Russian ships are often the butt of a joke. The aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, for instance, has had a long history of problems. That said, during the Cold War, we didn’t know what we know now about these Soviet designs. Mysterious submarines lurked beneath the water and, to many Americans, these ships were quite scary.
One such vessel was the Soviet Navy-designed counter to American and British nuclear-powered submarines, the Udaloy-class destroyer. The need for this ship was evident – the Soviets had to protect Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers from subs, which have sunk capital ships in the past. Don’t take my word for it; take a look at what happened to the JDS Kongo or the IJN Shinano.
To avoid such disasters, the Soviets designed a ship that could find and kill NATO subs. The Udaloy-class destroyer was born. This vessel had some capabilities that could give an American sub commander nightmares. It weighed in at 6,700 tons, had a top speed of 29 knots, and it carried two Kamov Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine helicopters, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
The most noticeable feature on this vessel are the two quad launchers, fit for the SS-N-14 Silex missile. This weapon has a range of just over 34 miles, which was very crucial, as it out-ranged the torpedoes on NATO subs. These vessels could screen a Kirov or Kiev, thus ensuring that a prowling American sub couldn’t get close enough to hit the high-value hull. Udaloy-class destroyers were also equipped with two 100mm guns, eight eight-round launchers loaded with SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” missiles, a point-defense surface-to-air missile, and two CADS-N-1 close-in defense systems with 30mm cannon and eight SA-N-11 “Grison” missiles.
The Soviets built 12 of these ships, plus a modified version, the Admiral Chebanenko, outfitted with different weaponry. Only eight Udaloys are in service today, but they still give Russia a capable anti-submarine platform.
Back in the 1980s, when it still existed, the Soviet Union maintained a number of “friendly” relationships with a variety of African and Asian nations, mostly for the purposes of selling military hardware to counter the West.
One such nation was Libya, which opted to arm and equip its military with a variety of Soviet products, including MiG and Sukhoi fighters for its air force.
At the time, the USSR was also in the process of shopping around its Mil Mi-25 Hind-D, the export variant of the Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The Hind was a fairly unique vehicle at the time, as it was built from the ground up as a heavily-armed attack gunship with the ability to accommodate a maximum of eight fully-armed soldiers in an extremely cramped bay directly behind the cockpit. The Hind could therefore deliver special forces teams to the battlefield and remain in the area of operations for air support, or function solely as a very well-armed gunship, akin to the role the two-seater AH-1 Cobra played for American ground forces during the Vietnam conflict.
In contrast, the U.S. primarily used helicopters like the UH-1 Huey to deliver (and extract) troops from the battlefield, and they were moderately armed at best (in comparison to the Hind) with door-mounted machine guns serving as defensive weaponry more so than in the offensive role.
Now, around the time of the Hind’s introduction into service in the late 70s, the Central Intelligence Agency, along with British intelligence services, sought to learn more about this big Soviet helicopter. Interest heightened when word broke that Ethiopia pressed an export Hind into combat successfully. The Hind then quickly made an appearance in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s controversial involvement there, operating to great effect against mujaheddin fighters towards the beginning of the conflict.
Western intelligence needed to get a better look at the Hind and its heavily-armored airframe, especially for the purposes of determining whether or not an American equivalent needed to be designed, built, and fielded as a counter to the Hind’s capabilities.
An opportunity for such a look finally presented itself in the form of the discovery of a Libyan Mi-25 left behind in Chadian territory in 1987.
Historically, Libya and Chad weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Their strained relationship was mostly the result of repeated attempts from Libyan-backed rebel groups to usurp the Chadian government. Constant Libyan attempts to occupy sovereign territory belonging to the Republic of Chad didn’t do much to help their situation either.
When Chadian troops were finally able to fully expel Libyan forces from their borders in 1987, the retreating Libyans abandoned a considerable amount military hardware that would have otherwise bogged down and hindered their egress. Among the treasure trove of armored vehicles, guns, and light artillery stranded in the desert was a Hind-D in relatively good condition, parked on an old airfield ramp at Ouadi Doum.
The CIA, after confirming that such a helicopter did indeed exist at that particular location, quickly set its sights on recovering the helicopter, or at least as much of it as possible, before the Libyans knew about their missing gunship.
All this would have to be done through a covert operation. After negotiating with (and eventually gaining permission from) the Chadian government through diplomatic channels, the CIA enlisted the Department of Defense’s help, and both began planning the extraction of the abandoned helicopter to American-controlled facilities, where it would be taken apart and analyzed in details.
There’s a saying in the military that goes along the lines of: “Gear adrift is a gift”. Christmas was about to come very early for a bunch of CIA analysts and military technical experts.
Mount Hope III was the name bestowed upon the operation. The very first order of business was wrangling up a group of pilots skilled (and crazy) enough to perform the mission to perfection.
The preparation phase, creatively code-named Mount Hope II, began in April of 1987 in New Mexico. The dry, desert conditions would add a layer of realism to the training. CH-47 Chinooks from the 160th’s Echo Company were modified to bear the weight of the Hind-D, judged to be somewhere in the ballpark range of 17,000 to 18,000 pounds.
Chinooks are already able to sling-load different pieces of military equipment, including the Humvee utility vehicle. But there’s a huge difference between a four-wheeled Humvee and an oversized Mil-25. Load-bearing hooks needed to be reinforced, the engines and transmissions needed to be checked and tuned, and the relatively ideal placement of the carcass of the Hind underneath the Chinook needed to be determined.
Practice commenced in dark, low-light conditions. Six large blivets of water weighing roughly the same as the Hind were strapped to the underside of a Chinook. The Night Stalkers flying the Chinook were then supposed to fly to a “Forward Support Base” (or FSB for short) after stopping twice to refuel.
The first dry run went off without a hitch, so the next test was to strap an actual airframe similar to that of the Hind in terms of size and weight and perform the test run once again under the same conditions. The Night Stalkers once again proved themselves and their aircraft and in good time, Mount Hope II was completed, meeting or exceeding the expectations of the CIA and Department of Defense’s overseeing officers.
They were now ready for the real thing.
On May 21, the order to execute Mount Hope III was handed down from the Oval Office, and the Night Stalkers immediately geared up, loading two Chinooks aboard a C-5 Galaxy heavy airlift jet, departing for Germany first, and later on to the Ndjamena airfield in southern Chad.
The Army was to temporarily deploy an ADVON (advanced echelon) scouting and reconnaissance team to the location for around two weeks to keep an eye out for enemy forces, who weren’t all that far away from the airfield.
The French government added their support to the mission by sending over a contingent of soldiers to cover the operation on the ground and a set of Mirage F.1 fighter jets to provide top cover for all aircraft involved. A C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter would land at one of the Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) to provide fuel for the Chinooks on their way back to the FSB during the mission.
After arriving at Ndjamena on June 10, Night Stalker pilots and crew unloaded their Chinooks from the gargantuan Galaxy.
On June 11th, they proceeded with the mission as they had previously planned. The mission would see the Night Stalkers fly over 500 nautical miles under the cover of darkness, and would then pick up the abandoned Hind right at daybreak. An advance team (Chalk 1) flew to Ouadi Doum to ensure that the site was relatively secured for the incoming Chalk 2 Chinook and to prep the Hind for removal.
As I mentioned earlier, a large element of Libyan military forces were still highly active in the area, even after most had been expelled from Chad’s borders during the previous year’s conflict.
The slightest hint of military action nearby would have likely sparked a firefight and a subsequent international incident if it was discovered that the United States was actively trying to remove Libyan military hardware from the desert, even though the Hind was abandoned in Chadian sovereign territory.
The ADVON team had reported back with a detailed threat analysis, highlighting the fact that the Libyans were definitely still in the region.
Chalk 1, having been inserted at Ouadi Doum, cleared the location and quickly rigged the Hind for extraction while the Chalk 2 Chinook hovered close above, allowing for the team to sling-load the airframe to the waiting helicopter. Chalk 2 then left the area to return to Ndjamena. After covering Chalk 2’s extraction, Chalk 1 loaded up and got the hell out of Dodge.
The Libyans were totally clueless of what was happening just miles away from their positions.
Chalk 2 stopped twice to refuel, at one point on a French Foreign Legion airfield, rendezvousing with the Air Force C-130s at each location.
However, not long after stopping at FARP 2, the mission hit a slight snag in the form of an unanticipated 3000 ft sand storm. The Chinook bearing the weight of the Hind was now only 45 minutes out of home base.
Hauling ass, Chalk 2 reached Ndjamena just ahead of the storm, flying through near-zero visibility and setting down with little time to spare. Waiting a little over 20 minutes in their helicopters for the storm to move onward, the Night Stalkers finally loaded their aircraft and their newly-acquired prize into the Galaxy they arrived in, and within 36 hours were back on American soil.
After 67 hours in-country, the mission was completed; an unmitigated success. Mount Hope III was also the very first major operation where the Night Stalkers used their CH-47s.
Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.
“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”
Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.
(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)
At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.
Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.
“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.
Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.
“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”
Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.
Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.
(Army CIO G6 photo)
A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.
Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.
“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”
To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.
“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.
“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.
It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.
So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.
“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”
At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.
“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.
Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.
Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:
12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.
11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”
10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.
9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.
8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”
7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”
6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.
5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.
4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.
3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.
2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.
1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.
When the police arrived at a retirement community in Utah to conduct a welfare check last month, they were disturbed to find not only the body of the elderly woman who lived there, but a man’s corpse tucked inside a deep freezer in her utility room.
That man was eventually identified as Paul Mathers, who was 58 years old when he was last seen in 2009. He was the husband of the 75-year-old woman also found in the home, Jeanne Souron-Mathers.
“I’ve been here 13 years — this is one of the strangest cases,” Tooele City Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told news outlets, adding, “We’ve never had anything like this.”
He said police officers had opened Souron-Mathers’ fridge and freezer hoping to find food that would indicate “some type of a timeline” for when she died. But when a detective opened a deep freezer in the utility room, he “immediately finds an unidentified deceased adult male in the freezer,” Hansen said.
The police made the discovery on November 22 and initially called the incident “very suspicious.”
But after several weeks of investigating, the police announced on Monday that they’d found several equally bizarre clues that might help explain the incident.
Video: Police investigate body found in freezer during welfare check
Hansen said investigators searching through Souron-Mathers’ home found a notarized letter from December 2008 that appeared to be from Mathers, declaring that he was not killed by his wife.
“We believe he had a terminal illness,” Hansen told KSTU, adding that Mathers likely died sometime between February 4, 2009 — the date of his last appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital — and March 8, 2009.
Hansen also told The Salt Lake Tribune that experts had not yet verified whether the signature on the letter truly belonged to Mathers. He added that the woman who notarized the letter in 2008 told the police she never read the document before stamping and signing it.
Investigators also discovered that Souron-Mathers had collected roughly 7,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits after her husband’s death and are still looking into whether she continued to receive Mathers’ Social Security benefits, Hansen said.
Hansen told The Tribune that they were still awaiting an autopsy report to confirm the cause of Mathers’ death but that detectives were “wrapping up” their investigation.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
For the ten days immediately after you graduate Marine Corps boot camp, you’ll feel like the world’s biggest badass. That brief high comes to a crashing halt when you report to the School of Infantry. If you’re a poor crayon-eater who signed an infantry contract, you go to the Infantry Training Battalion. You’ll arrive thinking that becoming a Marine means you’ve been given superhuman abilities only to very quickly find your all-too-human limits.
There, you’ll be deprived of sleep (yet again) and you won’t be fed on a regular schedule. It’s not a fun experience, but you’ll come out the other side a better warrior, a lethal Marine. Still, that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the following reasons why the Infantry Training Battalion is terrible.
In retrospect, boot camp isn’t so bad…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You thought boot camp was as bad as it gets…
…and you were wrong. So, so wrong. Your Drill Instructors built you up to think that earning the title of Marine was the toughest task on Earth. You used that promise to reason with yourself — nothing else will ever be this bad, right? Then you get to the School of Infantry and realize that boot camp was only the worst time of your life up until that point.
Spoiler alert: You’re not as tough as you think you are.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You’ll show up cocky
There’s a level of pride that comes with becoming a Marine. Fresh out of boot camp, many of us take that pride a step too far and become just plain cocky. When you get to SOI, you learn the hard way the pride comes before the fall. You’re quickly put in place and realize you’re just a small detail in a much bigger picture. You are far from the toughest guy around.
You actually get some time off
West Coasters know what we’re talking about — you get your weekends, if you’re lucky enough to be spared the wrath of your Combat Instructors, that is. This sounds like a good thing, but it makes Sunday mornings unbearable. Dread sets in as you anticipate the return of the week… and your Combat Instructors.
You’re sleep deprived the entire time
In boot camp, Drill Instructors are required to allow you eight hours of sleep per night — with the exception of the Crucible. Maybe that’s a rule for Combat Instructors, too, but, if you’re a grunt, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it is. You’ll find yourself standing in front of your wall locker at 2 a.m. wondering what the f*** you’re doing.
Combat instructors are just… scary.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The Combat Instructors are scarier
Drill Instructors are scary at first, but you get used to them. Your Combat Instructors are plain terrifying and they never stop being that way, not even after you graduate.
You get used to them after a while.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You eat MREs all day
Nobody likes MREs — nobody. This sucks, but it’s best to consider it training in its own right because, as a grunt, you’re going to eat a lot of them.
Still, that doesn’t make them taste any less like cardboard dog sh*t.
Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.
But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.
During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.
An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.
Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.
When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”
This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.
The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)
How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.
Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”
The M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System is one of the most impressive pieces of gear in the U.S. military arsenal. It’s made our list of possible Zords and it’s become an awesome sniper, capable of whacking a target 44 miles away. But let’s face it, the MLRS has a couple of drawbacks.
What drawbacks, you might wonder, could a weapon capable of putting 12 rockets, armed with either unitary warheads or submunitions, on a target possibly have? They’ve been called “grid square removal service” for how much area the cluster-munition variants can cover.
There’s just one problem with the MLRS: the weight.
The M270 comes in at 31 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com, and it’s bulky. It’s not the most deployable asset by plane — you’d probably need a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes to move it, both of which are in limited supply. They come in batteries of nine and you need to bring along reloads as well, meaning a light unit, like the 82nd Airborne Division, has to decide between massive firepower and deployability.
Oftentimes, the answer to this decision is the M142 HIMARS. It may have only half the firepower of the M270, but it’s based on a medium truck. It comes in at 12 tons, making it deployable on C-130s.
HIMARS can fire any rocket or missile that the MLRS can fire. This means it, too, is a sniper capable of knocking out a target 44 miles away with improved rockets, or it can send an ATACMS way downrange. Check out the video below to see a Marine Corps HIMARS going off in support of Steel Knight.
There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.
The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?
During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.
More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.
In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.
Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.
The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.
The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.
The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.
After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?
I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.
We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.
President Donald Trump welcomed the arrival of the three Korean-Americans held captive in North Korea at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the early morning of May 10, 2018, following weeks of speculation about their release.
Authorities released the three detainees — Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un on May 8, 2018.
Walking out of their plane without assistance and onto the tarmac, the detainees appeared in good spirit and waved at a cheering crowd. On the ground, two firetrucks hoisted an enormous American flag, giving the impression of a major political victory for the US and Trump.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the three said in a statement released by the State Department.
“We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world,” the statement continued.
Trump called the former detainees “incredible people” and said their release “was a very important thing to all of us.”
“This is a special night for these three, really great people,” Trump said as he shook their hand. “And congratulations on being in this country.”
“It was nice letting them go before the meeting,” Trump continued. “Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did.”
Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run media outlet, said that Kim “accepted an official suggestion of the US president for the release” and granted “amnesty” to them.
The alleged crimes that landed them in custody in North Korea ranged from committing “hostile acts” to subvert the country and overthrow the government. Criminal charges in the North are typically exaggerated and disproportionate to the alleged offenses.
The three men were previously held in labor camps, with Kim Dong-chul being held captive the longest after his arrest in 2015.
“You should make care that they do not make the same mistakes again,” a North Korean official said to Pompeo. “This was a hard decision.”
Their return to US was a long time coming. Discussions between South and North Korean officials during the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this year culminated in a historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in April 2018 — the first such meeting between leaders of the North and South in more than a decade.
The mens’ release and Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, his second since April 2018, are seen as the latest signs of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula, and a prelude to the upcoming US-North Korea summit. After months of missile launches from the North and chest-beating from the US in 2017, Trump and Kim began to soften their rhetoric after the Winter Olympics.
“I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this and allowing them to go,” Trump said to reporters after the release of the three captives.
Trump announced that the date and location of the US-North Korea summit had been set; however, did not reveal specifics other than that he ruled out the Demilitarized Zone as one of the options.
Still, the US president remains cautious: “Everything can be scuttled,” Trump said of his scheduled meeting with Kim.
“A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have — both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it’s going to be a very successful deal.”
The release of the detainees may be a reason to celebrate, but it comes too late for some — in 2017, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, died shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.
After serving a year of his 15-year prison sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, Warmbier returned to the US in a comatose state. Unable to see and react to verbal commands, Warmbier succumbed to his condition and died.
Warmbier’s parents have since railed against the regime, despite it’s recent overtures of peace. Recently, the Warmbiers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea and alleged it tortured and killed Otto.
“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s mother, said on May 8, 2018. “We’re not special, but we’re Americans and we know what freedom’s like, and we have to stand up for this.”
Upon the arrival of the former prisoners, Trump offered his condolences to the Warmbier family: “I want to pay my warmest respects to the parents of Otto Warmbier, who is a great young man who really suffered.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 1988, a ski-equipped Lockheed C-130 took off some 800 nautical miles northwest of the McMurdo Station Antarctic Research Center. It was the first time the plane had flown since 1971 – because it was frozen in the ice below for the previous 17 years.
In 1971, the plane was making a resupply run to an international research mission at McMurdo Station when it crashed. These resupply missions gave the United States its active presence on the Antarctic Continent and allowed for the safe conduct of polar research. The 1971 crash tempered that movement. Only a handful of C-130s made the trip and the loss of one put stress on the others. It was declared a total loss, stripped for parts, and left in the ice.
(U.S. Navy photo, courtesy of Bill Spindler)
But not for long. New planes are expensive, after all.
The plane crashed on takeoff when a rocket booster struck an engine and destroyed one of the plane’s propellers. The Navy had to take everything of value off the plane and then leave it where it fell, in a remote area of Antarctica known as site D-59.
That’s where the plane was for 17 years until the U.S. military realized that it needed seven planes to make the resupply effort work. A new C-130 would have cost million, according to a New York Times article from the time. The salvage operation only cost million. The choice was clear and, in 1987, LC-130 321 was dug up out of the ice-covered snowbank that had formed over it.
You will never be as cool as this guy wearing shorts to dig a plane out of the snow in Antarctica. If you’re this hero, email me. (Update: This is equipment operator Dan Check. It turns out “The heater in the D-6 worked quite well, and when the sun was out and there wasn’t much wind, the digging site was quite warm.”)
(Photo by Jim Mathews)
After being pulled out of 40 feet of ice and snow, the C-130 was restored at site D-59 until it could be flown to the main base at McMurdo Station. The dry air in Antarctica kept it largely free from corrosion and other threats to the airframe. Sadly, the costs didn’t stop at million. Two U.S. sailors were killed when another Hercules carrying spare parts for the refurbished Hercules in Antarctica went down on Dec. 9, 1987. Nine others were injured.
That crash only strengthened the Navy’s resolve to repair and restore the 16-year-old plane. It gave the mission a deeper meaning for the Navy and the Polar Science Foundation.
321 at McMurdo Station in November 1960, the first of the VX-6 ski-equipped Hercs to make it to McMurdo.
(P. K. Swartz)
When the time came to get the restored plane in the air, it was manned by a five-person Navy crew. The mission began with a “buddy start” from another Navy C-130. The second plane used its prop wash to start the props on the restored C-130. Once a Lockheed engineer certified the plane would fly, and an ice speed taxi assured the crew would reach takeoff speed, the mission was a go.
The two planes flew to McMurdo Station and later, over to Christchurch, New Zealand. The plane was restored completely in the United States before resuming active polar service.
It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.
This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”
John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video
The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”
Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”
This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”
David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”
Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)
Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”
One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”
The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.