Let’s say you need to make a very sensitive tool to detect radiation. Maybe you need to use it for medical purposes, detecting specific isotopes as they move through a human body. Or perhaps it’s for the tools to detect radiation to prevent dirty bombs and nuclear smuggling. Wherever your radiation is, if you want super accurate measurements of it, you have to make your tools out of low-background steel, and that’s hard to get.
Here’s the problem with new steel: It’s made in a radioactive environment. The very air we breathe contains little molecules leftover from the approximately 2,000 nuclear tests conducted since 1945. Irradiated coral from Bikini Atoll tests, snow melted by the Tsar Bomba, and air particles in the wrong spots during the development of the Genie air-to-air rocket are all still radioactive.
That doesn’t make it useless for detecting radiation. But any radiation in the steel makes the resulting device less sensitive. It’s like if you’re trying to listen for a distant sound while a band plays. The louder and closer the band is, the harder it will be for you to hear a distant or faint sound. A radiation detection device with radioactive steel in it will never be able to detect radiation that’s beneath the threshold its own components put out.
But steel can last. And any steel manufactured before the first nuclear tests in July 1945 is filled with low-background radiation steel. Basically, since it has much fewer radioactive particles in it, it can detect radiation at much lower levels. So, if you need to run a radioactive dye through a medical patient, you can use a much lower level of radiation if the detector is made with low-background steel.
Same with scientific and law enforcement instruments.
But how to get low-background steel today? If you mine ore now, melt it down, and mix it with limestone, you’ll be most of the way through making low-background steel. But you also have to pass air through it. And the only air available has radiation in it.
So, instead, you could go find steel manufactured before 1945. Preferably steel that wasn’t exposed to the air during the testing or in the years immediately afterward.
You read the headline. You know where this is going.
Sunken warships have literally tens of thousands of tons of steel in them, and the water has shielded them from radiation for decades.
So, with the consent of governments, some warships have their steel removed. It’s done carefully both to prevent contaminating the metal as well as to avoid disturbing the dead. And it’s not just steel. A British warship from before the Revolution had a large amount of lead that is now maintained by the University of Chicago.
It’s even been suggested that some illegal salvage efforts were conducted by black market outfits looking to make millions by stealing entire ships off the ocean floor. And at least two British ships lost in World War II have disappeared, though some researchers think it was more likely straight steel salvage. It doesn’t appear the thieves had the wherewithal to properly protect the salvage from modern radiation, so it was probably sold as normal scrap.
So the thieves disturbed the grave of thousands of sailors and contaminated tens of thousands of tons of rare low-background steel.
At some point while growing up, every kid is issued a stern warning from their parents to not touch the hot stove when it’s on. Most kids take that advice at face value and never risk it. But then there are the other kids; the ones who repeatedly try to poke at the red hot coils. Eventually, there comes a time where the curious kids get burnt. This is basically what happened to the ill-fated and infamous Donner Party in 1847. History often paints the pioneers as unfortunate travelers, but it also often glosses over the fact that they were issued repeated warnings by the United States Army, who told them to stay away.
Spoiler alert: They didn’t stay away and it didn’t end well for thirty-nine of them — and if they were petty enough, the Army could’ve issued the survivors a “so, what did we learn?“
This information in important to the rest of the story.
(“Battle of Churubusco,” John Cameron, lithograph, 1846)
Manifest Destiny was in full force during the 1840s and countless pioneers moved out west in search of greener pastures. When Mexico saw the influx of new settlers coming into and setting up shop in disputed territory, their army attacked American troops in March, 1846, along the Rio Grande River, beginning the Mexican-American War.
The Army knew full well that the coming battles could stretch across the West and into places where settlers were building new lives. So, they issued a warning to pioneers, advising them to either wait for the war before venturing into the southwest or to proceed with extreme caution. After all, the soldiers had a war to fight; they couldn’t dote on individual settlers.
Just take a wild guess who they listened to: the grizzled Ranger or the sketchy salesman?
(“Advice on the Prairie,” William Ranney, painting, 1857)
That warning didn’t stop George Donner and James Reed from saddling up the wagons to make their way along the Oregon Trail and find new homes in California. The path was well-traveled and would take them through Wyoming, Idaho, and, eventually, down the California Trail near Ft. Hall, Idaho. This was the prescribed route made by the Army for all travelers. The route was generally pleasant, had several Army posts along the way, was seldom ambushed by Natives, and took about four to six months to traverse.
But they caught wind of a faster route that saved time by cutting through Utah. This information came from a writer/salesman, Lansford Hastings, who’d never actually been on his so-called Hastings Cutoff. This new route cut about 300 miles from the trip. Accounting for an average speed of about 12 miles per day, that would theoretically save them about a month of travel. It was important to make it to California before the winter, because as the Army told them, the winter would be deadly.
On their travels, the party randomly met James Clyman, an old Army Ranger turned mountain man. He strongly advised against this alternate route. Clyman had traveled all across the United States and her territories — he even wrote about Hugh Glass (you know, the guy from The Revenant) because he was there with him. There wasn’t a human being alive more suited to give counsel about these lands. He was very serious about them turning around and taking the established route.
Let this be a lesson for you. If a bunch of people with years of experience tell you something… maybe listen.
(“Encampment,” Daniel A. Jenks, watercolors, 1858)
You know this story doesn’t have a happy ending, so you know which advice they followed. The shortcut, turns out, was absolutely horrible and added months to their journey. Instead of making it to the Pacific Ocean by early September, they found themselves in Truckee Meadows (near present-day Reno, Nevada) by late October.
One of the party’s scouts, William Bryant, had taken the regular route ahead and made it safely to the Army’s Fort Sutter. He heard about their new route and the soldiers sent a dire warning. The warning implored them stay in Reno for the winter and to not even think about crossing the Sierra Nevada in this weather.
Truckee Meadows was beautiful. It had bountiful food, sturdy trees, flowing water in the winter. In a word, it was perfect! They could have as easily made their new lives there. They could’ve been happy. But wintering in Reno would have made too much sense, so they decided to try and push through the terrible wintry mountains — in spite of all of the warnings.
Now, it’s hard to say if they actually had to resort to cannibalism or not — some survivors suggested they did, others said they didn’t, and historical evidence is inconclusive — but it was still the definition of a sh*tshow. It took the Army months to find them (since they were kind of busy with the aforementioned war) but at least forty-eight people made it out.
For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.
Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”
The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.
Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.
(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”
Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”
Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.
Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”
Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”
Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer
A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.
“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.
“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.
Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.
“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There’s no better way to do sports analysis than by covering the league like a fan. And if that’s actually true, then there’s no better NFL analyst than comedian and Marine Corps veteran Rob Riggle.
Every week, Riggle does a sketch comedy segment as part of Fox Sports’ NFL Sunday, where he competes with Fox Sports’ Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, and Jay Glazer in picking their favorite teams to win that week. Unlike his Fox Sports colleagues, Riggle isn’t a sportcaster, former professional player, coach, or insider.
He’s a fan – but offers a lot more than sports knowledge.
He doesn’t hide his bias
Like any true NFL fan, Riggle remains fiercely loyal to his team. You won’t ever catch him in a jersey that doesn’t belong to a Kansas City Chiefs player. He joins Brad Pitt, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, and Jason Sudeikis in KC fandom and never picks against them.
He doesn’t pull punches on the NFL
The video above isn’t one of Riggle’s Picks, but rather from when he was chosen to open the 2018 NFL Honors Ceremony before Super Bowl LII. He used it as an opportunity to roast a room full of millionaires, billionaires, team owners, players, entire teams, host cities, and even fans.
“Hey, 31 arrests this offseason… things are improving!”
Riggle knows America
When you watch Riggle every Sunday in the fall, it becomes obvious that Riggle doesn’t just know football, NFL teams, and their fans, Rob Riggle knows America. Accents, food, pop culture, and news events are all part of each Riggle’s Picks segment. He even merges pop music and musical theater with sports references.
He makes fun of bandwagon fans
Ever meet a Seahawks fan outside of Washington state before 2005? No? Me neither. It’s not hard to figure out who jumped on a bandwagon when a team started to get good. Riggle shows what we all already know about every team’s fan base — and a city’s sports culture.
He’s not afraid of making fun of anything
Old TV, new TV, networks, sports, teams, fans, rivalries, personalities, players, history, politics, and Jay Glazer – they’re all targets for Rob Riggle.
Catch Riggle’s Picks every week in the fall on Fox NFL Sunday, usually about twenty minutes before the NFL games air.
Called “the strangest battle of World War II” is the Battle of Castle Itter. Staged at a beautiful Middle Ages-era structure in the Austrian Alps came a fight like we’ve never seen — when the Americans and Germans fought for a common goal. Despite being enemies in WWII, these sides teamed up in order to help save recently released French prisoners, as well as this longstanding castle.
The battle included military forces from: the U.S.’s 12th Armored Division, Wehrmacht soldiers who had defied orders and remained in Austria, along with the former prisoners of war from France. Together the group fought against the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, a German Waffen-SS division, who attacked Castle Itter, or Schloss Itter, in North Tyrol.
The castle during WWII
As early as 1940, Germany took control of Castle Itter with an official lease with the structure’s owner, Franz Grüner. However, in 1943, Germany took it forcefully, turning it into a prison camp by April of that year. It was managed by nearby administrators of the Dachau concentration camp.
Castle Itter is notable for housing valuable or high-profile prisoners from France, including prime ministers, military hierarchy, and even a tennis star. Other prisoners were also held at the camp, including those who were brought in strictly for labor. This combination is said to have helped the castle remain in working order while providing a leg up in potential negotiations, citing high-profile prisoners as leverage.
The battle begins
On May 3, 1945, the prison’s commander, Sebastian Wimmer, sent a prisoner on an errand. Wimmer penned a letter in English asking for help and directed the prisoner to hand it to the first American they saw. The prisoner did not return, and Wimmer, fearing for his own life, abandoned the castle, with SS guards also leaving post shortly after. This allowed for prisoners to take control of the building, using remaining weapons to arm themselves.
The following day, American forces were scheduled to come in and perform a rescue mission on the prisoners and the castle itself. However, unaware of these events, the French prisoners sent another messenger for help. By bicycle, their messenger reached the Austrian resistance, which was made of “roaming Waffen-SS troops.” These soldiers had ignored their order to retreat and instead, formed their own resistance.
By having asked both sides for help, on May 4th, Americans and Germans alike fought alongside one another to the castle’s freedom. Despite heavy fire and a small team of soldiers, they won and sent the French prisoners home.
Takeaways from the battle
American leader, Captain John. C. “Jack” Lee was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. However, Josef “Sepp” Gangl, leader of the Austrian resistance was killed in the battle from a sniper shot. He was attempting to move the French Prime Minister from shooting range when he was shot with a rifle. Gangl was named as a national hero in Austria, and a street was named after him in Wörgl.
Further adding to the strangeness of the war, it was fought only days before Germany surrendered. This meant that the then-free prisoners of war returned home after the war had ended, due to the length of time it took to return to France. Even though they were freed while WWII was still ongoing.
Want to learn more? A book, The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe, by Stephen Harding was released in 2013. Harding, a historian, details the events of the battle and its effect on history. A French film company picked up the rights but has yet to release a date for its adaptation.
John Rambo was almost any other throwaway movie veteran. But luckily for the character – and fans of the Rambo series – the script for First Blood was in the hands of Sylvester Stallone. For Sly, something felt a little off about the story. So he asked real Vietnam veterans what was missing.
And movie history was made.
Sly gets input from veterans when it comes to writing “Rambo”
Given John Rambo’s place in the action movie pantheon,First Blood isn’t the shoot-em-up action movie someone might expect. In between the fight scenes, it’s a poignant remark on the treatment of Vietnam veterans, a wound that was still fresh when the movie was released in 1982. It started life as a book, but John Rambo’s speech at the end – the words that bring the entire story and its message together – wasn’t in the book. Stallone added it with the input from Vietnam veterans. It was a message that resonated with Vietnam vets in their own words.
Sly didn’t stop there. For the sequel, where Rambo is sent to Vietnam to rescue POW/MIA still in captivity, Stallone reached out to vets at Soldier of Fortune Magazine to talk about Vietnam War prisoners that might be held over. For the third, he tapped troops with experience in Afghanistan. He did the same to learn more about the decades-long civil war in Burma.
Stallone reprising his iconic role a John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.
Stallone’s favorite ‘Rambo’ weapon isn’t the trademark knife
There are a lot of now-iconic action scenes where John Rambo is using weapons to great effect. The large survival knife from First Blood is legendary, but Rambo has a whole cache of other tools. He uses the compound bow in every Rambo movie to come after, an M60E3 with one hand in First Blood Part II, and who could forget the time he uses a Browning M2 to first obliterate a Jeep driver at close range before taking out half of Burma’s army in 2008’s Rambo.
For Stallone, the latest weapon resonated most with him. Rambo is short on time in Last Blood and has to fashion a few weapons for himself. Among those is a “vicious” weapon crafted from a spring on a car for use in close combat. Stallone calls it a “war club” with the emphasis on war.
“That thing talks to me,” the actor tells We Are The Mighty.
Imagine all the places this pitchfork is gonna go.
John Rambo enlisted in the Air Force first
Sorry, Big Army. Before Rambo joined the U.S. Army’s most elite Special Forces unit, he crossed into the blue. It wasn’t just something he did for a few minutes before realizing he wanted to be in the Army, either. John Rambo did two tours in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and even received the Medal of Honor before he ever thought about being in the Army.
According to the man who plays Rambo himself (in the video above), John Rambo got into a fight in Saigon with a bunch of Special Forces guys who told him that anyone could fight in the sky. So Rambo went to Fort Bragg as soon as he could, reenlisting so he could join the Army’s Special Force. In the film, you’ll see John Rambo in Air Force blue.
Catch Rambo: Last Blood in theaters starting Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.
“You’re getting the body prepared for a number of motions,” Saladino told Men’s Journal. “These are more expansive than your typical lifting movements.”
He allows for flexibility in his workout routine.
Saladino noted that, while he and Reynolds tried to stick to a weekly strength plan that included two days off, it was constantly adjusted to fit the needs of his body and schedule.
“The biggest mistake that people make when making an exercise plan is not to listen to their body every day,” Saladino told Men’s Journal. “Ryan was a recent father and traveling a lot [when “Deadpool” was being filmed], so if he had been up all night with the baby, or just gotten off a plane from Singapore, you can best believe we were changing up the program.”
He took it upon himself to work out in his downtime.
“Don [Saladino] gave me a plan so I could train whenever I needed to,” Reynolds told Men’s Health in 2016. “It made things more manageable. And if I wanted to spend a little extra time with my daughter in the morning, I could do that.”
Reynolds has said that he has a “functional” approach to training rather than a “fashionable” one, so he usually prefers to work out alone and on his own time.
Saladino admitted that he is never concerned about Reynolds’ commitment to the workout regimen.
“Ryan’s such a hard worker,” Saladino told Men’s Health. “If anything, I had to scale him down. One day he came up to see me having been working out on his own and I was like, ‘Holy sh-t!’ He looked like a different person.”
“I like using these traditional movements with little twists,” Saladino explained. “This move, in particular, is not only maintaining the strength that he built up to play Deadpool but also encourages stabilization and balance. We have done exercises similar to this over the course of the past few years, but sometimes with a kettlebell and without the vest during our warm-ups.”
However, the father of two did admit that he can battle this aversion with outdoor exercises and activities.
“I love being outdoors,” he said. “There are forests all around [where I live] and I get to hike, mountain bike … just move. I’ll even bring the baby with me, put her in a little baby carrier thing and off we go. In a weird way, it’s a great workout because you’re adding 20 pounds to your bodyweight.”
It’s certainly admirable that Reynolds juggles his responsibilities as an action star with his growing family of four— but his DIY style when it comes to fitness can work for just about anyone.
27 years ago, the Black Hawk Down incident was unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, when a pair of US Army MH-60 Black Hawks were shot down by Somali militia toting rocket propelled grenades.
Of the many incredible stories of bravery and brotherhood that emerged from the day, one in particular stood out enough that two of the soldiers within would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for their heroism and sacrifice.
In August of 1993, a task force consisting of members of America’s elite special operations units were deployed to Somalia after a deadly IED attack on American military personnel who were, at the time, in country conducting a humanitarian mission.
Known as Task Force Ranger, the deployment package consisted of Rangers from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and operators from Delta Force, among many others.
Attached to the Delta contingent were a pair of sharpshooters — MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart. Both Gordon and Shughart were old hands in the special operations community, the former having served with 10th Special Forces Group before being selected to join Delta Force, and the latter having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
On Oct. 3, an operation was launched with TF Ranger running the show entirely. It would be known as “Gothic Serpent,” though in later years, it would more popularly be known as the Black Hawk Down incident. The mission’s primary intent was to capture a pair of high-ranking officials of the Habr Gedir clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.
The events of Gothic Serpent were documented in Mark Bowden’s best seller, “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” and helicopter pilot Mike Durant’s book, “In The Company of Heroes.”
Delta operators and Rangers would be inserted from the air by Night Stalkers in MH-60s near the target building, secure the site and capture the high value targets. A convoy of Humvees and trucks would roll in immediately after to pick up the assault team and the prisoners back to the Mogadishu International Airport, where TF Ranger maintained its headquarters and garrison.
Things began going awry during the mission, however, and Somali irregulars and militia began amassing in considerable numbers, putting up an unexpectedly ferocious fight. Things went south, entirely, when Super 61, one of the Black Hawks attached to the assault element, was shot down killing both pilots and seriously injuring its crew chiefs and two Delta operators in the main cabin during the crash.
Though the momentum of battle was still on TF Ranger’s side, it was firmly lost when a second Black Hawk — Super 64 — was shot down just 20 minutes after Super 61. A nearby Black Hawk, callsign Super 62, circled near the crash site to provide covering fire. Gordon, Shughart and SFC Brad Hallings, another Delta sniper, were aboard Super 62, picking off targets one by one.
The three operators realized that it was highly likely that one if not all of the crew in Super 64 had survived the crash, at least initially. They quickly resolved to request an insertion near the crash site to set up a defensive perimeter to war away an angry lynch mob of Somali civilians and militia starting to stream towards the site. Should the militia get their hands on the survivors, a horrible fate worse than death would potentially await them.
When Gordon radioed in the request, it was nixed twice. Commanders, back at the airport, figured that the three operators would be of more use in the air to Super 64, than on the ground. Repeating his request a third time, Gordon and Shughart were given the go-ahead to insert at the crash site.
Knowing that a supporting ground element wasn’t anywhere nearby, both snipers were fully aware that this would essentially be a suicide mission. Their objective: to buy the crew of Super 64 a little more time until help arrived, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process.
Super 62 swooped in low near the crash site, Gordon and Shughart jumping out with Hallings staying behind to man a minigun in place of an injured crew chief. Super 62 took to the skies again, covering the two operators on the ground as they fought their way to the fallen Black Hawk. Super 62 would soon have to return to base after being hit by an RPG – thankfully, they made it.
Arriving at the crash, the two snipers were proven right when they discovered pilot CW3 Mike Durant alive and conscious, and the other members of the crew – Ray Frank, Tommie Field and Bill Cleveland – still clinging to life, though barely so. They worked quickly to extricate the Night Stalkers from the carcass of the Black Hawk, giving Durant a gun to use defensively while they engaged the oncoming mob.
Dropping targets with the efficiency and effectiveness Delta operators are known for, Shughart and Gordon inflicted major casualties on the mob. Gordon was the first to fall, having succumbed to numerous wounds sustained in the fight. Shughart was killed soon after, having depleted most of his ammunition. Durant was taken alive as a prisoner of war, while the rest of Super 64’s crew tragically died, either due to their injuries from the crash or torture inflicted by the mob.
Gordon and Shughart’s sacrifice was not in vain — Durant would survive his ordeal in captivity, and would later return to fly with the 160th SOAR before retiring. The two operators were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the following year in 1994, a token of remembrance for their incredible valor and sacrifice in the midst of battle that fateful October day.
Chief Kuryla being promoted on the Glienicke Bridge, aka the “Bridge of Spies”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Steve Kuryla spent a lifetime serving in the intelligence community and in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in West Berlin and other hot locales around the globe. He has written a book titled “Six to Days to Zeus: Alive Day” that has been optioned in a screenplay and film production by two heavyweights in the Hollywood industry. A Deadline article in April of this year covers the production and is titled “Phillip Noyce To Direct Secret Iraq Mission Thriller ‘Alive Day;’ Mike Medavoy Producing.” He currently runs a program called Tier One Tranquility Base that helps veterans transitioning home where more information can be seen at https://tieronebase.org/index.html.
1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born into a very poor Catholic family in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region. The house was a single travel trailer that we added onto as more kids came along. The house was built from recycled ammunition boxes as my dad drove explosives for the U.S. Army Depot. He’d bring the boxes home, then take the truck back to the owner. Our job was to have the boxes stripped and nails straightened before he got home. Eventually, there was enough lumber to build the house, but the floors were hardwood and dirt until I was in my teens.
2. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
The only other option I had was to go work at a foundry, putting green sand into boxes so pump parts could be poured in “sand castings.” By 14 years old, I was living in the woods, showering in the school gym. Playing lacrosse, football and wrestling meant I was a year-round athlete. I joined the service as a way to get away from home. Suffice it to say, steel toed boots and Jack Daniels had a lot to do with my motivation to leave.
3. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
At this point in time, I’m not really proud of anything. We played “Whack-a-Mole” against the terrorists of the world, as far back as The Baeder-Meinhof Gang, Abu NIdal, the Red Army, PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc……and I assumed our impact would be greater and bring peace. This is a hard question to answer that I am still pondering. The ripples go away from us. But maybe the one thing that I reflect on and “smile” about, not really pride…is the good we did in places that were hell holes. Srebrenica, Somalia, Bosnia, Bogota and some Central and South American places…….. we brought light to some very dark places.
Chief Kuryla received a Meritorious Service Medal (center) while stationed in West Berlin. The left patch is the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOMM) patch. The right patch is the Berlin Brigade. Photo credit Kuryla.
4. What values have you carried over from the Army back into the civilian world?
Values I brought back into my civilian life: Never quit. “Life is about what you do to other people”…. do five meters, even when it sucks, just keep moving forward. Integrity is everything. Honor is a lost concept in the civilian world, but that doesn’t mean you should give up yours. Fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves is a way of life, not just a bumper sticker.
5. What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
One of the toughest lessons I learned coming from the military to Hollywood: Not everyone has a moral compass. There are those who are in it for the money only, others for fame and they’ll stab you in the back in two seconds and step over your corpse just to get two seconds of limelight. In the military, I was in a place where soldiers HAD TO climb through the filters of Ranger School, BUDS, Airborne Training…and when they finally got to my unit, or like units, they stood for something: those filters don’t exist in Hollywood. Eventually, you can find like-minded souls and “your tribe” and I am very lucky to have found Phillip Noyce and Mike Medavoy.
My respect for their character and what they’ve accomplished runs deep, so I’m very proud to know them and be working with them. They stand for the same moral compass I have lived my entire life. They make movies that resonate, make people think and it’s not just about “entertainment or money!” They make movies that are about the human condition and the SOUL…and that’s what I write about. Anyone can make a military recruiting movie that makes kids “wannabe” a SEAL, or Green Beret, but the people I’m involved with currently go way past the box office. They go straight to the soul and make people think, reflect and hopefully motivate the viewers to become better human beings. It would be very easy to have changed what I wrote in “Alive Day” and make it into some action movie that made a lot of money. But they stuck to the spirit of the story, the journey of Warriors and the consequences of a lifetime of war on the soul. I’m very, very lucky that Karma and Synchronicity came together, and I get to be among these Hollywood giants.
Steve’s book. Photo credit Amazon.com
Director Phillip Noyce on set for the filming of The Saint. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Mike Medavoy receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo credit UPI.
6. What has it been like working on your book and soon to be feature film “Six Days to Zeus: Alive Day?”
Cathartic. Therapeutic. Had anyone told me I would be writing; I would have called them nuts. This started out to be a chronological document so a shrink and I could sort through my trauma closet and start working on my nightmares and PTSD. That turned into “The Observing Ego” template and I hit my stride and was able to start working on my issues. I came home with a rage syndrome that scared the hell out of people. Combined with my “adrenaline seeking behaviors,” I was socially unacceptable and targeted routinely by Law Enforcement as a possible “ax murderer.” And I loved it. It kept people away from me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I self-isolated, and was taking way too many narcotics and other meds from the VA. After 39 spinal reconstructions and surgery to repair my body from a T.O.W. missile strike, “Friendly Fire,” I found myself climbing back out of the crab bucket, living in a wheelchair as a homeless veteran in a park in N.C. to coming to California to see a Dr. G in Daly City who eventually got me out of the chair, surgically implanted a “Dorsal Column Stimulator” in my spinal cord, fused my pelvis and spine finally the correct way and turned my life around.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Broken screws and items removed after failed surgeries to repair Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
My wife has been a rock-solid warrior as well, sticking with me through thick and thin, when others simply walked away to preserve their own comfort zone. I was still in a chair most of the time when I met her, so she was either so very desperate that she’d marry a cripple guy with a brain injury and baggage from hell, or there is something about this woman that America missed. I often tell her she’s a SEAL that didn’t go active duty. She wrestles large animals every day as an Equine Veterinarian….. so wrestling with me is right up her alley.
Working on the book has been like peeling an onion. I had NO IDEA how deep I was into the Intel World. We never had time to reminisce. We just went to the next mission, sometimes having six or seven missions going at the same time in differing phases of “pre-deployment” to “planning” to active operations and then post mission BDA and assessments….. Everything from Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO) Operations to combat support missions to High Value Target (HVT) take downs, to Embassy clearing and hostage rescue, the Cold War, the War on Drugs and the Global War on Terrorism all blended together.
Pictures from Chief Kuryla’s time in West Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Over a 30 year period, the mission tempo was pretty active at points that you just never kept up with it all. You just went to the next mission. So, taking the time to go back in time, from 1976 to 2006 and reconstruct the chronology has been very cathartic. Fleshing out the writing, changing names and dates to get through the Pentagon Pre-Publication Review process has been a hurdle, but I firmly believe in the process and signed the “non-disclosure agreements” with full honor and intent. This is a nine book series now…and future endeavors include a TV series as well as several other movies. T
here are 180 covert missions and seven combat tours to write about. Simple things like a 10 year war in Bosnia, Islam against Christianity, led to 9/11 the same day (in 1683 or there abouts) September 11th, for Bin Laden to hit the towers. No one in America seems to understand that the 10 year war in the Balkans led directly to 9/11. “The Asset” was a singular chapter, now a separate book will document American Intelligence, success and failures that led to the 20 year war we are currently in. As well as a look into future wars based on American Foreign Policy and future intent.
The night the wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
A guard tower from Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Before the Wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
7. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Listening more than talking… learning all the facts, not just those I want to hear, evaluating and taking the time to look at other perspectives were “leadership” skills that I emulated from some of the great men in uniform that I got to work with. Henry Shelton, David Patraeus, William B. Caldwell, Colin Powell, Stormin Norman Schwartzkopf, Keith Alexander, “Buck Kernan,” Kellog, Keene and a list of names no one would know… my mentors and those I tried to emulate are great Americans.
And those around me who were aware, conscious, watched me and recognized my potential are the ones I credit with my success in life. I never knew I could write. Didn’t know I had anything to say. “Talking about it” was contrary to everything I knew as honorable in the military. Compartmented Intelligence was just that. Compartmented with a “Must Know” caveat. When I got out, I was shocked at what American Society didn’t know about the rest of the world and what our soldiers were doing. Not just the TS/SCI stuff, but the basic foreign policy that put men and women in harm’s way. America, especially Congress, seem to be completely unattached, uninvolved in sending troops to war. I found a new mission in life, writing about soldier stories, explaining the chaos in a way that resonates at the human “vulnerability” level. When you connect with another human at the soul, then you’re doing something worth doing. Then you’re communicating, educating, making a difference. And that’s what the “Six Days to Zeus” series is doing. Connecting at the soul and revealing the journey of Warriors in a modern age.
Teufelsberg, German for Devil’s Mountain, in West Berlin during the Cold War. Photo credit Kuryla.
Book one, Alive Day is about “what happened.” Book two, “Please don’t call me Hero” is about the consequences of War on our bodies, brains and families back at “Fort Livingroom.” It’s a glimpse into the problems, but the unconscious damage we do to our families. They pay the consequences of the US going to war, but they never signed up for it. They get to pay anyway… even when we bring muddy boots back into Ft. Livingroom. Book three, “Walking off the War” is a glimpse into the awakening, the move to conscious intentional living and the medical miracles that got me out of a wheelchair and back on my feet.
The series continues for six more books going back to Berlin in 1976 and Covert Operations against Soviet Illicit Agents and Soviet Special Operations personnel, Spetsnaz working the Morse Code problem for NSA and other US Intelligence Agencies including the Potsdam mission and Field Station Berlin at “Devils Mountain” or Teufelsberg! Operation Elsa, stealing a brand-new Soviet T-72 Tank, Operation Porch Light that broke a Russian cypher and tore down 14 terrorist networks throughout Europe and the US, and many, many more.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
8. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
Veterans have to be willing to talk. There is a syndrome where veterans don’t think they did anything special. It’s part of the problem that comes with honor and the “code” we live by. I am working to get a section on my author site for soldiers to write in, tell me their story and see if it’s worth pursuing. When guys like me don’t think they did anything special and are willing to bury it….they get shocked (like me too!) when they begin to tell their story and find out the world wants to know. The ripple effect of me telling my story has affected so many veterans and so many civilians, that it’s truly humbling. For some reason, after they read the book and the two weeks of silence goes by, (digesting time), they now have permission and they come tell me their story. Their trauma and how my writing has affected them, allowed them to heal and talk about what happened. And then I get to help them learn what I have learned: It’s no longer about what happened…it’s about what you do NEXT that counts!!!
A picture of one of the patches they took of Manuel Noriega (pictured). Photo credit Kuryla.
9. What would you like to do next in your career?
Make more movies, learn as much as I can about financing, producing, and getting the stories out there. Tour and talk to our next generation. We need to teach the lessons we’ve learned as soldiers, teach critical thinking skills, make them aware that “Freedom isn’t free” and engage our young minds in active communication. Our children are being hijacked…with our permission, by our silence and preoccupation and our lack of parenting involvement. The America we all fought for is being sliced and diced, subverted and our children’s minds are being targeted. We all need to influence that change, through writing, movies, plays, music and active communication and engagement! Our veteran population are some of the most gifted humans on the planet. I hope to be a part of that change.
More pictures of the morning they took Noriega and the patches removed from his uniform. The center photo is a breakfast with Noriega the morning of. Photo credit Kuryla.
10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Pride is not a luxury I indulge in. I am more grateful than anything else. I can’t say I’m proud of anything, but I am the luckiest man on the planet that I got to live the life I did. That I got to meet the people I love and fought with. Even the disasters, the trauma and the adversity….it all made me a better human being. After all this reconstruction and medical miracles, I truly am coming to a place of PEACE now…finding my inner strength again, counting my blessings and realizing just how lucky I have been. How blessed I have been to have worked with and fought beside some of the finest human beings God ever put on this planet. And that’s not a bumper sticker. I truly believe that “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to sit back and do nothing.”
I don’t mourn the loss of those I served with, I thank God that such men lived.
It’s unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it’s not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.
China’s military upgrades, especially in the areas of anti-access and area-denial weapons, would make any war between the two countries “intense, destructive, and protracted,” according to the RAND corporation, America’s premiere policy and decision-making thinktank. The non-profit, non-partisan organization has been doing this kind of research since 1948.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
David C. Gompert is the lead author of a recent study on the chances and effects of such a war. He’s an adjunct senior fellow at RAND. Gompert doesn’t predict a coming war, but acknowledges the possibilities.
“Tensions exist between the United States and China on a number of issues,” Gompert said. “And a crisis could occur and involve incidents or miscalculations that lead to hostilities. For example, China could try to intimidate its neighbors below the threshold of U.S. intervention and misjudge where that threshold is, or underestimate U.S. willingness to back Japan militarily in a crisis over disputed territory in the East China Sea.”
If the situation did escalate, both sides would suffer incredible losses in manpower and materiel. Chinese losses would be much more severe compared to the Americans, but as Chinese military capabilities improve, U.S. loss projections get much, much higher. As the war goes on, Chinese A2AD will make American dominance much more difficult to achieve. But the Chinese will suffer from a lack of resources and a protracted conflict will make affect China’s ability to suppress internal divisions.
Economically, China would suffer tremendously, while damaging the U.S. economy and anyone else dependent on China for trade. The study recommends ensuring China is aware of the level of destruction it faces in a fight with American forces — whether or not it loses a military conflict. Also, it is critical for the United States to improve interoperability with regional allies to both present a strong counterforce in the face of Chinese aggression — but it is highly unlikely that a partner like Japan would join the fighting. The international community would be divided in its support, but this would have little to no effect on the fighting.
RAND also recommends increasing military communications with China in order to avert a misunderstanding should any kind of military accident occur. The U.S. also needs to be more understanding should such an accident occur against its forces. If hostilities did break out, the U.S.’ most survivable platforms (like submarines) and anti-missile systems should be at the fore of the fight.
Finally, disrupting Chinese supply lines and technology from the sea and replacing products the American economy needs from China are critical to minimizing the damage suffered from a war.
“History suggests that wars that are very destructive to both combatants have a way of persisting as long as neither side faces complete defeat,” Gompert said. “A Sino-U.S. war would be so harmful that both sides should place a very high priority on avoiding one.”
When it comes to uniform variety, the US Air Force is definitely the least inventive of all the branches. The USAF carries the standard work option, OCPs, along with a more professional office version. When things get really fancy, the Air Force just ditches the flight cap and dons a white shirt instead of the blue – and that’s about it. No swords for officers, no Class-As, no khaki, no whites.
But it wasn’t always that way.
From 1947 to 1995, the Air Force used a white version of its dress uniform for those in tropical zones, an easy way to keep cool while maintaining a professional appearance when necessary. The first fully-Air Force regulated white uniform featured a white coat, shirt, and pants, but with black shoes and blue tie, along with blue mess dress cap (aka the “bus driver” hat), complete with Air Force “farts and darts” on the brim.
For social events, the hat was gone, white gloves were added, and black bow ties replaced the blue necktie. Eventually that gave way to a new uniform, once the Air Force was completely free of Army uniforms in 1959.
In 1959, this uniform became officially known as the Tropical Dress Uniform, which included a coat very similar to the blue coat of the regular Air Force and was made of a Dacron-rayon blend instead of the Army’s cotton uniform. It was mandatory wear in tropical climates, but also at diplomatic functions, dinners, and anywhere else a white coat was the prescribed dress for the event. The blue mess cap was replaced by a white mess cap with an Air Force blue band around it and the black shoes were replaced with white ones.
By 1983, the Air Force introduced a new white uniform, the White Ceremonial Dress uniform, which was gone by 1989. Many aspects of the White Ceremonial Dress Uniform can still be seen on today dress blues, especially for officer ranks as the white ceremonial dress uniform was optional for lower enlisted personnel.
But whether tropical or ceremonial, the end of the white uniform came in 1995, when they were all phased out in favor of a simplified blue version for all locales and functions. The only formal uniform that remains in the Air Force is the Mess Dress Uniform, which is now drastically different from its ceremonial predecessors.
Say you’re taking an adventurous hike off the beaten path. Your trail map isn’t making a lot of sense. The sun is starting to dip below the mountaintops and there’s a chill in the air. You brought enough supplies for a day hike, and that’s it. What do you do? Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If night is only a few hours off and you’re too mixed up or far away to make it back to the car, get ready to spend the night in the wild. If chipmunks can do it, so can you! These are the top 10 skills you should have to stay safe on your accidental adventure.
Finding and purifying water
Feeling a bit peckish? Too bad. Snacks are not your first order of business. Even people who are slim can go for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Prioritize what will kill you first! To find water, start simple. Listen for the sounds of fresh, flowing water. If you don’t hear anything, follow the animals. They’re better at this than you are! Look for animal tracks, or note what direction birds are flying in the early morning.
Since water flows downhill, head towards low spots and you’ll likely find water. From there, purifying it is a must. Boiling water works well, but not many people carry a pot on day hike. Instead, plan ahead and bring purification tablets or a Life Straw. Alternatively, you can use one of these methods to collect water that’s already safe to drink.
Building a fire and keeping it lit
Keeping matches or flint in your backpack makes this step infinitely easier. There are multiple ways of starting a fire without either, so let’s start with the simplest. Remember that psychotic neighbor kid who liked to burn ants? That works on twigs and leaves, too. If you have a magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, or even ice, you can start a fire just by focusing the light of the sun on some dry kindling. Most of these methods are a little trickier, but they’re worth a try if you’re in a pinch.
Staying warm without a fire
If it’s pouring rain, building a fire will be nearly impossible. To stay warm without, try to stay as dry as you can. Water will draw heat away from your body, cooling you down faster. Layer clothing to create insulating pockets of air, but don’t let yourself get too hot either! Sweating will cool you down, so try to shed layers if you start feeling warm. It’s also a good idea to place something between your body and the ground for extra insulation.
Selecting an ideal location to make camp
Head uphill and look for spots with natural shelter, like large boulders. Thick trees can also provide some protection against the wind. Avoid low areas near water since they may be prone to flash flooding, and steer clear of areas with tall grass that might be home to venomous snakes that could make your impromptu night in the woods a whole lot scarier.
Building an appropriate shelter
Your options for shelter depend on what supplies you have. A survival knife or hatchet and a tarp will make things so much easier. If you don’t, you can try building a simple lean-to with branches and debris that will provide at least some barrier against the elements. There are lots more options, too!
Navigation, with a compass and without.
Navigating with a compass should be pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t use a compass, you probably shouldn’t be wandering through the woods to begin with. If you didn’t bring one, navigation depends on what part of the world you’re in. The sun does always rise in the east, so that can give you some sense of where you are.
Finding and prepping food
Fish, birds, and even non-venomous snakes make for decent meals if you can catch them. If not, try foraging. Look for edible plants and insects, but if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it! Avoid unfamiliar plants and anything with more than six legs. Not that you wanted to eat a spider anyway. Whatever you find, cooking it will make it safer to eat and easier to digest.
First aid skills are important, but it’s better not to need them. Your biggest tool here is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of your own conditioning. Don’t push past your personal limits unless it’s 100% necessary for survival. If you push yourself to exhaustion, you’ll start slipping. In your weakened state, you’ll be less agile and more prone to injury. Your decision making skills will also suffer. Self-care in the wild is a luxury, not a necessity! Here are some more tips in case you need them.
Applying first aid correctly when needed
If you don’t know basic first aid, take a class before heading into the wilderness. Your backpack should have a first aid kit in it even for short excursions. These are some great tips to keep in mind if you manage to slice open your leg or burn yourself miles from a hospital. The short version: Stop bleeding with pressure and keep wounds clean and covered to prevent infection.
The US Marine Corps Installations Pacific Command’s Japanese language twitter account posted a video in August 2018 of Marines dancing to Da Pump’s “USA,” which has since gone viral.
The video shows several Marines replicating the dance moves to the chorus of the Japanese pop band’s “USA,” jumping on one foot and kicking out the other.
As of early Aug. 2018, the video has been watched 6.57 million times and has been retweeted nearly 148,000 times.
“We expected this video to be popular,” Marine Corps social media manager Ike Hirayasuon told Stars and Stripes, but “we’re overwhelmed with just how successful it’s been.”
The video was filmed over a few days at several installations on Okinawa, Stripes reported.
“Our hope is that this video allows viewers to see a different side of the U.S. Marines living on Okinawa,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told The Japan Times, adding that it shows “the positive impact the people and culture of Japan have on Marines stationed in Okinawa” and that Marines have embraced Japan’s culture.
Over the last few years, there have been at least a few high profile incidents in which US Marines have committed crimes that has raised tensions with locals.
In late January 2018, a Marine was arrested after punching an Okinawa hotel employee. In 2017, a Marine was arrested in connection with a fatal car crash, in which alcohol was apparently involved, that killed an Okinawa resident.