niger.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas. (US Army photo)

“The cause and circumstances of the accident remain under investigation. We will release more details if and when appropriate,” Dyrcz added. “To be clear, we take accidents like this seriously, and will do everything we can to ensure the proper safety measures are in place to protect our service members.”

While Boko Haram is best known for its attacks in Nigeria — notably the kidnapping of over 200 girls from their school near Chibok in April 2014 — a State Department report from 2013 notes that the group has also operated in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Stars and Stripes reported that the United States military has been launching reconnaissance missions with unmanned aerial vehicles from the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

Nigeria carried out air strikes last August, killing some high-ranking members of the group. Last November, two couriers with the group were killed while in possession of a shopping list that included a number of libido enhancers and drugs to treat venereal disease.

Army Special Operations Command had not responded to e-mails requesting further details about the accident.

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This video shows how an Iraqi soldier saved his comrades from a suicide bomber

A video that reportedly captures the dramatic moment an Iraqi soldier saved his squad by driving his bulldozer into an incoming Islamic State group suicide bomber, has emerged this week.


The footage, which was shot from the dash cam installed inside the driver’s cabin, was taken in West Mosul where IS have been making their last stand against a massive operation to retake the Iraqi city.

It shows the driver deliberately ramming his bulldozer into an incoming IS car bomb in the narrow streets of the extremists’ final Iraqi bastion.

“Sir, I stopped it,” the driver, named in media reports as Mohammed Ali al-Shuwaili, can be heard saying as the smoke from the explosion fills his cabin.

“Thank God you’re alright,” his commander responds.

The New Arab could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Baghdad forces first took the eastern side of the city before crossing the Tigris and attacking the more densely packed western section of Mosul.Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul from IS nearly seven months ago, fighting their way into the jihadist-held city.

In the course of the fighting, security forces have faced a seemingly endless waves of IS car bombs, which when detonated erupt into towering fireballs.

Such attacks have featured heavily in the jihadi group’s latest propaganda films.

Iraqi officers said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul from IS, which is on the “brink of total defeat”.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Baghdad that IS now controls just over ten percent of west Mosul.

The drive to retake Mosul has been supported by a campaign of US-led coalition air raids in and around the city.

IS now controls just a handful of neighborhoods around the Old City, one of the country’s heritage jewels.

Half a million people are currently displaced as a result of the Battle for Mosul, and some 250,000 civilians are estimated to still be trapped inside the city’s west.

Click here to watch the dramatic video.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
(Source: The New Arab)

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Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

(3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, YouTube)
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Here’s the new trailer for ’13 Hours’ — the film about the Benghazi terrorist attack

The film “13 Hours” comes out Jan. 15, and new trailers were released on Wednesday. The movie follows the story of Americans overrun at the U.S. Consulate in Libya on Sep. 11, 2012. Both new trailers are below.


The first contains all the profanity you’d expect in a movie about American fighters being overrun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpsqh73gB78feature=youtu.be

The second is essentially the same trailer, but it doesn’t contain as much profanity and gory images.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m84z-GWwa58feature=youtu.be

The movie is based on the book, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff.

Deadline Hollywood notes that the film will likely not get into the political standoff over the attack or the aftermath of the fighting. “Like the book upon which its based, it probably won’t get into the conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks,” Ross A. Lincoln writes. “Going instead for an on-the-ground view of the attacks through the eyes of serious badasses.”

The CIA officers, contractors, and Navy SEALs who fought at Benghazi will be represented by James Badge Dale, John Krasinksi, Max Martini, and Toby Stephens, among others.

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The 4 most amazing escapes in military history

1. The Green Beret founder of SERE training used a math problem to trick the Viet Cong.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks


In the grand scheme of things, the Vietnam War tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to great stories of war — maybe it’s too recent or painful an event to be remembered with the nostalgia associated with WWII.

Regardless, the story of James Nicholas “Nick” Rowe is one that deserves a spot in the limelight, and might be one you haven’t heard before. Not only was Rowe a Green Beret during Vietnam, he would also create the Army SERE course, a grueling training course detailing methods of “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” when captured by the enemy. One of the training’s more notorious tasks is learning how to drink snake blood to keep up your calorie intake, so it’s safe to say Rowe was a pretty hardcore guy.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

But even the best of the best can get caught by surprise. While on a mission supporting South Vietnamese irregulars against the Viet Cong, Rowe and his fellow Green Berets walked into an ambush. The men fought valiantly, but after exchanging fire they were overpowered and taken as prisoners. When they reached the POW camp they were separated and locked in cages, entering a living hell that they would endure for the next five years.

It only got worse for Rowe. The Viet Cong knew he was the leader of his unit, and suspected he had information. They were right. Rowe served as the captured unit’s intelligence officer, and possessed exactly the kind of information the Viet Cong desperately needed. As a result, Rowe had to endure near-constant torture, on top of the already deplorable conditions of the prison. At one point Rowe confessed his “true” position, claiming he was just an engineer, but the VC weren’t going to let him off easy.

They cut the torture to give Rowe engineering problems to solve. Amazingly, despite the fact that he was starving, living in a cage and was not an engineer, he completed it correctly. His torturers were satisfied, and Rowe thought he could rest easy thanks to West Point’s mandatory engineering courses.

He was wrong. Around the same time, a group of American peace activists were on a mission to visit American officers in Vietnamese prisoner of war camps. The goal of the excursion was a little fuzzy, but they essentially wanted to prove that the North Vietnamese’s prison methods were above board. Rowe’s name was on their list of officers to visit, along with the fact that he was a Special Forces intelligence officer.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

When the Viet Cong discovered the lie, they forced Rowe to stand naked in a swamp for days on end, leaving him ravaged by mosquitos and dizzy with lack of food or water. They were fed up with this phony engineer and his multiple escape attempts, and decided enough was enough. They gave Rowe an execution date, eager to rid themselves of his antics.

When the day finally came, Rowe was led far away from the camp, when suddenly a group of American helicopters thundered overhead, rustling the jungle trees and giving Rowe the split second of time he needed to break free, fend off his captors and sprint after the helicopters. Amazingly, one of the choppers noticed Rowe waving like a maniac in a clearing, and was able to rescue him from his scheduled death.

2. The British soldier who escaped The Gestapo’s “unescapable” castle

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

Escaping a prisoner of war camp is no easy feat, and many who have made it to freedom recount plotting their escape plans for months, even years, to execute it right on the first try. This, apparently, was not Airey Neave’s style. Instead of biding his time, the British soldier escaped his WWII POW camps whenever he could, undeterred by failed attempts.

Finally, when he and his friend were caught in Poland after escaping German POW camp Stalag XX-A, he was collected by the Gestapo, who sent him to Oflag IV-C, AKA the castle of Colditz, AKA the last stop for all troublemaking POWs.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

It may look like a summer home fit for the Von Trapp family, but don’t be fooled, this place was no joke. If you’re doubtful you can read up on some accounts of the “escape proof” castle here.

The castle’s prisoners weren’t as confident in its “inescapable” qualities, and instead just came up with ridiculously complex plans of escape.

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

Failed attempts included the construction of a small wooden glider, a network of underground tunnels, and prisoners sewing themselves into mattresses to be smuggled out with the laundry. Tempting as these flashy failures were, Neave decided to take a more theatrical approach to his escape.

After he secretly acquired pieces of a Polish army uniform, he painted the shirt and cap green to resemble a German officer’s ensemble. Then he put on his new duds and strolled out of the prison like a Nazi on his way to Sunday dinner with his girl. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was how reflective the paint would be; once outside, he lit up like a Christmas tree under the guard’s searchlight passed over him. It didn’t end well.

But Neave still thought the idea was pretty awesome, and pulled the stunt a second time a few months later, with an updated “uniform” of cardboard, cloth, and more Nazi-green. He also had a partner in crime this time, another prisoner named Anthony Luteyn, who was also sporting a mock German getup.

During an all-inmate stage production that the prison sponsored and put on, Neave and Lutyen quietly slipped off stage, crawled underneath the floorboards that held the dancing inmates and right above the guard’s headquarters.

From there the pair dropped into the room from the ceiling and acted natural, strolling about and exchanging pleasantries in German as if they were simply visiting officers. Once they had ensured no one was suspicious, they calmly made their exit. Once outside of the prison, they threw away the homemade German uniforms and pretended to be two Dutch workers on their way to Ulm from Leipzeg, with (fake) papers to prove it. Unfortunately, the phony documents ended up getting the two stopped by German police, but they bought the disguises and sent them to the foreign aid office, believing they were just confused immigrants.

Despite this and other close calls, Neave and Lutven continued their journey — all on foot — until they made it to Switzerland and were finally free. Neaves would later work to ensure there were quality escape lines for other POWS in Europe, and would also serve on the Nuremberg Trials.

3. The three-prong tunnel system that led 3 POWs to safety

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

While the above escapists have steered clear of the old tunnel-digging prison cliche, it’s still an effective method. In fact, U.S. airmen Roger Bushell took the wartime tradition a step further by constructing a system of three tunnels in a German Air Force POW camp at the height of WWII. The tunnels, nicknamed “Tom”, “Dick”, and “Harry,” were each 30 feet deep. This way, Bushell hoped, they wouldn’t be detected by the camp’s perimeter microphones. Each tunnel was also only about two feet wide, though there were larger sections that contained an air pump and a space full of digging supplies. Pieces of wood were used to ensure the stability of the tunnel walls.

Electric lighting was also installed and attached to the prison’s electric grid, allowing the diggers to work and travel by lamplight 10 yards under the ground’s surface. The operation even advanced far enough to incorporate a rail car system into their tunnel network, which was used to carry tons and tons of building materials back and forth during the 5-month construction period.

Just as the “Harry” tunnel was completed in 1944, the American officers who had toiled over the escape route were moved to a new camp. The rest of the prisoners attempted an escape about a week later on March 24, but they had unfortunately miscalculated where their tunnels would end. Initially believing the secret tunnel would dump them inside a forest, they emerged to realize that they were short of the tree line and completely exposed. Still, over 70 men crawled through the dark, dank tunnels to the other side, rushing to the trees once they surfaced. Tragically, on March 25th, a German guard spotted the 77th man crawling out of the tunnel, leading to the capture of 73 of the men, and later the execution of 50 of them. Only three would survive and make it to freedom, but the escape had gone down as one of the most elaborate in history.

4. Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best’s plan to fly the Colditz coop

No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

You didn’t really think we were going to just breeze by that wooden glider story, did you? There have been plenty of wacky escape methods, but none as bold or sophisticated as literally building yourself a two-man wooden plane to peace out in.

At least, this was the plan. Jack Best and Bill Goldfinch were similar to Neave in their can-do, slightly certifiable approach to escape. The men were pilots, and decided that the best way to bust out of the German castle was to do what they do best: fly. Or, more accurately in this case, glide. The Colditz castle was built atop a large cliff, perfect for launching a secret and probably highly unstable aircraft off of.

Goldfinch and Best began building the glider’s skeleton in the attic above the prison chapel, figuring the height would give it enough time to glide across the Mulde river, which was situated about 200 feet below the building. To keep the Germans from walking in on the construction, the pair built a false wall out of old pieces of wood, the same stuff they constructed the glider out of. The plane was mostly made up out of bed slats and floor boards, but the men used whatever material they could get their hands on that they thought the Germans wouldn’t miss. Control wires were going to be created from electrical wiring that was found in quieter sections of the castle.

Though the operation was deemed moot before it could ever be carried out (the Allies released the prisoners before it could be flown), we felt this almost-escape deserved some recognition because by many accounts, it would have worked. In 2000, a replica of the Colditz glider was constructed for a documentary entitled “Escape from Colditz”, and was actually flown successfully at RAF Odiham. It gets even cooler, though. Best and Goldfinch were able to watch the whole thing go down, and witness their “escape” firsthand.

NOW: 4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work

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The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

Most stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis start with Oct. 16, 1962, when the president and his advisors were briefed on the missile sites on the island. A few start with Oct. 13, when the U-2 flight that photographed the sites took off. U-2 overflights would collect more information during the crisis along with other reconnaissance plans. After collecting all the information, U.S. intelligence agencies believed the Russians had smuggled nearly 10,000 troops onto the island.


No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks
Photo: Wikipedia/Keizers

But the Russians had actually smuggled over 40,000 troops comprising seven missile regiments, two air defense divisions, a fighter aviation regiment with 40 jets, 23 nuclear-capable bombers, a helicopter squadron with 33 birds, 11 light transport planes, and four mechanized infantry regiments with three nuclear rocket batteries attached.

All of these assets were to employ and defend the 36 to 42 nuclear ballistic missiles, 92 nuclear cruise missiles, and six nuclear bombs deployed to the island. There were also another 24 ballistic missiles that never made it to the island.

How did the Russians get this vast nuclear arsenal 100 miles from America? They packed their men into 100 degree ship holds until some died of the heat and dehydration, cleverly hid missile components in civilian ships, and lied their asses off.

The Russian ruse

First, Russia only let a few people know they were planning it. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the General Staff made the decision to place the missiles, and then told only five people — four generals and a colonel. To keep those who knew to a minimum, the colonel hand-wrote all the meeting notes and drafted the proposed plan in longhand.

As preparations got under way, more and more officers had to be brought into the inner circle, but the Soviets limited those who knew the true nature of the mission to just a handful and mislead the others as to the exact nature of the mission.

Many were convinced that the deployment was a training mission near the Bering Sea. The mission, Operation ANADYR was named for a river that flows into the sea. Troops were alerted that they were headed to a cold region and were issued cold weather clothes and skis. Technicians were told the equipment they were preparing were destined for an island in the Arctic where Russia regularly tested nuclear weapons.

“Agricultural experts”

To explain the sudden movement of personnel, ships, and equipment from Russia to Cuba, the Soviet Union announced that they were sending agricultural experts to Cuba. They arrived May 29, 1962, and pulled Raul Castro aside. They explained that they were actual military leaders who needed to speak to Fidel Castro as soon as possible.

The delegation made the initial deal with Fidel Castro to bring the missiles in, and Fidel Castro went in July to finalize the deal.

Within a week, “machine operators,” “irrigation specialists,” and “agricultural specialists” who knew nothing about farming began arriving in Cuba by air. America wasn’t totally blind to this. Intelligence analysts speculated that the new flights were bringing in military officers and signal monitoring equipment onto the island.

Preparing to deploy

The massive movement of supplies and personnel to Russian ports had to be hidden. First, all the troops involved were restricted from mail and telegrams. Shipments were split between four ports on the north of the country and four in the south. Troops waiting to get on the ships were housed in military facilities and not allowed to leave the area for any reason. Ship crews couldn’t leave the ports. Communications with the Defense Ministry were done via courier.

As ships were loaded, only agricultural-type equipment was allowed to be stored above decks. Most military equipment and nearly all of the troops were stationed belowdecks. Large equipment that couldn’t be stored below but was visibly military was camouflaged to be hidden in the ships’ outer structures.

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The Soviet ship Poltava moves the first of the ballistic missiles to Cuba. Photo: US Air Force

Again, the Americans had some idea that something could be amiss. The type of large-hatch ships being used were sometimes employed to transport cargo, but they were also some of the only ships that could carry ballistic missiles.

Traveling clandestinely

To make sure no one, not even the ship’s captains and military commanders, knew where they were going, each ship was given a route and a thick envelope. Once they reached a point on their initial route, the military commander and a ship captain would open the first layer of the envelope in the presence of a Soviet political officer. Inside would be instructions to head to another point as well as another sealed envelope. Again, the ship would follow the enclosed instructions and open the next sealed envelope.

Eventually of course, there would be an envelope that ordered them to Cuba.

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A soviet ship moves nuclear-capable bombers to Cuba ahead of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Photo: US Air Force

Meanwhile, the crew was suffocating belowdecks. To keep from being spotted by reconnaissance overflights or by people on the coast when near land, the thousands of soldiers were ordered to stay below with all the portholes closed during the day. At night they could take turns walking on deck in small groups. Temperatures in the holds climbed to 120 degrees or higher in the day and some ships faced fresh water shortages. In a few extreme cases, personnel died to maintain secrecy.

Lying

Of course, the Soviets still had to straight-up lie to President John F. Kennedy to pull this off. The small bits of evidence had been piling up for the Americans and a sighting of surface-to-air missiles on Cuba suddenly blew the military buildup into the open.

When the administration confronted the Russians, Russia claimed it was a small defensive buildup and America bought it. Russia also pushed the importance of them training Cuban farmers.

To protect the U-2s, Kennedy ordered the end of flights over Cuba, blinding America to the continuing buildup.

Arrival in Cuba

Once the assets arrived in Cuba, it was nearly impossible to keep people from talking. Russia tries by moving mostly at night, using Spanish on the radio, and minimizing communications. They also destroyed buildings on the route and evacuated areas near the missile sites.

But the locals were still talking about the incoming missiles. To prevent discovery, Russia began leaking false information through as many intelligence channels as they could. Stories ranged from African troops with nose rings landing on the island to underground hangars and concrete domes being constructed. American analysts trying to rule out the erroneous reports discounted news of nuclear weapons.

Discovery

Finally, overflights of the ships going into Cuba revealed the nuclear-capable bombers en route to the island and Kennedy authorized the resumption of flights over Cuba. On Oct. 13, these flights captured images of the nuclear missile sites being emplaced and the Cuban Missile Crisis soon exploded into the open.

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Soviet truck convoy deploying missiles near San Cristobal, Cuba, on Oct. 14, 1962. This image, taken by Maj. Steve Heyser in a USAF U-2, is the first picture that proved Russian missiles were being emplaced in Cuba. The image is dated on the day it was printed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Still, the Russian deception continued. They kept America convinced for some time that troop levels were small and America didn’t know about the tactical nuclear weapons that were on the island for years.

(h/t to the CIA report, “Learning from the Past” by James H. Hansen).

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Retired A-10 crew chief discusses his relationship with the Thunderbolt II

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In the heart of the Sonoran Desert lies a 2,600-acre piece of land, a “boneyard,” where it is commonly understood a unique bond exists between an Airman and his aircraft.

Since the days shortly after World War II, this particular piece of land, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, has been the final resting place for tens of thousands of military aircraft, many of which have played a significant role in shaping the world since the early 1940’s.

The boneyard is home to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. It’s where 600 technicians, from dozens of specialties, ensure the preservation or perform the “cannibalization” of the sleeping fleet. Most of the technicians have decades of experience, both military and civilian, spanning multiple generations of airframes. However, not many have the level of relationship Richard Brunt has with the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which pilots and crews lovingly refer to as the “Warthog.”

Those who come across Brunt in the boneyard, may assume he’s just another mechanic. He has that seasoned maintainer demeanor, sun-scorched skin, roughly calloused hands, and sarcasm perpetuated by thousands of hours of knuckle-busting wrench turns.

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Richard Brunt cleans the windscreen of an A-10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, circa 1988. | Photo by Richard Brunt

Nevertheless, Brunt is far more than a junkyard part puller.

“I joined the military in 1975, but it wasn’t until my second tour of active duty that I worked as an aviation crew chief,” said Brunt. “I always had a passion for all things aviation, so I was excited.

“Initially I worked five years on F-4 (Phantoms), F-111 (Aardvarks), and as a quality assurance inspector. But, in 1987, after a three-year tour at Osan Air Base, Korea, that’s when I was struck by the Thunderbolt.”

Brunt joined a “hodge-podge of crew chiefs and pilots” from all over the world who were tasked with activating the Air Force’s first OA-10 forward air controller (FAC) airborne unit.

“We all had to learn a new aircraft; none of us had touched an A-10 … it made us a close-knit group,” Brunt said. “All of us worked together, the mechanics and the pilots. We had one goal in mind: get qualified.”

From 1987 to 1990, Staff Sgt. Brunt and the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron trained day in and day out, traveling throughout the country. They were also tasked with providing heavily armed airborne FAC to support the Army’s renowned and battle-tested 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions.

After two years of intense training, the Davis-Monthan AFB OA-10 unit was called upon to support Operation Desert Storm. The unit would formally usher in the new era of close air-support and give rise to a new term – “tank-plinking.”

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An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. | Air Force photo

The sight of the group’s hard work and preparation finally being utilized during Desert Storm is as vivid for Brunt as if it were yesterday.  He calls it the fondest memory of his career.

“I remember the night we caught the (Iraqi) Republican Guard moving south along the Highway of Death (Highway 80, which runs from Kuwait City to Basra, Iraq),” Brunt said. “The first group of A-10s I launched came back and the pilots were all pumped up. They had spotted a whole convoy that spanned many miles.

“That night, we launched nearly 600 jets. Our pilots did a typical tactical attack; they knocked out the front, then knocked out the back, boxing them in. Each jet carried 1,150 pounds of (high-explosive incendiary), the 30 millimeter cannon, four bombs, and two to four air-to-ground missiles … each one came back empty. It was a great day.”

Although missions like that night were filled with adrenaline and affirmation, those moments were always short-lived. Most days were filled with nonstop sortie generation, harsh conditions and constant angst from the surrounding dangers.

Still, it was never just a job for Brunt, it was a sense of pride; it was never just his name on the side of the plane that connected him to the machine, it was much deeper.

“Every day, multiple times a day, that was my plane heading into danger, my pilot relying on my machine to respond accurately and protect his life,” Brunt said.

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Richard Brunt, left, and Captain Patrick B. Olson stand in front an OA-10, number 197, in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. | Photo courtesy Richard Brunt

Unfortunately, one of the most defining moments in Brunt’s love affair with the A-10 was the loss of a dear friend and colleague.

“His name was Lt. Patrick Olson,” Brunt said. “We called him Oly. He was a great officer. I was his crew chief; it was our names on the side of aircraft 77-197.

“I remember it clear as day. There was a light drizzle and as we prepared for launch; Oly was talking about how he heard the war may end really soon. I got him in the plane, buckled him up and he took off up north toward the Republican Guard.”

That day, Feb. 27, 1991, Olson was directing fire toward Iraqi tanks when he was spotted and immediately engaged. He quickly yanked the A-10′s vertical to the ground, banked sharply and instead of disengaging, went directly for the Iraqi tanks. Olson’s aircraft took critical damage.

“He was hit with (anti-aircraft artillery), they disabled his rudder and elevator,” said Brunt. He was told to bailout… but he said ‘No, I’m going to land this thing.'”

Because of the damage sustained by the aircraft, as he was preparing to land, the gear in his wing broke through the skin, the plane slide sideways, flipped over and burst into flames.

“I took it very hard,” explained Brunt, “When the expediter pulled me aside and told me that Oly wouldn’t be coming back, I burst into tears; it was hard for me to process.”

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Richard Brunt touches a memorial plaque, located in Heritage Park at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 5, 2016, which honors Captain Patrick B. Olson. | Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

The war ended the next day.

After an emotionally charged six months in Saudi Arabia, Brunt spent the next five years traveling the world with the A-10, supporting multiple operations. Then, in 1996, after 17 years and 10 months in the service, Brunt was the subject of the Air Force’s reduction in force efforts; he retired as a technical sergeant with full benefits.

Following retirement, Brunt looked for ways to stay with the A-10. It wasn’t until 2002, after six years of working multiple jobs in aviation, that he was finally reunited with the aircraft.

“For years I had been trying to get back to the plane that I knew the best, the one I spent 11 years with,” Brunt explained. “The wait had been too long.”

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While the Thunderbolts were the same, Brunt’s new involvement with them was exactly the opposite of what it used to be. Instead of repairing them, he was tearing them apart.

“It’s a shame going through the save list and striping them down,” Brunt said. “It’s hard to imagine that the very aircraft that took me to all ends of the world would soon be crushed up, salvaged and probably turned into beer cans.

“At least for now, the A-10 will live on for a few more years and the parts I pull will keep the aircraft flying and save the tax-payers millions of dollars. When the A-10 is finally taken out of commission, it will not be forgotten. It has given me some of the greatest moments of my life. For that I owe it a great deal of gratitude.”

For those traveling to Davis-Monthan that get a chance to tour the boneyard, look for Brunt. You’ll find him hard at work, carefully stripping down the birds he once repaired. Ask him about his time with the A-10 and you’ll see a subtle grin and a sparkle in his eye…he’ll begin to point out his favorites starting with the NF (Nail FAC) Desert Storm aircraft.

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Tyler Perry just bought this old Army base

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Photo: Courtesy Fort McPherson


Georgia’s Fort McPherson, the historic Army base that operated in suburban Atlanta from 1885–2011, has been sold to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who plans to redevelop the facility as movie studio.

Perry will control 330 of the facility’s 448 acres and has plans to build up to 16 soundstages. His $30 million purchase includes the post’s former golf course, key office buildings and the fort’s historic parade grounds and officers’ quarters.

A civilian agency has been tasked with redeveloping 144 acres of land not included in Perry’s purchase. Those plans could include rehabbing the fort’s historic village in the northeast quadrant of the post and turning it into neighborhood retail and restaurants.

Tyler Perry has become a major player in Georgia’s growing film industry and the new studio will house his company’s 350 employees.

Before its establishment as an Army base in 1885, the land was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War and later as a post for Federal troops occupying Atlanta during Reconstruction.

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The 6 worst things about being the junior soldier in your squad

Being the new guy in a squad is just something every soldier has to go through. They work hard, prove themselves, and earn a little respect and rank as fast as they can. Until they do, junior soldiers put up with these 6 problems.


1. Crappy roommates

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Photo: Youtube.com

All enlisted soldiers start off with a random roommate in the barracks, but they get more say on roommates the longer they’re in the unit. If they get tight with the barracks noncommissioned officer, they may even have their own room.

The new guy to a unit has cultivated no relationships, and so can’t influence anyone. They are going to be roomed with whichever member of the squad is most disliked by the barracks NCO. This member is usually dirty, undisciplined, and annoying. Also, since the roommate is senior to the new guy, he can order the new guy around. Have fun in your new home, boot!

2. Literally everyone is in charge of them

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

There’s an Army saying, “If there are two privates on a hill, one of them is in charge.” It’s meant to illustrate that soldiers are never without leadership, but it also means that even the young soldiers in the squad can give the younger guy a legal order. And what about the youngest guy?

Well, he’s in charge of nothing and every squad member is in charge of him. If he screws up, he’s hearing about it from everyone in the squad.

3. No respect

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Taking orders from everyone is bad enough, but the junior soldier doesn’t get any respect even though they do all the work. It makes sense. The squad has endured combat together. They’ve cleared buildings, fought for ground, and buried friends as a unit. Then this new guy comes along and wants to be part of the group? Nope. Gotta earn your camaraderie, noob.

4. Most dangerous positions and assignments

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Kimberly Lamb

The junior-most members will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, since they’re often in the most dangerous positions. For the infantry, he’s likely to be the first one in the door on a clearing mission, and he’s more likely to be assigned as gunner in a vehicle on a movement.

For the POGs, the junior squad member is the one most likely to get tasked out on a mission. Commander needs someone to pull a guard shift at the gate? It’s not like Pvt. Snuffy has anything going on. Gunny wants a volunteer for convoy security? Pfc. Schmuckatelli better grab his gear.

5. They’re the canaries in the coal mine

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Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The most dangerous time to be the junior member is when there is a chemical or biological attack. The military dons protective gear when it’s hit with biological or chemical agents, and troops don’t take the gear off until their best detection kits say the threat is gone. But, the kits can’t detect everything and someone has to take the first unprotected breath.

And that’s where the junior soldier comes in. The unit takes away their weapon and has them unmask for a short period. If they don’t show signs of trouble, the rest of the unit unmasks. If the soldier does start reacting to a chemical compound, the unit keeps their masks on and sends the junior guy to a hospital. Get well soon!

6. Long hours and low pay

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Photo: US Army Sgt. John Crosby

No one in the military is getting rich, and just about everyone works long hours. But, the junior guys usually work the same hours for even less pay than everyone else. A new E-2 in the military makes $1734 a month. They work an eight-hour day plus do an hour of mandatory physical training every morning. So, not counting any assignments, overnight guard duty, or additional physical training, an E-2 makes about $8.67 an hour before taxes.

They may get great benefits and education incentives, but the paychecks can be depressing.

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