What it's like to be undercover with the Hells Angels - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.

Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”


Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.

“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”

For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.

In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.

Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”

Jay Dobyns-Killing a Mongol

www.youtube.com

As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.

It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.

“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”

The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”

Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.

Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.

Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”

Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.

The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.

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

Articles

This is why ACUs have buttons on their pants and a zipper on the blouse

The U.S. military’s uniform history is one of tradition and tactical purpose. Many tiny details on our uniforms date back centuries. The different colors in the Army’s dress blues are a call back to the days when soldiers on horseback would take off their jacket to ride, causing their pants to wear out at a different pace. The stars on the patch of the U.S. flag are wore facing forward as if we’re carrying the flag into battle.


What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Something that always stuck out was why the ACUs have the button and zipper locations opposite of civilian attire. All Army issued uniforms had buttons until the M1941 Field Jacket added a zipper with storm buttons on the front. Shortly after, many other parts of the uniform including pockets, trousers and even boots would start using zippers as a way to keep them fastened. The zippers, like many things in the military, were made by the lowest bidders until the introduction of the Army Combat Uniform or ACUs in ’04.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

The zipper on the ACU blouse is heavy duty and far more durable than zippers on a pair of blue jeans. The zipper is useful on the blouse for ease of access but it also has a tactical reason for its use. A zipper allows medical personnel to undo the top far easier than searching for a pair of scissors or undoing all of the buttons. The hook-and-loop fasteners (Velcro) is to help give it a smooth appearance.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Even OCP still kept the buttons, but added the sh*tty velcro back to the cargo pocket (Photo via wikicommons)

Buttons on the trousers serve a completely different purpose. The buttons keep them sealed better than a zipper. Think of how many times you’ve seen people’s zipper down and you’ll get one of the reasons why they decided to avoid that. Buttons are also far easier to replace than an entire zipper and a lot quieter when you need to handle your business.

Dress uniforms take the traditional route to mirror a business suit. The Army Aircrew Combat Uniform is on it’s OFP.

Military Life

This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States

Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.

One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.


It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.

This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).

Related: These are the real brothers that inspired ‘Saving Private Ryan’

There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:

1. Who

Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).

The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.

A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.

2. When

Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

3. Where

Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.

Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.

4. What

Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”

The Air Force delivers a notification letter with details (included with discretion), and the Marine Corps reminds its notification officers that the next of kin may need information repeated.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.

Also read: This vet can tell you the names of 2,300 fallen heroes — by memory

The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.

5. Why

In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”

Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).

But it’s a much more sacred and human duty than that. In many ways, caring for those left behind is the truest way to honor the memory of a fallen hero.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the Marine exercise in Syria to deter Russian attacks

Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.


What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.

Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.

“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.

Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.

Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.

The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.

The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.

The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.

Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds

Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.

During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is suspicious of a huge multinational naval force near Guam

US, Japanese, and Indian warships converged in Guam for the 22nd iteration of Exercise Malabar, an annual exercise focused on developing coordination and training to counter maritime threats.

2018’s version of the exercise, which is the first to take place around Guam, runs from June 7 to June 16, 2018, but as the ships involved gathered beforehand, the Chinese navy was keeping an eye on the proceedings.


Indian ships sailing to Guam were shadowed by Chinese warships in the South China Sea, breaking off only when the Indian ships entered the Philippine Sea.

“We had good, polite conversation. They were there for some time, and then broke off,” Rear Adm. Dinesh K. Tripathi, commander of India’s Eastern Fleet and head of India’s delegation to Malabar 2018, told The Economic Times. “The moment we entered the Pacific across the Philippines Sea, they went back. It was interesting.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Ships of the United States, India, Japan,u00a0Australia, and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephen W. Rowe)

Surveillance by Chinese ships, which Tripathi said was “not surprising,” comes a few weeks after Indian warships spotted a Chinese ship “tailing them at a safe distance” as they left Vietnam, following the first joint exercise between those two countries.

“We knew we were being tailed, but we were on international waters or global commons, and therefore took evasive measures,” sources told India Today of the incident.

That exercise, which ran from May 21 to May 25, 2018, attracted Chinese ire, with a Global Times op-ed calling it “a futile attempt to flex muscle.”

‘Distance actually does not matter’

Malabar started in 1992 as a US-India bilateral exercise. It has been done annually since then — with the exception of 1998 through 2002, after India’s 1998 nuclear tests — expanding to a trilateral exercise with Japan’s addition in 2015.

Other countries have participated in the past, though Indian has declined Australia’s request to take part for the past two years. (Observers suspect Chinese pressure is behind Canberra’s exclusion.)

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
US, Japanese, and Indian personnel aboard Japan’s Hyuga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise during Malabar 2018, June 7, 2018.
(Indian Navy / Twitter)

Malabar 2018 consists of on-shore and at-sea portions. The former ran from June 7 to June 10, 2018, involving expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance operations as well as on surface and anti-submarine warfare. The latter portion lasts from June 11 to June 16, 2018, in the Philippine Sea, and will include military-to-military coordination, air-defense and surface-warfare exercises, and replenishment while underway.

The US Navy has sent the USS Ronald Reagan, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

India’s participants include stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and the first-in-class antisubmarine-warfare corvette INS Kamorta, which was trailed by a Chinese ship while leaving Vietnam May 2018. India’s fleet tanker INS Shakti and a P-8I Neptune, the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, are also taking part.

Japan sent its Hyunga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise as well as two destroyers, JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki.

As in years past, Malabar 2018 includes a focus on submarine and antisubmarine warfare, a capability that has grown in importance as Chinese submarine activity has increased in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
US Navy Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, watches the end of Exercise Malabar 2017 from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, in the Bay of Bengal, July 17, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)

A number of countries in the region have been investing more in their submarine forces — India in particular is seeking to add submarines and Neptune maritime-patrol aircraft.

2018’s version of the exercise is also the first since the US Defense Department renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command— a shift that has been interpreted as both a rhetorical swipe at China and an adjustment to the growing interconnectedness of the Pacific and Indian ocean regions.

Chinese spy ships have been spotted lurking near US naval exercises with partners in the region in the past, and such activity is expected again during Malabar 2018.

For India, basing the exercise in Guam reflects the country’s willingness and ability to project power.

“Distance actually does not matter. Wherever Indian maritime interests are, that is our area of operation,” Tripathi told The Economic Times. “Wherever national interest takes us, we will deploy if needed.”

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

Articles

What it was like in the room when Germany finally surrendered to end WWII in Europe

In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.


When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.

When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.

The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.

All of them were uncertain what would come next.

Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:

“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”

The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.

Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.

“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:

“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”

The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
An aerial (oblique) photograph taken from a De Havilland Mosquito of the RAF Film and Photographic Unit showing badly damaged buildings in the area between Friedrich Hain and Lichtenberg, Berlin. | Royal Air Force

Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.

Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.

Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.

The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Taste the favorite drink of the most legendary American mercenary airman

Dean Ivan Lamb was many things in his life, but first and foremost, he was an accomplished aviator. Having (more or less) dueled one of his best friends in the world’s first-ever dogfight during the Mexican Revolution, he went on to serve in many more air forces in his time behind the stick.

But his most lasting contribution to the world has a little more kick – the Pisco Sour.


What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Dogfighting in these would make anyone thirsty.

Lamb had been flying almost as long as men had invented heavier-than-air flying machines, attending an aviation school in 1912, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Before he even graduated, he made his way down to Mexico as an airman for hire, coming into the employ of Mexican General Benjamin G. Hill. He was ordered to take down the opposing pilot, another American mercenary airman named Phil Rader. This was the first-ever dogfight between planes, but the men didn’t really try too hard to kill each other, eventually both made their ways back home. But Lamb continued the aviator-for-hire business, making his way to England in time for World War I.

In the Great War, Lamb allegedly performed wonders for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, becoming an ace before the war’s end. After the war, he started running letters for the post office by airmail. But postwar life was a little boring for Lamb, as it can be for many veterans, so he went down south. Way down south. To South America.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Dean Lamb traveled around the continent, helping establish the Air Force of Honduras and flying missions in conflicts in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in his time there. From Panama to Bolivia, the southern hemisphere knew the name of Dean Ivan Lamb. But his most enduring accomplishment has nothing to do with war or death, unless you have too much. Lamb, it turns out, was an avid drinker.

The pilot enjoyed good ol’ American whiskey and fine French champagne when it was available in mass quantities. He loved rum and cokes at a time when Coke was something entirely new, and he always sampled the local liquors. Ten-year-old tequila was his favorite in Mexico, in Brazil it was cachaça, and in Lima, he drank Pisco. He may not have created the Pisco Sour, but he certainly helped it find an audience in the United States.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Which should include everyone.

When the skies were too overcast to take to the air, Lamb would take to the bar. The bar serving the strongest Pisco Sours in Peru, the honor of which belonged to a place called Morris’ Bar in the Hotel Maury, according to Lamb’s autobiography, The Incurable Filibuster: Adventures of Col. Dean Ivan Lamb. The cocktails at the Hotel Maury – especially the Pisco Sour, where the drink was first created – were allegedly so strong the bartenders weren’t allowed to pour more than one for anybody. When Lamb argued his way to another round, he got so belligerent he had to leave Peru the next day.

I have hazy recollections of an argument about another one, something of a fight in a Chinese restaurant, police, soldiers, more battles and crowds of people waking in the hotel with a guard of soldiers holding off people with bills for damages,” he wrote.

And with that, Lamb was on his way back to the United States, fueled by a drink that can only get you kicked out of the Peruvian Air Force.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Top Gun’ trailer thrills even seasoned fighter pilots

On July 18, 2019, after a 33-year wait, the trailer for ” Top Gun: Maverick” finally debuted. While Tom Cruise’s Maverick may have aged, TOPGUN recruits are still singing in bars, playing beach volleyball, and performing exhilarating feats in F/A-18 Super Hornets. While the original “Top Gun” was a glamorized, Hollywood version of the real TOPGUN naval aviation training, there are many parts of the original film — and the new trailer — that ring true.

“As an institution, we don’t focus on the Hollywood glamour of the job,” Guy Snodgrass, a former TOPGUN instructor and the author of the forthcoming book “Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” told INSIDER via email. “That being said, there’s an undeniable truth that when the first movie came out, in the mid-1980s, it fueled a lot of interest, both in TOPGUN and in naval aviation as a whole.”


Snodgrass said he was 10 when he saw the original, and it fueled his desire to become a naval aviator. During his days as a fighter pilot and TOPGUN instructor, Snodgrass performed all the maneuvers new trailer shows, and then some.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

The “Top Gun: Maverick” trailer shows an F/A-18 pilot perform a high-g nose maneuver.

(Paramount Pictures)

In the trailer, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell performs a feat called a high-G high nose maneuver that’s usually executed to avoid shrapnel from bombs in a war zone. Snodgrass told INSIDER he could still remember what it feels like to do it, too.

“It’s easy to lose the sense of speed when flying at high altitude, as in an airliner, but when you’re flying at more than 600 miles per hour, 200 feet off the ground, the speed rush is exhilarating.”

“When the first movie came out, Paramount Pictures made it a priority to work with the TOPGUN staff to bring as much realism into this project as they could, whether it’s the radio calls, or maneuvering the aircraft. It’s reassuring to know that they’re taking the exact same approach with this movie,” he told INSIDER.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Tom Cruise’s Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is confronted by an admiral.

(Paramount Pictures)

Besides the thrill of breaking sound barriers, the original film, and the new trailer, do a great job of capturing “the swagger of naval aviation,” Snodgrass said. In the trailer, an admiral played by Ed Harris asks Maverick why, after all his accomplishments as an aviator, he hasn’t advanced beyond the rank of captain. “You should be at least a two-star admiral by now. Yet here you are…captain. Why is that?” Harris’ character asks.

“It’s one of life’s mysteries, sir,” Maverick replies immediately.

Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

“It’s a great moment that captures the focus of naval aviators — of how mission and a great job is more important than rank,” Snodgrass said.

While the trailer makes it seem as though Maverick’s rank is something unusual or shameful, it’s not that out of the ordinary, retired Adm. William Gortney told INSIDER.

“Retiring as a captain, that’s a pretty honorable rank, as far as I’m concerned.”

Snodgrass agreed, citing the example of Col. John Boyd, a brilliant Air Force aviator and a military strategist who helped develop the F-16 and changed aerial combat as we know it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Every few months, several North Carolina counties host a unique special-operations event.

Robin Sage is a four-week exercise that all Special Forces candidates must pass before they graduate and don the coveted Green Beret.

Named after Col. Jerry Michael Sage, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative who was captured by the Nazis and attempted to escape more than 12 times before succeeding, Robin Sage is the culminating exercise of the Special Forces pipeline.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Special Forces candidates listen to a briefing during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

It takes place in the fictional country of Pineland, which spans about 50,000 square miles in the woods of North Carolina.

The Army’s Special Forces, known as Green Berets, mainly specialize in training and supporting foreign forces, counterterrorism, and reconnaissance, as well as carrying out its own small-scale raids and ambushes.

Green Berets operate in 12-man detachments and work with and through partner forces. They receive extensive cultural and linguistic training that enables them to operate anywhere in the world.

But it is during Robin Sage that they get their first real taste of what Special Forces does.

The road to Robin Sage

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A Special Forces candidate leads mules to a staging area to be loaded with rucksacks for a long-distance movement during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, June 7, 2020. 

To make it to Robin Sage, prospective Green Berets must first pass the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), a 21-day course that pushes candidates to their physical and mental limits.

Those who successfully complete SFAS move on to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), or Q Course.

There have been almost 30 different versions of Q Course during its nearly 60-year history. Until recently, it was close to two years long. However, the course was revamped in 2019 and now lasts about six months. It is broken into four major phases: Small Unit Tactics, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), Military Occupational Specialty training, and Robin Sage.

After several months of training, students come together for Robin Sage and work as a team using the different skills they have learned.

Free Pineland!

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Special Forces candidates School meet with role players acting as village leaders during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

In the fictional scenario of Robin Sage, Special Forces candidates must help a guerrilla force, which is usually led by retired Green Berets, overthrow the illegitimate government of Pineland.

“Today, we read a lot about proxy warfare, and that is what Robin Sage is in a nutshell,” Steve Balestrieri, a retired Special Forces warrant officer who also served as an instructor for the course, told Insider.

“The Special Forces candidates have to meet up with and make rapport with a third-world nation guerrilla force, train them up, and then work by, with, and through that guerrilla force to conduct combat operations against a numerically superior enemy occupying force,” Balestrieri said.

During Robin Sage, students are tested on what they have learned in Q Course. They teach their partner force small-unit tactics, provide medical care, build outposts, and establish communications with headquarters.

They also conduct reconnaissance, raids, ambushes, and numerous other missions and are tested on other challenges they might encounter on the battlefield.

For example, teams are often presented with war-crime scenarios, where their partner force wants to “execute” a prisoner or “destroy” a village. It falls on the team to successfully negotiate those delicate situations without losing the support of their allies or violating the laws of war.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Special Forces candidates move a simulated casualty during the evaluation and final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 11, 2019. 

It’s the ever-important human element that makes Robin Sage special. The social interactions between the team and the “guerrillas” might mean mission success or failure on the battlefield.

“Our Robin Sage [infiltration] was supposed to be brutal, our rucks weighing more than 100 pounds each,” John Black, a retired Green Beret, told Insider.

“We had packed everything in preparation for more than two weeks in the field with no resupply. Two Blackhawk choppers dropped us off behind enemy lines where we were to meet our partner force in the middle of the night,” Black said. “We walked and walked with this guy for hours in what seemed like a circle — he was lost. The captain asked to help him navigate with the map. Turned out we had been circling the camp for hours and the solution was simple — ask if he needed help.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of Robin Sage is the hands-on lesson it provides to future operators about the main mission of Special Forces, which is unconventional warfare — activities that help a resistance movement or insurgent force take on a bigger power.

“As a Green Beret, I feel Robin Sage is imperative and really gets you to think about the real mission of Special Forces, to work with and through a partner force,” Black added. “Very little of what a Green Beret does is kicking in doors and getting bad guys. Robin Sage definitely helped prepare me for life as an operator on a team.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
A Special Forces candidate crosses a water obstacle during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

“What makes Robin Special is how well and smoothly it’s run from the time the student teams go into isolation until they [infiltrate] and are actively engaged with the G-Force,” Balestrieri said, referring to the guerrilla force.

“It rams home how important is, when operating in a guerrilla warfare/unconventional warfare environment, to at least have the nominal support of the population,” Balestrieri added.

Robin Sage is so realistic that a few years ago, a student was killed and another wounded by a police officer who wasn’t aware of the event and thought that they were robbers. Since then, before every Robin Sage begins, local communities are thoroughly notified.

The exercise and its lessons largely are what differentiate Green Berets from other US special-operations units.

“Robin Sage is tremendously important in the career of every Special Forces soldier, because it takes everything that you’ve been taught thus far in the SFQC and gears it toward SF’s true mission, which is unconventional warfare,” Balestrieri said.

As the US prepares for a renewed era of great-power competition with China and Russia, and as irregular warfare becomes increasingly important, Robin Sage is more relevant than ever.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

One of the less-exciting participants in Saber Strike 2018 is actually one of the most important strategic elements of the United States: the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Recently, the ships in this force helped conduct multi-national training exercises in Eastern Europe.

The ships that make up this force might not look like much. They’re devoid of firepower and they’re slow (at least when compared to littoral combat ships or destroyers). They rarely deploy from their bases and they’re certainly not winning any beauty pageants any time soon. And yet, these are some of the most vital ships when it comes to giving America a strategic position in conflict.

That’s because these ships facilitate the rapid deployment of troops.


What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

USNS William B. Baugh (T-AK 3001) in 2008, the lead ship of the first class of maritime prepositioning ships purchased in the 1980s.

(Photo by Jack Workman)

The whole idea came about in the 1970s. The United States had just seen the Ayatollah Khomeni take over Iran — and needed to rapidly respond to the crisis. The British had a small territory in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. It wasn’t an ideal launching point, but it had to do. So, the United States set up a squadron of these ships, loaded up with gear for a rapidly-deployable force, in response.

In the 1980s, this concept was expanded to include three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons. One was stationed at Diego Garcia, another in the Mediterranean Sea, and a third in the Marianas. Each could support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for 30 days. That would buy time enough for heavier forces to arrive — or for the bad guys to reconsider their position.

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A HMMWV offloads from a maritime prepositioning ship during Saber Strike 2018. These ships carry gear and supplies to support Marine units.

(DOD photo by Cpl. Anthoney Moore)

The MPF was used in practice in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded Kuwait. The United States sent the Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade — backed up by two carriers — to draw the famous “line in the sand.” The US was able to deploy so quickly by using the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron based at Diego Garcia. By quickly delivering a force to the theater, Saddam was deterred from going any further as the bulk of American forces arrived.

Today, two of those squadrons remain — one in the Marianas and the other at Diego Garcia — but both remain crucial strategic elements. In essence, they serve as a deterrent — international would-be thugs know that if they misbehave, they’ll have 15,000 very angry Marines paying them a visit very promptly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is ‘the moment of truth’ everyone faces in basic training

How long can you go in the enlistment process before it’s too late to back out? What exactly constitutes lying on your enlistment paperwork? How much weed can you actually admit to smoking before the military won’t accept you anymore? These are questions many recruits ask themselves as they go through the enlistment process. The problem with asking yourself is that you don’t know and the answer will still elude you.

If you lied to your recruiter to get to the Military Entrance Processing Station, and you lied there too, there’s one place in the enlistment process where you should probably come clean.


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MEPS: Where memories of your first-ever awkward military moments are born.

The Military Entrance Procession Station is where potential military recruits are sent to test their suitability to join the military. It’s at MEPS you’ll get your first taste of forming acronyms, sharing a hotel room with a stranger, and having the elderly gawk at your naked body while measuring you like you’re a Saint Bernard at the Westminster Dog Show. More than that, it’s usually where you’ll be drug tested with someone watching you for the first time, take the ASVAB test, and where most of us lie about how much pot we smoked (for the record, you never tried it more than twice).

After your second visit to MEPS, you won’t be going home, you’ll be off to basic training, wherever that may be. Once you’re inprocessing at your basic training unit, you’ll likely be grilled about any personal information you might have neglected to tell your recruiter back home. This is where the truth makes or breaks your career – and integrity matters.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Just ask these guys.

Basic Training is where you’ll do a ton of paperwork, and most important among that paperwork is your actual, real military contract. When you go to sign this paper, the person working with you is going to ask if there’s anything you haven’t divulged that could affect your ability to enlist. Once you sign this paper, they own you, and it’s too late to back out. The government will move next to check out its new investment. That is to say, they’re actually going to check up on you. So when the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard asks you if there’s anything else, this is the “Moment of Truth.”

If you lie at this point, it will be held against you. Convictions, drug busts, massive debt, debilitating diseases, anything with a paper trail, (and remember you only ever smoked pot twice and you disliked it, so you never tried it again), all need to be laid out. If you come clean at the “Moment of Truth,” there’s a good chance you’ll be able to stay and enter the military. If you don’t and it comes up later, there’s a good chance you won’t.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

Remember when you were going to be an Airborne Crytological Linguist but you lied about all your parking tickets? You will.

What you lied about may not be something that would require you getting kicked out of the military. Of course, there’s a reason you lied about it, so it likely would be serious enough for the military to think about kicking you out. Even if it isn’t that serious, it was a test of integrity in which you failed. In short, this is coming back to haunt you for the rest of your military career.

Or, you could just own up to it.

Articles

Here’s how a little girl who lost her Marine dad taught the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the full cost of war

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
General Dempsey talking to the troops in Iraq. (Photo: CBS News)


Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.

“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.

“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”

Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.

“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”

But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”

Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”

He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.

Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”

“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.

****

Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.

The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.

During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.

Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.

She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.

****

General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.

“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”

Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”

“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Lizzy Yaggy greets Gen. Dempsey during TAPS Good Grief Camp. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.

“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.

So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.

Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.

After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.

“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”

****

At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.

“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey.  We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Lizzy introducing Gen. Dempsey at the TAPS Gala for the first time. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”

The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”

“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”

“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Lizzy wearing her favorite hat, a gift from the 18th CJCS. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.

****

When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.

The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.

And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels
Lizzy hugging now-retired Gen. Dempsey at this year’s TAPS Good Grief Camp in DC. (Photo: TAPS.org)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Happy birthday Chesty Puller: Celebrating a legend

For U.S. Marines, there are few names that come with as much recognition and admiration than Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller. From a your first day at recruit training to your last day in boots, the ghost of Chesty Puller is a constant source of motivation — as Marines on the pull-up bar do “one more for Chesty!” and commanders on the battlefield and in garrison quote the legendary leader in everything from hip-pocket classes to formal periods of instruction.

Chesty Puller is a part of the very fabric that binds Marines across the ages to one another, and as such, his memory is as much a part of a Marine’s DNA as a bad attitude and mean right hook. It doesn’t matter if you’re a troubled Lance Corporal that can’t seem to earn his second stripe or a squared away Colonel setting the example for your troops, there’s a Chesty story, quote, or axiom that resonates with you.


Puller was born on June 26, 1898, and just in case you aren’t already familiar with this particular breed of Devil Dog, here are some great quotations and facts about the Corps’ most idolized leader.

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Chesty Puller was the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps

For many Marines, their introduction to Chesty Puller comes right from the start of recruit training, with Drill Instructors instilling the names and accomplishments of great Marines as a part of the running and screaming boot camp experience. There’s good reason for such an early introduction. Puller was the only Marine to ever earn the Navy Cross on five separate occasions, and that’s not the end of his incredible tenacity for collecting medals.

Lest you think Puller was an award chaser, his massive ribbon rack was earned through some of the most intense fighting of the Korean and second World Wars. Puller led Marines in Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Inchon, and the Chosin Reservoir, just to name a few. Each of these battles have earned their own places in “Marine Corps knowledge” courses for good reason, and Puller’s leadership throughout played an integral role in each historic event.

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

“We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” – Chesty Puller

Under the command of (then) Colonel Puller, the 1st Marine Division’s heroic stand at the Chosin Reservoir has become the stuff of legend. Marines operating in North Korea were already facing brutal winter weather when they found themselves squaring off with a Chinese force that vastly outnumbered them. In order to escape the situation with as much man and firepower intact as possible, two options were floated: abandoning heavy weapons and equipment for a rapid withdrawal, or “attacking in another direction” and fighting their way through Chinese forces to the nearest port. Ultimately, the decision was made to do the latter.

Puller’s 1st Marine Division was tasked with fighting in frigid winter weather of -34 degrees Celsius, but despite the overwhelming odds and harrowing conditions, the tactical withdrawal was a success. In terms of territory, the Chinese forces had won the day, but at great cost. Puller’s 1st Marine Division lost 4,385 men to combat and another 7,338 to the harsh cold as they fought their way through hostile territory. Estimates of Chinese forces lost or injured in the fighting, however, range from 40,000 to 80,000 troops. Puller’s legacy, some contend, was already secured at that point.

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A bayonet for every flame thrower

Even among other military leaders, Puller had a reputation for preferring direct action over fanciful maneuvers, and according to Major General Oliver P. Smith, Puller was at his best while embroiled in combat. It could be argued that it was Puller’s affinity for close quarters battle that made him so beloved by his troops.

While Marines characterized Puller as a tough guy with a warm heart, it was the tough guy in him that prompted him to ask one simple question when being shown how to use a flamethrower for the first time during World War II:

“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”

It’s worth noting that the M2 flamethrower used by American troops in World War II could shoot liquid hellfire at targets as far away as 130 feet, but as far as Puller was concerned, you still ought to be able to stab a guy with it for good measure.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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