Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein emphasized the essential role airmen have when it comes to space superiority during the 34th Space Symposium, April 17, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Our space specialists must be world-class experts in their domain,” said Goldfein. “But, every airman, beyond the space specialty, must understand the business of space superiority. And, we must also have a working knowledge of ground maneuver and maritime operations if we are to integrate air, space and cyber operations in a truly seamless joint campaign.”
Space is in the Air Force’s DNA, said Goldfein. The service has been the leader of the space domain since 1954 and will remain passionate and unyielding as the service continues into the future, he added.
“Let there be no doubt, as the service responsible for 90 percent of the Department of Defense’s space architecture and the professional force with the sacred duty to defend it, we must and will embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today,” Goldfein said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)
Space enables everything the Joint Force does, and space capabilities are not only vital to success on the battlefield, but are also essential to the American way of life.
Goldfein also discussed the importance of working with allies and partner in space.
“As strong as we may be as airmen and joint warfighters, we are strongest when we fight together with our allies and partners,” said Goldfein. “Integrating with our allies and partners will improve the safety, stability and sustainability of space and will ultimately garner the international support that condemns any adversary’s harmful actions.”
The importance of space is highlighted in both the recently published National Security and National Defense strategies. In addition, the President’s Budget for Fiscal 2019 offers the largest budget for space since 2003.
(U.S. Air Force / United Launch Alliance)
Goldfein acknowledged that investing in technology is vital, but investing in the development and training of our joint warriors is equally important, he said.
“We must make investments in our people to strengthen and integrate their expertise,” said Goldfein. “We are building a Joint-smart space force and a space-smart Joint force. That begins with broad experience and deep expertise.”
Goldfein went on to underscore how space enables all operations, but it has become a contested domain. The Air Force must deter a conflict that could extend into space, and has an obligation to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence fails.
“We will remain the preeminent air and space force for America and her allies,” said Goldfein. “The future of military space operations remains in confident and competent hands with airmen. Always the predator, never the prey; we own the high ground.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
According to that data, these are the eight most-loved federal agencies, as ranked by Americans in 2017. We added a bonus one just for sh*ts and giggles.
8. FEMA — 55%
In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a way to help support citizens prepare for, prevent, and recover from disasters.
In 2014, FEMA was at a 47% approval rating and has since climbed the charts.
7. NASA — 56%
2017 was a good year for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as astronaut Peggy Whitson set a record for spaceflight and the Cassini spacecraft completed its groundbreaking mission to Saturn.
In 2014, NASA was at a paltry 50% approval rating. Clearly, they’re doing something right.
6. CIA — 57%
In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency sported an approval rating of 49%, but it’s a complete secret as to why they climbed higher in 2017.
5. FBI — 58%
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had a busy year investigating famous political figures and cracking down on fraud and money laundering cases.
In the eyes of the public, the Bureau had a “so-so” year, as their approval rating seems to have plateaued at 58% since 2014.
4. DHS — 59%
The Department of Homeland Security’s mission is to provide a secure environment for our nation. They dabble in various areas, including border security and cybersecurity.
It was reportedly an intense year for them in the eyes of the public, as their numbers have climbed a strong 11% since 2014.
3. Secret Service — 63%
The brave men and women who consistently stand guard protecting our president increased their approval rating by 20% since three years ago.
2. CDC — 66%
The Centers for Disease Control work with some of the most dangerous bacteria and germs on earth to provide their clients (the world) with the most efficient ways to maintain public health.
Their 16% approval increase doesn’t come as a surprise as they continue to fight against the spread of illness.
The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).
The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief
How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).
Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.
Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.
Mascots for the win
The Legend of Bill the Goat
Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.
For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.
Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.
Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!
Maps, maps and more maps
The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.
Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.
Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.
So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.
Long gone are the days where the United States Navy roamed the seas with heavily-armed battleships as its primary capital ships. Not everyone who talks naval warfare entirely agrees with mothballing the biggest guns of the American Navy, but there’s a reason the old battleships are gone – and a reason they’re never coming back.
“Come at me, bro.”
There was a time when ship-to-ship fighting was the way of war on the world’s oceans. It made sense to create the biggest, baddest ship technology would allow, then arm it with as many weapons as it took to tear the enemy to shreds. If there was any way you could also prevent yourself from getting torn to shreds with some heavy armor, that was great too. Imagine how great it felt to watch British cannonballs bounce off the sides of the USS Constitution as you watched your shipmates take down part of the “world’s most powerful navy.”
As time wore on, the technology only got better. By the Civil War, “Ironsides” was more than a nickname. It was a must-have feature on American ships, made famous by the confrontation of the USS Monitor’s and the CSS Virginia’s epic shootout at Hampton Roads. By the 20th Century, naval powers were churning out ships with speed, firepower, and armor in a race to be able to sink the other side’s seafaring battleships.
Once the two sides saw each other, it was on.
Kinda like that.
In modern naval warfare, however, two sides don’t need to see each other. As a matter of fact, one side is better off being able to strike the other without warning – and without one side being able to return fire. These days, satellite technology, radars, and other long-range sensor technologies mean an attacker can see its target without ever needing to go looking for them. More importantly, a battleship (or battleship fleet) can be hit and destroyed without ever seeing where the shots were fired.
And while the battleship would be searching to take down its seaborne opponent, land-based ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles fired from aircraft would be on its way to put 2,500-plus battleship sailors at the bottom of the ocean.
That last hit made Tommy remember his shipmates on the Lexington and the night took a dark turn.
What battleships are still effective for is supporting ground forces with its guns, using them as support artillery for landing Marines. This is the main reason pro-battleship advocates argue for recommissioning the Iowa-class battleships currently being used as museums. But even the Iowa-class still uses a lot of sailors to fire so-called “dumb” weapons at a potentially civilian-filled environment, while a more precision close air support strike would be more effective and lower the risk of civilian casualties.
Not to mention lowering the risk of a counterattack killing the 2,500 sailors that might be manning the guns.
Fine, we’ll admit it. Soldiers do sometimes get jealous of airmen. Not because of their warfighting prowess, which is acceptable at best. And not because of their uniforms — oh, you’re finally switching out those ridiculous stripes for OCPs? Congrats.
No, in addition to them getting respect and fair treatment from their leadership, they also get all the perks. You know, like these six things:
Air Force food. Fresh ingredients. Healthy options. Disgusting.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Kenney)
It’s common knowledge that the best food on a joint Army-Air Force base is almost always in the Air Force dining facility. And, when the Air Force runs a major terminal on a base, they’ll often have a 24-hour DFAC. They can often eat better at 3 a.m. than the Army can during a standard meal.
All so a bunch of paper-pushers and wrench-turners (and the occasional pilot) are happy.
An Air Force barracks in Germany. Snotty bastards.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Joseph Magbanua)
Actually, they don’t even call them “barracks” anymore. Officially, airmen live in “dorms” now, some of which have theater and game rooms, and most of which have free WiFi. Meanwhile, the Army usually has access to internet, but there’s usually only one option on base, and you can bet that geographic monopoly limits their give-a-damn when people complain.
So, yeah, single life in one service is demonstrably better than the other. So much so that the Air Force offers…
…money for living in Army conditions
Yeah, the Air Force gives their dudes’ money if they have to reside in “unfit quarters” — which applies to airmen in Army living spaces. This author trained in a multi-service school run by the Army. The Air Force got the best barracks at the school, but were the only service that got money every month for having to live in such decrepit conditions.
Decrepit conditions that the other four branches just had to deal with.
These airmen are travelling to Germany. Notice how they’re happy? Wish the Army had that.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Watson-Kirwin)
Actual international travel
Sure, Marines and Navy get to travel the world, too, but the Air Force gets preferred slots during Space-A travel, getting first dibs on open seats anywhere that an Air Force plane is already flying. And their bases are truly international, with lots of slots open across the planet. Folks who get a job on an airplane could see a few countries in a single week.
But the Army has relatively few international bases, and it takes a spot of luck to actually get a billet in Korea, Germany, Italy, or somewhere else cool. Most soldiers will train stateside, deploy to the Middle East and Africa, rinse and repeat.
These guys aren’t even holding rifles. Disgusting.
(U.S. Air Force Kemberly Groue)
Training and experience that translates to the civilian world
The Air Force is basically a corporation, and their training and job duties reflect that fact. While the Army is busy focusing on warfighting skills, like land nav and rifle marksmanship, the Air Force focuses on things employers care about, like professional conduct in office jobs, air control towers, and terminals.
CEOs don’t care if a soldier can shoot the wings off of a fly, because that’s not something businesses do. But they do care whether you can write an email without calling anyone f*cker. Too bad, soldiers.
Ryan Hall at the Community College of the Air Force. Yes. The Air Force has its own college.
(U.S. Air Force)
Community college built into the service
Ugh, but the worst is that whole Community-College-of-the-Air-Force thing. Yes, it’s an actual community college. And yes, it helps airmen get actual degrees — usually associate degrees in applied sciences. Army training gets you, at best, some elective credits in a real degree program.
But the Air Force kids get actual college credits and a whole community college to help them turn those credits into degrees.
Oh, well. At least all the branches get the G.I. Bill.
The three Russian journalists who were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) had arrived in the war-torn country to investigate the reported presence there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary force whose units are said to have fought in Ukraine and Syria.
Colleagues of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko say the trio were making a documentary about the private Russian military company Vagner, which French and Russian media reports had previously reported to be operating in the CAR.
CAR officials say the journalists were ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants.
The Russian government has never officially confirmed the presence of Vagner employees in the African country and denies that the firm’s contractors act on Moscow’s orders. The private military firm is reportedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Prigozhin has previously denied that he is linked to the company.
Here are five things you need to know about Russian military contractors working in the CAR.
Anti-Balaka militia in Gbaguili.
1. Why are Russian contractors there?
The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been subjected to a UN Security Council arms embargo since 2013, when an armed, mainly Muslim coalition known as Seleka seized power. Christian armed formations fought back, and the violence saw thousands killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.
In 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president of the CAR, but much of the country remains controlled by various armed formations, primarily ex-Seleka fighters and the Christian alliance known as Anti-balaka. The UN established a peacekeeping mission in the CAR in 2014.
In December 2017, Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms and training for what a UN panel of experts describes as part of a multinational effort — including the European Union Military Training Mission — to boost the capabilities of the CAR’s military and security forces.
“Our only request was that the Russian delegation submit additional information on the serial numbers of the weapons…so that we can track weapons going into CAR,” AFP cited an unidentified U.S. official as saying at the time.
2. How many are there, and what are they doing?
In December 2017, Russia notified the Security Council committee overseeing the CAR arms embargo of the involvement of 175 Russian “instructors” in a training mission, according to a report by a UN panel of experts issued in July 2018. Of those personnel, 170 were identified as civilian instructors, while the remaining five were from the Russian military, the report says.
According to the panel, Russian instructors have been involved in a range of tasks, including: escorting convoys of building materials for hospitals; providing security for hospitals donated by Russia; and training police officers as a requirement for equipping them with Russian weapons.
The panel also said that a Russian national had been appointed as a national security adviser to Touadera and that the Russian is “engaging with armed groups” to discuss issues including “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, national reconciliation,” and the sharing of revenue derived from the exploitation of natural resources.
In June 2018, two government soldiers and one Russian instructor were wounded in an attack by militia fighters while traveling to the south of the country, the panel said.
3. Why is Vagner said to be operating in the CAR?
Several media reports over the past year have indicated that Vagner contractors may be working in the CAR. In March 2018, a reporter for the Russian news site Znak.com visited a facility reportedly operated by Vagner outside the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. The reporter cited a military veteran who lives in the town where the facility is located as saying that Vagner mercenaries were set to be sent “to Africa” for a “training” mission.
Two weeks later, the Russian Foreign Ministry publicly discussed the 175 Russian “instructors,” saying they had been sent to the CAR in “late January-early February,” but without indicating whether the civilian personnel were employees of Vagner or another military contractor.
The Russian investigative journalism news site The Bell in June 2018 cited an unidentified source as saying that Vagner employees were training CAR forces. And in July 2018, Yevgeny Shabayev, a leader of a Cossack organization who says he visited Vagner fighters injured in a deadly February 2018 clash with U.S. forces in Syria, published a letter stating that private Russian military contractors have operated in the CARand “an array of other African and Arab countries.”*
An editor at the Investigation Control Center, the outlet funded by billionaire Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky that financed the investigation conducted by the three journalists killed in the CAR, said on August 1, 2018that the team had reached the facility where they believed Vagner operatives were stationed but were told they needed accreditation from the country’s Defense Ministry.
The president of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera.
4. What is Russia’s interest?
Russia says it is seeking to restore peace in the CAR with the provision of arms and training to government forces.
“Russia’s assistance is carried out as part of the common efforts of the international community to strengthen the national security units of CAR,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said in a March 22, 2018 statement.
But Moscow has also made no secret of its economic interests in the country’s natural resources.
“Russia is exploring the possibilities of the mutually beneficial development of Central African natural resources,” Kozhin said. “The prospecting-mining exploration concessions began in 2018. We believe these projects will help stabilize the economic situation in CAR, promote the construction of the infrastructure, and serve as a basis for drawing additional investment to the country’s economy.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Touadera in the Russian city of Sochi in October 2017, with the ministry saying that the officials “reaffirmed their countries’ resolve” to bolster bilateral ties “and pointed to the considerable potential for partnership in mineral resources exploration” and energy.
While Russia touts its weapons shipments and training efforts in the CAR as an effort to stabilize the country, the report by the UN panel of experts released in July 2018 said that new weapons obtained by government forces have motivated rebel militias to boost their own stockpiles.
“The recent acquisition of weaponry by the Government has created an incentive for the active rearmament of ex-Selaka factions,” the report said.
The panel added that armed militia representatives had told them that “since the government had opted for the military option (training, rearming, and attacking) instead of the political process, armed groups needed to be prepared.”
The experts’ report noted a worsening of the security situation in Bangui and Bambari, citing “serious outbreaks of violence, including in areas where the situation had previously improved.”
*Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that Yevgeny Shabayev’s letter stated that private Russian military contractors, not necessarily Vagner, have operated in the Central African Republic.
The US Navy is planning to finally test the electromagnetic railgun it has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing aboard a warship, according to new documents detailing the service’s testing and training plans.
Unlike conventional guns, a railgun uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther and at six or seven times the speed of sound.
“The kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets,” the Navy’s 1,800-page Northwest Training and Testing Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment revealed.
The Seattle Times, followed by Task Purpose, was the first to report the Navy’s latest testing plans and the possibility of a milestone achievement for the railgun program.
Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
The Navy, which has spent more than a decade and at least 0 million trying to build a working railgun, was initially expected to conduct a sea test of this new weapon aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Trenton at Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range in the summer of 2016.
That test never took place. Instead, the Navy chose to continue testing the weapon on land. If the Navy’s new testing and training plans are approved, sea trials for the railgun could take place as early as next year. It’s unclear what type of test platform might be involved.
Should the Navy test its railgun at sea, it will be a major achievement for a program that has struggled for quite some time now. When asked about the program earlier this year, the best answer Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
The US is not the only country chasing this technology. Another clear competitor is China, which has already managed to arm a warship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — with a railgun. The weapon is believed to have been put through some preliminary sea trials.
Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Jan. 31, 2008.
It is unclear how far along the Chinese railgun program is, but the competition is on. Chinese media proudly boasted in January that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
The railgun is a curious weapon, one that some naval affairs experts feel offers prestige to the innovator but little military advantage to the warfighter, no matter who gets their first.
“It’s not useful military technology,” Bryan Clark, an expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former US Navy officer, previously told Business Insider, arguing that it is a poor replacement for a missile. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”
So far, the most impressive thing to come out of the US Navy’s railgun research is the hypervelocity projectile, which the Navy has tested using the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.
The Army is also looking at the HVP for its 155 mm howitzers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation rallied on Oct. 15, 2018, after the two companies agreed to merge in an all-stock deal. The new company will have a market capitalization of $33.5 billion, making it the sixth-largest defense company in the US, according to the company release.
Following the news, L3 Technologies climbed 9.8% and Harris Corporation jumped 8.6%.
Under the terms of the merger agreement, each L3 Technologies shareholder will receive 1.30 Harris Corp shares for each L3 share they owned, the company said. After completion of the deal, Harris shareholders will own approximately 54% of the company while L3 shareholders will own the remaining 46%.
The combined company, called L3 Technologies, is expected to generate net revenue of approximately billion, earnings before interest and taxes of .4 billion, and free cash flow of id=”listicle-2612680907″.9 billion. The company will employ 48,000 people and will have its headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, where Harris is based.
The all-stock deal will create the country’s sixth-largest defense contractor.
“This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, L3 chairman, president and chief executive officer.
“The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming a more agile, integrated and innovative non-traditional 6th Prime focused on investing in important, next-generation technologies.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you think of goblins, the mythical creatures portrayed in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films might come to mind. Traditionally, the goblin has been a mischievous, sneaky monster. So, in one sense, it’s fitting that this cunning creature found its way into the nickname of the first operational stealth aircraft.
The F-117 Nighthawk was nicknamed the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” mostly due to its handling characteristics — after all, it didn’t look like a conventional plane and it required computer assistance to remain in controlled flight. It might not sound ideal, but those were some of the realities of flying the first operational stealth fighter. Well, more accurately, it was a light bomber that usually carried two GBU-10 laser-guided bombs or four GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.
While most planes using laser-guided bombs on high-value targets often faced greater risk, the F-117 was perfectly suited for the task.
The reason? It was extremely hard to detect on radar. It was, for all intents and purposes, invisible to enemy forces on the ground, effectively negating many surface-to-air missiles of the time. With that, the F-117 was able to operate at the best possible altitude and fly the best possible profiles for covertly deploying laser-guided bombs.
F-117s en route to Saudi Arabia.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-117 was initially in service in 1983, a “black project” that operated in the Nevada desert for five years until the Air Force officially acknowledged it. The plane made its combat debut in Panama, where the planes achieved their objective. In Desert Storm, they hit many heavily-defended targets, flying 1,200 sorties with no losses. Often, the only warning that a F-117 was attacking was when its target blew up.
A F-117 gets fuel from a KC-10 Extender.
The F-117 also saw combat over the Balkans, where one was shot down, and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the introduction of the F-22 Raptor, the F-117 was eventually retired and taken back to the Nevada desert, where these high-tech Goblins lurk in case they’re needed again.
Learn more about this sneaky plane in the video below!
Hollywood spies often have a myriad of amazing devices at their disposal for getting rid of bad guys in a clandestine way. It turns out, occasionally so do real spies.
Exhibit A: the CIA’s “undetectable” poison dart gun that near silently shot frozen darts comprised of an unspecified, undetectable poison. The individual hit reportedly would at most just feel something like a mosquito bite as the dart penetrated their skin. It would then quickly melt and the poison would do its work, leaving the victim dead of an apparent heart attack, with no detectable evidence of the poison remaining.
The weapon was revealed as part of a broader Senate investigation into intelligence and covert action abuses by the Agency. The disclosure of the full gamut of activities and devices caused Senator Frank Church (D-ID) to conclude that the CIA had become a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.”
Air rifle with tranquilizer dart — not CIA-issue (that we know of…). (Image via the website of the President of the Russian Federation)
Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s game-changing article in The New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974, which relayed assassination attempts and covert activities to subvert both foreign governments as well as American antiwar and other dissidents, the Senate formed the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities in 1975.
Chaired by Senator Church, during its two years of hearings, the Church Committee, as it came to be known, published 14 reports on a variety of abuses by the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA), as well as others.
These included routinely opening (and resealing) US citizens’ mail since 1952, misusing tax information to target domestic dissidents, and conducting domestic, electronic surveillance of peace and black power activists.
In addition, for the CIA, this also included developing weapons such as “a pistol [that] can fire a poison dart 328 feet, kill a man before he knows he has been hit, and leave no clue as to what killed him.”
Part of a program named MK Naomi, established for conducting and managing bacteriological warfare, the poison dart gun was just one of many experiments by the agency, which also included pesticides to ravage crops and on one occasion, using the NYC subway to test out a “trial model” of a biological warfare attack.
On Sep. 16, 1975, then CIA Director William Colby testified before the committee, which also included Senators Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), John Tower (R-TX), Walter Mondale (D-MN), Gary Hart (D-CO), Howard Baker (R-TN), Philip Hart (D-MI), Charles Mathias (R-MD), Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Richard Schweiker (R-PN) and Robert Morgan (D-NC).
The director gave remarkable testimony regarding the development of “toxic agents” at a laboratory at Fort Detrick, MD. Notably, Director Colby testified that only “limited records” remained of these activities, even though the program spanned from 1952-1970.
Among the director’s many extraordinary statements were these from his prepared remarks:
— The specific subject today concerns CIA’s involvement in the development of bacteriological warfare materials . . . retention of an amount of shellfish toxin, and CIA’s use and investigation of various chemicals and drugs
— The need for such capabilities was tied to . . . the development of two different types of suicide pills to be used in the event of capture [during WWII] and a successful operation using biological warfare materials to incapacitate a Nazi leader temporarily
— A . . . memo of 1967 identified . . . [the range of] project activity: maintenance of a stockpile of temporarily incapacitating and lethal agents . . . assessment and maintenance of biological and chemical dissemination systems . . . [and] adaptation and testing of a dart device for clandestine and imperceptible inoculation with biological warfare or chemical warfare agents
— The only application of this [shellfish] toxin was in the U-2 flight over the U.S.S.R in May 1960 [Gary Powers flight]
— Various dissemination devices, such as a fountain pen dart launcher and an engine head bolt designed to release a substance when heated [were developed]
— A large amount of Agency attention was given to the problem of incapacitating guard dogs
— Work was also done on temporary human incapacitation techniques . . . to incapacitate captives before they could render themselves incapable of talking, or . . . take retaliatory action
— Success was never achieved [for the temporarily incapacitating dart system] since a larger amount of an incapacitating agent is required to safely inactivate a human than of a lethal agent . . . to kill him
— Though specific accounting for each agent . . . is not on hand, DOD records indicate that the materials were, in fact, destroyed in 1970 by SOD personnel, except for the 11 grams [of shellfish toxin]. . . plus the 8 milligrams [of cobra venom, both found in a vault]
— A complete inventory . . . was taken . . . consisted of . . . materials and delivery systems . . . lethal materials, incapacitants, narcotics, hallucinogenic drugs, irritants and riot control agents, herbicides, animal control materials and many common chemicals
Former CIA employee Mary Embree discusses a similar weapon — the infamous heart attack gun, which was first made public during the Church Committee hearings in 1975.
On June 29, 2019, Luis Alvarez, retired NYPD detective and proud military veteran, passed away from advanced-stage colorectal cancer as a result of his work at Ground Zero in New York following the 9/11 attacks. Just days before, he had testified in Congress alongside Daily Show host Jon Stewart in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He was 53 years old.
His speech in Congress came after sixty-eight rounds of chemotherapy — and just before he was about to begin his sixty-ninth.
“I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there. We were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism and that we would all work together. No races, no colors, no politics,” he said.
9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez gives emotional testimony
His family shared an official statement on his passing: “It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today. Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ We told him at the end that he had won this battle by the many lives he had touched by sharing his three year battle. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing!”
Thousands of 9/11 first responders were exposed to dangerous carcinogens in the dust and gases at Ground Zero, putting them at risk of multiple myeloma and other cancers. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to “provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.
The original VCF operated from 2001-2004, then was extended in 2010 and again in 2015, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020. On Feb. 15, 2019, it was determined that the funding would be insufficient to pay all the pending and projected claims, which is what brought Alvarez before Congress.
According to NBC New York, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill that would ensure the VCF never runs out of money.
On December 26, 1994, millions of shoppers across North America rushed to malls in an attempt to make the most of post-Christmas sales. Across the Atlantic Ocean, at an airport in Marseille, France, a small group of men decked out from head to toe in black garb were doing a different kind of rushing — clinging to the back of a mobile staircase while barreling at high speed (or at least as fast as the truck would go) down a runway.
These weren’t ordinary men. Their target was a hulking, cream-white Airbus A300 filled with more than 160 scared and bewildered passengers and flight crew, some of whom were now resigned to accepting an imminent death.
The men on the mobile stairs planned on taking the aircraft in front of them by force, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process. Success was the only acceptable outcome of this operation. Failure would result in the massacring of innocents. Hailing from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (more popularly known as GIGN), these black-clad ninjas were counter-terrorists, the best France had to offer.
(The Aviation Intelligencer YouTube)
Today’s mission was a hijacked Air France airliner, wired with explosives and crammed with 166 innocent lives. A small group of hijackers, armed to the teeth, were identified as the targets of this mission. Negotiations had failed and the last-resort scenario was now in play.
Just a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, that same aircraft sat at an airport in Algeria with flight attendants scurrying around, preparing the cabin for takeoff. The pilots and flight engineers chatted among themselves as they completed their pre-departure checklist. Labeled Air France Flight 8969, this plane would travel with 236 passengers and crew from Algiers to Paris.
Civilian airlines flying routes into Algeria were repeatedly warned, at the time, that their planes were under constant threat of missile attacks. As a result, Air France only allowed crews who volunteered for the Algiers route to fly it, as long as they knew the risks involved.
On December 24th, the threat didn’t come from a missile but rather from 4 members of the Armed Islamic Group — a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. Disguised as members of the Algerian presidential security force, they walked into the cabin of the Airbus without arousing any suspicion, though some found it quite odd that they visibly carried their weapons.
Outside the aircraft, airport personnel began to worry when the airliner sat on the apron, sealed and ready to depart for Paris, but didn’t move an inch. Already facing delay, the control tower tried to hail the cockpit — no response. Fears began to manifest and armed tactical response teams were deployed immediately.
It was hijacked.
Aboard Flight 8969, the hijackers began checking passports, likely to earmark targets for execution in the event that their demands weren’t met. Soon after, amidst terrified screams, the terrorists revealed their intention to take the aircraft and waved their guns in the air, demanding cooperation.
The hijackers wired explosives in the cockpit and the main cabin while forcing the pilots, at gunpoint, to exchange clothes with them. The airliner was surrounded outside by police and Algerian military personnel. Negotiations began, but would soon break down.
Within hours of the hijacking, two passengers were executed and their bodies were dumped outside the aircraft. Attempts to use the lead hijacker’s mother to get him to surrender peacefully further enraged the terrorist, causing a breakdown in communications. By the following day, Christmas, another passenger was executed. French government officials were outraged — the Algerian military had botched the situation and were losing innocent lives.
After releasing just over 60 passengers as a sign of good faith, the aircraft was eventually allowed to take off and continue to France, albeit to Marseille as it had burned through too much fuel to make it to Paris.
GIGN was notified and they diverted their aircraft to Marseille, which had already taken off for Spain — as close as they could get to Algeria without entering the country. Having familiarized themselves with the Air France A300 they were aboard — identical to Flight 8969 — they were ready to roll as soon as their plane touched down.
In the early hours of December 26, Flight 8969 landed and was ushered to a secluded spot at Marseille, Unbeknownst to the hijackers, they were now under surveillance by highly-trained and well-experienced GIGN snipers. Their new demands confirmed the rumors of an attack on Paris. They ordered 27 tons of fuel, instead of just the 9 they needed to make it to Paris.
They intended on turning the A300 into a flying, fuel-laden bomb, triggered using the explosives they had previously wired. When detonated over densely-populated Paris, it would kill all on the flight, scores on the ground, and wound and maim many more. GIGN wasn’t about to let this happen.
Tricking the hijackers into clearing a space in the front of the aircraft for a press conference (and forcing the passengers further towards the back of the jet), GIGN prepped the aircraft for a takedown. In the early evening of December 26, the raid began.
Airstairs (mobile staircases) began racing towards Flight 8969 loaded with GIGN commandos that were armed with submachine guns and pistols. They threw stun grenades and entered the fray.
In the chaos, one of the plane’s pilots jumped out of the cockpit window and hobbled to safety. Snipers began firing into the cockpit, aiming for a hijacker they knew had hunkered down in there. The teams that entered through the rear of the aircraft evacuated passengers. Three hijackers were immediately killed; a fourth remained in the cockpit for 20 minutes before meeting his end.
By the end of the engagement, all four hijackers were dead. 13 passengers and 3 crew were wounded. Aside from the 3 passengers who were executed, all survived. The majority of the Air France flight crew returned to the skies despite the trauma.
Sitting on Miyagi Coast in Okinawa, Japan, is a well-loved establishment called Transit Café where people gather to eat and enjoy the scenery of Okinawa. It was Feb. 19, 2019, a normal weekday afternoon, the sun was shining, the blue ocean waves were crashing and Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, a military policeman with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler-Japan, and his wife were enjoying their meal. Meanwhile, Jillian Romag and one of her close friends were also chatting during their lunch break at Romag’s favorite lunch destination on island, the Transit Café.
The McClure family was relaxing and people-watching when a sudden movement caught Mrs. McClure’s attention.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. McClure asked her husband, looking towards the white bar. “I think she’s choking!”
Staff Sgt. McClure looked up to see Romag’s vomit splattering across the white floor. As she stumbled, grabbing desperately at her throat he rushed over, grabbed her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.
First Sergeant Jacob Karl, right, reads Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure’s, left, Navy Achievement Medal citation Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“Are you choking?” he asked.
“I’m going to help you,” McClure said reassuring the woman as he moved to stand behind her. McClure, an experienced policeman aboard Camp Foster, had rehearsed the abdominal thrust, commonly known as the Heimlich maneuver, yearly as part of military policemen’s annual training. After three abdominal thrusts, the chunk of steak that was lodged in her throat blocking her airway came up enough for her to remove it.
In relief and mortification Romag sat down.
McClure bent down, “Are you okay?” he asked. She nodded sheepishly.
After McClure washed his hands and arms, he asked the manager for rags, immediately cleaning up the mess.
On Feb. 22, 2019, McClure was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for superior performance of his duties while serving as a military policeman and accident investigation section chief Provost Marshal’s office, HS Bn, MCIPAC-MCB.
“This reminded me that there are really still good people out there,” said Jillian Romag, the woman McClure saved. “The Marine Corps takes care of its people and teaches its people how to take care of others.”
McClure’s exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, left, and Jillian Romag, right, pose for a picture Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“I think that any MCIPAC Marine would have reacted the same way,” said Col. Vincent Ciuccoli, commanding officer of HS Bn., MCIPAC, MCB Camp Butler. “In the organization that I am in we have a very diverse group. We have a common thread throughout, every Marine here has a bias for action, and every Marine would do something. It is one thing to say that you attempted to save someone’s life, but to actually save their life and have the bravery and skillset to do it says a lot.”
Marines aboard MCIPAC strengthen and enable force projection in the Asia-Pacific region by building bridges with their allies and partners while protecting and defending the territory of the United States, its people and its interests.
“I firmly believe with 100% of my heart and soul that any Marine who knew what was going on and how to react would have done so the same exact way,” said McClure proudly. “I work with military policemen who react to hard situations on a daily basis. I know without a shadow of a doubt that any of those Marines would do the same thing. The life lesson that this instance reminded me of is that you are forever a student. You have to be willing to learn and continue to hone and refine your skills. If you do have any type of certifications, or if you are recertifying, make sure you take it seriously. If you don’t have the training, go out there and seek it. There are programs through our U.S. Naval Hospital and Red Cross. We need more people who are out there, trained and ready to act when a situation gets hectic or scary.”