A photograph taken in North Korea’s Ryanggang Province last week shows the country’s leader Kim Jong Un giving what appears to be an impromptu ballroom dancing lesson to assorted onlookers. As is their custom, the good people of Reddit’s Photoshop Battles snatched up the image and began working their irreverent magic.
The guy second from the left is just hoping no one notices his hat blew off.
The Islamic State came dangerously close to obtaining a radioactive dirty bomb, in fact the ingredients were readily available to the group for more than three years, but an apparent lack of knowledge or know-how prevented a disaster.
ISIS gained a military treasure trove after its seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014. Everything from tanks to guns were spoils of war, many of them American-made. But the most valuable prize the group unwittingly obtained were two supplies of cobalt-60, a highly radioactive substance used in cancer treatment which is also perfect for a dirty bomb, according to a report by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post published on July 22.
ISIS apparently stumbled upon the radioactive substance possibly without even know what they had. It was locked away in a storage room on a college campus contained in heavy shielding when ISIS took over the area. When Iraq Security Forces retook the campus earlier this year, they found the cobalt-60 still in storage, providing a major relief to security officials and experts who had been tracking its location.
“We are very relieved that these two, older albeit still dangerous, cobalt-60 sources were not found and used by Daesh. They were recovered intact recently,” said the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank which compiled a dossier on the substance’s whereabouts beginning in 2015, in a report published July 22.
The Institute provided its final report to the US and other “friendly governments,” and ultimately decided not to publish the report at the time out of concern that ISIS could use it.
A dirty bomb is essentially a terrorist’s ideal weapon. It uses a traditional explosive to spread radioactive material across a given area, in an attempt to incite panic and chaos. It is not necessarily difficult to obtain the ingredients for a dirty bomb; highly radioactive material is used in a multitude of civilian applications. A terrorist would need only to gain a suitable amount of material, combine it with a traditional explosive, and unleash it on a target area. While the death toll from the detonation of such a device would likely be low, it is the resulting fear among the targeted population that worries officials.
Thankfully, ISIS either was not able or aware of the cobalt-60 in Mosul.
“They are not that smart,” a health ministry official told WaPo.
It is possible that ISIS was aware of the caches of cobalt-60, but did not have the know-how to remove it from its casing without exposing its own forces to the deadly radiation. It is equally possible they simply had no idea what they had. The Institute also speculated that “courageous hospital and university staff” may have worked to keep the cobalt-60 a secret from the terror group.
The cobalt-60 is not the first time ISIS has had a chance at a weapon of mass destruction. US forces conducted air strikes against two chemical weapons factories in Mosul in March 2016. Officials had been concerned that the group was possibly stolen using chemistry equipment from Mosul University, though it is unclear if that equipment was being used in the weapons factories. Despite the strikes, ISIS is known to have used chlorine and mustard gas against its enemies in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS’s failure to use the cobalt-60 was fortunate, but there are lessons to be learned.
“This case should lead to reinvigorated efforts to inventory and adequately protect radioactive sources throughout the world. However, as this case highlights, improving physical protection may not be enough,” said the Institute’s report. “It is also important for the United States and its allies to accelerate programs to identify, consolidate, and remove dangerous radioactive sources, particularly in regions of tension or where terrorists are active.”
The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.
In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.
“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.
IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.
It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.
As foreign air defenses become more and more sophisticated, Air Force planners are working solutions to keep America’s technical edge, an edge that has been narrowing for the past few years. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wants cyber solutions to enemy systems like the Russian Buk, the probable weapon that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s looking for cyber weapons that do things like filling an operator’s screen with false contacts, stopping a missile from launching or, the ultimate solution, allowing a missile to launch before redirecting it to attack its own launcher.
For the full rundown, check out this article at Defense One
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Barth a physical therapist with the 349th Medical Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., practices weapons safety with an M4 carbine at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 16, 2017, as part of exercise Patriot Warrior. More than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen and over 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Wisconsin to support a range of interlinked exercises including Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, CSTX, Diamond Saber, and Mortuary Affairs Exercise (MAX). Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. This exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen’s skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.
A German air force Tornado and an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron fly in formation together during the last joint flying mission at Holloman Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2017. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman AFB until mid 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire an M777 towed 155 mm howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq, August 15, 2017. The 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., enables Iraqi security force partners through the advise and assist mission, contributing planning, intelligence collection and analysis, force protection and precision fires to achieve the military defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) participate in a division run August 16, 2017 at Fort Campbell, Ky. The run commemorated a “Legacy of Heroism” for the division’s 75th birthday.
Rendezvous with destiny, brothers!
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Richard Hill, right, welds a table leg aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with its carrier strike group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) departs Theoule-sur-Mer, France. Oscar Austin was in Theoule-sur-Mer, France, to participate in events commemorating the 73rd anniversary of Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France by allied forces during World War II.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, and U.S. Airmen with the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Spanish Air Force members in a moment of silence and a show of solidarity and partnership in honor of those lost in the attack on Barcelona, Spain, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Aug 18, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.
U.S. Marines exit the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft Aug. 18, 2017, in Hokudaien, Japan, marking the first time the aircraft has landed in northern Japan. Col. James Harp, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander of Northern Viper 17, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Iwana, deputy commander of Northern Army 11th Brigade, particpated in a joint interview to discuss the Osprey’s capabilities. This aircraft allows Marines to have the ability to rapidly respond to any contingency worldwide.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205), a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu is shown coordinating search efforts with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, for five crewmembers aboard a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter off Ka’ena Point, Oahu, Aug. 17, 2017. Two Black Hawk aircrews were reportedly conducting night training Aug. 15, between Ka’ena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost with one of the helicopters.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro small boat crew transits international waters in support of Operation North Pacific Guard Aug. 15, 2017. Operation North Pacific Guard is a multilateral effort by North Pacific rim nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to include high-seas drift net fishing.
Chinese hackers have reportedly targeted South Korean businesses and that country’s government over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System, also known as THAAD. The cyberattacks are apparently in response to the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the American cyber-security firm FireEye claims that a series of attacks on South Korean business and government computer networks may be related to the deployment of the ballistic-missile defense system. The groups responsible for the attack, APT10 and Tonto Team, are believed to be tied to the Peoples Liberation Army.
The attacks are also being carried out by so-called “patriotic hackers” like the Panda Intelligence Bureau and the Denounce Lotte Group. The latter hacking ring is targeting a South Korean conglomerate that has permitted the deployment of THAAD on some land it owned. Lotte Group was subjected to a denial-of-service attack on an online duty-free store after the approval was announced in March 2017. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also targeted by a DOS attack at that time.
China has long opposed the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, claiming such a deployment would undermine China’s ballistic missile capabilities. China has a large number of ballistic missiles in its inventory, many of which are medium or intermediate-range systems.
According to a March 1, 2017, report by RT, Russia and China agreed to work together to strengthen opposition to the BMD system’s deployment. The Chinese government’s official response to the South Korean hosting of THAAD included halting a real-estate deal and barring some South Korean celebrities from entering the country.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).
A Navy Seabee is probably the one sailor that Marines love the most — next to the platoon doc, of course.
Camouflage is their typical working uniform. They spend most of their time in the field and dirt. They don’t shy away from messy jobs. As one Marine captain once told a journalist in Iraq: Seabees build things, they blow things up, and they shoot straight.
The Navy’s “Can Do” sailors do a lot. They build field toilets and bunkers, construct camps and pour concrete, fix damaged utilities and buildings, help civilians in distress and even kill the enemy when required. Their work building airfields and camps across the Pacific during World War II undoubtedly helped in the allied victory.
A fraction of that force today, Navy Seabees are the backbone of the Naval Construction Force that includes 11 naval construction battalions and two amphibious construction battalions. Battalions send detachments of Seabees to as many as a dozen countries, and missions vary from repairing water lines, building schools and roads or pulling camp security.
Seabees serve in one of seven ratings – builder, construction mechanic, engineering aide, equipment operator, steelworker and utilitiesman – but every one will tell you they’re a Jack-of-all-trades among warfighters. Seabee ingenuity gets things done.
The classic round Seabee logo of the “Fighting Bee” holding a Tommy gun, wrench, and hammer — one of only a few Navy-approved insignias that sailors can wear on their uniforms — is as relevant today, 75 years after the first Seabee units were formed, as it was on March 5, 1942.
Combat readiness is a critical a mission because Seabees training for, say, a western Pacific rotation to Okinawa might be sent to a combat zone elsewhere. “You could be building a schoolhouse in the Philippines… and go to war,” said Chief Utilitiesman Phil Anderton, 31, a Seabee with Naval Construction Battalion 3 based at Port Hueneme, Calif.
Anderton learned that lesson as an 18-year-old Seabee in 2005. His battalion prepared to deploy to Rota, Spain, but ” they canceled leave, and for three weeks we trained to go to war,” he recalled. “It’s like that fast. Three weeks.” They ran scores of convoy security missions across volatile Iraq.
It’s little surprise that Seabees going through their battalion final training exercise, required to certify as combat-ready, looks like they’re already in the hot zone. “This right here is the culmination of ‘be ready for war.’ It’s awesome,” Anderton said as he escorted a journalist through an expeditionary forward operating camp NMCB-3 built on an empty lot for its final training exercise at Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif., last fall.
The air hummed with the sound of diesel trucks, generators and heavy machinery. Dust kicked up from medevac Humvee. The sound of gunfire echoed. Helping set that combat mindset was an opposing hostile force that kept trying to sneak along a creek to infiltrate perimeter lines and attack the camp. For three days since they arrived, and with little sleep, the battalion’s 550 Seabees grappled with an indirect fire attack from the mock enemy that wounded 17 and damaged the nearby airfield.
“Lately we’ve been seeing the small-arms attacks in the dark,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Matthew Lundeen, the quick reaction force commander.
In the midst, civilian-actors pleaded in their native language for the Americans to leave while others wanted their help, or so it seemed.
All Seabees get combat tactics training, and they have to learn what seasoned grunts do by instinct. “We put a lot on our E-4s and E-5s to make very sound, tactical decisions, putting bullets down the range to keep us safe,” said Anderton, the Bravo Company operations chief and a former drill instructor. “The first line of defense is them. They’re the ones in the pit when the aggressions happen.”
“Making that tactical decision that is either going to put him in jail or save his life,” he said. “That’s the most critical, that they would pull the trigger at the right time.”
“This is a pressurized environment that really tests the leaders,” said Cmdr. Laurie Scott, NMCB-3’s commander, especially for junior Seabees who haven’t yet served overseas. “This is a lesson in sleep deprivation,” he said. “You kind of get the sense of how people react under pressure.”
The night before, a Seabee spotted some infiltrators in the scrub and bushes who had been harassing them. “We walked down to the lines and, sure enough, there was someone out there and we started shooting,” said Steelworker 2nd Class Shianne Chlupacek with Charlie Platoon. “It was pretty cool.”
A half-dozen or so enemy tried to infiltrate the camp. “We saw them with the thermals setting up,” Builder 3rd Class John Skoblicki[cqgf] said. “They set up right in between (Pit) 4 and 3, and then they opened up. We shot back.”
“We’d been tracking them for awhile,” as enemy flashlights prodding the pit line gave them away, said Steelworker Seaman Korey Benton[cqgf], 20. “We engaged and fired back,” added Skoblicki. No casualties among the Seabees, but Skoblicki blew through the first can of ammo with the M240 machinegun before it jammed with the blanks. “It tends to do that,” he said. Benton provided covering fire with the M16 rifle until they could get the 240 up and running. “You just have to keep racking,” he said.
Chlupacek stood in an M16 pit the Seabees carved from the brown-mocha dirt with their E-tools and the help of a Catepillar 420 backhoe. (To a Marine, it’s a fighting hole. To Seabees, it’s a “defensive fighting pit.”) “It’s definitely part of being a Seabee,” said Chlupacek, who grew up around farms and hunting and got into welding in her small Nebraska town.
This was her third FTX. A cold front had blown chilly rain through the region just as the Seabees arrived to build their FOB. “It was the first day when we started doing trenching. It was hard to keep morale up,” she said. “I’d walk the lines for about 16 hours, and I’d keep telling the troops that it’ll be over soon. It was wet and it was cold.”
“Once you get entrenched, it’s pretty easy,” she said. “We didn’t get entrenched until the third day we were here. At first, it was just sitting on the ground, in like a skirmish room.”
Perhaps more than most seagoing sailors, Chlupacek is comfortable in the rugged outdoors. “I love tactics, so this is one of my favorite things to do,” she said. “You get in the game, and you feel it. OK, there’s enemy out there, and let’s kill ’em. I like it.”
Living like a grunt isn’t for every Seabee. Others take well to the “build-fight” life. “I love either side, tactics or building. I joined to be a Seabee,” said Builder 2nd Class Harlee Annis, 23, of Ukiah, Calif., who enlisted after he saw a pamphlet about Seabees while at a junior college. “I got my first gun when I was 7 years old.”
On this day, Annis was the gunner who manned the M16 service rifle, a qualification he earned during NMCB-3’s “homeport” period at Port Hueneme. “This is probably the funnest part, to get to fire it,” he said. He wasn’t on shift during the attack the previous night and was eager to get this first shot off. “I was hoping,” he said. “Today. Maybe.”
The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.
Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.
Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.
1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.
The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.
The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.
2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.
Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.
3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.
4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.
Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.
5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.
Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.
6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.
An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.
7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.
India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.
8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.
Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.
9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.
The IAEA deal is a “roadmap” to Iran providing the disclosures needed to establish an inspection baseline for the country’s nuclear program. The Agency needs to know the state of Iranian expertise, infrastructure, and research related to nuclear weapons in order to formulate an effective inspection regime.
But the deadline for these disclosures is late 2015, well after the presumed lifting of UN sanctions authorizations. The “roadmap” also makes the following, brief mention of how inspectors will deal with the Parchin facility, the suspected site of nuclear-weapons-related ballistics tests in 2002: “Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.”
Disclosures and access related to Parchin could be crucial to getting a full view of Iran’s nuclear program. And a major point of verification is being put off for months after the actual agreement is signed.
Furthermore, the compromise suggests that inspector access to even military sites with a strongly suspected past connection to nuclear weaponization — even Parchin, which at one point may have been one of Iran’s key nuclear facilities — won’t be absolute.
The second ambiguity has to do with Iranian acceptance of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Additional Protocol (AP) is a series of country-specific nuclear-energy regulations that are binding under international law. The AP is a huge part of what gives the Iran nuclear agreement teeth.
But like the April Lausanne framework, Tuesday’s nuclear deal says Iran will “provisionally” accept the AP. “Provisional” acceptance is a treaty law term referring to the implementation of an agreement’s terms during the time period between when a treaty is signed and when it is officially ratified.
Even so, per the nuclear agreement, the AP enters into only du jour legal force when it is approved by the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. And there’s no apparent, fixed timeline for the official Iranian accession to the AP. Iran is obligated to “seek ratification of the AP.” But it will not enter into actual legal force until some later date — and possibly after UN sanctions authorizations are lifted.
The deal certainly sets the stage for Parchin access and Iranian AP ratification. It’s just not clear how either will work — at least not yet.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”
Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.
These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.
The FiSTers carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.
They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the FiSTer gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.
Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.
If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.
Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.
Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.
It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.
Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.
Friday the 13th is more than just a classic movie series. It’s estimated that 17-21 million people are affected by Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. This fear has its roots in biblical history, referencing the thirteen people present at Jesus’ last supper on the 13th day on the night before his death on Good Friday. Another legend links the superstition to the liquidation of the Knights Templar by French king Philip IV.
No matter its origin, in Western culture, the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday has been an unlucky day for at least 200 years. Around the Western world, businesses take an estimated $800-900 million hit on Friday the 13th. A 1993 study in the British Medical Journal even revealed “a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day.” Maybe it’s just superstition, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, maybe it’s not a bad idea to stay in bed. Warfighters aren’t exempt. These five events added more than a few warriors to the ranks of the paraskevidekatriaphobic:
1. The Aztecs get pwned by Cortes
Stubbing your toe on Friday the 13th is bad luck. Losing your entire empire is literally the end of the world. At least, YOUR world. Losing your empire despite outnumbering a bunch of foreigners 200 to 1 is almost tragic.
On Friday the 13th, 1521, Conquistador Hernán Cortés captured Tenochtitlán with 1,500 Spaniards against 300,000 Aztecs after a two month siege. They chained the Emperor of the Aztec Empire and then tortured the city’s aristocracy, looking for hidden treasure. They held him as a slave for four years before executing him. Bad luck.
2. Robert E. Lee accidentally loses the Civil War
One of the famed general’s officers wrapped a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, the secret instructions for the invasion of Maryland, around three cigars in his camp. The order was a detailed, ten-part instruction for units involved in the rebel invasion. Somehow, the paper was dropped in an abandoned campsite and spotted by a Union scout, who picked it up on Friday, September 13, 1862 and sent it up the chain. It would affect every Confederate invasion of the North for the rest of the war.
Knowing the entire set of instructions, Union forces were able to beat the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war, and the bloodiest day in American military history. It ended Lee’s first invasion of Union territory. It allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would be instrumental in keeping foreign powers out of the war, and set the stage for Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
3. The King of England gets a up-close view of WWII
Nazi Germany was relentlessly bombing London during the Blitz, a period of intense aerial attacks on Britain where the Nazis dropped 100 tons of high explosives on the city. Just a week after the Blitz began, King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother (not the current Queen Elizabeth, but rather her mom) were having tea when the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth recalled “battling” to remove an eyelash from the King’s eye, when they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” and then the “scream of a bomb”.
The King and Elizabeth only had time to look foolishly at each other before the bombs exploded nearby. The King and his wife were as stiff-lipped as the rest of the British people, refusing to flee London, which won them the respect of the British people. The bomb destroyed a glass ceiling and the palace chapel.
4. Japanese admiral decides to have an actual “Battle of Friday the 13th”
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto led a 39-ship task force against the small American presence around Guadalcanal on Friday, November 13th, 1942. The idea was to land 7,000 Japanese troops on the island and retake the strategically-located Henderson Field (though that’s probably not what the Japanese called it).
Yamamoto lost two battleships, three destroyers, a heavy cruiser, and seven fully-loaded troop transports sunk and four destroyed on the beach. The Japanese also lost 64 aircraft and nearly 2,000 killed. The Americans lost seven destroyers, two light cruisers, 36 aircraft and more than 1,700 men, including Admirals Daniel Callaghan and Norman Scott, the highest ranking officers to die in combat during the war. The American win cemented the Guadalcanal campaign in U.S. favor.
5. The Cold War in the Baltic teeters on becoming ballistic
Soviet Fighter planes shot down a Swedish military C-47 Dakota cargo plane over international waters on Friday, June 13, 1952. The plane was unarmed and all eight crewmen died in the attack. The Swedes send out two PBY Catalina aircraft to search for the missing plane. One of those is intercepted and shot down as well. The crew of the rescue plane survived, but Moscow denied the incident until 1991.
After the incident, Swedish authorities discovered a life raft with remnants of a Soviet shell. The Swedes would later admit the first plane was conducting signals intelligence. The name of the rescue plane lent itself to color the name of the event, which became known as the “Catalina Affair.” In 2003, both aircraft were located in the Baltic Sea and when the first plane was raised from the ocean, the bullet holes showed the it was shot down by a MiG15. The clock in the cockpit read the exact time the plane went down and all eight crewmen’s remains were recovered.
Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” (meaning “hail victory”) salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation.
August Landmesser, the lone German refusing to raise a stiff right arm amid Hitler’s presence at a 1936 rally, had been a loyal Nazi.
Two years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935.
After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party.
Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws.
The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ingrid, in October 1935.
And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler’s christening of a new German navy vessel.
The act of defiance stands out amid the throng of Nazi salutes
In 1937, fed up, Landmesser attempted to flee Nazi Germany to Denmark with his family. But he was detained at the border and charged with “dishonoring the race,” or “racial infamy,” under the Nuremberg Laws.
A year later, Landmesser was acquitted for a lack of evidence and was instructed to not have a relationship with Eckler.
Refusing to abandon the mother of his child, Landmesser ignored Nazi wishes and was arrested again in 1938 and sentenced to nearly three years in a concentration camp.
He would never see the woman he loved or his child again.
The secret state police also arrested Eckler, who was several months pregnant with the couple’s second daughter. She gave birth to Irene in prison and was sent to an all-women’s concentration camp soon after her delivery.
Eckler is believed to have been transferred to what the Nazi’s called a “euthanasia center” in 1942, where she was killed with 14,000 others. After his prison sentence, Landmesser worked a few jobs before he was drafted into war in 1944. A few months later, he was declared missing in action in Croatia.