25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world's most inspiring competition - We Are The Mighty
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25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

Since 2010, The Warrior Games has allowed wounded warriors from each military branch to compete in Olympic style games each year. This year’s games are being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. from June 19-28. By utilizing the therapeutic power of sports, the games enable wounded, ill, and injured service members to showcase their athletic abilities.


Here are 25 photos that show why this event is one of the most inspiring in the world.

1. The Warrior Games are attended by senior government and military leadership such as former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta (center) and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. 

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

2. There is an elaborate opening ceremony complete with the lighting of the cauldron to mark the beginning of the games.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Kelly

3. Warrior athletes make up 6 teams including Army …

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Army

4. Air Force,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Air Force

5. Marine Corps,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

6. Navy / Coast Guard,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Katherine Hofman

7. Special Operations Command (SOCOM),

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Devon Suits

8. And British Armed Forces.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan K. Reitzel

9. The crowd is packed with family, friends, and caregivers of the competitors.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan K. Reitzel

10. You are literally watching the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors taking place.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

11. It’s also chance to see the long standing rivalry between military services.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Marine Corps

12. Events include archery …

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carson Gramley

13. Wheelchair Basketball,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault

14. And Cycling.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: US Army

15. Then there are Field events such as seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus, and standing discus.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman

16. There’s track and field …

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Jennifer Spradlin

17. Shooting,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Navy Lt. Michael Fallon

18. Sitting Volleyball,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

19. Swimming,

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

20. And Wheelchair Rugby.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Joshua Sheppard

21. There’s even exhibition games that dignitaries and Olympic champions will play in, like Prince Harry of Wales and 3 time Olympic gold medalist Misty May Treanor.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Tyler Main

22. Beautiful medals are awarded to competitors.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

23. Individual competitors can rack up medals.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

24. And the team with the overall best performance is awarded the ‘Chairman’s Cup.’

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

25. No matter what the result, there is a powerful spirit of camaraderie.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman

To learn more about the games, visit the Warrior Games website here.

Now: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

OR: Here’s How A Combat Wounded Veteran Got His Dream Shot At College Football

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This stunning video about the Hyuga is crazy impressive

The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.


Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?

According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.

In essence, since the Hyuga entered service, Japan has quietly carried out a comeback as a carrier navy.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
JS Hyuga (DDH) with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)

However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.

Hyuga entered the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2009. Since then it has been used for a number of missions, including exercises off Korea in the wake of North Korean provocations earlier this year. The Marines landed V-22 Ospreys on the Hyuga in 2013, and also during earthquake relief operations in 2016.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.

A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7Rf3zEfAcY
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Investigators say crashed Marine KC-130 ‘blew up in mid-air’

 Marine aircraft crashed in Mississippi Monday night and all 16 passengers on board are dead.


Fred Randle, Leflore County emergency management director, confirmed that there were no survivors in the crash and all 16 victims were .

The plane crashed in a soybean field in Leflore County, located about 100 miles north of Jackson, Miss. The debris from the crash scattered throughout a five-mile radius.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Scene of the crash in a farmer’s field in Mississippi. (Photo via News Edge)

A Mississippi state trooper told WMC Action News 5 that the plane had a great deal of ammunition on board, making investigation efforts difficult.

“There’s a lot of ammo in the plane. That’s why we are keeping so far back. We just don’t know what it’ll do. It burns a bit then goes out, burns a little more then dies down,” the trooper said.

Investigators also told the news crew that they believe the plane exploded in mid-air.

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The U.S. Army Field Band Holiday special will bring you tears (of joy!)

Tis the season to be grateful! We know 2020 has been hard but we can all unite around the joyous performances from our US Army Field Band! And we’ve made a holiday special for you all to enjoy!

The Army Field Band (not to be confused with the Army Band — that’s different) plays over 100 concerts annually, culminating with their holiday event, Sound the Bells. The President and dignitaries always attend, but given the restrictions of COVID, a live concert isn’t possible. Working with the Army, We Are The Mighty produced an alternative that everyone can enjoy! Watch the video below or on Fox Business and Fox Nation from 12/23 to 12/26.

Hosted by military supporter and A-Lister Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds, The Simpsons), the run of the show includes seven holiday songs with vignettes from Army Leadership as well as a special interview with Harry Miller, a WW2 Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. The special has seven featured songs, including such holiday favorites as I’ll be Home for Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Silent Night, an animated version of the Nutcracker and a special portrayal of Christmas 1914, sung by SSG Megan Pomales. When a fellow soldier and producer shared that he wanted Pomales to sing Christmas 1914 for the holiday special, Pomales said she listened to it and was “completely undone.” 

Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell. 

Don’t miss Sound The Bells! This incredible holiday special honoring our military community is a must see. 

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This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

Christopher Brown squats among knee-high rows of green garlic. He grasps a stalk at its base and tugs it from the ground with a satisfying crunch. After popping several plants from the soil, he peels back their papery protective layers, revealing bulbs that are a brilliant, glossy white.


Six months ago, much of this Skagit Valley farmland was a mucky soup of tangled grass, mud and standing water under stormy skies. Today, it’s a pleasant 70 degrees. Rows of produce, from garlic and sugar snap peas to kale and broccoli, spring from the valley’s soft loam.

A three-time Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown struggled to adjust when he returned to the U.S. So, too, did many of the men and women who are now harvesting produce alongside him — military veterans from all branches, of all ages.

Welcome to Growing Veterans, the thriving nonprofit that has transformed the life of Brown, its president and co-founder, and the lives of many of its workers and volunteers.

Together, they use sustainable practices to plant, grow and harvest a rich variety of produce for sale at farmers markets and donation to food banks. It is satisfying work, but there’s a deeper mission at stake: helping veterans reconnect — to each other, and to the communities they serve. And, in the process, tackling the pervasive isolation that underlies many of the issues they face.

In the morning, they park their cars in the gravel driveway of a former dairy farm. They greet each other with hugs. As they work, they share stories — funny stories, sad stories, terrifying stories — from their time in the service. They talk politics. Medications. Family. Civilian life.

Brown has a story of his own. In 2008, he returned from his final tour of duty. “There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration and anxiety,” he says. He also had to cope with a mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His struggles were not unique. Along with PTSD, many returning veterans face depression. Substance abuse. Unemployment. Homelessness. And suicidal thoughts.

There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety

Brown’s Marine battalion, the 2/7, has a suicide rate four times that of all young male veterans. At least 15 men from the battalion have taken their own lives since he left the military.

“When I went back to get my undergraduate degree,” he says, “I made a commitment to myself that I would pursue an education and a career where those losses would not be in vain.”

Brown also began working on his own mental health. He spent over two years in group and individual counseling, processing his traumas and learning coping strategies. Following the advice of his counselor, he started growing plants as a way to reconnect with life.

Soon, he was harvesting food from his own garden for dinner, and he was feeling better and better. “I realized that there really is something to working with food and growing plants,” he says.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

And then, just before he turned his thoughts to graduate school at the University of Washington, he says, it clicked: Why not combine food and sustainable agriculture with helping veterans?

For the past four years, he has done just that. Along with counselor-turned-farmer Christina Wolf, who serves as operations manager, Brown co-founded Growing Veterans on a 3.5-acre site north of Bellingham. The organization has since leased its expansive Skagit Valley location and a half-acre spot in Auburn, and continued to deepen its connections with regional farm agencies, veteran service providers and nonprofits.

Brown, who just completed his master’s in social work at the UW, and Wolf have also deepened their organization’s focus on mental health. Each of Growing Veterans’ nine employees has completed a peer-support training program designed to tackle veteran isolation and prevent suicide.

And beyond providing life-sustaining social support at its farms, Growing Veterans helps people connect with as many meaningful opportunities as possible: through other local and national veteran organizations, business and community networking, and educational projects.

There’s plenty of excitement cropping up for Growing Veterans. More community partners. More acreage planted. More people receiving healthy, sustainably grown produce. More veterans beginning the journey to healing.

But there’s also tremendous power in the present: The warmth of the sun. The fertile soil that gently gives way under each step. And the rhythm with which dirt-covered, callused hands pick and peel bunches of garlic, set them aside, and then begin anew.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition

When Growing Veterans was just getting off its feet, Christopher Brown embarked upon another journey: He took on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington.

Now a newly minted graduate, Brown recently transitioned from executive director of Growing Veterans to president of the board of directors — freeing up time to launch his career as a PTSD counselor for veterans.

Brown says the UW’s flexible M.S.W. extended degree program gave him much more than just the tools and credentials he needed to be a counselor.

His professors supported him as he focused many of his research projects on furthering the mission of Growing Veterans. And, though his concentration was in integrative health and mental health practice, Brown also learned about leadership and community building.

“Many of my professors also ran their own foundations and brought their worldly experience to the classroom,” he says. “They helped challenge and refine not only my understanding of how to work with others, but my view of the world, too.”

For more on Growing Veterans visit their website here.

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The Marine Corps just spent $6 million on a war tool invented in the barracks

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Marine Corps is proving the potential of its newly established rapid capabilities office with an early purchase: a tactical decision-making kit, invented by Marine grunts, that blends a range of cutting-edge technologies to allow infantry squads to compete against each other in a realistic simulated training environment.


The service inked a $6.4 million contract March 31 for enough kits to outfit 24 infantry battalions with the technology. The contract came just 51 days after Marine leaders identified the technology, invented in a Camp Lejeune barracks room, as a valuable capability for the service, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, Walsh said leathernecks from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, decided to turn space inside one of the battalion’s barracks facilities into a makeshift warfighting lab, combining a handful of technologies already in use by the Corps into a sophisticated mission rehearsal system.

While the service last year designated a West Coast unit — Camp Pendleton, California’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines — as its experimental battalion, multiple East Coast units have also taken the initiative to test out new technology and concepts.

The North Carolina-based 2/6 created what it called a tactical decision room, linking computers equipped with deployable virtual training environment simulation software already in use by the service.

The Marines used quadcopters to create a 3D map of a real training area, which was then uploaded to the simulation. They could then run and re-run the same realistic mission in the simulated environment. They added in the Corps’ Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System equipment, technology that allows tracking of battlefield movements and simulated fires using lasers, allowing for realistic training and complex after-action feedback for the warfighter.

“So now what we’re seeing these guys do is, they’re gaming in their barracks, squad-on-squad — gaming back-and-forth on decision-making,” Walsh said. “… They all get to take it 3D, plug it into what they look at virtually, figure out how they’ll attack it, then go conduct the mission.”

In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, four platoon leaders from 2/6, all second lieutenants, described how they saw the system they helped create fitting into infantry training.

“As infantrymen, we do not spend as much time in the field as we would like,” they wrote. “The decision room is a way to maximize our training and tactical prowess garrison … we can optimize the natural technical aptitudes of millennials while not requiring units to purchase additional materials.”

The Office of Naval Research assisted with pulling the software components together and making them communicate as a complete system, Walsh said. Ultimately, top Marine leadership, including Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, designated the system as a candidate for investment through the Corps’ rapid capabilities office, which activated late last year.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force conducts a Realistic Urban Training Exercise in Guam. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright

Col. James Jenkins, director of Science and Technology for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the value of the system is in the ability of squads and small units to run and re-run the same scenario with detailed after-action feedback.

“Here’s the debrief, here’s who shot who when, and here’s why, and go back and just get better every time,” he said. “It’s all about that sets and reps.”

Jenkins said the first system will be delivered early next month, with planned delivery of four tactical decision-making kits per month until all 24 battalions are equipped. Jenkins said the kits will be delivered strategically when a unit has time to learn the technology and incorporate it into training, not during pre-deployment workups or other kinetic seasons.

This summer, between June and July, the Corps plans to publicly promote the tactical decision kit within the service, describing the innovation process at 2/6 and how relatively junior-ranking grunts came up with something of value to the greater institution.

“It was truly bottom-up, how could we make this better,” Jenkins said.

Walsh said the purchase illustrates the need for the rapid capabilities office and funding for fast prototyping and development. Ideally, he said, he would like to have around $50 million available to invest in new ideas and technologies.

“Is it the 100 percent solution? Probably not. We’re going to have to keep adjusting,” he said of the 2/6 invention. “But it’s now getting every squad in the Marine Corps wargaming, experimenting and doing tactics and learning from them.”

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Here’s your complete military guide to nutritional supplements

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
(Photo: steadyhealth.com)


The total was $183.27. I happily submitted my credit card information and clicked “Submit.” As I anxiously awaited for my magical supplements to arrive I looked over the complex regimen. I could carry this printout around with me everywhere I went.

Thinking back to that moment in 2004, I realize now how uneducated I was about the supplement industry. Why did I buy all of that? Because the website I visited offered a free nutrition plan which conveniently included their supplements to help me achieve my goals. Now, a little over a decade later, with a medical degree under my belt, twenty fitness competitions, and countless nutrition clients I can tell you – supplements can be quite simple.

Below is a simple breakdown to follow based on your budget. Pick the category that fits you and then select the supplements that fit your goal.

(Note: I was not compensated in any way by the manufacturers of any products listed.)

Level 1 – THE BASICS

Multivitamin: Multivitamins might be obvious, but it’s a commonly missed basic. You should take a multi-vitamin to replace critical elements missing in your food. Some of the critical things I look for: one pill a day vs. two pills, Calcium at least 50 percent of the daily value, Vitamin D at least 800IU. I know the gummy version is very popular now and I don’t recommend these because of the added sugars and the cost per serving is much higher. I have also found they are lower in vitamin concentration. The brand isn’t too important. Average cost: $15 for 90 days

L-Glutamine: Glutamine is an alpha amino acid that’s essential for so many daily body processes such as protein synthesis (building muscle, muscle recovery) and getting rid of toxins via the kidney. I recommended 15 grams per day taken 3 different times during the day. If that’s too complicated for your schedule, then just take 5 grams when you wake up and 5 grams after your workout. L-glutamine is found naturally in dairy products and many proteins like beef, pork, chicken, fish, but not enough. Average cost: $20 for 30 days

Level 2 – COMMITTED WITH LIMITATIONS

Includes Level 1 supplements.

Whey Protein Powder: Whey protein is used to build muscle, help prevent muscle breakdown, and helps with recovery. Protein powder is not better than whole food protein but it is a good alternative for convenience. Whey is the best-studied protein powder. There are mixes of different kinds of proteins, but these aren’t well studied. It’s hard for me to believe they are better. (I like evidence.) I also do not use powder with claims supplements are added. It’s easy for supplements to be missing or cut short, but you will easily pay more than basic whey protein powder. My favorite brands are Optimum Nutrition, Metabolic Nutrition, Muscle Pharm, and BSN to name a few. Average cost: $35 for 45 days

Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine is a beta amino acid that helps with blood vessel dilatation, building muscle, muscle recovery, and increased performance. Studies have shown greater results when combined with creatine, but also by itself. There is not a problem with water retention. Most people will get results with 4-5 grams per day. I recommend splitting it so you take 2-2.5 grams 20 minutes before your workout and 2-2.5 grams immediately after your workout. If you notice a tingling feeling on your skin after taking it, but that is normal. You can take it with food or decrease how much you take so that sensation is tolerable or gone. Average cost: $30 for 60 days

Level 3 – NO BUDGET OPTION (Includes Level 1 and 2 supplements)

Creatine: Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid. It increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body which then can help in building muscle size by improving the body’s response to resistance exercise and increasing the maximal force from muscles. There are some people that report water retention but many people don’t experience this. Studies show about 20 grams per day is sufficient for benefits. I do not recommend the “loading phase” as the scientific findings on this are not convincing and you will run out of product faster. Results are even greater if taking beta-alanine. Average cost: $10 for 30 days

ATP Extreme: This product is actual ATP which is easily depleted during workouts. ATP supplementation will allow for increased endurance, stronger workouts, and as an effect better performance. Studies show an increase in muscle mass and strength. This supplement comes in the capsule form and everyone is a little different in how they should take it. I take 4 capsules 30 minutes before my workout – weight lifting or cardiovascular exercise. Cost: $49.95 for 30 day

Provide Gold Liquid Protein: This product is my favorite! This product is the only supplement I know of that medical professionals will actually use for their patients. Liquid protein is exactly what it sounds like. Liquid protein works to impact depleted protein stores . One “shot” is jam packed with amino acids and only 100 calories. There is a sugar-free version, as well. I split my shot and have half right before my workout and another half afterward. Cost: $46 for 60 days

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. You can contact/follow her here: email: simone.maybin@gmail.com, Instagram: @simonemaybin, Snapchat: @simoneyroney, Facebook: Simone Maybin, or Twitter: @simonemaybin.

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US servicemember killed in Afghanistan during anti-ISIS operation

The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. servicemember was killed in Nangarhar Achin Province, Afghanistan, though officials declined to release any more details, including the casualty’s name and branch.


Some media outlets are reporting that the he was a special operations commando.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joseph A. Wilson)

The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson confirmed that the servicemember was killed during a raid on ISIS fighters with Afghan special forces by a roadside bomb that detonated during a patrol.

“On behalf of all of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, we are heartbroken by this loss and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the service member,” Nicholson said. “Despite this tragic event, we remain committed to defeating the terrorists of the Islamic State, Khorasan Province and helping our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

This is at least the fourth service member to be killed in anti-ISIS operations. Navy SEAL Petty Officer Charles Keating was killed in May while rescuing other U.S. forces who had become encircled by ISIS fighters. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in March when his artillery unit came under rocket attack. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed in 2015 during a raid to rescue ISIS hostages.

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The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during one of the most dangerous stretches of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985, a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years and 21 meetings with CIA case officers in Moscow, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics the revealed the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev struggled to convince the CIA he was trustwory: He spent two years attempting to contact US intelligence officers and diplomats, semi-randomly approaching cars with diplomatic license plates with a US embassy prefix.

When the CIA finally decided to trust him, Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities, something that informed the next decade of US military and strategic development.

Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could engineer its fighter aircraft — and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles — to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection and to exploit gaps in the enemy’s radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. He’s also part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: U.S. Navy

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David E. Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive account of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose.

It’s also about how espionage can go wrong: In 1985, a disgruntled ex-CIA trainee named Edward Lee Howard defected to the Soviet Union after the agency fired him over a series of failed polygraph tests. Howard was supposed to serve as Tolkachev’s case officer. Instead, he handed him to the KGB.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Adolf Tolkachev in KGB custody. Photo: CIA

Business Insider recently spoke with Hoffman, who won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for The Dead Hand, an acclaimed history of the final decade of the Cold War arms race.

Hoffman talked about some of the lessons of the Tolkachev case. Successful espionage, he said, is like a “moonshot,” an enormous effort that only works when cascades of unpredictable variables are meticulously kept in check.

And as Hoffman notes, his book is a unique glimpse into how such an incredibly complex undertaking unfolds on a day to day basis.

“You can read a lot of literature about espionage but rarely do you get to coast along on the granular details of a real operation,” Hoffman says, in reference to the over 900 CIA cables relating to the Tolkachev case that he was able to access. “That’s what I had.”

The archive, along with the scores of interviews Hoffman conducted in researching the book, yielded unexpected insights into the realities of spycraft: “I was really surprised by both the sort of quest for perfectionism” among the agents who handled the Tolkachev case, says Hoffman, “but also by the enormous number of things that can and did go wrong.”

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

BI: Your book the story of a CIA triumph: They run this source in the heart of Moscow for 5 or 6 years and get this bonanza of intelligence. But it’s also a story of organizational failure — about how this asset was eventually betrayed from within the CIA’s own ranks.

Is there a message in these two interrelated stories about the nature of intelligence collection and the challenges that US intelligence agencies face?

David E. Hoffman: On the first point, I think the big message, which is still very valid today, is the absolutely irreplaceable value of human source intelligence.

We live in an era when people are romanced by technology, the CIA included. Between what you scoop up from people’s emails and what satellites can see and signals intelligence, there always seems to be a new technological way to get various kinds of intelligence.

But this book reminded me that there is one category of espionage that is irreplaceable, and that is looking a guy in the eye and finding out what the hell is going on that isn’t in the technology — that can’t be captured by satellites. Satellites cannot see into the minds of people. They can’t even see into a file cabinet.

Even in the cyber age, it seems to me that you still have to get that particular human source, that spy that will do what nobody else will do: to let you sort of bridge the air gap, plug in the USB thumb drive if that’s necessary, to tell you something that nobody has written down …

Tolkachev was that kind of human source, an absolutely sterling example of someone who could bring stuff that you couldn’t get any other way.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Photo: Wikipedia/NVO

The second point is, you called it institutional dysfunction but I think there’s a larger factor here which is counterintelligence …

[Intelligence] cannot simply be a matter of collection. You also have to have defenses against being penetrated by the other guys.

We live in a world where the forces of offense and defense are in perpetual motion. Counterintelligence is part of that. And counterintelligence is what really failed here.

I think it was also institutional dysfunction in the way they treated Howard. That wasn’t a counterintelligence problem so much it was a sort of incompetence: They fired a guy, they said get lost, and he was vengeful.

But I also think that — maybe not particularly in this case but just generally — the CIA did not value counterintelligence highly enough for a long time. Really the events that followed Tolkachev — [Aldrich] Ames [see here], [Robert] Hanssen [see here], that whole period of the 1985-86 losses [see here] — were a failure of counterintelligence …

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Aldrich Ames spied for the Russian for nine years before being arrested on February 24, 1994.

There were really some big vulnerabilities there. In the end Tolkachev was exposed and betrayed by a disgruntled, vengeful fired trainee. But there were other losses soon to follow that were caused by essentially not having strong enough counterintelligence in place.

BI: It’s interesting how much the success of the operation had to do with these agents understanding Tolkachev’s state of mind based on these very short meetings that would be spaced months and months apart.

And from that they would have to build out some kind of sense of who this guy was. From the looks of it they did so fairly successfully for awhile.

DEH: That’s my toughest question. Espionage at its real core is psychology. You’re a case officer, you’re running an agent — what is in the soul of that man? What’s in his heart, what motivates him?

These are all questions that you have to try to answer for headquarters but also for yourself, in trying to play on his desires and understand them. Sometimes it can be a real test of will as you saw in this particular narrative. This psychological business can be very difficult …

A couple of times early in the operation Tolkachev revealed his deep antipathy towards the Soviet system. He said I’m a dissident at heart, he describes how fed up he is with the way things were in the Soviet Union.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Joseph Stalin. Photo: YouTube/ITN

He gives only a very very skimpy factual account of his wife’s parents travails, but I was able to research them in Moscow and discovered that his wife grew up without her parents. Her mother was executed and her father was imprisoned for many years during Stalin’s purges. And Tolkachev was bitter about that.

He also came of age in the time when [Nobel-prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn] and [Nobel Peace Prize-winning physicist and activist Andrei Sakharov] were also sort of coming of age as dissidents.

All of that rumbled around behind these impassive eyes. It’s not as if he handed over a book saying, I’m a dissident and here’s my complaint. Instead he handed over secret plans and said, I’m a dissident and I want to destroy the Soviet Union.

This psychological war and test of nerves of constantly trying to read a guy is really the most unpredictable and most difficult part of espionage. In this case, I’m not sure it was always successful.

The case officers did grasp that Tolkachev was determined. He expressed this sort of incredible determination, banging on the car doors and windows for 2 years to get noticed.

And when he’s working for the CIA he gives them his own espionage plan that takes years and multiple stages that he had mapped out. He’s a very, very determined guy. But what’s driving that isn’t always clear to the case officers.

BI: How does Tolkachev’s story fit in to the larger story of the end of the Cold War arms race?

I don’t think you could make the extravagant claim that he ended the Cold War or that he ended the arms race. But that’s not to minimize what Tolkachev did do. One of the things I discovered was how uncertain we were about Soviet air defenses in that period at the end of the Cold War …

There was always a funny thing going on with the Soviet Union. They had a lot of resources and were a very large country and the state and the military industrial complex was a big part of it. They always built a lot of hardware.

In fact they had a huge number of air-defense fighters and bases positioned all around their borders. [Air defense] wasn’t such a big deal for us but for them, the enemy was at their doorstop, right in Europe. They also had the world’s longest land borders. They had a lot to defend.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
Thanks to Tolkachev, the US knew all about the radar capabilities of the Soviet-built MiG-29, the advanced interceptor introduced in the mid-1980s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Tolkachev, the US knew all about the radar capabilities of the Soviet-built MiG-29, the advanced interceptor introduced in the mid-1980s.

The US saw all the deployments but there was also evidence that Soviet training was poor, that the personnel who manned all these things were not up to it, [and] that there was a goofy system where pilots were told exactly what to do by ground controllers and had very little autonomy.

The intelligence about whether the Soviets had look-down shoot-down radar was very uncertain. Some people said no, they don’t have it, some said yeah. And here’s were Tolkachev stepped into the breach.

Within a few years of his work, we knew exactly what they had and what they were working on. Tolkachev was also bringing us not only what ws happening now but what would be happening 10 years from now. A

nd if you think about it in real time, if you were in the Air Force and thinking about how you were going to deal with Soviet air defenses, getting a glimpse of their research and development 10 years ahead was invaluable …

There was also a fine line between [air defenses] and the nuclear issue. There were two aspects to strategic nuclear weapons that depended on air defenses and the kind of stuff Tolkachev brought us.

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of the USS Shiloh (CG 67) to attack selected air defense targets south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq on on Sept. 3, 1996, as part of Operation Desert Strike.

One was obviously bombers. In the early days of the Cold War [the US had] a high altitude strategy. B-52s would fly at a very high altitude and bomb from 50,000 or so feet.

Then we made a switch and we decided that the Soviets’ real vulnerability was at low altitudes. And it’s true. They did not have good radars at low altitude …

The strategic cruise missile scared the living daylights out of the Kremlin, because they knew they could fly right under their radars.

BI: Much of this book consists of reconstructions of scenes that were top-secret for many years but that you put together through researching the cable traffic and conducting interviews.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of writing about these dark spaces in American national security?

There are all kinds of missing jigsaw pieces in these narratives that we think we know, say, about terrorism, or about WMD. One of the things you find out if you’re one of those people who go with a pick and shovel at history and try to unearth rocks and tell stories is that pieces are missing — tiny little pieces, and also important things.

In this story there were a bunch of gaps that I had to report. I had enough to tell the story, but you never feel at the end that you know the whole story …

I still think there are big parts of what Tolkachev meant that are still in use and that are legitimately still classified. Even though this case is three decades old, it’s quite likely that some of that stuff is still considered pretty valuable intelligence.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition
(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)


EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.

So here we go again. Another professional athlete has decided to protest about the evils of the country that has given him more than any other country would. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem of two NFL pre-season football games and has said that he intends to continue to refuse in the future.

Related: Another open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a (more understanding) military veteran

Kaepernick made a blanket statement about his actions: “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let’s dissect this a little.

“I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This statement implies the government takes an active role in keeping minorities subjugated, like making laws that say “everyone but black people can do X.” That argument has been debunked so many times that you’re clearly uneducated on the issue and makes it hard to even take you seriously (forget the fact that our President is black, we have a Black Congressional Caucus and a long list of extremely successful black entrepreneurs). Truly active government oppression is a thousand times more brutal than what we have here. If you want to see what it really looks like, I invite you to Google El Salvador, Venezuela, Stalinism, North Korea, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Or let the USO set you up with a trip to Afghanistan. While there, ask about women’s rights and then tell us all how oppressive America is when you get back.

“It would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

So how is sitting down selfless and not looking the other way? If you really want to make a difference, get off the bench and actually do something. You signed a $114 million dollar contract with the 49ers and have an average salary of $19 million. How much of that did you donate to black causes or use to help the suffering that has suddenly offended you? I made 1 percent of what you did last year and I’d bet all of it that I donated more of my time to help others than you did.

“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Embellish much? Sounds like we’re living in South Africa under Apartheid. The high-profile events you’ve launched off of are real problems, no doubt, but the actual law enforcement data suggests your statement is hyperbolic. Rule of law exists in America. Wrong-doers don’t get away with murder. (Well, OJ did, maybe, but that’s another story, isn’t it?)

When you decided to “sit in,” did you think you were the champion of a cause and every African American would agree with you? I’m willing to bet there are plenty who are rolling their eyes right now because they feel you’re doing more harm than good and wish you would just keep your thoughts to yourself. You’re not Che Guevara and this is not Bautista’s Cuba. You’re not a freedom fighter leading your people out of bondage. You’re an ill-informed athlete who’s only fanning the fires of racism by sitting on the sidelines for a principle that you only understand through a simplistic pop narrative that’s little more than a hashtag campaign.

Look, Colin, I get it. You want to show your anger and dissatisfaction about an issue that means something to you. The problem is you’re going about it all wrong. Instead of inspiring others or sparking change, you’re angering your fellow citizens (especially veterans) and losing respect instead of gaining it. You are an American citizen and this is your country. You have the right to say and do what you like, a right forged by the efforts of millions who actually put their lives on the line, the real freedom fighters.

If you’re pissed, fine. And if you’re pissed enough to take action, even better. Just do it in the right way. Write an insightful article about what ails you. Hire someone to write your memoir that outlines a proposed solution. Go on a speaking tour to raise awareness and inspire others. Use some of those NFL millions to fund a study that helps define the problem and the solution. Fund a scholarship or two for black kids who have the grades to get into college but not the money. Find an inner city high school and donate football equipment or (even better) spend some time on the field mentoring them.

You’re probably wondering why so many people disagree with you, even to the point of burning your jersey in the streets. Simply put, this country isn’t perfect, but even a passing knowledge of history (the kind usually possessed by a guy with a bachelor’s degree) should make you proud to be an American. We liberated Europe from genocidal Naziism, won the Cold War, landed on the moon, made more breakthroughs in technology and medicines that save lives every day than any other country, and given athletes the opportunity to make a ton of money to play a game. The list could go on and on, but it all points to one undeniable fact – the world would be a much worse place than it is without America.

Despite all that, you’ve decided America sucks and chosen to express your dissatisfaction by offending 99 percent of the 324 million Americans who have nothing to do with the issue you’re protesting. That’s your right and you certainly don’t have to respect the flag or the anthem.

But, in return, I don’t have to respect you. Now, instead of seeing a skilled athlete tearing up opposing defenses, millions of people are going to see a misguided man who chose to help break our country instead of help fix it. Sitting on the sidelines during the anthem only makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Need a role model, Colin? Look to U.S. Army Lieutenant Sam Kendricks, who stopped his Olympic pole vault to stand and show respect when he heard the anthem. That guy gets it, but, of course, he’s actually serving something bigger than himself.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

Articles

The new movie coming out about Dunkirk looks pretty amazing

What an unbelievably helpless feeling.


Stranded on a beach; 400,000 lightly armed soldiers; fully-loaded enemy fighter planes bearing down on you — there’s a word for that: Dunkirk.

It’s a moment in history that gives every veteran that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach, a sense of utter helplessness staring straight at death spitting from the wings of an enemy attacker with no way to fight back.

But the story of Dunkirk is much more than that, and the latest trailer released by Hollywood moviemakers who tell the story of that fateful episode demonstrates that hope, courage and tenacity played as much a role in that historic moment as fate.

In this modern adaptation, Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved around 338,000 Allied troops.

Related: This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.

“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.

Mighty Moments

This homeless veteran and good samaritan just bought a home

A homeless man who used his last $20 to fill up the gas tank of a stranded motorist in Philadelphia has bought a home with some of the nearly $400,000 raised for him by the woman he saved.


Johnny Bobbitt Jr. says on his GoFundMe page that he bought a home over the weekend.

Related: This storied American brand is helping vets get into their homes — literally

Kate McClure, of Florence Township, New Jersey, ran out of gas on an Interstate 95 exit ramp late one night. Bobbitt walked a few blocks to buy her gas. She didn’t have money to repay the Marine veteran, so she created the online fundraiser page as a thank you. The fundraiser has raised more than $397,000.

Bobbitt says he’s donating some of his money to a grade school student who is helping another homeless veteran.

Watch Johnny find out that Kate raised a little over $700 in two days:

(Kate McClure | YouTube)
Articles

This triple amputee has taken Hollywood by storm

25 photos showing why The Warrior Games is the world’s most inspiring competition


Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq.  She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.

A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.

“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.

Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”

And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”

Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them.  The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.

“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”

But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial.  “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”

The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.

Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.

“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.

He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.

As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.

Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”

“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.

Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”

It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”

The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.

He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”

Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”

He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”

He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.

“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”

The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”

When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.

“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”

Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.

His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”

Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent.  After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”

Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”

“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.

The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”

Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.

Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”

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