If he had to do it all again today, he’s not sure he would be able to. Mentally, he’s not sure he’s got what it takes anymore.
But when you ask Adam Peeples about about that night on the rooftop in Ramadi when he shot an enemy sniper, he talks about it as if he just pulled the trigger.
And he’s more than alright with it.
“I was like, I can’t believe I’m in a position where I get to draw on this guy,” said Peeples, a former Army sniper who had waited for just such a moment before he even got to Iraq. “We talked about it later, and our general consensus was can you believe that guy? What was he thinking?”
That was a high point. In fact, he and his men had been up on that rooftop in the most intense fighting anyone of them had ever seen. It was February 2007 and Ramadi was a place to go to die — for Americans and everyone else.
During lulls in the fighting over three days, they got resupplied by the Bradley fighting vehicle crew that had dropped them off at the beginning of the operation. With a fresh supply of pre-loaded mags, a crate of grenades, a bunch of M240 ammo, three AT4 grenade launchers and food, the fight kept on going.
Peeples (left) preferred taking sniper shots with his customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he ordered from the United States. (Photo courtesy of Adam Peeples)
The air smelled, the city smelled and they could hear the bullets zipping past their heads over the voices of an enemy close enough to be clearly heard. About every 10 minutes, it got kinda quiet.
It was during one of these lulls that Peeples took the time to scan a building about 75 meters away that he believed was the source of a spate of gunshots that were more accurate than most.
“It had started easing off a little bit. We had called in three [guided missile launch rockets] and a 500 pound bomb and we’d shot three AT4s, so the buildings were pretty devastated,” he said. “But there were still guys creeping around up there and we were taking pot shots over our heads.”
Listening closely to the shots, Peeples figured the shooter was probably using something like an SVD Dragunov sniper rifle.
“A couple of shots hit the wall and I said, ‘this is a sniper… or he thinks he is anyway,’ ” he recalled.
With so many shots spinning out from their position, he had taken the universal night site off the front of his rifle because it had gotten heavy and he wasn’t really looking through it to find targets that were giving themselves away with muzzle flashes. But as he started to look around, he put the site back on the rifle to scan the building he suspected as a hideout.
Peeples used a customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he mail ordered from the United States.
Using the Army-issued lower receiver of his M16 — the part that makes the gun fire — he added a new barrel and several accessories that made the rifle extra accurate and customized for his shooting style.
“It was an extremely accurate weapon, every bit as accurate as the M24 was,” he remembered. “If I had a good shot on a dude’s head and I were to miss because the rifle’s not good enough to make the shot, then why take the shot?”
He propped himself up on the wall, and using his scope, looked slowly from window to window, shining is invisible IR floodlight to look into the rooms through open windows and doors.
The night was clear and the smell of gun powder hung in their nostrils. Peeples didn’t have his finger on the trigger because he didn’t expect to see anybody – until he saw the glint and his heart beat a little faster.
As he passed over one of the open windows, it caught his trained eye – and he went back to it.
“I could see the guy. He had a table set up and a chair and he had something that he had his rifle sitting on like a pillow or a blanket or sack of sand or something,” Peeples said. “I could clearly see a rifle and a guy sitting down, I could tell his weapon had a scope on it. It’s kind of cool when you can see someone and you know they can’t see you. He was close. I could see him back there trying to figure out where to shoot at and where to see us. I can imagine from the shots he’s taking at us he couldn’t see. It was not accurate fire.”
The distance between them was shorter than a football field and Peeples didn’t hesitate.
“From the time I saw him to the time I shot him was six or seven seconds.” he said. “It was a head shot, just dropped him. He just fell right on top of his rifle and knocked the table over,” Peeples said, conceding that even though the enemy sniper’s shots weren’t accurate enough to kill him or any of his men, “somebody might have told him how to do it, or he figured it out somewhere. He had an idea of what he was doing.”
That night was Peeples’ chance to take out one of an unknown number of snipers operating in Al Anbar province.
“A big part of this job is to treat it as a job and just kind of dehumanize it,” he recalled 10 years later. “I really just made it my job, it’s what I’m going to do and not really get into thinking about what I’m actually doing. It becomes a much harder job to do when you think about what you’re doing for a job which is killing people.”
And he’d kill again if it could save the lives of some of his buddies.
“It was the personal satisfaction of knowing we set up a proper ambush, took out those guys and it was a huge motivation,” he said. “It was my drive. It was everything that made me want to go out there and do it.”
Gina Cavallaro is the author of “Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.
The festival was supposed to be a luxury getaway weekend full of music with concerts in a remote Bahamas setting, full of five-star dining and whatever else the absurdly rich do. What happened when the private jets dropped off their passengers was less festival, more “Lord of the Flies.”
Here are a few ways the military would have prepared these people to get along before Piggy did and civilization went with him.
1. You know better than to volunteer to spend days on an abandoned beach.
Those dome tents look pretty comfy, reflecting the light like that. A lot nicer than the military’s waterproof tarp tent that sleeps 12 and keeps in all the body odor and humid air you could possibly want.
2. Those pigs are food.
Sure, they’re adorable. And probably protected. But when the chow hall is only handing out cheese sandwiches and lettuce, there’s bound to be a negligent discharge sooner or later.
3. You know food could always be a lot worse.
America’s super-rich are probably not used to having to rough it for a long weekend. Why would they be? If I could afford a $2,000 concert ticket, I would probably be a wifi-enabled cyborg. So it’s not really a surprise that the biggest food complaint appeared to be the fact that their “five-star dining” turned out to be a cheese sandwich.
It looks pretty rough, sure, but have you ever been to a tent city midnight meal? Midrats aboard a carrier?
Sure, airmen get meat, but can you name that meat? No? enjoy your cheese sandwich.
4. You know which leaders to trust but more importantly, which to avoid.
While Ja Rule should have been a red flag to most of us, doing some basic research would have revealed that Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland appears unable to open a McDonald’s franchise, let alone a multi-million dollar music festival on a deserted island. These buyers were begging for death.
5. The lawsuit pretty much describes life in the Marine Corps infantry.
The line “dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance” is used in $100 million class-action lawsuit against the Festival.
Except the Marines are still successful and usually have a plan to get back home.
6. You’re used to leadership passing the blame for failures.
Poor objectives? Terrible leadership? Lack of clear goals? Welcome to the suck. Again: Ja Rule as the unit leader should have been a red flag – but you’re on that island no matter what, so embrace it. No one is going to willing own up to it. And even if they do, the communication will be clear as mud.
“I truly apologize as this is not my fault… but i’m taking responsibility” pretty much says everything you need to know.
The coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet” was comprised of 60 wooden, 83-foot cutters that performed dangerous lifesaving missions under fire at Normandy, pulling more than 400 men from the water.
One of these vessels was known as the “Homing Pigeon” and successfully saved 126 survivors, the most of any single ship.
The Homing Pigeon, officially named Coast Guard Cutter 16, had been serving stateside on anti-submarine patrols like the rest of the Matchbox Fleet before recieving orders to a new, secret mission. Navy Adm. Ernest King was going to use 60 of the Coast Guard ships to form Rescue Fotilla One, a D-Day lifeguard force.
The ships were repainted, renumbered, modified, and carried to England on frieghters. They practiced the landings on English beaches with the rest of the invasion force and, on Jun. 6, 1944, the rescue ships went in right behind the first wave of landing craft.
The plan had originally called for the Matchbox Fleet to stay away from the shores and some ships did stay two miles out. But many crews realized that they had to get closer to reach the men in danger and the Homing Pigeon was one of the cutters that moved forward.
The crew took the personnel they fished out of the water to the Navy’s USS Dickman where the wounded were treated. Over the course of the day, the Homing Pigeon would come to the aid of another 36 men, bringing the crew’s D-Day total to 126, all tallied on a board on the vessel.
Other crews distinguished themselves at Normandy as well. CGC-1 rescued 43 and spent much of the day within 2,000 feet of the beaches. CGC-34 pulled 32 British troops and sailors from the English Channel. CGC-53 rescued five men while under fire from a German shore battery. The HMS Rodney came to the cutter’s rescue and destroyed the shore battery with its naval guns.
After D-Day, the Matchstick Fleet continued their duties until Dec. 1944 when they were disbanded. In the seven months of operation, the 60 ships saved 1,438 people. Many of the ships were then transferred to allied navies where they served for the duration of the war.
The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.
Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.
“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”
During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.
“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”
In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.
“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”
Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.
About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.
“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”
Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.
Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.
“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.
He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.
The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.
The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.
In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”
NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.
“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.
Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.
Life in the military is a path not many people take, and even fewer take the road of becoming a U.S. Marine. The military in general has many challenges that service members learn to face throughout their career. Those challenges include going to school, taking care of their family and performing their military occupation specialties simultaneously, while also participating in exercises or preparing for deployments.
For Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, learning how to balance his family, military career, civilian careerand training exercises while also managing to have time to help out his community is a top priority.
“It’s harder for the Reserve Marines,” Kirby said. “We balance full-time jobs, a family, college and also being a Marine. You’re going high speed on all of it and you want to be the best at what you are doing in your civilian career, the Marine Corps and your family.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, an inspector-instructor communication chief for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, vouches for Kirby’s capability to uphold his responsibilities within the United States Marine Corps. Kirby’s civilian career has never interfered with his performance as a Marine, he said.
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, poses for a photo in front of a Humvee during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017. Kirby was preparing for an upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez
“He is a very intelligent human being,” Rubio said. “He has been at this unit as a radio operator for the longest time and knows how to get the job done. He is very proficient at his [military specialty]. Because he’s such a hard worker, I don’t have to micromanage him. He knows how to get the job done, regardless of what the mission is.”
After completing his monthly drills, Kirby returns to his civilian career as an aircraft pneudraulic systems mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where is responsible for equipment maintenance and operational and functional checks on aircraft.
The Marine Corps has helped Kirby to stand out above his peers by developing the skills needed to becoming a better leader, he said.
“All the principles and values of the Marine Corps are brought into my civilian life,” Kirby said. “The Marine Corps will set you above everyone else.”
Regardless of the amount of work and responsibility present on his daily routine, he has adapted and became proficient at multitasking. He manages to exceed at his obligations and even find some extra time for himself, but he says he doesn’t spend his free time watching television or relaxing alone.
Instead, Kirby said, he is constantly involved in volunteer work. He has helped on rescue operations in the aftermath of tornados and he’s an active participant in the Toys for Tots program.
Kirby has been participating in exercises to prepare himself for a deployment early next year.
“He has been waiting for this deployment for as long as he has been here, and I’m glad that he is one of the Marines that is going,” Rubio said. “If he wasn’t going, the Marines would have a hard time accomplishing or understanding the communication side.”
Even with his service to the Marine Corps, deployment, work as a mechanic and volunteer hours, Kirby said he wants to go back to school to finish his education.
“I plan on going back to school after my deployment,” he said. “I want to go back and go into mechanical or aerospace engineering. I think that it would help me in my career as a tinker.”
Arcadia, California’s beautiful Santa Anita Racetrack had a different name in 1942: The Santa Anita Assembly Center. It was the largest assembly point for Japanese-Americans on the U.S. West coast as they were forced into internment camps. 19,000 people passed through here on their way to the camps.
In February 1942,then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering Japanese Americans to be interned in camps along the west coast. While these camps were being built, those who would be interned were housed at assembly centers like Santa Anita, living in converted horse stalls and other hastily built structures. Santa Anita was guarded, surrounded with barbed wire and filled with searchlights to light the dark nights. In all 110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned on short-notice, closing farms and businesses and abandoning their homes. Eventually, some even enlisted in the Army.
Internees at Santa Anita were told to bring blankets and linens, toiletries, clothing, dishes and cookware, and anything else they could carry. They were forbidden from having anything written in Japanese. The people of Santa Anita developed a large internal economy, complete with jobs, businesses, and a local newspaper. They developed a unique culture of music, arts, and softball teams.
In September 1942, those in Santa Anita were moved to other camps. By November 1942, Santa Anita was completely emptied of internees and then became an Army training camp.
In 1944, the Supreme Court struck down the government’s ability to hold Americans indefinitely and the internees were released. The last of all the camps closed in 1946 and the U.S. government has since paid $1.6 billion in reparations. Now, a simple plaque near the track’s entrance is the only reminder of its place in the history of WWII.
In the video below, James Tsutsui of Laguna Woods, California discusses his experiences at Santa Anita Racetrack during World War II.
When Johnny Cash took the stage at California’s San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 24, 1969, one of the songs he would record there was destined to become one of Cash’s most iconic songs, as well as one of his biggest hits: “A Boy Named Sue.” It held the top spot on the country charts for five straight weeks and it was his biggest hit, climbing to the second slot on the Billboard 100 chart.
“The Man in Black” was a veteran of the United States Air Force, a morse code operator who spent much of his career spying on the Soviet Union. In fact, Cash was the first person in the West to learn that Stalin died in 1953. As a matter of fact, his distinctive facial scar was the result of good ol’ military medicine.
“A Boy Named Sue” is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his dad at a young age — after giving the boy a female name. Sue finds his dad at a bar years later and gets into a pretty nasty brawl with the old man. That’s when his dad reveals he named the boy Sue so as to make Sue tough even when his dad wasn’t around to raise him.
The song about a boy trying to kill his father probably resonated with Cash’s audience that day.
The author of the song was also a veteran. Shel Silverstein, beloved around the world for his poetry, humor, and illustrations, was drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea — but by the time he arrived the war was over. He was assigned to Stars and Stripes in the Pacific, part of the new peacetime Army. And thus a legendary military writer was born to the veteran community.
It was Silverstein who penned Cash’s now-famous song about the boy with a girl’s name, although Cash put his own twist on it. During the original San Quentin recording, Cash added the line, “I’m the son of a bitch that named you Sue!” In Silverstein’s original writing, there were no curse words used. Even so, the “son of a bitch” line was censored out of the album.
A bunch of teenagers found magic coins and became rangers — specifically, Power Rangers.
While everyone has to believe that Zordon had his reasons for selecting angsty teens rather than proven leaders, Army Rangers might have a little issue with magical coins being the only threshold for assuming their coveted title.
But what if real Army Rangers became Power Rangers? While the fights would be awesome, there would also be some other changes. Here are nine of them:
1. Step one would’ve been finding out where the alien spaceship that grants superpowers came from
Seriously, who finds a spaceship with super-powering coins on it and doesn’t start investigating where more coins are? After all, denying the enemy the coins limits the enemy’s combat power and distributing those coins to other Rangers would multiply friendly combat power.
So why not look for the coins? Would be pretty great to get a whole battalion of Power Rangers to spearhead all future American operations, right?
2. Every one of them would need a dip straw installed in their helmets so they could spit tobacco juice during fights
Army Rangers are known as well for stuffing their lips with coffee grounds and tobacco as they are for annihilating enemy forces with extreme prejudice. But take a look at the screengrab above. See anywhere to spit dip in that helmet? That’s going to need a redesign. May we humbly suggest DARPA? Natick might not be up to this.
3. Alpha 5 would’ve been relentlessly mocked for being a POG
The spaceship has a small robot with super strength and, instead of fighting in the field, it helps train and manage the Power Rangers. Sure, the Rangers may need him to get the job done, but that never stopped them from making fun of any other support troops, so why would they stop with the robot with Bill Hader’s voice?
4. Every Ranger would carry a crew-served weapon — either the M2 .50-cal or Mk-47 grenade launcher or the M107 .50-cal sniper rifle
Does anyone think a bunch of Rangers would get super strength and start carrying less firepower into combat? Hell no. Rangers with super strength would go shopping in the Weapons Company armory.
Those guys would carry modified M2s and Mk-47s. At least one guy would grab a Barrett .50-cal. sniper rifle and start using it like a carbine.
5. The drunken shenanigans would be legendary (assuming they can get drunk)
So, we’re not yet sure that the Power Rangers can get drunk since some superhero stories say that the healing factors make it impossible. But think a bunch of Rangers would give up drinking if they could?
Nope. And superpowered humans would get in fights with bouncers, police, and the special operators who would have to be pressed into law enforcement roles to keep them in line.
6. They would show off in the gym all the time
The Power Rangers woke up completely ripped. Of course, the Rangers probably went to bed at least a little ripped, so imagine how strong they would be in the morning.
Now imagine that they don’t work out the next morning shirtless, bench pressing entire people who are bench pressing lots of weight.
7. At least one of them would try to sleep with Rita
Yeah, Rita is the supreme evil lady. But she’s pretty attractive. And she’s probably available (there aren’t many handsome monsters in the trailer). At least one Ranger would proposition her. At least.
8. At least one Ranger would be missing from each of the first few fights because they would be combat jacking
Speaking of things that at least one Ranger would be doing in combat, the attempted “monster jacking” — combat jacking but in a fight with a monster — would disrupt each of the first five fights. At least the first five.
9. The rest of the Rangers would make fun of them for needing super powers
The entire rest of the Army’s Ranger Regiment would be super jealous that they weren’t the ones who got super powers, but they wouldn’t let it show. Instead, they would heckle the Rangers with power coins relentlessly.
“Oh, the little baby can’t throw a car without his special coin? Guess the rest of us will go ahead and protect the U.S. everywhere else in the world without any magical powers. Like real Rangers.”
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay is part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that generally otherwise pay them more in the civilian sector.
Each hazardous duty incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.
Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1, outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a and 310 specifically address Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay, respectively.
HDIP is payable to both enlisted and officers of all the service branches unless specified.
Section 301 (a) addresses the following S&I:
1. Flying Duty (crew members)
Who: Flight crew who are not aviators and regularly fly.
How much: $110 – $250 per month, determined by rank
2. Flying Duty (non crew members)
Who: Anyone on flying duty who isn’t crew, but still performs duties related to flight.
How much: $150 per month
3. Parachute Duty
Who: The crazies who jump out of perfectly good planes.
How much: $150 per month, except for High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps at $225 per month
Who: Navy personnel who are part of a team that conducts VBSS in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations — basically modern-day American pirates on the good guys team.
How much: $150 per month. Commence to booty jokes.
Section 310 Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay
Who: Those who are subject to hostile fire, explosions of hostile mines; on duty at/ deployed to areas where their status as a service member could put them at risk of threats of physical harm as a result of civil unrest, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions
When a pilot is taking off, the last thing they should have to worry about is the ability to breathe clean air, or having contaminated fuel in the aircraft. Without quality assurance checks, they may not have the peace of mind needed to perform at the highest level.
A small unit, consisting of only Maj. Kevin Pastoor, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory commander, and two technicians are responsible for all of Pacific Air Forces oxygen and fuel testing. The laboratory is part of the Air Force Petroleum Office, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The AFPET consists globally of more than 100 individuals throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, with only one-third of employees being service members. The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory can not only provide that peace of mind to pilots but also firefighters throughout PACAF.
“The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory is primarily responsible for performing quality assurance for PACAF fuels, aviator’s breathing oxygen and compressed air for firefighters,” Pastoor said.
The laboratory tests everything from water, fuel and oil contamination to aircraft incidents, which can make for many long-shifts based on the samples and tests needed.
Tech. Sgt. Shanice Spearman, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge, explained that as a petroleum, oil and lubricants troop by trade, she typically helps refuel aircraft. Working in the laboratory allows her to learn how to do multiple tests on fuel enabling her to use skills that she otherwise wouldn’t in her normal trade.
With a unique set of challenges specific to maintaining quality standards on oxygen and fuels, it’s a task to keep everything running and ready to produce test results at a moment’s notice.
“The hardest part of the job is maintaining this laboratory,” Pastoor said. “We put a lot of time into maintaining, calibrating, and ensuring our laboratory equipment is operating as it’s supposed to.”
Despite being a small, 3-man shop, the unit makes sure the mission is completed on time.
In the case of major incidents, the laboratory can quick-turn tests in four to eight hours, Pastoor said.
With a global presence, AFPET makes certain Air Force firefighters and pilots can breathe easy and perform the mission.
“The importance of what we’re doing here comes down to safety,” Pastoor said. “We provide assurance that the fuel and oxygen within PACAF is safe to use.”
1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush
Working Title: Killing Up Close
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hardy
Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.
Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.
Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.
As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.
“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”
When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.
The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?
If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.
Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.
2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags
Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.
Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.
Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).
But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.
Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.
Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.
But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.
Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.
Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.
Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.
The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.
3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL
Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Christoph Waltz
Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.
Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.
He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.
In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.
Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.
Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.
Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.
Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.
When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.
4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories
Working Title: Mad Jack
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Harvey Keitel
When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.
Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.
Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.
Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.
Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”
Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.