The snowball fight with snipers I'll never forget - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

It was a typical winter morning in northern Afghanistan. The sky was clear, and the blinding sun slowly climbed into it. The sun was bright, but it didn’t do much to fight the biting cold that pumped down the turret opening in our Humvee and chilled us all.


I was in a light infantry reconnaissance platoon, made up of an almost even split of snipers and recon guys. We were on our way to a large forward operating base just south of Kabul. Our specific skill set had been requested by the commander there so we crammed into our cold Humvees and headed into the unknown.

Related: 19 pictures of troops braving the cold that will make you thankful to be indoors

We pulled into the base later that morning and were shown to the tent that we’d call home for at least a day or two. After unloading all of our gear and equipment, me and the other lower enlisted guys made ourselves at home while our senior leaders went to work out the specifics of the mission we’d be supporting.

We hadn’t been there long before sudden pounding winds seemed to threaten the integrity of our tent. One soldier leapt up from his cot and ripped open the door flap of our tent. The clear sunbathed sky had faded behind a thick sheet of dark clouds and snow was collecting quickly on the ground outside.

The soldier fastened the door flap shut as we all looked at each other in amazement. “This mission has got to be scrapped” quipped one soldier. “There’s no way we’re going out in this” added another. Assuming the mission was a no-go, we settled back into our cots and pulled out our books, iPods, magazines and other essentials needed to ride out the storm.

Just as we were all getting comfortable and cozy in our sleeping bags, a red-faced and snow covered staff sergeant barreled into our tent. “Get your cold-weather gear on and get outside”. The staff sergeant stormed out of the tent just as rapidly as he’d come in.

We tossed our creature comforts to the side and began tearing through our bags for heavy jackets, pants and beanies. Questions and confusion filled the frantic tent. Once suited up, we all funneled out of the tiny tent opening into the storm and lined up in front of the two stone-faced staff sergeants.

We stood there silently as they divided us up between them. Reading our confused expressions, the staff sergeants laughed and explained what was about to happen.

“You guys go with him” he said gesturing at the other staff sergeant and his group. “And you guys come with me. We’ll have 15 minutes to build up our arsenal of snowballs and then it’s on. If you get hit, you’re out. You can be revived by a teammate once, but if you’re hit again, you’re out until the next round”.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar

Before our shock could fade, we were elbows deep in snow mounds, hastily and inefficiently shaping snowballs with our gloved hands. The 15 minutes were up and my group had established three separate caches of snowballs in case one were to be compromised. Our hodgepodge of recon and sniper guys made it difficult to establish a quick plan of attack. Me and the other recon guys suggested we move between tents to find a good ambush point. The snipers suggested we push to a small hill top and take advantage of the high ground. The infighting put us at a disadvantage.

When the other team started lobbing snowballs, strategy turned into self-preservation and it was every man for himself.

A number of my recon teammates had been taken out of the game so I retreated to the hill top where a few snipers were dug in. The high ground gave us the upper hand, and the continuing snowfall guaranteed we wouldn’t run out of ammo. We had the other team pinned down and just when we thought we had the game won, we were flanked and wiped out.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher McCullough

The snowball fight went a few more rounds and the longer we were out in the storm the more exhausted we got. Our honed military training and tactics gradually devolved into a laughter filled display of “soldiers on ice” as we slipped and fell endlessly.

When the snowball fight was over, we sluggishly made our way back to our tent, shed our cold weather gear and collapsed onto our cots.

The mission we came for had officially been scrapped, so we quietly retrieved the creature comforts we had discarded earlier and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. The next morning the bright sun rose and melted most of the snow. We gathered all of our equipment crammed ourselves back into our cold Humvees, and headed to the next outpost.

That day was rarely talked about in the months that followed. It was as if we were all safeguarding a cherished memory and if we spoke about it, the day would somehow seem less special.

I’m sure the snowball fight meant something different for everyone on the battlefield that day. For me, its meaning has evolved over the years. What was once just another story from my time in Afghanistan has grown into a meaningful narrative about the human moments soldiers often experience while deployed but are rarely reported.

For me this day was important because it helps me show that not every war story is a tale of heroism or tragedy.

When the winter months creep by here at home, I look forward to an impromptu moment where I’ll look out on a large snow covered field, and I’ll tell whoever will listen, about my snowball fight with snipers.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise (Video)

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

Read more about the USS Enterprise here.

Articles

New trailer for WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of a heroic Army medic

Mel Gibson has returned to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus with the WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge.”


The film tells the tale of real-life Army medic Desmond Doss. Torn between his conscientious objection to violence and his desire to serve his country in its time of greatest need, Doss joined the Army as a medic but refused to carry a weapon.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Despite suspicion and contempt from his fellow soldiers, Doss repeatedly braved danger and even disobeyed orders to make sure his countrymen made it home alive. Doss received the Medal of Honor for his actions, one of only three conscientious objectors to ever do so.

Gibson is no stranger to the classic American war film, having previously starred in “We Were Soldiers” and “The Patriot.” “Hacksaw Ridge” is the actor’s first directing outing since 2006’s “Apocalypto,” but that film and 1995’s “Braveheart” proved Gibson is right at home capturing epic battles on film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Watch the trailer below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

“Is Stalin a man of genius, or not?”

The reply that came during a seance, according to a defendant’s testimony given at a Kyiv court on March 10, 1948, was that the Soviet dictator was no such thing.

Coming at a time when Josef Stalin’s cult of personality was at its height, such a conversation was sure to attract attention. Especially because the founding father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, was allegedly the one replying from beyond the grave during the conjuring, more than two decades after his death.

Other court evidence revealed that during one of the seances “Lenin” predicted from the afterlife that war was coming — six countries would soon free the Soviet people from Stalin’s yoke.


When asked about the future of Soviet power, an unidentified Russian revolutionary responded that “it won’t exist, with the help of America.”

Such “conversations” were revealed in archived documents of trial testimony and interrogations carried out by the Soviet State Security Ministry (MGB), which included the secret police.

Aside from Lenin, the court heard from a number of early Soviet A-listers, some of whom might have cause to slander Stalin.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Lenin and Stalin.

There was archrival Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940 on the Soviet leader’s orders. And Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, who died under mysterious circumstances after a public argument with her husband in 1932.

Others speaking from the grave included the writers Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr Kuprin, as well as famed rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

Their questioners were not members of the Bolshevik inner circle, but ordinary residents of the north-central Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva who had never even belonged to the Communist Party.

For their role in conjuring up voices from the past, Ilya Gorban, his sister Vera Sorokina, and his lover Olga Rozova were arrested and accused of anti-Soviet acts and the “creation of an illegal religious-mystical group of spiritists.”

Wandering soul

Gorban was an unaccomplished artist when he moved to Bila Tserkva from Kyiv in early 1947, a year before the trial.

The 44-year-old native of the Poltava region had designed museum exhibits and prepared posters and portraits of Lenin for demonstrations. He was wounded during World War II while manning an anti-tank gun near Orel.

He had married and fathered a child. But the marriage ended in divorce and his daughter lived with her mother.

Gorban settled into his new life in Bila Tserkva with his sister, Vera, and got a job at the local industrial plant as a sculptor.

A book lover, he frequented the city library and soon entered into a romance with 39-year-old Olga Rozova, a library employee.

Rozova was married. But her husband — Andrei Rozov, a journalist with a newspaper in Voronezh — had been accused of belonging to an “anti-Soviet Trotskyite terrorist organization” in 1938 and imprisoned for 10 years.

While at work, Gorban had a conversation with colleague Mikhail Ryabinin, who asked the sculptor if he believed in the afterlife and the existence of spirits.

Gorban said he did not, but he did take Ryabinin up on his recommendation that he read the Spirits Book — written in 1856 by Frenchman Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail under the pen name Allan Kardec and considered one of the pillars of spiritism.

Pointed ‘discussions’

The doctrine of spiritism, or Kardecism, centers on the belief that the spirits of the dead survive beyond mortal life and can communicate with the living. The communication usually takes place during seances conducted by a person serving as a medium between this world and the otherworld.

Gorban read it with fascination and proposed that Ryabinin organize a seance. His friend declined, however, saying according to case files that “all these sessions with plates — they are nonsense and baby talk. I contact the spirits at a higher level.”

Gorban’s sister agreed to try, however, and together they conducted a seance based on what they had learned.

They lit candles and sat at a table with a sheet of paper in the center. On the paper the letters of the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes” and “no” were drawn in a circle.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

A seance board similar to the one used in Bila Tserkva

A saucer with an arrow from the center to the edge was set over the paper.

The idea was to call on the spirts of a particular person and, if he or she appeared, to ask them questions. If all went well the saucer, beneath the hands of participants, would begin to rotate freely and without force, spelling out answers by pointing to the appropriate symbols on the paper.

Family affair

Altogether, Gorban and his sister conducted 15 to 20 seances in the summer and autumn of 1947. At times they reached out to people outside the Soviet circle. The spirits of deceased relatives were often conjured up, including the siblings’ mother, who allegedly gave the pair everyday advice. They even got a hold of Alexander Pushkin, but the Russian poet “cursed” them.

Gorban’s girlfriend, Olga Rozova, began to join the sessions, and the group conjured up a late writer who began to compliment her.

“I suspected that this was a trick of Gorban’s, with whom I had been in an intimate relationship,” she recalled during her courtroom interrogation. “The whole session was of a purely personal, amorous character.”

Some sessions were held at Rozova’s apartment, which was inside the library. A friend of hers who headed the local school library, Varvara Shelest, took an interest and also started attending the sessions.

The last seance, according to testimony of group members, was held in December 1947.

They asked Lenin’s spirit about the monetary reforms enacted that year, which included the denomination of the ruble and the confiscation of personal savings.

Knock on the door

A couple of months later Chekists — agents of the feared secret service — came for them.

Rozova was detained on Feb. 19, 1948; Sorokina and Gorban were taken away the next day.

The case was transferred to the authorities in Kyiv, and the trial began on March 6, just two weeks after the suspects were detained.

From the MGB’s point of view, the seances were evidence of the formation of an “illegal religious-mystical group” — which on its own could have led to imprisonment. But the authorities took things one step further by adding the more serious “anti-Soviet” charge.

“This seance had a sharply anti-Soviet character,” read one file. “This deliberate slander pertained to one of the leaders of the [Communist] Party and government.”

When initially questioned, the three did not appear to hide that they had participated in seances. Gorban and Sorokina wrote them off as an attempt to have fun; Rozova said there was no intended goal.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin.

But ultimately their confessions were recorded by their interrogators — the sessions were driven by anti-Soviet sentiment and were just a “convenient screen” for “slanderous agitation.”

In his interrogation report, Gorban was quoted as saying he had “tried to defame and slander the Soviet powers and the leaders of the Party and government” to expose the “talentlessness” of Soviet leaders to his alleged accomplices.

Disgruntled by postwar poverty, it was Gorban who had directed the movements of the saucer, according to the documents.

Harsh ruling

During their trial, those alleged admissions were recanted. Each of the three defendants declared that they did not believe in the otherworld or spirits. When queried about their religious beliefs, each answered that they were atheists. And their sessions, they said, were for entertainment.

“I didn’t think that our sessions were anti-Soviet,” Sorokina testified. “What we did was, of course, not good, but I was, am, and will remain a Soviet person.”

As for the saucer, Gorban said, he had no idea how it moved. All admitted to partial guilt, according to the court files.

The ruling in their case came on March 10, after just two court sessions.

The three were found guilty of anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation, and of participation in a counterrevolutionary organization.

Gorban was sentenced to 25 years in a labor camp; Rozova and Sorokina to 10 years each. Gorban would have been executed had the verdict come a year earlier — but the death penalty had recently been suspended.

The mystery of ‘North’

The role of Gorban’s colleague in all this was not forgotten. A criminal case was opened against Ryabinin — the man who had suggested Gorban read the Spirits Book — the same day the others were sentenced.

It is unclear, however, what might have happened to him.

Rozova’s friend, Shelest, also remains a mystery. Despite her attendance at the group’s seances, she was apparently never detained.

According to the case files, she disappeared shortly after the others were nabbed. Material related to her was transferred to a different case, a common step intended to avoid the search for the accused slowing down the investigations of those detained.

When it later emerged that the others had been arrested as part of an underground sting operation, Shelest’s name was not listed among the targets. And when the MGB informed other Soviet authorities about the eradication of a group of spiritists in Bila Tserkva, it made mention only of an informant — codenamed “Sever” (North) — who had attended some of the sessions.

But Shelest’s name did pop up. During their trial the three defendants claimed it was Shelest who initiated most of the “political” questions posed to spirits — including Trotsky, Alliluyeva, and Gorky. Rozova said she had suspicions that Shelest had manipulated the saucer’s movements.

In requesting a pardon in 1954, one year after Stalin’s death, Rozova wrote that “at the trial it became clear to me that Shelest had been tasked with creating an anti-Soviet crime from our seances.” She further argued that Shelest continued to live in Bila Tserkva, yet no one was trying to question her.

Around the same time a prosecutor wrote that while Sorokina and Rozova were “addicted to spiritism because of their curiosity and irresponsibility,” their actions did not result in serious consequences. The two, the prosecutor argued, should be released.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that while the verdicts handed down against Gorban, Sorokina, and Rozova were correct, their sentences were too harsh.

Sorokina and Rozova were released on Feb. 22, 1955, seven years after their arrest. The decision came too late for Gorban, who died in 1950 while incarcerated at a labor camp near the Arctic Circle.

In 1992 — less than one year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union — all three were rehabilitated.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Crowd at ‘Avengers: Endgame’ screening may have been exposed to measles

As if Avengers: Endgame wasn’t dramatic enough, health officials in California are now warning moviegoers who attended the midnight screening of the flick at the AMC Movie Theater in Fullerton on April 25, 2019, that they may have been exposed to measles.

According to the Orange County Health Care agency, a 20-something woman, who did not know at the time that she had measles, was in the audience for the April 25, 2019 show. She was later diagnosed as the first confirmed case of measles in Orange County.

Since the highly contagious virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has left, the agency advises anyone who was at the theater between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to check their vaccination history and keep an eye out for common measles symptoms which include a runny nose, fever, and a red rash.


Officials are also reminding people who think they may have the measles to call their doctor before going to the physician’s office to prevent infecting others.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

After learning about the possible exposure, one of the movie theater employees, Carlee Greer-McNeill, told NBC Los Angeles that he never thought to feel unsafe at his job or anywhere in Orange County. She said, “If you know you have the measles, please don’t come to a movie theater, let alone a public place.”

Currently, the U.S. is in the middle of the worst measles outbreak since 1994, with 704 cases reported so far this year across 22 states. California, in particular, has been hit hard by the infectious disease, with 38 confirmed cases. The Health Care Agency urges people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already. “The MMR vaccine is a simple, inexpensive, and very effective measure to prevent the spread of this serious virus,” Dr. Nichole Quick, Interim County Health Officer, said in a press release.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea might build a US burger franchise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to US officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” one intelligence official told NBC News.


Recently, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated examples of Kim wanting to modernize his economy through international investment, such as a McDonald’s and a Trump Tower. The report said the north could open a burger joint as a show of goodwill to Trump.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States,” Professor Moon Chung-in said during a CNN International interview.

“They want American investment coming to North Korea,” he said. “They welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”

The CIA analysis, which was circulated in early May 2018, comes amid President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The meeting, if it happens, would mark the first time a sitting US president meets with a North Korean leader.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F9%2F8682%2F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com&s=73&h=4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52&size=980x&c=2349758428 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”President Donald Trump” photo_credit_src=”https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8682/30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F9%252F8682%252F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fc1.staticflickr.com%26s%3D73%26h%3D4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2349758428%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=”(Photo by Gage Skidmore)”]

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A growing consensus of foreign-policy experts have echoed the CIA’s assessment that Pyongyang is not planning on relinquishing its nuclear arms — a talking point the White House has stressed to North Korea as a precondition to easing its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Despite doubts of a denuclearized North Korea, Trump expressed optimism during the ongoing negotiations ahead of the summit.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a tweet. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.”

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

Articles

That time the Air Force dropped a ‘waterfall of bombs’

When American intelligence detected the massive buildup of North Vietnamese troops that preceded the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh in 1968, Gen. William Westmoreland gave the base priority access to all American airpower in theater, leading to Operation Niagara and a “waterfall of bombs.”


Khe Sanh was the westernmost base in a strong of installations along the crucial Route 9 in late 1967. It was in the perfect position to block North Vietnamese Army forces and other fighters moving in from Laos or other NVA areas.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
NVA Troops with Chinese SAM launcher (U.S. Air Force Photo)

But Westmoreland believed that Khe Sanh was crucial to victory and worth heavy investment despite its relatively small size as home to one Marine regiment and 5,000 support troops. To ensure the Marines could hold out against anything, he ordered improvements to infrastructure on the base and the installation of thousands of remote sensors in the surrounding jungle.

By the first week of January 1968, sensors and reconnaissance data made it clear that the NVA was conducting a massive buildup in the area of the base. All indications were that the North Vietnamese wanted to recreate their success at Diem Bien Phu in 1954 when a prolonged siege led to the withdrawal of French forces.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
Second battle for Khe Sanh began on Jan. 20, 1968 when Marines from 3/26 attacked a North Vietnamese battalion between Hill 881 South Hill 881 North. Above, Marines stack mounds of expended 105mm casings after constant pounding of enemy forces. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Artillery rounds were stockpiled at the base and intelligence was collected. The intel cells were able to get a good idea of where Communist forces were concentrating forces, artillery, and command elements. They were also able to track tunneling efforts by the North Vietnamese trying to get close to the base.

And the North Vietnamese were able to get close — in some cases within a few thousand meters.

On Jan. 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched a simultaneous attack against Khe Sanh itself and some of the surrounding hills. Their massed forces would eventually number 20,000, more than three times the number of the 6,000 defenders.

The U.S., with a mass of intelligence and stockpiled weapons, went on the offensive against the North Vietnamese. Artillery shells shot out of the base against pre-identified targets, and a waterfall of bombs started pouring from B-52s.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The long-planned Operation Niagara II was underway. Over the following 77 days, strike aircraft from the Air Force flew 9,691 sorties and dropped 14,223 tons of bombs, those from the Marine Corps flew 7,098 missions and dropped 17,015 tons of bombs, while the U.S. Navy strike aircraft dropped 7,942 tons of bombs over 5,337 missions.

The heavy lifters were the Air Force B-52s who dropped 59,542 tons of bombs. The combined total of ordnance dropped around Khe Sanh by air was 98,721 tons, approximately 5,700 tons more than the total weight of the USS Enterprise.

Initially, the bombs were dropped relatively far from the base. The B-52s tried to stay three miles out, but the communists figured out the restrictions and moved their fighters in close, forcing the B-52s to operate closer to the base and making the ground pounders rely more heavily on strike aircraft and the AC-47 gunship.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

Of course, not everything went smoothly for the Marines and their support. An enemy artillery strike by the North Vietnamese managed to hit the ammo dump, destroying 90 percent of the stockpiled rounds in a single hit.

Marines patrolling the jungle were also hard-pressed time after time. One patrol, conducted by two squads from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, on Feb. 25, 1968, was almost completely wiped out and became known as the “Ghost Patrol.” One survivor was taken captive and reported dead for nearly five years before he was released in a prisoner transfer.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
F-100 strikes close to the lines, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Moore)

While the leadership did entertain the idea of calling in tactical nukes of necessary, the efforts of the Marines on the ground — sometimes conducted by nearly starving troops after 11 weeks of rare resupplies — combined with the Herculean-levels of air support were enough to keep the North Vietnamese at bay.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 of the craziest twists from the ‘El Chapo’ trial so far

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s federal trial reads like a telenovela.

The Mexican drug lord has watched from his seat in a Brooklyn courtroom as prosecutors have brought out cartel cohorts, a Colombian kingpin, and even a mistress to testify against him.

The trial has led to accusations of murder rooms, secret tunnels, and bribes. Mexican government leaders have also been accused of accepting bribes — including former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges connected to claims that he built a multibillion-dollar fortune by smuggling cocaine and other drugs across the Mexico-US border.

He is charged with 17 counts of having links to drug trafficking in the US and Mexico.

Here are the most shocking twists and turns that have happened at his trial so far.


The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

In opening arguments for the case, Assistant US Attorney Adam Fels described the amount of cocaine Guzman was accused of trafficking over the border.

He said that in just four of his shipments, he sent “more than a line of cocaine for every single person in the United States,” according to the BBC.

That amounts to more than 328 million lines of cocaine, Fels said.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia.

(U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)

2. A former Colombian kingpin who altered his face to hide his identity explained international drug trafficking to the court.

Former Colombian kingpin Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia testified how his Norte del Valle cartel used planes and ships to bring cocaine to Mexico, where the Sinaloa cartel would smuggle it to the US under the direction of Guzman.

Abadia testified that he kept a ledger that showed how much hit men were paid and that he bribed Colombian authorities with millions of dollars.

He estimated that he smuggled 400,000 kilos of cocaine, ordered 150 killings, and amassed a billion-dollar fortune through his cartel.

He was arrested in 2007 and extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to murder and drug charges.

3. The son of one of Sinaloa cartel’s top leaders testified against Guzman.

Much of the prosecution team’s hard-hitting testimony came from its star witness, Vicente Zambada Niebla.

Zambada is the son of one of the cartel’s top leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is considered one of Guzman’s peers within the Sinaloa cartel hierarchy.

The younger Zambada, nicknamed El Vicentillo, described in detail the exploits of the cartel in his testimony against Guzman.

In one bit of testimony, Zambada said Guzman had the brother of another cartel leader killed because he would not shake his hand when they met to make peace in a gang war.

“When [Rodolfo] left, Chapo gave him his hand and said, ‘See you later, friend,’ and Rodolfo just left him standing there with his hand extended,” Zambada said, according to BBC.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges in Chicago in 2013 and to a trafficking-conspiracy charge in Chicago days before Guzman’s trial began.

Guzman’s defense attorneys have argued that Zambada’s father is, in fact, the true leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

A diamond encrusted pistol that government witness Jesus Zambada said belonged to Guzman.

(U.S. Department of Justice)

4. Zambada also spoke about Guzman’s diamond-encrusted pistol.

Zambada testified that Guzman had an obsession with guns, and owned a bazooka and AK-47s.

His favorite, Zambada testified, was a gem-encrusted .38-caliber pistol engraved with his initials.

“On the handle were diamonds,” Zambada said of the pistol, according to the New York Post.

Prosecutors released photos of the weapon in November 2018.

5. El Chapo’s mistress described escaping Mexican marines using a secret tunnel hidden under a bathtub.

Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, 29, took the stand in a Brooklyn courtroom during Guzman’s federal trial to discuss her relationship with Guzman.

The former legislator in Mexico detailed a 2014 incident in which she and Guzman fled Mexican forces through a secret tunnel under a pop-up bathtub.

López said she was awoken one morning to Mexican marines trying to break down the door of the house in which she and Guzman were staying.

Guzman, who was naked at the time, brought her into the bathroom, and López said, “He said, ‘Love, love, come in here.’ There was like a lid on the bathtub that came up. I was scared. I was like, ‘Do I have to go in there?’ It was very dark.”

The bathtub lifted up with a hydraulic piston, and Guzman, López, and others ran through the tunnel in complete darkness, she said.

López said the tunnels led to a sewer system for Culiacán, a city in the state of Sinaloa.

6. Guzman’s cartel had a million bribe fund, according to Zambada’s testimony.

In Zambada’s testimony, he said traffickers had a million bribe fund for former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Garcia Luna to ensure their business ran smoothly, the BBC reported.

Zambada said former Mexico City Mayor Gabriel Regino was also bribed.

Luna and Regino have denied the allegations.

Zambada also testified that he paid out id=”listicle-2626652052″ million a month in bribesto Mexican officials — among them was Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda, who led the Defense Ministry under President Felipe Calderon.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

Emma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s wife.

(Telemundo)

7. El Chapo’s beauty-queen wife described her husband as a “normal person.”

American-born mother-of-two Emma Coronel Aispuro, 29, spoke to Telemundo about Guzman’s trial in an interview that aired in December 2018.

It was Coronel’s first public interview in two years.

She told Telemundo that she had never seen her husband doing anything illegal, according to translations from the New York Post.

“[The media] made him too famous,” Coronel said of her 61-year-old husband, who she married on her 18th birthday in 2007. “It’s not fair.”

“They don’t want to bring him down from the pedestal to make him more like he is, a normal, ordinary person,” she added.

8. A weapons smuggler said a cartel hit man had a “murder room.”

Edgar Galvan testified in January 2019 that a trusted hit man for Guzman kept a “murder room” in his house on the US border, which featured a drain on the floor to make it easier to clean.

Galvan, who said his role in the Sinaloa cartel was to smuggle weapons into the US, testified in January 2019 that Antonio “Jaguar” Marrufo was the man who had the “murder room,” according to the New York Post.

The room, Galvan said, featured soundproof walls and a drain.

“In that house, no one comes out,” Galvan told jurors.

Both men are now in jail on firearms and gun charges.

9. El Chapo put spyware on his wife’s and mistress’ phones — and the expert who installed it was an FBI informant.

Prosecutors in Guzman’s trial shared information from text messages the drug lord sent to his wife, Coronel, and a mistress named Agustina Cabanillas with the jury.

FBI Special Agent Steven Marson said US authorities obtained the information by searching records collected by a spyware software Guzman had installed on the women’s phones.

Texts appeared to show Guzman and Coronel discussing the hazards of cartel life, and Guzman using Cabanillas as a go-between in the drug business.

It turns out the IT expert who installed the spyware was actually an FBI informant.

The expert had built Guzman and his allies an encrypted communication network that he later helped the FBI crack, according to The New York Times.

10. A Colombian drug trafficker testified that Guzman boasted about paying a 0 million bribe to a former Mexican president.

Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, known as Alex Cifuentes, testified that Guzman paid 0 million to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from December 2012 to December 2018.

Cifuentes has previously been described as Guzman’s right-hand man, who spent several years hiding in northwest Mexico with him.

“Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of 0 million to President Pena Nieto?” Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the lawyers representing Guzman, asked Cifuentes during cross-examination, according to The New York Times.

“Yes,” Cifuentes responded, adding that the bribe was conveyed to Pena Nieto through an intermediary.

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

Articles

Today in military history: Doc Holliday kills for the first time

On July 19, 1879, Doc Holliday made his first kill.

Immortalized by Val Kilmer in the 1993 film Tombstone, Doc Holliday is a rather notorious gunfighter remembered for his deadly aim.

He actually only engaged in eight shoot-outs, killing two men — not a particularly high number for a man whose claim to fame was being a gunslinger.

 A dentist by trade, in 1879, Holliday left the South for Dallas, Texas, perhaps for the dry air, which he may have hoped would help his tuberculosis, the same disease that killed his mother. He continued west along with his friend, Wyatt Earp, and opened a saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico. 

When Mike Gordon, a disgruntled client, began firing bullets into the saloon from the street, Holliday, by then a notorious card player and fighter, calmly confronted him with a single shot. Gordon died the next day.  

Holliday’s second kill was at the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the most legendary battle of the Old West. On Oct. 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, Holliday and Earp engaged in an intense firefight with cowboys like Billy Clanton and brothers Frank and Tom McLaury. Over 30 shots were fired in the 30-second battle. Three men were killed and several others were wounded, including Holliday. 

He himself was killed by tuberculosis in 1887.

Featured image: Life-sized statue of Holliday and Earp by the sculptor Dan Bates which was dedicated by the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum at the restored Historic Railroad Depot in Tucson, Arizona. March 20, 2005

Articles

This new special operations C-130 Hercules can do it all

One of the world’s most reliable military workhorse aircraft is getting a makeover that emphasizes beefed-up special operations for an international market.


On June 20th, at the Paris Air Show, executives with Lockheed Martin Corp. presented the C-130JSOF, a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, and on-demand forward aerial refueling, among other features.

Painted a stealthy black, the aircraft is depicted in promotional materials targeting tanks from the air, dropping parajumpers, and swooping low for exfiltration operations.

Tony Frese, vice president of business development for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the concept for the aircraft variant is built on experience and feedback from customers on how they use the Super Hercules.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
C-130J Hercules soars over Jordan. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“It is in the world of special operations and special missions the true versatility of the C-130J is on display, accrued day after day in life and death situations,” he said. “In more than 50 years, the C-130 has been synonymous with special operations and special missions.”

The United States already uses the C-130 for special operations, with purpose-built American configurations including the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, flown by the Air Force and used for airdrop, special ops helicopter in-flight refueling, and psychological operations, and the MC-130J Commando II, flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.

The new SOF aircraft is the first time a purpose-built configuration has been made available for the international market, Frese said.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget
MC-130J Commando II. USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell.

Lockheed expects interest from nations in the Pacific and Middle East, he said, and anticipates building 100 to 200 of the aircraft for international buyers. As is standard practice, all international sales of the aircraft would have to be approved by the US government.

While standard configurations of the C-130J sell for roughly $70 million, Frese said this aircraft would likely start in the mid-$80 million range, with more for additional modifications.

“We understand the world we live in today is increasingly unpredictable,” he said. “Our operators, current and potential, tell us they need to support their special ops forces with a solution that is reliable, affordable and effective and, in this case, proven to support special operations in the sky and on the ground.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The sacrifice of a Soldier is not measured by the medals he wears. The unfathomable courage in a split second is when the real sacrifice is made. Bravery is cultivated in the most critical hours of our lives; in a decision that is often not intentional, but innate.


For CPT (RET) Florent Groberg, his hardest battle came after the fight. August 8, 2012, changed his life forever. Eight seconds was the only separation between life and death. From this tragedy rose a man who is fiercely passionate about leadership, mental health advocacy and sharing stories about the heroes we’ve lost. But those eight seconds took something from him. Here is the story of CPT Groberg’s unexpected bravery.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, Groberg said, “After the ceremonies, the awards and the newly acquired celebrity, I was alone. My new life was hard. Being in the hospital was hard. The surgeries, the pain and the lack of sleep and privacy only made matters worse. For years I wasn’t myself. I was angry that I was alive. I survived, and my brothers didn’t. They were leaders that had families. Kennedy had a wife and one-year-old twins. I was single. I had no one, only survivor’s guilt. Four of my brothers were killed that day: August 8, 2012.

“The day started off as normal, well, as normal as it can be downrange. We were headed to a meeting in the governor’s province. This was a green zone, so not much ever happened there. I was working as the security detachment commander. The task was simple: Get everyone to and from the meeting safely. Easy enough, right? Our team proceeded to travel outside of the wire. We were carrying high ranking officials that day, so of course, precautionary safety measures were in place.

“As we traveled further outside of the wire, I received notification that the security detail at our arriving destination had dispersed. This left me with an eerie feeling. Two motorcycles approached our convoy on the bridge. I noticed a structure to the left … someone was standing there. As the motorcycles stopped, the drivers dismounted and began to flee. The person near the building began walking toward us.

“He had on a suicide vest.

“I ran toward him, to keep him away from the others. SGT Mahoney helped me. [The bomber] detonated his vest. The blast sent me flying. Another bomber was near and prematurely detonated his device. I was severely wounded, but alive.

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

“Lying in the hospital, I replayed the scenario over and over. Wondering what I could’ve done differently to save my brothers. I was heavily medicated and suicidal. My brain became my own worst enemy. I felt like a failure. I didn’t feel worthy of being alive. I wasn’t myself. My thoughts were constantly racing. I needed out.

“I learned a lot about myself during those two years. I learned that anyone is susceptible to PTS and it’s okay to be vulnerable. We just don’t have to hold onto those thoughts. During my hospital stay, Travis Mills visited me and reminded me of my purpose. I needed that. I had a new mission — honoring my brothers by telling the stories of their bravery. In order to understand true patriotism, we must be willing to forgo our personal needs and put our country first. I did that. Not for a medal. I was just doing my job. I was willing to fight for what I was proud of.”

On November 12, 2015, CPT Florent Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama, in a White House ceremony. In the ceremony, President Obama said, “On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That’s the nature of courage — not being unafraid, but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he showed his training; how he would put it all on the line for his teammates. That’s an American we can all be grateful for.”

Countless veterans, service members and civilians agree. Krista Simpson, who lost her husband SSGT Michael Simpson recently had the opportunity to hear CPT Groberg speak at the Military Influencer Conference. Her reaction to his speech was profound. “There is something so remarkable about a leader who has the courage and intelligence to allow his people to guide him through something that can be life or death,” she said. “The humbling honor to serve his country wasn’t lost on Medal of Honor recipient, CPT Florent Groberg from the moment he put on the uniform.

“I sat in the audience watching this brave man downplay the highest honor our country awards a soldier with deep admiration. He hates being called a hero. Flo believes the heroes are the families of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. He acknowledged that there were families missing out on a life with their loved ones. Tears streamed down my face as he looked at me, nodding in recognition for the final sacrifice my husband, SSG Michael H. Simpson, made May 1, 2013. It’s men like Flo and our great nation that ignite the pride I have for his sacrifice.”

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

CPT Groberg was medically retired, awarded the medal of honor and wrote a book about his experience: 8 Seconds to Courage: Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. He’s involved with organizations like Bravo Sierra, which helps strengthen the physical and mental wellness of current service members and veterans. CPT Groberg advocates for the mental well-being of our service members. If you are struggling with something, please speak up. CPT Groberg has a few suggestions on how you can remain mentally resilient during tough times.

For Troops:

  1. Go have a conversation with someone you trust.
  2. Don’t go through it alone. Keeping it in only leads to negative consequences.
  3. Remember: It’s okay to be hurt. Take responsibility for your healing, get help.

For Commanders:

  1. Don’t be judgemental. Listen to your troops. Understand the cause of their discord.
  2. Continue to evaluate the mental well-being of your troops. Incorporate training that will help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Talk about TBIs, PTS and life after war.
  3. Remember: Not every individual suffers the same. No one solution will fix it all. Be vigilant but remain open.

And as CPT Groberg so aptly stated, “There is an opportunity to strengthen our troops. Banding together will make us healthier and a stronger fighting force. Turn the lessons from failed missions into paths that lead to success.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this rendition of the West Point alma mater made to honor a lost classmate

Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.


West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.

In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.

Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.

Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.

Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.

Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”

The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information