New details about Israel's boldest rescue mission of the 1980s - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.


Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades.  There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.

Also read: Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.

The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
The Marine Corps’ current AAV in Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons

Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.

The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.

Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.

Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.

“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”

Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.

“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.

An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.

Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.

BAE Systems ACV 1.1

The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.

In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.

BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.

“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.

The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.

Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.

Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in amphibious assault vehicles train with smoke grenades. | III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs photo by Pfc. Mark Stroud

Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.

The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.

 The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack

The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.

“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.

However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.

Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.

“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

Amphibious Assault Vehicle “Survivability Upgrade”

The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US won’t send ships to China’s anniversary celebration this year

The US Navy will not send warships to participate in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

More than 60 countries, including US allies Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, are expected to send naval delegations to attend the celebratory fleet review, The Japan Times reported, citing the Chinese defense ministry.

The US, however, will only send a defense attaché from the US embassy in Beijing.

“The U.S. Navy will continue to pursue its primary goal of constructive, risk-reduction focused, discourse with the PLAN,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told Business Insider in an emailed statement April 4, 2019. “Along with the international community, the Department of Defense engages with the PLAN in forums that advance international rules and norms and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”


“The United States Navy will continue to engage the PLAN through established military-to-military dialogues,” Eastburn added. He declined to say why the US Navy will not be participating in China’s anniversary celebration as it has done in the past.

Tensions between the US and China have been on the rise in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. In recent years, the US and China have had occasional confrontations at sea.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald under way in the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

The US disinvited the Chinese navy from 2018’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“The PLA is the principal threat to U.S. interests,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019. Stressing that China is a threat to US and allied interests in the First Island Chain, he added that “the PLA is quickly increasing its ability to project power and influence beyond the First Island Chain.”

The US Navy sent the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald to participate in the Chinese navy’s 60th anniversary event, the South China Morning Post has reported. The decision to not send one this year could be seen as a snub.

“America’s ships and sailors are needed across the Indo-Pacific,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe recently told The Washington Free Beacon, praising the administration’s decision.

“America’s Navy is busy enough confronting the challenges posed by China’s aggression in the South China Sea and other critical aspects of great power competition without the distraction of participating in communist pageantry,” the Oklahoma Republican added.

Indeed, the anniversary fleet review is a major propaganda moment for Beijing. “The naval parade in April aims at sending a message to the international community” about the capabilities of the Chinese navy, a Beijing-based military analyst told the South China Morning Post.

The anniversary celebrations will be held in Qingdao from April 22 to 25, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea grow closer at the Winter Games

North Korea’s state-sponsored news agency issued a rare press release on Feb. 12, in which the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was said to have “expressed satisfaction” after the country’s delegation arrived back from a trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.


Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the propaganda outlet for the regime, claimed that Kim Jong-un said South Korea’s “specially prioritized” efforts to accommodate North Korea’s delegates were “very impressive,” according to a translation from KCNA Watch.

North Korea sent a delegation that included Kim Jong-un’s sister and head of its propaganda department, Kim Yo-jong, and the nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to South Korea ahead of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
‘2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games’ Medal. (Image Republic of Korea Flickr)

After North Korea agreed in January 2017, it took several steps that, at least on the surface, appeared to be an effort to thaw its relationship with South Korea. The regime sent Kim Yo-jong there, the first time the regime’s ruling family visited the South in decades, as cameras fawned over images of her smiling with South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

During this trip, Kim Yo-jong invited Moon to visit North Korea. A potential visit by Moon would be the first meeting of Korean leaders in Pyongyang since then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for an inter-Korean summit in 2007.

North Korea’s recent statement and actions are a stark departure from its usual, bellicose rhetoric, and that has prompted White House officials and foreign-policy experts to be cautious about the overtures.

Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly floated the possibility of diplomatic engagement with North Korea, said on Feb. 12 that President Donald Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” would continue.

“Despite potential talks, and irrespective of if they happen w/USA or S. Korea, new strong sanctions are coming very soon and the maximum pressure campaign will only intensify until North Korea abandons its nuclear program,” Pence tweeted. “All our allies agree!”

Also Read: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

And despite being seen cheering for the joint-Korean Winter Olympics team and having luncheons with the North Korean delegation, Moon — who has been accused of being swayed by North Korea’s “charm offensive” — has given some indication that he remains wary of North Korea’s motives.

Instead of explicitly agreeing to North Korea’s invitation to Pyongyang, Moon responded by suggesting the two countries “accomplish this by creating the right conditions,” and encouraged the North to “actively pursue” talks with the U.S.

Moon is also believed to have signaled his commitment to exerting pressure on North Korea. According to Pence on Feb. 10, “both of us reiterated to each other tonight that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia may negotiate with the US for Iran

The Trump administration on Aug 6, 2018, announced it would reinstate sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal — and Iran has made no shortage of vitriolic threats about what it may do in response.

Beginning Aug 7, 2018, the US plans to sanction Iran’s central bank, sending a clear message to the US’s European allies: Do business with the US, or do it with Iran, but not both.


The US plans to follow up with another round of sanctions in November targeting Iran’s lifeblood: its oil exports.

In response to the looming sanctions, Iran has shuffled around its policies regarding foreign currency, fired the head of its central bank, jailed scores of people involved in currency exchange, and made threats to shut down regional oil shipping with military force. It even threatened to destroy everything owned by President Donald Trump.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

(Tasnim News Agency)

“It’s pretty clear the Iranians are suffering a fair degree of anger over the economy,” Dennis Ross, who has worked on Middle East policy in four US administrations, told reporters on a call set up by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iran’s currency, the rial, has tanked this year, losing about half its value against the dollar. “In the past week, the price of toothpaste has risen three times,” Ross said.

Amid the economic struggles, Iran has seen wave after wave of protests from both rich and poor citizens, protests the government has often suppressed violently. Ross said that it was unusual to have bazaar vendors, truckers, and conservative towns protesting and beaten back by riot police and that the recent protests were “noteworthy.”

Ross said, however, that Trump’s election and a mounting anticipation that sanctions would return had some effect on Iran’s economy but were “not the root cause.”

He instead pointed to corruption, talent mismanagement, years of isolation from international business standards, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ massive role in the economy, and a lack of transparency as proving inhospitable to investment.

At the same time, Trump withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions dealt Iran a huge blow, which will significantly hurt its earning potential and liquidity. Ross said that while China may still buy Iranian oil amid the US sanctions, it could ask for a discount; while India may still buy Iranian oil, it may offer to pay only in rupees.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Iran makes big threats and takes little action

Michael Eisenstadt, an expert on Middle East security and defense, told reporters on the Washington Institute’s call that while Iran had talked a big game, it carefully measured its actions to avoid a strong US response.

“Iran faces a dilemma,” Eisenstadt said. “In the past, Iran’s main response was to redouble efforts in the nuclear domain” as a response to US pressure, but Iran has reduced its nuclear infrastructure as part of the nuclear deal with the US and other countries.

Iran has made threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil exports pass through, but Eisenstadt and other experts dismissed this as bluster.Instead, Iran could send missiles to its Houthi allies in Yemen to target oil shipping from US allies, as it already has. Iran could attack US troops in Syria. It could detain US citizens, wage a cyberattack, or harass US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.

Iran hasn’t really done any of those things yet. When Iran’s military has lashed out or tested the US in Syria, the US has beaten its forces back emphatically , as has Israel.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Putin the peacemaker?

As Iran finds itself increasingly boxed in by US pressure, Trump hasdangled the humiliating prospect of a summit with the country’s leadership .

“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!”

A summit with Trump would greatly shame the theocratic rulers of Iran, as they frame their government as a revolutionary act opposing US hegemony and cry “death to America.”

But according to Ross, Iran may have another option: Russia.

“I have a suspicion that even if it doesn’t come directly, I can easily see in six months the Iranians turning to the Russians and letting the Russians be their channel,” to negotiate with Trump, Ross said. “Given the Trump-Putin relationship, we can see Russia coming and offering something, opening up a negotiation.”

By dealing through Putin and not Trump, Iran could save face while dealing with Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and its other economic issues.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

CIA director doesn’t trust Taliban during peace talks

In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29, 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel was asked point blank if she trusts the Taliban to uphold promises they made to work with the Afghan government and never allow the country to again be a safe haven for terrorists.

“If there were an eventual peace agreement, a very robust monitoring regime would be critical,” she responded. “We would still need the capability to act in our national interest if we needed to.”


The peace talks, which began Jan. 21, 2019, are focused on settling the terms for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

On Jan. 30, 2019, the Taliban said in a recorded statement to AP that it had no intentions of creating a monopoly on Afghan institutions.

“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman said in the statement.

Other major concessions to the US include promises that the group would not allow terrorist groups to plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But Haspel’s comments Jan. 29, 2019, reflect a troubling concern that a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in the US-led coalition will allow the Taliban to regain control — a concern shared by former US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

“You will simply see the Taliban move in and retake the country,” Crocker told Foreign Policy. Even as the peace talks began, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack against Afghan forces, giving credence to the concerns over the group’s sincerity.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 2nd

In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.

No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.

That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.


I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

​(Meme via Introverted Veteran)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

​(Meme via Army as F*ck)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Call for Fire)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Not CID)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Roman economy funded military expansion

In the early days of Rome, the city collected its own taxes. They would assess an individual’s wealth, impose a 1% tax, and then place them into a property class. The higher your wealth class, the more you paid in taxes, which were then used to buy equipment for the military. In the event of an emergency, taxes were raised to 3%.

Later, the Empire relied more on trade and conquest for taxes than passing the expenses onto the individual. As new provinces were added to the Empire, new tax opportunities came with them. By 167 B.C., it was no longer necessary to impose a Wealth Tax on Italian mainland citizens — they still had to pay all the other taxes, though. The Romans engineered a civilization that was able to collect and distribute taxes without a central bank.

As is the case with every great force, the Roman legions needed supplies and payment. Here’s how the Empire was able to raise and move the funds needed to continue conquering.


New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

My taxes paid for that horn!

(Matthew Jose Fisher)

Taxes

A Roman sesterce, an ancient Roman coin, had the buying power of about id=”listicle-2625004137″.50 USD when adjusted for inflation. Keep this rough approximation in mind when evaluating the following breakdown of Roman taxation.

The government’s spending per year was an estimated 20 billion HS (sesterces). This large sum, mostly, went to supporting the standing army of 300,000 men, which accounted for 30 legions across the Empire.

The Romans exported millions sesterces, precious metals, and goods to Arabia, India, and China. Hundreds of merchant ships sailed across international waters to provide a return on investment worthy of Imperial Rome. The government imposed an import tax on these goods, netting enough return on investment to keep the troops on the war path. Towards the end of the empire, taxes on imports could be as high as 1/8th of the value of the cargo being transported.

International trade routes generated large, taxable income but any drastic change in foreign powers made these trade alliances vulnerable, and in turn, the Empire itself vulnerable. For example, when the Han dynasty fell in China, it caused irrevocable damage to trade routes to East Asia. The loss of trade partners due to foreign instability caused further strain on the ability to pay Rome’s armies.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Do you accept payment in war trophies?

(Caliga10)

Conquering provinces to increase taxable territories

Conquering provinces was so lucrative that a general would go bankrupt raising an army in hopes that his invasion would pay his debts with interest, which it usually did.

Soldiers were divided into squad-like elements, called contubernium, that consisted of 8 legionaries. Each contubernium had a baggage train of one or two mules to carry heavy equipment and two slaves. A legion would have 4,000 contuberniums that would consume 8,000lbs of food and 12,000 gallons of water per day.

Troops would routinely forage for fodder, firewood, and water, but would be vulnerable to ambushes when doing so. To reduce the risks of foraging and ease the burden of paying for supplies, generals would order troops to pillage towns or population centers while awaiting resupply.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

4 sesterces = 1 denarius

(hadrianswallcountry.co.uk)

Supply trains traveled to pay and feed the troops

Strategic bases, usually with access to the sea, is where the payment (from taxes) and supplies flowed in from the capital and were injected into the Roman war machine.

Supply trains would go through a strategic base, through operational bases, and finally, arrive at tactical bases. Operational bases were re-purposed tactical bases that were left behind with a garrison. The new purpose of these bases was to provide security for future supply trains after the army pushed forward on a campaign. The tactical base is the end of the line, where salaries and supplies met soldiers.

Veterans of O.I.F. and O.E.F. will recognize the similarities to our logistics regarding Forward Operating Bases, Patrol Bases, and everything in between.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This chest holster is the perfect backcountry rig for your sidearm

The bear stood about 20 feet to our left on the hillside. In that instant the world around us became still, the river didn’t seem so loud, and, for the first time in my life, I drew my sidearm from its holster. We stood there — me, my father, and a lone cinnamon black bear — for only a few seconds. The bear huffed at us, seemingly unphased by our presence on the trail, and then it was over; the bear walked away, leaving us alone and a bit confused on the trail. We were not far from the Eagle River Nature Center in south-central Alaska, and when the bear was finally gone, I returned my pistol to my Diamond D Chest Holster.


I’ve owned and used three of these holsters over the years, one for each sidearm I’ve carried, and now these holsters are in my closet, sweat-stained and scratched but in perfect functional condition. Made of thick leather, these holsters are meant to withstand a serious beating out in the field. I have never seen one fail in any way, and to be totally honest, I can’t think of any real improvements on the design. The holster body fits snugly, even after hard use softens the leather. The holsters made for semi-automatic handguns come with a small snap to secure the firearm, while revolver holsters have a small leather thong to fit over the hammer.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Photo courtesy of Diamond D Custom Leather.

Diamond D Custom Leather, based in Wasilla, Alaska, makes these holsters by hand, and of the three I’ve owned, I’ve never found a single defect in manufacturing — not a single bad stitch or badly cut edge on the leather. This quality comes at a cost though. The chest holster retails for 5 or more, depending on options like a magazine or speed loader pouch.

And then there’s comfort. I have used this holster for long backpacking expeditions into the wilderness, and after a few miles on the first day, I no longer feel the weight of the holster. The shoulder strap is wide and distributes weight well. Also, I make sure to properly adjust the holster to my frame before setting out, making sure the holster is snug but not too tight. The best holster is the one you don’t notice, and this holster passes that test in spades.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

When drawing, the holster is smooth and graceful. The holster body covers the entire trigger guard for safety, and the holster is one of the safest I’ve ever used. Just be careful not to muzzle yourself as you reholster, but that’s a concern with most every holster on the market. With practice, I found that I can draw and fire faster from this holster than from anything else I’ve used — though I’ve admittedly never tried out a 3-Gun race holster.

Diamond D chest holsters withstand abuse, comfortably and safely secure a sidearm, and stand out as one of my favorite pieces of gear while backpacking. This is one piece of kit that I highly recommend if you plan to venture into the wilder places … the places that put you a little lower on the food chain.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee, or Die Magazine)

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran gives the world notice of its intent to enrich uranium

Iran says it has informed the UN nuclear agency that it has launched the process of increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the 2015 agreement that curbed its nuclear program collapses.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on June 5, 2018, that a letter was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to inform it of the decision.

But he also said Iran will continue adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal and that the country’s nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.


In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal that set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
President Donald Trump
Photo by Gage Skidmore

The other signatories to the accord — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.

“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at [the Natanz enrichment plant], we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges,” Salehi said, quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

This “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges,” he insisted.

Salehi said the move was in line with instructions from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ordered preparations for the resumption of unlimited uranium enrichment should the nuclear deal — known by the acronym JCPOA — fall apart.

“If the JCPOA collapses…and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation…centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” Salehi said.

During a visit to Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iranian plan to increase its nuclear-enrichment capacity was aimed at producing nuclear weapons to be used against Israel, its archrival.

“We are not surprised [by Iran’s announcement],” he said in a video statement. “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use.

The nuclear agreement allows Iran to continue 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, far below the roughly 90 percent threshold of weapons-grade.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

China and Russia are sending aircraft and naval vessels into Japanese territory, and the two countries show no sign of slowing down.


China’s aggressive activity in the South China Sea is well documented. It has disputes with five different countries over a number of islands and waters that they claim to control. Comparatively, the East China Sea — where this conflict with Japan has been unfolding — has been much more calm.

At the center of China and Japan’s feud is the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands under Japanese control, but claimed by China, who call them the Diaoyu Islands.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, conducts a bilateral mission with a Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Japan Air Self-Defense Force)

Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider that the Chinese “want to enforce their claims” by forcing foreign planes to acknowledge China’s capability to control airspace and the waters of contested territory.

Weitz said Russia is more interested “in monitoring US military activity in the country.” Its conflict with Japan also concerns the Kuril Islands, which were historically part of Japan and were taken by the Soviet Union in the last days of World War II.

For now, there does not appear to be any coordination between China and Russia as they flex their muscles in the Pacific. That could change, Weitz warned, if the US interferes and drives the two powers closer together.

With a resurgent Russia to its north, a nuclear-armed North Korea to its west, and an increasingly capable and powerful China to its Southwest, Japan could become boxed in.

China wants ‘to change the status quo’

A Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 054 frigate and a Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine were used in the operation, distinguishing the incident from prior incursions in two ways.

The frigate was an official PLAN vessel instead of a more commonly used Coast Guard ship. Additionally, China had never sent a submarine into the contested waters before.

Japanese government data that was translated for Business Insider by Dr. Nori Katagiri, an assistant professor of political science at Saint Louis University and the inaugural visiting research fellow for the JASDF Air Staff College, shows that  China has dramatically increased its naval and aviation activity since 2012 —  prior to which there was virtually no activity.

PLAN aircraft were responsible for 51% of JASDF scrambles from April 1 to September 30, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Some of these intercept missions showed an increasing aggression on the part of the Chinese.

In August 2017, China flew H-6K bombers — aircraft that carry nuclear weapons — across the Pacific toward Japan’s Kii Peninsula on Japan’s mainland for the first time. When Japan sends complaints of air violations, the Chinese government responds aggressively, telling Japan to “get used to it.”

The overall rise in Chinese activity may stem from the country’s recent military modernization efforts.

Also Read: China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

“China is much more active about wanting to change the status quo,” Weitz said.

Zack Cooper, a senior fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that two things are preventing China from being more bold — the US-Japan alliance, and the superiority of the JSDF.

The U.S. is obliged to defend Japan if it were ever attacked by a foreign nation. Because of this, China has stopped just short of large provocative actions.

“If the U.S.-Japan alliance did not exist, the Chinese would be pushing much much harder,” Cooper said.

However, Cooper said that “both countries know that given the scale and pace of China’s military modernization, it’s just a matter of time before China is able to outclass Japan in most areas of the military competition.”

Until then, China will likely keep trying to push the boundaries, just short of drawing in the U.S.

“[China’s] current strategy makes a lot of sense,” Weitz said. The Chinese will “keep on building up their capabilities, keep on putting pressure on Japan.”

The goal, he said, is to “slowly, over time, change the underlying situation in their favor.”

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distance of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map.

Russia returning to Cold War activities

To the north, Russia is building up its Pacific fleet to be a formidable force in the region. Two of Russia’s three Borei-class submarines, the most advanced ballistic missile submarines in the Russian fleet, are assigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Additionally, Russia plans on sending its newest Yasen-class attack submarine to the Pacific as soon as it is completed and fully integrated. It will be only the second such submarine in the Russia Navy.

In the air, Russia was responsible for 48% of JASDF air scrambles from April 1 to September 30, the second most behind China. They actually increased the number of flights to Japan, sending 87 more flights to the Japanese Islands than 2016, the year before.

Like China, the majority of Russian jets flying near Japanese territory are a combination of bombers like Tu-96/142, and spy planes like the Russian Il-38. A number of Chinese and Russian fighters and interceptors have been seen by the JASDF as well.

Japan is building up its military and may change its constitution

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, prepares to take off for a bilateral mission with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)

Most of Japan’s response has been geared towards Japan’s acquisition of more military equipment and systems.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just recently approved the installation of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems by 2023 — a move Russia has already criticised.

Japan also produced its first domestically-built F-35 stealth fighter last June, which could soon play an important role for the country.

Japan’s F-35 is the most advanced aircraft in its inventory and may be used on refitted versions of the country’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier, effectively giving Japan full fledged aircraft carriers- something China has warned against.

The Japanese government also approved a record increase in defense spending — focused primarily on ballistic missile defense.

Japan has a pacifist constitution, however, and is governed by what Katagiri called a “defensive defense doctrine.” Central to this are two paragraphs in Article 9 of Japan’s constitution that renounce war as a means of settling international disputes, and forbids Japan from having war potential.

“Even if Japan has a lot of equipment, there are serious legal issues that make it difficult for the Japanese to use them,” Dr. Katagiri said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This South Korean howitzer can bring the thunder if Pyongyang attacks

One of the biggest threats North Korea poses is not measured in a few nukes on a few dozen ballistic missiles. We get it that nukes can do a lot of bad stuff, and the consequences of their use can be downright horrific. But they aren’t the only game in town.


In fact, one of North Korea’s deadliest threats are regular old howitzers.

To be honest, we’re talking lots and lots of howitzers. A veritable horde of howitzers, in fact. Try close to 8,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org. However, South Korea has not been idle in the howitzer field.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
A 46-ton K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer with its 155mm gun raised. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the South Korean military has been using the K9 self-propelled howitzer. This vehicle carries a 155mm howitzer that has a range of about 25 miles that can fire up to eight rounds a minute, including a burst of three rounds in 15 seconds.

But the firepower isn’t all this is about. The K9 is also able to scoot – able to dash at just under 42 miles per hour and go as far as 223 miles on one tank of gas. The crew of five is able to start shooting within 30 seconds, and they have 48 rounds on board. The vehicle can be quickly resupplied by the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle, which can reload the K9 in just under 18 minutes.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s
The K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle. (Wikimedia Commons)

It can take punishment, too. Its armor protects the crew from 14.5mm machine gun fire and fragments from 152mm artillery shells. According to GlobalSecurity.org, over 1,100 of these self-propelled guns are in South Korean service.

The K9 has also secured an export buyer in Turkey, which is acquiring 300 of these guns. In short, this gun will potentially see action on both sides of the continent of Asia.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

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You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

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