How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.

More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”

Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.

Loyality

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”

Courage

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army testing new and improved combat boots

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.

The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.


The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.

“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.

Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.

When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.

“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Sen. John McCain, a giant of American politics who died on Aug. 25, 2018, at 81, was perhaps most profoundly shaped by his military service and more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

And McCain’s survival through years of nearly fatal torture and hardship in the Hanoi prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton” was made more impressive by his refusal to be repatriated before the release of all the American POWs captured before him.


President Donald Trump, whom McCain criticized extensively, has repeatedly disparaged McCain’s military service, suggesting at a rally in July 2015 that the senator didn’t deserve the title of war hero.

“He was a war hero because he was captured,” said Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

But McCain’s military service and suffering have made him as something of an anomaly in American political history, and a hero in the eyes of many.

McCain was offered an early release — but he refused it

A graduate of the US Naval Academy, McCain followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the Navy, where he served as a bomber pilot in the Vietnam War.

On Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain was a US Navy lieutenant commander, his Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi. Shattering his leg and both arms during his ejection from the fighter plane, McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war.

Lieutenant McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965.

(US Navy photo)

Less than a year into McCain’s imprisonment, his father was named commander of US forces in the Pacific, and the North Vietnamese saw an opportunity for leverage by offering the younger McCain’s release — what would have been both a propaganda victory and a way to demoralize other American POWs.

But McCain refused, sticking to the POW code of conduct that says troops must accept release in the order in which they are captured.

“I knew that every prisoner the Vietnamese tried to break, those who had arrived before me and those who would come after me, would be taunted with the story of how an admiral’s son had gone home early, a lucky beneficiary of America’s class-conscious society,” McCain later recalled.

The North Vietnamese reacted with fury and escalated McCain’s torture.

‘Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.’

McCain soon reached what he would later describe as his lowest point in Vietnam, and after surviving intense beatings and two suicide attempts, he signed a “confession” to war crimes written by his captors.

“I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine,” McCain wrote in a first-person account published in US News World Report in May 1973.

For the next two weeks, McCain was allowed to recover from his debilitating injuries — a period he later described as the worst in his life.

“I was ashamed,” he wrote in his 1999 memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.” “I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”

For the next several years, the high-profile POW was subjected to prolonged brutal treatment and spent two years in solitary confinement in a windowless 10-by-10-foot cell.

President Richard Nixon Greets Former Vietnam Prisoner of War John McCain, Jr. at a Pre-POW Dinner Reception,1973.

McCain’s courage bolstered his political bona fides

In March 1973, two months after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, McCain and his fellow prisoners were released in the order in which they were captured. An emaciated 36-year-old with a head of white hair, McCain returned home to continue his service in the Navy.

McCain retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona, and began his political career in the Republican Party, serving two terms in the House of Representatives. In 1986, he won a landslide election to the Senate, where he served for 30 years, during which time he launched two unsuccessful presidential bids.

McCain’s courage during his brutal captivity bolstered his political bona fides. As David Foster Wallace wrote in a profile of McCain in 2000, when he was a presidential candidate, the former Navy captain commanded the kind of moral authority and authentic patriotism that eludes the average politician.

“Try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down,” Wallace wrote of McCain’s decision to remain in Vietnamese captivity. “Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? If so, would you have refused to go?”

McCain, a military hawk, forever remained a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War, during which 58,000 Americans and nearly 3 million Vietnamese were killed. But he worked closely with John Kerry, a Democrat and fellow Vietnam veteran who advocated against the war, to normalize relations between the US and Vietnam in the 1990s, bringing the devastating conflict to a close.

Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

Featured image: Lieutenant Commander McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973.

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

popular

Why Marines wanted to practice amphibious warfare in Djibouti

Recently, Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based on the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) began a major exercise in Djibouti known as Alligator Dagger. Unfortunately, it was quickly cancelled after a pair of crashes.

If you’re like a lot of people, you may be wondering, “why bother having the exercise in Djibouti, of all places?” Well, believe it or not, there are some very good reasons.


U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), offload gear from an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU, in Arta Range, Djibouti

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently deployed to the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. These Marines are, in essence, a floating reserve for the current commander of CENTCOM, General Joseph L. Votel. But, as is the case with all Marines, it’s important to keep readiness high. To do so, you need practice.

A U.S. Marine MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to land on the flight deck of USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during Alligator Dagger,

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

In a release, the Marines stated they planned to conduct “amphibious training; live-fire; visit, board, search, and seizure; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel as well as air assault evolutions.” Tanks, artillery, and mortar crews would also get a chance to practice during the two weeks of training at the Arta Range Complex in Djibouti.

U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), ride in an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU during Alligator Dagger

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

All of this training needs to happen somewhere, and Djibouti was a very good place for it. Given that it’s in the Horn of Africa, it’s not exactly high on the list of places people want to visit. This means it provides a place for the Marines to practice their signature operations in an austere, potentially realistic setting.

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is parked in Arta Range, Djibouti, during Alligator Dagger

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

In the real world, when Marines deploy, it’s not always going to be staged from a place like Kuwait, where a lot of modern conveniences are readily available. Similarly, training in the United States doesn’t prepare you for when you need a CH-53 to deliver fuel for your Humvees.

U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), board an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU, on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7).

(USMC photo by Cpl, Jered Stone)

That is why the Marines wanted to train in Djibouti for two weeks. Losing this opportunity will sting pretty badly, but after those two crashes, the Marines had no choice but to stand down.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

It’s dark. The air is heavy, filled with Afghanistan smoke and dust. On the flight line at Bagram Airfield, an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter waits, beating thunder with its blades.


An 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team, which consists of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, runs out and boards the helicopter. As the Guardian Angels settle into their seats, the helicopter takes off against the night sky over the mountainous terrain.

Also read: Here’s what happens when the Air Force’s computer nerds hang out with pararescuemen

During the ensuing flight, two Operation Freedom’s Sentinel teams will conduct a personnel recovery exercise, testing their capability to work together as they extricate simulated casualties from a downed aircraft. The Army and the Air Force are working together to execute personnel recovery.

‘Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission’

“Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Wilson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander. “The interoperability between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, by way of the CH-47F, has enabled our Guardian Angel teams to effectively conduct a wide variety of personnel rescue operations in ways not previously attainable.”

Executing missions with CH-47Fs gives the seven-man Guardian Angel team unique advantages; such as an increased capacity to recover a larger number of isolated personnel and the ability to fly further and higher than previous platforms allowed.

“This partnership strengthens the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air to fight harder and longer, knowing that someone will always have their back,” Wilson said.

Air Force pararescuemen, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, set up a perimeter during a training scenario with members of the Army Aviation Reaction Force, Task Force Brawler on the flight line at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2018. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The Chinook is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter with a useful load of up to 25,000 pounds. With its high altitude and payload capability, the CH-47F is vital to overseas operations, such as in Afghanistan. Its capabilities include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and combat search and rescue.

Related: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“I’ve been flying CH-47 models for 22 years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Miller, a CH-47F pilot with the South Carolina National Guard. “This is an unprecedented tasking. Never in its history has an Army unit been tasked to provide dedicated aviation assets and crew to conduct joint personnel recovery operations.”

Miller’s team is also joined by the Illinois Army National Guard.

The CH-47F model, with its enhanced capabilities, combined with the combat search and rescue mission set, allows the team to transport more personnel and essential equipment higher, further distances, and offer longer on the scene station times than ever before, Miller added.

Joint operations

Joint operations between services capitalize on the unique skillsets each branch brings to the fight.

For missions in Afghanistan, because of its high altitudes and current enemy threats, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks of using a different system. Especially in terms of the varied mission sets required of the personnel recovery enterprise.

More: Airman seeks to rejoin pararescue team despite loss of leg

The pararescue team also specializes in cold weather/avalanche or snow and ice rescue, collapsed structure/confined space extrication, or many different forms of jump operations in static-line or free-fall configuration.

Using the teams to their full capacity is all about strengthening the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air.

“Critical to the warfighter is knowing that a highly trained and capable PR force is standing ready at a moment’s notice, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way … so that others may live,” Wilson said.

MIGHTY SPORTS

A college lacrosse team wants to raise money while helping troops

“Remember everyone deployed” isn’t just a catchphrase for the Maryville University Men’s Lacrosse Team. It might seem counterintuitive for a team that wants to raise money for its upcoming season to spend part of that money on another good cause, but that’s just one more reason Maryville University athletes are known as the Saints.


Maryville, a small, private university just 22 miles from St. Louis, Mo., is one of the best-run colleges financially, known for making their dollars go far. This frugality means the students in its athletic programs need to raise a little money on their own to make their seasons a reality.

This is no problem for the men’s lacrosse team. They started a crowdfunding project to get the money they need, but the reward for their hard work is more than just a third season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. With money raised, they intend to send care packages to US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every $100 raised, they will send out a gift to the men and women overseas.

As of this writing, the team has raised just shy of 20 percent of their ,000 goal. This means that, so far, they’re set t send out 19 care packages to U.S. troops with another just around the corner. And this isn’t the first year of their patriotic efforts. Last year’s crowdfunded lacrosse team-care package effort saw 52 care packages shipped overseas from the Maryville Saints.

The Saints are accepting donations in any amount – and look forward to doubling their output from last year. What’s really great about their efforts is that the Saints don’t just give when raising money, they can be found at the St. Louis VA year round, donating their time and effort to veterans.

The Maryville University Saints Lacrosse team at the St. Louis, Mo. VA hospital on Veterans Day, 2018.

(Maryville University Lacrosse Twitter)

The NCAA Division II school crowdfunds many of its athletic programs. The Swimming and Diving team, the Women’s Bowling team, and even the Men’s Basketball team all crowdfund their programs through the Maryville University site — and the campaigns don’t require offering rewards to donors, like many crowdfunding websites.

Only the Men’s Lacrosse team gives something back in exchange for their good fortune — and it’s purely because they want to give to American troops. For some of these lacrosse players, playing university sports is akin to being part of a family, something to which deployed military members can certainly relate.

I enjoy being at Maryville University because it’s like my second home,” said lacrosse player Darrius Davenport. “We are brothers with an unbreakable bond.”

Donate to the Maryville Saints Men’s Lacrosse Team by clicking this link.

Lists

6 fictional armies that would suck to fight against

When a writer needs to think up some great, imposing force to pit against their protagonist, sometimes they go a little overboard. Yeah, it’s great to see some young farmboy find the strength within needed to lead a rebellion against an evil, galactic empire, but most times, the troops fighting alongside the protagonist don’t have magic space powers (we’re looking at you, Luke).


And yet anyone who’s never seen the show will still think they’re just silly little robots…

(BBC)

The Daleks (Doctor Who)

At first glance, the Daleks are kind of silly. A rolling pepper shaker with two sticks for arms might not seem imposing — until you realize they’re almost impossible to kill inside their shells.

Fighting a near-undying force that’s backed by a ridiculous amount of troops hellbent on your extermination isn’t ideal — it doesn’t matter that you could just put a hat over their eyestalk.

Yep. And the other villains in the game try to capture these things — doesn’t work like that.

(Bioware)

The Reapers (Mass Effect)

Normally, giant, spacefaring warships are hard to kill. They’re even harder to kill if they’re sentient and are capable indoctrinating entire galaxies under their control.

Reapers are massive beings often confused with space ships. They dominate entire star systems by slowly brainwashing their inhabitants. Or, if that takes too long and they just need some troops fast, they can shoot out robot appendages to turn anyone fighting them into lifeless, obedient husks. Every conquered world joins their ranks, becoming a new enemy that our heroes must fight physically and psychologically.

A rocket launcher may be overkill, but you don’t want to take any chances.

(Bungie)

The Flood (Halo)

What’s worse than fighting zombies? Fighting space zombies. One of the most deadly things about the Flood is that they can destroy their enemies with a single touch.

They cover battlefields in disease, meaning any step may lead to infection. The Flood is so terrifying that it takes two great armies, the humans and the Covenant, to band together and defeat them.

Poor bug. No one ever takes them seriously.

(TriStar Pictures)

The Arachnid (Starship Troopers)

No good military satire is complete without an insane enemy that comes in insane numbers and is armed with insane psychic abilities.

One of the most deadly things about the Arachnids was how mindless they seem. Everyone who initially thought, “oh, just a giant bug” was in for a rude awakening when they discovered they can communicate telepathically and shoot down spaceships in orbit.

The Borg even managed to assimilate the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard. And adding Picard to their ranks definitely gives them an edge.

(Paramount Television)

The Borg (Star Trek)

These guys are the culmination of all the terrifying things on this list. Put together highly advanced technology, overwhelming numbers, near invulnerability, and mass assimilation and you end up with the Borg.

With most sci-fi hiveminds, destroying their leader usually means the destruction of their entire force. But with the Borg, it just means another Queen must take their place.

Who would win: 40 millenia of technological advancements or one Orky boy?

(Games Workshop)

The Orks (Warhammer 40k)

To be fair, every army in Warhammer 40k is a force to be reckoned with. But even in a universe filled with futuristic demons, robot zombies, and blood-thirsty elves, the Orks are considered the most successful intergalactic conquerors.

When the space savages aren’t fighting among themselves, they’ll band together to overwhelm their foes — even if those foes are Chaos gods, alien samurai, or whatever the hell Tyranids are.

Articles

Goodbye Ivan! US expels 35 Russians, shutters 2 spy stations over hacking allegations

The United States says it is expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats as it announced new economic sanctions and other punitive measures in response to alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election.


The moves, announced on December 29 by the White House, had been widely publicized ahead of time, including by President Barack Obama in an interview earlier this month.

But the moves also come less than a month before Obama leaves office and his successor, Donald Trump, assumes the presidency. Trump has repeatedly brushed aside intelligence assessments and White House statements about the alleged Russian hacking, raising the question about whether the new sanctions will remain in place after his inauguration on January 20.

A White House statement said two Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York, believed to be involved in intelligence gathering, were ordered closed, and 35 Russians, identified as intelligence operatives, were being expelled from the country.

Additionally, nine top officials and entities associated with the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU, and the main Russian security agency, the FSB, were being hit with new financial and travel sanctions.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said in a statement.

The CIA, the FBI, and the broader U.S. intelligence community have concluded that hackers, likely operating with the authority of the highest levels of the Russian government, broke into Internet servers and e-mail accounts belonging to the U.S. Democratic Party, and other officials during the election campaign.

On December 9, The Washington Post reported that the CIA had determined the intent of the Russia hackers was to help Trump win the presidency, not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.

The New York Times also reported that intelligence officials had concluded Russian hackers accessed Republican Party computers but didn’t release potentially damaging e-mails or other materials.

That led analysts to conclude that the intent of the Russian hacking was to in fact help propel Trump to the White House. He ultimately prevailed in the November 8 election, defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Those conclusions have been repeatedly dismissed by Trump. In a December 11 television interview, he asserted that the CIA conclusions were being used by Democrats to undermine his electoral victory.

But Trump has also faced growing pressure in Congress, including by top Republican lawmakers, who have called for a full inquiry into the extent of Russian hacking.

At least three separate Senate committees are slated to launch investigations in January.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it was behind any hack of the Democratic Party or U.S. electoral systems, though President Vladimir Putin has also made cryptic comments suggesting possible involvement of Kremlin officials.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Navy combat planes used these risky rockets to take off

Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.


A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.

(U.S. Navy)

First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.

Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.

(U.S. Navy)

Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.

Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O930YRruewQ

www.youtube.com

However, the need for JATO systems has declined as jet technology improves. Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing technology also emerged in the form of lift fans and vectored thrust.

Although JATO isn’t widely used, it makes for a spectacular moment when the Lockheed C-130 assigned to the Blue Angels makes its takeoff.

See how the Navy discussed JATO over 70 years ago in the video below:

Articles

Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.


Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.

Marines, veterans and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.

The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier was killed supporting freedom in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 17, 2013. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

I didn’t even get a t-shirt. It was too expensive.


Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.

The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.

In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.

After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.

The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”

The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.

They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.

Thanks, Time Magazine.

Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.

The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.

(Photo Credit: BJ Small, Mechanicsburg, PA)

As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.

The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.

Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.