Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”
Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.
They were trained for this.
They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.
That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.
Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.
Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.
“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.
The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.
The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.
It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).
This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.
Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.
You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
A third Chinese aircraft carrier is in development at a domestic shipyard, Chinese state media revealed Nov. 25, 2018, confirming for the first time long-held suspicions.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency explained that while the country’s first domestically-produced carrier — the Type 001A — is going through sea trials, an unnamed “new-generation carrier” is being built and is on schedule, the government-controlled China Daily reported Nov. 26, 2018.
China’s first aircraft carrier — the Type 001 Liaoning — is a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” that China acquired in the late 1990s, upgraded and refitted over roughly a decade, and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012.
The flagship of the Chinese navy was declared combat ready in 2016. It has since sailed around Taiwan, through the disputed East and South China Seas, and into the Western Pacific.
The Liaoning, primarily a training vessel as China attempts to better understand complex carrier operations, also served as a template for China’s second carrier.
Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning.
While the Type 001A is improved in certain places, it is decidedly similar to its Soviet predecessor. The vessel does, however, feature a new radar, a slightly larger flight deck, and a smaller island. The ship also includes a number of technological upgrades.
The carrier has undergone at least two sea trials, possibly a third. Observers expect the carrier to be commissioned into the PLAN in October 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
There is speculation among expert observers that China’s newest aircraft carrier, which some refer to as the Type 002, will be a marked improvement over the Type 001 and Type 001A.
While the first two use ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are less effective, the new carrier may be a ship with a flat flight deck and a catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system, as this is certainly something China aims to eventually achieve.
The development of a carrier with a CATOBAR launch system would be a significant step forward for the Chinese navy, as it would improve the operational effectiveness of the ship. Leaked images from the company tasked with building China’s carriers suggested that this may be where China is heading.
An advanced fleet of aircraft carriers supported by new Type 055 Renhai destroyers and other upgraded escort ships would greatly improve China’s ability to project power in its neighborhood.
Chinese state media has confirmed that a third carrier is in the works, but it has yet to provide any specific details on the new ship.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.
Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.
The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.
Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.
“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.
The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.
Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.
“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.
“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states
The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.
“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.
“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”
The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is not the madman he is often made out to be, a senior CIA official revealed Oct. 4.
Many have speculated that that a crazed Kim Jong Un might just wake up one morning and order a nuclear strike on another country, but experts and officials argue that this is an extremely unlikely situation, as the young dictator, while brutal, is a rational actor.
“Kim Jong Un is a very rational actor,” Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Korea Mission Center Yong Suk Lee explained at a conference at George Washington University.
“The last person who wants conflict on the peninsula is Kim Jong Un,” he argued, asserting that Kim wants what all authoritarian rulers want — “he wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”
“Bluster and rhetoric aside, Kim Jong Un has no interest in going toe-to-toe with combined forces command,” Lee explained. “That’s not conducive to his long-term rule.”
Lee, who has analyzed North Korea for more than two decades, also countered arguments that Kim needs to wage war to satisfy the hawkish demands of the North Korean elites. “Believe me, North Korean elites are not interested in getting their faces on a deck of cards and being chased after by [Joint Special Operations Command],” he said.
“Beyond the bluster, Kim Jong Un is a rational actor,” Lee said.
Assuming that Kim is not crazy, then a random attack on the US or an American ally is not realistic or in the interests of a regime that is focused on maintaining its existence.
“An out-of-the-blue attack is not conducive to his regime interests and his longevity,” Lee explained, adding that nuclear weapons and missiles give the North some strategic maneuverability. The CIA appears to assume that North Korea’s interests are regime survival, deterring US aggression, and gaining acceptance as a nuclear power.
North Korea’s strategic thinking is important to understanding its frequent provocations. “North Korea is clearly testing the tolerance of the United States and the international community to manage its increasingly provocative behavior aimed at establishing itself as a recognized nuclear and missile-armed state. They are raising the threshold for the United States and others to accept or press back against them,” argued Michael Collins, the Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for East Asia Mission Center.
“I expect that this tension will continue,” he said.
Lee actually suggested, as have officials in South Korea and Japan, that North Korea might engage in provocative behavior around Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party. The North has a tendency to mark major events with its own brand of fireworks.
Storm Bowen was wounded in combat in 2007, and he spent a long time in the hospital. And during that time he discovered the simple pleasure of smoking a cigar. At that point Cigars for Warriors was born.
Cigars for Warriors is a nonprofit charity whose sole mission is to send premium cigars and accessories to the men and women of the U.S. military serving in combat zones, no matter where they are. Requests are made online, and each package comes with cigars, cutters, and literature.
“I’m retired and I have a lot of free time on my hands,” he says. “With cigars, there is so much to learn and experience and it’s easy to get excited.”
Bowen has a lot to be excited about. While recovering from his injuries, he experienced cigar culture for the first time. His brother-in-law took him to get a cigar and share a smoke. He quickly became an aficionado.
“If you’ve never smoked one before and try to pretend you can, it’s the worst thing you can do,” Bowen adds. “My first time, I went for the three dollar one, trying to save money, and it wasn’t a good idea. You just don’t enjoy it properly.”
True to this creed, there are no dog rockets in a Cigars for Warriors care package. Bowen and Cigars for Warriors will only send premium cigars to the troops abroad. Donations in cash defer the cost of purchasing new, high-quality tobacco or for shipping them overseas. Bowen estimates 98 percent of money collected goes to getting the cigars to the troops, while the remaining is used for promotion.
“This really is a group effort,” he explains. “When we first started in 2012, I tried to get a grip on a real number for how many we might be able to send that year. When I set it to 800, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. By the end of the year, we had shipped 92,000.”
Cigars are the number one item requested by deployed troops and Cigars for Warriors is happy to oblige. They use cigar and tobacconist shops as collection points and volunteers to manage the collecting.
“There are many well-organized cigar clubs in combat zones,” Bowen says. “All of us are volunteers and for something so small, it’s having a much bigger impact than we expected. For a lot of these guys, it’s like a slice of home.”
Some of the volunteers working with Bowen are recipients of cigars themselves.
“It’s special to these guys,” Bowen remarks. “We get instant feedback in some cases. They send us photos we call ‘stogie smiles.’ That just fills your tank and gets you going for days.”
To learn more about, donate to, or request cigars from Cigars for Warriors visit http://cigarsforwarriors.org/
On Apr. 15, 2018, an asteroid similar in size to one that may have caused the 1908 Tunguska Event in remote Siberia flew by Earth by a mere 119,400 miles, just half the distance between the Earth and the Moon — and we didn’t even know it was coming.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Tunguska Explosion, it was a mysterious explosion in the most remote region of Russian Siberia that flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. It was the largest explosion in Earth’s recorded history and was one-third the size of the Tsar Bomba, the Soviet Union’s largest nuclear detonation — enough to flatten a large metropolitan area.
And we only knew about it one day before it flew by.
Not this President.
Like something from a 1990s-era disaster movie, President Trump wants to tackle the problem and make the United States the leader in asteroid impact avoidance. Politico reports that Trump wants to spend 0 million toward that effort, which includes unmanned spacecraft that would nudge a small asteroid off course.
NASA estimates there are 1,000 such asteroids close to Earth, what they refer to as “near-Earth objects.” The bad news is that they also estimate there are upwards of 10,000 near-Earth objects that they don’t know about. A growing number of those are said to be the size (or larger) than the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
But the recent near-miss wasn’t an event that required NASA’s intervention. The asteroid 2018 GE3 flew harmlessly between the Earth and Moon’s orbits, continuing its regular orbit.
“If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” SpaceWeather.com reported. “Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach.”
NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a model of the orbits of asteroid 2018 GE3, Earth, and other planets in the Solar System, so we can all track where the asteroid is at any given time. Below is the position of the asteroid in relation to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter at the time of this week.
NASA’s next test will use robot spacecraft to ram an orbiting moon around the asteroid Didymos, currently seven million miles away from Earth, in an effort to change the satellite’s orbit. The only thing delaying this test that everyone agrees is a good idea and that we should definitely get started on is Congress, who are waffling on the latest spending bill that would keep this program along with the U.S. government, running.
It could take as long as another three months to pass the appropriations for the program while NASA estimates a delay of six months or more could affect the program entirely, leaving Earth defenseless.
The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.
About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.
Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.
“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].
“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)
Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.
“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.
The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.
“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.
“That is a long time in training.”
The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.
But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”
The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.
“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Two of the emergency landings were related to the crashed F-35, but the Defense Ministry approved the aircraft to fly again. The emergency landings occurred in flight tests between June 2017 and January 2019, The Mainichi reported.
Among other issues, the F-35s reportedly had problems with the fuel and hydraulics systems. The diagnosed aircraft were were inspected and refitted with parts.
The crashed F-35, which was assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan, was reportedly diagnosed with cooling and navigation system problems in June 2017 and August 2018, according to The Mainichi.
The aircraft, designated AX-6, is the second F-35A assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ F-35 Final Assembly Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan and is the first to be assigned to the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.
(JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.)
Four of the five F-35s with problems were also assembled by Mitsubishi, while the fifth aircraft was reportedly assembled in the US. All of Japan’s F-35s have been temporarily grounded.
The downed 6 million aircraft marked the first time an international ally has lost an F-35. Search-and-rescue teams were able to locate debris of the wreckage but the pilot is still missing.
The particular F-35 was the first one assembled in the Mitsubishi plant and was piloted by a veteran who had 3,200 hours of flying time, according to Defense News and Reuters. The pilot reportedly had 60 hours of flying time in the F-35.
Following the crash, the US and Japan have conducted an intensive search for the aircraft. The Lockheed Martin-developed, fifth-generation fighter boasts several technological and stealth features, which could provide rivaling nations like Russia or China valuable intelligence, if found.
“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.
My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.
The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.
The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.
Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:
I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.
After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)
The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.
The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.
At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).
The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.
We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.
The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.
The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.
He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.
As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)
Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):
Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”
At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.
Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”
After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.
Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.
The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.
Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.
After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.
I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.
And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.
This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.
I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.
As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.
After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”
Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.
I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .
After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.
The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.
The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.
This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.
Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.
There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.
But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.
SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.
(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)
The sanctions against seven individuals and three entities, including the North Korean government, freeze any property within US jurisdiction and prohibit any transactions by US citizens with those targeted.
The sanctioned entities include the Workers’ Party of Korea.
“North Korea is run by a brutal regime that continues to engage in serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are especially concerned with the North Korean military, which operates as secret police, punishing all forms of dissent. Further, the military operates outside of North Korea to hunt down asylum seekers, and brutally detains and forcibly returns North Korean citizens.”
The action comes about one week before President Trump embarks on his first trip to Asia, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, and China to hold discussions on curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Mr. Mnuchin said the sanctions “target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights.”
“We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations,” he said.
In September, the Treasury Department leveled sanctions against eight North Korean banks and 26 people linked to the country’s financial networks, seeking to curb Pyongyang’s belligerence.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said the new sanctions are aimed at North Korea’s Military Security Command and two of its top officials, Jo Kyong-Chol and Sin Yong Il, and Ri Thae Chol, the country’s first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s Security.
Also sanctioned are Ku Sung Sop, the consul general in Shenyang, China, and Kim Min Chol, an official in the North Korean Embassy in Vietnam.
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.
“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.
The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.
The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”
Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.
But that is going to change, he added.
“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”
Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.
The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.
The U.S. military in World War II kept women out of many of the front line areas of World War II, limiting much of their contributions to ferrying planes or sorting the mail. But women often rose to the occasion when they were called to serve within range of the enemy guns, possibly none more so than the four women recognized for valor at the Anzio beachhead.
The American advance in Italy stalled out in late 1943, and U.S. planners needed a way to draw off German forces from the Gustav Line or lance their way into Rome directly. The proposed solution: land troops at Anzio and Nettuno, just 35 miles from Rome. The bold amphibious assault didn’t initially go well.
The Army quickly took a beachhead, and the corps commander wanted to take a hill that would allow the soldiers to sever German supply lines. He didn’t have the troops to protect his own logistics lines if he took the hills, though, so he just held the area around his beachheads.
This did threaten German lines and drew off their forces, but not enough to allow the other allied forces to break through the Gustav Line. Instead, the troops at Anzio were confined to a small area and subject to constant artillery and air bombardment. Their field hospital included plenty of female nurses and, obviously, the German fire didn’t pay much attention to the nurses’ noncombatant status.
Troops unload tanks and other gear from Navy ships at the Anzio Beachhead.
Enter First Lt. Mary Roberts and Second Lts. Elaine Roe, Virginia Rourke, and Ellen Ainsworth. In February 1944, as the Germans built up their forces to contain and then pierce the American bubble, they rendered aid to wounded soldiers even as shells rained upon them.
There were rumors that the Germans were using the Red Cross on the hospital as an aiming marker, even though it should’ve marked it as a non-target. There were rumors that the counter assault was coming any day, that the hospital was going to be evacuated, that the hospital would never be evacuated because the damage to morale would be too great.
The Allies suffered 19,000 casualties.
The nurses kept as many of the men alive as they could. On Feb. 10, Roberts was running the operating room when the surgical tent took a direct hit. Two corpsmen were wounded, and equipment was destroyed, but she rallied the medical staff and kept the surgeries going so the wounded could keep receiving treatment.
Ainsworth was working in the surgical ward that same night and moved the patients to the floor, continuing to render aid as the explosions rocked the tent. She was hit in the chest and died six days later of her wounds.
Meanwhile, Roe and Rourke were working at another field hospital on the beachhead where they continued patient care without electricity, their calm demeanors soothing the fears of the wounded. When ordered to evacuate the wounded, they organized the troops and got their 42 patients out safely despite the threat.
And if you’re curious what happened next for the larger Anzio battle, Hitler got impatient. He ordered his generals to get rid of the American presence at Anzio. But, while the Americans didn’t have the forces to threaten and hold the German lines, they had been building up their defenses.
Gone are the days that company loyalty is valued above all other aspects of the employer/employee relationship. Mega corporations and fast-changing needs have created an atmosphere of turnover, especially among some of the leading defense contractors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can lead to active employee involvement in creating their own opportunities for success and advancement. It can essentially put you in the driver’s seat of your career in a way that didn’t exist in the past. We see many pros and cons of defense contracting, but it always boils down to what is most important for you.
Defense contractors rank high in this field of expectation. I’m not saying that the executives exit stage left quickly, but technical in-the-weeds employees don’t come with lifetime assignment labels, and they shouldn’t. The very nature of contracting involves short- and long-term work. Now defense contractors often maintain a set of continuously renewed contract work, but this does not necessarily mean definitive eternal employment. If you read our post about defense contractor positions for veterans the following information should help you decide on your length of contracting.
With all that said, how long you should stay in your position depends on a couple of things.
What are your goals?
Did you take a defense contract position because it was a dream to work with X employer? Perhaps you want to work on aircraft and the contractor gets you closer. Or was it the pay?
All and any of these reasons are completely reasonable. You have to consider what term of employment with the defense contractor gets you closer to your goals.
Have you used or do you plan to use company education benefits?
Many companies, especially defense contractors, have wonderful education benefits. However, usually these require a specific amount of time with the company following the completion of the class. This varies from six months to two years. If you are working on a degree and plan to take continuous classes using the company benefits, pay close attention to these policies. If you leave before the policy tenure is completed, you may find yourself owing the company for any expenses they paid on your behalf.
Has another opportunity opened up?
Perhaps you’ve received an offer from another company or a government position has opened up and you are wondering, “Is it in bad taste to leave now?” Whatever amount of time you have under your belt, I recommend pursuing discretely any opportunity that gets you closer to your goals or interests. Remember, opportunities are just that, and can fail to actualize. Considering them and giving them your professional due diligence is never a bad thing. If it does actualize and you find yourself with an offer on the table, it may have taken a considerable amount of time to get that far and you’ll already be in a respectable position of tenure.
As a general rule, I suggest committing to at least two years to any employer, one year if the position wasn’t quite what you thought it would be and six months in difficult situations (problematic team integrations for example). In any situation, a hostile work environment is never worth your time and only you can be the one to make that sort of determination.
Take a close look at your goals, consider the pros and cons of defense contracting positions, but most of all trust your gut instinct. Any employer should value you and the work you do just as much as you value them.