Just because we haven’t heard of sporadic shots being fired in the Persian Gulf doesn’t mean everything is going just fine. On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Navy had to fire warning shots at an Iranian boat in the region for the first time in four years.
Iranian ships in the Gulf have a habit of hassling American vessels. The most recent incident is the second in the month of April 2021 alone. The first came when Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast-attack craft swarmed two U.S. Coast Guard cutters on April 2.
This time, three more Revolutionary Guard fast-attack craft began to head directly for a U.S. Navy patrol boat, the USS Firebolt, and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Baranof while in international waters.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy said the IRGCN boats came into an “unnecessarily close range with unknown intent, coming as close as 68 yards of the ships.”
The Americans issued numerous verbal warnings via radio and other means in an effort to communicate with the Iranians. When they finally got too close without heeding the warnings, the Firebolt opened fire. Only then did the Iranians move away from the Americans.
“The IRGCN’s actions increased the risk of miscalculation and/or collision,” the spokesperson said. “U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”
The incident comes at a time when the United States is trying to re-enter the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In May 2018, the White House under President Donald Trump unilaterally left the agreement and implemented harsher sanctions on Iran.
Iran officially responded by issuing a statement that required European parties to the agreement to abide by its terms and maintain relationships with Iranian banks and purchase Iranian oil despite U.S. pressure to do the opposite. On the ground, the Iranian Quds Forces in Syria fired rockets at targets inside Israel. Israel has continued its direct and indirect means of sabotaging any Iranian nuclear enrichment.
The United States only heightened tensions with Iran after the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2020. Soleimani was the leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, one of Iran’s most popular figures. Iran retaliated by launching missiles against U.S. forces in Iraq. No U.S. troops were killed, but 110 were wounded.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have remained high ever since, despite Trump’s failed re-election bid and the Biden Administration’s attempt at rejoining the JCPOA and any proposed concessions to do so.
The entire Persian Gulf region has essentially been an area in crisis since 2019 as tensions between Iran and the west – not just the United States – began in earnest. Iran has been responding to and provoking responses from the U.S. and western allies including the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Israel throughout the area.
While tensions mount, risky incidents like Iranian fast-attack craft provoking warning shots from U.S. Navy ships are likely to continue in the near future until either side takes action to defuse the situation.
HBO’s “Generation Kill” chronicles the experiences of the 1st Recon Marines during their first wave on Baghdad in 2003. Though the show was based on a serious book by journalist Evan Wright, it was full of funny Marine Corps moments.
From Sgt. Maj. Sixta’s ass-chewings to “Captain America’s” WTF moments, here are some of the funniest scenes distilled into one short video (clips courtesy of HBO):
Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.
Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.
In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.
In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.
The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.
The US Lockheed U-2 Spy plane is arguably one of the most capable platforms in the sky, but it needs backup when it comes in for a landing.
With only two wheels, the aircraft is incredibly unsteady when it touches down, and pilots have their hands full during the entire landing process.
The solution? Send a back-up pilot to trail the plane in a car while offering control inputs. The ground pilot can reach speeds around 140 mph while attempting to keep up with the aircraft. And without his help the plane could ground loop or worse.
United States Coast Guard personnel live by this credo: “You have to go out; you don’t have to come back.” Here’s a WATM salute to the United States Coast Guard for being “Semper Paratus” for 225 years:
Best known as the doctor who pioneered doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill and elderly patients in the 1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s biggest breakthrough was engineering new sources of blood for transfusions to wounded troops in Vietnam.
The U.S. news media dubbed Kevorkian “Dr. Death” for his work in helping patients who wanted to end their suffering die with dignity — for it, he went to prison for eight years after being convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. This is where his notoriety began. Even though he paved the way for a later “right-to-die” legislation, helping create the right of voluntary euthanasia isn’t even his most astonishing accomplishment.
Kevorkian earned the “Dr. Death” moniker long before the media gave it to him.
In his Biography.com story, Kevorkian is quoted as saying he found death very interesting extremely early in his medical career. More than that, he was fascinated because the subject of dying was so taboo. He went on to suggest that criminals on death row should give something back to society before being executed by being the subject of medical experiments. This fascination with terminal illness and death is where he earned the “Dr. Death” nickname — not from the media, but from his peers. This is why he was forced out of the University of Michigan Medical Center.
But he stayed in Michigan and went to Pontiac General Hospital in suburban Detroit. It was there that he heard of Russian teams who pioneered the transfusion of blood from corpses into live subjects, especially during World War II. So, he reproduced those experiments, publishing a paper on the subject in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology in 1961, thinking the technology could be used on the battlefields when no other source of blood was available.
The Soviets, Kevorkian claimed, had been doing postmortem blood transfusions since the 1930s.
“The idea has an ostensible undercurrent of
repugnance which makes it difficult to view
objectively; but it also has obvious advantages,” he wrote.
Kevorkian’s method was to remove the blood from the corpse via the neck within six hours of death, a death that would have to be sudden and unexpected — such as one from combat — to avoid postmortem clotting. The dead would be held at a 30-degree angle, drawing the blood through standard equipment. The blood in Kevorkian’s experiments was thoroughly tested to be of a matching type, free of diseases, and clean for transfusion.
The only hitch was the owner had just died — a pretty big hitch. He conducted four experiments on infirm patients who were already looking pretty bad
His first transfusion donor was a 51-year-old male who died suddenly while mowing his lawn. The recipient was an 82-year-old woman who received three pints of donor blood over three days, dying after the third day.
The second donor died in a car accident, a 44-year-old white male. The recipient was a 78-year-old white male with heart disease, intestinal cancer, and congestive heart failure. He received two pints of donor blood but died nine days after being admitted.
Kevorkian’s third corpse donor was a 46-year-old white male who was dead on arrival at the hospital. The recipient was a 56-year-old female intestinal cancer patient with severe anemia. She was discharged from the hospital three days after receiving a pint of corpse blood.
His fourth donor was a 12-year-old boy who drowned suddenly. Two pints of his blood were given to a 41-year-old woman who left the hospital “alert, cheerful, comfortable.”
Kevorkian noted that the presence of increased sugar, potassium, and non-protein nitrogen in cadaver blood is less than optimal in — but not a major roadblock to — transfusions. He also noted that corpse blood is usually “washed down the drain” anyway and no toxins were present in the blood. He wrote:
“Most of these objections are more imaginary than real — a sort of emotional reaction to a new and slightly distasteful idea… Our 8
pints (on a short-term basis) and over
27,000 transfusions in Russia bear this out.
Not a single hint of a reaction or other ill
effect was observed by us personally on
very close clinical observation, despite the
fact that 2 of the patients were already
moribund and very toxic and none of the 4
had any anti-allergic therapy.
His research and experiments found cadaver blood perfectly suitable for donation to living patients, so long as it was drawn less than six hours after death and used within 21 days. It is perfect for people with severe anemia or those requiring massive, continuous blood transfusions.
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
One of our favorite stories from this year’s NFL Draft is Nate Boyer.
Boyer is a 34-year-old Army Special Forces veteran who was offered a contract as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. He served six years in the Army and five years with the University of Texas Longhorns football team. He was considered one of the best college long snappers for the past three seasons, according to Texas Sports. Even while he was playing for the team, Boyer served in the Texas National Guard during summers.
Here is Boyer’s remarkable story, leading up to his selection by the Seattle Seahawks:
After they jump — most of the time with the use of static-line parachutes — they’ll often land behind enemy lines to seize an objective, such as an airfield. They are constantly training and maintaining their jump status, and that means going out of traditional aircraft, helicopters, and jumping alongside NATO allies.
A video posted by the 82nd Airborne shows an example of those last two items. 1st Brigade Combat Division writes:
Join your1st Brigade Paratroopers on a beautiful Day!! airborne as they conducted a joint airborne operation with German paratroopers on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 15, 2015. Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by the German paratroopers to promote friendship and military partnership.
Join your1st Brigade Paratroopers on a beautiful Day!! airborne as they conducted a joint airborne operationwith German paratroopers on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 15, 2015. Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by the German paratroopers to promote friendship and military partnership. #paratrooper #alltheway #devils #82ndAirborneDivision #fit #awesome #StrikeHold #US Army Airborne School, Fort Benning #bragg
ISIS militants have begun deploying aerial mines made of condoms and small packages of explosives, according to a report from Russia Insider, a Pro-Russian volunteer media outlet. The prophylactics are filled with a lighter-than-air gas and floated into the sky near Idlib, Syria.
There’s speculation that the bombs are actually being deployed by other militant groups. Popular Science pointed out that Idlib is controlled by the al-Nusra Front, not ISIS. Rebel factions fighting against Assad like al-Nusra have been the primary target of Russia’s bombing campaign in the area and it may be them resorting to extreme measures to try and get out from under the constant airstrikes.
The mines would be largely ineffective against the jets that conduct most of the attacks since the bombers fly at such a high altitude. They may have better luck against Russian helicopters that fly close to the ground, but it’s still a desperate action that’s unlikely to be successful. Protection from STDs and protection from aerial attacks don’t normally require the same equipment.
“The Main Enemy.” That’s how the Russian political, military, and intelligence apparatuses see the United States. Although the end of the Cold War brought with it hopes of democratization in Russia, 30 years later, with President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, at the helm, Russia seems buried in the past, stoking a fire against the West mainly through covert means and information operations.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Intelligence Community released its annual threat assessment. When it came to Russia, American intelligence assessed that it poses one of the most serious intelligence threats to the U.S., sowing discord and division within the U.S. while trying to divide Western alliances, such as NATO and the European Union, alongside preserving and increasing Russia’s global standing.
Heading this campaign of subversion are Russia’s potent intelligence agencies: The SVR (foreign intelligence), FSB (domestic intelligence and counterintelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and FSO (a mix of domestic law enforcement, border patrol, presidential guard, and signals intelligence).
A History of Subversion
From the reign of the Tsars, Russian history is deeply steeped in espionage. The Russian monarchs operated intelligence services to prevent the all-dreaded assassination attempts from domestic and foreign rivals. When the Bolsheviks ousted the Tsars after the Russian Revolution in 1917, they kept the same focus on intelligence, but now the target deck of potential threats swelled. Russian anti-communists (also known as the “Whites”), foreign nations, and even other Bolsheviks were all considered threats to the nascent revolution.
The Soviets began spying against other countries immediately, and the U.S. in particular was a big target. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Russian intelligence officers recruited hundreds of Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, an espionage onslaught that resulted in the compromise of the Manhattan Project and the leaking of nuclear secrets to the Soviets, with which they managed to build their own atomic weapons.
Other Western countries were also affected. Great Britain’s infamous Cambridge Five (Donald Mclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross), a group of the British elite who infiltrated its institutions, including MI6, Foreign Office, and BBC, wreaked havoc with their perfidy.
West Germany suffered too. A cadre of “Romeos,” attractive young Soviet and East German intelligence officers, used their sex appeal and charm to target lonely, single West German secretaries and recruit them, infiltrating the highest echelons of the West German government.
In an interview in 1998, KGB general Oleg Kalugin, head of KGB’s political operations in the U.S. who later defected and became an American citizen, offered some great insight on how Russian intelligence services tackled the “American target.”
“The heart and soul of the Soviet intelligence—was subversion. Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare the ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples,” he had said.
An Unofficial Rulebook
By interfering with the U.S. political process in 2016, Russian intelligence services, directed by the Kremlin, crossed an unspoken line that had existed since and survived throughout the Cold War. In his excellent book, Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression, Jack Divine, a retired CIA officer who served as acting director and associate director of operations, describes this unofficial rulebook as the “Moscow Rules.”
This set of unofficial norms ensured that the respective intelligence activities didn’t go beyond a red line that would provoke either side into using its military—and as a result, its nuclear arsenal. Assassinations, terrorism, and excessive violence against the other country’s intelligence officers were a no-go, as was direct interference in the other country’s political processes.
For example, KGB officers wouldn’t beat a CIA officer caught meeting with a Soviet asset in Moscow to death (they could—and did—try and execute their countryman, though). Similarly, the CIA wouldn’t promote independence movements in other nations inside the Soviet Union or try to influence the leadership deliberations inside the Communist Party in an effort to destabilize Kremlin’s power.
These unofficial “rules of engagement” kept in check the respective intelligence services, ensuring that their actions in the cloak and dagger realm didn’t inadvertently cause World War Three. But in 2016, Putin Russia threw the Moscow Rules out of the window.
Back to the Future
In 2016, using its cyber capabilities, the Kremlin aimed to delegitimize America’s democratic process, sow distrust in Western media, and widen preexisting socioeconomic and racial fissures in the U.S. The main actor in this was the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a seemingly independent organization that works closely with the Russian intelligence apparatus, particularly the SVR and GRU.
In 2016, the IRA created thousands of Twitter accounts (3,814), YouTube videos (more than 1,000), and hundreds of Facebook pages and events, masking them as American political groups and initiatives, that posted divisive and inflammatory material. Using thousands of bots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they promoted and spread these posts to reach at least 29 million Americans, and potentially reaching 126 million, and influenced the political process in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Several of these pages and posts were directly opposed to each other (for example, “Blacktivist” and “Stop All Immigrants”) despite being run by the same Russian source. It is worth highlighting that Russian intelligence services directed their malicious efforts against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. It wasn’t until the closing months of the election season, when Trump seemed to have a feasible chance to win, that the Russians started favoring him. (It’s important to highlight that Russian meddling in the election process was primarily intended to make Americans question the electoral process and democratic institutions.)
The election interference, one of many in which Russian intelligence meddled in the last few years (other examples are the Brexit vote, Scottish independence referendum, and Catalonia independence referendum), is part of what the Russians refer to as “Active Measures.”
Active Measures (Aktivnye Meropriyatiya), is the Russian version of Covert Action and can include election interference, information operations, influence operations, assassinations of dissidents, and cyberwarfare.
Through its active measures tactics, Russia attempts to undermine U.S. influence in the world and sow division between Western countries and NATO in order to weaken the West, thereby increasing Moscow’s importance to the world as a major international player.
According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian officials believe that the U.S. and its allies have been conducting influence operations to undermine Russia and Putin in addition to pursuing regime-changing in the countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Georgia. Interestingly, U.S. officials assess that Russia seeks an accommodation with the U.S. on mutual non-interference in domestic matters and also for the West to recognize Russia’s long-gone sphere of influence in states the former Soviet Union. If that assessment is correct, it could explain the interference in the 2016 election as a show of force from the Kremlin and a tangible way to visualize the dangers of domestic interference.
Although subversion is the primary goal of Russian intelligence operations, it doesn’t mean that traditional collection is absent, with the Kremlin targeting mostly the U.S. defense and artificial technology industries, usually recruiting employees within those companies in order to achieve their goals.
A formidable foe, the Russian intelligence services pose a grave threat to the U.S. and the West.
People have a range of different reasons for joining the military, and each US veteran has their own unique experiences and memories while in the service.
Redditer user airmonk asked the veterans at the military community on Reddit about their single best experiences while serving. The answers run from the mundane to the comical to the serious, and present a glimpse into life in the military that many outside of the service rarely encounter or even know about.
Below are some of our favorite answers to airmonk’s question: “veterans of reddit, what is the best experience you’ve had while serving?”
Bat_Manatee, a member of the US Army, said that his best experience was taking part in the commemorations of the D-Day invasion’s 70th anniversary over the summer in 2014: “Jumped into Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The entire Normandy experience was awesome, capped off by the jump.”
User docskreba, a member of the Air Force, was also at the commemorations and echoed Bat_Manatee’s sentiment:
“I was part of the crew running the flight line at Cherbourg for that jump (and everything else going on that week). I have a video of the elephant walk somewhere…”
I do have this videoof a C-130 flyby at Pointe du Hoc.
Very cool experience indeed.
Other veterans said that their favorite experiences while serving were the moments of silence and contemplation.
Stinkfingers, a member of the US Coast Guard, shared this experience: “Being at sea looking at the stars. All you can hear is the gentle rumble of the diesel engines and the water sloshing. Very relaxing after a long day.”
Likewise, Spritzertog, a member of the Marines, held a similar affinity for staring skyward: “Sitting on the hood of my car with a female Marine friend of mine, in the middle of the desert just outside of 29 Palms [a Marine base in California] … staring up at the star-filled night sky with absolutely no lights anywhere nearby.”
Potato_Muncher, an Army veteran, enjoyed the hard living and action that came with serving in Iraq:
68W AIT [healthcare specialist advanced individual training]. Enough trim and alcohol to kill a small elephant.
Besides that? Probably the outpost outside of Bartella, Iraq near Mosul. I loved that little 75 x 75yd plot of land. No one to tell you what to do, leadership that was as exhausted as you, my own room (Medic perks), daily foot patrols, etc. It was like an awesome FTX [field training exercise] away from Big Army.
Blew up a house on the 4th of July. I was EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] and we were called out to clear/dispose of a cache found in a house. The IA major in charge of the area wanted us to take down the house since they kept finding caches there. We happily obliged.
But for thepancakedrawer, serving in the military was worth it just for the nuggets: “Free chicken nuggets on Mondays at Chick-Fil-A.”
Snipers are highly trained marksmen who can hit a target from incredible distances with high-powered rifles. Their craft requires training in camouflage, infiltration, reconnaissance, observation and more, making them feared in the field.
But at the end of the day it’s about who gets the job done. That’s right – snipers are ranked by confirmed kills.