US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Nov. 1, 2019.

“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”

The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.


While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.

The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.

Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

An Airman from the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron marshals a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. This was the first C-130 to take-off at Air Base 201, marking the beginning of limited Visual Flight Rules operations at the base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.

The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.

“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

US Air Force engineers construct a dining facility on Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger.

(Staff Sgt. Daniel Asselta)

The construction project has also benefited Nigerien locals.

Around million was spent on the asphalt for the base, in addition to million for rubble. Nigerien locals were also employed for day-to-day jobs on the base, such as dining facility operations.

Source: Stars and Stripes

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

A US Air Force air advisor gives instructions to a Niger Armed Forces member while an interpreter translates the instructions during a training exercise at Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.

In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

Niger Armed Forces members clear a corridor during a training exercise with the US military at the Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.

On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.

Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.

A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.

Source: The Army Times

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

US Airmen load a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, Aug. 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lexie West)

Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”

Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.

In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.

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

Intel

How numbers stations like the ones in ‘Black Ops’ worked

The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”


In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base
Even though thereu00a0wasn’t a gigantic,u00a0climactic battle that took place on one… that we know of…
(Activision)

Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.

The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.

An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.

Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”

In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.

The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.

Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US slammed Russia for moving more weapons into Syria

Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.

Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia “should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry.”


Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike early April 2018.

“This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime’s atrocities,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens.

Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, 2018, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down “any” US missile.

Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria’s ally, has provided air support and training for Assad’s military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians.

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



MIGHTY TRENDING

In Turkmenistan, whatever you do, don’t mention the coronavirus

ASHGABAT — Authorities in Turkmenistan have yet to admit there are any cases of the coronavirus in the country. Now, officials are making sure the word doesn’t appear in print or casual conversations either.

RFE/RL correspondents in the capital, Ashgabat, report that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.

The word “coronavirus” also has disappeared from newly published state brochures on disease prevention in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation.


US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

In place of old brochures instructing citizens about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, new publications replace the word “coronavirus” with words like “illness” and “acute respiratory diseases.”

“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The lack of any report confirming even one coronavirus infection in Turkmenistan has raised suspicions and criticism about the country’s official data on the pandemic.

Countries that border Turkmenistan — including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan — have registered dozens of infections.

To the south, nearby Iran had reported more than 44,700 infections by March 31, including nearly 3,000 deaths.

Turkmenistan’s government sealed off Ashgabat on March 20 without any public announcement by authorities or state media about the reasons for the closure.

Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.

Concern over the outbreak among locals, along with the restrictions, has pushed food prices to record highs.

“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov,” Cavelier said on March 31. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 1st

It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.

You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.


US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Navy Memes)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.

(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme by WATM)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Meme via Military World)

“Cover me while I glue!”

“I got you covered!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just changed enlisted performance reports

The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.

The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.

“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”


The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.

One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.

Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.

An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.

In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.

Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.

“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”

Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s ‘Doomsday plane’ is spent

The E-4B “Nightwatch” plane, which would allow the president to give military orders in the event of a nuclear war and has served as a mobile Pentagon for defense secretaries, is worn out, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.

The so-called Doomsday plane — which is the Air Force’s four E-4Bs and the Navy’s E-6B “Mercury” — has been in service since the 1970s, much like Air Force One, and is expected to keep flying through the 2020s. But to preserve the planes, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has had to use other military aircraft when traveling, including a C-17 Globemaster and a C-32 airliner, both smaller than the E-4B.

“A number of aircraft are in a maintenance status to ensure they remain flyable for this no-fail mission for the next decade,” Lt. Col. David Faggard, an Air Force spokesman, told Defense One.


“Upgrades and maintenance include avionics, wiring, communication equipment, and other components to ensure the platform remains viable in a modern world,” Faggard said.

The E-4B dates to the 1970s, but it needs to have advanced technology to carry out its most important mission — directing US forces in a nuclear war.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(US Department of Defense)

The distinctive hump behind the cockpit of the aircraft holds satellite antennae, and the plane’s advanced electronics allows the president to order nuclear missile launches from assets on land, in the air, and at sea. It also has no windows except the ones at the cockpit.

The Air Force would not say exactly how many of the aircraft were in for repairs and upgrades, but the number of issues that the E-4B and its Navy counterpart, the E-6B, have faced recently are worrisome.

As Defense One reports, it’s sometimes difficult to obtain parts for the aircraft because they’re so old. And in 2011, an E-4B carrying then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates broke down on the runway in Belgium.

Just weeks ago, one of the Navy’s E-6B Mercury planes was grounded after it hit a bird, causing at least million in damages. In March 2019, another E-6B made an emergency landing in Oklahoma after a fire broke out on board.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

The text that precedes every opening crawl for a “Star Wars” film reminds us that the events we are about to witness take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but that’s not entirely true. The fictional events may not have occurred recently or nearby, but the films were largely shot on location somewhere on Earth, which means that you can actually visit them in real life.

From national parks in the United States to islands off the coast of Ireland, here are some iconic Star Wars locations you should add to your travel bucket list.


US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

There are even tours.

(Photo by Veronique Debord)

1. Tunisia is one of the most-prolific “Star Wars” locations.

Tunisia has served as the sand-covered backdrop to scenes in several “Star Wars films.” Shubiel Gorge, Chott el Jerid, Matmata, Djerba, and other areas in the north African country are the real-world stand-ins for the planet Tatooine where we were first introduced to Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope” (as well as his Aunt Beru, Uncle Owen, Old Ben Kenobi, and the Jawas).

The name of the fictional planet was borrowed from a real Tunisian town called Tataouine. There are tours that take you around abandoned sets and notable landmarks seen in the films, and there is even the option to stay in the former Owen/Beru Lars residence, now called Hotel Sidi Driss.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

Death Valley National Park.

2. Death Valley has a few locations, too.

Some outdoor Tatooine scenes were also filmed in Death Valley, a US National Park situated in California and Nevada. The National Park Service website lists Golden Canyon, Dante’s View, Desolation Canyon, and other key areas for “A New Hope” fans venturing to stand where our heroes once stood.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

Cheatham Grove is one particular hot spot.

(Flickr photo by Miguel Vieira)

3. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is one of the many forests they filmed in.

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park in California is one of the lush filming locations used in “Return of the Jedi” as the Forest Moon of Endor. Fans of the saga will want to visit the park’s Owen R. Cheatham Grove in particular because it is where George Lucas and his crew shot the iconic speeder bike chase. Watch out for those completely stationary trees.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

(Photo by Svein-Magne Tunli)

4. Reenact the Battle of Hoth in Finse, Norway.

Finse, Norway is the real, very cold, icy landscape that the filmmakers chose when they needed to shoot the fake, but still very cold and icy landscape surrounding the rebel base on the planet Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

According to Starwars.com, the pretty much the only way to reach the crevasses and plateaus of Finse is by train (4-5 hours) from Oslo or Bergen. The long, scenic route will give you plenty of time to plan the Battle of Hoth reenactment of your dreams.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

Skellig Michael is picture-perfect.

(Photo by Niki.L)

5. You can live like Luke Skywalker on Skellig Michael.

Skellig Michael is an island off the coast of Kerry, Ireland where Rey and Chewbacca finally tracked down Luke Skywalker at the end of “The Force Awakens.” Called Ahch-To in that film and featured more prominently in “The Last Jedi,” the rocky island does not have a Jedi temple but you can climb the many stone steps up to the ruins of a real ancient monastery.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

6. Laamu Atoll in the Maldives will remind you of “Rogue One.”

The islands of the Laamu Atoll in the Maldives are where the battle scenes on Scarif took place in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” though the explosions were filmed in a studio in England. It may not be one of the episodic films, but that daring mission to get the Death Star plans and the devastating battle that ensued are what led to events of “A New Hope,” so seeing it in person is a must for hardcore fans.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

7. Fans of the prequels will love Lake Como, Italy.

Are you a fan of the prequels? Lake Como, Italy has the distinction of being the real-world location used during the filming of “Attack of the Clones.” You and your significant other can pretend you’re Anakin and Padme on Naboo while viewing the lake from Villa del Balbianello or taking a stroll through the Tremezzo public gardens.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

8. You may run across Jar Jar Binks in the Whippendell Woods.

Speaking of the prequels, the Whippendell Woods near Watford, England is where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi first met the controversial “Star Wars character” Jar Jar Binks, in “The Phantom Menace.” The odds of seeing a Gungan in the forest are slim, but you can snap selfies with the trees and quote a few lines of dialogue in Gunganese.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

9. You can visit the fictional planet Crait in Bolivia.

The world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, became the site for an abandoned rebel base in “The Last Jedi.” As the mineral planet Crait, the unique terrain was the stage for the film’s final battle between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. There is no massive metal structure, ice foxes, or ski speeders to speak of, but the photo ops provided by the vast flat landscape is worth the price of the flight.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

10. Rub’ al Khali makes up one of the franchise’s most iconic locations.

Rub’ al Khali is the desert in Abu Dhabi that Rey calls home (Jakku) in “The Force Awakens.” You’ll have to use your imagination if you want to see the Millennium Falcon parked in the sand, but for some fans just being there counts as a win.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The world is less peaceful now than at any point in the last decade

The world is less peaceful than at any point in the past 10 years as the number of refugees worldwide reached the highest level in modern history, according to a new report.

The Institute for Economics and Peace released its 12th annual Global Peace Index on June 6, 2018, which ranks 163 independent states and territories on their level of peacefulness.

The study looks at three factors to measure the state of peace in a state or territory: safety and security in society, extent of ongoing domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization.


The research found the world became 0.27% less peaceful over the course of 2017, which marked the fourth consecutive year global peace declined. Overall, 92 countries became less peaceful while 71 saw improvement over the past year.

Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, told Bloomberg, “Increased numbers of refugees, terrorism, and heightened political tensions were behind the deterioration.”

“Refugees on their own would make one of the world’s biggest nations,” Killelea added.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base
German, French, and Spanish fighters of the YPG in northern Syria.

Refugees now account for about 1% of the global population. There are approximately 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including roughly 22.5 million refugees, according the UN’s refugee agency.

2018’s Global Peace Index also found the US became less peaceful in the last year and ranked 121st overall. Comparatively, it ranked at 114th in 2017 and 103rd in 2016.

According to the study, the five most peaceful countries in the world are Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Meanwhile, the five least peaceful countries in the world are Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia.

The economic cost of the decline in peace across the world was estimated to be roughly $14.8 trillion in 2017, the report found, which is equivalent to 12.4% of the world’s economic activity or roughly $2,000 for every person.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

In 2003, the town of Erie, Pennsylvania made national news when an unassuming pizza delivery man walked into a local bank and demanded a quarter of a million dollars from the vault. What happened next would baffle authorities for years and see the crime become one of the most intriguing ever committed in the United States. So what happened?


At roughly 2:30 PM on August 28, 2003, a 46 year old man by the name of Brian Wells walked into the Erie branch of PNC Bank and handed the teller a note that read, “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You have only 15 minutes.”

As the teller read the note, Wells informed them that he had a live explosive around his neck that would detonate if the demand wasn’t met. He then pulled down his shirt to reveal a crude, but threatening-looking metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. Wells was also holding a custom made cane that doubled as a shotgun.

Showing a remarkable amount of professionalism, the bank workers informed Wells that it wouldn’t be possible to retrieve that sum of money in such a short amount of time due to the various safeguards to limit access to the vault.

Wells then simply asked for whatever they had available, taking time to grab a lollipop from the counter, which he began to idly suck on whilst waiting for his money.

All-in-all Wells would leave the bank about 12 minutes later with ,702 in cash. He then went to McDonald’s next door for a bit, as you do, after which he headed back to his car.

As you might imagine, hanging around in the parking lot next door to the bank you just robbed isn’t a great way to not get caught. And so it was that Wells found himself tackled by police as he was walking to his vehicle.

Whilst being cuffed, Wells helpfully informed the troopers of the bomb around his neck and that three black men had put it there. He further stated that, as far as he was aware, it would go off any minute.

Naturally, the officers all very abruptly backed away from Wells, no doubt mumbling to themselves that they were “too old for this shit”, if movies from that era have taught me anything. After getting a safe distance away, they called the bomb squad.

As for Wells, for 20 agonizing minutes he sat alone on the concrete, occasionally shouting to officers to check if they’d called his boss to inform him why Wells hadn’t come back to work after the delivery, and inquiring when the bomb squad was going to show up.

Unfortunately for Wells, just a few minutes before said explosives experts arrived, the collar around his neck began beeping- never a good sign. Wells’ calm demeanor disappeared completely at this point and he frantically wiggled backwards in a futile attempt to get away from the bomb. Approximately ten seconds after the beeping started, the collar exploded, killing him.

After the bomb squad checked the collar to ensure all explosives had detonated, the gathered law enforcement began slowly sifting through Wells’ belongings, beginning what would soon become one of the most unusual cases in the annals of law enforcement history.

Most pertinent to the topic at hand, while searching through Wells’ beat up old Geo Metro, they stumbled across several pages of handwritten instructions ominously addressed simply to the “Bomb Hostage”. These instructions, evidently meant for Wells, included several explicit warnings against deviating from them in anyway and were littered with threats of harsh and instantaneous reprisal should they be ignored, including remote detonation of the bomb. Further, on one page it stated, “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”

Later analysis would conclude that these threats were baseless as there was no way to detonate the collar remotely, despite a cell phone seeming to be connected to the bomb; in fact, it was just a realistic looking toy phone.

As for what the instructions were telling Wells to do, beyond of course instructing him to rob the bank, what followed was a twisted scavenger hunt to find several keys which the instructions claimed would delay the timer on the bomb and, eventually, disarm it completely. At that point, they stated he would be able to safely remove it without setting it off. However, it turns out, along with the cell phone being fake, the various key holes weren’t wired or linked to anything.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, experts analysing the collar would later conclude that although the device “looked” dangerous and sophisticated, including a lot of wires that seemed to be connected in significant ways, the guts of the bomb actually had the complexity of, to quote one of the investigators, a “child’s toy“- more or less just two pretty run of the mill pipe bombs connected to two electronic kitchen timers with nothing complicated about any of it. Cut the wires to the timers, no boom.

Further, it turns out even that wasn’t necessary to save Wells’ life, as had he simply reached up and tugged the mechanism to allow it to open and taken it off, this too wouldn’t have triggered the bomb. He could have even simply added time to the timers manually or turned them off if he wanted to leave the collar on without risk.

So what devil made this dastard device of destruction?

Investigators tried to follow the trail laid out in the instructions, traveling several miles to a nearby wood to find another note which in turn directed them to a seemingly random road sign miles in the other direction. The trail went cold at the road sign when a jar that was supposed to contain yet another clue turned up empty. Investigators would later surmise that the killer or killers had learned of Wells’ death and abandoned their plans to continue placing clues for him. Either that, or they’d simply assumed he’d not have had time to get to that point before the bomb would detonate so didn’t bother leaving another message.

With nothing else to go on, investigators turned to looking more into Wells. To begin with, upon initially being arrested, Wells, as noted, had alleged that the collar had been forcibly placed upon him by a group of large black men during a routine pizza delivery. Looking into it, indeed Wells had been working at the still existing and exceptionally well reviewed Mama Mia’s Pizzeria when a call came in from what turned out to be from a payphone at around 1:30p on that day of August 28, 2003. The original person who answered the pizzeria phone couldn’t understand the speaker, so passed it over to Wells, who then took the order and ultimately went out to deliver the pizzas.

Following the trail, investigators went to the site of that last delivery- a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road- and found nothing of significance other than a neighbor had stated he’d heard a gunshot at approximately the time Wells would have been there delivering the pizzas.

Local law enforcement and later the FBI further found nothing that would give Wells motive to commit such a bizarre crime had he been the one to instigate it. Wells had no apparent significant outstanding debts or commitments, and was noted as being a model employee and a man of good moral standing. People who knew him described him as a simple man, but also a very nice, and seemingly happy person.

In short, the authorities were at a complete loss. In fact, it’s possible this bizarre crime would have remained a mystery forever had the police not received a phone call a few weeks later from a man called Bill Rothstein.

You see, Rothstein lived near the TV transmission tower Wells had made his final delivery to and had even been interviewed by the FBI who combed his property for clues, finding nothing. This changed, however, when Rothstein inexplicably confessed to having a human body in his freezer.

After being arrested, Rothstein identified the body as being that of Jim Roden, the lover of one of his ex girlfriends, then 54 year old Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein insisted that he had nothing to do with Roden’s death and that his ex had shot and killed Roden during an argument. Not wanting to incur his ex’s vengeful wrath, Rothstein had hidden the body at her insistence and even helped dispose of the murder weapon. However, when Diehl-Armstrong told him to grind up the body and bury it, Rothstein decided enough was enough and confessed.

Now, initially the FBI wrote the whole location of the two crimes off as a bizarre coincidence. That is, until Rothstein told local police that he was so wracked with guilt about the whole ordeal that he’d contemplated killing himself.

Why is this important, you ask?

Well, to prove this, Rothstein directed police to a suicide note he’d stashed away in a drawer. Along with containing a confession about the murder of Roden and his remorse over his involvement, it also for some reason contained the sentence -“This has nothing to do with the Wells case.”

Naturally, this led to some follow up questions about why he’d written that. While Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong initially flatly denied having anything to do with the collar bomb plot, once again leaving authorities with nothing solid, over the course of many years of investigation that followed, this trail did lead somewhere and things slowly became reasonably clear.

To begin with, it’s important to note that while in her younger years Diehl-Armstrong had been a straight-A student type and ultimately even earned a Master’s degree in college, she also had mental health problems that only got worse with age. On that note, previous to murdering Roden, it came to light that she had shot and killed one Robert Thomas in 1984. As to why she wasn’t in prison for it, she was acquitted as it was deemed self-defense, despite that he’d been apparently just sitting on their couch at the time and she shot him not once, not twice, not thrice, not what we’re going to call frice and, I don’t know, fwivce- but six times.

Further, eight years later in 1992, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. While we can only hope that was naturally induced, it is noteworthy that she managed to finagle a rather sizable legal settlement with the hospital involved over it. She also allegedly had a couple other men in her life who likewise met rather untimely deaths at ages where men not acquainted with Diehl-Armstrong didn’t normally find themselves failing to continue breathing.

Whatever the case with any of that, she was ultimately convicted of the murder of Roden. At the same time, police were still trying to figure out if they could connect her and Rothstein more concretely to the Wells case, but coming up empty…

That is, until Diehl-Armstrong herself became tired of the high security prison life at Muncy Correctional Institution about a year and a half after Wells’ death. She thus requested to be transferred to a minimum-security prison. In exchange for granting her request, she would tell the authorities anything and everything they wanted to know about the Wells’ case, which she subsequently did.

A further break was had getting another side of the story not long after when one Kenneth Barnes’ brother-in-law decided to call the police to let them know Mr. Barnes, a retired individual who’d taken up drug dealing for some extra money, had bragged to him about his own involvement in the pizza collar bomber case. As for Barnes, he was easy for police to find as he was sitting in a prison cell at the time after being arrested for his little side job as a crack dealer. Once confronted, Barnes too had a story of his own to tell the police.

Naturally, the confessions of those involved should be met with some degree of skepticism on the finer points, particularly as they all pointed the finger at someone else being the mastermind behind the whole thing. That caveat out of the way, combining all the evidence and the stories, the generally accepted tale the investigators cobbled together is as follows.

It would seem leading up to the bank robbery, Diehl-Armstrong approached Barnes to see if he wouldn’t mind killing her father. As to why, she believed, whether accurately or not isn’t clear, that his net worth was approximately million (about .7 million today). Notably, in his waning years, he’d begun donating this small fortune to various charities. To ensure she got the bulk sum, she apparently figured it would be best not to wait for him to die naturally, but just kill him immediately.

The problem was when she asked Barnes to take him out, Barnes asked for a sum of 0,000- not exactly something she had lying around, and he was unwilling to do the job with only the promise of money after the inheritance was acquired.

So how to come up with the 0,000 to get M? Well, robbing a bank apparently seemed like the easy solution if one could think of a way to ensure there was no chance of getting caught.

At some point in here, it’s not clear when, Rothstein became involved, with Diehl-Armstrong herself claiming he was the mastermind behind the whole thing in the first place, though most authorities think it likely that it was, in fact, her. And for whatever it’s worth, Barnes claims Diehl-Armstrong herself first asked him if he knew how to make a bomb for the plot, but he did not, and thus Rothstein, who was a bit of a closet genius and worked as a handy-man and shop teacher, did.

Whatever the case, plan developed, they now needed someone to actually go rob the bank and function as the fall-guy should things go wrong.

Enter prostitute Jessica Hoopsick, who was an acquaintance of Barnes through his drug dealing business, including using his house as a bit of a home base to entertain clients, as apparently several prostitutes in the area did.

While elements of Hoopsick’s story, as with all the others involved, are considered somewhat suspect, she claims she was asked by Barnes for someone who might be easily pressured into committing a crime, though she stated she had no knowledge at the time of what the crime would be. In exchange for drugs and money, she thus gave them the name of one of her frequent clients, Wells, as an ideal candidate given he was, to quote her, a “pushover”. Hoopsick also claims that, at least as far as she was aware, Wells had no prior knowledge of the plot before his fateful pizza delivery on the day of his death.

This brings us to Wells’ role in the plan. While there is still some debate on this point, it would actually seem that Wells had known the plan going into the delivery, though had been pressured into agreeing to it in the first place. Whether that is actually true or not, it would appear on the day of the event, he decided to back out.

You might now be thinking, “If he decided to back out, why did he go deliver the pizzas?” Well, it would appear his reticence to remain involved was squarely centered around the fact that in the planning stage, he had been told the bomb would be fake. But upon arriving on the day in question, he discovered they’d lied to him and Rothstein had, in fact, made a real bomb. Thus, when they tried to put the collar on him, he attempted to flee, resulting in a gun being fired as a warning shot, as heard by the neighbor. Further, according to Barnes, he had to punch Wells in the face to get him to allow the collar to be put on.

From there, it is speculated that Wells probably was under the impression he needed to follow the steps as laid out to get the collar off, which would go a long way in explaining why he chose to go get the paper with the next step at the McDonald’s next door, rather than, you know, fleeing the scene of the crime immediately after committing it. Unless of course he simply wanted to get caught, which would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one he felt was better than returning to his compatriots.

Of course, as the bomb put a hole in his chest, we’ll never know what he was thinking at the time. But given that there was no way for Wells to complete the steps the notes required of him in the time allotted, it’s thought by the authorities the conspirators had always planned for him to die. The steps were simply to lead him out of town where the bomb would detonate and they could go collect the cash. Making sure he felt he needed to follow them just ensured he wouldn’t lead police right back to them.

Had they left him alive, even if he wasn’t initially caught, there was little chance Wells wouldn’t be identified and arrested. And on the flip-side, should he be caught before the bomb went off, well, the limited time on the device gave good odds Wells wouldn’t have time to spill the beans. Thus, aside from the mistake of having Wells go to the McDonald’s next to the bank, this was a pretty ingenious plan overall. Had Wells made it out of town, it is likely they would have gotten the cash, with no further leads for the police other than Wells’ body.

This all brings us back to Roden’s death which foiled the whole plan. According to a fellow inmate of Diehl-Armstrong’s, she allegedly told said unnamed inmate that the argument the couple had was over the scheme. Allegedly, Roden told her if she didn’t call off the plot, he was going to tell the police. Rather than nix the plan, she simply decided to kill him and then handed the body over to Rothstein. From there, she allegedly threatened him to keep his mouth shut or he’d get the same.

Whatever the truth of that, in the end, Rothstein died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 60, years before any of this would become known, and thus the only one of the primary conspirators to avoid jail time; Diehl-Armstrong met her maker thanks to breast cancer, dying in prison on April 4, 2017. As for Barnes, he joined the pair in the afterlife in June of 2019 at the age of 65 from complications due to diabetes.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Lists

The 6 dumbest things I thought I knew about the military before joining

When I joined the military, I didn’t have a lot of time for things like “background research” or “making an informed decision about doing something that might affect the rest of my life.” I didn’t even look into which branch I should join. I just walked up to the line at the recruiters’ offices. Like a drunk stumbling through the streets late at night on the hunt for food, I went with whatever was open at the moment I got there.


The list of things I didn’t know is a mile long. Life in the military was like a big black hole of awareness to me. Like most civilians (maybe), I assumed that what I saw in television and movies was more than a little exaggerated. So, what it was really like to live that military life was as foreign to me as the Great Wall of China.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

You’ll never get with 1980s Cher in that outfit, guys.

6. Sailors wear crackerjacks all the time.

I’m pretty sure the Navy wanted everyone to think that sailors wore white crackerjacks 24/7 as a marketing gimmick. By 2001, when I was at Fort Meade, I didn’t know who the hell those people in the dungarees were.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

And the learning curve for calling these guys “Soldiers” is harsh.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

5. We were all Soldiers.

Yeah, I didn’t know any better and I still don’t blame civilians for not knowing that only Army troops are called “Soldiers.” I learned I would never be called “Soldier” when I got to Air Force basic training.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

Pictured: 20+ second lieutenants who all made more money than me on my best day. And have zero student-loan debt.

(Photo by Greg Anderson)

3. Enlisting is the only way to join.

There’s a difference between officers and enlisted people. That’s a no-brainer to me now, but back then, I seriously thought signing up at recruiter was the only way in. I knew the military paid for college, but I thought enlisting was the only avenue toward getting that benefit.

4. Enlisting is non-stop adventure.

If an airman’s additional duties count as “adventure,” then sign me up for the next squadron burger burn!

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re on a base full of airmen and it’s being overrun and there aren’t any airmen with berets on, you’re in deep shit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice)

2. Everyone wearing camo could end up in the infantry.

I didn’t know that every new recruit goes to technical training. Regardless of the branch you join, you’re more than just a generic troop. Even if you’re in the actual infantry, you still have a military specialty. It’s more likely that you’ll end up in a technical field than in the dirt.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

And for good reason.

(U.S. Air Force)

1. All airmen fly planes. That’s what we do.

The closest I ever got to the controls of any plane was taking video of the cockpit. Despite being in the Air Force and the new title of “Airman” I just earned, I would never, ever be taught to fly a plane.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why NATO went to an emergency session in the latest meeting

NATO leaders entered a special emergency session on July 12, 2018, after President Donald Trump was said to have spoken very bluntly about his demands that the countries spend more on defense.

During the summit, Trump broke diplomatic protocol by calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, saying, “Angela, you need to do something about this,” a source told Reuters.

Leaders of Afghanistan and Georgia, non-NATO members, were asked to leave for the emergency session.


Trump singled out Germany on July 11, 2018, when he accused the country of being “totally” controlled by Russia because Russia provides a large share of its oil and natural gas. Merkel fired back that Germany was independent and a strong NATO ally.

“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”

Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.

“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.

Trump’s NATO grudge

Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.

NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.

Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only Marine Corps Commandant without a portrait

The house of the Commandant of the Marine Corps is one of the oldest continuously-occupied buildings in the capital of the United States. Steeped in American history, the house was spared the torch when the British captured and burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. All but the first two Commandants have lived in the 15,000 square-foot house and, since 1916, all the historical occupants of the house were honored with portraits by order of then-Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

All but one, that is. There have been 37 Commandants of the Marine Corps but the house holds just 36 portraits.


The conspicuously missing spot belongs to Lt. Col. Anthony Gale, the fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the only Commandant ever to be fired from the position and the one with the fewest surviving records. No one knows what he looked like or even knows the location of his final resting place.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

This is not Lt. Col. Anthony Gale, this is Archibald Henderson, his successor.

Luckily for us, it’s not so much of a mystery anymore. The Marine Corps Association and Foundation’s Robert T. Jordan did an exhaustive work on the life of Lt. Col. Gale. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, around 1782 and his tenure as Commandant lasted from March 1819 until October 1820. In the decades that followed, Gale fell off the map. He’s seldom-mentioned in the annals of USMC history because the events surrounding his dismissal were said to have brought “embarrassment” upon himself and the United States Marine Corps. And so, he was pretty much lost to history entirely.

Until 1966, that is. General Wallace M. Greene Jr., the 23rd Commandant of the Marine Corps set up an investigation into the history of the Marine who fell from grace.

What was learned, however, was still very little. Anthony Gale arrived in the nascent United States in 1793. When President John Adams rebooted the Marine Corps (which was disbanded after the American Revolution), Gale was among the first to sign up as an officer. He commanded Marines guarding French prisoners of the quasi-War in Philadelphia and took to sea aboard the USS Ganges, where he fought Barbary Pirates and British sailors alike.

Gale cared deeply for his Marines and when a Naval officer, Lieutenant Allan MacKensie, arrested one of them aboard ship, Gale slapped the officer and challenged him to a duel — the duel that killed MacKensie. That’s not what got him the boot from the Corps, though. Superiors in Washington believed the duel would force Navy officers to treat Marines with respect.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

This is also not Gale. This is Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood, 9th Commandant and Medal of Honor Recipient.

His career continued, and soon he was married and saw service aboard the USS President and USS Constitution. By 1804, Gale was brevet Major Anthony Gale and his duties became focused on the recruitment and training of Marines. But soon, there was a new sheriff in town: Commandant Lt. Col. Frank Wharton took over for Commandant William Ward Burrows and Burrows looked at Gale with a much sharper eye than his predecessors.

Gale’s once squeaky-clean reputation soon became tainted by notes of alcoholism, sloppy management of the Marine Corps Barracks, and allegations that Gale used Marine Corps funds to renovate his personal home. Wharton took Gale to trial, but Gale was cleared of any wrongdoing. Still, Wharton sent Gale to the then-backwater of New Orleans – perhaps not the best place for a potential alcoholic, even in the early 19th Century. Still, when Wharton died in 1818, Anthony Gale was the most senior Marine Corps officer.

That did not mean he was promoted instantly.

No one forgot the charges filed against Gale, whether he was cleared or not. Others tried to have him removed from consideration to become the next Commandant. Gale was less concerned with the succession crisis and more concerned with keeping his head down and retaining his command. Even though he was not trying to be Commandant, that’s exactly what happened. He was promoted to Lt. Col. Commandant of the Marine Corps on March 3, 1819.

Gale had trouble with the position immediately. The Marine Corps became disorganized and undisciplined in the six months since Wharton died and he found himself spending more time fighting to re-organize it while the Navy Secretary and President Monroe would frequently counter his orders whenever it suited them — at the request of Gale’s subordinates. Overwhelmed and frustrated, Gale turned again to booze.

His mental state deteriorated as he became a drunkard, a womanizer, and verbally abusive toward his subordinates. Eventually, he was accused of drunkenness, conduct unbecoming an officer, signing false documents, and leaving his quarters without permission and was placed under house arrest. He was court-martialed and plead mental instability during the inquisition.

The court still found Gale guilty and removed him as the Commandant on Oct. 16, 1820, less than two years into his tenure.

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

This is Maj. Gen. Ben Hebard Fuller, the 15th Commandant, who is both not Gale and consolidated the Fleet Marine Force Concept.

After being helped out of the service, Gale moved to his home in Philadelphia, but found no peace there. He eventually moved his family to a log cabin in Kentucky where he found that being a farmer was not in his blood, either. He turned back to his old friend, alcohol. He fought to be granted a pension for his instability, earning one 15 years later in what might be one of the earliest veteran disability claim suits.

According to Kentucky records found by the Marine Corps, Gale died of Lung Cancer in 1843 in Kentucky. A number of his sons also joined the Marine Corps, some of whom served in the Civil War. They apparently had no idea he served as Commandant, believing he was a quartermaster in the Corps. But Gale’s sons are also lost to history, so even if a supposed burial site is ever found, there’s no way to definitively prove it.