MSG Williams (Left) and SSG Ron Shurer (Right) with an Afghan Commando.
We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.
On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.
MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan
(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)
Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.
MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)
As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.
Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer
Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment — is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22, 2019.
Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of Red Flag-Alaska. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JB Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base.
In addition to the U.S., airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JB Elmendorf-Richardson during the exercise to engage with airmen and leaders of all participating countries.
“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Ra Young-Chang, chief master sergeant of the South Korean Air Force, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior enlisted leaders are briefed before an F-22 Raptor jet engine test cell function check at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Valdes)
“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”
Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand gathered in the same location.
“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota, Japan Air Self-Defense Force senior enlisted advisor.
This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, 2019, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.
“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at (JB Elmendorf-Richardson),” Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”
An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot from the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, performs pre-flight checks at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 25th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation’s’ air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
All Red Flag-Alaska exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska. The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.
Red Flag-Alaska exercises, which provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments, date back to 1975, when the exercise was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.
Red Flag-Alaska executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. Red Flag-Alaska has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combined warfighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, taxis at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 13th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation”s air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
Wright offered a message to RF-A global airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.
“Come here, work hard, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”
Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in Red Flag-Alaska.
“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”
Valentine’s Day has quickly become one of the most commercialized holidays. It doesn’t help that we are inundated with red and pink chintzy gifts in stores as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 am on December 26th of each year. All that aside, there is something to be said for taking a day to recognize and celebrate your significant other.
When you add in the complicated military lifestyle to your love affair, how you express that love is also complicated. In fact, it’s immediately elevated from chocolates and flowers (although nice!) to ‘I need a gift that is actually going to help me out here.’
So what are the Valentine’s Day gifts that can easily impress your military spouse? We’ve got 14 for you!
1. The ability to plan an actual vacation without hesitation
Can you imagine a life where you decide you want to take a vacation, and you just…book it? It seems far fetched, but it could actually happen! And even if you aren’t close to transitioning out of the military, perhaps you can dream about it together over dinner.
2. Orders to the place they really want to be stationed
This may be at the top of every military spouse’s list. There are many variables to living this lifestyle, but actually getting stationed at your dream duty station? That’s THE Ultimate Valentine’s Gift, for sure.
When you do get the luxury of taking leave, many military families often feel torn between going to a bucket-list destination or going home to visit. We won’t even get started on the associated guilt that happens when you do choose to travel instead of visiting family. But guess what can help alleviate some of that guilt? Yep, by having family visit you for once. Planes, trains, and automobiles work both ways!
4. Retire the whole ‘dependa’ thing
Can we just not? While I’m happy to see the recent movement to make the word something more positive, it is still cringeworthy. We’ve been at war for 18 years. No one has time for online bullying— or at least we shouldn’t.
5. A smooth PCS move
Does it exist? Who knows! But, can you imagine being able to buy nice furniture with reckless abandon? Or a home that’s actually ready when you need it to be. Other necessities like childcare, and schools, doctors, and dentists and— well, you get what we’re saying. If it were easy for once.
6. A deployment where nothing breaks- no appliances, cars, etc
What if Cupid could call his friend Murphy Law and tell him to steer clear of your home during a deployment? We’d take that for Valentine’s Day. Or any day, honestly.
7. A wellness day – spa, range, whatever your spouse actually likes
No matter if you’re a spouse that stays home, works remotely, or outside of the home— it’s all difficult. So we’re always up for taking a ‘mental health day’ and just enjoying the things that relax you and make you happy. It could be a spa day or a day at the gun range. As long as it floats your boat, it’s a wellness day.
8. A friend reunion – gather up all their friends in one space
If you’ve been in the military community for any length of time, you know there is always someone that you miss. Whether it’s family, a friend from your last duty station, or your college roommate. Ever wonder what it would be like to have all the people you love in one room? Perhaps this isn’t limited to military spouses. Still, we’re willing to bet milspouses have a wide array of people around the world that they miss immensely.
9. Just some peace and quiet
For real. We’ll take a few hours of quiet; however we can get it. Have a weekend at your favorite hotel? Cool. Have someone take the kids out for half a day while you sit on your couch and listen to nothingness? Completely get it.
10. Some help
Or all of it. Cooking. Cleaning. Planning. Adjusting. We’ll take any help that you offer. Please, and thank you.
You know what would be really pleasant? A job. One where we’re not discriminated against as soon as the employer takes note of our military affiliation. Milspouses are chronically underemployed and unemployed, simply because there’s a possibility a military family will move. While that may be true, civilians move on and leave jobs, too. However, military spouses are also one of the most educated demographics. A great military spouse employee for three years can better position your organization than three years of just a “meh” employee who’ll never leave.
12. Stop it with the stereotypes
We don’t know a milspouse who could do without ever hearing, “but you knew what you signed up for,” and other unoriginal— yet oft-repeated —stereotypes.
13. Our own battle buddy
Making friends as an adult is hard. Add military life to the equation, and it gets harder to create a friendship that goes beyond just the surface. Honestly, that’s what we need, though. Someone who is there, boots on the ground, and can listen, step in to help. And of course, you get to be that person for them, as well.
14. Chocolates and flowers are okay, I guess
Last but not least— the chocolates and flowers aren’t the worst Valentine’s gifts, especially if they’re your thing. There’s a particular type of appreciation for someone to take a moment to express their love and gratitude for you. If chocolates and flowers can do that for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
What is your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day present? Here’s to your Valentine’s Day being exactly what you need it to be, whether that’s flowers or a new housecleaner.
If you’re a fan of Watchmen and you’re worried about the upcoming series from HBO, rest assured: it is in the hands of a true fan as well.
Set in the same alternate history as the graphic novel, Damon Lindelof’s (Lost, Star Trek) series will take place in the modern day where superheroes are mistrusted and the vigilante Rorschach appears to have made quite the impact.
The teaser runs against the ‘tick tock’ of a timeline we can’t yet understand, but it sets a gritty and intense tone:
In anticipation of fan’s reactions (and also to address the reactions of original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Lindelof penned a lengthy (and amazing — seriously, read the whole thing) missive, which he shared on Instagram in 2018:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjFsj6JHEdq/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Damon on Instagram: “Day 140.”
“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed.”
Lindelof goes on to assert that “Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.” (By the way, the omission of an Oxford Comma here is just as Mr. Lindelof wrote in his letter, which I will discuss with him when I get the chance.)
That being said, he goes on to say that neither is this series a sequel. It will take place in the world the creators built, but it will be entirely its own — including a contemporary (albeit alternate) time period.
Rorschach isn’t the only character hinted at in the teaser. The ticking time clock itself harkens to Dr. Manhattan (whose father was a watchmaker) and the Doomsday Clocks that appear in the original graphic novels, counting down to catastrophe.
As for the rest, well, most of them are Oklahoma cops, who also wear masks.
The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, and Adelaide Clemens. Produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC. It is set to debut on HBO in the fall of 2019.
In 1992, Jim Valvano – a former basketball player, coach of the 1983 champion North Carolina State men’s basketball team, and broadcasting personality – was diagnosed with metastatic cancer that had spread to his spine.
Up until this point, the charismatic Queens, N.Y.-native was best known for his celebration after defeating the Houston Cougars in the 1983 NCAA championship game. You can see “Jimmy V” running onto the court about 9 seconds into the video below:
“Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people, too.”
It was just a decade later that his life was tragically cut short. But before he went, even knowing the end could be near, he was able to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards. It was a speech that echoed for years to come and remains one of the most memorable.
Those are words appropriate for fighting cancer, being the underdog in the country’s biggest basketball tournament, or even fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in arms, far from your family and loved ones.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day… Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy… think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
But about a week or so before, Jimmy V gave a speech commemorating the Wolfpack’s 1983 NCAA championship to the team, current players, and Wolfpack fans. That speech was one for the ages. It will keep you shouting the mantra of, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!” during any rough time in your life.
Jim Valvano died from the cancer he was determined to fight just a month or so after his legendary ESPY Awards speech. His name and spirit live on through the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump’s CIA, and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February 2018.
Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.
“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” said Pompeo. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”
The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.
The February 2018 battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)
The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.
Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. “We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up,” one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.
France 24 published an interview in February 2018, with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.
SEAL Team 6, officially known as United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and Delta Force, officially known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), are the most highly trained elite forces in the U.S. military.
Both are Special Missions Units (SMU) under the control of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), they perform various clandestine and highly classified missions around the world. Each unit can equally perform various types of operations but their primary mission is counter-terrorism.
So what’s the difference between the two? Delta Force recently took out ISIS bad guy Abu Sayyaf in Syria; DevGru took out al Qaeda bad guy Osama Bin Laden a few years ago. Same-same, right?
WATM spoke with former DEVGRU operator Craig Sawyer as well as a former Delta operator who asked to remain anonymous to uncover 5 key differences between the two elite forces.
Delta Force is an Army outfit that primarily selects candidates from within their own special forces and infantry units. However, they will also select candidates from all branches of service, including the National Guard and Coast Guard.
SEAL Team 6 selects candidates exclusively from the Navy’s SEAL team community. If a candidate does not pass the grueling selection process they will still remain part of the elite SEAL teams.
“It’s a matter of can candidates quickly process what they are taught and keep up,” Sawyer says.
Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high value target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training DEVGRU operators have in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.
“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” according to our Delta operator source.
Delta Force operators can be vastly diversified in their training background since they can come from various units across different military branches (including DEVGRU). Delta operators will even be awarded medals of their respective branch of service while serving with the Army unit.
“No matter what your background is, everyone starts from zero so that everyone is on the same page,” says our former Delta operator.
DEVGRU operators come from the SEAL community, and while the training is intensified and more competitive, they all retain their roots in familiar SEAL training and culture.
“Candidates have proven themselves within the SEAL teams,” Sawyer says. “It’s a matter of learning new equipment, tactics, and rules of engagement.”
Generally speaking, both units are equally capable of executing all specialized missions that JSOC is tasked with. Again, because of DEVGRU’s extensive training for specialized maritime operations, they are more likely to receive missions like the rescue of Captain Phillips at sea. Delta’s known and successful missions include finding Saddam Hussein and tracking down Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
“These are two groups of the most elite operators the military can provide,” says Sawyer.
5. Media exposure
Members of both units are known as “quiet professionals” and are notorious for being massively secretive. Unfortunately, with today’s social media, 24-hour news coverage and leaks within the government, it can be difficult to keep out of the media no matter what steps are taken to ensure secrecy. While both units carry out high profile missions, SEAL Team 6 has gained much more notoriety and (largely unwanted) exposure in the media in recent years thanks to government leaks and Hollywood blockbuster films such as Zero Dark Thirty (photo above).
“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism. If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted,” says our former Delta operator.
Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.
According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.
According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.
The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.
In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.
Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.
At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.
It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!
If there’s one thing that ruins anything targeted toward the military, it’s messing up the uniform. It may seem like a small detail to people who were never in the military, but that’s kinda the whole f*cking point – details. Everything starts with paying attention to details. This is how veterans know who served and who’s out there just getting a half-price dinner at Chili’s.
So look, if you’re targeting the military-veteran community for anything, be it a new TV show or movie, a 3M lawsuit, or a reverse mortgage or whatever, we know immediately how much effort you’re putting into caring about actual veterans. Some of these are so bad, they popped my collar.
Nothing says “AMERICA” like a death grip on the flag.
You can tell he’s really in the Army because he wears two Army tapes instead of his name. Promote ahead of peers.
Do not leave unsupervised.
Stop laughing you insensitive bastards.
That’s my reaction too.
That hat tho.
Call the cops.
Is that his family in the background or just some family? As for this poorly positioned hat, that is not what is meant by “cover.”
No hat, no salute zone, bruh.
Most bedrooms are.
You had two chances.
They had two different opportunities to use camo and they couldn’t come up with even one the U.S. actually uses.
Made you look.
… At my shirtless chest.
This is real.
Lieutenant Congdon is clearly a Hulkamaniac.
Nothing say ARMY like a boonie hat.
Especially when ARMY is emblazoned across the front of it.
Maybe not use a 12-year-old model.
Is he 12 or 60? I can’t tell. Nice boots.
Time for PT?
Clearly, the answer is no.
I never took off my uniform, either.
“Just hanging out in my ACUs in my living room with my family, as all military members do.”
Stealing valor for a lifetime.
Why do stolen valor veterans always want to add an extra American flag patch?
Just use any medals, no one will notice.
That 50-year-old is wearing a 20-year-old winter uniform and i’m pretty sure Boris on the end there is sporting American, Soviet, and Russian medals.
Mommy’s a liar, Billy.
Where would you even get BDUs with an arm sleeve pocket?? Mommy’s been lying for a long ass time.
The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.
“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”
Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.
Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.
Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.
But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.
On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.
The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.
Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”
“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.
But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.
On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”
On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Seventy-five years ago, on July 17, 1943, one Army Air Corps pilot dared another to fly his plane into the eye of a hurricane, and a new method of predicting storms and getting adrenaline highs was born.
Army Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph P. Duckworth flew an T-6 trainer aircraft into the eye of a hurricane headed to the Texas coast on a dare just to prove it could be done.
“The only embarrassing episode would have been engine failure, which, with the strong ground winds, would probably have prevented a landing, and certainly would have made descent via parachute highly inconvenient.”
But the dare proved fruitful, and Duckworth went back up with a weather officer. Studying the hurricane allowed the meteorologists to not only better predict that storm, but to start building a better understanding of how hurricanes form and move.
Air Force 1st Lt. Tina Young examines data gathered while flying into the eye of Hurricane Ophelia on Sept. 14. Young is an aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Eaton)
This preceded a massive expansion of the Army’s weather reconnaissance squadrons, with new squadrons being stood up throughout the late 1940s and the ’50s with names like “Hurricane Hunters” and “Typhoon Chasers.” The introduction of satellites eventually made many of the formations unnecessary, leading to them being inactivated or re-missioned, but one unit remains in service.
Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.
During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.
Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.
“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
Chester Nez during World War II
Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.
Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.
A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign
In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.
Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.
The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms wereassigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.
In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).
Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001
All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”
The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”
In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)
After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.
Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.
Here’s a short list of items on Roland Emmerich’s bookshelf: a bronze Chewbacca bust; props from Godzilla and Stargate; and copies of Frank Hebert’s Dune, Lewis Alsamari’s Out of Iraq, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn.
I was invited to his sophisticated (and exceptionally nerdy) office space to talk about the director’s latest film, Midway, which chronicles the Pacific Theater during World War II beginning with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway — the pivotal turning point for Allied forces.
What followed was a conversation with a man who knows more about WW2 naval and aerial warfare than most and used his passion to create a film that honors the heroes in the Pacific.
Midway begins with the Japanese attacks against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, continues to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese mainland in April 1942, the Battle of Coral Sea the next month, and finally the decisive Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.
Emmerich became fascinated with the (insane) dive bombing tactics conducted by Allied pilots in the Pacific Theater and knew how important it was to convey the challenges the pilots faced. After studying WW2 footage, he knew he had to get those attacks right on film.
“It could not look like visual effects. That was the biggest challenge — but of course it couldn’t be practical,” Emmerich shared, the implication obvious: it isn’t exactly easy to blow up a bunch of WW2 battleships or aircraft carriers. His standards were high: any shots that didn’t work for him were cut.
A group photo of the American dive bomber pilots of VB-6 from Enterprise, three of whom fatally damaged Akagi. Best is sitting in the center of the front row. The other two who attacked Akagi with Best were Edwin J. Kroeger (standing, eighth from the left) and Frederick T. Weber (standing, sixth from the right).
In his Director’s Commentary, Emmerich points out moments where he had to walk the fine line between accuracy and entertainment. Richard “Dick” Best was the dive bomber pilot who was able to sink the Akagi aircraft carrier against terrible odds and at great danger to himself.
“We had problems depicting the dive bombing. We tried to shoot it practically but we struggled because the pilot wasn’t diving steep enough. I asked if he could go steeper and he said if he dove any steeper then he could die,” which Emmerich acknowledged was a fair point. “And then you realize…oh my god, these [World War II pilots] were daredevils! Nobody flies like those guys anymore.”
I am so honored to share with you all that Midway is now on Digital. Be sure to grab yourself a copy today!pic.twitter.com/ysCvON4ZEK
“We didn’t want to just show the Japanese as the bad guys. The men fighting the war weren’t responsible for the decision to start the war,” Emmerich said. His uncle was a German pilot in the European Theater, so he knows all too well the wounds carried over on both sides of World War II. It was important that he depict the humanity and honor of the men who lost their lives in the conflict.
I couldn’t tear myself away from his audio commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray package: his World War II knowledge, his artistic choices, and his respect for the military community were so clear.
Though known for his doomsday themes (think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and even Independence Day), Emmerich considers himself an optimist. His films, though huge in scope and destruction, concentrate on people — the heroes who endure, the lone voices that cry out against ignorance, the people who fight to protect each other.
4K UHD / BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
“Getting It Right: The Making ofMidway” Featurette
“The Men of Midway” Featurette
“Roland Emmerich: Manon a Mission” Featurette
“Turning Point: The Legacy ofMidway” Featurette
“Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
“We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
Midway is available now on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray, and DVD from Lionsgate.