Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam's missiles - We Are The Mighty
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Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles

  • In January and February 1991, hundreds of thousands of troops in a US-led coalition pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
  • Amid that campaign, Delta Force and the British SAS went deep behind Iraqi lines to neutralize the Scud missiles that Saddam Hussein hoped would turn the tide of the war.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait, igniting a crisis that led to an intervention by a massive US-led coalition.

At the time, Iraq possessed one of the world’s largest armies, with about 1 million troops. To defeat it, the US knocked on every diplomatic door in the region and elsewhere, successfully gathering 750,000 troops for Operation Desert Storm, which began on January 17, 1991.

As the coalition against him swelled, Hussein sought to divide the Babel-style alliance of nearly 40 countries, including several Arab nations and Israel, though Israel didn’t actively participate. By directly attacking Israel, the Iraqi leader hoped to provoke an Israeli response that would break the fragile coalition.

Hussein chose his Scud missile batteries as the instrument of his strategy. The Soviet-made tactical ballistic-missile system came in both fixed and mobile launchers, both of which were quite deadly. One Scud struck a US base in Saudi Arabia, killing 28 soldiers.

To stop the Scud threat, the Pentagon turned to its best: Delta Force, along with its British counterpart, the Special Air Service (SAS).

Skeptical leadership

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Delta operators from A Squadron. 

Following the invasion of Kuwait, the US’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) proposed several operations to the Pentagon, ranging from the rescue of American diplomats and citizens trapped in Kuwait City to direct-action operations in Iraq.

“Once we got word about the invasion, there were lots of ideas going around on how the Unit could respond,” a former Delta operator told Insider.

But one of the biggest hurdles for Delta Force and other US special-operations units during Desert Storm was the leadership of conventional military forces.

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the four-star commander of US Central Command and the overall boss in the war, was quite skeptical about special-operations forces and their strategic utility in nation-state warfare.

In the end, however, Schwarzkopf had to acquiesce to the White House and Pentagon and allow special operators to join the campaign. It certainly helped that his second-in-command, British Gen. Sir Peter de la Billière, had served in and commanded the SAS and was director of British special forces during the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and his Delta Force bodyguards. Sgt. 1st Class Earl Fillmore, the operator in the blue shirt, was killed in Mogadishu. 

“Actually, believe or not, at one point, Saddam was pretty high on the target deck. Of course, the guys were all up for it, but in the end, it came to nothing. We couldn’t pinpoint him. We didn’t have enough or accurate intel to action an operation,” the former Delta operator said. “But looking back, even if there was enough intel, the higher-ups would have probably gone for an airstrike.”

“Some of the ideas, like going after Saddam himself, were pretty wild, but that’s the whole purpose of the brainstorming sessions. You gotta think big and explore all possibilities, no matter how outlandish they might seem,” the former Delta operator told Insider.

“In the end, we settled down to a few options, with Scud-hunting being the primary, and A got that, with C primarily doing CP [close protection] for ‘Storming Norman'” Schwarzkopf, the former Delta operator added, referring to Delta Force’s A and C Squadrons.

Scud-hunting in the desert

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
A Delta Force vehicle scanning for the enemy in the desert. 

The Iraqis knew their business. They would move the mobile Scud launchers during the night and lay down during the day, camouflaging the trucks so well that they would perfectly blend in the desert landscape, making it near impossible for coalition aircraft to spot them.

The Delta and SAS patrols would be inserted by helicopters and roam alongside main supply routes, looking for signs of mobile Scud launchers. Some patrols entered the country on vehicles and others by foot.

The Delta operators used a mix of Humvees, motorcycles, and heavily armed Pinzgaeur trucks. Affectionately nicknamed the “Pig,” a Pinzgaeur could carry several crew-served weapons, such as the M2 Browning heavy and the M-240 medium machine guns, and great amounts of rations, water, and fuel necessary to support the patrols.

However, some Delta patrols were frustrated by mechanical issues — it’s hard to change a tire in the middle of the desert. But the commandos had to be wary of the weather as well. In one instance, a special-operations helicopter went down, killing its crew and three Delta operators.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Military personnel examine a Scud missile shot down by an MIM-104 Patriot missile during Operation Desert Storm, March 26, 1992. 

There were several times when SAS and Delta Force patrols got into firefights with Iraqi forces, either because the patrols were compromised or had attacked targets of opportunity.

One of these patrols went terribly wrong. Codenamed Bravo Two Zero, it consisted of eight SAS troopers from B Squadron. Their mission was to conduct special reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines in an attempt to locate mobile Scud missiles.

As the team was laying up in a small ravine during the day following their insertion, they were spotted by Iraqi civilians. There are conflicting reports about what happened next, with some patrol members saying that Iraqi mechanized infantry started pouring into the area.

The patrol members started escaping and evading toward Syria but were separated in the night. After an adventurous few days, four SAS troopers fell into Iraqi hands, three were killed (two by hypothermia, one by enemy fire), and one successfully escaped to Syria.

Weeks of fighting

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Delta operators in a lay-up position in a wadi, or ravine. 

During Operation Desert Storm, the SAS operators had returned to their roots.

The SAS was created during World War II to fight Nazi Germany’s Africa Korps, led by well-known Gen. Erwin Rommel, in North Africa. The force’s bread and butter was long-range reconnaissance and direct-action operations, such as raids and ambushes, deep behind enemy lines.

From forward-operating bases in the middle of the Sahara Desert, the SAS troopers — and some additional special-operations units, like the Long Range Desert Group — used heavily armed trucks and jeeps to devastating effect, destroying more planes on the ground the entire Royal Air Force did in the theater.

The Delta and SAS operators in the field during Desert Storm faced a different kind of opponent.

Coalition aircraft ensured air superiority from Day One, and conventional Iraqi ground forces were quickly overwhelmed. But US and British special operators did have a strategic impact on the war, reducing Scud launches against Israel by more than 80%.

Desert Storm ended on February 28, 1991, six weeks after it began. Just weeks after starting their hunt for Iraq’s Scuds, Delta and SAS completed their mission.

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

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11 things you didn’t know about North Korea

You’ve probably heard of North Korea, but there are probably a few things about the totalitarian nation you didn’t know.


Despite having its borders closed to prevent its people from leaving and outsiders from coming in, there is actually a great deal known about the country. The U.S. and South Korea have gathered intelligence about the hermit state since the 1950s from defectors, undercover reporters, activists, and many other ways.

The country has made it illegal to watch “The Interview” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, possessing Bibles, watching South Korean movies, and distributing pornography, which are all punishable by death. Yet, smoking weed is no big deal.

This video shows these and other crazy facts about the infamous country:

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The Air Force made a lightsaber for breaching buildings

The Air Force and Energetic Materials and Products, Inc (EMPI) made a breaching tool that resembles a Star Wars lightsaber.


Called the “TEC Torch,” the compact, handheld thermal breaching tool is made up of a handle and cartridge which weigh less than a pound each. The incredibly powerful flame produced by the torch reaches temperatures around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat which can rip through steel in less than a second.

The TEC Torch was developed after Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in war-zone environments requested a compact, lightweight, and hand-held tool which would allow them to cut through locks, bars, and other barriers, according to Air Force.

Unlike the lightsabers used by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, this blade flame burns out after two seconds.

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This is the ultimate special operations weapon

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Image: courtesy of FN Herstal


NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.

The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.

It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.

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American Heroes Channel, YouTube

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Listen to a Green Beret tell the story of his Medal Of Honor

We’ve written about Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez’s before, but hearing him recount the events that earned him the Medal Of Honor before a class of Army officers is incredibly moving.


Also read: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

He joined the military to escape a bad situation, and the rest is like something out of a Hollywood script. Benavidez walked into certain death when he volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team caught under extreme fire behind enemy lines.

Benavidez would serve 13 years before receiving the Medal Of Honor. When asked if he’d do it again, he said, “There would never be enough paper to print the money nor enough gold in Fort Knox for me to have, to keep me from doing what I did.”

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This video shows how ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was made

Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is arguably one of the most influential military movies of all time. It’s the movie would-be troops romanticize about before enlisting in the military and it’s certainly the movie they watch to mentally prepare themselves before shipping off to boot camp to face their drill instructors.


However, as iconic as this 1987 film has become, it almost didn’t turn out that way. This 30-minute video shows how Full Metal Jacket was made and what the cast and crew did to “get it right.” There are plenty of interesting tidbits, like how relatively unknown actor Vincent D’Onofrio initially didn’t even want to do the film, and why a horrific scene between “Animal Mother” and the sniper was cut out.

Watch (profanity warning):


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

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DARPA’s new jetpack is a flightless sci-fi bummer

When you hear the word “jetpack,” you picture someone zooming through the sky like the Rocketeer. But DARPA and Arizona State University’s version of the jetpack is a complete let down.


“We’re not able to fly with our jetpack,” said graduate engineer Jason Kerestes, in a video from Arizona State University. “We have instantaneous thrust and we can pretty much trigger it to allow for faster movement and agile motions.”

The pack is designed to enable troops to run a mile in four minutes, but it doesn’t look like they’re quite there yet. At 3:07 of the video, the engineers say to a runner that his time improvement with the jetpack was only three seconds.

Watch the jetpack in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=290REmBFuIE

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Reddit users freak over Cold War coincidence

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Photo: U.S. Air Force Richard B. Keener


Reddit users freaked out this morning as they got to watch two users, JustGimmeSomeTruth and menace2impropriety, learn that their grandfathers were best friends in Greenland during the Cold War. JustGimmeSomeTruth placed the initial thread with a photo of his grandfather, Warrant Officer Northcutt, stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland. menace2impropriety saw it and responded that his grandfather, Warrant Officer Mays, was also at Thule, Greenland and was likely the photographer.

A little later, menace2impropriety responded again saying that he had just spoken with his grandfather, who was the normal pilot of the helicopter in the photo. Mays said that not only did he know Northcutt, but Northcutt died in a crash in Mays’s helicopter. Mays had been grounded due to injuries he sustained while saving other service members, actions that earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross.

The whole story is pretty impressive, assuming it’s all true. See how the story played out at Reddit.

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This Army Spouse Was Hacked By ISIS And She Didn’t Flinch

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles


It’s not every day that you can say “Today I got a personalized tweet from someone claiming to be with ISIS.” And that’s probably a good thing.

It happened like this: The Twitter account of a military spouse who owns a spouse-focused non-profit was hacked by a group apparently affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The hackers then tweeted messages aimed at specific military spouses, including myself.

“Amy Bushatz! You think you’re safe but the IS is already here, #CyberCaliphate got into your PC and smartphone,” is, I’m told, what the tweet said (I did not actually see it before it was deleted, presumably by Twitter).

Not long thereafter I received a friend request from someone named “Gasper CyberCaliphate Sadz.” When I viewed their profile it was clear that they were not the sort of person I wanted to let into my social life. Within a few seconds the profile had been deleted. And yes, it was really creepy. The same photo and images were used in this account as were used during the CENTCOM hack.

Every spouse quoted in this CNN article was singled out in the tweets.

You might be thinking “that’s what you get for being stupid enough to be quoted by name in a CNN article about ISIS and cyber threats.” However, the decision to have my name used in that story wasn’t a hard one. My name is everywhere — here, on Military.com and in other national publications. I am a public person. That ship has sailed.

I’m told the FBI is investigating the situation, and all the proper military officials have been notified by those of us involved. My husband suggested I not let anyone dressed as a terrorist into our house.

I want to face this whole situation with a resolute jaw and a loud “being afraid means the terrorists win.” I’m not the type of person to live in fear or change my life just because some person on the internet wants to scare me. I’ve never done that before and I have no intention of doing it now.

Personal attacks bring up a variety of feelings. On the one hand, I’m super pissed. How dare they threaten me and my friends? Then there’s the maniacal laughter and the semi-inappropriate jokes about not opening the door for anyone in a bomb vest. I’ve got lots of those.

But then, underneath all of that somewhere deep in my core, I am trying to shake off the tiniest bit of what feels an awful lot like fear.

Because being singled out by someone claiming to be with a fairly terrifying terrorist organization? That’s scary. Knowing that, thanks to my job and public profile, my town of residence, spouse’s name and occupation, base, kid’s names and more wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to locate online? More than unnerving.

But I don’t think it’s the fear itself that matters. I think it’s what I choose to do about the fear that is the key. Do I let it change my habits? Do I ignore it completely and hope nothing bad happens?

Do I use it as a cautionary tale to be more vigilant — much like you would react to a story of a home robbery in your neighborhood?

Or do I completely change my life, delete my social media presence and lock down my family because I am afraid?

Being afraid doesn’t mean the terrorists won — it’s the living in fear that gives them the victory. I’m not giving them the victory.

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This New Movie Unflinchingly Reveals The True Faces Of PTSD

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Delta Force veteran Tyler Grey fires a pistol at a desert range. His right arm was wounded during a firefight in Iraq. (Image: Armed Forces Foundation)


In “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a newly-released documentary that deals with the current PTSD epidemic, writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon,” “Snitch”) does exactly what he needed to do to respect the importance and delicacy of the subject matter:  He gets out of the way of the story by letting the principals tell it themselves.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

“My job was to let them tell their story with unflinching candor,” Waugh said at a recent screening in Los Angeles.

TWILDM follows the post-war lives of two veteran special operators.  Jayson Floyd served in Afghanistan as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and Tyler Grey was a member of Delta Force and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Floyd and Grey met at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan in 2002, but their friendship blossomed after their complicated paths of post-active duty life joined around the methods they’d unlocked for dealing with their PTSD – mainly understanding the benefits of a supportive community of those wrestling with their own forms of post-traumatic stress.

Waugh sets the tempo of the documentary with soliloquies featuring a number of people, but mostly Floyd and Grey.  Their personalities are at once different and complimentary.  Floyd is Hollywood-leading-man handsome, moody and brooding, and speaks with a rapid-fire meter that forces you to listen closely to cull out the wisdom therein.  Grey is more upbeat, a conversationalist who uses comedy to mute his emotional scars.  He is quick with folksy metaphors that show how many times he’s told some of these stories, and he matter-of-factly relates how he sustained massive wounds to his right arm as breezily as a friend talking about a football injury.

The two warriors’ physical appearance changes throughout the documentary, which has the net effect of showing the passage of time and the range of their moods.  Sometimes they’re clean-shaven; sometimes they’re bearded.  Their hair length varies.  The differences color the underlying chaos around the search for identity of those dealing with PTSD.

[brightcove videoID=4058027763001 playerID=3895222314001 height=600 width=800]

Others are featured, as well.  Grey’s ex-girlfriend singularly comes to represent the toll of PTSD borne by those around the afflicted.  She’s beautiful and articulate, and as she speaks from a couch with Grey seated next to her, a pathos emerges that is intense and heartbreaking.  You can tell she loves him, but they’ll never be together again.  Too much has been said during the darkest days.  For his part, his expression evinces resignation for the beast inside of him that he is still taming, as he’ll have to for the rest of his life.  The sadness in his eyes is that of a werewolf warning those who would attempt to get close to stay away lest they be torn to shreds in the dark of night.

Floyd’s brother tells of the letter Floyd wrote explaining why he couldn’t be physically present to be the best man at his wedding.  As the brother reads the letter he begins to weep, which causes Floyd to weep as well.  The image of the tough special operator breaking down is very powerful.

But perhaps the most powerful scene is the one featuring Grey participating in a special operations challenge in Las Vegas.  He’s back in his element, wearing the gear he wore so many missions ago, a member of a team of elite warriors bonded by a clear-cut mission.

The team cleanly makes its way through a series of obstacles, but at the last one – where they must each climb a 15-foot rope to ring a bell – Grey falters.  His wounded hand won’t hold him.  He tries again and again, each attempt increasingly pathetic.  It’s hard to watch.  He finally gives up.

His teammates pat him on the back and put on the good face, but Grey is obviously crushed by his failure – something that goes against every molecule of his special operations DNA.

Grey convinces his teammates (and the camera crew, as Waugh revealed at the LA screening) to get up early the following day and try again before the event organizers tear down the obstacle course.  This time Grey rings the bell.  The scene captures the triumph of that day and, in a broader sense, the will to triumph over PTSD.

“Dealing with PTSD is a constant process,” Floyd said.  “To do this right we had to rip the scab off and show the wound.”

“We know we’re not the worst case,” Grey added.  “This is our story – just about us – and we’re putting ourselves out there not to compare but hopefully to coax people into sharing.”

Find out more about “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” including dates and places for the nationwide tour, here.

Buy the movie on iTunes here.

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Russian media’s Putin coverage is North Korea-kind of ridiculous

You may have heard stories from North Korea’s state media that sound just plain silly. Like the time, Kim Jong-Il phoned the North Korean soccer coach during their World Cup match against Brazil with the invisible phone he invented. Or the time Kim Jong-Il played golf for the first time and finished with 11 holes-in-one. The list goes on.


Related: 11 things you didn’t know about North Korea

Russian state media is following North Korea’s playbook in the way it presents President Vladimir Putin. After all, there isn’t anything Putin can’t do.

He’s skilled in Judo martial arts . . .

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
YouTube, Vox

He’s a race car driver …

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
YouTube, Vox

He’s an archeologist …

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Image: Shirtless Putin Doing Things

 

… And he’s a stud who goes hunting shirtless.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Image: Shirtless Putin Doing Things

But he also has a soft side.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Image: Shirtless Putin Doing Things

Although this may seem silly to the rest of the western world, there’s a reason behind this image.

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Intel

This celebrated war correspondent nails the reason why soldiers miss combat

It may sound crazy but many troops who return home after a combat tour find themselves missing war.


Listen to our podcast: Sebastian Junger talks war, vet reintegration, and what’s wrong with America

And it’s not the heat, boredom, mortars, IEDs, lack of running water or anything else associated with roughing it that they miss — they can do that on a camping trip. In this clip, war correspondent Sebastian Junger nails the reason why.

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US to evacuate Afghan interpreters ahead of troop withdrawal

The Biden administration told lawmakers Wednesday the US will soon start to evacuate thousands of Afghans who have assisted American troops for nearly two decades to other countries in an attempt to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, The New York Times reported.

As the drawdown in Afghanistan enters its final stages, many veterans and some legislators have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis for the locals who have helped American forces during the past 20 years of war.

“When that last soldier goes wheels up out of Afghanistan, it is a death sentence for our local allies, the Taliban have made that clear in their words and in their actions as they hunt these people down right now as we speak,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican and former Green Beret, said last week.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Marine Cpl. Devon Sanderfield and an Afghan interpreter communicate with a local man in Changwalok, Afghanistan. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Nola, courtesy of DVIDS.

More than 18,000 interpreters, security guards, fixers, embassy clerks, and engineers have applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, which takes more than two years on average to obtain. The Times reports that those applicants have 53,000 family members. A senior administration official told the Times family members would also be evacuated to another country to await visa processing.

Calls for the Biden administration to swiftly evacuate Afghan contractors have grown in recent months, with advocates fearing the Taliban could go “house to house” after Western forces leave, targeting interpreters and their families. The Taliban, meanwhile, said earlier this month that Afghans who helped foreign forces have nothing to fear as long as they “show remorse for their past actions” and don’t engage in future “treason against Islam and the country.”

Interpreters don’t trust that promise. The Taliban has tortured and killed dozens of Afghan translators during the past two decades, the news agency AFP reported.

“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP.

Inside the covert mission that sent Delta Force and British SAS deep behind Iraqi lines in search of Saddam’s missiles
Matthew Zeller, far left, in Afghanistan with his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, third from right, who later came to the US with Zeller’s help. Zeller has worked for years to bring interpreters and other Afghans to America. Photo courtesy of Matthew Zeller.

It’s not clear yet where Afghans will wait, or whether third countries have agreed to the plan. In a June 12, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden, Guam’s governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero asked that the island be a landing point for those in need, like it was in 1975 when the US evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees.

According to a document from the Truman Center obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine, the cost of flying Afghan allies to Guam would be relatively low. The Truman Center’s Matthew Zeller estimates the average price would be $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million for 70,000 evacuees.

“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget. But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word,” Zeller said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: US Army photo by Spc. Andrew Baker

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