The Marine Corps recently released the summary of results of its Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, a nine-month study to “better understand all aspects of gender integration while setting the conditions for successful policy implementation.” The study was the first step in implementing the order of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open combat roles to women across the Department of Defense.
Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, the commanding officer of the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, addresses Marines after an award ceremony. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)
The results were not kind to the gender integrated unit in the study. Against the all-male combat units, the gender-integrated were outperformed in 69% of tasks evaluated, which the Marine Corps says were “basic infantry tasks.”
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, an outspoken proponent of gender integration in combat roles throughout all branches of the military, decried the results of the tests, implying the Marine Corps was biased toward women in the first place and that the results may be skewed because of it. He repeatedly denounced the conduct of the test on multiple occasions.
Mabus told the City Club of Cleveland “one of my concerns about it was, we didn’t do a very good job of screening people before the volunteering. One of the things that came out of this was there were no standards, zero, for most of these jobs. You just assumed that if somebody went through boot camp, a man went through boot camp, that they could do it.”
In an interview on NPR, Mabus said, “It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking this is not a good idea and women will never be able to do this. When you start out with that mindset you’re almost presupposing the outcome.”
Results found women were more than twice as likely to be injured and ultimately compromise a unit’s combat effectiveness, Mabus said, were an “extrapolation based on injury rates, and I’m not sure that’s right.”
But Mabus is getting an earful from all sides. Enlisted Marines who took part in the exercise, male and female alike, had stong words for the Navy Secretary.
Sgt. Joe Frommling was a Marine monitor during the experiment. “What Mabus said went completely against what the command was saying the whole time,” he told the Washington Post. “They said, ‘Hey, no matter what your opinion is, go out there and give it your best and let the chips fall where they may.'” The same article quoted a female Marine, Sgt. Danielle Beck, who was insulted by Mabus’ saying the women probably should have had a “higher bar to cross” to join the task force.
“Every day we were training,” said Beck. “We didn’t know what we were going to expect when we got to Twentynine Palms, but the training that we did do got us physically ready and mentally in the mind-set for what were going to do.”
Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, who was one of Marine Corps Training and Education Command top enlisted leaders for the experiment and a key figure in its implementation, wrote on his Facebook page Mabus’ comments are “counter to the interests of national security and unfair to the women who participated in this study. No one went in to this with the mentality that we did not want this to succeed no Marine, regardless of gender, would do that.”
LeHew’s comment carries some weight. He is known as “The Hero of Nasiriyah.” He received the Navy Cross for risking his life under heavy enemy fire to evacuate four soldiers and recover nine dead and wounded Marines following a 2003 ambush in Iraq. Since then many Marines “dished” about their experiences in the task force.
There has not yet been a response from the Marine Corps about Mabus’ remarks. When asked, the Marine Corps Headquarters Public Affairs Office said “obviously, the Marine Corps is not going to have a public policy dispute with the Secretary of the Navy.”
But someone in Congress is eager to pick a fight with Mabus, however.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer and Iraq veteran, released a statement last Tuesday saying “Secretary Mabus is quickly proving that he’s a political hack … Mabus is not only insulting the Marine Corps as an institution, but he’s essentially telling Marines that their experience and judgment doesn’t matter.” Hunter then called for Mabus to resign.
The office of the Navy Secretary has not commented on individual statements, but previously said the Secretary’s comments “stand on their own.”
The FBI and the CIA had different approaches to interrogating terror suspects in the days after the 9/11 attacks. The FBI’s Ali Soufan was one of only a handful of agents who spoke Arabic at the time, but he had a method of developing a rapport with suspects to get information from them that proved itself time and again.
The CIA tortured suspects, often at a so-called black site in a third country, like Poland. One captured terror suspect, Abu Zubaydah, was the subject of both of these techniques, and a perfect experiment on just how effective torture was in gaining intelligence.
Zubaydah was captured in a raid in March 2002. The CIA, FBI and Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence raided a safehouse after the U.S. paid $10 million for a tip on his whereabouts. Ali Soufan was called in to interrogate the captive — the first real high-value jihadi arrested after Sept. 11.
Although not a member of al-Qaeda, Zubaydah planned a series of attacks in Jordan and some Israeli targets. He was also close to Osama bin Laden, and so was considered a high-value target.
Abu Zubaydah was wounded in the raid on the al-Qaeda safehouse. He was taken first to a Pakistani hospital and then to another country for a long debrief. It was FBI agent Ali Soufan who started interrogating the captured militant. Zubaydah, almost immediately, gave up information and details about a plot in a NATO country.
The terrorist ended up doing another stint in the hospital for wounds related to the initial raid. Soufan was there with Zubaydah during the entire period. With their rapport established, the militant continued cooperating with the FBI. It was Zubaydah who gave up Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI didn’t even know KSM was a member of al-Qaeda.
Then, the CIA took over interrogating Abu Zubaydah, using a contractor who didn’t agree with Agent Soufan’s methods. Soufan was incredulous, since the contractor had never interrogated a suspect and knew nothing about Islamic extremists or al-Qaeda.
Once in the hands of the CIA, Zubaydah was put into “stress positions” (where a great amount of weight is placed on one or two muscles, leading to pain and then muscle failure) and stressful situations. Extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and other techniques were performed on the captive. Soufan argues that stress measures and torture will only force compliance, not cooperation.
One of Zubaydah’s peers, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, was captured by the United States in November 2001. After his capture in Afghanistan, the Libyan national was taken to another country, much like Abu Zubaydah was. Al-Libi was tortured for information. Eventually, he gave up serious “information” linking Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Osama Bin Laden. He said the two were developing weapons of mass destruction to use on the United States and its western allies.
This information was included in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to the United Nations about the urgency of a war with Iraq. Powell remarked that Iraq was creating weaponized anthrax using mobile production centers on the backs of semi-trucks. No other intelligence agency believed this was true.
The CIA believed it because they had tortured Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to say it was true. The United States invaded Iraq anyway, and found no evidence of the weapons of mass destruction or that they had ever existed. When the CIA asked al-Libi why he told them about a link between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, the militant told them he gave up that info because he was being tortured and that’s what he knew they wanted to hear.
For eight years, the United States struggled to build a parliamentary democracy in Iraq, and would have to return once that government was threatened by the Islamic State — all because of a lie based on torture.
As long as the CIA was torturing Abu Zubaydah, he revealed no useful information. As soon as Soufan and the FBI took over the interrogation once more, Zubaydah immediately gave up actionable information.
The history of the War on Terrorism might have been entirely different if the CIA had only hired people who knew what they were doing.
Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.
The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.
The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.
“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”
The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.
Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.
The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.
The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.
The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.
Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.
Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.
With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
The cacao seed was used as currency in pre-colonial times to trade for goods and services. It’s a little hard to imagine that the deceptively simple bean that comes out of the Theobroma Cacao tree could have a value greater than gold. Yet, when you consider the indigenous creation myth across various Mesoamerican cultures, you can see why it was held in high esteem.
Food of the Gods
Behind the fruit there are reasons that made it especially valuable at the time. In mythology “his arrival” is attributed to Quetzalcóatl. The story goes that he brought it to earth to show men a food that was not disdained by the gods.
Diego Perez, Editor, Dinero en Imagen
For the European settlers engaging in trade, nothing could be more advantageous: trade goods for chocolate and sell it across the Atlantic to the aristocracy at a high price. To the traders from Spain, England, Italy and the American colonies, cacao was in high demand, and since it was also a currency, money literally grew on trees.
The word cacao means “food of the gods.” At 50,000 years old, it is one of the oldest words in the world. Its origins stem from South America and travel into Central America up to Mexico. It was consumed as a drink by the Aztec nobility and was a universal currency across North, Central and South America. Theoretically, if you could travel in the Americas, the cacao would have been the Dollar of the ancient world.
Growing cacao today is a challenge, but was even more so in pre-colonial times. Cacao plantations are small operations of up to five acres to prevent the spread of disease and pests. However, the plant is very sensitive and growers are mentally prepared to lose their whole crop yield – because it happens often. Hazards like too much wind or too much water can kill trees younger than two years old.
Many varieties of cacao exist, and they can be grouped into three general divisions: forastero, criollo, and trinitario. Forastero varieties are most commonly used in commercial production, whereas criollo varieties are very susceptible to disease and are not widely grown. Trinitario is a hybrid of the forastero and criollo varieties and produces a flavourful bean that is used in high-quality dark chocolate.
L. Russell Cook, President, Chocolate and Confectionery Division, W.R. Grace & Company, New York City, 1965–73. Author of Chocolate Production and Use
For the first five years of their lives, the flowers and budding cacao seeds are trimmed. This is done to ensure the most nutrients and energy are used to grow and strengthen the tree. It is at this five-year mark when the seed pods can be harvested. When harvesting the cacao pods workers cut them off instead of ripping them off. The pods will grow again during the next season in the same location, so harvesters are careful to cause as little damage to the branches as possible.
The tree is also susceptible to pests such as the broad mite, flower-eating caterpillars, helopeltis and the yellow peach moth. Growers must trim excess branches and leaves to make sure it is as healthy as possible and energy isn’t diverted from essential areas. All of this, frankly, is a pain in the a** even with today’s technology, so one can appreciate how valuable the seeds were before modern agricultural practices.
Another benefit of the cacao seed as currency was that since it was biodegradable, it prevented hyperinflation by disintegrating after one year or so. However, the seeds are bulky and can get destroyed by accident when transported over long distances.
What could you buy with cacao seeds?
1 bean equals one tamale, large sapote fruit, or 20 small tomatoes.
3 beans equals a turkey egg or an avocado
3 beans equals one fish in a maize husk
30 beans equals a small rabbit
100 beans equals a female turkey or a rabbit
120 beans for shrunken beans
200-300 beans a male turkey
Additionally, in Mayan civilization you could buy:
A raid to rescue Iraqi Security Forces held hostage by ISIS forces in the Kurdish areas of Iraq on Thursday liberated 70 hostages and resulted in the death of one Delta Force operator. The U.S. airlifted Peshmerga and American special operations forces to the compound where they freed the hostages, captured five ISIS fighters, and killed many more. The Peshmerga suffered four wounded. By now, most people in the West have heard of the Peshmerga and their bravery and exploits against the fundamentalist Sunni Islamist terror group, but the Peshmerga have a long history and a history of productive cooperation with the United States.
Who are the Peshmerga?
In Kurdish, Peshmerga means “one who confronts death.” Their fighters are among the region’s most able forces because of their warrior culture and dedication to their ethnic and national identity as Kurds. The Kurds have been fighting for independence and recognition for centuries. They fought for the Ottoman Empire in World War I but rebelled shortly after in an attempt to create an official homeland.
Late in the 20th century, Iraqi Kurds fought the forces of Saddam Hussein on a number of occasions, suffering a genocidal campaign from Hussein’s Iraq, through al-Anfal, where the dictator dropped Mustard Gas, nerve agents, and Hydrogen Cyanide on Kurds in 1998. Kurds would rise up against him again after Desert Storm in 1991.
Peshmerga vs. ISIS
American and international media have had much to say about the Kurds in recent years, especially as they emerged as the only force capable of stemming the ISIS advance into Iraq in 2014. But the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Kurds have a long history of cooperation and good relations with the United States and its armed forces.
The Peshmerga are the paramilitary force of Northern Iraq’s Kurdish areas. Since the Iraqi Army is forbidden from entering Iraqi Kurdistan, the Peshmerga are responsible for the security and protection of Iraqi Kurds. But the Kurdish military didn’t stop there.
As ISIS advanced into Iraq, they executed those who disagreed with their brand of strict Sunni Islam. A minority population of Yazidis, whose religion is more closely linked to Shia Islam, were forced to flee to the top of Mount Sinjar, where ISIS forces surrounded them as they faced annihilation. The Peshmerga caught the world’s attention when they intervened on behalf of the Yazidis, saving them from slaughter. Since then American airpower and Peshmerga ground forces have been the main thrust to push ISIS back into Syria, where Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighters are engaged with them.
The Kurdish Homeland
Kurds are a tribal society but unlike many Muslims in the region, recognize their ethnic identity as Kurds instead of first identifying as Sunni or Shia Muslims. A great reason for this is the spread of ethnic Kurds throughout the region. The Kurds recognize their traditional lands extending from parts of Iran in the East, through Northern Iraq, and into Syria in the West. The traditional Kurds also see parts of Turkey as traditional Kurdish lands, which has put some Kurds in direct conflict with Turkey, a NATO ally.
The Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, a Communist terrorist organization in Turkey, has been fighting the Turks for decades. The Syrian counterpart to the PKK is the Kurdish YPG, who are aligned against ISIS forces in Syria. The PKK is recognized worldwide as a terror group, the YPG is not and the links between them are disputed. The YPG does not enjoy the official status of the Iraqi Peshmerga. All three groups are sworn enemies of ISIS everywhere.
(Feriq Fereç – Anadolu Ajansı)
Kurds and the United States
In the days after the 2003 invasion, Kurds worked with U.S. forces to capture Saddam Hussein. They lent their Peshmerga as intelligence agents to assist Delta Force operators in dismantling terrorist and insurgent networks in Iraq. They were instrumental in the capture of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Hassan Ghul, who would reveal the name of Osama bin Laden’s messenger, which would lead to the raid which killed bin Laden at his compound in Pakistan.
The cooperation of American forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga is one of the most important and productive relationships in the Global War on Terror. Without this alliance, much of the success against international terrorism would never have been realized.
Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news. Over the last year, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by an unexpected source: The presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.
Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:
1. Chris Mintz
Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.
According to a student witness Chris “ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”
While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn’t exactly something covered by the VA. That didn’t stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin’.)
2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone
Image courtesy of mmc-news.com.
The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.
“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.
Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.
“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos.
In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant’s incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, “Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country’s highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur medal.
3. Kendrick Taylor
Image courtesy of wordondastreet.com.
In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.
“What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That’s when I ran over to help her,” Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. “When I looked down I didn’t know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help.”
DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor’s intervention. Taylor’s act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.
4. Andrew Myers
Screenshot via Youtube: Mr. Wrong House – “Burglar meets Paratrooper”
It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, “Hey, what’s up?”
“I live here,” said the hooded man.
“You definitely do not live here,” Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,
“I do live here, buddy.”
A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?” That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.
It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit’s beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to Youtube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.
In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up “Home Alone” style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I’d say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.
5. Eddy Peoples
Screenshot via ABC news.
Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn’t expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn’t expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.
During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, “If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it.”
I’m guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.
“To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That’s all it was for me. You know, you don’t point weapons at children.”
Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.
When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, “Daddy, did you get that bad man?” to which Peoples replied “Yeah, I got that bad man.”
6. Devin McClean
Screenshot from Youtube via CBS News.
Not every story ends the way you’d like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store’s employees.
One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there… but it didn’t.
The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain’s, “Zero Gun Policy” when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.
Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,
“I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?”
Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn’t. He’s still fired. I’m just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah’s goin’ to O’Reilly’s.
7. Earl Jones
Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn’t like being woken up. He especially doesn’t like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.
When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.
“Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no,” Jones told CBS News.
When asked why he didn’t dial 911, Jones replied:
“What? I’m a military man now. I ain’t gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin’. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn’t a shot him, he’d a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That’s seconds. That ain’t no damned hours.”
Old man, you’ve made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I’m just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.
Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It’s seconds. It isn’t hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can’t always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.
When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.
Heroism isn’t about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.
There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.
Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They’ve been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.
Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans’ welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.
The AK-12 assault rifle has passed military field tests and meets all of the Russian armed forces’ design and operational standards, gunmaker Kalashnikov Concern says, according to Jane’s 360.
The AK-12’s success in military trials sets it up to become the standard weapon for soldiers in Russia’s Ratnik — or ‘Warrior’ — future weapon system.
Work on the AK-12 began in 2011 with the AK-200 as a base model. Kalashnikov Concern presented prototypes in early 2012, and the first generation of the weapon was also successful in military tests.
However, according to Jane’s, the Russian military requested design alterations and wanted the new weapon to be cheaper to make. The company then produced the second-generation version of the weapon, using a 5.45 mm round with the AK-400 as its base model. The second-generation model also addressed issues regarding full-automatic fire.
The 5.45 mm AK-12 is being developed with the 7.62 mm AK-15 — both of which are to be teamed with the 5.45 mm RPK-16 light support weapon. The Russian military has also been testing A545 and A762 assault rifles — 5.45 mm and 7.62 mm, respectively — made by Kovrov Mechanical Works.
Both the AK-12 and the AK-15 keep some traditional Kalashnikov features and are compatible with magazines used by earlier versions of the AK-74 and the AKM rifles, according to Modern Firearms. The new weapons are designed to offer better accuracy in all conditions, can be fitted with add-ons like sighting equipment and bayonets, and can carry a 40 mm grenade launcher under the barrel.
A right-side view of the final production model of the AK-12, which is based on the AK-400 prototype. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Arms experts have said the AK-12 is not a grand departure from the AK-74, which is the current standard weapon for the Russian military.
“There are improvements but very modest on the background of excessive expectations triggered by a media campaign,” Mikhail Degtyarev, editor-in-chief of Kalashnikov magazine, told Army Recognition in May, making specific mention of ergonomic improvements.
Nor do observers see the wholesale replacement of the AK-74 on the horizon, as that weapon is “a very successful design but … needs modernization,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Army Recognition. “It is necessary to considerably improve combat engagement convenience, including ergonomics, and provide a possibility to mount additional devices.”
Alongside the AK-12/AK-15 package, Kalashnikov Concern has been working on an AK-74 upgrade that includes a folding and telescoping stock, rails for add-ons, and a more ergonomic fire selector and handgrip.
The Russian military’s AK-74M in the field. Photo from Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian military has been designing and testing a variety of futuristic gear for the Ratnik program over the past year.
That includes modernized body armor, bulletproof shields, tactical computers, and a helmet equipped with night vision and thermal-imaging devices.
According to Russian state-owned outlet RT, the country’s military has also debuted a combat suit with a “powered exoskeleton” that purportedly gives the wearer more strength and endurance, as well as high-tech body armor and a helmet and visor covering the entire face.
The suit, however, remains a few years from production, and it’s “unclear whether these type of suits will eventually make it to the battlefield,” Stratfor analyst Sim Tack told Business Insider in June.
A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for exposing private details about troops’ military service on “a truly massive scale” due to lax security on one of its websites.
The lawsuit filed by Vietnam Veterans of America says a Defense Department website “is currently exposing private details about the military service of millions of veterans to anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose.”
The shoddy security measures allow virtually anyone to access sensitive data about veterans’ records by typing in a name and date of birth, which are easily available on the internet.
This gives “easy access to information about essentially all veterans or service members in the system” and thus violates the Federal Privacy Act, alleges the suit filed last week in federal court in New York.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website, which according to the Pentagon receives more than 2.3 billion searches a year, is mean to be used by authorized institutions like banks to confirm the active duty status that entitles service members to certain protections.
Instead, the information is available to con artists and scammers who can use it to impersonate government or other officials and gain veterans’ trust by discussing details of their service that only authorized organizations would have.
Thomas Barden, a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the US Air Force for 21 years, found that out firsthand.
The plaintiff in the suit received a call from someone supposedly affiliated with Microsoft in March 2016. Since the caller knew details about Barden’s military service, Barden thought the government backed it. The scammer sold him software to “protect” his computer and nine months later used it to lock him out and demanded ransom.
Worried about data theft, Barden broke the hard drive into pieces and was so concerned about his privacy he threw them into different trash cans over several days.
Since then, he has continued to receive harassing phone calls from the same scammers, causing him “significant anxiety and stress,” according to the lawsuit.
Impostor fraud and identity theft aside, the group says Vietnam veterans in particular want to keep details of their military record private, having “experienced the sting of rejection and public scorn on account of their service.”
Since they draw a steady, guaranteed income from the government, veterans are an attractive target for scammers. The numbers have increased in recent years, from 58,175 complaints by veterans in 2014 to 69,801 in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement.
The Pentagon “is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet (and) has refused to properly secure veterans’ information,” he said. “We are asking a court to order them to do so.”
The Defense Department has refused to make any changes since being alerted about the problems with the site, the suit says. It points out that the Defense Department could implement a strict user registration or online verification system, which are used by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
The challenges of protecting the massive databases containing military records are not new. The Department of Veterans Affairs in particular has struggled with privacy issues.
In 2014, a joint Pentagon-VA benefits site had recurring issues with private information about veterans being disclosed to random visitors. The VA was also sued over a serious privacy breach in 2006, after an employee’s laptop was stolen that contained the private data of 26 million soldiers and veterans. The VA settled for $20 million for failing to protect their sensitive data.
In other cases, veterans expecting to receive their own health care records opened their mail only to receive hundreds of pages of someone else’s private data.
“I got 256 pages of another person’s extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records,” Anthony McCann, a veteran in Tennessee, told a VA town hall in 2014.
The VA is the health provider with the most privacy complaints in the country, racking up 220 complaints between 2011 and 2014 according to a ProPublica analysis. In one case, an employee accessed her husband’s medical records more than 260 times. Another employee shared a veteran’s private health information with his parole officer. In yet another case, a VA employee posted details of a patient’s health records on Facebook after opening them 61 times, according to documents posted by ProPublica.
Contrary to what many civilians believe, not everyone in the military is a soldier. While the Army has soldiers, the Navy has sailors, the Air Force has airmen, Space Force has Guardians (we’re still trying to wrap our heads around that one), and don’t ever let a Marine hear you call them anything but a Marine. While the Army and Air Force call their officer trainees in ROTC and their service academies cadets, the same can’t be said for the Navy.
Students at the Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, and enrolled in Navy ROTC are called midshipmen. Not only does this differentiate them from their Army and Air Force counterparts, but it reflects the long lineage of naval history and tradition.
1662 saw the first recorded use of the term midshipman. It referred to more experienced sailors aboard British ships with increased responsibility over regular deckhands, but was not a formal military rank. The name itself is derived from the middle section of a ship called amidships. Between the main and mizzen masts, this is where midshipmen generally worked and berthed below decks.
In the 18th century, midshipman became a more formal title held mostly by officer candidates who failed their lieutenant exam or were passed over for promotion. By 1794, midshipman evolved into a proper rank and referred exclusively to officer candidates. Midshipmen were generally young men who aspired to become naval officers and were sent into naval service by their families. After a set amount of time at sea and upon completion of their naval studies, midshipmen could be promoted to lieutenants.
When the United States declared its independence from Britain, much of its military was modeled after the British. After all, many Americans previously served in the British military. Moreover, the British had the most powerful Army and Navy in the world, so it made sense to copy them. With the Naval Act of 1794, Congress established the United States Navy and included midshipman as a warrant officer rank. Like their British counterparts, American midshipmen were generally young men between the ages of 14 and 22 who were in training to become naval officers.
In 1845, the United States Naval Academy was created. This formal institution replaced the longstanding practice of naval apprenticeships that previously created naval officers. To distinguish these new naval students, Naval Academy trainees were referred to as cadet midshipmen.
In 1865, the Department of Steam Enginery was created and engineer students were admitted to the Naval Academy. To differentiate them from the regular cadet midshipmen, the Naval Academy created the titles of engineer cadet and naval cadet. However, this didn’t last long. In 1882, Congress eliminated the distinction and all student officers were referred to as naval cadets. In 1902, the naval cadet title was eliminated entirely and reverted back to midshipman.
Legally, midshipmen in the U.S. Navy are a special grade of uncomissioned (not noncommissioned) officer. They sit between E-9 and W-1 (W-2 in the Coast Guard). Today, the midshipman rank is also held by aspiring Marine Corps officers at the Naval Academy and in NROTC. Whereas the Navy midshipmen wear gold fouled anchors for their rank, Marine-option midshipmen wear a gold Eagle, Globe, and Anchor to differentiate themselves.
Upon graduation, Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen are commissioned as ensigns in the Navy or as 2nd Lts. in the Marine Corps.
The Imperial Japanese military’s structure during WWII can be considered unorthodox by modern standards. For example, its navy (IJN) crewed and fielded amphibious tanks. Their goal was to support amphibious landings with organic armor and facilitate Japan’s continued island hopping expansion across the Pacific. Following years of research and prototypes that were started by the army, the first production amphibious tank rolled off the assembly line in 1942.
The IJN Type 2 Ka-Mi was a light amphibious tank based on the army’s Type 95 Ha-Go. Although it entered service after America began its own island-hopping campaign, and thus had limited application, the IJN was pleased with the Type 2 and continued amphibious tank development.
Seeking aN amphibious tank with better armor and armament, the IJN started with the army’s newest medium tank, the Type 1 Chi-He. From this, a prototype was developed and completed in 1943. Later that same year, the Type 3 Ka-Chi entered full production and service.
The Type 3’s sides were flat and box-like for streamlining in the water. It was welded together and sealed with rubber gaskets. Most importantly, it could be fitted with two additional pontoons. These were sheet metal and attached at the bow and stern of the tank. The bow pontoon curved up for improved hydrodynamics and split down the middle for mounting and dismounting. The stern pontoon hosted two rudders to assist with steering.
When the Type 3 reached land, its pontoons could be released by the crew from inside. The extra metal of the pontoons, although very thin, served as a bit of spaced armor and most crews kept their pontoons attached. Propulsion in the water was achieved with twin-screws with primary steering provided by two more. A large snorkel behind the turret delivered air to the Type 3’s Mitsubishi V-12 diesel engine and kept water out of the engine compartment An extra cupola was built on top of the turret to keep water out of the fighting compartment as well.
The Type 3 was armed with Japan’s standard anti-tank gun, the Type 1 47mm. Although it was only capable of perforating the frontal armor of an M4 Sherman, the 47mm gun could penetrate its sides and do serious damage to light tanks like the M3/M5 Stuart from any angle. The Type 3 was also equipped with two Type 97 7.7mm machine guns: one mounted coaxially in the turret and other mounted in the bow. The Type 3 had a crew of seven including a dedicated on-board mechanic.
The biggest improvement of the Type 3 over the Type 2 was its ability to launch from a submarine. This could be done even when the submarine was submerged. To achieve this, the Type 3’s rear hull was made of a single convex plate that was riveted to the tank. IJN doctrine stated that the Type 3 was to be covertly deployed off the coast, ideally at night, to reinforce island defenses or deliver supplies. The submarines could then engage enemy ships or slip away in the darkness.
By 1945, however, only 19 Type 3s were built. With America advancing rapidly across the Pacific, the IJN prioritized the development and construction of ships and planes. As a result, the amphibious tank became a low priority. Still, two more amphibious tanks were developed: the torpedo-launching Type 4 Ka-Tsu and the much larger Type 5 To-Ku.
The 19 Type 3s that made it into production were reportedly assigned to the Special Cruiser Squadron of Yokosuka and did not see combat. After the war, British military investigators studied the tanks. It is likely that all 19 were scrapped, as no surviving examples have surfaced since then.
It’s not too big a leap in logic to say that the American military is responsible for popular martial arts icons like Billy Jack, the Karate Kid, and even Chuck Norris.
Karate earned its moniker in 1936 when a summit of karatekas in Naha officially adopted the name for their art. Despite the recognized influence of Chinese martial arts on Okinawa, the patriarchs of the various schools saw a need to reform as a distinctly Okinawan fighting style and so chose the “The Empty Hand” as their means of rebirth.
World War II stifled the growth of karate in Japan as all fighting age men were sent abroad to die for the Emperor, but the war also heralded its global exportation. After a bloody fight to suppress the Japanese Imperial forces on Okinawa, hundreds of Marines took karate back to the U.S. Since then, karate has enjoyed a massive amount of support in America with the first documented dojo being Robert Trias’ Shuri-ryu school in Phoenix, Arizona that opened in 1945. In the 1950’s at least seven other disciplines of karate made their way to the States and in the 1960’s even more styles of the art migrated across the Pacific Ocean to our shores.
In the 1960’s Southern California quickly became the hotbed of karate activity when it was introduced by Tsutomu Ohshima, a student of Shotokan’s founder, Gichin Funakoshi. Ohshima was a fifth-degree black belt (the highest rank attainable) under Funakoshi and it was Ohshima who formalized the judging system of karate tournaments. In 1969 he renamed his organization “Shotokan Karate of America.”
Like anything popular in American culture, karate made its way to the big and little screen along with Kung Fu and “Bruceploitation.” From “Billy Jack” to Chuck Norris to “The Karate Kid” in 1984, celluloid films commercialized karate, sending droves of impressionable fans to dojos only to be disappointed to learn there really was no five finger death touch or karate chop that would render an opponent incoherent.
“Movies and television depicted karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow,” says Shigeru Egai, Chief Instructor of the Shotokan Dojo. “The mass media present it as a pseudo art far from the real thing.”
By the early 1990’s karate’s popularity was waning when a new fighting competition hit pay-per-view. UFC 1 might have been a revolution for martial arts, but it only hurt karate’s reputation when Zane Frazier, a highly touted karateka lost to an overweight Kevin Rosier. Frazier had studied Shotokan Karate and Kempo for over twenty years and had recently won two heavyweight kickboxing tournaments as well as a North American Sport Karate Association regional championship. His early dismissal left a bad taste in his mouth, but it also shook the foundations of karate.
“Gracie Jiu Jitsu taught you to fight off your back and defeat a bigger opponent,” says Frazier. “It was a unique innovation because prior to that we thought all fights had to end by knocking a guy out or knocking him off his feet. This was the first time you could do something like that in open competition.”
Discounted by many as unrealistic, karate would go on a very long hiatus until Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans for the UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 98. In his exuberance, Machida exclaimed to the crowd, “Karate is back!” but in many opinions, it was never gone,
Machida wasn’t the only karate-based fighter wearing a UFC championship belt, either. UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre had his start in Kyokushin Karate and still credits it with helping shape the fighter he is today.
“Shotokan Karate is based on timing and distance,” says Machida. “I don’t go in there to get into a brawl. The timing, the distance, the perfection of everything; that is the pinnacle of Shotokan. MMA made it clear that my style, which includes takedowns and other things you don’t see in karate normally, is the best. If I hadn’t trained the discipline, I don’t think I would be the same Lyoto I am today.”
Would any of this have been possible if it weren’t for American soldiers, sailors and Marines returning from the Pacific in WWII with experience in karate? Probably not. Okinawa was very isolated and secretive about their martial art. It’s possible karate would only just now be making its way to our shores.