You don’t get to be a person of Teddy Roosevelt’s stature in history by being lazy. The President who could barely breathe as a youngster never took his body for granted. He was an avid outdoorsman, athlete, and boxer. When he became President in 1901, he was appalled at the lack of fitness among Navy sailors at the time. As Commander-In-Chief, he set out to do something about it.
Roosevelt loved boxing, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, polo, rowing, tennis, swimming, weightlifting, and even jiu-jitsu. The President might have been the first potential MMA fighter in history, if he had so chosen. When he took the White House, he moved in all the equipment necessary to maintain his physical fitness regimen. By 1908, he told Secretary of the Navy Truman Newberry that the Navy should test its sailors to ensure they met the fitness standards of the U.S. military. Newberry and the Navy’s Chief of Medicine and Surgery developed a plan for the new Navy.
After being cleared to take the test by a Navy Medical Board, sailors had three options:
A fifty-mile walk within three consecutive days and in a total of twenty hours;
A ride on horseback at a distance of ninety miles within three consecutive days; or
A ride on a bicycle at a distance of 100 miles within three consecutive days.
For the first time, officer promotions became dependent on passing the PT test.
“This [order] will give the corpulent sea fighters who have long occupied swivel chairs an opportunity to get into fit condition for the ordeal,” said one newspaper. No joke.
He implemented standards for the Army as well and even led the Army General Staff in its first-ever “fun run” of sorts. In November 1908, after an address at the Army War College, the Commander-in-Chief led the Army’s top brass in an expedition through dense forests, deep streams, and even climbing a 200-foot pitch in what Roosevelt called a “bully walk.” The brass said it left officers “nursing their tired muscles…and wondering if they will escape pneumonia.”
At first, ranking members of the Navy pushed back, complaining that the test would cause depression and hurt general readiness. Instead, they thought golf courses, bowling alleys, and tennis courts were a better answer to fitness. Somewhere in the middle, the Navy decided to open gymnasiums for its sailors to exercise. In the end, the order was revised at almost the moment Roosevelt left office. The new orders applied to Marines as well, but only called for a 25-mile walk over two days. Two years later, it was modified to ten hours a month. By 1917, the order was suspended entirely.
Over 29 days in spring 2018, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavour’s rim to its floor.
“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”
The trailblazing mission ended after nearly 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. Opportunity’s scientific discoveries contributed to our unprecedented understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, laying the groundwork for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet.
This image is an edited version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The version of the scene is presented in approximate true color.
This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The panorama appears in 3D when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left.
The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This view combines images taken through three different Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).
A few frames remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to record those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.
Taken on June 10, 2018 (the 5,111th Martian day, or sol, of the mission) this “noisy,” incomplete image was the last data NASA’s Opportunity rover sent back from Mars. Click here for full image and caption.
The gallery includes the last images Opportunity obtained during its mission (black-and-white thumbnail images from the Pancam that were used to determine how opaque the sky was on its last day) and also the last piece of data the rover transmitted (a “noisy,” incomplete full-frame image of a darkened sky).
These two thumbnail images, with the ghostly dot of a faint Sun near the middle of each, are the last images NASA’s Opportunity rover took on Mars. Click here for full image and caption.
After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
In war games simulating a high-end fight against Russia or China, the US often loses, two experienced military war-gamers have revealed.
“In our games, when we fight Russia and China, ‘blue’ gets its ass handed to it,” David Ochmanek, a RAND warfare analyst, explained at the Center for a New American Security on March 7, 2019, Breaking Defense first reported. US forces are typically color-coded blue in these simulations.
“We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he said.
US stealth fighters die on the runway
At the outset of these conflicts, all five battlefield domains — land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — are contested, meaning the US could struggle to achieve the superiority it has enjoyed in the past.
An F-35A joint strike fighter crew chief watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, July 14, 2011.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In these simulated fights, the “red” aggressor force often obliterates US stealth fighters on the runway, sends US warships to the depths, destroys US bases, and takes out critical US military systems.
“In every case I know of, the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense and an experienced war-gamer, said March 7, 2019. “But it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”
Neither China nor Russia has developed a fifth-generation fighter as capable as the F-35, but even the best aircraft have to land. That leaves them vulnerable to attack.
US warships are wiped off the board
“Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said.
Aircraft carriers, traditional beacons of American military might, are becoming increasingly vulnerable. They may be hard to kill, but they are significantly less difficult to take out of the fight.
USS Enterprise is underway with its strike group in the Atlantic Ocean.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)
Naval experts estimate that US aircraft carriers now need to operate at least 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland to keep out of range of China’s anti-ship missiles, according to USNI News.
US bases burn
“If we went to war in Europe, there would be one Patriot battery moving, and it would go to Ramstein [in Germany]. And that’s it,” Work explained, according to Breaking Defense. “We have 58 Brigade Combat Teams, but we don’t have anything to protect our bases. So what difference does it make?”
Simply put, the US military bases scattered across Europe and the Pacific don’t have the anti-air and missile-defense capabilities required to handle the overwhelming volume of fire they would face in a high-end conflict.
US networks and systems crumble
In a conflict against a near-peer threat, US communications satellites, command-and-control systems, and wireless networks would be crippled.
Marines participate in Hatch Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System training on an MV-22B Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Feb. 12, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gumchol Cho)
“The brain and the nervous system that connects all of these pieces is suppressed, if not shattered,” Ochmanek said of this scenario. Work said the Chinese call this type of attack “system destruction warfare.”
The Chinese would “attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and they practice it all the time,” Work said. “On our side, whenever we have an exercise, when the red force really destroys our command and control, we stop the exercise and say, ‘let’s restart.'”
A sobering assessment
“These are the things that the war games show over and over and over, so we need a new American way of war without question,” Work stressed.
Six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems conduct a live-fire exercise as part of pre-deployment training at Ft. Bliss, Texas.
(Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Baum)
Ochmanek and Work have both seen US war games play out undesirably, and their damning observations reflect the findings of an assessment done from fall 2018.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts picked by Congress to evaluate the National Defense Strategy — said in a November 2018 report.
The report called attention to the erosion of the US’s military edge by rival powers, namely Russia and China, which have developed a “suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.”
The commission concluded the US is “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Long before the first bombs fell on Baghdad Jan. 16, 1991, the man who would be in charge of one of the most effective air campaigns in history was hearing whispers from another war.
Then-Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, who, as a young captain, flew Wild Weasel missions attacking radar sites during two tours in the Vietnam War, was determined to avoid the same strategic mistakes in the Persian Gulf that plagued the U.S. military in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, his boss – Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – and other military leaders executing Operation Desert Storm had Vietnam, and the hard lessons learned there, in their memories, as well.
An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.
Twenty-five years later, Horner, now a retired four-star general residing in northwest Florida, looks back on the Air Force that struck Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm as perhaps the best-trained force to date. Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, a U.S.-led coalition of about 30 nations placed more than 900,000 troops in the Arabian Peninsula in what became known as Operation Desert Shield, the campaign to prevent Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and build up forces to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait should diplomacy fail to secure a peaceful solution. When the United Nations Security Council for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went the following January, Desert Storm kicked off with an air campaign that would become the largest employment of U.S. airpower since the war in Vietnam.
“When I think back on the past 25 years after Desert Storm, I see the immense impact that particular war had on how we planned to fight in the future and the kind of equipment we would need,” Horner said. “But most of all, I think about the spirit and attitude of our young warriors who were going to be faced with the next battle.
“I’m so proud of the way we performed in Desert Storm because of the leadership we had from Schwarzkopf and (Gen. Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech, former Tactical Air Command commander), and the way we had equipment that worked. We had all of the advantages the world had not seen before Desert Storm.”
A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, in front of his F-15 at Luke AFB, where he was wing commander in March of 1981. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
One of Horner’s first priorities, while planning the air strategy as Schwarzkopf’s joint force air component commander, was to avoid making what he considered the main mistake from Vietnam. He didn’t want bombing target selection to come from the president or defense secretary. As the architect of the air campaign against Iraq, Horner wanted targeting decisions to be made by commanders directly involved in the area of operations. “Washington was not the place to plan a war,” he had said. “If people there wanted to fight, let them come to the theater (of combat).
“That is the lesson of Vietnam,” Horner said in “Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Campaign 1989-1991,” a book by Diane Putney for the Air Force History and Museums Program. “Remember our great president (Lyndon B. Johnson) saying, ‘They don’t bomb a shit house in North Vietnam if I don’t approve it.’
“Well, I was the guy bombing the shit houses, and I was never going to let that happen if I ever got in charge because it is not right. If you want to know whether war is going to be successful or not, just ask where the targets are being picked. If they say, ‘We picked them in Washington,’ get out of the country. Go to Canada until the war is over because it is a loser.”
The day Horner, then the commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, received the call that eventually launched Desert Storm, he was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon on an air-to-air training mission near the North Carolina coast with two F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Virginia.
He’d expected the call from Schwarzkopf since the invasion of Kuwait. But once the call came from the Federal Aviation Administration to notify him to return to Shaw AFB, he instantly knew what it meant. He and his staff had to prepare the air portion of a CENTCOM briefing for President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, the next morning.
After the invasion of Kuwait, the coalition’s first priority was protecting Saudi Arabia. Horner developed friendships with the Saudis earlier in his career during Operation Earnest Will in 1987-88 and other exercises and remained in Saudi Arabia after he and Schwarzkopf went there a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. The coalition organized for Desert Shield and Storm gave the U.S. military an opportunity to work closely with each other, as well as with forces from other nations, as they would later do during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
A massive prepositioning of equipment, supplies, munitions and fuels around the Persian Gulf, begun by the Joint Rapid Deployment Force in the 1980s, expedited preparations to conduct military operations in the area of responsibility, Horner said.
“When our aircraft landed in the Gulf airfields, they were met with spares, fuel, munitions, living facilities and all the other things they would need to survive and fight,” he wrote in “Desert Storm: A View From the Front.” “This material had been stored on ships anchored in theater and in leased warehouses throughout the AOR.”
Well before the crisis in the Gulf began, the military had trained for an eventual showdown with Iraq. A month before the invasion, a CENTCOM war game used a scenario of a “Country Orange” attacking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the north. When Schwarzkopf, who died in 2012, accepted command of CENTCOM in November 1989, he told his military leaders that since a war with Russia wasn’t likely to happen, “we have to find a new enemy or go out of business,” Horner said.
At the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, it fielded the world’s fifth-largest army at a million soldiers; larger than the U.S. Army and Marine Corps combined, according to a Los Angeles Times article on Aug. 13, 1990. The weaknesses coalition military planners hoped to exploit included an incompetent senior staff chosen for their devotion to Hussein rather than their military prowess, and only about one-third of its soldiers were experienced combat troops, according to U.S. officials quoted in the article.
After its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq owed a huge debt to Kuwait and many other Arab nations, which funded Iraq’s purchase of high-tech weapons, according to an American Patriot Friends Network article published in 2004. Kuwait’s oil made it one of the richest countries in the world and cash-strapped Iraq wanted it.
Pilot gazes out into the wild blue yonder.
“When General Schwarzkopf took command of (CENTCOM), he said we have to plan for an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because Iraq came out of the Iran-Iraq War very powerful militarily,” Horner said. “So, of course, they were sitting right next to the Fort Knox in the Middle East. So when it happened, I wasn’t surprised. We’d anticipated it was going to happen, but the speed with which we had to react was surprising.”
A United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait passed on Jan. 15, 1991, with no action from Iraq, so at 2 a.m. Jan. 17 (Baghdad time), coalition forces began a five-week bombardment of Iraqi command and control targets, beginning with eight Army AH-64 Apache helicopters led by two Air Force MH-53 Pave Hawks that destroyed radar sites near the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border, according to Putney. About an hour later, 10 Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, protected by three EF-111 Aardvarks, and Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck targets in Baghdad. The initial attacks allowed the coalition to gain control of the air for its fighter aircraft.
At the cessation of hostilities, coalition forces had destroyed 3,700 of Iraq’s 4,280 tanks and 2,400 of its 2,870 armored vehicles. The bomb tonnage dropped by U.S. planes per day equaled the average tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan during the entirety of World War II, according to the “White Paper – Air Force Performance in Desert Storm, Department of the Air Force,” published in April 1991.”
“The things that guided our strategy was to be unrelenting and to bring such a powerful force, so quickly and so thoroughly on the enemy, that they would be forced to leave Kuwait,” Horner said. “It was not going to be piecemeal. It was not going to be to play Mr. Nice Guy. It was going to be as vicious as possible, and that drove the strategy. The second part of our strategy was to get control of the air first and foremost, which we did not do in Vietnam.”
Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson.
The result was a prolonged air campaign that set up a short but decisive ground campaign. As the air war kicked off the first night of Desert Storm, Horner watched from the tactical air control center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as coalition aircraft flew north. At first, he wasn’t completely confident about how successful the attack would be or the cost it would take in aircraft and personnel.
However, Horner knew it was going well when he saw CNN’s live feed from Baghdad disappear. As CNN’s television satellite transmission equipment was not allowed entry into the highly controlled, secretive, authoritarian state, they had to transmit through antennas atop the ATT building in downtown Baghdad. It was the same building that housed Iraq’s air defense operations and from which communications emanated from Iraq’s air command control system. It was the target of one of the first bombs dropped from U.S. planes. When CNN reporter Peter Arnett went off the air at the precise moment the strike was scheduled, cheers went through the air operations center, Horner said. If CNN was off the air, so was Iraq’s air defense system.
“So as the sun came up the next morning and all of our airplanes were coming home except one, we became aware that this was going to go a lot better than even the best critics thought it might,” Horner said.
By Feb. 23, the air campaign was mostly complete and coalition ground forces swiftly drove the Republican Guard from Kuwait and advanced into Iraq, forcing a ceasefire within 100 hours. Desert Storm was won at a much lower cost than even in the most optimistic prognostications, with 148 Americans killed in action and another 145 non-battle deaths. The Defense Intelligence Agency numbered the Iraqi casualties at about 100,000, although later the figure was disputed to be more in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.
Horner said bombing campaign proved most productive attacking Republican Guard and armor units because Hussein depended on them to retain power. The attacks to gain control of the air, coupled with medium-altitude operations, air-to-air excellence and defense suppression attacks were also effective, he said.
“When the ground war started, I expected rapid gains given the fact that we had reduced the Iraqi ground units to a level of ‘not combat ready,’ using our Army’s definition,” Horner said. “What surprised most of us was the surrender rate. That was beyond our expectations. Once I became certain, early in the war, that our losses were manageable, I knew the ground war would go well, but I underestimated how well.”
Horner, who co-wrote his account of the air war with the late Tom Clancy in “Every Man a Tiger,” gives much of the credit for the training of the force he led during Desert Storm to Creech and Marine Corps Gen. George B. Crist, Schwarzkopf’s predecessor as CENTCOM commander-in-chief, who both placed great importance on making training as close to real world as possible. They led the push for more realistic exercises, an emphasis on aircraft maintenance, bomb scores, and the right tactics, which all came together during Desert Storm.
A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm.
Another lesson from Crist that played into Horner’s strategy was to force decisions down to the lowest level and hold those people responsible. Horner saw the benefits of that policy during a meeting with a munitions technical sergeant. Horner was visiting the bomb dock where munitions were built and saw the NCO sitting on a dust-covered wooden crate, and he asked him how things were going and if he was running into any problems.
“He said, ‘Well, those dumb guys in Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), meaning me, told me one day to load 2,000-pound bombs on each F-16,” Horner said, smiling. “Those dummies didn’t know that I didn’t have any 2,000-pound bombs, so I went ahead and put four 1,000-pound bombs on each of the airplanes, and the mission flew. If he had not been empowered, all he had to do was say I don’t have two 2,000-pound bombs, and we would have never gotten those two planes off. It was empowerment that made the difference, and that was one of the secrets we saw in Desert Storm.”
F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Iraq’s air force was almost non-existent during Desert Storm. Hussein hoped to wait out the coalition bombardment, which he didn’t expect would last more than four or five days. As a result, gaining control of the air almost immediately allowed the coalition forces to interdict supply lines and degrade command and control links, according to a GlobalSecurity.org article. Air supremacy also drastically destroyed the will of the Iraqi army; they surrendered in droves when the ground war began 38 days later.
Aside from the superior training that was on display during Desert Shield and Storm, Horner believes another legacy of the first war in the Gulf was the technological advances it put on display for the Air Force.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
“I think the American public and the world were amazed at the technology that was exposed by Desert Storm,” he said. “The stealth of the F-117 and its ability to go anywhere in heavily defended areas of the world and carry out its mission with absolute precision, the training of our air-to-air combat people and the ability to defeat a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile threat all came into play, and they weren’t appreciated because of our experiences in previous wars such as Vietnam. It served us very well and created an illusion that we were more successful than we really were. But I’ll accept that.”
Every service member knows the result of not living up to the expectations placed upon them by donning the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States. Most will never receive a punishment beyond Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, non-judicial punishment. For repeat offenders, the threat of “turning big rocks into little rocks” at Fort Leavenworth looms large.
Actually being sent to the Kansas-based U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth is, in reality, a tall order. The facility houses only the worst offenders. It’s the only maximum-security facility in the U.S. military and hard time there is reserved for commissioned officers, enlisted personnel with sentences longer than ten years, and those who are convicted of crimes related to national security. It’s reserved for the worst of the worst — which includes those on the military’s death row.
Since the end of World War II, the facility has executed some 21 prisoners, including more than a dozen Nazi German prisoners of war convicted of war crimes. The last time an American troop was executed for his crimes was in 1961, when Army Pfc. John Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of a young Austrian girl after spending six years on death row. There are currently four inmates awaiting execution at Leavenworth, but these four will not face the gallows.
Executions for military personnel will likely be by lethal injection and performed at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
In 1986 and 1987, then-Specialist Ronald Gray was a cook stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., when he committed the series of crimes that landed him on the military’s death row. Gray raped and murdered four women, both on Fort Bragg and in the area around nearby Fayetteville. He was sentenced to death in 1988 and his execution was approved by President George W. Bush in 2008. He has since filed a petition to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was turned down, meaning Gray might soon be the first prisoner executed by the military in over 50 years.
His first victim was 27-year-old civilian Linda Jean Coats and his second was also a civilian, 18-year-old Tammy Cofer Wilson. He next turned his attention to female soldiers, abducting, raping, and murdering 18-year-old Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay. Vickery-Clay’s body was discovered a block from her home on Fort Bragg. He then raped and attempted to kill 20-year-old Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth, stabbing her in the throat after entering her barracks room, but leaving her alive. She was able to identify him as her attacker when Gray was arrested for another crime.
Just three days later, he raped and murdered another civilian, 23-year-old Kimberly Ann Ruggles. It was this crime that would lead to his capture and conviction. Ruggles was a taxi driver dispatched to pick up a “Ron” at Gray’s address. Her body was discovered later that night near her empty cab. Police identified the gag on Ruggles’ body as one belonging to Gray after holding him for another crime just hours before. Gray’s fingerprints were all over the cab and Ruggles’ prints were on money Gray was holding during his arrest.
Gray was tried and convicted in both civil and military courts in 1988. Civilian courts sentenced Gray to eight consecutive life sentences. His military court martial sentenced him to die. He is currently the longest-serving death-row inmate at Fort Leavenworth.
In March, 2003, just days after U.S. troops initially crossed into Iraq, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar was at Camp Pennsylvania, a rear-staging area for the invasion of Iraq, located in Kuwait. In the early morning hours, Akbar lobbed fragmentation and incendiary grenades into the tents of sleeping officers, then assaulted other members of his unit with his issued M-4 rifle. He killed Army Capt. Christopher Seifert and Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone. and wounded 14 other service members.
Even though his defense team cited repeated attacks and insults on his Muslim faith from fellow soldiers as a primary motivator for the attack, it was later discovered that Akbar decided to plan and execute the attack once he was in Kuwait, writing in a journal on Feb 4, 2003:
“As soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible.”
Hasan was convicted of two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted premeditated murder. The commander of the 18th Airborne Corps affirmed the death sentence and an appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals is pending.
In 1985, a mother and two of her children were found murdered in their Fayetteville, N.C. home. Kathryn Eastburn was stabbed to death with two of her three daughters while her husband, an airman, was training in Alabama. The family was getting ready to move away from the country and put an ad in the paper to sell their dog. Timothy Hennis was a Fort Bragg soldier who admitted to police he responded to the ad. An eyewitness identified Hennis as a man who left the Eastburn home in the early morning hours after the killings would have taken place.
Hennis was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die in North Carolina civilian courts but that verdict was later overturned and Hennis was acquitted in a retrial. As a free man, Hennis returned to the Army and retired as a Master Sergeant in 2004. But the Army wasn’t done with the Hennis case. Semen samples taken from Kathryn Eastburn’s body were analyzed as DNA evidence that wasn’t available in the original case.
The Army again charged Hennis with the crime, this time framing the evidence to the matching DNA samples. In 2010, A military court finally found Hennis guilty of the crimes, stripped him of rank and pay, and sentenced him to death.
Also known as “The Fort Hood Shooter” Hasan was an Army officer, a psychiatrist stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. On Nov. 5, 2009, Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center, pulled a handgun, and, for 10 minutes, began shooting at the personnel there. He killed 13 people and injured another 30 before being shot himself by Fort Hood’s Army Civilian Police. The gunfight rendered Hasan paralyzed from the waist down.
The Army charged Hasan with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder, with the Army announcing early on that Hasan was eligible for the death penalty and that the Army would seek that sentence. Hasan defended himself at the trial and in doing so was found guilty of all charges. He was unanimously sentenced to Fort Leavenworth to await execution.
Flight deck operations on an aircraft carrier have often been compared to a ballet. Sailors at work on a flight deck wear an assortment of colored jerseys to specify their job. The yellow shirt is one of the most coveted.
The aviation boatswain’s mates who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz are directly responsible for the handling and maneuvering of aircraft as well as the safety of all personnel during flight operations. Any mistake or lack of better judgment can cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel on the flight deck.
“At first being a yellow shirt was scary, but now that I have some confidence, I would say there is a sense of pride,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melanie Cluck, an aviation boatswain’s mate. “On the flight deck, we are not only responsible for directing aircraft, but also for directing people. Normally, anyone who needs guidance on the flight deck looks for a yellow shirt. Safety of all the personnel on deck is a big part of our job as well. So we don’t only need to know our job, but everyone else’s as well.”
Before donning the sought-after yellow jersey, aviation boatswain’s mates wear blue jerseys to indicate that they are in a more junior status. These sailors are normally newer airmen who have yet to acquire all of the necessary qualifications. Their main responsibilities during flight operations include chocking and chaining, running elevators, and tractor operation.
“Being a blue shirt is hard work, but it makes you tough,” said Seaman Michael Lothrop. “It’s hot up there right now, and we work long days, but you have to be on alert at all times and ready to get the job done whenever you are needed.”
Blue shirts are normally covered in grease and always carrying something heavy, whether it be a chain, tractor bar, or chock. They play a big part in the maneuvering of aircraft on the flight deck because they do most of the hands-on work. During their time wearing blue, they learn the ins and outs of properly directing aircraft, which helps build the foundation of a high-performance yellow shirt.
The job requires attention to detail and an extreme amount of knowledge to be performed well. The training and the number of hours a sailor needs to put in to become a yellow shirt is impressive.
“There are two main qualifications you get as a blue shirt, but from there, it’s all about if your chain of command sees you have the initiative to take on being a yellow shirt,” Cluck said.
Earning the Yellow Shirt
Sailors must qualify as flight deck observers and learn directing and handling in addition to the qualifications all sailors are required to attain when they report to Nimitz. The requirements take roughly 12 weeks to complete. Sailors then take a written and oral test administered by the flight deck leading petty officer, assistant LPO, and any other yellow-shirt-qualified chief petty officers or first class petty officers who decide to attend.
Once sailors earn the right to wear the yellow jersey on the flight deck, they enter an apprenticeship period called “under inspection.” This means they need an experienced yellow shirt to help them along the way toward becoming an expert at their new job on the flight deck.
UI yellow shirts are always accompanied by a seasoned mentor who is observing every signal and decision they make.
“It’s a case-by-case basis on how long the UI process takes,” Cluck said. “The process is just there to make sure you fully understand what you are doing on the flight deck. It’s extensive work to say the least, but it helps you build character. The goal of the process is just to build you up to be the great yellow shirt you are supposed to be.”
Yellow shirts have to communicate through hand signals with pilots and other personnel working on the flight deck to safely move aircraft onto the catapults and off of the landing area.
“You have to be able to really get control of your aircraft and understand the pilot,” Cluck said. “It’s a gut feeling that you develop during your training. If you feel you need to slow the aircraft down, you can, and you start to learn when exactly to turn it. We have hundreds of hand signals we can use to take control of the aircraft on deck. The people in the pilot seats are officers, so you have to be professional, and every motion you make has to be crisp and precise to prevent accidents.”
The working environment of a yellow shirt is unlike anywhere else on the ship. The yellow shirt locker, or crew area, is on Nimitz’ flight deck. The tight-knit group of men and women spends their time out of the scorching heat joking, laughing, and preparing to launch multi-million dollar aircraft into the sky. It is here where the instructors of the world’s most dangerous ballet reside. It is here where the yellow shirts dwell, mentally preparing themselves to launch aircraft as their ship sits at the tip of the spear.
The US government and Hollywood have always been close. Washington DC has long been a source of intriguing plots for filmmakers and LA has been a generous provider of glamour and glitz to the political class.
But just how dependant are these two centres of American influence? Scrutiny of previously hidden documents reveals that the answer is: very.
We can now show that the relationship between US national security and Hollywood is much deeper and more political than anyone has ever acknowledged.
It is a matter of public record that the Pentagon has had an Entertainment Liaison Office since 1948. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established a similar position in 1996. Although it was known that they sometimes request script changes in exchange for advice, permission to use locations, and equipment like aircraft carriers, each appeared to have passive, and largely apolitical roles.
When we include individual episodes for long running shows like 24, Homeland, and NCIS, as well as the influence of other major organizations like the FBI and White House, we can establish unequivocally for the first time that the national security state has supported thousands of hours of entertainment.
For its part, the CIA has assisted in 60 film and television shows since its formation in 1947. This is a much lower figure than the DoD’s but its role has nonetheless been significant.
The CIA put considerable effort into dissuading representations of its very existence throughout the 1940s and 1950s. This meant it was entirely absent from cinematic and televisual culture until a fleeting image of a partially obscured plaque in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest in 1959, as historian Simon Willmetts revealed in 2016.
When the CIA established an entertainment liaison office in 1996, it made up for lost time, most emphatically on the Al Pacino film The Recruit and the Osama bin Laden assassination movie Zero Dark Thirty. Leaked private memos published by our colleague Tricia Jenkins in 2016, and other memos published in 2013 by the mainstream media, indicate that each of these productions were heavily influenced by government officials. Both heightened or inflated real-world threats and dampened down government malfeasance.
One of the most surprising alterations, though, we found in an unpublished interview regarding the comedy Meet the Parents. The CIA admitted that it had asked Robert De Niro’s character not possess an intimidating array of agency torture manuals.
Nor should we see the clandestine services as simply passive, naive or ineffectual during the counterculture years or its aftermath. They were still able to derail a Marlon Brando picture about the Iran-Contra scandal (in which the US illegally sold arms to Iran) by establishing a front company run by Colonel Oliver North to outbid Brando for the rights, journalist Nicholas Shou recently claimed.
The (CIA) director’s cut
The national security state has a profound, sometimes petty, impact on what Hollywood conveys politically. On Hulk, the DoD requested “pretty radical” script alterations, according to its script notes we obtained through Freedom of Information. These included disassociating the military from the gruesome laboratories that created “a monster” and changing the codename of the operation to capture the Hulk from “Ranch Hand” to “Angry Man”. Ranch Hand had been the name of a real chemical warfare programme during the Vietnam war.
In making the alien movie Contact, the Pentagon “negotiated civilianization of almost all military parts”, according to the database we acquired. It removed a scene in the original script where the military worries that an alien civilization will destroy Earth with a “doomsday machine”, a view dismissed by Jodie Foster’s character as “paranoia right out of the Cold War”.
(Flickr photo by Meredith P.)
The role of the national security state in shaping screen entertainment has been underestimated and its examination long concentrated in remarkably few hands. The trickle of recent books have pushed back but only fractionally and tentatively. An earlier breakthrough occurred at the turn of the century when historians identified successful attempts in the 1950s by a senior individual at the Paramount film studio to promote narratives favorable to a CIA contact known only as “Owen”.
The new FOI documents give a much better sense of the sheer scale of state activities in the entertainment industry, which we present alongside dozens of fresh cases studies. But we still do not know the specific impact of the government on a substantial portion of films and shows. The American Navy’s Marine Corps alone admitted to us that there are 90 boxes of relevant material in its archive. The government has seemed especially careful to avoid writing down details of actual changes made to scripts in the 21st century.
State officials have described Washington DC and Hollywood as being “sprung from the same DNA” and the capital as being “Hollywood for ugly people”. That ugly DNA has embedded far and wide. It seems the two cities on opposite sides of the United States are closer than we ever thought.
The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.
“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.
The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.
The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.
“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.
Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.
Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’
The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.
Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.
“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.
“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.
During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.
“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”
U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Iranian forces took out a US unmanned aerial vehicle June 19, 2019, with a surface-to-air missile, US Central Command confirmed. The drone the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot out of the sky happens to be one of the US military’s most advanced high-altitude unmanned aircraft.
The Iranians shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, which the military uses to conduct recon operations over oceans and coastal waterways, among other areas.
The US military called the incident “an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace” over the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf. The Iranians have accused the US drone of entering Iranian airspace, an allegation Central Command characterized as completely false.
The RQ-4, which informed the development of the newer MQ-4C drones, is one of the most advanced high-altitude drones being employed operationally, The War Zone said. These aircraft, Northrop Grumman aircraft that have been used extensively in the Persian Gulf, rely on a suite of high-end electronic sensors and other intelligence-gathering systems to peer into other countries.
The aircraft, which is used by both the US Air Force and the US Navy, has a price tag higher than the US military’s new F-35 stealth fighters. A Global Hawk has a unit cost of roughly 3 million, while an F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter costs only million.
“This isn’t a throwaway drone whose loss the US will just shrug off,” Ulrike Franke, a drone expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter. But it’s not just the price tag that makes the loss of this drone a big deal. The drone is designed to be harder to hit, she said, because they fly at altitudes beyond the reach of some air defense defense systems.
“The RQ-4 flies at upwards of 65,000 feet,” Tyler Rogoway, the editor of The War Zone, wrote. “So this would have been a sophisticated radar-guided surface-to-air missile that shot the aircraft down, not a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile.”
F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Iran said the IRGC shot down the US drone with an upgraded Khordad missile-defense system, which can detect and track targets 95 miles away and down them at a distance of 30 miles, Breaking Defense reported. The system can target enemy aircraft flying as high as 81,000 feet, or roughly 15 miles.
The Global Hawk does not have any stealth capabilities or high-end countermeasures for penetration missions, leaving it vulnerable to any air defense systems that can hit high-altitude targets.
The latest incident comes just days after the crew of an Iranian boat fired an SA-7 surface-to-air missile at a MQ-9 Reaper drone, a roughly million drone, but missed. Wednesday’s shoot-down marks a serious escalation in tensions between the US and Iran.
“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters earlier this week.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Throughout World War II, the Nazi occupiers of France housed Jews and captured Resistance fighters in the supposedly escape-proof Fort Montluc prison, a nineteenth century fortress in Lyon.
But there was one escape.
Leading that escape was Andre Devigny, a former French army lieutenant whose escape made him a legend in the Resistance.
André Devigny, a real-world Houdini.
Devigny was one of the leaders of the Réseau Gilbert, an intelligence network that helped refugees escape occupied France, gathered intelligence for the Allies, and sabotaged German installations and material as the opportunity arose. He was betrayed by a German infiltrator and arrested Apr. 17, 1943, taken to Lyons, and turned over to Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo there.
Known as the Butcher of Lyons, Barbie is believed to have personally tortured men, women, and children. Some estimates hold him directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people.
Devigny was tortured for two weeks, including use of the baignoire, a World War II form of waterboarding, before being imprisoned in handcuffs in the 10-square-foot cell 107 at Fort Montluc. He was allowed into the courtyard for exercise one hour a day. On Aug. 20, he was again brought before Barbie, who told him he would be executed on Aug. 28.
By this time, Devigny had learned to remove his handcuffs with a safety pin. He had also been able to remove three wooden slats at the bottom of his cell door using a soup spoon he ground down to a point on the cell’s concrete floor. He got to the point where he could remove or replace the three slats in less than two minutes.
When his death sentence was announced, he knew the time to act had come.
Returning to his cell from meeting with Barbie, however, Devigny discovered he had been given a roommate. Perhaps he was a spy sent to watch him or perhaps he was what he said he was, an 18-year-old deserter from the Vichy-created French militia. In either case, he would have to be included in the escape.
On Aug. 24, a moonless night, the two men removed the cell’s wood slats, slipped out of the cell, and climbed up a heavy, metal rod that operated a roof transom, exiting on to the prison’s flat roof. Devigny threw a parcel containing a second grappling hook and rope over the parapet, hooked a grappling hook he was carrying — all items he had been able to make in cell 107 — and climbed down the rope to a courtyard. The 18-year-old followed.
Once in the courtyard, the two men could hear a sentry approaching and stepped back into the shadows. As the sentry passed, Devigny grabbed the man around the throat from behind forcing the German to the ground where he used the sentry’s own bayonet to kill him. Devigny and the 18-year-old then crossed to the prison’s inner wall and, using the second grappling hook and rope, climbed up and over the wall on to a covered gallery atop the prison infirmary. From there, they scaled the building’s sloping roof and were able to see the outside wall and the brightly-lit fifteen-foot roadway between the walls.
The roadway was being patrolled by a sentry on a bicycle. At 3 a.m., after timing the guard’s rounds several times, Devigny tied an end of his rope to the infirmary chimney, threw the grappling hook out and over the outside wall, and launched himself hand over hand with the 18-year-old following.
The two men made it, jumped down from the outside wall, and were free.
Devigny and his former cellmate then separated, and Devigny eluded German search parties and dogs by spending five hours hiding in the Rhone River and along its muddy banks. He was finally able to work himself to the home of a doctor friend in the city where he was given clothes and papers and guided to Switzerland.
Devigny returned to the war and was eventually awarded the Cross of the Liberation by then-French President Charles de Gaulle.
The Resistance liberated Fort Montluc in August 1944, almost exactly one year after Devigny’s escape.
On a Sunday a little over 12 years ago, on a battlefield far from home, US Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, then in his mid-20s, suddenly found himself in an intense firefight that changed his life forever.
The mission was to capture or kill a local terrorist leader holed up in a mountain fortress occupied by Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces in eastern Afghanistan.
The plan was to insert US Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos into a valley below by helicopter and take the enemy by surprise. Once they were on the ground, the joint force was expected to climb into the mountains on foot, infiltrate the town, neutralize the hostiles, and get out.
Some of the troops called to execute the mission questioned whether it was too risky. Their concerns were brushed aside, and the mission moved forward as planned. A fellow Green Beret who went with Walding on the mission told Insider it was “cursed” from the start.
This is the story of not just that fateful mission, but Walding’s refusal to give up after tragedy struck.
John Wayne Walding and Ryan Wallen, a fellow Green Beret who accompanied Walding on the fateful mission. (Courtesy photo)
‘A very long day at the office’
On April 6, 2008, a handful of troops with Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group and a number of Afghan commandos flew into Shok Valley. It was the start of what Walding called “a very long day at the office.”
Shok Valley (US Army graphic)
Their troubles began almost immediately upon arrival.
“We couldn’t even land, the terrain was so f—ing bad,” Walding’s friend and fellow Green Beret, former Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallen, recalled. “Our helicopter just kind of hovered about 10 feet up over a freezing cold river and gigantic rocks, and we had to jump out of the back. This was already a rough start.”
Their situation quickly got worse. As the lead element made its way toward the objective, the mountains suddenly erupted with gunfire. A large force of several hundred enemies ambushed the American and Afghan troops, upending the mission and turning it into a terrifying fight for survival.
“Gunfire just opened up on us,” Wallen said. He was positioned down by the river near the base of the mountain when the bullets started to fly.
“I took a [rocket-propelled grenade] and kind of got blown out,” Wallen continued. “I was laying half in the water, bleeding out of my throat and chest, beaten up a little bit. The overpressure kind of f—ed me up.”
Nothing vital had been damaged in the blast, so the team’s medic, Staff Sgt. Ron Shurer, was able to get him patched up and back in the fight. Farther up the mountain, the lead element was pinned down and taking heavy fire.
An Afghan interpreter had been killed, and two US soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr and Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, were severely wounded. Supporting, Walding moved into position between them and the incoming fire. “That’s when I got shot,” he said.
An enemy sniper shot Walding in the leg, nearly tearing it from his body. “It was hanging on by like a tendon or two,” Wallen said. “I’ve never seen an injury that looked that bad.”
“I never will forget falling forward and then rolling over to see that leg just hanging there by only about an inch of flesh,” Walding recalled. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Walding was not done fighting though. After putting a tourniquet in place to stop the bleeding, he used his boot laces to strap the bottom part of his leg to his thigh, picked up his rifle, and got back to it.
Most of the US Special Forces team suffered wounds of one kind or another, but “as f—ed up as everybody was, we didn’t have time for anybody to lay there bleeding and dying,” Wallen said.
American planes were called into conduct dozens of danger-close airstrikes with large bombs that Walding said blacked out the sun with debris.
Unable to move forward with their mission, the US and Afghan troops fought fiercely for hours just to stay alive until they could be pulled out.
Wallen and a few others helped get Walding down the mountain and to the evacuation point. “As the medevac birds were coming in, we were dragging casualties across the river, and it was freezing,” he said.
They tried a couple of times to get Walding on a helicopter but were unsuccessful, as the helos were either full or taking rounds, and each time they failed, they had to carry him back across the river to a safe position shielded from the gunfire.
“Finally, a third bird came in, and we took JW back across the river a fifth time,” Wallen said. “We were finally able to get him on that bird, but we ended up giving John hypothermia along with all of his damn injuries. It was like bad things kept stacking up.”
All of the US troops that went into Shok Valley made it out alive. Some of the Afghans, however, did not. Although they were unable to complete the mission, the US and Afghan forces left behind hundreds of enemy dead.
Ten members of Walding’s team, himself included, would later be awarded the Silver Star. Not since Vietnam had that many Silver Stars been awarded for a single engagement. And, two of the soldiers who were in Shok Valley later received the Medal of Honor for their courage under fire.
The immediate aftermath was no celebration though. Walding, who had hoped that his leg could be saved, went into surgery. “I never will forget waking up the next day,” he recalled. He said he was afraid to look down. When he finally did, he cried.
John Wayne Walding (US Army Photo by Capt. David Chace)
‘A leg was not going to stop me’
John Wayne Walding was born on the Fourth of July in Texas. His father named him after the famous actor who starred in classic Westerns and war movies because, in his words, if “you have a cool birthday, you need a cool name.”
But while Walding was named after the man who directed and starred in the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” he never thought much about the military until he was about 20 years old and realized he needed a real job.
Walding talked to a recruiter who asked him if he wanted to shoot missiles. He said “Hell yeah” and joined the Army as a Patriot missile operator.
He found his true calling after he joined up though. “As soon as I saw the Green Berets and what the tip of the spear really is, that really got my gears spinning,” he told Insider.
Wallen met Walding when the latter joined his team as a Green Beret, and they quickly became good friends.
“It was one of those connections that, just right away, we just kind of hit it off,” Wallen said. “We developed a really strong bond, and then it was just solidified when we were baptized in blood together.”
Wallen said he was one of the first people to see Walding when he came out of surgery after being wounded in Shok Valley.
Walding had been torn apart in battle, something not easily overcome, something that some never overcome, but he determined he was not done being an elite soldier. “Donning that Green Beret was one of the most profound moments of my life, and a leg was not going to stop me from doing that,” he told Insider.
Being a Green Beret meant being a part of something special, something meaningful that’s bigger than any one person. Reflecting on the events that unfolded in Shok Valley, Walding said, “We didn’t get through that day because I was great or any of our guys. It was because we were willing to fight to the death to keep each other alive.”
“You don’t just wake up the day after all of that and say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll hang up the hat.'”
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘You do it because you love it’
Walding said that he tries to live his life in such a way that he is not simply good, but great. Following his recovery, he decided to become a Special Forces sniper.
Just two years after he sustained a life-altering injury, Walding began the intense seven-week Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina equipped with a ruggedized prosthetic and a determination to excel against all odds.
“Why did I keep going? Because I loved it,” Walding said.
“You don’t do what I did because you like it. You do it because you love it,” he continued. “To become a Green Beret, there’s a lot of people that quit because they just liked it. They liked the idea of being one, but that’s not how I live.”
Snipers are essential assets who provide battlefield intelligence and long-range precision fires, and the training is challenging across the military.
For the Special Forces, sniper training can be even more demanding. Through shooting and marksmanship sessions, gun runs, stalking, fast rope training, and climbing exercises, Walding held his own despite his prosthetic. “I never finished last,” he said.
Walding made history in the summer of 2010 by becoming the first amputee to graduate from the elite special warfare sniper course.
“His story is incredible,” Wallen said. “I don’t know that many people on the planet have the kind of resilience he does.” That’s not to say that there weren’t bad days, but when times got tough, it was his faith, family and friends, and love of country that got him through.
Walding wanted to return to his team and operational status, but he ultimately decided against it, opting instead to stay on as an instructor.
“I knew that no matter how good I was with one leg, a Green Beret with two was always going to be better,” Walding told Insider, explaining that he would never want to be in a scenario where one of his brothers or sisters was injured or killed because of him. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” he said.
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘Forever remember the cost of freedom’
After serving 12 years in the military, Walding retired in 2013 as a Sergeant First Class. He now lives in Texas with his wife and four kids.
As a civilian, Walding continues to serve.
He started Gallantry Global Logistics, a company named after the words on the back of his Silver Star, which reads “for gallantry in action.” He hopes to see it become the largest veteran employer in Texas. He is also the co-founder of Live to Give, a water bottle company that donates half of all profits to veteran and first responder charities.
Walding named his shipping company after his Silver Star, but the Purple Heart he was awarded for the injuries he suffered in Afghanistan has tremendous meaning too.
“I wear that Purple Heart figuratively every day,” Walding said. “Every single day, I wake up and I see my leg is missing. I will forever remember the cost of freedom. It really is a driving factor for me to not be good, but be great.”
When you’re young and living in the barracks, regardless of whether you’re legally old enough, you’re going to enjoy a beer or some hard liquor. Underage drinking in the barracks happens every day. Although we don’t condone the act, there’s not a whole lot for troops to do when you don’t have a car and you’re stationed at a base in the middle of nowhere.
So, if you’re one of those youngsters trapped on base and all you’ve got is a 12-pack in the fridge, then take note, because this article might make you look a lot cooler at one of those barracks parties.
So, let’s get freakin’ lit. But, as always, drink responsibly, people.
The idea of this game is simple. Tape two 40-ounce beers to your hands. Now, don’t remove the tape and free yourself until you’ve consumed the contents of both beers.
If you’re a lightweight and you have to pee just minutes into the game, good luck to you.
This game is played in teams of two or more and with a variety of mixable alcohols. First, one person fills up a cup with their booze of choice. Next, you swap your cup with another contestant. From this moment, they have one minute to move the contents of their cup into another, using a teaspoon. After the minute is up, the player must drink the reminder.
First, split a group up into two equal teams. Line up the teams, man for man, on either side of a table. Set a cup in front of each player and distribute a couple beers. Starting at one end of the table, two opposing players drink the beer in front of them, set the empty cup rim-up on the edge of the table, and attempt to flip it over by tapping the bottom of the cup. After you successfully flip your cup onto its head, the next player in line begins the same process. Repeat this until every player on a team is done.
Now, this game is perfect for playing with four or more players, so get some of your buddies together. Arrange your closest friends around a table and bow your heads. After counting to three, quickly lift your head up and make eye contact with another player.
If you do make eye contact with another player, the one who says “Medusa” last, loses and they have to take a drink. If you don’t make eye contact with another person, well, then, we guess no one wanted to look at you.
Every day, young American men and women join the military to serve their country and see the world — and they do. U.S. troops have a global impact. For many kids and communities around the world, their introduction to America is via the troops stationed near their homes or moving in and out of embassies.
For one eight-old boy living in Liberia, West Africa, watching how U.S. Marines conducted themselves in his neighborhood made him want to flee to America and become a member of the “few and the proud.”
In 1994, 18-year-old George Jones left his home in West Africa with his family after surviving a brutal civil war. Upon their arrival, Jones took some college courses, but the school expenses began to weigh too heavy. Jones left school and decided he needed to do something great with his life, so he enlisted in the Marine Corps and shipped out to Parris Island in South Carolina.
Jones selected the infantryman MOS to help protect his brother who also enlisted as an “03” rifleman one week ahead of him.
While deployed on a ship with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jones was told by a well-respected Marine officer that he had what it took to get accepted to Officer Candidate School. This motivating information inspired Jones, and he applied for commissioning through the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program.
The prideful Marine stuck it out through all the hardship of OCS and met his goal of becoming a Marine officer.
“If a young kid from Liberia came to the United States as a refugee, went through school, received a degree and had the privilege to lead sons and daughters as an officer, I think you can achieve anything.” — Marine Capt. George Jones proudly stated.
Capt. Jones now serves as an Operations Officer for the 3rd Marine Division and plans to retire from service in the next couple of years. This Marine is a great reminder that we can overcome some insane obstacles in order to reach our goals.
Check out the video below to hear this motivating story from the driven Marine himself.