SERE school is about more than just being tortured - We Are The Mighty
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SERE school is about more than just being tortured

For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.


My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.

The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.

The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.

Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:

  1. I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  3. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  4. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
  6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.

After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)

The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.

The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.

At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).

The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.

We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.

The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.

The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.

He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.

As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)

Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):

Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”

At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.

Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”

After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.

Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.

The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.

Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.

After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.

I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.

And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.

This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.

I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.

As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.

After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”

Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.

I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .

After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.

The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.

The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.

This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.

Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.

There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.

But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.

SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.

(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)

Articles

Yemen reportedly bans US special-operation ground missions after botched raid

After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.


The New York Times on Tuesday night cited US officials who said the reaction among Yemenis was strong after the operation left some women and children dead.

Also read: Air Force keeping the beloved A-10 around for at least a few more years

The officials said the suspension would not apply to drone attacks or the US military advisers who are already providing intelligence support to the Yemenis.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. | US Navy photo

The January raid against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, known as AQAP — which was approved by President Donald Trump after a postponement from the Obama administration, which was waiting for a moonless night — unfolded with a 50-minute firefight in which a team of SEALs was met with fierce resistance.

Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in the battle.

Though the White House has received some criticism over the raid, the Trump administration has called it a success, saying US forces gathered valuable intelligence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how Russian military aircraft can fly freely over the United States

In late summer 2017, two unarmed Russian military planes flew over critical American defense areas, completely unescorted, unintercepted, and completely unabated in any way. In Washington, a plane flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and even the White House – areas off limits to most other pilots, from the U.S. or elsewhere.

But Russia can fly over them whenever it wants.


SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Putin will find a way to troll the US with this power.

The Tupolev Tu-154M also flew over the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and even the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Another Russian Tupolev Tu-154M military plane flew over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump was taking a break from the White House.

They both left from Dayton, Ohio.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Leaving: One of the best things to do in Dayton.

It may sound fishy, but there’s a good reason for the unrestricted flyovers. The United States and Russia are both party to the Open Skies Treaty, along with 32 other member states. It dictates that area controlled by a member state is open to observation by any other signatory. Any unarmed plane can fly over even the most sensitive areas of another country who signed on to the treaty. This is how the United States was able to prove military activity in Eastern Ukraine was a Russian build up over Moscow’s vehement denials.

So Russia can fly right over the White House on July 4th.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Usually they just buzz American ships at sea.

The treaty was talked about as early as 1955, but the Soviet Union (rightly) believed it would compromise their national security. It was formally re-introduced after the fall of Communism in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. All aircraft and its sensor equipment will carry home country observers and submit to an inspection to ensure its sensors are in line with treaty stipulations.

Only once was an Open Skies Treaty request ever turned down. In February 2016, Turkey denied Russia an Open Skies flight over NATO airbases in the country as well as areas near the Syrian border. In September 2018, the United States almost denied another Russian flyover by refusing to certify Russia’s latest Open Skies plane. Though the U.S. eventually relented, it said it was a response to Russia’s refusal to allow American flights over Kaliningrad, near the Poland-Lithuania border.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Meet the Navy’s ‘Swiss army knife’

The rate of machinist’s mate has a long and proud history in the United States Navy. Established in 1880 as finisher, the rate changed names a couple of times before being settled as machinist’s mate in 1904.

According to the Navy CyberSpace website on enlisted jobs, “Machinist’s mates (non-nuclear) operate, maintain, and repair (organizational and intermediate level) ship propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and outside machinery, such as: steering engine, hoisting machinery, food preparation equipment, refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, windlasses, elevators, and laundry equipment; operate and maintain (organizational and intermediate level) marine boilers, pumps, forced draft blowers, and heat exchangers; perform tests, transfers, and inventory of lubricating oils, fuels, and water; maintain records and reports; and generate and stow industrial gases.”

With such a wide array of skills and responsibilities, the machinist’s mates in George Washington’s engineering department prove the value and versatility of the rate to the ship and to the Navy as a whole.


SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Petty Officer 3rd Class Austin Huizar samples liquid nitrogen in the cryogenics shop aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, October 14, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Seaman Krystofer Belknap)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Machinist’s Mate Fireman Gopika Mayell checks a steam usage reading in one of the flight deck catapult rooms aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, June 14, 2012.

(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class William Pittman)

“The main ways that machinist’s mates and engineering department support naval aviation is through the catapult shop and [oxygen and nitrogen] shop,” said Huizar.

“The catapult shop makes sure that all of the machinery is up to date and fully functioning in order to operate the catapult that launch the jets. As for [oxygen and nitrogen], we create aviator’s breathing oxygen and we also have a cryogenic plant that creates liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen. The liquid oxygen is used as aviator’s breathing oxygen and the liquid nitrogen is used as gaseous nitrogen for the airplane tires because it expands and contracts less at various altitudes.”

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Duane Hilumeyer, left; Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Kexian Li, center; and Machinist’s Mate Fireman Jacob Tylisz close a valve to maintain accumulator steam pressure on a catapult aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Sept. 24, 2014.

(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr.)

In order to convert each gas into liquid form, the air expansion engine lowers the temperature of the air to reach negative boiling points, separating oxygen and nitrogen from air.

The air in the expansion engine is frozen to negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit to separate nitrogen, and negative 297 degrees Fahrenheit to separate oxygen.

Air separation is vital to the mission of George Washington, regardless of where the ship finds herself in her life cycle.

According to navy.mil, “O2N2 Plants Bring Life to Airwing Pilot,” O2N2 plants provide oxygen to the aviators, nitrogen to the air wing, and gas forms of both for use throughout the ship.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Robert Howard, front, Machinist’s Mate Fireman Austin Martin, center, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Glen Spitnale, test a package conveyor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Aug. 5, 2019.

(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class Kaleb J. Sarten)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Brandon Amodeo performs maintenance on a pressure regulator in emergency diesel generator room aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Navy photo by MCS Seaman Apprentice Trent P. Hawkins)

The current refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) environment enables them to put their skills to the test in. Sailors from engineering department, such as Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Larissa Pruitt, auxiliary division leading petty officer, have provided significant support to accomplishing major ship milestones while in RCOH.

“The machinist’s mate is like the Swiss army knife of the Navy,” said Pruitt. “Since being in the shipyards, we have repaired all four aircraft elevators, started the five-year catapult inspection, restored fire pumps to support Ready to Flood operations, and refurbished the air conditioner and refrigeration units.”

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Teran Vo, left, and Fireman Billy Price perform maintenance on a deck edge door track in the hangar bay aboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)

As a rate that has been around for roughly 140 years, machinist’s mates will continue to make an impact throughout the surface fleet and the naval aviation community. The hard work of the machinist’s mates ensures that George Washington will have a successful redelivery to the fleet.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 medical myths that will actually ‘F’ you up

Far too many of us believe the things we see in TV shows and movies. Sometimes, the things we watch alter how we look at history or how we live our lives moving forward.

Many fictional stories are so engrossing that we buy into their mythology — it becomes our new truth.


Unfortunately, just because it’s dramatic and holds our attention tightly doesn’t mean it’s true. Rarely, however, do we go back and fact check the medical myths perpetuated by movies.

So, let’s do a little truth seeking.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

The beginning of frostbitten hands.

Rubbing cold injuries to keep them warm

We’ve all heard stories of people heading into frigid environments and developing cold-related injuries during to their excursions.

No, we’re not talking about that “cold” that gave you the sniffles; we’re talking about human tissue damaged from exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite, as it’s known, has been the cause of many lost fingers, toes, ears, and cheeks among adventurous outdoorsmen. In the brutal cold, the body limits the flow of warm blood to comparatively frivolous areas in order to keep your vital organs up and running. As a result, the distal areas don’t the oxygen they need to sustain living tissue, and they start to die off.

In many movies, you’ll see characters rub these areas together to keep them warm — bad idea. On the inside of the near-frozen human tissue usually lay small icicle-like formations that can act as teeny-tiny razors, cutting the neighboring tissue when smashed together.

The best way to treat cold-related injuries is by covering the affected area with clean cloth and adding a warm compress.

Holding a person’s tongue during a seizure

People with epilepsy are prone to experiencing seizures. We’ve seen them occur time and time again in movies. During the frantic episodes, we invariably hear a character instruct someone to put something in the seizing character’s mouth to prohibit the patient from swallowing their tongue.

The truth is, however, that putting something in their mouth may obstruct the airway, causing further, greater damage. The correct way to treat an epileptic seizure is by clearing the nearby area of any potentially harmful objects, laying the patient on their side, loosening any clothing that may be caught around their neck, and waiting that sucker out.

www.youtube.com

Tilting your head back during a bloody nose

We’ve seen this awful way of treating a simple nose bleed in several TV shows. Yes, tilting your head back does prevent blood from pouring out of one’s nose. However, the blood doesn’t just disappear. When you tilt your head back during a bloody nose, three things can happen:

  1. The blood enters the oral cavity and the patient spits it out.
  2. The blood enters the oral cavity and the patient swallows it. Yuck.
  3. The blood passes into the windpipe and the patient chokes on it.
Your best bet is to lean the patient forward, catch the blood, and pinch the bridge of the nose to occlude the blood vessels.

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Patting a choking victim on the back

Choking happens when an object blocks the trachea or windpipe. This life-threatening emergency needs to be handled quickly and in the right way as you only have few minutes before permanent damage occurs.

Patting someone on the back is one of the worst things you can do. Tapping on a choking person’s back can cause the object to move further down the person’s throat — and that’s really, really bad.

The Heimlich maneuver is the best thing you can do — if you do it properly. Here’s a primer:

www.youtube.com

Injecting medicine directly into the heart

Please, never take medical advice from an action movie. We’ve watched both Vincent Vega (as played by John Travolta) in Pulp Fiction and Stanley Goodspeed (as played by Nicolas Cage) in The Rock administer medication via a long-ass needle directly into a heart.

This is a bad, bad idea. You could puncture your lung, collapse it, or, straight-up stab the heart muscle, causing terrible internal bleeding.

Articles

First African-American Marines finally get their own monument

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Marine Corps made black troops drill on separate fields, but that’s how it was for African-American leathernecks who were preparing to fight during World War II.


Dubbed the “Montford Point Marines” after their segregated training grounds at Montford Point on the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 20,000 black Marines were finally honored July 29, 75 years after their service. The 15-foot tall memorial outside the gates of Camp Johnson is largely the result of efforts by the Montford Point Marine Association to commemorate the first African-American units in the Corps.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – U.S. service members and guests listen to the National Chaplain of the Montford Point Marine Association, Reverend James E. Moore, as he delivers the invocation during the Montford Point Marine Memorial dedication ceremony held at Jacksonville, North Carolina, July 29, 2016.

“Today, as a result of the hard work and perseverance of so many of you here, across the country and those no longer with us, that vision is now a reality,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East at the memorial dedication.

“This inspiring memorial takes it rightful place among the other silent testimonials to the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of our men and women who have worn the cloth of this nation.”

The Montford Point Marines made up the 51st and 52nd Composite Defense Battalions, which mainly operated artillery and anti-aircraft guns. They were initially trained by white officers, but soon after their enlistment, several black NCOs took over the training and drilling of the first African-American Marines.

The units saw little action in the Pacific since the 51st and 52nd were assigned to outlying islands away from the main action. But some Montford Point Marines from ammunition and depot companies did see combat on Guam, Saipan, and Peleliu.

“This is something that I never thought would be possible,” Ivor Griffin, a Montford Marine who served 23 years, told Marines.mil. “I heard about it being in the making, and I thought it couldn’t be true, I thought we were the forgotten 20,000.”

The Montford Point Marines served from 1942 until 1949 when President Harry Truman desegregated the U.S. military and abolished all-black units.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Ghost Boats’ full of dead North Korean fishermen may be China’s fault

So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”

Where do their husbands go?


They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.

For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.

In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.

Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.

The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.

Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.

The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Secretary tells recruiters ‘failure is not an option’

Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.

“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.

Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.


While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”

Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.

Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.

Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.

“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”

Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.

Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.

“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.

“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”

About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.

“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”

Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.

Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.

On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.

“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”

But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.

“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Marine who bought a Harrier now has a reality show

Remember that guy who bought a Harrier? Well, now, Art Nalls is adding reality TV star to his resume as the only civilian owner of a Harrier jump jet.


According to a release by AARP Studios, Nalls is starring in Badass Pilot, which tells the tale of how he acquired a British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 retired by the Fleet Air Arm and made it into a civilian warbird. The series premiered Nov. 14 on the YouTube page of AARP Studios.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Royal Navy crewmen aboard the Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06), prepare a 801 Naval Air Squadron BAe Sea Harrier FA2 for take off from the flight deck on 12 March 1998. (Navy photo by PHC Alexander C. Hicks)

“I think the title of this show says it all. Art is, in fact, a badass pilot, and the perfect example or embodiment of how age doesn’t define anything,” AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle said in the release. “Art certainly answers the question ‘How do you become the only civilian to own a Sea Harrier Fighter jet?’ but there’s a lot more to the series than that. Art’s purchase of the plane was just the beginning of the adventure.”

Also read: This music legend stole a helicopter and landed it at Johnny Cash’s house

Nalls has been taking the Sea Harrier to air shows around the country, including to Syracuse to pay tribute to a fallen Blue Angel in 2016. This is the first Harrier to have been owned by a civilian, although there was a 1996 attempt by John Leonard to claim one from Pepsi.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
A Sea Harrier pilot of No 801 Squadron in his cockpit on HMS Invincible’s flight deck. (UK MOD Photo)

The Sea Harrier entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1978. Four years later, it proved instrumental in winning the Falklands War while flying from the carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes (and, later, from the INS Vikrant). The Royal Air Force, United States Marine Corps, India, Spain, Italy, and Thailand have all flown versions of the Harrier.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sea Harrier has a top speed of 734 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,237 miles, and carries up to 5,000 pounds of ordnance. It’s able to carry various air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

Articles

General Mattis’ thoughts about those ‘too busy to read’ are as awesome as you’d expect

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Wikimedia Commons


In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”

His response went viral over email.

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.

Their title for the post:

With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading

[Dear, “Bill”]

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.

For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.

We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?

Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.

This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.

As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.

Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.

Semper Fi, Mattis

Articles

Here’s what would happen if North Korea sold nukes to US enemies

North Korea shocked the world in the early morning hours of July 4 by launching a ballistic missile that could reach the US mainland — but North Korea has long had the ability to make and detonate nuclear devices.


But North Korea does not sell, export, or use such nuclear devices on anyone because if they did, the consequences would be phenomenal.

“North Korea sells all kinds of weapons” to African countries, Cuba, and its Asian neighbors, according to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm.

“The most dangerous aspects of that trade has been with Syria and Iran in terms of missiles and nuclear reactors they helped the Syrians build before the Israelis knocked that out with an airstrike,” said Lamrani. “The most frightening is the potential sale of nuclear warheads.”

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Image from Wikimedia Commons

With some of the harshest sanctions on earth imposed on North Korea, it’s easy to imagine the nation attempting to raise money through illegal arms sales to the US’s enemies, which could even include non-state actors, like al Qaeda or ISIS.

While procuring the materials and manufacturing a nuclear weapon would represent an incredible technical and logistical hardships for a non-state actor, a single compact warhead could be in the range of capabilities for a non-state actor like Hezbollah, said Lamrani.

Furthermore, the US’s enemies would see a huge strategic benefit from having or demonstrating a nuclear capability, but with that benefit would come a burden.

If US intelligence caught wind of any plot to arm a terror group, it would make every possible effort to rip that weapon from the group’s hands before they could use it. News of a nuclear-armed terror group would fast-track a global response and steamroll whatever actor took on such a bold stance.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, in South Korea. (DoD photo)

And not only would the terror group catch hell, North Korea would, too.

“North Korea understands if they do give nuclear weapons, it could backfire on them,” said Lamrani. “If a warhead explodes, through nuclear forensics and isotope analysts, you can definitely trace it back to North Korea.”

At that point, North Korea would go from being an adversarial state that developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security to a state that has enabled and abetted nuclear terrorism or proliferation.

This would change the calculus of how the world deals with North Korea, and make a direct attack much more likely.

Right now, North Korea has achieved regime security with long-range nuclear arms. If they sold those arms to someone else, they would effectively risk it all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

John Rambo was almost any other throwaway movie veteran. But luckily for the character – and fans of the Rambo series – the script for First Blood was in the hands of Sylvester Stallone. For Sly, something felt a little off about the story. So he asked real Vietnam veterans what was missing.

And movie history was made.


Sly gets input from veterans when it comes to writing “Rambo”

Given John Rambo’s place in the action movie pantheon, First Blood isn’t the shoot-em-up action movie someone might expect. In between the fight scenes, it’s a poignant remark on the treatment of Vietnam veterans, a wound that was still fresh when the movie was released in 1982. It started life as a book, but John Rambo’s speech at the end – the words that bring the entire story and its message together – wasn’t in the book. Stallone added it with the input from Vietnam veterans. It was a message that resonated with Vietnam vets in their own words.

Sly didn’t stop there. For the sequel, where Rambo is sent to Vietnam to rescue POW/MIA still in captivity, Stallone reached out to vets at Soldier of Fortune Magazine to talk about Vietnam War prisoners that might be held over. For the third, he tapped troops with experience in Afghanistan. He did the same to learn more about the decades-long civil war in Burma.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Stallone reprising his iconic role a John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.

Stallone’s favorite ‘Rambo’ weapon isn’t the trademark knife

There are a lot of now-iconic action scenes where John Rambo is using weapons to great effect. The large survival knife from First Blood is legendary, but Rambo has a whole cache of other tools. He uses the compound bow in every Rambo movie to come after, an M60E3 with one hand in First Blood Part II, and who could forget the time he uses a Browning M2 to first obliterate a Jeep driver at close range before taking out half of Burma’s army in 2008’s Rambo.

For Stallone, the latest weapon resonated most with him. Rambo is short on time in Last Blood and has to fashion a few weapons for himself. Among those is a “vicious” weapon crafted from a spring on a car for use in close combat. Stallone calls it a “war club” with the emphasis on war.

“That thing talks to me,” the actor tells We Are The Mighty.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Imagine all the places this pitchfork is gonna go.

John Rambo enlisted in the Air Force first

Sorry, Big Army. Before Rambo joined the U.S. Army’s most elite Special Forces unit, he crossed into the blue. It wasn’t just something he did for a few minutes before realizing he wanted to be in the Army, either. John Rambo did two tours in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and even received the Medal of Honor before he ever thought about being in the Army.

According to the man who plays Rambo himself (in the video above), John Rambo got into a fight in Saigon with a bunch of Special Forces guys who told him that anyone could fight in the sky. So Rambo went to Fort Bragg as soon as he could, reenlisting so he could join the Army’s Special Force. In the film, you’ll see John Rambo in Air Force blue.

Catch Rambo: Last Blood in theaters starting Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently it would take 1,000 rockets 20 years to set up city on Mars

Elon Musk has made another grand claim about his plans to colonize the red planet with his space exploration company SpaceX.

Speaking at the US Air Force Space Pitch Day on Nov. 5, 2019, Musk estimated that Starship, SpaceX’s 100-passenger reusable rocket design, will cost $2 million to launch.

In a series of follow up tweets, Musk threw out a few more figures about how many rockets will have to bring the necessary amount of cargo to properly set up base on Mars.


“A thousand ships will be needed to create a sustainable Mars city… As the planets align only once every two years,” he said. This led him to conclude it would take 20 years to transport one million tons of cargo which would “hopefully” allow for building a self-sustaining Mars base.

By Musk’s mathematics, that would mean a total billion spent on launching the rockets — although over 20 years the cost could fluctuate.

Musk has a history of making alarming predictions about his plans to colonize Mars. Notably he has espoused the idea of targeting nuclear weapons to detonate just above the planet’s ice caps, thereby causing the frozen water to evaporate releasing CO2 into the air and warming the planet’s surface — rendering it more habitable for humans.

The theory has little scientific grounding however. A study published in Nature found there is unlikely to be enough CO2 in Mars’ icecaps to engineer the desired greenhouse effect and, even if there were, Mars’ atmosphere is constantly leaking into deep space so the gas would gradually disappear.

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

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