Mexico’s Veracruz state may be one of the most dangerous places in the entire country. The extortion and kidnapping of civil servants and journalists are rampant, dismembered bodies are a common occurrence, and the city is on the front lines of Mexico’s ongoing drug war.
The Fuerza Civil – the Civil Forces of the Mexican state – is an elite security force designed to protect trade routes, migrants, agricultural areas, fisheries, and forests as well as assist with municipal authorities in preventing organized crime. They need all the help they can get.
Enter the Gurkha armored vehicle.
The Fuerza Civil equipped with next-generation weapons, armor, and vehicles to support that mission. One of those advanced armor vehicles comes from Canada’s Terradyne Armored, Inc. and is dubbed the Gurkha after Nepal’s feared elite warriors.
The Gurkha is a 4×4 light armored patrol vehicle, currently produced in three tactical configurations – each of which uses the Ford F550 chassis. They also run with Ford’s in-house built 6.7L Power Stroke V8 diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
The power and armor make a huge difference in Veracruz. Civilians and police are regularly targeted or in the crossfire of ongoing violence between the Zetas, Sinaloa, and Gulf Cartels. Things got so bad the Mexican government had to deploy military forces to quell the fighting.
The Falcons paid tribute to Air Force history by donning uniforms featuring the distinctive nose art of the WWII-era Curtiss P-40 Warkhawk and its grandson, the tank-busting, close air support maestro A-10 Thunderbolt II – aka the “Warthog.”
The Twitter account Air Force FB Equip tweeted a photo of the “threads” just before the start of the Air Force versus Georgia State game on September 10th.
The distinctive design harkens back to American pilots during the early years of World War II, before the United States joined the war. The 23d Fighter Group, dubbed the “Flying Tigers” for the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, flew combat sorties against Japan. Comprised of pilots from the Army Air Forces, the Navy, and Marine Corps, their distinctive Shark nose art remains an icon of military history.
The Flying Tigers’ first combat mission came just 12 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, racking up 256 kills at the cost of just 14 airmen until they were disbanded in July 1942. It was a big deal during the early days of the war, when Americans were taking huge losses left and right. For almost eight months, the Flying tigers ruled the skies over Burma.
The modern-day 23d Fighter Group doesn’t fly P-40s, it flies the A-10 – beloved by the troops of the ground for its superb close air support mission capabilities and feared by anyone on the receiving end of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the airframe was built. This thing is a flying gun with tank armor and wings. Some A-10s feature the legacy shark nose art, which is a rare sight on today’s military aircraft.
The home game at the Air Force Academy featured a flyover by four A-10 aircraft 30 seconds before kickoff. It’s almost not even fair – how are the Georgia State Panthers supposed to compete with that? They couldn’t. The Panthers fell to the Falcons like the Japanese fell during WWII – hard.
The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.
Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.
Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.
The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.
The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.
The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.
All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.
Long before they collaborated on “Unbroken,” which opens nationwide on Christmas Day, Louie Zamperini and Angelina Jolie were neighbors in the Hollywood Hills. When Hollywood decided to make a movie about Zamperini’s life, the star actress was chosen to direct.
“There is a saying: ‘Never meet your heroes,'” Jolie says. “I got the chance to meet mine, and he was an even greater man than I could have hoped for. Meeting him and knowing him changed my life.”
The American Legion magazine interviewed Jolie via email about the experience.
How did you get involved with the project?
I read a brief description and was interested in the themes of the strength of the human spirit, resilience and faith. I read Laura Hillenbrand’s book and became desperate to tell the story, walk in his footsteps and take this journey. It wasn’t as a filmmaker but as a human being that I asked to do this film.
During an interview on NBC’s “Today,” you said that Zamperini has been a help to you. How?
He was a living reminder of what a person could be. He wasn’t perfect or born into a charmed life. He made mistakes. He did the wrong thing many times, especially as a youth. But when it came down to it, he rose up. He fought hard. He worked on improving himself and on giving to others. And through it all, he remained full of that fun and fire that made him the man we all came to love and admire.
Sitting with him in his living room, talking about life, made me a better person. He was always happy to take the time to give guidance. He had such clarity. So much wisdom. And with that was a man with the greatest sense of humor. I was always laughing. I would wake up feeling sad and ask if I could come up for breakfast. By the time I left, I was smiling. Always.
His story is one of survival, resilience and redemption. Did you see those traits as you worked with him?
Even in his hospital bed, he was taking care of others, making jokes to help us all not to feel sad.
You showed him the nearly-finished movie while he was hospitalized. What was his reaction?
It was a deeply moving experience. I felt very privileged to witness this man I admire and love so much watch his own life play out on screen. It was especially moving as he was watching scenes with his family and the friends who he survived the war with. As a man of faith, it seemed he was internally preparing himself to pass away and be reunited with them. He was very peaceful. He smiled when he saw his mother making gnocchi. He jumped a bit when the flak exploded and hit the planes. At one point, he said “Phil” (pilot and fellow POW Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips) under his breath. It made me realize how difficult the last few years must have been, when all his closest friends were gone.
The book and upcoming movie have generated a lot of buzz among veterans and nonveterans alike. Why?
Most people are interested in history, especially when a particular time in history shapes our world, as was the case for World War II. But above all, I believe people are drawn to Louie’s story because it is inspirational. Louie always reminded me that the purpose of the film is not to show how extraordinary he was but to help those watching it discover that they have the same strength inside them.
What was your last conversation with Zamperini?
My last moments with him were two days before he passed away. We held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. The last thing I said was, “I love you.” I miss him.
Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.
In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.
What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.
All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.
Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:
“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”
It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.
On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.
In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.
A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.
During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.
As Director Clapper said:
“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”
The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.
Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.
President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.
After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.
The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.
I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.
When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.
I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.
Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:
“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”
The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.
The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.
The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.
Part of the Memex suite of tools, Tellfinder reveals trafficking activity and summarizes the behavior of and relationships between the entities that post them. (DARPA graphic)
Wade Shen, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, said in a recent DoD News interview that the program, called Memex, is designed to help law enforcement officers and others perform online investigations to hunt down human traffickers.
“Our goal is to understand the footprint of human trafficking in online spaces, whether that be the dark web or the open web,” he explained, characterizing the dark web as the anonymous internet, accessed through a system, among others, called Tor.
“The term dark web is used to refer to the fact that crimes can be committed in those spaces because they’re anonymous,” Shen said, “and therefore, people can make use of [them] for nefarious activities.”
Point of Sale
The approach he and his team have taken is to collect data from the Internet and make it accessible through search engines.
“Typically, this is data that’s hard for commercial search engines to get at, and it’s typically the point of sale where sex trafficking is happening,” Shen explained. “Victims of sex trafficking are often sold as prostitutes online, and a number of websites are the advertising point where people who want to buy and people who are selling can exchange information, or make deals.
“What we’re looking for,” he continued, “is online behavioral signals in the ads that occur in these spaces that help us detect whether or not a person is being trafficked.”
When a prostitute is advertised online as being “new in town” or by specific characteristics, those are hints that person might be trafficked. New in town means a person might be moving around, and the term “fresh” often means a person is underage, Shen explained. “Those kinds of things are indicators we can use to figure out whether or not a person is being pimped and trafficked,” he added.
Before the Memex program formally began in late 2014, Shen’s team was working with the district attorney of New York to determine if they could find signals associated with trafficking in prostitution ads on popular websites.
DMA modern slavery info graphic.
“We found that lots of signals existed in the data, whether they be phone numbers used repeatedly by organizations that are selling multiple women online, or branding tattoos that exist in photos online, or signals in the text of the ads,” Shen said.
Shen’s team had been working on text-based exploitation programs for big data — extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. But they thought that if they extended the technology to understand images and networks of people, then they could apply it to detecting rings of traffickers and behaviors associated with trafficking online.
“If we could do that,” he said, “we could … generate leads for investigators so they wouldn’t have to sift through millions of ads in order to find the small number of ads that are associated with trafficking. So that’s what we did.”
Early on, the team realized that search wasn’t quite the right modality for doing such investigations and that there was a lot more work to do before the technology could be adapted to trafficking. That’s when the Memex program began, Shen said.
“Since the beginning of the program, we’ve had a strong relationship with the district attorney of New York, but they’re not the only user of the technology. Over time, we have engaged with many different law enforcement agencies, including 26 in the United Kingdom, the district attorney of San Francisco, and a number of others,” he said.
Investigators for the district attorney of New York were able to use Memex tools to find and prosecute perpetrators, and that resulted in an arrest and conviction in the program’s first year, he added.
“Since then,” Shen said, “there have been hundreds of arrests and other convictions by a variety of law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.”
Today, more than 33 agencies are using the tools, he added, and an increasing number of local law enforcement agencies are using the tools.
“As word of mouth spreads about the tools and the fact that we give free access to the tools to law enforcement, more and more people are signing up to use it,” he said.
Shen said it’s easy for his team to work with state, local and federal partners in the United States, but it’s harder to work with agencies abroad.
“But we’re committed to do that,” he added, “so we are in the process of working out deals with a number of those agencies so they have access to the tools we currently deploy and to allow them, after we exit [when the program ends in a year] … to continue to run their own versions of these tools.”
DARPA funds the Memex project, which, according to the agency’s budget office, has cost $67 million to date. But rather than do the work, as with its other projects, DARPA catalyzes commercial agents, universities and others to develop the technology, Shen said.
“They are experts in their fields — image analysis, text analysis or web crawling and so on — and we engage the best of that community to work on this problem. What they’ve essentially done is form coalitions to … build the tools [needed] to solve the problem, because no one of the entities that we call performers is able to do that on their own,” he added.
The Memex program has 17 different performers, and many of them also work with partners. “So all in all,” Shen said, “we have hundreds of people who are working on this effort. All of them are very dedicated to this problem, because the problem of human trafficking is real.”
When Shen’s team started the program, one of the things they realized was that the cost of people in these spaces, the cost of slaves, is essentially zero, he added.
“That means our lives are essentially worthless in some sense, and that just seems wrong,” he said. “That motivated us and a lot of our performers to do something, especially when we build technology for all sorts of commercial applications for profit and for other motives. That’s what a lot of our folks do on a day-to-day basis, and they felt the need to make use of their technology for a noble cause. We think Memex is one of these noble causes.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.
The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.
Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.
“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.
Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.
Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.
The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.
The bravery and heroism demonstrated by America’s forefathers during the American Revolution has been widely documented and celebrated. Patriot rebels not only fought against the British forces on the battlefield, but worked to bring them down undercover, taking missions to gather intelligence that would often require them to pose as the enemy, cause strife amongst their neighbors, and risk the lives of their family and friends.
When people think of these early American spies, many think of the work of Nathan Hale, but few people know that women were also working to destroy British occupiers from the inside out.
These are some of the most prominent female spies of the American revolution:
1. Agent 355 was a prominent member of the Culper Spy Ring
There were several Patriot spy rings that worked to overthrow British occupation during the Revolutionary War, but very few of these secret groups had women who actively took part in the espionage. The Culper Spy Ring, however, is known mainly for a very unusual agent, a spy known then and now only as 355 — the group’s code number for the word “woman.” The mystery woman’s identity was kept secret to protect herself and likely her family, but her daring contributions to the American cause have been remembered in history. She took part in several counterintelligence missions, including spy operations that resulted in the arrest of major John Andrew — the head of England’s intelligence operations in New York — and the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason.
Some historians guess that Agent 355 was likely a shop keeper or a merchant who learned information about Red Coat military operations from chatty British customers, and that she would then divulge this information to George Washington. Regardless of her methods, Agent 355 made critical contributions to the Revolutionary cause.
2. Anna Smith Strong used her laundry as a coded Patriot communication system
Agent 355 wasn’t the only woman who operated under the Culper Spy Ring, however. Another woman, Anna Smith Strong, worked alongside 355 and her male compatriots in Long Island, and was known for her fierce patriotism and fearlessness. Strong’s sleuthing wasn’t quite as flashy as Agent 355’s, but the communication system she developed for the saboteurs was incredibly influential. Abraham Woodhull, a member of the ring, needed a way to find the location of Caleb Brewster‘s boat undetected, so he could then give him the top-secret information gathered for Gen. George Washington. It was too risky to search in multiple ports for the ship or ask for its whereabouts — if he drew attention to himself, he could be arrested and hanged for treason to the Crown.
To remedy this, Anna Strong developed a coded line of communication using her family’s wash line. Woodhull would hide his boat in six different locations in various patterns, and each one of these places was identified by a number. Smith would then hang clothes on the line in concordance with the code. The number of handkerchiefs hung out to dry signaled the number of the secret location, and she would add a black petticoat to signal that Brewster was close by. This system, as simple as it sounds, allowed the Culper Ring to operate undetected, and made huge gains for American freedom.
3. Ann Bates posed as a peddler to glean military information — for the British
The contributions of female spies to the American Revolution is incredibly impressive, but the Patriots weren’t the only ones with ladies working undercover. The British forces had women working for them as well, and Anna Bates was one of the best. Bates was a Loyalist schoolteacher in Philadelphia who began spying for the Red Coats in 1778, posing as a peddler and selling knives, needles, and other dry goods to the American military.
While she sold her wares to the rebel forces, she also took note of how many weapons and soldiers each camp held, and would pass this information along to loyalist sympathizers and British officers. Luckily, though Bates’s work was helpful to the British military, it wasn’t enough to derail the coming success of the American Revolution.
4. Lydia Darragh risked the lives of her sons for the American cause
While many spies were part of complex underground networks, some worked alone — like housewife Lydia Darragh. When British officers began using a large room on the second story of the Darragh’s home for military meetings, Darragh was quick to capitalize on the opportunity to gain information. Before the officers would file into the room, Darragh would hide inside an adjoining closet and press her ear to the wall, taking notes on the clueless officers’ battle plans.
She would then have her husband, William, translate her work into a coded shorthand on little pieces of fabric or paper. She would then fold the slip to fit over the top of a button mold, cover the mold with fabric, and then sew the message-filled buttons on to the shirt of her teenage son, John. Darragh would then send John on “visits” to his older brother Lt. Charles Darragh’s house, who would then take the buttons and present the stolen information to other rebel military leaders. It was an incredibly risky endeavor, but Darragh was willing to risk her own safety — and the safety of her family — for the American cause.
A pleasant drive through a farming community a little south of Phoenix, Arizona, leads to a dirt driveway with a sign that reads, “Wuertz Farm.” As cars file in past the miniature donkeys and horse corrals, a gentleman directs drivers where to park. A cameraman with a pack that appears to be tethered to a 100-ft extension cord works to get a live feed on a large flat screen TV. What may sound like a trip to the state fair is the opening scene to the Wuertz Machine Works 2019 Hammer In.
Travis Wuertz welcomes the crowd at the start of the 2019 Hammer In.
The Hammer In is a gathering of bladesmiths from around the country, who come to share and exchange knowledge of their ancient craft. As one might expect, there is no shortage of beards on site, but not everyone is shrouded in Viking-style facial hair. A quiet young lady with a secret passion for bladesmithing stands alone, trying to warm herself in the morning sun, while a fifteen-year-old bladesmith of two years shows off some of his amazing work to his adult colleagues. Regardless of age, gender, experience, or skill, it is immediately apparent that this is a brotherhood like no other — a brotherhood of steel.
The beautiful work of 15-year-old bladesmith Zander Nichols.
Not so primitive
While the perception of some may be that bladesmithing is a primitive craft, the reality is quite different. There is an old Japanese proverb, “On-ko Chi-shin,” which literally translates, “Study the old, know the new.” The idea is that by studying the old ways, one can better understand the new ways. This very concept can be seen in practice by the astute observer within seconds of setting foot into the Wuertz Hammer In.
A hundred-year-old power hammer that has been retrofitted with an electric motor sits just feet always from a self-regulating, ribbon-burner forge, built by Travis Wuertz himself. As an engineer who is constantly looking to refine his bladesmithing, Travis designed a forge that not only distributes heat consistently throughout using a ribbon burner design, but also automatically adjusts to maintain a consistent temperature, and monitors the gas/oxygen mixture for efficient fueling. The design ensures very precise control during the forging process, where overheating can result in damaged steel.
A not-so-primitive self-regulating, ribbon burner forge in action.
Mareko Maumasi, a Forged in Fire champion from Connecticut, and a wizard of Damascus steel, can be seen splayed over a large white easel pad working out a complex mathematical equation. When asked about it, he explains that it is an equation for predicting Damascus patterning. Apparently, there is more to it that just mixing hard and mild steels.
Old dogs and new tricks
Throughout the two-day gathering, both young and seasoned bladesmiths deliver periods of instruction on topics in which they are highly skilled. Michael Quesenberry, who specializes in daggers, bowies, and forged integrals, kicked off the event with a demonstration of how he forges his integral knives. An integral knife is one in which the blade, bolsters, tang, and pommel are forged from a single steel billet. With finesse and precision, Quesenberry hammers a round billet into an integral knife in less than an hour.
Michael Quesenberry demonstrates how he forges his integral knives.
William Brigham awed attendees with a detailed explanation of Mokume-gane, a Japanese metalworking process used to bond a mixture of metals to produce a distinctive layered pattern, similar to wood grain. Mokume-gane loosely translates to “wood grain metal.” This process was originally used in Japanese sword-making to produce highly aesthetic accoutrements like the Tsuba (guard) and now serves modern bladesmiths in like manner.
A gathering such as this could not take place without plenty of talk about Damascus steel. Mike Tyre and Eric Fleming gave an informative lecture about feather Damascus. This technique involves stacking many layers of steel several inches tall and using a dull wedge to split through and stretch the layers. A feather-like pattern is the result when the sections are rejoined and flattened out. Mareko Maumasi also gave a mathematically-charged lecture on mosaic Damascus, and shared the cold coffee etching recipe that he uses to create the deep color contrast his blades are known for.
Mareko Maumasi lectures the crowd on Mosaic Damascus.
At one point during the second day, one of the ABS Master Bladesmiths attending the event turned to this author and said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t seen or don’t know how to do when it comes to making knives, but these new guys are taking things to a whole new level.”
Fit & finish
Any bladesmith worth their salt will tell you the clean finish and precise fitting of a blade to the handle and accessories is what truly distinguishes the master craftsman. This requires the ability to work around a grinder to cut, shape, refine, and polish the blade, handle, and fittings. Mike Quesenberry demonstrated his mastery of fit and finish with a handle shaping demonstration and a blade grinding demonstration. There are few blade designs that challenge a bladesmith’s symmetrical grinding ability like a dagger, and Quesenberry showed us why he is one of the best at making daggers.
A well-used TW-90 grinder, the invention of Travis Wuertz himself.
Of course, the Wuertz Hammer In would not be complete without a demo from Travis Wuertz himself. Travis has designed the most coveted knife making grinder on the planet, the TW-90, so he finished up the two-day event with some of his tips and tricks for precise grinding and finishing using his grinder and the myriad of attachments he has designed to make the knife maker’s life a whole lot easier.
At rare events like this, where bladesmiths and knife enthusiasts gather from all over the country, there’s not much desire to go back to the hotel at the end of the day, rather the real fun begins when the day is “over.” The hammers come out, the forges are lit, and sparks begin flying in the darkness of night as the intimate exchange of information takes place and the good times roll.
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing after-hours activity was the knife throwing class taught by Jason Johnson, an expert knife thrower and Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Season 1 finalist. Johnson instructed participants in his instinctive and powerful knife-throwing technique prior to turning them loose on the firing line, so they could try their hands at sticking some knives. It was an impressive sight to see even the young kids sticking knives into the wooden targets at various ranges after only a few minutes of instruction from Johnson.
Knife Throwing expert Jason Johnson schools us on his personal method.
Wrapping it up
At the end of this two-day venture, new friendships have made, old friendships have been rekindled, and this brotherhood of steel is alive evermore. These bladesmiths are bonded by the blood, sweat, and tears that flow through down the anvil and the spirit of fire that burns through the forge. They part ways with the kinds of hugs and handshakes that only those of a kindred spirit can share. Until they meet again.
A coffee-etched kitchen knife created by Don Nguyen of Tucson, AZ.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The Army general who oversaw U.S. Special Ops in Central and South America was fired from his job last year for repeatedly getting drunk in public, according to new documents revealed by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, 55, was said to have retired “for health and personal reasons” but the documents revealed multiple times when he got drunk at a golf club bar near his Special Operations Command-South headquarters in Florida, as well as an alcohol-related incident during a deployment to Peru.
In a brief telephone interview, Mulholland said he had been affected by “some medical issues,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and a moderate case of traumatic brain injury. He said his actions were triggered by a lack of sleep, but he declined to comment further about the incidents.
“I’m not in favor of your printing any of this, truly,” he said. “I don’t need this harassment. . . . I just want to be left alone.”
Mulholland took command of SocSouth on Oct., 2012, according to a news release. He resigned in Aug. 2014, The South-Dade Newsleader reported.
A former US Military Academy at West Point cadet who sought judicial relief from what she described as a sexually oppressive culture that included crude chants during campus marches was told Aug. 30 by an appeals court to seek help from Congress instead.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling cited past court decisions, some decades old, in saying “civilian courts are ill-equipped” to second-guess military decisions regarding the discipline, supervision, and control of military members.
Circuit Judge Debra Ann Livingston wrote that the former cadet, identified only as Jane Doe, couldn’t pursue damages from two former superior officers she claimed ignored or condoned a sexually hostile culture before her alleged 2010 rape by another cadet. She requested and was granted an honorable discharge two years after entering West Point with 200 women in a class of 1,300 cadets. She later graduated from a civilian college.
In her 2013 lawsuit, the woman alleged that the men, a lieutenant general and a brigadier general, created a culture that marginalized female cadets, subjecting them to routine harassment and pressure to conform to male norms.
The 2nd Circuit said it did not “discount the seriousness” of the woman’s allegations nor their potential significance to West Point’s administration.
“As the Supreme Court has made clear, however, it is for Congress to determine whether affording a money damages remedy is appropriate for a claim of the sort that Doe asserts,” the court said.
Dissenting Circuit Judge Denny Chin said the lawsuit should proceed, noting West Point promotes itself as one of the nation’s top-ranked colleges.
“While West Point is indeed a military facility, it is quintessentially an educational institution,” Chin said. “When she was subjected to a pattern of discrimination, and when she was raped, she was not in military combat or acting as a soldier or performing military service. Rather, she was simply a student.”
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages, claiming West Point’s leaders failed to protect women or punish rapists after accepting women in 1976. It said West Point officials openly joked with male cadets about sexual exploits and faculty members routinely expressed sympathy with male cadets over a perceived lack of sexual opportunities, urging them to seize any chance.
Female cadets coped with a misogynistic culture that included cadets marching to sexually demeaning verses in view and earshot of faculty members and administrators, the lawsuit said.
It said West Point officials required mandatory annual sexually transmitted disease testing only for female cadets, saying diseases harmed women more than men and it was the responsibility of women to prevent their spread.
A spokeswoman for lawyers for the officers declined comment. West Point didn’t comment.
A spokeswoman for Yale Law School, representing the ex-cadet, said the woman was disappointed and didn’t know if she will appeal.
Sandra Park, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, said the judges stretched the meaning of prior court rulings to cover service academy cadets.
“It raises a question whether students in effect are waiving their constitutional rights when they decide to join a military academy,” she said.
The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot,” at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.
The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.
“The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve,” said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.
The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as “White Forces,” set the parameters for each fighter squadron’s “blue air” team.
“The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix,” Wozniak said. “For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins.”
The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 “red air” F-15s to defend specified targets.
In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.
An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight,” Wozniak said.
In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.
“Turkey shoots advance our wing’s readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat,” Camilletti said.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
These nine icons and military veterans left us in 2014:
RUSSELL JOHNSON – U.S. Army Air Corps
Russell Johnson was an actor best known for playing “The Professor” on the classic TV series “Gilligan’s Island.” He joined the Army Air Corps in World War II, and earned the Purple Heart when his B-24 Liberator was shot down in the Philippines during a bombing run in March, 1945. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll in acting school. Johnson was 89 years old when he died on January 16.
HIROO ONODA – Japanese Imperial Army
Hiroo Onoda was a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army who fought in World War II and didn’t surrender in 1945. He spent 30 years holding out in the Philippines. He eventually returned to Japan to much popularity and released a ghostwritten autobiography called No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Onoda was 91 years old when he died on January 16.
PETE SEEGER – U.S. Army
Pete Seeger was a folk singer and colleague of the legendary Woody Guthrie. Over the course of his music life, Seeger penned such classic hits a “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” He was drafted in 1942 and spent his tour of duty singing folk songs for soldiers on the front, often playing songs that included anti-war sentiments. He was discharged as a corporal and went back to folk music. His career was infamously short-circuited when he was blacklisted by McCarthyism for his Communists views. Seeger was 94 years old when he died on January 27.
SID CAESAR – U.S. Coast Guard
Sid Caesar was a legendary comedian who made his name on stage, in films, and in the early days of television. During World War II he served in the Coast Guard as a musician where he was part of the service’s “Tars and Bars” show. When the show’s producer heard him joking with some of the other musicians he was switched from saxophone to comedian, a move that set the course for the rest of his life. Caesar was 91 years old when he died on February 12.
MICKEY ROONEY – U.S. Army
Mickey Rooney was a beloved childhood actor who made his name at a young age in films and Broadway shows in which he co-starred with Judy Garland. He joined the war effort in 1943 as a member of the U.S Army and spent his 21 month in uniform entertaining the troops and working on the American Armed Forces Network. He is perhaps best known to military audiences for playing a SAR pilot in the film “The Bridges at Toko Ri.” Rooney was 93 years old when he died on April 6.
EFREM ZIMBALIST, JR. – U.S. Army
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was a TV star best known for his roles in the series “77 Sunset Strip” and “The FBI.” He later did voice-overs for the “Batman” and “Spider Man” animated series. He served for five years during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained to his leg while fighting the German Army during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Zimbalist was 95 years old when he died on May 2.
LOUIS ZAMPERINI – U.S. Army Air Corps
Louis Zamperini’s remarkable life is the subject of two biographies and the film “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. In May of 1943, Zamperini was the bombardier on a B-24 Liberator that crashed south of Hawaii due to mechanical difficulties. He was one of three of the 11 crew members to survive the crash and spent 47 days adrift. He was captured by the Japanese and held as a POW until the end of the war under brutal conditions. Zamperini was 95 years old when he died on July 2.
JAMES GARNER – U.S. Army
James Garner was a TV and film actor best known for his roles in the movies “The Great Escape,” “Space Cowboys,” and “The Notebook” and in the TV series “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files.” He served during the Korean War and was wounded twice – once by an enemy mortar explosion and once by friendly fire from an American jet. He received a Purple Heart for each injury, although he wasn’t awarded the second one until 1983. Garner was 86 years old when he died on July 19.
ROBERT GALLAGHER – U.S. Army
Sgt. Maj. Robert Gallagher was a decorated war hero whose action as a platoon sergeant with Task Force Ranger in Somalia served as the basis for the film “Black Hawk Down.” He also served in Panama during Operation Just Cause and during the second invasion of Iraq. Over the course of his military career, Sgt. Maj. Gallagher received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. He later called that fateful day in Somalia “the best and worst day of my life.” He was 52 years old when he died on October 14.