Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.

Some call it locked in a house in a time of plague – I say magnificent time to try out a new book! Books offer us an escape from the tedium of quarantine life, and nothing is more escapist than stories of derring-do and bravery in the face of long odds. To transport you to a different time and place, we have two new offerings from Kensington Books which I am sure will fit the bill.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The first book is Ungentlemanly Warfare by Howard Linskey. Howard is a British writer who has written several popular crime and mystery novels and has since branched out to write meticulously researched historical thrillers set during World War II. Ungentlemanly Warfare is not part of a series – though given the events it could easily turn into one – but nevertheless tells an interesting self-contained tale.

This book is set in the middle days of World War II and the Nazis are seeking to perfect their newest Jet fighter, the Me163 Komet. The weapon promises to extract a heavy toll upon the Allies if the enemy can perfect the craft. To stop the Nazis from improving upon this lethal machine, they need to assassinate the lead scientist on the project. Enter Special Operations Executive agents Harry Walsh and Emma Stirling. They are tasked to team up with a Jedburgh team of American and Free French operatives and kill the target before he can submit his improved design.

Though the book starts off with an action sequence, it is more of a slow burn as the team prepares for its mission and then builds rapport on the ground with the French contingent. This approach lends a sense of verisimilitude to the story – these operatives are behind enemy lines in the most precarious of circumstances and they would be not trying to draw attention to themselves. It is far from boring though as the book is rife with danger, close-calls, and even a bit of romantic tension. Linskey creates a good sense of uncertainty that the mission can be completed which makes the book all the more riveting.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The second book is Sandblast: A Task Force Epsilon Thriller by newcomer, Al Pessin. Pessin is a veteran foreign and Washington DC correspondent who puts his knowledge and insights to good use in crafting his debut ‘day after tomorrow’ novel. Frankly, it was one of the most engaging espionage thrillers I have read in years because of its unconventional and unique leads.

The story happens in the aftermath of a successful attack on the Secretary of Defense by international Jihadists residing in Afghanistan and a daring covert action to even the score. The story is essentially two tales – the first is about a DIA agent handler named Bridge Davenport who channeling Jessica Chastain’s character from Zero Dark Thirty comes up with an unorthodox mission to target the terrorists in Afghanistan. Her story follows the national politics of espionage and response at the highest levels as she navigates personal and professional challenges.

But the more interesting of the two tales surrounds her operative – an Afghan American service member who goes under deep cover to join the Taliban to get close to the leaders of the terrorist cell. Pessin wisely devotes the majority of the book to Faraz Abadallah’s struggle with maintaining his own identity and objectivity as he is forced to make increasingly difficult moral decisions. The story goes deep into Faraz’s psychological well being as he is indoctrinated into the Taliban and the story is heavy with Koranic verse and complex currents which make the story all the more compelling.

Ultimately, Pessin’s book serves as an introductory book to a new series centered on Task Force Epsilon with several unresolved plot threads which set the stage for future adventures involving Davenport and hopefully Abdallah.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit offers scuba diving programs to veterans

LifeWaters offers scuba diving and scuba certifications as part of recreational water therapy. The non-profit organization improves the lives of disabled veterans with a dedicated staff of volunteers, including Spinal Cord Injury therapists, doctors, nurses, veterans, and civilians.

Bill Chase is a Air Force Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1973-1978. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned to dive and then later became a certified diver. In 2016, after a successful engineering career, Chase was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While at a VA therapy appointment, the therapist mentioned scuba diving, and then referred Chase to LifeWaters.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Forced retirement opens new door

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Chase was forced to retire after the diagnosis and soon sought assistance from Paralyzed Veterans of America for help in filing claims for VA benefits and support at the St. Louis VA. Approximately 700 to 900 veterans with ALS are served annually by PVA to obtain their VA healthcare benefits.

“I am always excited to be involved helping a veteran’s bucket list wish come true!” said PVA Vice President and LifeWaters Advanced Scuba Diver, Hack Albertson. “It was an absolute honor to meet and dive with Bill Chase and his family.”

Albertson credits the LifeWaters adaptive scuba training that allowed him to dive in over 200 locations around the world. “I love being a member of LifeWaters and [being] an Advanced Scuba Diver. I was even blessed to dive Pearl Harbor on December 7th while conducting an oil study for the U.S. National Park Service. I can never thank LifeWaters enough for the opportunities and experiences diving has given me.”

“Blown away by kindness” at LifeWaters

LifeWaters offers different services depending on needs, desires and skill level. They have amputee scuba diving, disabled veteran scuba diving and other scuba diving programs.

“ALS progression is different for everyone. In my case, I have no leg motion, my arms and lungs are affected. I’ve recently lost some ground with my lungs, so when I dive I now use a full-face mask because it’s easier to breathe,” said Chase.

Chase was surprised that he was eligible for adaptive diving. He recently completed the HERO dive with his family at the Epcot Center Aquarium at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Chase has even gotten closer to his family while they trained for their scuba adventure.

“If I were in a different physical state, I wouldn’t hesitate to become part of this group. The dive itself was awesome, in spite of my physical limitations. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience,” he said.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Marines take your beach

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can’t fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Many of the Marine Corp’s current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they’re seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don’t get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 very good boys and girls who are military heroes

Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.

Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.

Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.


In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.

Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.

Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Stubby the dog.

(Purple Heart Foundation)

1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.

Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.

While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.

According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.

Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.

Stubby died in 1926, and his coat is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Military Times reported.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.

(US Army Signal Corps)

2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.

Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.

The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.

Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.

Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.

After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.

The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.

He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Chips was honored with a Silver Star and was nominated for a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart, The Washington Post Reported.

He returned home a hero in 1945 and died the following year.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

4. A German Shepherd named Nemo protected his handler during the Vietnam War.

The US Air Force bought Nemo, a German Shepherd in 1964 as part of a Vietnam War guard dog program, according to Ton Son Nhut Air Base’s website.

He was put through training, partnered with Airman 2nd Class Robert Throneburg, and sent to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam, to be a guard dog with the 377th Air Police Squadron.

During an attack in 1966, Tan Son Nut Air Base was hit by a mortar attack by the Viet Cong.

It was Nemo’s job to find any intruders who infiltrated the base, and, upon finding a group hiding near the perimeter, he attacked with Throneburg close behind.

Throneburg and Nemo were injured in the incident, but Nemo was credited with his handler’s survival.

Nemo was later sent home as a war hero, and he worked as a recruitment dog in his retirement.

He died in 1972.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Dustin Lee and Lex in Iraq.

(Photo by L. Rich)

5. Lex, who served as a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq, and was given an honorary Purple Heart.

Lex, a German Shepherd, was a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq.

When a mortar attack hit in 2007, Lex was left injured and his handler, Marine Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee, 20, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lex recovered from his wounds at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart in 2008.

Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.

“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”

Lex died in 2012.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.

6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.

Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.

According to the Military Times, Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was trained to stand guard, control crowds, sniff for bombs, and look for booby traps.

During the mission to take down bin Laden in 2011, Cairo was part of a perimeter team, according to an account of the raid from the New Yorker.

Plans reportedly called for Cairo to search for false walls and hidden doors if the al-Qaida leader couldn’t be found.

Former President Barack Obama met the dog when meeting with SEALS who were part of the mission.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Heroic US Marine dog Lucca.

(Photo by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante)

7. Lucca completed more than 400 missions and rooted out more than three dozen explosive devices.

Lucca, a half-German shepherd, half-Belgian Malinois, helped find nearly 40 explosive devices while working as a bomb detector in Afghanistan.

Both German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are known for being extremely smart, aggressive, and loyal.

Lucca served in the military for six years, completing more than 400 missions with no human casualties, according to the Huffington Post.

She lost her leg in a roadside IED explosion in 2012 while she was off-leash, the Military Times reported.

Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.

Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.

“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”

She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Wonderful dog, Conan.

(White House photo)

8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.

President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.

The dog’s name was unknown for days, but Trump later tweeted that the dog’s name was Conan.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said at a news conference that Conan was “slightly wounded” during the mission to take down al-Baghdadi.

Trump had said a day earlier that US forces found al-Baghdadi in Syria hiding in a tunnel with three of his children.

Trump said that while at least one military dog pursued him, al-Baghdadi activated an explosive vest, killing himself and his children.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

popular

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.

In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.

That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.


When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.

The Specialist knows all and does nothing.

The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:

The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.

The Second Noble TruthDesire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.

The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).

A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.

In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!

Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.

They have accepted pain without pay.

They have taken duty without distinction.

Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

HBO’s epic miniseries Chernobyl is quickly gaining fans around the world, including in Iran, where an adviser to President Hassan Rohani has suggested that it carries lessons for political leaders.

The five-part series has been widely praised for its dramatization of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster, including portrayals of victims sacrificing themselves to prevent an even greater catastrophe following an explosion at the Soviet-built power plant in 1986.


The adviser, Hesamedin Ashena, who also heads the presidential research arm known as the Center For Strategic Studies, on June 4, 2019, highlighted the joint U.S./U.K. production’s central theme — “What is the cost of lies?” — and said “those in politics and government” could learn from that “mind-boggling question.”

Ashena did not elaborate.

He appeared to have Iranian politicians in mind, since he posted his tweet in Persian. Ashena routinely tweets in English when directing his comments toward Westerners.

In a separate tweet, he shared an HBO promotional image for Chernobyl.

The show appears to be reaching Iranians who, despite restrictions that include tough Internet filtering and censorship as well as U.S. financial sanctions, are usually quick to access the latest Hollywood and Western movies and TV series.

Several episodes have already appeared online dubbed or subtitled into Persian.

When asked by another Twitter user whether he had downloaded the series or has an HBO subscription, Ashena cited the Filimo.com portal, a video-on-demand app that makes Iranian and Western movies and TV shows available to customers.

Not often discussed

There has been little public debate within Iran’s state or semiofficial media about the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, although some Iranians have used open letters, blogs, and social media to question the need for a nuclear program or warn about the potential health or environmental risks of nuclear energy.

In 2012, comments by an Iranian health official who had expressed concerns about nuclear health hazards and suggested that there had been “accidents” at one of the country’s nuclear sites were quickly removed from the website of a semiofficial news agency.

Iranian officials have said their facilities have been designed and built based on the latest state-of-the-art technology and don’t pose a threat to the environment or people.

They have also maintained that the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor that went online in southern Iran in 2011 is safe and build to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 8. Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Iran.

Rekindled debate

HBO’s miniseries appeared to rekindle a debate about nuclear safety among Iranians.

“If this happens in Iran, would our health system be ready to handle so many irradiated patients?” a user who claims to be a physician tweeted from Tehran.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

A scene from HBO’s Chernobyl.


In a reference to Iranian defiance at Western criticism of its contentious nuclear program, the same user reminded those who repeat the state-promoted slogan of “nuclear energy is our absolute right” not to forget Chernobyl.

The HBO miniseries has shone a bright light on Soviet attempts to cover up the scale of the Chernobyl disaster.

Some Iranians on social media said that scenario was all too familiar for Iranians living in an ideologically driven system that frequently silences critics under the pretext of national security or to avoid grim accounts of life in Iranian society.

Iran has steadfastly insisted its nuclear efforts are strictly for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and other governments as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have accused Tehran of duplicity and stonewalling about its nuclear activities.

International fears that Iran was seeking a nuclear bomb-making capability led to a deal between world powers and Tehran in 2015 that the United States has since abandoned in favor of renewed sanctions and other economic and diplomatic pressure.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

According to the Army you need a coach to pass their toughest school

More than 90 percent of those who attempt to become an Army diver fail in the first 14 days of training.

The hopefuls are often overcome, physically and mentally, by rigorous drills meant to winnow down recruits to the elite few.

The journey to become an Army diver begins (and often ends) at the Phase I course of the U.S. Army Engineer Dive School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In fiscal year 2018, only six enlisted soldiers attained the 12D (Engineer Diver) military occupational specialty. Although nine graduated Phase I of their Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, only the six went on to graduate from Phases II and III held at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.


Sgt. 1st Class Eric T. Bailey, noncommissioned officer in charge and master diver for the 12D Phase I course, said a lot of the recruits arrive for training ill-prepared for what awaits them. The recruits have to pass a Diver Physical Fitness Test that, besides curl-ups and pushups, includes a timed 500-yard swim using the breast or side stroke, six pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes and 30 seconds or less. They also need to pass the Class I Advanced Survival Swimmer Test. The ASST has five events including an underwater breath hold in which the trainees, in their full uniform, descend to the bottom of a 14-foot pool and swim the entire width of the pool on a single breath, touching the first and last of seven lane lines, before ascending. And that’s just Day 1.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Soldiers going through Phase I of Army Engineer Dive School honed their performance skills with the assistance of Performance Experts, or PEs, from the Fort Leonard Wood R2 Performance Center.

(US Army photo)

Throughout Phase I, students have to do increasingly arduous breath-holding drills, including “ditch and dons” which involve ditching their gear at the bottom of the pool then donning it again, making sure to clear their mask and snorkel. Bailey said the hardest part of the drill is for students to remain calm enough to don their gear even as their body urges them to breathe.

“They give up on themselves mentally, before they physically can’t do any more,” said Bailey.

As a result of the insanely high attrition rates, Bailey set out to find a way to “make soldiers better, faster.” And he thinks he has found it in the Fort Leonard Wood Ready and Resilient Performance Center or R2PC.

The R2PC is staffed with master resilience trainers-performance experts, or MRT-PEs, who are not only trained to increase soldier’s mental resilience but also have degrees in sports and performance psychology which they use to enhance soldier’s physical performance.

Dr. Kelly Dantin and Deanna Morrison, the performance experts on contract at the Fort Leonard Wood R2PC, observed the diver training and talked to the cadre and graduates of Phase I to get their input and develop a customized block of instruction for the 12D trainees. They found that if the students were physically prepared for the Phase I course, their next biggest challenge to graduating was their mindset. So they set about instilling in the students the mentality that quitting was “off the table” and simply not an option, Dantin said.

The performance experts started working with the 12D trainees in October 2018. The week prior to the students starting Phase I, Dantin and Morrison gave them training on techniques such as deliberate (or tactical) breathing, labeling (which includes the act of reframing a situation as a challenge instead of a threat) and Activating Events, Thoughts, and Consequences , or ATC.

ATC is a model that conveys that it’s thinking that determines what people do and how they feel, not the events that happen.”

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Deanna Morrison (left) and Dr. Kelly Dantin make a list of what a person physically feels when they are calm during a block of instruction for students of the Army Engineer Diver Phase I course.

(US Army photo)

Students who fail from the Phase I course do so because they feel overwhelmed by the physical demands and don’t believe they can continue to perform over the entire course, Bailey said. To address this mental obstacle, the R2 performance experts teach the students a technique called segmenting. They teach them to break down the course into small chunks, and instead of thinking about the entirety of the course, just to think about making it until lunch. And then making it until dinner. And then making it until bedtime.

“Evolution by evolution, lap by lap, you can segment anything, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces,” that are manageable, Bailey said.

“We teach them how to perform better under pressure,” using both mental resilience and sports psychology, Morrison said.

In the four months since they started the R2 training, the course has achieved what previously took an entire year: graduating nine students out of Phase I. Bailey said that if the numbers bear out, he is looking at doubling the graduation rate in FY2019 from the previous year.

Bailey said he knows that the R2 training is working and has been a contributing factor with helping to reduce the attrition rates.

“Every time that we have done a debrief with a soldier that graduated, they said that training helped,” Bailey said. The students even start talking about the specific techniques, repeating what they learned from the R2 training. That success led to Bailey asking the MRT-PEs to continue to give the block of instruction in all future Phase I courses.

“Because of the R2 performance training we are sending to Florida soldiers that are better prepared, not only physically, tactically and technically, but also mentally,” Bailey said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 missions of the military working dog

“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.”
– Robert Crais


The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.

The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.

A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants and other vital installations.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Scout/Patrol dogs

Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Casualty dogs

Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Explosive detection

With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.

No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this amazing police dog traverse tricky obstacles

A Belgian Malinois named Lachi has earned some celebrity for his video in which he traverses two thin ropes in order to retrieve his tennis ball.


Articles

Live out your Colonial Marine fantasies with the Nerf Aliens M41-A Blaster

“I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine,” Michael Biehn said as Corporal Hicks in the 1986 classic Aliens.

After that introduction, gun nuts around the world wanted to get their hands on the Colonial Marines’ M41A pulse rifle. With its oversized carrying handle, pump-action under-barrel grenade launcher and digital ammo counter, it’s one of the most iconic sci-fi weapons. And now you can add it to your arsenal…sort of.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war
The M41-A Nerf Blaster is a faithful replica of the M41A pulse rifle (Hasbro)

To celebrate the movie’s 35th anniversary, Hasbro announced that the classic pulse rifle will be released as a Nerf gun. While some may have preferred to have a water gun like the Noveske Water Hog, it would have made the digital ammo counter much more difficult to include. That’s right, the digital ammo counter is functional.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war
Watch your ammo count on full-auto (Hasbro)

Officially named the NERF LMTD ALIENS M41-A Blaster, this foam dart shooter is powered by four 1.5v C alkaline batteries and is fully automatic. Just hold down the trigger to unleash all 10 rounds from the flush-fit single stack magazine; the ammo counter will keep track for you. For those wanting a more faithful movie replica, the counter can be set to 99 (or the recommended 95 to prevent jamming) instead. The under-barrel launcher is also functional and can fire Nerf Mega darts. Each trigger pull of the M41-A is accompanied by a movie-accurate blasting sound effect too.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war
If only M4s from the armory came in such nice packaging (Hasbro)

At 28 inches long, the Nerf replica is a faithful recreation of the original movie M41A. “With meticulous attention to detail, our designer captures the look and feel of one of the most memorable scenes in ALIEN franchise history,” Hasbro said. To keep its appearance as a toy, the Nerf blaster’s color scheme is borrowed from the Aliens Power Loader. Even the packaging bears great attention to detail including “embossing, dull and gloss finishing and movie-accurate details.”

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war
A Marine defends his position with a Nerf gun before he is overrun by school children at NAS Sigonella (Colorized) (USMC)

At $94.99, the M41-A isn’t a cheap way to get into your barracks Nerf war. Even then, Hasbro’s approximate shipping date is October 2022. But, for die-hard fans of the Aliens franchise, the NERF LMTD ALIENS M41-A Blaster is a must-have. Just make sure to lean into it.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war
(Hasbro)
MIGHTY CULTURE

The word ‘deadline’ has a horrible origin in Civil War prisons

Have you got a project due that you should be working on? A paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a briefing to the commander? If so, you are probably on a deadline. But missing a deadline in our modern world is typically just a problem of professional conduct, or maybe they’ll be some sort of financial penalty. But for Civil War prisoners, it was a matter of life and death.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Anderson prisoner of war tents run right up to the deadline demarked by the low fencing. Prisoners who crossed this line could be shot by prison guards.

(Library of Congress)

That’s because the original deadlines existed in Civil War prisons, most famously at Camp Sumter, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Most Civil War prisons weren’t like Alcatraz Island, where prison cells and buildings were used to keep prisoners confined. Instead, officers would build rough wooden fences 10-20 feet high to contain the prisoners.

But, of course, a healthy man can typically climb a 10-foot fence. And, working as teams, troops could fairly easily clamber over 20-foot fences as well. So prison commanders built positions for sentries to watch the prisoner population, and the sentries typically had orders to kill any man attempting to escape.

Well, to ensure that the sentry would have time to shoot a man or raise the alarm before the prisoner got away, the camps put in something called a “deadline.” This was a line, usually literally made on the ground with fencing or some type of marking, that prisoners would be killed for crossing.

In the case of Andersonville, the line was marked with low fencing and sat up to 19 feet from the tall wooden walls of the prison. If a prisoner even reached over this wall, guards were allowed to shoot him. And the guards were well positioned to do so. The prison incorporated “pigeon roosts” every 90 feet along the wall. These were guard posts that sat above the wall and gave the guards great lines of sight to fire onto the deadline.

If the prisoners ever attempted to rush the line en masse, the guards could drop back to a series of small artillery positions around the fort and blow the Union prisoners apart. These artillery positions also served to protect the prison from outside attack.

The bulk of the nation found out about this deadline in the trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, the commander of Fort Sumter. Because of overcrowding and a massive shortage of supplies at Andersonville and Fort Sumter, Union prisoner deaths there numbered approximately 13,000, and an angry Union public wanted justice.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

A reconstruction of the wall at Fort Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. The low fencing near the wall was the dead line.

(Bubba73 CC BY-SA 3.0)

During the prosecution of Wirz, the deadline around the camp was described and reported across the nation, and it helped to seal Wirz fate even though the practice occurred in other places. Wirz was sentenced to death and executed on October 31, 1865.

It was in the 1920s that the word morphed into its current usage, becoming “deadline” and describing a looming time or date by which something must be completed.

So, yeah, deadlines in the Civil War meant a lot more than they do today. The term has been watered down to mean something completely different.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Gold Star Wife finds new hope in her battle for her husband’s legacy

Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.

On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.

While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.

It was rejected by the military.

Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.

Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.

Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.

“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.

“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.

Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.

When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.

This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.

Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.

Which way it goes remains to be seen.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information