How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.


That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.

The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

 

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex. The 146 Airlift Wing was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Technicians perform repairs on a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo bay of a C-130J of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, California, Dec. 9, 2017. The MAFFS units, which are owned by the U.S. Forestry Service, can be loaded and made ready for operations in about three hours. A mixture of water and fire-retardant chemicals is deployed through a nozzle attached to an orange door the replaces the paratroop door on the C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

Also Read: Here’s how the Guard is helping mudslide victims after fires

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Some folks had a very good 2017, but the Seventh Fleet isn’t among them. This force will be on the front lines if the Korean War restarts and it also has to manage relationships in the South China Sea, which have been shaky at best as of late. So, just how bad has their year been?


How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
USS Ronald Reagan arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in RIMPAC 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shawn D. Torgerson)

The collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that left 17 sailors dead rightly grabbed headlines. They were the catalyst for the relief of Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin and the forced retirement of Admiral Scott Swift.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. (US Navy photo)

However, these two bizarre, tragic collisions weren’t the only maritime incidents of 2017. The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) collided with a South Korean fishing boat on May 9. In January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), a sister ship of the Lake Champlain, ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain. (Photo by US 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

Unfortunately, the Navy’s woes weren’t exclusive to the sea. Late last month, the crash of a C-2 Greyhound southwest of Okinawa claimed lives. Although, eight sailors were rescued, three died in the crash of the aircraft. Reports indicate that the pilot, Lieutenant Steven Combs, is under consideration for an award for his excellent airmanship during the incident, cited as the reason for any survivors at all.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

The Seventh Fleet also faced reverberations from the “Fat Leonard” scandal, which had caught up a number of officers, including Vice Admiral Ted Branch, the Navy’s top intelligence officer. Branch was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but had served in his post without a security clearance. A number of other officers were charged and sentenced to prison for their misdeeds during the scandal.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Vice Adm. Ted Branch (US Navy photo)

Thankfully, for the Seventh Fleet, 2017 is almost over. Hopefully, 2018 will prove to be very different for this naval force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to watch SpaceX try its ‘most difficult launch ever’

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, said his rocket company’s toughest mission yet has arrived — and you can watch it live online.

Sometime between 11:30 p.m. ET on June 24, 2019, and 2:30 a.m. ET on June 25, 2019, a Falcon Heavy rocket will try to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Tonight’s launch attempt marks SpaceX’s third-ever with Falcon Heavy. The rocket design debuted in February 2018, has three reusable boosters, and is considered the planet’s most powerful launch system in use today.

“This will be our most difficult launch ever,” Musk tweeted on June 19, 2019.


What makes this mission, called Space Test Program-2 (STP-2), so challenging is what’s stacked inside the rocket’s nose cone: 24 government and commercial satellites that together weigh about 8,150 pounds (3,700 kilograms). When fully fueled, a Falcon Heavy rocket weighs about 1,566 tons (1,420 metric tons), or more than 300 adult elephants’ worth of mass.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

An 8,150-pound (3,700-kilogram) stack of 24 government and commercial satellites inside the nose cone of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket in June 2019.

(Official Space Missile Systems Center/DoD via Twitter)

After getting its behemoth rocket off the pad at Launch Complex 39-A, SpaceX has to deploy the two dozen spacecraft into multiple orbits around Earth over several hours. To do this, it must shut down and reignite the engine of an upper-stage rocket four times, according to the company.

One satellite holds NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock, which may change the way robots and astronauts navigate space. Another spacecraft is the Planetary Society’s LightSail, an experiment that could change how vehicles propel themselves to a destination. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also launching six small weather satellites built in partnership with Taiwan.

There’s even a spacecraft holding the ashes of 152 people, and it will orbit Earth for about 25 years before careening back as an artificial meteor.

But SpaceX will also be attempting to land all three of the rocket’s 16-story boosters back on Earth for reuse in future launches. The two attached to the side of the Falcon Heavy rocket are set to touch down on land a few minutes after liftoff.

Meanwhile, the central or core booster — which will fire longer and disconnect from the upper-stage rocket later in the flight — will try to land on a drone ship sitting about 770 miles (1,240 kilometers) off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean.

Watch SpaceX’s launch attempt live on Monday night

SpaceX is streaming the STP-2 mission live on YouTube, and the company said its broadcast would begin about 20 minutes before liftoff (about 11:10 p.m. ET).

There’s a 20% chance that SpaceX will delay its launch because of thunderstorms, according to a forecast issued by the US Air Force on Monday morning. If the launch is pushed to its backup window 24 hours later, there’s a 30% chance of delay.

If you want to follow the launch and deployment events, we’ve included a detailed timeline below the YouTube embed.

STP-2 Mission

www.youtube.com

Launch events and timing relative to the moment Falcon Heavy lifts off the pad are outlined below and come from SpaceX’s press kit for the STP-2 mission.

-53:00— SpaceX launch director verifies go for propellant load
-50:00— First-stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-45:00— First-stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-35:00— Second-stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-18:30— Second-stage LOX loading begins
-07:00— Falcon Heavy begins prelaunch engine chill
-01:30— Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
-01:00— Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
-00:45— SpaceX launch director verifies go for launch
-00:02— Engine controller commands engine-ignition sequence to start
-00:00— Falcon Heavy liftoff

Once the rocket lifts off, Falcon Heavy hardware and its payload will go through a series of crucial maneuvers. The side boosters and core booster will try to separate and land. Following that, the rocket’s upper or second stage will propel into orbit, then attempt to deploy its 24 satellites from a device called the Integrated Payload Stack over several hours.

The timing and events below are also relative to liftoff, in hours, minutes, and seconds.

00:00:42— Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:27— Booster engine cutoff (BECO)
00:02:31— Side boosters separate from center core
00:02:49— Side boosters begin boost-back burn
00:03:27— Center core engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:03:31— Center core and 2nd stage separate
00:03:38— 2nd stage engine starts (SES-1)
00:04:03— Fairing deployment
00:07:13— Side boosters begin entry burn
00:08:41— Side booster landings
00:08:38— 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:08:53— Center core begins entry burn
00:11:21— Center core landing
00:12:55— Spacecraft deployments begin
01:12:39— Second-stage engine restart (SES-2)
01:13:00— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
02:07:35— Second-stage engine restart (SES-3)
02:08:04— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-3)
03:27:27— Second-stage engine restart (SES-4)
03:28:03— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-4)
03:34:09— Final spacecraft deployment

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 odd jobs of World War II

Today’s military has some jobs that might surprise you — for example, did you know the Army and Marine Corps have instrument repair technicians? These troops repair musical instruments for the military bands.

But during World War II, there were a lot of jobs that would seem strange in today’s technologically focused military. Over the course of the war, technological advances reduced or eliminated the need for many manual occupations. This transition is captured in the War Department’s list of military jobs from 1944, where entries like ”horse artillery driver” appear just a page away from ”remote control turret repairman.”


How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

1. Blacksmith

During World War II, blacksmiths still made many of the items needed to repair equipment and machinery. They would make metal tools and parts, by hand, in coal or coke forges. They also made shoes for some of the tens of thousands of horses and mules that saw service during the war.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

2. Meat Cutter

Does what it says on the label: cuts meat. These troops were responsible for preparing whole carcassas, such as beef and lamb, for distribution to various units around the world.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

3. Horsebreaker

Horsebreakers would train horses and mules so they could be issued to mounted units. They also trained them to carry packs and to be hitched to wagons and carts.

Although they weren’t used in World War II to the extent they were used in the First World War, troops still relied on horses and mules to cross terrain impassable to mechanized units. For example, the 5332nd Brigade, a long range patrol group created for service in the mountains of Burma, was largely self-sufficient due to the 3,000 mules assigned to it — all shipped from the United States.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

4. Artist and Animation Artist

Today’s military has jobs for skilled multimedia illustrators, but in World War II, military artists and animation artists created paintings, illustrations, films, charts and maps by hand. A number of successful artists served in World War II, including Bill Maudlin, who drew Willie and Joe, archetypes for infantrymen on the front line; and Bill Keane, who went on to draw Family Circus after his military service ended.

The military’s animation artists were quite busy during World War II. The Army even stationed soldiers at Walt Disney’s studios for the duration of the war to make patriotic films for the public and instructional or training films for service members.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

5. Crystal Grinder

During World War II, many radios still required crystals to operate, usually galena. Crystal grinders would grind and calibrate these crystals to pick up specific frequencies.

Personal radios were forbidden on the front lines, but crystal radio sets lacked external power sources, so they couldn’t be detected by the enemy. For this reason, troops often improvised crystal radios from a variety of materials — including pencils and razor blades — in order to listen to music and news. These contraband radio sets were dubbed ”foxhole radios.”

6. Cooper

Troops who worked as coopers built and repaired the wooden buckets, barrels, casks and kegs used to pack, store and ship supplies and equipment. They used hand tools to plug holes with wood and salvage damaged barrels.

Wood was used to package a wide range of goods for transport all the way through World War II, but improvements in metal and cardboard packaging technology marked the beginning of the end for wooden barrels and crates.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

7. Model Maker

Military model makers were charged with creating scale models of military equipment, terrain and other objects to be used in movies, as training aids and for operational planning. The models built by these troops were used in what was perhaps one of the greatest examples of wartime deception, Operation Fortitude.

Operation Fortitude was aimed at convincing the Germans that Allied troops heading to France for the D-Day invasion would land in Pas de Calais in July, rather than Normandy in June. Dummy buildings, aircraft and landing craft were constructed by model makers and positioned near Dover, England, in a camp built for the fictitious First U.S. Army Group. The deception was so complete that Hitler held troops in reserve for two weeks after D-Day because he believed another invasion was coming via the Dover Strait.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

8. Pigeoneer

Pigeoneers were responsible for all aspects of their birds’ lives. They would breed, train and care for pigeons that were used to deliver messages. Some birds would be trained specifically for night flying, while others learned that food could be found at one location and water at another. According to the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Museum, more than 90% of the messages carried by pigeons were successfully delivered.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

9. Field Artillery Sound Recorder

These troops had the sickest beats. Until the development of radar, sound ranging was one of the most effective ways to locate enemy artillery, mortars and rockets. The process was first developed in World War I, and continued to be used in combat through the Korean War.

From a forward operating post, a field artillery sound recorder would monitor an oscillograph and recorder connected to several microphones. When the sound of an enemy gun reached a microphone, the information would be recorded on sound film and the data from several microphones could be analyzed to locate the enemy gun. The technology is still in use today by many countries, which often use sound ranging in concert with radar.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

10. Airplane Woodworker

Although wood was largely phased out in favor of tubular steel in aircraft construction by the time World War II started, there was still a need for airplane woodworkers to repair and maintain existing aircraft — especially gliders and some training aircraft.

Wooden gliders like the Waco CG-4A — the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of World War II — played critical parts in the war. The CG-4A was first used in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. They most commonly flew airborne troops into battle, most famously for the D-Day assault on France on June 6, 1944, and Operation Market Garden in September 1944. They were also used in the China-Burma-India Theater.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Gold Star families capture their grief in stunning new book

The military has a very prescribed, formal process for telling Gold Star families about the loss of their service member. Two to three members of that branch of the military will receive word that they need to notify a family of a casualty. They carefully double and triple check the information. They ensure each other’s uniforms are perfect. And then they knock at the door.


How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Travis and Ryan Manion, brother and sister. Travis was a Marine Corps officer killed in Iraq during a firefight where he moved forward to draw enemy fire. His mother created a foundation named for him, and his sister now serves as that foundation’s president.

(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

Three women who received those knocks are sharing their stories of sudden loss in a new book, The Knock at the Door. One lost her brother in combat, and two lost husbands. Two of their loved ones died in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq. But the stories these women tell apply far outside of the military. They hope their stories will help others grapple with grief, whether it comes from the loss of a job, a cancer diagnosis, or a knock at the door.

Ryan Manion is one of the authors and the President of the Travis Manion Foundation. The foundation is named for her brother, a Marine first lieutenant who died in Al Anbar, Iraq, in 2007 while drawing fire from wounded members of his unit.

Ryan, and indeed, all three of the book authors, experienced some break in the prescribed casualty notification processes. In Ryan’s case, she rushed home after getting a call from her family. One uniformed Marine was there with a family friend who had served in the Marines with Ryan’s father. The family friend, a retired lieutenant colonel, had helped tell the family. Ryan’s father told her.

My dad stared at me with a blank look. Then in a very measured tone, he said, “Travis was killed.”

The uniformed Marine had struggled under the strain. He was sitting in his car, cradling his head against the steering wheel. It’s the home visit no service member wants to make.

Ryan grieved as she and her family made preparations to bury Travis. She wouldn’t take off an old, red Marine Corps sweater until it was time to greet his body at Dover. Even then, she carried it with her. When they held the funeral, she connected with Travis one last time by rubbing his head.

I knew that, after the last person knelt down to say a prayer in front of Travis, the funeral director was going to close that casket forever, and that would be it. I’d never see my brother’s face again. I rubbed his head one last time and felt my heart sinking as my father gently pulled me away.

But the book isn’t about the women’s losses. Or at least, it’s not just about that. It’s mostly about how they faced living again without their loved ones. And one of the great lessons that Ryan shares comes after the deaths of her brother and mother. As she attempted to do better things in her life in their memory, she was saddened whenever she came up short.

But she learned a vital lesson in that time, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” You can heal from falling short. You don’t have to wear it forever.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Amy Looney Heffernan and Brendan Looney. Brendan was a Navy SEAL killed in a helicopter crash.

(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

A close friend of Travis tragically died just a few years later in 2010. Brendan Looney was a Navy SEAL deployed to Afghanistan who had almost completed his tour when he was killed in a helicopter crash. The Navy couldn’t initially get a hold of his wife, Amy Looney Heffernan. A receptionist for her company sent the Navy officers to a company conference and had Amy meet them there.

And so Amy learned of her husband’s death in a hotel room. Her sister-in-law took lead on logistics, helping do everything from scheduling the big events to getting items for Amy to wear at the funeral, especially a big pair of sunglasses to hide her tears.

As Amy said the night before the funeral:

I might be crying my eyes out, but the last thing I need is people looking at me like I’m some naive, pathetic little girl. If people start fawning all over me with pity, it’s just going to piss me off. I know what I signed up for and so did Brendan. I just don’t want people to feel sorry for me, you know?

But Amy struggled in the weeks after, neglecting the dogs that she and Brendan had shared, refusing to eat, spending hours on the couch, neglecting herself. She describes a routine of “Ambien, pajamas, and a dark room,” before she forced herself to get better for herself, for Brendan, and for her poor dogs.

Amy’s recovery was challenging, but she eventually describes how she packed for a mountain excursion in Peru designed to help her and other Gold Star family members remember their loved ones while challenging themselves.

Amy and Ryan knew each other through their loved ones; Brendan had actually spoken at Travis’s funeral, and Travis was moved from his family plot to Arlington National Cemetery after Amy asked for the friends to be buried together, fulfilling Travis’s original wishes.

Ryan described the process of moving Travis in just three days so he could rest next to Brendan. The secretary of the Army had to sign off on the move, but the family tried to keep the proceedings quiet so the focus would remain on memorializing Brendan. But some Marines got word of the transfer and held a quiet assembly to honor Travis.

“We just kind of told our close friends and family that we were reintering Travis on that Friday,” Amy said. “And we’ve actually, the Marines from Quantico, one of them was friends with Travis at the time. He was an instructor there. And one of the [Officer Candidate School] housing buildings is named Manion Hall. And so he ended up finding out, and I remember we showed up at Arlington and there was like 200 Marines in dress blues standing at full attention. Which was a pretty incredible sight to see.”

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly stands with his wife Heather. Robert would later die in an IED strike in Afghanistan. His wife has co-authored a new book about grief.

(Courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

But while Amy and Ryan knew each other, their co-author Heather Kelly was unknown to them until her husband was buried just a few rows away at Arlington. Marine Lt. Robert Kelly, a son of a prominent general, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Heather received her casualty notification five hours early as the Marine Corps leaders wanted to make sure she found out at the same time as her father-in-law, and they had moved his alert forward so that he would learn from a friend instead of the list of casualties he would see in the morning.

Heather turned to black humor to get through the funeral process. She and her brother-in-law created a running joke about her riding into the funeral on an elephant to properly honor Robert, a joke that came about after a funeral director tried to upsell the family on a decorative guest book.

Heather continued the joke in front of some Marines, and they ran with it:

They were eager to fulfill the wishes of a fallen hero’s family, and God bless them, they actually half-seriously discussed getting me to the Washington Zoo. I think they may have even placed a phone call to the zoo to arrange for me to pet an elephant, which they figured would be a close second to leasing one for the day. Ah, Marines. No better friends in the world, no worse enemies.

Heather met the other two women after Amy wrote an op-ed about remembering her husband not only as “a warrior for freedom” but also an “ambassador of kindness.”

Now, all three women work through the Travis Manion Foundation to foster kindness and a dedication to service in the next generation and to help veterans and Gold Star families find continued purpose and opportunities to serve in their community. Their book, The Knock at the Door, came out November 5.

Articles

Russia denies funding the Taliban

The Russian embassy in Kabul on May 23 rejected allegations that Moscow was funding Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, stating the claims were unsubstantiated.


This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.

He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
An Afghan and coalition security force conduct room searches in which they detained eight suspected insurgents during an operation to arrest a Taliban leader in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 14, 2012. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc Justin Young)

Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.

He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.

“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.

U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.

Also read: US general again accuses Russia of supplying the Taliban

On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.

The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)

The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”

This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.

The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.

The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.

Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s new Futures Command will ‘determine victory or defeat’

In an empty office space on the 19th floor of a University of Texas System building in Austin, Aug. 24, 2018, the Army unveiled the location for the headquarters of its new Futures Command, which has the monumental task of modernizing the service’s future force.

For the first time, the Army will place a major command within an urban setting instead of on a military base. The goal is to bring itself closer to technology innovators and researchers in one of the nation’s top growing technology cities.


“We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “We searched for a location that had the right combination of top-tier academic talent, cutting edge industry and an innovative private sector.”

The Army announced in October 2017 its intent to create a new command that would be responsible for modernization. Initially, some 150 cities were considered as possibilities to house the new command’s headquarters. Eventually, that number was pared down to five, including Austin.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

Ultimately, Austin scored the highest among those remaining five cities. Criteria for the final selection included density of industry and academic talent and proximity to private sector innovation. Austin boasts a growing number of professionals in the science and tech industries and hosts academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career fields.

“Austin’s already a hub of innovation,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “And [it’s] a business-friendly environment … this will allow our military Department of Defense personnel access to the countless startups and emerging technology entrepreneurs already at work here.”

The Army Futures Command is tasked with, among other things, developing future warfighting concepts, generating innovative solutions through research and development, and building the next generation of combat systems.

Gen. John M. Murray, who served previously as the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, has been named director of the new command.

“Our Futures Command will have a singular focus: to make soldiers and leaders more effective and more lethal today and in the future,” said Murray. “This must be a team (effort). It’s about working together to ensure our soldiers have the capabilities they need when they need them, to deploy, fight and win on the modern battlefield against an incredibly lethal enemy.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Gen. Mike Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurl the Army Futures Command flag during a ceremony, Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

“We will bring the best talent we can — inside and outside the capital to address the Army’s most pressing problems,” Murray continued. “And deliver solutions at the speed of relevance — at the speed our soldiers deserve. For too long, we have focused on the cost schedule or performance. We must now focus on value.”

For now, the Army Futures Command will lead eight cross-functional teams that are responsible for furthering the Army’s pursuit of six modernization priorities, including long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.

Army leadership said it will take about a year before Army Futures Command reaches full operational capability. The new command is expected to eventually include about 100 military positions and 400 civilian roles.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley credited the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona with helping spur development of the new command. “He planted the seed,” Milley said.

The Army’s chief of staff said that the character of war is changing, and that private sector innovations in both robotics and artificial intelligence will eventually find their way onto battlefields in the hands of enemies. Army Futures Command will ensure U.S. soldiers also have the best technology.

“We know there’s a multitude of emerging technologies that are going to have, whether we like it or not, impact on the conduct of military operations,” Milley said. “It is this command … that is going to determine victory or defeat.”

Featured image: Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA needs astronauts. Do you have what it takes for outer space?

Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?

Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!


NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.

Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.

“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”

The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.

The odds are against you right?

Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Education

You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.

If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.

The physical 

People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.

It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.

www.youtube.com

The pay

As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.

Training

If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?

Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:

Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.

Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.

Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.

Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:

  • International Space Station systems training
  • Extravehicular Activity skills training
  • Robotics skills training
  • Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
  • Aircraft flight readiness training

Easy right?

If you think you have what it takes, go to USAJobs and apply!

The deadline is March 31.

Articles

North Korea vows to respond with force if attacked

North Korea issued a message of warning to the United States on April 25, vowing to respond to force with force if attacked.


But Pyongyang did not engage in a major provocation on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army as some analysts have speculated, a possible sign Kim Jong Un could be taking a step back in the face of renewed pressure from China and the United States.

Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated in an editorial on April 25 that its army has the capacity to “respond to any war the United States wants,” and that the “era of the U.S. imperialist’s nuclear terror has ended forever,” because North Korea has developed its own nuclear capacity.

The editorial also suggested the absence of a nuclear or missile provocation on April 25 was no guarantee the Kim Jong Un regime would refrain from a test in the near future.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
This is the guy behind all the big talk. (Photo: KCNA)

“In the area of defense, as we produce more advanced weapons, we must work toward creating more events similar to the ‘March 18 Revolution,'” Pyongyang stated.

North Korea was referring to the date of North Korea’s test of a rocket engine that could be used in the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The whole world will soon see the significance of our immense victory,” North Korea stated.

Pak Yong Sik, a senior military official, stated North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “on standby at all times” and that “all U.S. imperialist bases in the Asia-Pacific are within range.”

On April 25, North Korea conducted a large-scale conventional drill near Wonsan, on the eastern coast of the peninsula, according to Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff.

About 300-400 artillery guns were deployed in the largest drill of its kind, Yonhap reported.

Also read: Here’s an inside look at North Korea’s ballistic missile inventory

The North Korean leader did not issue a message on the day of the anniversary, most recently making an appearance at a pig farm, according to KCTV.

China and the United States condemned North Korea’s missile provocations in April, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States would respond if North Korea attacks U.S. troops in the region.

“If you see [Kim] attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to [strike back],” Haley said on NBC’s “Today.” “But right now, we’re saying, ‘Don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions,’ and I think he’s understanding that.”

Articles

17 reasons why the M1 Abrams tank is still king of the battlefield

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt John Houghton


Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a tactical modern weapon.

Also read: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

In the slides below, find out how the M1 Abrams became, and remains, the king of the battlefield.

Here is one of the first M1 Abrams in 1979. The Abrams entered service in 1980, but didn’t see heavy combat until Desert Storm in 1991.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
DoD photo by Eddie McCrossan

The Abrams was the first tank to incorporate British-developed Chobham composite armor, which includes ceramics and is incredibly dense.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

Despite the British-designed armor, the Abrams tanks were made in Ohio and Michigan.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

Source: GlobalSecurity.org

The Abrams is highly mobile, with a top speed of more than 40 mph and an impressive zero-turn radius.

via GIPHY

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Also, in special conditions like loose sand, dirt, or packed snow, the Abrams can actually drift.

via GIPHY

The M1 Abrams sports a 120 mm smooth-bore cannon capable of firing a variety of rounds.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Army photo by Maj. Adam Weece

Like with any armored unit, their success depends partly on the hardware and partly on the crew. Here, a loader expertly queues up a round capable of melting through an enemy tank’s armor.

via GIPHY

Source: YouTube

In addition to the main cannon, the Abrams sports a M2H Browning .50-caliber machine gun, a staple of the US military since World War II. In some cases, the guns can be remotely fired.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas

The M1 Abrams is just plain tough. Watch it roll over a car bomb without even closing the hatch. This would tear a lesser tank to shreds.

via GIPHY

Source: YouTube

The US as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Australia use the Abrams as their main battle tank.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.

When the Abrams finally saw combat in 1991, it impressed operators with it’s effective rounds and virtual invulnerability to Iraqi tank fire. No Abrams was destroyed by Iraqi tank fire during the Persian Gulf War.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
PHC D. W. HOLMES II, US Navy

Source: US General Accounting Office

In fact, the only Abrams lost during the Persian Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, sometimes on purpose so they couldn’t be reclaimed by Iraqi forces.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Department of Defense

The Abrams benefited from having superior range and night-vision abilities compared to their Soviet-made counterparts.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abrams became involved in urban warfare while clearing cities. Urban warfare is the worst situation for tanks, as their range is limited by buildings and they can be attacked from above, where their armor is weakest.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Army, Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II

Source: USA Today

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Military

Source: USA Today

In his book “Heavy Metal: A Tank Company’s Battle to Baghdad” Maj. Jason Conroy reports a lopsided victory where an Abrams unit destroyed seven Soviet-made T-72 tanks at point-blank range with no losses on the US side.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
M1 Abrams tanks conduct a live fire range day. | U.S. Army photo

Today, the Abrams remains the US’s main battle tank, one of the most successful tanks of all time, and the king of the battlefield.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

A 19-year-old participant in Iran’s recent street protests says that while the wave of public demonstrations has subsided, the antiestablishment unrest in December and early January opened many Iranians’ eyes and the underlying anger remains.


“Nothing [the authorities] do will decrease people’s anger and frustration,” Hadi, the son of a working-class family in the northwestern city of Tabriz, told RFE/RL.

Tabriz is one of more than 90 cities and towns where protests were unleashed after a Dec. 28 demonstration in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances.

At least 22 people are thought to have been killed in the unrest, which targeted government policies but also featured chants against Iran’s clerically dominated system and attacks on police and other official institutions.

The demonstrations have tapered off in the past week amid a pushback by authorities that included harsh warnings and a conspicuous show of force by security troops, the blocking of Internet access and social media, and reports of three deaths in custody and thousands of arrests.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have blamed the flare-up on foreign “enemies.”

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. (Photo from Khamenei.ir)

But President Hassan Rohani took a different tack, leaving open the possibility of foreign influence but adding, “We can’t say that whoever who has taken to the street has orders from other countries.” Rohani acknowledged that “people had economic, political, and social demands” and said Iranians “have a legitimate right to demand that we see and hear them and look into their demands.”

Iranian officials were said to have eased some of the price increases stoking some of the protests.

Won’t get ‘fooled’ again

Hadi, who asked RFE/RL not to publish his last name, dismissed that and other steps as mere attempts to ward off public anger in the short term and said he thought such tactics have lost their effectiveness.

“They may decrease the price of eggs, thinking that they can fool people. But people are now very much aware,” Hadi said.

Hadi talked of his own frustration at being accepted into Iran’s Islamic Azad University but being unable to afford the school’s fees.

“My father says [Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] promised that we won’t even pay for water, [that revolutionaries] said they would give everyone free housing,” he said, adding that four decades later many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.

Related: Everything you need to know about the protests rocking Iran

Hadi said he and dozens of others took to the streets of Tabriz to complain of high prices, poverty, and repression in a country where he says authorities “bully” citizens.

The protests, Iran’s largest since a disputed election sent millions into the streets in 2009, were initially fueled by economic grievances and mostly young citizens frustrated by an ailing economy and a potentially bleak future.

Some Iranians envisaged rising prosperity two years after an international deal traded sanctions relief for checks on Tehran’s nuclear program, and Rohani campaigned for election in 2013 and reelection last year pledging mild reforms and more jobs.

Angry young men

A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named attributed the protests to “angry young men” disappointed by reformists and conservatives, with no hope in the future.

“They have nothing to lose,” said the reporter, who had witnessed several protests in the Iranian capital.

The demonstrations morphed quickly into protests against the clerical establishment and the country’s leaders. Protesters called for an “Iranian republic” instead of an “Islamic republic,” while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should “get lost.”

Many demonstrators also complained of Iran’s actions in the Middle East, including its military and other support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aid to militants in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. They said Tehran should instead focus its resources on Iranians.

“Where in the world does a government spend its money on another country?” Hadi said. “[Assad] supports Iran because he is investing Iran’s money in his country.”

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Iran protests. (Screenshot from Nano GoleSorkh YouTube)

Hadi said he was frustrated at Rohani for abandoning social and economic promises: “He should take action, not just talk. He made many promises four years ago, but he hasn’t achieved them.”

But Hadi primarily blamed Khamenei — who, as supreme leader, holds the final word on religious and political affairs in Iran — for the state of affairs in the country, including the ailing economy and corruption.

“He is the main culprit, and his establishment,” Hadi said, adding that Iranian leaders “don’t know how to rule.”

Khamenei was the target of some of the chants, with protesters shouting, “Death to the Dictator!” and, “Death to Khamenei!” in many places.

Turning point

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week that the people and security forces had ended the unrest, which it said was fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies.

Former student leader Ali Afshari, who has been tortured in an Iranian jail for protesting against the establishment, also warned that there could be more unrest in Iran’s future.

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Photo from CounterExtremism.com)

“The forces that took part in these protests are different than those behind other demonstrations we’ve seen in past years,” said Afshari, who now lives in the United States. “They came out because of their basic needs; and since the establishment has serious problems on the economic front, it doesn’t have the ability to respond to these needs.”

Afshari predicted the latest wave of protests would mark a “turning point” in Iran’s modern political history.

“The geographical scope of these protests were unprecedented in Iran’s recent history. Within a week, protests were held spontaneously in 82 cities across Iran.”

Meanwhile in Tabriz, Hadi insisted that the rage that sent him and others into to the streets won’t go away.

“This regime has to go, that’s what I want,” he said. “In Tabriz, we say that now the regime is even afraid or our silence.”

Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.

“Even if there are no more protests [right now], it will explode one day,” Hadi said. “This is not the end.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Untold Story of the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden

It has been 10 years since May 2, 2011, the night a top-secret SEAL raid took out notorious terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. You may think you know the story of bin Laden and the ten-year manhunt that ended in his death, but you’ve probably seen it like this before. In Revealed: The Hunt for Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Museum and the History Channel team up to present never-before-seen interviews and previously classified material. Film co-producers Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen join Left of Boom to explain why every American should know this story.

Subscribe to the Left of Boom podcast:

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify | TuneIn | Stitcher

Mentioned in this episode:

Osama bin Laden

Sept. 11, 2001 Attacks

Operation Neptune Spear

Navy SEALs

Afghanistan War

Zero Dark Thirty

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck. Today’s episode is a treat. We’ll be talking to Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen, executive producer and co-producer of Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Ladin, a brand-new documentary premiering now on the History Channel. It’s the 10-year anniversary of Operation Neptune spear, the May 2, 2011 SEAL raid that ended the life of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. This new project includes interviews with past U.S. presidents, senior decision-making officials and the SEALs themselves to present a new picture of events that changed American history forever. After hearing this episode, I promise you’ll want to check it out for yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into it. Cliff and Jess, welcome to the show.

Clifford Chanin 0:56

Great to be here. Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 0:57

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 0:59

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since the bin Laden raid. The operation itself was one of the earlier world events to be live-tweeted. I remember there was a guy near Abbottabad who heard helicopters and started tweeting about what he was hearing and seeing. And since then reporting on what happened there has been abundant. You’ve got everything from Zero Dark 30 to the man who ostensibly fired the kill shot at bin Laden, who has accumulated some fame in his own right. But this project goes a whole lot deeper than all of that. How did it come about?

Clifford Chanin 1:35

Well, it was more than five years ago in fact that we first started talking about this as an exhibition. We have a special exhibitions gallery in the museum. And we have done a couple of shows prior to this. But certainly the raid and the end of bin Laden’s life is also the end of a major chapter in the 9/11 story. It’s not the end of the threat. It’s not the end of the 9/11 story itself. But it certainly is an important moment in that overall story. And so we began developing this as an exhibition. And in the course of that development, the relationships we had with the military and the intelligence folks had really developed through a set of other programs at the museum. And so we were getting access to people and to objects that could be shown in the exhibition that actually went far beyond what we’d originally imagined. It was hard to imagine this originally, because everything was still classified, essentially. So we didn’t even know what we were asking for in most cases. But as we began to get access to people, including some still active in the intelligence community, people who were part of the hunt, who were there for the conclusion of the hunt. We put together for the exhibition, I think it was a very, very powerful narrative in the context of an exhibition that was only a tiny fraction of what we had gathered through the interview process. And so we decided that for the 10th anniversary of the raid, it would be a very powerful film. We added even after the exhibition opened, a number of very important interviews that fleshed out the story beyond what the exhibition could tell. And so it was a bit of a rush, and doing things under COVID is, as everybody knows, at least very different, if not crazy, but we did manage and get it to completion. And here we are Sunday night, May 2, History Channel, I’m doing the plug … And that’s the short version of the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:44

Where do you start? What are the first phone calls that you make to kind of open the doors to as you said, to this previously undisclosed information?

Clifford Chanin 3:52

I’ll let Jess tell about these programs that I mentioned before, because they turn out to be absolutely critical in establishing a level of confidence and trust between the museum and these broader agencies. So I think Jess should pick up the beginnings of the story. And then we can talk about, you know, how we actually tried to figure out what the story should be.

Jessica Chen 4:13

Sure, thanks, Cliff. So at the museum, the museum opened in 2014. But even before that, it really benefited from a really strong relationship with a lot of the agencies that not only responded immediately after 9/11, but kind of took up the work after 9/11 to combat terrorism and also to do the work that continues to keep this nation safe. And so those groups not only provided assets for the exhibition, but have continued to come to the museum, especially with new recruits and with new staffers who are interested in understanding how 9/11 fits into their institutional history. These visits have actually become very cool programs that we offer to what we call professional groups. And these are groups that are comprised of intelligence agencies, ;aw enforcement agencies, military and government professionals who are really kind of diving into their museum experience with a very personal connection, but also a mission-oriented sense of the story for us at the museum, not only in the museum work that we do, but also thinking about this film. It’s largely stemming from these relationships that have been built over time, not only with the people who were part of making the museum happen, but also the people who continue to bring new people through the museum.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:29

It’s incredible. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions most Americans have about the story of Osama bin Laden in the way that his narrative intertwines with the United States?

Clifford Chanin 5:45

Well, you know, it’s a really interesting question. It came to such a definitive conclusion on May 2, 2011, people could get the impression that there was kind of a straight-line outcome here, that this was all forordained, and this was just how it was going to turn out. And I would say, that’s anything but the truth. The first issue is what our focus on bin Laden was before 9/11, which wasn’t widely concentrated across the national security community. Obviously, there were people who were focused on al-Qaida and understood the threat and understood that in 1996 and 1998, when bin Laden issues fatwas justifying attacks against the United States, against American civilians in the second fatwa, that, you know, that is an important threat. But there were other things going on in the world. And even those earlier attacks and the embassies in Africa in 1998, the Cole in 2000, as tragic and impactful as they were, it did not really transform the sense of the threat. And that, of course, was what happened on 9/11. And so, to me, the interesting part, and I think we present this in some fascinating detail, how do you hunt for someone who’s hiding from you who could be anywhere in the world? And who’s actually quite good at hiding? I was talking about this one of the intelligence analysts at one point, and she said, Well, you know, Ted Kaczynski was hiding in the United States, our own country, I think it was 17 years, and we couldn’t find him. So you know, why would it have been easier to find Osama bin Laden, and then even when the lead gets us pointed at that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where ultimately he was found, there’s never any assurance, it’s no more than a circumstantial case, that this may be somewhat important, but there’s no guarantee it’s Osama bin Laden. And so every step of the way has risk. Every step of the way has a calculation about, Is this real? And if we act as though it’s real, and it turns out not to be real, what are the consequences of that going to be? I mean, just imagine everything that happens on that raid happens exactly the same way. And it’s not Osama bin Laden. You know, it’s some drug dealer, we’re not going to invade Pakistani territory for a drug dealer. So how do we deal with that? And so one thing after another, which in retrospect, seemed like a very logical progression, none of it, none of it was except, and it’s a remarkable credit to their work. But the intelligence professionals who drove this hunt, said, Yes, we can’t give you a written guarantee. But this is what the conclusion leads us to determine.

Jessica Chen 8:38

I’m gonna add to what Cliff just said, and kind of characterize it in my own personal experience. I was starting eighth grade on 9/11. And then I was in New York, having just graduated from college, when the raid, the successful operation was announced. And I think for a lot of people who are my age, and who kind of, these two moments kind of form the bookends of our adulthood or growing up into adulthood, I think that it’s hard to kind of link the first moment to this moment. The film itself kind of traces these bookmarks. You know, it starts with intelligence, it goes to policy, and then it goes to the military raid. And I think we forget just how committed many people were after 9/11 to finding this person that was that was really hard to find. And I think what the film does is, it helps people to understand that the motivation and the drive to bring justice did not go away, even though they couldn’t find him, and that there were real personal sacrifices made along the way. I’m really hopeful that for my peers to watch this film, and to understand just how committed everybody was to seeing this through.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:49

I really resonate with that. I think we’re of a very similar age. I think I was also in eighth grade when the attacks happened. I think that really puts it in context. They were key moments. Guess I’ll just ask you both to expand on that. So when you have this wealth of information and all these exhibits, and all of this documentation, how do you then make decisions for how to organize it to tell and frame a story, especially when you’ve got the constraints of time?

Clifford Chanin 10:19

So it was shaped a little bit by the exhibition, although the film is very different than the exhibition. And I do want to say, again, just a brief plug, the exhibition itself, the museum is open, the 9/11 museum is open, we’ve just reopened the bin Laden special exhibition. So I hope people who are thinking of traveling to New York might consider coming to see it if they can. We’re offering online virtual tours of the museum and the exhibition as well. So 911 memorial.org, our website is the place to go looking for that. Sorry for diverging from your question. But the most powerful factor in shaping this, from the very beginning, we alluded to this before, but it’s very unusual, curatorially speaking, we never had a sense in advance of what objects and which people we would have available to us to tell the story. So we would make requests based on these relationships that just described earlier, of these intelligence agencies initially, just to say, look, were planning to do this exhibition, we’d like to be able to talk to you about what might be available for us. And those agencies are bound by the classification rules, obviously. And even though, you know, many of the key public figures who were involved in this had spoken about the raid and wrote wrote about the raid, technically it was still classified. So anything that they were going to make available to us had to go through an internal process within each of these agencies, and the agencies have different processes with different considerations. And on top of which we never knew how long it would take, or what the criteria for decision would be, as to whether or not we could get something. So that was, that was curious. But we did manage to get these meetings that particularly on the intelligence side, where we go in, and we’d say, Well, here’s the point in the story that we’re trying to make, we’re trying to tell, for example, that, you know, there was this massive effort to find as much intelligence as you could by partnering the intelligence agencies on the battlefield with the military, just do these raids and sweeps and process all this intelligence in real time. So you can really make it actionable as soon as possible. Okay. That’s a good point, right? What could demonstrate that. So we are museum curators who don’t know what the objects are, and the people were asking our intelligence professionals who don’t know what museum curators need. So, you know, we would really try to be very specific in their requests. And inevitably, what happened was, we’d be in these meetings, you know, in these secret bunkers. And you know, you have to be screened to get in with a pass and an escort and you’re never, you’re never alone. And we’d be sitting in these rooms. And we’d make a point, this is what this is the kind of thing we want. And you could see, they began looking at each other. And you could see the eyes communicating there, maybe a little smile here and there. But they wouldn’t say anything in front of us. Because what they were thinking of offering us was still classified. And so the question was, A, is this really the answer to the question of what they’re looking for? Well, we can’t ask them. And B, if it is the answer to the question of what they’re looking for, can we get it cleared and give it to them? So the process was very elaborate. Internally, the only thing I will add is, it’s very clear to me and we became, you know, friends with some of the folks in the agencies who became our internal advocates. So there were people who, for a variety of reasons thought, this story should be told the 9/11 Museum is the place to tell it, and I, Person X, who have access to the process, who understand what’s being asked for, who know the people who are involved in making these decisions, I am going to be the internal advocate for this project inside my agency. I don’t think this happens, really, if we don’t have a handful of those key people. I can’t thank them personally, well, I thank them personally, but I can’t thank them publicly, for exactly the same reasons that I’ve described in the beginning of this story. But that really is the key doing this, because they all are knit into this story together. They know one another, they trust one another. They work together. And they would vouch for us with some of the other folks who may have retired or whatever it was, Would you be willing to sit down for an interview with them? And that’s how the process really unfolded.

Jessica Chen 14:45

To pick up where Cliff leaves off. You know, now you have all these relationships, all of these advocates and what sometimes feels like a landslide of connections of details, of stories to tell. I think Cliff and I both have kind of threads in the story that we felt very personally convicted to bring to light. You know, there, there are some things that are explained that that I think I’d leave it to Cliff to kind of flesh out in more detail that have never been kind of discussed publicly before. But I think for me, you know, something that was incredibly important when evaluating how to take all of this material and put it in a film, which, although it’s, it’s a full-length film, felt a little short at the end, because we’re trying to stuff so much stuff into it. For me, it was really understanding how can we convey the humanity and the human cost at every step in the story. So the film opens, really, with an understanding of 9/11, and the human loss on 9/11. And then you go through a hunt that is marked by people who are incredibly human. I hope we’ve captured them, kind of their frustration, but also their commitment, and even their human sacrifice in terms of seeing this through policymakers, when they’re discussing the hunt, the odds that Cliff described earlier, really thinking about the people who are going to be doing this and what they’re putting, those people in that situation that they’re asking them to expose themselves to, and then the military members who take on kind of the risk and see the mission through. And so I think, because of all the interviews with so many generous, unseen individuals, we’re able to kind of get a sense of the people that the real people who kind of were involved in the story, and I hope we’ve done a good job and kind of lending some some of their personalities to tell the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:31

Man, I can’t wait to see it. What sorts of things are easier to understand and analyze and contextualize, with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight?

Clifford Chanin 16:44

Well, I do think there was an awareness in the community at large, that one of the failures of 9/11 was the lack of communication across agencies, and between the intelligence and the military world. And they tried to fix that right away. And because of, you know, tradition and culture, and just the different approaches, that wasn’t an easy fix. But once we were fighting in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, it was something they realized, you just had to do it, because you were losing service members on the battlefield there. And there was always a sense that al-Qaida was still out there, bin Laden was still out there, and didn’t know what they were planning. But you knew they were planning something, and so you know, that prospect of another catastrophe, or simply not doing enough to protect American military personnel on the battlefield, that really broke down a lot of barriers. And it’s a remarkable story, because, you know, the techniques, the practices that were sort of implemented over years before the raid in Pakistan, were the very same techniques and practices that were applied to solve this problem of what’s going on in that compound. And so even though it was from the distance factor, and from the political factor of going into an allied sovereign nation without their permission, and conducting a military operation, in the heart of a populated area, the people who knew how to do this, were confident that they could do it, and they had done things like this enough and work together enough that, you know, it was more complicated, certainly, and more risky because of the factors involved. But you know, as one of the SEALs says in one of the interviews, that a raid is a raid is a raid. You know, we know how to do this. It’s really, you know, a remarkable piece. And the aviation piece of this is also something that — the whole mission was about four hours. Forty minutes of that mission, were on the ground, which means more than three hours, the operators were basically passengers on what one of the SEALs called a ginormous bus. And so the success of the mission is in the hands of the pilots, and how they conduct themselves and how they’re prepared for this and what they know about the conditions that they’re flying in all of this interaction. And all of the key actors had worked with one another on other missions before they knew one another, they trusted one another. And so again, that period, through war, of really developing expertise and trust, I think it was key to what would ultimately happen and what the U.S. military has learned about how to conduct these kinds of operations.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:41

To build on that, are there indicators that events would play out differently if they happen today? You talked about the need to communicate better. I know that’s not a problem that probably will ever be fully solved.

Clifford Chanin 19:57

You know, the thing that The experts always say is that the threat changes. And so 9/11 was a product of al-Qaida, which was at that point, a structured administrated centralized organization, with, for a terrorist group, you know, reasonably efficient command and control. The years since have seen that central structure come under enormous pressure and break in many ways. But the threat has splintered into other groups that may be connected with al-Qaida or not, may have been inspired by al-Qaida may have said al-Qaida didn’t go far enough, as the Islamic State did. Or that you might have these so called “lone actor” terrorists who radicalize online or through personal contacts with people and decide on their own as some ideologists of the Jihad have urged them, just to attack people where you can. I mean, we don’t want to have a centralized structure anymore, or we can’t sustain a centralized structure anymore. But it doesn’t change what the mission needs to be. That threat changes. Therefore, how we study it, how we understand it has to change, and how we respond to it has to change.

Hope Hodge Seck 21:09

One aspect of the way the story is told, and you’ve already referred to this, is there are these educational materials for high schoolers to discuss 911 and the hunt for bin Laden and Operation Neptune Spear. Today’s high schoolers obviously have no memory of 9/11, which is a little bit shocking for older Millennials like me to contemplate. And in fact, there are even soldiers and Marines and service members who have deployed to Afghanistan with no memory of 9/11, which is the nexus for the start of this war. Why was it so important to provide an entry point for high schoolers into this material?

Jessica Chen 21:51

For me, I think so much of and I’m also speaking from an older Millennial perspective, but our department or my department in the museum is focused on education. And I lean on my colleagues and their expertise to work specifically with students. But I think all of us on the education team feel really strongly that the world that we live in today is shaped so much by the events of 9/11 and the events that followed, I think it’s important to contextualize it because we understand that the leadership lessons, the incredible stories of courage and of commitment, that they have resonances with what is going on in the world today. And I think that trying to engage students, and trying to kind of connect them with the importance of understanding our shared history is just so, so important and so central, as they think about, you know, where they’re going to be in the next 10 years.

Clifford Chanin 22:43

You know, this is the 10th anniversary of the bin Laden raid, but it’s also the 20th anniversary, this September, of 9/11. Twenty years is the span of a generation. Think about it. I mean, nobody who’s in high school was even born when 9/11 happened. And if you’re in college, you may have been born, but you were a year or two old and you’re not going to remember it. And so it’s a funny thing that happens with history and a museum like ours. When we started this project, and I go way back to, I wasn’t in junior high school when this happened. So the thought was, well, everybody knows this story. So you know, what’s going to make our presentation of the story compelling? Well, 20 years pass, and that assumption is completely out the window. Not everybody knows this story. In fact, every day, more people don’t know this story. And so the challenge for the museum of telling this story, and as Jess says, explaining just how significant this moment in history was, and continues to be. Now that becomes, I think, frankly, more than we imagined it 15 years ago, that becomes central to the mission of our current-day museum and will only grow in importance every day. I mean, think about, it’s not just the attack and the vulnerability. It’s the response of this country. I mean, I don’t know if you guys remember. But, you know, this country came together across all divides, across all barriers, I mean, all the things we’re struggling with as a society today, were wiped away by the common solidarity and feeling that service was spontaneously the outcome of Americans reactions to 9/11. Not just Americans, people around the world. If we’re thinking about where we are today, look back and ask the question, what was it that gave us this kind of resilience and solidarity 20 years ago? What’s missing? What can we do about it now? Because it’s better to be like that than it is to be at each other’s throats. And so, you know, that’s how the mission of the museum evolves. It’s always rooted in 9/11 and telling that story, but there’s no fixed point where you can say Hey, okay, this is over, let’s turn the page. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:04

I have one final question that I hope that both of you will answer in your own way. What larger story do you think all the events that you cover in this documentary, and the accompanying presentation, tell us about America?

Jessica Chen 25:19

I think, you know, going back to personal experience again, and also I was on the West Coast when 9/11 happened, and now have spent most of my adult life on the East Coast. So I consider myself a New Yorker. But I think the breadth of characters of people who undertake this work is pretty remarkable, you know, something that I can say without necessarily speaking to specific identities, but the number of women who are involved in this work and who take on, you know, risk and responsibility. I’m hopeful that, that when people watch this film, that they’re going to see something in it that reminds them of themselves and where they are in life and how they can contribute to society, but can also just recognize the importance of working together. And this is just to kind of pick up on what Cliff was just saying, that almost everybody who we interviewed for this film, mentioned, at some point in their interview, just looking back and thinking how remarkable it is when everybody learns how to place trust in one another when everyone works together, when everyone is committed to a common purpose. And I think that obviously can be applied into situations that are not exactly like this, but even the environments that all of us work in and live in. That’s kind of that that’s where I where I land on the film.

Clifford Chanin 26:34

Yeah, I agree. You know, as we’ve gotten to know some of the folks involved, it’s very obvious that they disagree about things, they don’t all see the world the same way. And yet, when they were required to do something for the common good, the only factor was how to succeed in doing that task. Everything else was secondary. And it’s been my good fortune to see some of those relationships in action, to see how they relate to one another, in spite of whatever other differences that are much, much smaller in importance than the things they have in common. But in spite of their differences, there is a sense of mutual recognition in the idea that they went through this together, they took the risks together, they understood that the most important thing in these circumstances is to be able to count on the other person you’re working with, regardless of anything else. And every one of them came through for everybody else when they needed to. That’s just a remarkable story. And it is really what it is to offer the best of your service on behalf of your country. And really on behalf of the common humanity that you know, you share with everyone else who’s involved in this. And of course, for the families of the 9/11 victims, for the victims themselves who were killed. I mean, that focal point of the mission, never faltered through the hunt, when they weren’t finding anybody when they didn’t know where to look. All of that drove them onward to this, you know, remarkable, remarkable success story.

Hope Hodge Seck 28:21

Well, thank you both so much for being here today. This documentary, as you said, comes out May 2, what are the different ways that people can watch?

Clifford Chanin 28:29

Well, the History Channel is going to be premiering it through your cable provider. As of May 3, it’s available through histories, website and digital platforms. And you have to sign on with your cable login information. And it’s also available for sale through various streaming partners that provide History Channel broadcasts

Hope Hodge Seck 28:54

Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.

Clifford Chanin 28:57

Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 28:58

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:08

Thanks for joining us for this special episode of Left of Boom. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “The Hunt for Bin Laden.” Send me an email at podcast@military.com and let me know what you think of the documentary and presentation. You can also pitch me ideas for future shows while you’re at it. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast, please go ahead and do it now so you don’t miss a future episode. And leave us a rating and review to so other people can find us. And remember that you can get all the news and information you need about your military community every day at Military.com.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck. Today’s episode is a treat. We’ll be talking to Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen, executive producer and co-producer of Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Ladin, a brand-new documentary premiering now on the History Channel. It’s the 10-year anniversary of Operation Neptune spear, the May 2, 2011 SEAL raid that ended the life of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. This new project includes interviews with past U.S. presidents, senior decision-making officials and the SEALs themselves to present a new picture of events that changed American history forever. After hearing this episode, I promise you’ll want to check it out for yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into it. Cliff and Jess, welcome to the show.

Clifford Chanin 0:56

Great to be here. Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 0:57

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 0:59

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since the bin Laden raid. The operation itself was one of the earlier world events to be live-tweeted. I remember there was a guy near Abbottabad who heard helicopters and started tweeting about what he was hearing and seeing. And since then reporting on what happened there has been abundant. You’ve got everything from Zero Dark 30 to the man who ostensibly fired the kill shot at bin Laden, who has accumulated some fame in his own right. But this project goes a whole lot deeper than all of that. How did it come about?

Clifford Chanin 1:35

Well, it was more than five years ago in fact that we first started talking about this as an exhibition. We have a special exhibitions gallery in the museum. And we have done a couple of shows prior to this. But certainly the raid and the end of bin Laden’s life isn also the end of a major chapter in the 9/11 story. It’s not the end of the threat. It’s not the end of the 9/11 story itself. But it certainly is an important moment in that overall story. And so we began developing this as an exhibition. And in the course of that development, the relationships we had with the military and the intelligence folks had really developed through a set of other programs at the museum. And so we were getting access to people and to objects that could be shown in the exhibition that actually went far beyond what we’d originally imagined. It was hard to imagine this originally, because everything was still classified, essentially. So we didn’t even know what we were asking for in most cases. But as we began to get access to people, including some still active in the intelligence community, people who were part of the hunt, who were there for the conclusion of the hunt. We put together for the exhibition, I think it was a very, very powerful narrative in the context of an exhibition that was only a tiny fraction of what we had gathered through the interview process. And so we decided that for the 10th anniversary of the raid, it would be a very powerful film. We added even after the exhibition opened, a number of very important interviews that fleshed out the story beyond what the exhibition could tell. And so it was a bit of a rush, and doing things under COVID is, as everybody knows, at least very different, if not crazy, but we did manage and get it to completion. And here we are Sunday night, May 2, History Channel, I’m doing the plug … And that’s the short version of the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:44

Where do you start? What are the first phone calls that you make to kind of open the doors to as you said, to this previously undisclosed information?

Clifford Chanin 3:52

I’ll let Jess tell about these programs that I mentioned before, because they turn out to be absolutely critical in establishing a level of confidence and trust between the museum and these broader agencies. So I think Jess should pick up the beginnings of the story. And then we can talk about, you know, how we actually tried to figure out what the what the story should be.

Jessica Chen 4:13

Sure, thanks, Cliff. So at the museum, the museum opened in 2014. But even before that, it really benefited from a really strong relationship with a lot of the agencies that not only responded immediately after 9/11, but kind of took up the work after 9/11 to combat terrorism and also to do the work that continues to keep this nation safe. And so those groups not only provided assets for the exhibition, but have continued to come to the museum, especially with new recruits and with new staffers who are interested in understanding how 9/11 fits into their institutional history. These visits have actually become very cool programs that we offer to what we call professional groups. And these are groups that are comprised of intelligence agencies, ;aw enforcement agencies, military and government professionals who are really kind of diving into their museum experience with a very personal connection, but also a mission-oriented sense of the story for us at the museum, not only in the museum work that we do, but also thinking about this film. It’s largely stemming from these relationships that have been built over time, not only with the people who were part of making the museum happen, but also the people who continue to bring new people through the museum.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:29

It’s incredible. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions most Americans have about the story of Osama bin Laden in the way that his narrative intertwines with the United States?

Clifford Chanin 5:45

Well, you know, it’s a really interesting question. It came to such a definitive conclusion on May 2, 2011, people could get the impression that there was kind of a straight-line outcome here, that this was all forordained, and this was just how it was going to turn out. And I would say, that’s anything but the truth. The first issue is what our focus on bin Laden was before 9/11, which wasn’t widely concentrated across the national security community. Obviously, there were people who were focused on al-Qaida and understood the threat and understood that in 1996 and 1998, when bin Laden issues fatwas justifying attacks against the United States, against American civilians in the second fatwa, that, you know, that is an important threat. But there were other things going on in the world. And even those earlier attacks and the embassies in Africa in 1998, the Cole in 2000, as tragic and impactful as they were, it did not really transform the sense of the threat. And that, of course, was what happened on 9/11. And so, to me, the interesting part, and I think we present this in some fascinating detail, how do you hunt for someone who’s hiding from you who could be anywhere in the world? And who’s actually quite good at hiding? I was talking about this one of the intelligence analysts at one point, and she said, Well, you know, Ted Kaczynski was hiding in the United States, our own country, I think it was 17 years, and we couldn’t find him. So you know, why would it have been easier to find Osama bin Laden, and then even when the lead gets us pointed at that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where ultimately he was found, there’s never any assurance, it’s no more than a circumstantial case, that this may be somewhat important, but there’s no guarantee it’s Osama bin Laden. And so every step of the way has risk. Every step of the way has a calculation about, Is this real? And if we act as though it’s real, and it turns out not to be real, what are the consequences of that going to be? I mean, just imagine everything that happens on that raid happens exactly the same way. And it’s not Osama bin Laden. You know, it’s some drug dealer, we’re not going to invade Pakistani territory for a drug dealer. So how do we deal with that? And so one thing after another, which in retrospect, seemed like a very logical progression, none of it, none of it was except, and it’s a remarkable credit to their work. But the intelligence professionals who drove this hunt, said, Yes, we can’t give you a written guarantee. But this is what the conclusion leads us to determine.

Jessica Chen 8:38

I’m gonna add to what Cliff just said, and kind of characterize it in my own personal experience. I was starting eighth grade on 9/11. And then I was in New York, having just graduated from college, when the raid, the successful operation was announced. And I think for a lot of people who are my age, and who kind of, these two moments kind of form the bookends of our adulthood or growing up into adulthood, I think that it’s hard to kind of link the first moment to this moment. The film itself kind of traces these bookmarks. You know, it starts with intelligence, it goes to policy, and then it goes to the military raid. And I think we forget just how committed many people were after 9/11 to finding this person that was that was really hard to find. And I think what the film does is, it helps people to understand that the motivation and the drive to bring justice did not go away, even though they couldn’t find him, and that there were real personal sacrifices made along the way. I’m really hopeful that for my peers to watch this film, and to understand just how committed everybody was to seeing this through.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:49

I really resonate with that. I think we’re of a very similar age. I think I was also in eighth grade when the attacks happened. I think that really puts it in context. They were key moments. Guess I’ll just ask you both to expand on that. So when you have this wealth of information and all these exhibits, and all of this documentation, how do you then make decisions for how to organize it to tell and frame a story, especially when you’ve got the constraints of time?

Clifford Chanin 10:19

So it was shaped a little bit by the exhibition, although the film is very different than the exhibition. And I do want to say, again, just a brief plug, the exhibition itself, the museum is open, the 9/11 museum is open, we’ve just reopened the bin Laden special exhibition. So I hope people who are thinking of traveling to New York might consider coming to see it if they can. We’re offering online virtual tours of the museum and the exhibition as well. So 911 memorial.org, our website is the place to go looking for that. Sorry for diverging from your question. But the most powerful factor in shaping this, from the very beginning, we alluded to this before, but it’s very unusual, curatorially speaking, we never had a sense in advance of what objects and which people we would have available to us to tell the story. So we would make requests based on these relationships that just described earlier, of these intelligence agencies initially, just to say, look, were planning to do this exhibition, we’d like to be able to talk to you about what might be available for us. And those agencies are bound by the classification rules, obviously. And even though, you know, many of the key public figures who were involved in this had spoken about the raid and wrote wrote about the raid, technically it was still classified. So anything that they were going to make available to us had to go through an internal process within each of these agencies, and the agencies have different processes with different considerations. And on top of which we never knew how long it would take, or what the criteria for decision would be, as to whether or not we could get something. So that was, that was curious. But we did manage to get these meetings that particularly on the intelligence side, where we go in, and we’d say, Well, here’s the point in the story that we’re trying to make, we’re trying to tell, for example, that, you know, there was this massive effort to find as much intelligence as you could by partnering the intelligence agencies on the battlefield with the military, just do these raids and sweeps and process all this intelligence in real time. So you can really make it actionable as soon as possible. Okay. That’s a good point, right? What could demonstrate that. So we are museum curators who don’t know what the objects are, and the people were asking our intelligence professionals who don’t know what museum curators need. So, you know, we would really try to be very specific in their requests. And inevitably, what happened was, we’d be in these meetings, you know, in these secret bunkers. And you know, you have to be screened to get in with a pass and an escort and you’re never, you’re never alone. And we’d be sitting in these rooms. And we’d make a point, this is what this is the kind of thing we want. And you could see, they began looking at each other. And you could see the eyes communicating there, maybe a little smile here and there. But they wouldn’t say anything in front of us. Because what they were thinking of offering us was still classified. And so the question was, A, is this really the answer to the question of what they’re looking for? Well, we can’t ask them. And B, if it is the answer to the question of what they’re looking for, can we get it cleared and give it to them? So the process was very elaborate. Internally, the only thing I will add is, it’s very clear to me and we became, you know, friends with some of the folks in the agencies who became our internal advocates. So there were people who, for a variety of reasons thought, this story should be told the 9/11 Museum is the place to tell it, and I, Person X, who have access to the process, who understand what’s being asked for, who know the people who are involved in making these decisions, I am going to be the internal advocate for this project inside my agency. I don’t think this happens, really, if we don’t have a handful of those key people. I can’t thank them personally, well, I thank them personally, but I can’t thank them publicly, for exactly the same reasons that I’ve described in the beginning of this story. But that really is the key doing this, because they all are knit into this story together. They know one another, they trust one another. They work together. And they would vouch for us with some of the other folks who may have retired or whatever it was, Would you be willing to sit down for an interview with them? And that’s how the process really unfolded.

Jessica Chen 14:45

To pick up where Cliff leaves off. You know, now you have all these relationships, all of these advocates and what sometimes feels like a landslide of connections of details, of stories to tell. I think Cliff and I both have kind of threads in the story that we felt very personally convicted to bring to light. You know, there, there are some things that are explained that that I think I’d leave it to Cliff to kind of flesh out in more detail that have never been kind of discussed publicly before. But I think for me, you know, something that was incredibly important when evaluating how to take all of this material and put it in a film, which, although it’s, it’s a full-length film, felt a little short at the end, because we’re trying to stuff so much stuff into it. For me, it was really understanding how can we convey the humanity and the human cost at every step in the story. So the film opens, really, with an understanding of 9/11, and the human loss on 9/11. And then you go through a hunt that is marked by people who are incredibly human. I hope we’ve captured them, kind of their frustration, but also their commitment, and even their human sacrifice in terms of seeing this through policymakers, when they’re discussing the hunt, the odds that Cliff described earlier, really thinking about the people who are going to be doing this and what they’re putting, those people in that situation that they’re asking them to expose themselves to, and then the military members who take on kind of the risk and see the mission through. And so I think, because of all the interviews with so many generous, unseen individuals, we’re able to kind of get a sense of the people that the real people who kind of were involved in the story, and I hope we’ve done a good job and kind of lending some some of their personalities to tell the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:31

Man, I can’t wait to see it. What sorts of things are easier to understand and analyze and contextualize, with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight?

Clifford Chanin 16:44

Well, I do think there was an awareness in the community at large, that one of the failures of 9/11 was the lack of communication across agencies, and between the intelligence and the military world. And they tried to fix that right away. And because of, you know, tradition and culture, and just the different approaches, that wasn’t an easy fix. But once we were fighting in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, it was something they realized, you just had to do it, because you were losing service members on the battlefield there. And there was always a sense that al-Qaida was still out there, bin Laden was still out there, and didn’t know what they were planning. But you knew they were planning something, and so you know, that prospect of another catastrophe, or simply not doing enough to protect American military personnel on the battlefield, that really broke down a lot of barriers. And it’s a remarkable story, because, you know, the techniques, the practices that were sort of implemented over years before the raid in Pakistan, were the very same techniques and practices that were applied to solve this problem of what’s going on in that compound. And so even though it was from the distance factor, and from the political factor of going into an allied sovereign nation without their permission, and conducting a military operation, in the heart of a populated area, the people who knew how to do this, were confident that they could do it, and they had done things like this enough and work together enough that, you know, it was more complicated, certainly, and more risky because of the factors involved. But you know, as one of the SEALs says in one of the interviews, that a raid is a raid is a raid. You know, we know how to do this. It’s really, you know, a remarkable piece. And the aviation piece of this is also something that — the whole mission was about four hours. Forty minutes of that mission, were on the ground, which means more than three hours, the operators were basically passengers on what one of the SEALs called a ginormous bus. And so the success of the mission is in the hands of the pilots, and how they conduct themselves and how they’re prepared for this and what they know about the conditions that they’re flying in all of this interaction. And all of the key actors had worked with one another on other missions before they knew one another, they trusted one another. And so again, that period, through war, of really developing expertise and trust, I think it was key to what would ultimately happen and what the U.S. military has learned about how to conduct these kinds of operations.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:41

To build on that, are there indicators that events would play out differently if they happen today? You talked about the need to communicate better. I know that’s not a problem that probably will ever be fully solved.

Clifford Chanin 19:57

You know, the thing that The experts always say is that the threat changes. And so 9/11 was a product of al-Qaida, which was at that point, a structured administrated centralized organization, with, for a terrorist group, you know, reasonably efficient command and control. The years since have seen that central structure come under enormous pressure and break in many ways. But the threat has splintered into other groups that may be connected with al-Qaida or not, may have been inspired by al-Qaida may have said al-Qaida didn’t go far enough, as the Islamic State did. Or that you might have these so called “lone actor” terrorists who radicalize online or through personal contacts with people and decide on their own as some ideologists of the Jihad have urged them, just to attack people where you can. I mean, we don’t want to have a centralized structure anymore, or we can’t sustain a centralized structure anymore. But it doesn’t change what the mission needs to be. That threat changes. Therefore, how we study it, how we understand it has to change, and how we respond to it has to change.

Hope Hodge Seck 21:09

One aspect of the way the story is told, and you’ve already referred to this, is there are these educational materials for high schoolers to discuss 911 and the hunt for bin Laden and Operation Neptune Spear. Today’s high schoolers obviously have no memory of 9/11, which is a little bit shocking for older Millennials like me to contemplate. And in fact, there are even soldiers and Marines and service members who have deployed to Afghanistan with no memory of 9/11, which is the nexus for the start of this war. Why was it so important to provide an entry point for high schoolers into this material?

Jessica Chen 21:51

For me, I think so much of and I’m also speaking from an older Millennial perspective, but our department or my department in the museum is focused on education. And I lean on my colleagues and their expertise to work specifically with students. But I think all of us on the education team feel really strongly that the world that we live in today is shaped so much by the events of 9/11 and the events that followed, I think it’s important to contextualize it because we understand that the leadership lessons, the incredible stories of courage and of commitment, that they have resonances with what is going on in the world today. And I think that trying to engage students, and trying to kind of connect them with the importance of understanding our shared history is just so, so important and so central, as they think about, you know, where they’re going to be in the next 10 years.

Clifford Chanin 22:43

You know, this is the 10th anniversary of the bin Laden raid, but it’s also the 20th anniversary, this September, of 9/11. Twenty years is the span of a generation. Think about it. I mean, nobody who’s in high school was even born when 9/11 happened. And if you’re in college, you may have been born, but you were a year or two old and you’re not going to remember it. And so it’s a funny thing that happens with history and a museum like ours. When we started this project, and I go way back to, I wasn’t in junior high school when this happened. So the thought was, well, everybody knows this story. So you know, what’s going to make our presentation of the story compelling? Well, 20 years pass, and that assumption is completely out the window. Not everybody knows this story. In fact, every day, more people don’t know this story. And so the challenge for the museum of telling this story, and as Jess says, explaining just how significant this moment in history was, and continues to be. Now that becomes, I think, frankly, more than we imagined it 15 years ago, that becomes central to the mission of our current-day museum and will only grow in importance every day. I mean, think about, it’s not just the attack and the vulnerability. It’s the response of this country. I mean, I don’t know if you guys remember. But, you know, this country came together across all divides, across all barriers, I mean, all the things we’re struggling with as a society today, were wiped away by the common solidarity and feeling that service was spontaneously the outcome of Americans reactions to 9/11. Not just Americans, people around the world. If we’re thinking about where we are today, look back and ask the question, what was it that gave us this kind of resilience and solidarity 20 years ago? What’s missing? What can we do about it now? Because it’s better to be like that than it is to be at each other’s throats. And so, you know, that’s how the mission of the museum evolves. It’s always rooted in 9/11 and telling that story, but there’s no fixed point where you can say Hey, okay, this is over, let’s turn the page. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:04

I have one final question that I hope that both of you will answer in your own way. What larger story do you think all the events that you cover in this documentary, and the accompanying presentation, tell us about America?

Jessica Chen 25:19

I think, you know, going back to personal experience again, and also I was on the West Coast when 9/11 happened, and now have spent most of my adult life on the East Coast. So I consider myself a New Yorker. But I think the breadth of characters of people who undertake this work is pretty remarkable, you know, something that I can say without necessarily speaking to specific identities, but the the number of women who are involved in this work and who take on, you know, risk and responsibility. I’m hopeful that, that when people watch this film, that they’re going to see something in it that reminds them of themselves and where they they are in life and how they can contribute to society, but can also just recognize the importance of working together. And this is just to kind of pick up on what Cliff was just saying, that almost everybody who we interviewed for this film, mentioned, at some point in their interview, just looking back and thinking how remarkable it is when everybody learns how to place trust in one another when everyone works together, when everyone is committed to a common purpose. And I think that obviously can be applied into situations that are not exactly like this, but even the environments that all of us work in and live in. That’s kind of that that’s where I where I land on the film.

Clifford Chanin 26:34

Yeah, I agree. You know, as we’ve gotten to know some of the folks involved, it’s very obvious that they disagree about things, they don’t all see the world the same way. And yet, when they were required to do something for the common good, the only factor was how to succeed in doing that task. Everything else was secondary. And it’s been my good fortune to see some of those relationships in action, to see how they relate to one another, in spite of whatever other differences that are much, much smaller in importance than the things they have in common. But in spite of their differences, there is a sense of mutual recognition in the idea that they went through this together, they took the risks together, they understood that the most important thing in these circumstances is to be able to count on the other person you’re working with, regardless of anything else. And every one of them came through for everybody else when they needed to. That’s just a remarkable story. And it is really what it is to offer the best of your service on behalf of your country. And really on behalf of the common humanity that you know, you share with everyone else who’s involved in this. And of course, for the families of the 9/11 victims, for the victims themselves who were killed. I mean, that focal point of the mission, never faltered through the hunt, when they weren’t finding anybody when they didn’t know where to look. All of that drove them onward to this, you know, remarkable, remarkable success story.

Hope Hodge Seck 28:21

Well, thank you both so much for being here today. This documentary, as you said, comes out May 2, what are the different ways that people can watch?

Clifford Chanin 28:29

Well, the History Channel is going to be premiering it through their your cable provider. As of May 3, it’s available through histories, website and digital platforms. And you have to sign on with your cable login information. And it’s also available for sale through various streaming partners that provide History Channel broadcasts

Hope Hodge Seck 28:54

Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.

Clifford Chanin 28:57

Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 28:58

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:08

Thanks for joining us for this special episode of Left of Boom. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “The Hunt for Bin Laden.” Send me an email at podcast@military.com and let me know what you think of the documentary and presentation. You can also pitch me ideas for future shows while you’re at it. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast, please go ahead and do it now so you don’t miss a future episode. And leave us a rating and review to so other people can find us. And remember that you can get all the news and information you need about your military community every day at Military.com.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Russian fighter jet buzzed a US aircraft by flying an ‘inverted maneuver’ just 25 feet in front of it

The US Navy said on Wednesday that one of its aircraft was intercepted by a Russian jet while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.

The US Navy P-8A Poseidon, an anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, was flying over the Mediterranean Sea when it was approached by a Russian Su-35 fighter jet, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.


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“The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement.

The crew of the P-8A Poseidon experienced “wake turbulence” during the 42-minute encounter, the Navy said.

“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy added. “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents.”

A Russian Su-35 jet performed a similar maneuver toward a P-8A Poseidon over the Mediterranean Sea in June. The jet buzzed the US aircraft three times in three hours and conducted a pass directly in front of it.

“This interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy said in a statement at the time.

On both occasions, the Navy said its aircraft was flying in international airspace and was not provoking the Russian aircraft.

Russia performed another provocative test by firing an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, US Space Command said.

Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite test “provides yet another example that the threats to US and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Gen. John Raymond, the head of Space Command and chief of space operations for US Space Force, said in a statement.

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“The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our allies and US interests from hostile acts in space,” Raymond added.

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

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