This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home - We Are The Mighty
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This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

When deployed in regions like the Middle East or Africa where Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups roam freely, there is an unofficial and often rarely spoken rule among the frontline troops: Don’t get captured. And if you do, don’t plan on coming home. 

We’ve all seen the videos and news reports of what happens to those who fall into the hands of extremist groups. These often look more like a horror movie than real life. That’s exactly what Marine Veteran Sam Farran must have been thinking when he was captured in 2015 by Yemen’s Houthis rebels. 

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Houthis protest against airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Sana’a in September 2015. Public Domain.

For six months, Farran endured beatings, isolation, shackles and even sharing a cell with members of Al Qaeda, wondering each day if it would be his last — but Sam Farran is no ordinary man. 

Lebanese born, Farran immigrated to the United States to escape recruitment by the Palestine Liberation Organization, during the height of the Lebanese civil war. After being awestruck by the crisp uniform of a U.S Marine embassy guard, he joined the corps at 17 and began a 30 year career of military service. A native Arabic speaker, Farran was loaned to the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Gulf War, following the first bombing of the World Trade Center and in the days leading up to 9/11. As Ground Zero was still smoldering, Sam, then a Marine reservist, volunteered for active duty — leaving behind a family and successful civilian career.

Farran was deployed to Yemen, an overshadowed but critical hotspot in the War on Terror, where tribal relationships are often more valuable than bullets. Farran quickly learned a rule to live by: Make friends in big or small places. With his native tongue and Arab upbringing, Farran garnered favor with diplomats, generals, expatriates and private military contractors — all people who would come in handy during his capture. 

By 2015, Farran had spent over a decade around Yemen and when the Houthi rebels sacked the capital, Sana’a, during the Arab spring, he knew Americans would be easy targets, especially the few Marines in the country. However, as a contractor, Farran continued his diplomatic mission of trying to help broker a peace agreement until he was captured at gunpoint and thrown into an American-built prison that had fallen into enemy hands. 

For months, Farran used his wit, language skills and even faked a heart attack to confuse his captors. Written in collaboration with fellow diplomat Benjamin Buchholz, Farran’s newly released memoir, The Tightening Dark, is a gripping story of his unwavering love for his chosen country and a behind-the-scenes look into the often gray world of the War on Terror. Without a doubt, Farran’s journey from a small village to boot camp to the darkest of dungeons and back is the stuff of legend. What a badass…Semper Fi Marine. 

You can buy and read Marine veteran Sam Farran’s memoir here: https://www.hachettebooks.com/titles/sam-farran/the-tightening-dark/9780306922718/

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Farran is welcomed home from Yemen. YouTube screen capture.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Senior Airman Justin Mattoni and Staff Sgt. Devon Childress, weapons load technicians assigned to the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, conduct a cross-load Feb. 22, 2016, during exercise Cope North 16 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Cope North 16 included 22 flying units and nearly 3,000 personnel from six countries and continued the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes

Senior Airman Noah Lindquist, a 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, tests his night vision goggles in the back of a C-130J Super Hercules before a sortie at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2016. Loadmasters are responsible for calculating aircraft weight, balancing records and cargo manifests, conducting cargo and personnel airdrops, scanning for threats, and troubleshooting in-flight problems.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys

An F-35A Lightning II parks for the night under the sunshades at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 18, 2016. The F-35s’ combat capabilities are being tested through an operational deployment test at Mountain Home AFB range complexes.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to the Alaska National Guard, board a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter after completing a day of avalanche training in Snowhawk Valley, Alaska, Feb. 20, 2016.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jack Carlson III, The National Guard

A soldier attached to The 7th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, conducts reconnaissance during a live-fire exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 17, 2016.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

An Army Chinook helicopter crew, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, transports Soldiers assigned to 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), during a combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Cobra Gold, at Ban Chan Khrem, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2016. 

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Eryn L. Edelman

NAVY:

WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2016) An undated file photo of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. Byers will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony Feb. 29. Byers is receiving the medal for his actions during a 2012 rescue operation in Afghanistan. Uniform insignia has been digitally removed from this photo for security reasons.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Navy Photo

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2016) Sailors operate a connected replenishment station in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an ammunition offload with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6). Theodore Roosevelt is currently off the coast of southern California conducting carrier qualifications.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad M. Trudeau

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 24, 2016) Sailors assigned to Weapons department transport RIM-7P NATO sea sparrow missiles in the hangar bay aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines from Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) team are currently transiting the Pacific Ocean toward the U.S 7th Fleet area of operations during a scheduled deployment.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jose Jaen

MARINE CORPS:

U.S., Royal Thai and Republic of Korea Reconnaissance Marines conduct helocasting during an amphibious capabilities demonstration at Hat Yao beach, Rayong, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 16, Feb. 11, 2016. CG16 increases cooperation, interoperability and collaboration among partner nations in order to achieve effective solutions to common challenges.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Photo by GySgt Ismael Pena

A Multi-Purpose Canine with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), prepares for Zodiac boat training inserts on Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 9, 2016. MARSOC specializes in direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense and has also been directed to conduct counter-terrorism, and information operations.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Maricela M. Bryant

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter kicks up snow at Vaernes, Norway, Feb. 22, 2016, as 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepares for Exercise Cold Response. All aircraft with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (-) Reinforced, the Air Combat Element of 2d MEB, were dismantled at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and flown to Norway in U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxies to provide air support during the exercise. Cold Response 16 is a combined, joint exercise comprised of 12 NATO allies and partnered nations and approximately 16,000 troops.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht

COAST GUARD:

Search and rescue canine.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The cutter cleared a path, allowing research to continue at the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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It’s been 100 years since one of the biggest game-changers in military aviation history

On November 5, 1915, a plane was launched from a ship by catapult for the first time in history.


And, despite the prevailing ideas at the time that naval aviation was an outlandish endeavor, the flight was a success.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Curtiss AB-2 (C-2) Aircraft being catapulted from USS North Carolina (ACR-12) on 5 November 1915. (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

The pilot for that historic flight was Henry C. Mustin, a naval aviator who helped to found the Naval Aeronautic Station at Pensacola, Florida in 1913. Mustin, using an early catapult system, managed to launch himself successfully from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina at the naval station.

By today’s aircraft carrier standards, the USS North Carolina was a tiny ship. Of course, it was not built as a carrier, but the size differential between the North Carolina and today’s carriers still shows how far things have come in the last 100 years. The North Carolina had a total displacement of 14,500 tons, compared to the 100,020 tons of a present-day USS Nimitz-class supercarrier.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Mustin (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

Unlike modern carriers, which have built-in flight decks and launch systems, the launching platform built atop the North Carolina was an ad hoc endeavor. At the time, launching a plane from a ship while underway had not been attempted. The questions of whether the plane would fly, or whether it would be possible to safely abort takeoff, were still big unknowns.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
The first catapult launch of an aircraft from a naval vessel, on November 5, 1915. (Image: US Navy)

After that risky start in 1915 US aircraft carrier abilities quickly advanced. By 1922, the US operated the USS Langley, an aircraft carrier that could carry 30 planes.

Today’s Nimitz supercarriers can carry upwards of 62 aircraft. Still, despite their size and capacity, the Nimitz still owes one of its major functions — the use of catapults to launch planes at high enough speeds for flight from a short runway at sea — to Mustin’s original takeoff from the USS North Carolina.

Here’s what a catapult launch looks like today:

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Source: YouTube

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A retired Navy SEAL commander explains 12 traits all effective leaders must have

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


Jocko Willink is the retired commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War: US Navy SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser, which served in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi.

In his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” co-written with his former platoon commander Leif Babin, he and Babin explain the lessons learned in combat that they’ve taught to corporate clients for the past four years in their leadership consultancy firm Echelon Front.

During his 20 years as a SEAL, Willink writes that he realized that, “Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities between one extreme and another.” By being aware of these seeming contradictions, a leader can “more easily balance the opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”

Here are the 12 main dichotomies of leadership Willink identifies as traits every effective leader should have.

‘A leader must lead but also be ready to follow.’

Willink says a common misconception the public has about the military is that subordinates mindlessly follow every order they’re given. In certain situations, subordinates may have access to information their superiors don’t, or have an insight that would result in a more effective plan than the one their boss proposed.

“Good leaders must welcome this, putting aside ego and personal agendas to ensure that the team has the greatest chance of accomplishing its strategic goals,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be aggressive but not overbearing.’

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Photo: Courtesy Ecehlon Front

As a SEAL officer, Willink needed to be aggressive (“Some may even accuse me of hyperagression,” he says) but he differentiated being a powerful presence to his SEAL team from being an intimidating figure.

He writes that, “I did my utmost to ensure that everyone below me in the chain of command felt comfortable approaching me with concerns, ideas, thoughts, and even disagreements.”

“That being said,” he adds, “my subordinates also knew that if they wanted to complain about the hard work and relentless push to accomplish the mission I expected of them, they best take those thoughts elsewhere.”

‘A leader must be calm but not robotic.’

Willink says that while leaders who lose their tempers lose respect, they also can’t establish a relationship with their team if they never expression anger, sadness, or frustration.

“People do not follow robots,” he writes.

‘A leader must be confident but never cocky.’

Leaders should behave with confidence and instill it in their team members.

“But when it goes too far, overconfidence causes complacency and arrogance, which ultimately set the team up for failure,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be brave but not foolhardy.’

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Task Unit Bruiser SEALs look up at an Apache flying overhead Ramadi in 2006. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Whoever’s in charge can’t waste time excessively contemplating a scenario without making a decision. But when it’s time to make that decision, all risk must be as mitigated as possible.

Willink and Babin both write about situations in Ramadi in which delaying an attack until every detail about a target was clarified, even when it frustrated other units they were working with, resulted in avoiding tragic friendly fire.

‘A leader must have a competitive spirit but also be a gracious loser.’

“They must drive competition and push themselves and their teams to perform at the highest level,” Willink writes. “But they must never put their own drive for personal success ahead of overall mission success for the greater team.”

This means that when something does not go according to plan, leaders must set aside their egos and take ownership of the failure before moving forward.

‘A leader must be attentive to details but not obsessed with them.’

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Navy SEALs on a roof overlook in Ramadi in 2006. (Faces have been blurred to protect identities.) Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The most effective leaders learn how to quickly determine which of their team’s tasks need to be monitored in order for them to progress smoothly, “but cannot get sucked into the details and lose track of the bigger picture,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be strong but likewise have endurance, not only physically but mentally.’

Leaders need to push themselves and their teams while also recognizing their limits, in order to achieve a suitable pace and avoid burnout.

‘A leader must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent.’

The best leaders keep their egos in check and their minds open to others, and admit when they’re wrong.

“But a leader must be able to speak up when it matters,” Willink writes. “They must be able to stand up for the team and respectfully push back against a decision, order, or direction that could negatively impact overall mission success.”

‘A leader must be close with subordinates but not too close.’

“The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people — their lives and their families,” Willink writes. “But a leader must never grow so close to subordinates that one member of the team becomes more important than another, or more important than the mission itself.”

“Leaders must never get so close that the team forgets who is in charge.”

‘A leader must exercise Extreme Ownership. Simultaneously, that leader must employ Decentralized Command.’

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Photo: Amazon

“Extreme Ownership” is the fundamental concept of Willink and Babin’s leadership philosophy. It means that for any team or organization, “all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader,” Willink writes. Even when leaders are not directly responsible for all outcomes, it was their method of communication and guidance, or lack thereof, that led to the results.

That doesn’t mean, however, that leaders should micromanage. It’s why the concept of decentralized command that Willink and Babin used in the battlefield, in which they trusted that their junior officers were able to handle certain tasks without being monitored, translates so well to the business world.

‘A leader has nothing to prove but everything to prove.’

“Since the team understands that the leader is de facto in charge, in that respect, a leader has nothing to prove,” Willink writes. “But in another respect, a leader has everything to prove: Every member of the team must develop the trust and confidence that their leader will exercise good judgment, remain calm, and make the right decisions when it matters most.”

And the only way that can be achieved is through leading by example every day.

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4 signs it’s time for your Staff NCO to get out

Staff non-commissioned officers (SNCOs), particularly staff sergeants, are known to have a bite worse than their bark. In the military, it is necessary to have someone who can be the hammer when it calls for it. The good ones bring balance by reward and punishment to incentivize mission accomplishment. However, there are some SNCOs who are all stick and no carrot. At a time when the military retention rate exceeds expectations, it is more important now than ever to keep leaders who want to lead and phase out those that don’t.

Here are four of the best signs that we can think of that your Staff NCO has drifted into the latter:

They’re always angry

Staff Sergeant is on the warpath, again. For some reason, SNCOs are always angry. Maybe it’s all the years of seeing preventable dumb sh*t. They tend to ease up when they’ve been promoted to gunny or higher. Maybe it’s the pay jump from E6 to E7 or the change of role to company gunnery sergeant, where it’s more logistical than tactical. If your E6 gets promoted to E7 and is still a grouch, it’s time for them to start thinking about retirement.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Unless they’ve got some recon Marines to whip into shape first… (Warner Bros.)

They forgot where they came from

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It always rubbed me the wrong way when a SNCO is committed to NJPing (Non-Judicial Punishment) a Marine for a mistake I well know they themselves have made. They took advantage of the ‘boys will be boys’ when they were young to get out of trouble but will crucify the lower enlisted at any chance. When a SNCO or officer gets in trouble, the whole command protects their own. It gets swept under the rug. Their platoons may not know the truth, but everyone at Battalion does.

When I was in operations, everyone’s records were at my fingertips. As the scheduling NCO, I had to know your record to decide what training to send you to next between major ops. I saw that they have plenty of dirt on them, too. So, when a SNCO is battling to destroy another troop’s career but that SNCO has no problem utilizing the ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ network to protect themselves, they need to GTFO.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

They stay late at work on purpose

They won’t dismiss their troops, even when their counterparts in other platoons have already gone home. Just because they do not want to spend time with their family, that doesn’t mean the corporal with a brand new baby doesn’t want to spend time with his. These types of SNCOs maxed out their leave days. For some reason, they believe it’s a good thing and brag. It’s not. Go fishing or kick rocks, go relax.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

It’s been over 25+ years

When your SNCO has been around since before Osama Bin Laden was on the run, it’s time to get out. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. Any SNCO that has been in longer than 25+ years that is angry all the time, exists only to punish and not train. They choose to be around the most amount of time possible to spread negativity, and anyone with that mentality has to go. The military is supposed to be a meritocracy, where leaders are supposed to inspire the troops and use their experience to lead the next generation of warfighters.

A SNCO exists to provide expertise and guidance to officers and facilitate training amongst the lower ranks. They’re the logistical side of the enlisted chevron to reduce bureaucracy and keep our military lethal. If a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer has lost sight of the mission over the course of 20+ years, it’s time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Feature image: U.S. Army

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How Kim Jong Un became one of the world’s scariest dictators

For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don’t lead anywhere.


But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under Kim Jong Un, the third supreme leader of the hermit kingdom.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests under his rule. And on Sunday, the secretive regime attempted to fire a missile. It blew up within seconds.

Also read: 3 jokes that could get you sent to a firing squad in North Korea

With all this attention, still relatively little is known of Kim. Here’s what we do know of how he grew to be one of the world’s scariest dictators:

Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 — 1982, 1983, or 1984.

His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

While Kim Jong Un’s official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Kim Jong Il.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

However, a recent move by the US Treasury Department to sanction Kim Jong Un listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984.

Jong Un — here with his mother — lived at home as a child.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

 During this period, North Korea was ruled by “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung. While Kim Jong Il was the heir apparent, Kim Jong Un’s path to command was far less certain.

Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called “Pak Un” and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Kim Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

Kim Jong Un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humor, too.

“He was funny,” former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror. “Always good for a laugh.”

“He had a sense of humor; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea,” another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “Politics was a taboo subject at school … we would argue about football, not politics.”

Kim Jong Un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his walls during his Swiss school days. Although Kim Jong Un was overweight and only 5-6, he was a decent basketball player.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Via Flickr

“He was a fiercely competitive player, very explosive,” former classmate Nikola Kovacevic told The Mirror. “He was the play maker. He made things happen.”

“He hated to lose. Winning was very important,” said former classmate Marco Imhof.

He also had a “fantastic” collection of Nike sneakers.

After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

Upon his return to North Korea, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father’s military field inspections around 2007.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Female soldiers in North Korea military parade | Wikimedia Commons

While his father faced death, Kim Jong Un was rapidly promoted up the chain of political and military leadership, despite having little experience in either.

He was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party, and a member of the Central Committee, according to the BBC.

Kim Jong Un has a theme song known as “Footsteps.”

“Footsteps” looks and sounds like a propaganda song from the Soviet Union.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
YouTube

The song calls people to follow in “Our Admiral Kim’s footsteps.” Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

Footsteps, Footsteps … spreading out further the sound of a brilliant future ahead … tramp, tramp, tramp, ah, footsteps.

Many North Koreans see Kim Jong Un as a youthful version of “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung.

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in appearance, haircut, and mannerisms.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Kim Il Sung in 1956. | Wikimedia Commons

Rumors had circulated that Kim Jong Un had received plastic surgery to enhance the resemblance even further, although the North finally responded and called the allegations “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

“The false report … released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said the official Korean Central News Agency.

After his father died, Kim Jong Un was quickly declared “Supreme Leader” of North Korea.

When Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Kim Jong Un inherited the world’s fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
North Korean painting of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il.

He took over ahead of his older brother Kim Jong Chol, who their father thought was “effeminate” and weak. His other brother Kim Jong Nam apparently said negative things about the regime, according to The Australian.

Around 30 when he took power, Kim Jong Un is the youngest head of state in the world.

Some originally believed that Kim Jong Un’s aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

Among Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Kim Jong Il to control the country’s military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

At a meeting of the DPRK Workers’ Party, both were photographed sitting close by. Their most important job, it seems, is to push his role as a powerful figure among some generals who do not trust him, according to The Telegraph.

He’s married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids.

Leaders in the hermit kingdom are often very secretive when it comes to their significant others, but Kim Jong Un often has his wife join him and allows photographs.

North Korean media revealed in July that he was married to Ri Sol Ju — a former cheerleader and singer — but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

South Korean intelligence believe the couple probably married in 2009 and already had one child. There are rumors Ri Sol Ju gave birth to a child in 2012, with many believing it was a girl.

The couple is believed to have had another child, in 2015.

Kim Jong Un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Everyone in the family is apparently a huge Chicago Bulls fan.

His father owned a video library of “practically every game Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.” Kim Jong Il tried unsuccessfully to get Jordan to visit in 2001.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Courtesy of Vice

Kim Jong Un had tons of Jordan posters as a kid. Brother Kim Jong Chol was photographed as a child wearing a Bulls Jersey: No. 91 — Rodman.

But recently, things haven’t been going so well.

In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by “disgruntled people inside the North” after he demoted a four-star general, which resulted in a power struggle.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
DPRK

Perhaps as a means of reasserting control, Kim Jong Un has become extremely belligerent, shutting down all links with South Korea and threatening thermonuclear war against his neighbor and the US. His father and grandfather used to make these threats all the time without following through.

Kim Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Kim Jong Un’s rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Kim Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

In 2013, North Korea conducted its third-ever nuclear test and its first under Kim Jong Un. And in April 2015, a top US general warned that North Korea could develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the shores of the western US.

The nuclear tests and international condemnations continued into 2016.

On January 5, 2016, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

In response to the detonation, world leaders have strongly come out against North Korea. Even China, North Korea’s main ally, has said that it strongly opposes the tests.

That test was followed up by a series of increasingly successful ballistic missile launches that have landed in the Sea of Japan. North Korea has also successfully test launched a ballistic missile from a submarine.

In September 2016, Kim Jong Un oversaw the fifth and most powerful nuclear test by North Korea to date. Based on some estimates, the blast from the warhead was more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The tests signal a commitment on the part of Kim to press forward with the armament of his nation. If undeterred, experts estimate North Korea could develop nuclear warheads that could reach the US by 2020.

The assassination of Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam in a Malaysian airport led to a global investigation of North Korea’s involvement.

On February 13, 2017, Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam was fatally poisoned in a Kuala Lumpur airport.

Amid worldwide suspicion of North Korean involvement, Malaysian police conducted an autopsy against the wishes of the Kim’s government and named a North Korean official and several other nationals as suspects alongside two foreign women believed to be working as hired assassins.

By March, the conflict between the former allies escalated after Malaysia directly accused the North Korean government of orchestrating the murder. North Korea issued an order that prevented Malaysian citizens from leaving the country while Malaysia responded by canceling visa-free entry to North Koreans.

In the Trump era, conflict with North Korea has reached a new high.

Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump reportedly labeled North Korea the single biggest threat to the US.

Breaking with President Barack Obama’s attempts at diplomatic negotiation via “strategic patience,” the Trump administration started demanding for North Korea’s immediate de-nuclearization and hinted at the possibility of a preemptive military strike if its impulsive leader does not comply.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Kim Jong-Un on the summit of Mt. Paektu. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 19, 2015

On Sunday, Kim retaliated by unsuccessfully test launching another nuclear missile at the same time that US Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to discuss the country’s arms program in Seoul, South Korea. After the US threatened a “pretty significant international response” in the event of another test, a North Korean envoy warned that nuclear war could break out at “any moment.”

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The Air Force spends a lot of time and effort destroying rape-preventing lip balm

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: Air Force Times)


On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.

They had to be destroyed.

“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”

Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.

On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.

The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.

Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.

“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”

While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.

After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.

The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.

What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.

“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”

Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.

The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.

Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.

“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.

Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”

Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.

But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.

To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.

Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.

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This lawsuit may spell the end of government torture

A settlement has been reached in a landmark lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against two psychologists involved in designing the CIA’s harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror.


The deal announced August 17 marked the first time the CIA or its private contractors have been held accountable for the torture program, which began as a result of the attacks on September 11, said professor Deborah Pearlstein of the Cardozo Law School in New York.

“This sends a signal to those who might consider doing this in the future,” Pearlstein said. “There are consequences for torture.”

Also read: It turns out that bringing a flag to Arlington Cemetery can get you a year in jail

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed August 17. The deal avoided a civil jury trial that had been set for September 5 in federal court in Spokane, Washington.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Image from in-training.org

Pearlstein said the settlement also makes it unlikely the CIA will pursue torture again in the war on terror. “This puts an exclamation mark at the end of torture,” she said.

“We certainly hope this opens the door for further lawsuits,” said Sarah Dougherty, an anti-torture activist for Physicians for Human Rights.

The ACLU sued James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen on behalf of three former detainees, including one who died in custody, who contended they were tortured at secret CIA prisons overseas. Mitchell and Jessen were under contract with the federal government following the September 11 terror attacks.

The lawsuit claimed they designed, implemented, and personally administered an experimental torture program. The techniques they developed included waterboarding, slamming the three men into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them, and keeping them awake for days, the ACLU said.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Photo from Flickr user Val Kerry.

“This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU. “It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”

James T. Smith, lead defense attorney, said the psychologists were public servants whose interrogation methods were authorized by the government.

“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned, or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith said.

Jessen said in a statement that he and Mitchell “served our country at a time when freedom and safety hung in the balance.”

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
The torture program began as a result of the attacks on September 11. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto.

Mitchell also defended their work, saying, “I am confident that our efforts were necessary, legal, and helped save countless lives.”

But the group Physicians for Human Rights said the case shows that health professionals who participate in torture will be held accountable.

“These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity,” said Donna McKay, executive director of the group.

The lawsuit sought unspecified monetary damages from the psychologists on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Gul Rahman. Photo from Dr. Ghairat Baheer.

Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.

According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both were subjected to waterboarding, daily beatings, and sleep deprivation in secret CIA sites. Salim, a Tanzanian, and Ben Soud, a Libyan, were later released after officials determined they posed no threat.

A US Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no useful intelligence. They were paid $81 million for their work. President Barack Obama terminated the contract in 2009.

Mitchell and Jessen previously worked at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, where they trained pilots to avoid capture and resist interrogation and torture. The CIA hired them to reverse-engineer their methods to break terrorism suspects.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Demonstration of waterboarding at a street protest during a visit by Condoleezza Rice to Iceland, May 2008. Photo by Flickr user Karl Gunnarsson.

The ACLU said it was the first civil lawsuit involving the CIA’s torture program that was not dismissed at the initial stages. The Justice Department got involved to keep classified information secret but did not try to block it.

Though there was no trial, the psychologists and several CIA officials underwent lengthy questioning in video depositions. Some documents that had been secret were declassified.

The ACLU issued a joint statement from the surviving plaintiffs, who said they achieved their goals.

Related: This vet group says the Pentagon is disclosing private data on millions of troops

“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyer’s questions,” the statement said.

The lawsuit was brought under a law allowing foreign citizens to have access to US courts to seek justice for violations of their rights.

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The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Everyone knows there are risks to joining the Army, but there are the dangers that everyone knows about thanks to movies, and then there are the dangers that soldiers learn about during their time in service.


Most movies make it look like the only way to die is in combat. But movies like “Jarhead” and “Starship Troopers” remind everyone that there are a lot of under appreciated ways to die in the military, like being killed by your own artillery or friendly fire from a machine gunner.

Here are five relatively unknown ways to get your ticket punched in the Army

1. It’s not “Danger close” until it has a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating you

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

“Danger close” is one of those military terms that pops up in movies from time to time. It’s usually used correctly with artillery observers yelling it on the radio when they need bombs or artillery.

What the movie doesn’t tell you is that the term “danger close” refers to fire missions where the rounds have a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating or killing friendly troops. That may not sound like much, but the risk estimate distance, or RED, for calculating  danger close is on a per round basis. Which means you’re rolling those 1 in 1,000 dice every time a round is fired.

Danger close fires are still often a good idea since they’re only used when a U.S. position is about to be overwhelmed, but they’re super dangerous. If the artillery line is asked to fire a total of 150 rounds in a danger close situation, then they have an 8.6 percent chance of hitting an American even if they do everything perfectly.

Any mistake increases the risk.

2. Human chemical detectors

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Kimball)

In the unlikely event of a chemical or biological attack, all members of the military don protective masks and suits and chemical soldiers track how the enemy agents break down until it’s safe. But someone has to be the first to take off their mask.

This moment sucks especially hard for the junior-most member of the unit since they’re usually the one who has to take their mask off first. So, good luck with that, new enlistees.

3. Every weapon malfunctions and malfunctions can kill you

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army works hard to purchase and deploy effective and dependable weapons, but every weapon has a chance to fail even when it’s properly maintained. While soldiers usually act in training like helicopters only fall when shot at and weapons always fire until they overheat, that simply isn’t the case.

Take this artillery crew in Afghanistan that got a horrible surprise when their howitzer’s recoil mechanism gave out during a fire mission, leaving them to manually lower and raise the gun between shots. And that’s not even getting into the malfunctions that can kill soldiers outright, like when the breach or tube on a weapon gives out and it suddenly explodes when fired.

4. Everyone with a radio is a target

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Provost)

American soldiers are trained to target enemy combatants with radios in an attempt to shutdown the adversary’s command and control networks. Unfortunately, the enemy has figured this out too and uses the same tactics.

What that means for every platoon leader and sergeant, every radio telephone operator, and every artillery observer is that their antenna is a huge target painted on their backs.

5. Even in training, the weakest link can get you killed

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Steven L. Phillips)

But the scariest thing about being in the Army is when you realize that you’re life depends on everyone around you, and some of those guys are pretty stupid. In combat, these guys can get you killed by not being good at their jobs, but there are risks in training as well.

Artillery crews can miscalculate and hit friendly troops, helicopter pilots can crash, troops who have negligent discharges can send rounds anywhere. Obviously, sexier training is more dangerous. Shoot houses with live ammo and artillery ranges are more dangerous than practicing to escape a rolled over vehicle.

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This is how a military death can affect generations of families

A U.S. Air Force C-124 Globemaster II on its way to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, crashed into Gannett Mountain in November 1952, killing all 52 service members on board.


The wreckage of the crash was found but was soon covered by deep snow — the remains of those aboard lost to the world for the next 60 years.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
The wreckage site of the C-124 Globemaster is only accessible by helicopter for about two weeks in June. It has been carried by Alaska’s Colony Glacier some 16 kilometers from Mount Gannett where the crash occurred. The glacier is slowly pushing into Lake George, where the remains and wreckage embedded in it could be lost. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John S. Gordinier)

Also Read: A green beret reportedly killed in Vietnam may have been found alive 44 years later

Now the slowly melting ice and snow has uncovered the wreck of the doomed Military Air Transport Service plane. It was found two miles away from the spot of the crash, slowly moved over the years by the receding Colony Glacier.

“The glacier essentially held these things in a capsule,” Elizabeth Feeney, a spokeswoman for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, told the Los Angeles Times. “Many of the things that we get back are easily identifiable.”

JPAC has since recovered the remains of 31 of the missing 52 passengers and crewmembers from the Gannett Mountain Crash.

This includes Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit, whose remains were returned to his family in 2012. Hoblit was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Then-Capt. Noel Hoblit, U.S. Air Force.

Hoblit’s granddaughter, Heidi Noel Hoblit-Graham, says her grandmother, Virginia, and her family were never the same after the crash.

“My grandmother was, towards the end of her life, an alcoholic,” Graham recalls. “The crash gave her post-traumatic stress and she became a different woman.”

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

Both of Graham’s grandparents were 45 at the time of the crash. Heidi Graham eventually found a box of letters her grandfather sent to her grandmother. The box also included jagged newspaper clippings, hastily cut out and put away.

“It was life-changing to read through these love letters, through every newspaper article that my grandmother saved,” Graham says. “Maybe she felt like she had to to save the memory but couldn’t go back and face it herself. Maybe she thought she would be able to one day, but she just never did.”

She never remarried, never even dated again.

Hoblit’s remains were buried on what would have been his wedding anniversary. Two of his sons, retired Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit — who joined the service because of their father’s legacy — were at Arlington to receive his flag.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
More than 100 family members, friends and military service members gather to remember U.S. Air Force Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit during a funeral on May 21, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery. Col. Hoblits two sons, U.S. Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit and Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit, remembered the life of their father during a funeral with family and friends at the Arlington National Cemetery.

“My dad has early stages of dementia and he knows it,” Graham says. “He just turned 80, he knows that he’s not quite firing on the same really high intellect that he once did. He asked me to be his person to help plan this stuff.”

It was an emotional experience for the two sons. Their father had a grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for years. Then their mother was interred there. Now they’re finally in the same place.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Col. Jerry Hoblit and Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit at the funeral of their late father, Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit on May 21, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young, Jr.)

“I think that that was an important thing for my dad,” Graham says. “I think my uncle was so broken from having lost his father that I don’t think he’s ever really recovered.”

Many families have since been reunited with their loved ones’ remains since the glacier started to recede in 2012. But time is running out for the families of the nearly two dozen remaining crewmembers and passengers.

The wreckage is moving into a 600-foot-deep lake. Once the wreck is in the lake, the rest of the bodies will not be recoverable.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
A Joint Task Force-Alaska Team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright recovers debris on Colony Glacier near Anchorage, Alaska, on July 12, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“The lake is too deep,” Graham says. “They don’t have the technology to be able to go that deep and get the remains and because it’s moving, they’re only able to go up there for two weeks out of the year in the summer to find remains.”

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The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home


The scramble to attain the top of the opposite hill is a familiar cinematic theme that binds American’s filmmaking tradition with our military history. Famous battles do indeed make for great filmmaking, but the story of Allen Touring’s epic code cracking of Germany’s enigma machine as told in the recent film “The Imitation Game” illustrates a whole other facet of warfare that has been neglected for years. As the film shows, there are important people who remain unrecognized for their contributions to America’s winning military history. One such figure is Alexander Kartveli, perhaps the greatest among the early pioneers in military aviation.

Kartveli emigrated from his home country of Georgia to pursue a dream to design aircraft.  In the 1920s and 1930s, aviation captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and financiers looking for glory and riches – not unlike today’s Internet boom. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, Kartveli moved to Paris, studied aviation and, in his early 20s, designed an aircraft for Louis Bleriot that established a world speed record.

As a result of early success in the Paris aviation scene, Kartveli met and eventually moved to the United States to work with entrepreneur Charles Levine. When Levine’s aviation company failed, Kartveli joined forces again as chief engineer for Alexander de Seversky, another early aviation pioneer who also happened to be born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Seversky Aircraft eventually became Republic Aviation, a major force in aircraft manufacturing through World War II and the conflicts that followed shortly thereafter.

At Republic Aviation, Kartveli oversaw the design of some of the era’s most important fighter planes including the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed the “Warthog”), the P-47 Thunderbolt (nicknamed the “Jug”), the F-84 Thunderjet (nicknamed the “Hog”) and the F-105 Thunderchief. In fact, the A-10 remains in service today, nearly five decades after it was introduced, despite quantum leaps in aviation technology.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

Kartveli’s P-47 Thunderbolt shows the power of design genius at work long before the A-10 was conceived. It was the largest, heaviest and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. Its design encompassed advances in both edges of a sword – it was simultaneously one of the most lethal planes in the air and was also the safest for pilots. The P-47 could carry half the payload of a B-17 on long-range missions, yet it was effective in ground attack roles when armed with five-inch rockets.

Kartveli’s contributions were not limited to Republic Aviation. His capacity to translate ideas into reality led to his role as an advisor to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, where he contributed designs that proved to be the seed concepts for the space shuttle. Here is a reference to Kartveli’s work on ramjet technology as described by NASA’s History Office in “The Space Shuttle Decision” published in 1999. Kartveli and Antonio Ferri collaborated on some notable early ramjet designs.

The heads down, thinking man stereotype associated with engineers partly explains why Kartveli remains obscured from history. What’s also an important factor is the alienation imposed on Kartveli due to unfounded fears of espionage. Despite these strictures, publications such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Think Magazine captured Kartveli’s immutable sense of imagination in articles where he expounded on the future of aviation and space flight.

A breed of people with new ideas and a determination to succeed proved that it takes all kinds to win a modern war. Starting with World War II, the power of innovation and advances in early computers opened up a whole new front of warfare that put scalable technology to work in the hands of individuals like Kartveli. What emerged was a group of people whose contributions formed an essential pillar of military supremacy and who ushered in foundational technologies that today impacts every military and civilian industry.

Aviation Media, LLC is the curator of AlexanderKartveli.com, a website dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing all things related to Alexander Kartveli. Please visit the site to learn more about this great innovator and military aviation pioneer.

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This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

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  The sport of gladiator fighting in the arenas of ancient Rome was just as popular as boxing and MMA are today. Gladiator combat was slightly more gangsta, though, seeing as how those warriors fought to the death during brutal tournaments.

Some historians believe the gladiator games started as ceremonial offerings for the funerals of wealthy aristocrats. At the height of the sport, the fighters were mostly made up of prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals, but they could even be pitted against animals like tigers or crocodiles.

The Coliseum in Rome was even home to aquatic battles, when the arena was flooded and fighters attacked from boats.

They lived in privately-owned schools that doubled as their training and prison grounds. Reportedly, after Spartacus led an uprising in 73 B.C., the empire began to regulate the gladiator schools to prevent further rebellions.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

During the games, each gladiator fought with various weapons and levels of armor.

A “Secutor” was a heavily armored fighter who competed using a short sword. A “Retiarius” battled his foes wearing light armor, a trident, and occasionally a weighted net. The “Vremea” wore a helmet with a stylized fish on the crest.

The gladiators ate a high energy diet consisting of barley, beans, oatmeal, dry fruit, and ash, which was believed to fortify the body. Very few of them fought in more than 10 battles or made it past the age of 30 before getting killed.

The Roman empire housed more than 400-arenas and displayed over 8,000 gladiator deaths per year. Learn more about their fighting in the video at the top.

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Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

This Marine veteran was captured by terrorists, fought back and lived to come home

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

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“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

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