For three weeks in May 2020, the world speculated about the fate of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader. Many believed he was dead, some say of either complications during surgery or of a heart attack.
None of the rumors were true, however, and why Kim left the public eye is still up for popular debate among North Korea watchers. What everyone in the know can agree on, is, that North Korea without a Kim at the helm would certainly stumble and fall. Here’s why:
They’ve been selling the Kim family for too long
According to North Korea’s propaganda machine, Kim Il-Sung (Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather and founder of North Korea), pretty much single-handedly fought the Japanese and repelled them from the Korean Peninsula during World War II. Then he rebuilt North Korea after the disastrous Korean War, which North Korea definitely did not start. North Koreans see Kim Il-Sung as so divine, they can’t believe he poops. Even with his embalmed body lying in state eternally in Pyongyang, they angled it so no one can see the massive goiter on his neck.
That hardly compares to Kim Jong-Il, whose birth on holy Mount Paektu was heralded with a double rainbow and a new star appearing in the sky.
After spending their whole lives believing the demi-god Kims come down from an Asgard-like place and protect North Korea from evil America, would anyone believe that just any ol’ bureaucrat like Choe Ryong-hae can do that? Do you even know who Choe Ryong-hae is?
It’s basically a monarchy
Kings get their power from God, who gives them a divine right to lead the country. Kims also get their power from gods, which also happen to be them. The Soviet Union, who considered its brand of communism the original communism, from which all communism should be replicated. Kim Il-Sung didn’t care for all that and decided to hand-pick his successor; his son Kim Jong-Il, creating the first communist regime that also has a ruling family.
The Kims have ruled the country for three generations, which makes their rule a dynasty. Unlike Stalin in the USSR, Kim Il-Sung extended his personality cult to his family, clearing the path for this brand of communism that seems antithetical to the idea of communism.
Let’s see Choe Ryong-hae do that.
Even when things are bad, Kim makes everything better
When Kim Jong-Il came to power in 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung, the elder Kim had been in power since 1948. Things had been pretty good for the DPRK while Kim Il-Sung was in power. Any shortcomings in the North Korean economy were filled in by subsidies from the Soviet Union. For a time, North Korea was the superior Korea.
When the USSR fell, all that fell apart with it. With Soviet aid gone, the country experienced a wide range of supply shortages, including food. A massive famine broke out and much of the population died. Still, support for the Kims never wavered. Under Kim Jong-Il, never as beloved as his father, the country secured nuclear weapons and guaranteed independence from the Yankee scum and their southern Korean puppets. To this day Kim Jong-Il is depicted in front of waves crashing on shore in North Korean art, a symbol of steadfastness in uncertain times. Choe Ryong-hae would have been useless in such a situation.
Everything the world does only backs up their claims
Imagine being told the world was full of American bad guys who want to pound North Korea again like they did in the 1950s. You remember your grandfather’s stories of the fighting. It sounds horrible. Then perhaps one summer your family gets to go visit Kaesong, near the demilitarized zone and actually tour the DMZ. You see first hand the giant American and South Korean soldiers just staring across the border, waiting for their moment.
If ever you doubt the Kims are truly divine or are the great leaders they claim to be, you simply have to go visit the International Friendship Museum to see all of the gifts the world has brought them for their patronage. There, you can also see all the historic world leaders that came to pay homage to the Kims, including other communist leaders and even American presidents!
There are always more Kims
The dynasty doesn’t stop at Kim Jong-Un. Kim Jong-Il has another son ready for the throne. Kim Jong-Un has a living brother, who has children of his own. Even one of Kim Il-Sung’s brothers is still alive, though he will soon turn 100 years old.
But no one is more visible right now than Kim Yo-Jong, the regime’s spokesperson, who both visited the South in 2018 and has met President Donald Trump. Her voice will be the loudest for the foreseeable future.
That is, unless she gets out of line. Two Kims have already met their fate for that.
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to address the national shortages of vital resources to combat the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Within this executive order, he invoked rights under the Defense Production Act of 1950. So, what is it?
The Defense Production Act was enacted on Sept. 8, 1950, by President Harry Truman, during the beginning of the Korean War. The premise of it was to create a way for the president to gain a measure of control within the civilian economy in the name of defending the nation. This was largely due to concerns about equipment and supplies during the Korean war. This act gave the president the ability to enforce things in the name of national security.
The act was created during the Korean War, mainly due to the lessons of World War II. It was during WWII that we saw a massive mobilization of the country to support the war efforts. This act ensured that President Truman could do the same without issue.
The act gives the president the broad authority to mandate that industries increase production of vital resources. It also allows the control of prices and wages. Other authorities included in the act involve the ability to settle labor disputes, real estate credit, and the ability to control contracts given to private organizations. When this act is invoked, the administration is required to submit an annual report to Congress.
With COVID-19 causing resource scarcity amid the pandemic, it was expected that President Trump would take this action.
The Center for Disease Control has been continually encouraging people to practice social distancing to prevent widespread critical cases. Without these measures, the results would be catastrophic, as we are seeing with the deaths mounting daily in Italy. One week ago, on March 12, 2020, the positive cases of COVID-19 were 1,663 for the United States.
It’s now over 10,000 cases with every U.S. state reporting incidents.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, concern has been increasing within the medical community. This is because, as a nation, we do not currently have the equipment to sustain critical patients nor the resources to treat them. The powers within this act will allow the president to swiftly order the production of more personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other vital resources to combat COVID-19.
It is anticipated that President Trump will quickly utilize the powers within the Defense Production Act to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19,” according to his executive order. He utilized this act once before in 2017 to provide specific technology within the space industrial base.
The Defense Production Act has been amended a number of times over the years. It now contains language that allows control in areas related to homeland security or emergency relief efforts. Many presidents have utilized this act throughout the last seventy years during times of need for increased defense capabilities or for emergency response.
With this act, companies are absolutely required to prioritize contracts from the government and accept them, all in the name of national security or emergency.
Brooks last year on his 110th birthday holding a photo of himself from 1943 (National World War II Museum)
During WWII, African-American soldiers were segregated into black units under the command of white officers. One of these soldiers was Lawrence Brooks, who served with the 91st Engineer Battalion in the Pacific Theater. As an engineer, he and his comrades built vital airstrips, roads, and bridges in places like New Guinea and the Philippines. On September 12, 2020, Brooks, the oldest known living WWII veteran, turned an incredible 111 years old.
Brooks lowers his mask and raises a drink to his guests (National World War II Museum)
For the past six years, the New Orleans native has celebrated his birthday at the National World War II Museum. The tradition was the result of a chance meeting between Brooks and Lee Crean, the father of the museum’s vice president for education and access at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. “I thought, ‘Gee whiz, if he’s a World War II vet who’s that old, we need to do something,'” Crean said.
Because of the coronavirus, Brooks was unable to celebrate his birthday at the museum this year. Instead, the museum arranged for the celebration to be brought to him. The museum’s vice president, Peter Crean, put out a public request for people to mail in birthday cards for Brooks. Though letters were still arriving, museum staff arrived at Brooks’ house on his birthday with a carload of mail. Crean personally hauled another two bins of mail addressed to the WWII vet. As of Brooks’ birthday, a total of 9,768 cards, letters, and packages have arrived from all 50 states, plus Guam, the Virgin Islands, and five other countries.
The festivities also included entertainment. The Victory Belles, a trio of 1940s-themed singers, performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the sidewalk in front of Brooks’ home as he danced and sang along on his front porch. Up above, a squadron of four WWII-era aircraft piloted by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flew low and in tight formation over Brooks’ home. Brooks’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren also handed out gift bags for guests who drove by the home in the socially-distanced car parade.
Brooks, the Victory Belles, and guests look on as the aerobatic team conducts their flyover (National World War II Museum)
From his front porch, Brooks smiled through his face mask and waved at the guests. “God bless all of you. Every one of you,” he said. Brooks is the father of five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. When asked by National Geographic, Brooks said that his key to a good life is, “Serve God, and be nice to people.”
Hey, I get it: When you’re preparing for deployment, the last thing you want is a honey-do list from your spouse. You have your own gear to take care of, paperwork to complete, and stuff to pack. Your spouse, on the other hand, will be at home during the months that you’re away. Can’t some of their to-do list wait until you’re gone? After all, they’ll have the whole deployment to take care of it. What’s the rush, right?
Here’s the deal: Just as you must prepare your gear and put your things in order to prepare for your deployment, your spouse has to get the house and the family ready for their own “mission.” It’s pretty much guaranteed that as soon as you walk out the door, something’s going to go wrong: the car will break down, appliances will leak, or the dog will get sick. If you don’t help your spouse prepare for those emergencies, then they won’t be fully equipped to handle their mission. You wouldn’t send troops off to train without first arranging logistics and ammo. In the same way, you have to take care of some logistical details at home before you deploy and leave your spouse as the only adult responsible for the entire household. There are several things you can review with your spouse to make everyone’s deployment go more smoothly.
Don’t skip these mission-essential pre-deployment tasks with your spouse.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)
There’s a reason your CO keeps hounding you to complete your Power of Attorney, Will, and other documents — they’re actually really important! Without a Power of Attorney, your spouse will basically be treated like a second-class citizen on base. They won’t be able to renew or replace an ID card if they lose it while you’re away. They can’t change the lease, buy or sell a vehicle, or handle any banking problems that might arise. If you have children, it’s important that your spouse completes a Family Care Plan so that someone is designated to take care of the kids if your spouse ends up in the hospital from a car accident. Take the time to discuss this paperwork with your spouse so they won’t struggle during unexpected deployment situations.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis)
2. Comm check
You may not know exactly what communication options you’ll have during deployment, but discuss your expectations with your spouse so you can both get on the same page. How will you handle the time difference? Will you try to call when early in the morning or in the evening? How often will you try to call, message, or video? What’s the protocol if one of you misses a call or doesn’t answer in time? Finally, make sure your spouse knows how to send a Red Cross message. If there’s a family emergency, the Red Cross can contact you even when you don’t have internet access. If your spouse knows how to get to the Red Cross website, it will take the weight off their shoulders during a major emergency.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)
3. Discuss car maintenance
Have you ever returned from deployment only to discover that your car has a dead battery and flat tires? Save yourselves the cost and trouble with some simple preventative maintenance. If you’re typically the one responsible for vehicle maintenance, remind your spouse when to do an oil change and how often to get the tires rotated. If your vehicle will sit unused during the deployment, ask your spouse to start the engine and let it idle at least once a week. This will prevent the battery from dying. If they occasionally drive it around the block and park it in a different position, that’ll help prevent flat tires.
4. Review home maintenance
If you’re renting or living on base, just make sure your spouse knows how to contact maintenance or the landlord. If you own your home, things get more complicated. Walk through the house together and discuss areas of regular or seasonal maintenance. Air filters should get changed monthly. Gutters should be cleaned in Fall. Discuss outdoor chores, like lawn maintenance and snow removal. Your spouse should know the location of the breaker box and water shut-off valves, in case the dreaded “Deployment Curse” visits your house.
5. Adjust the household budget
You and your spouse both need to understand how the deployment will affect your family’s income, and then adjust accordingly. If you are making more money during deployment, how will you save or spend the extra? Will it go toward paying down debts? Or will you save up for a post-deployment vacation? Sometimes, deployments reduce the household budget. You might have to pay for food and Internet at your deployed location. Your spouse may decrease their work hours or register for a class. They may have additional costs for childcare or lawn maintenance. It’s better to discuss these changes and your intended budget before deployment so you aren’t both accusing each other of mismanaging money!
6. Write down your passwords
You wouldn’t send your team on a mission without clear instructions and the best equipment, right? Then don’t expect your spouse to manage the bills and your account memberships without passwords! Log into any banking or bill payment website you use, and write down your login name and password. Do the same for your gaming accounts, renewable memberships, etc. It’s likely that something will need to be suspended, renewed, or canceled during your deployment. Writing down the passwords will make it possible for your spouse to do that for you.
Having these pre-deployment conversations now may not be easy or fun, but it’s definitely important to help your spouse feel squared away before deployment. This will reduce deployment stress for both of you, help your deployment communication go smoothly, and get you both prepared for your respective, upcoming missions.
Sun Tzu once said that he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
To be honest, in a way, that is exactly what camouflage is all about. It is not about colors, shapes, or ninja stuff. It is about knowledge, patience, and the manipulation of anything anywhere.
All to achieve one goal: to become the environment. In this article, I am going to give you a small, bitter taste of the art of camouflage.
When I was in the Israeli Airborne SF, I served with one of the SR groups. My secondary specialty in my team was what we call in the IDF, a ‘builder.’ Basically, someone who is capable of concealing anything, from one man to an entire team or vehicles in any environment.
What is camouflage?
Back in the days, when I used to assist as an instructor for the next generation of builders, one of the first questions I asked the young soldiers in every introduction lesson was, ”What does the word ‘camouflage’ mean to you?”
The majority of the answers were split into two: hiding or disappearing.
While both might sound correct, those two words describe a long-living misconception that one experiences when he gets involved with task-oriented concealment work.
Long story short, the majority of the time camouflage begins with understanding the nature of observation.
The purpose of it is not only to hide, but to make you part of the environment, allowing you to safely observe, document, and, when necessary, respond.
Being a master of camouflage means being able to live off nature’s hand for 72 hours (or more), being just hundreds of meters away from the objective, and being able to observe the point of interest all the while.
Let’s say camouflage is the art of manipulation–the controlling of reality.
Fundamentals of Camouflage
There are three fundamental camouflage actions. These are the main principles that are found in any concealing construction.
Hiding: The action of hiding is setting a barrier that separates you physically, and often visually, from the surrounding environment and its unfolding reality.
Blending: Resembling your surroundings by combining different, like elements into a single entity. The main difference between success to failure lays in properly blending subtle details.
Disguising: In short, disguising is an action we perform to alter an existing shape or form. We do that to eliminate or create intentional target indicators, such as smell, shape, or shine. Disguising, for example, is adding vegetation to a Ghillie suit or collecting branches to conceal my hide side.
Knowledge is power. One of the keys to perfect camouflage at the tactical level is the ability to understand what kind of X or Y signatures my presence creates that will lead to my exposure.
TI, or target indicators, are about understanding what signatures my enemy creates in a specific environment. Those target indicators suggest presence, location, and distance in some cases.
There are two dimensions to consider when detecting and indicated presence. The first–and oldest–dimension is basic human sense. The other is technological.
While smelling, hearing, and touching are obvious senses, but those senses normally only come into play in short distance.
Let’s focus on ‘seeing.’
The visual sense is, by far, the most reliable sense for humans. We use it up to 80% of the time to collect information and orient ourselves. So, what kind of visual signatures could I leave that may lead to my exposure? In short:
Shape – The perfectly symmetrical shapes of tents or cars, for example, don’t exist in nature. Those, and the familiar shape of a human being, are immediate eye candy.
Silhouette – Similar to ‘shape,’ but with more focus on the background. A soldier walking on top of the hill or someone sneaking in the darkness with dark clothes against a white wall–the distinction of a foreground element from its background makes a target indicator sharp and clear.
Shine – Surface related. Radiance or brightness caused by emitted or reflected light. Anything that my skin, equipment, or fabrics may reflect. Popular examples would be the reflection of sunlight on hand watches, skin, or optics for example.
Shadow – Shadows are very attractive and easy to distinguish for human eyes, depending on a shadow’s intensity. For example, caves in open fields stand out for miles and are very easy to recognize. As a result, we never use caves for hiding, as they’re a natural draw to the eye.
Color – Let’s make it sure and simple–wearing a pink hoody to a funeral is a good way to stand out. Match your environment.
Oh boy, this is where the real challenge begins! I’m actually going to risk it and say that ghillie suits are becoming less and less relevant today due to increases in technology.
Before we will dive into all that Einstein stuff, these are the main wavelengths used by different devices to find your ass:
Infra-Red / NIR – Used in NVGs, SWIR cameras, etc. Night-vision devices, for example, use active near-infrared illumination to observe people or animals without the observer being detected.
UV – UV radiation is present in sunlight. UV-capable devices are excellent, for example, in snowy environments for picking up differences undetectable by the naked eye.
Thermal – Your body generates a temperature different from any immediate background, such as the ground in the morning or a tree in the evening. Devices tend to set clear separations between the heat or cold of different objects, resulting in pretty nice shapes that are easy to distinguish for the observer.
Radar (radio)– A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves, an emitting antenna, and a receiving antenna to capture any waves that return from objects in the path of the emitted signal. A receiver and processor then determine the properties of the object. While often used to detect weather formations, ships, structures, etc., there are numerous devices that can give you an accurate position of vehicles and even humans. It’s a long story, hard to manipulate. Such devices exist already in the tactical level.
It is nearly impossible to eliminate your signature against devices who work within the wave length. The only solution is to understand what the human being sees through advanced optics and manipulate the final result.
Buckle up and get your aspirin – we’re moving into the science stuff.
The human and its environment emits different signatures that can be picked up by different technological devices that make use of different types of waves.
Cones in our eyes are the receivers for tiny visible light waves. The sun is a natural source for visible light waves and our eyes see the reflection of this sunlight off the objects around us.
The color of an object that we see is the color of light reflected. All other colors are absorbed.
Technically, we are blind to many wavelengths of light. This makes it important to use instruments that can detect different wavelengths of light to help us study the earth and the universe.
However, since visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see, our whole world is oriented around it.
With the advancement of technology, humanity slowly cracked and understood the existence of other light waves.
We began to see those dimensions through different devices.
Since the visual camouflage has foiled many plans throughout a history of wars and conflicts, militaries around the world began researching the possibilities of using non-visible wavelengths in detecting the signature of specific objects in specific environments.
Camouflage is not about hiding and it’s definitely not only about wearing a ghillie suit or digging deeps foxholes.
It’s an involved, looping process that starts with understanding how humans detect and continues with manipulating this detection.
The old standards, such as ghillie suits, are becoming less and less relevant to the modern battle space as detection technologies advance.
New predators such as SWIR or advance thermal cameras are hard to beat unless you know the device, the interface, and the humans who use it.
As Albert Einstein once said, technology has exceeded our humanity–so get creative.
A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.
According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.
“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.
The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.
The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.
No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.
At an event on March 25, 2019, at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, Apple announced the next stage in the evolution of Apple Pay: a rumored Apple rewards credit card.
The card, issued by Goldman Sachs called “Apple Card,” will offer cash rewards and various features and integrations with Apple’s Wallet and Apple Pay apps.
The card will earn “Daily Cash,” Apple’s version of cash back. Daily Cash is issued to the user’s Apple Pay Cash balance each day. From there, it can be spent on purchases using Apple Pay, applied as a credit toward the user’s Apple Card balance, or transferred to contacts through Apple’s peer payment feature in iMessage.
It was not immediately clear whether Daily Cash could be withdrawn to an external bank account, including Goldman Sachs accounts.
The card will earn 3% Daily Cash back on purchases made with Apple, 2% cash back on purchases made with Apple Pay, and 1% Daily Cash on purchases made with the physical card, or online without Apple Pay. It was not immediately clear if purchases made online through Apple Pay would qualify for the 2% back.
According to Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey, who presented at the event, the new card is “designed for iPhone.” People can apply directly on the iPhone, and start using the digital card immediately upon approval. Cardholders can update information and review transactions through iMessage as the card uses machine learning to recognize transactions.
iPhone users can view their balances and transactions within the Wallet app, including automated breakdowns of spending by category and merchant.
The card will have no annual fee, late payment, or foreign transaction fees. The Apple Card features in Wallet will show various payment options, and help users calculate “the interest cost on different payment amounts in real time,” according to a news release. The Card app will also offer automated suggestions to pay down any carried balances sooner.
The card has several built-in security features, including some that are native to Apple Pay, and offers various privacy features. While users will get a physical card to use at point-of-sale terminals that do not accept Apple Pay, it won’t have a printed number, expiration date, or security code. For online purchases, that information can be accessed in the Wallet app, with Touch or Face ID used to authenticate the user.
The card runs on MasterCard’s payment network and will be available summer 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.
Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two international conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.
They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.
Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.
Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.
Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.
“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”
But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.
“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”
The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.
“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”
During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.
Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models
Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.
“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.
Former Marine Mike Farrell has enjoyed a long career in the movie industry much attributed to his work ethic, abilities and the values learned in the Marines. Farrell joined the Corps in 1957 and served initially in the infantry as a rifleman. He then transitioned over to acting post his time in the Marines where he found success across many famous TV shows at the time such as Lassie, The Monkees, Combat!, Bonanza and Bannacek. His career took off with the role of Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H starting in season four of the show. He continued working in TV and eventually formed a production company with producer Marvin Minoff to make motion pictures. One of Farrell-Minoff’s most known productions is Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.
Farrell was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He grew up in West Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. He shared, “It was an interesting place to grow up at the time.” Farrell said he is “a fortunate recipient of things other kids may not have had, including a mother and a father at home.” His father was a big, tough man who worked hard to support the family. Though he has fond memories of childhood, he also recognizes that he was a “frightened child,” due to his father’s rough manner and hard drinking, which weighed on the family.
When asked his values, Farrell said, “You told the truth and you stay out of trouble by minding the rules, whatever they are.” He said, “…if you pay attention and don’t cross any forbidden lines then you were fine. I was very careful about where the lines were.” His parents were strict Catholics and took the family to Mass every Sunday. He attended public school where he and his brother mixed with people of other belief systems, which was good, he said, for them. He recalled, “Being good was defined by others to me, and I was trying to figure how to stay within the lines.” Frustrated, he found difficulty growing emotionally given the strictures at home.
He became a Marine for two reasons. He was “smitten” with the Marines from a very young age. And so was Pat, his best friend from grade school through high school and into married life. So they joined together. Farrell remembers, “I was alive during World War II, but it was a distant reality for me. I remember coming home, getting out of my Dad’s car in 1945 when we heard on the radio the war was over.” He recalled, “…my mother having plastic coupon-coins to go shopping during the war…we were told we couldn’t get bubble gum because rubber needed to be saved for the war effort,” and laughed at the memory.
He mowed lawns to earn money and delivered papers after purchasing a used bike. He sold papers on the corner. He always had to chip in so the family had enough to get by on. His mother took him and his brother to buy clothes at the “old store” which was probably a Good Will or a Salvation Army store. He was ashamed and embarrassed at having to wear used clothes. He remembers selling papers on the corner in Beverly Hills “…when a girl from high school drove by with her mother and saw me. Boy, was I embarrassed.”
Farrell described his father as “John Wayne” and shared he was, “big, handsome, popular, smart and I now know he was frustrated because he didn’t have an education, but he was a really smart man.” He believes his father’s tough manner stemmed from his lack of education. He describes his parents as distant and “tough” people made so by their experience of The Great Depression. He stated, “There was not a lot of touching or embracing in our family.”
He said, “My friend Pat became close to our family because he didn’t have much of a connection to his family. He bonded with us and went to church with us.” Farrell touches on his admiration for the Corps with, “Pat and I thought the Marines were just the best. We thought the Marines were the toughest, the most elite and we looked up to John Wayne in the Sands of Iwo Jima.” He didn’t understand the politics of the 40s and 50s and he shared, “We just loved the Marines.” He and Pat went to see the Jack Webb film The D.I. in the 50s as well. Once graduated from high school, they both knew they were going to be drafted so they decided to join the Corps. He stated, “We both went down and signed up at the (Marine) reserve unit in Chavez Ravine.” This unit is now gone and the reserve unit building is used for training by the LAFD.
Farrell stated, “Unfortunately, we thought we would stay together. We went in together but were put in separate platoons at MCRD. We didn’t see a lot of each other during Bootcamp.” They then came out into different units in Infantry Training Regiment (ITR). Pat had signed up for a six-month program and Farrell signed up for a two-year program. Farrell had three DIs: Technical Sergeant Kelly (E-7 at the time) was the senior DI and SSg Reyes and Cpl Stark were the other two instructors. Farrell believes Kelley identified with him and Reyes favored another recruit named Moreno.
During Bootcamp, Farrell became ill with the flu and was sent to the infirmary. This was at a critical time in boot camp. He thought he would be set back and not get the chance to graduate with his platoon. He was afraid of leaving Platoon 374 and being placed back in a later platoon of recruits. He said, “I was miserable about the idea of being set back.” Then he was awakened one morning in the infirmary by Corporal Stark, who said, “How are you doing? Kelly wants you back.” Farrell was thrilled “beyond words to hear that.” He described Kelly, “He saw something in me that made him not want to lose me and that made me want to try harder to be the Marine that he (Kelly) thought I could be.” He considers this a great lesson from the Corps.
While at MCRD Farrell went to Camp Matthews for rifle training, which was before the Corps started taking recruits to Camp Pendleton to qualify on the rifle. After that, Farrell said a fellow recruit, who was known to be rough around the edges, threatened his life. Farrell stated, “I had been in fights before and when someone says they are ‘going to kill you, you take it as talk.” But the next morning during a snap inspection live rounds were found in that recruit’s footlocker. He had stolen them from Camp Matthews. The inspection thankfully stopped anything from happening, but the incident stays with Farrell and opened his eyes to the world.
Boot camp continued. Increasingly, Farrell and Moreno, the platoon’s left and right guide, were pitted against each other. The two were being considered to be named the Honor Man of the platoon. Ultimately, Farrell got lucky, he said and was named the Honor Man of the platoon. He stated of graduating as Honor Man, “Marching in my dress blues was quite a thing.”
Farrell confided, “I wanted to be stationed in Camp Pendleton so I said I wanted to just be a rifleman. I thought I could outsmart them.” He thought if he was a grunt at Camp Pendleton, he could go home on weekends and, “strut around in my uniform.” But after the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) he was surprised to be assigned to the 3D Marine Division in Okinawa.
Aboard the USS Gaffney on the way to Okinawa, he recalls an alert came in to prepare to go to a different station. He shared, “We had to wait for a possible change in orders and a change in destination. We stood guard on ship and periodically swabbed the deck as well.” An all-clear was sent and they continued to Okinawa. He was glad, he said because he later learned they had almost been sent to French Indochina, later known to America as Vietnam.
In Okinawa, he was sent to typing school by the Corps to become the company clerk for an Ontos Battalion at Camp Hansen, then a tent camp. He stated, “I am sure things have changed at the camp by now. But then it was like living in ‘the swamp’,” where “the swamp” is the nickname for the camp he later served at 20th Century Fox for the show M*A*S*H.
On liberty in Okinawa, he went to the Kadena Air Base because “The Air Force had everything on base. They had a malt shop, a motion picture theater. It was surprising how well the flyboys had it over there.” We laughed at the luxuries of the Air Force when compared to the thriftiness of the Corps.
Farrell said, “I had developed an issue with my foot during ITR and got orders to go from Okinawa to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.” He fondly recalls his time in Yokosuka where he spent time with a fellow Marine. He and the Marine went out on liberty and traveled around the country. But he talks about his return, “When we got back to the ward there was tension that I could sense. I later understood that the issue had to do with my friend Tyus, a black man. In 1957/58 our friendship was not looked upon happily. This even though President Truman had desegregated the military ten years prior.” It troubled him that there was still a sense of it being inappropriate for a black and a white Marine to spend time together.
The Corps then decided to send him back to the Naval Hospital at Coronado to work guard detail. His final place was being sent back to MCRD for discharge for having “flat feet”.
Farrell states, “There is a sense of pride attached to being a Marine…you can’t avoid having that sense of pride because they just beat the crap out of you in order to make you what you need to be.” He was invited by a Force Recon Marine while on the way to Okinawa to join their unit. He declined the offer after thinking about it for a couple of days. He states, “I wonder about that Marine and you hear about all of the special ops these days where Force Recon is still a part of the Corps.” He does touch on how he became lifelong friends with fellow Marines, one of which was stationed at MCAS El Toro that he met at the US Naval Hospital Balboa. “I have made some lifelong friends through the Corps because of the shared experience.” Farrell helped fellow veterans as well when he took a car to a friend from Los Angeles that was stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC. The soldier’s parents wanted Farrell to take it to NC, so he did. On the trip he drove along a southern route through the US in 1959 where he witnessed, “real nasty segregation….that was a mind-blowing experience.”
Farrell still has high praise of his service. “My proudest achievement of my time in the Corps was graduating as the Honor Man of my platoon. I still have the Dress Blues hanging in my closet. I weigh the same as when I got out of bootcamp so I probably can still fit in them.” He further elaborated, “Completing the Marine Corps boot camp itself is a hell of an accomplishment.”
He is grateful to have had such a great career in Hollywood where he has worked with many storied actors. Farrell hears from people every day from autograph requests to even more deeply meaningful connections. Some people talk about the inspiration they got from the show and its meaning. He said, “It is really thrilling to hear from people and how deeply they are touched by the shows.” He is proud of having worked with the great actor Anthony Quinn for a year on the TV show The Man and the City. Farrell has high praise for having worked with Broderick Crawford on The Interns as well. Crawford was an Oscar-winning actor and known for his talents; however, he had an alcohol problem.
A few years before working together on The Interns, Farrell had been working with a halfway house in LA that dealt with people living with various issues. On the show he confronted Crawford. “I confronted him about his drinking and said ‘you are not doing the show any good or yourself any good. We need to find a way to temper it if not control it so we can get the work done.’” Farrell shared that, “He was phenomenal… he thanked me…we did the show for a year and every New Year’s Day after that until he passed away he called and thanked me.” He was deeply touched by Crawford’s continued contact. .
Farrell has been a part of many Human Rights campaigns. He is deeply grateful for the opportunities his association with M*A*S*H has provided.
Farrell met the famous Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams on a person-to-person diplomacy trip to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. The group initially stopped in Helsinki, Finland, for orientation before going into the USSR. He saw a man wearing a clown suit and a rubber nose at the meeting. He initially thought the man was from “Pluto”. A woman in the group made a show of her belief in the power of crystals. She stood at the front with a bag of them and urged people to take a crystal that resonated with them, suggesting they hold it near their heart and find someone in the Soviet Union to give it to. Farrell said it sounded to him a bit looney. The clown-suited man then got up, said he was a doctor and said, “he believed in clowning and that laughter is the best medicine.” The man then took out a bag and did what the woman had done, saying he believed in the power of rubber noses. He held out a bag of rubber noses and urged everyone to pick a rubber nose they resonated with. The “clown” turned out to be Dr. Patch Adams. Farrell said, “I fell in love with the man and we became great friends.”
On their way to the Soviet Union our train was stopped by Russian troops. The train was searched by armed men from the USSR. Outside of the train he saw Patch Adams giving rubber noses to the Russian troops. Farrell laughed and stated, “I knew that this guy was going to change the world.” Farrell and Adams became very close friends while in the USSR. A few years later Adams contacted Farrell about how he had written a book and movie studio executives were looking to make his book into a film. Adams wanted Farrell to produce the film because he trusted him. Through a Hollywood connection Farrell took on the project and went to a studio with it. Farrell is happy that the film made a lot of people laugh and helped get Patch Adams noticed, however he wishes it would have had more depth and focused on Adams’ heart. Patch was grateful to Farrell and thanked him for his work on the film. Farrell is appreciative of Robin Williams’ work as Patch and considers him a, “wonderfully talented person and…a really deeply sweet, good man.”
Farrell believes deeply in the inherent decency of all people. He learned discipline and a lot about life through his experience in the Corps. He said, “The Marines gave me the sense of capability that comes from surviving the circumstances they put you in.” He believes stories like those shown in An Officer and Gentleman in which Louis Gossett Jr. plays the part of a DI should be top of the list for veterans and Marines. These stories touch on the camaraderie, discipline and merits of service. Farrell shared he, “…is most proud of his children. And he’s happy his career has given him the ability to touch people’s hearts.”
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
In its journey to improve the lives of veterans through health care research and innovation, VA recently reached a major milestone with enrollment of its 750,000th veteran partner in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) — a national, voluntary research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of veterans.
The milestone, which was reached April 18, 2019, is the result of years of outreach, recruitment and enrollment efforts to help to bring precision medicine to the forefront of VA health care.
“While having 750,000 Veteran partners is a momentous achievement, there is still much work to be done,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “MVP is on track to continue the march to 1 million veteran partners and beyond in the next few years.”
From its first enrollees in 2011, the program has successfully expanded into one of the largest, most robust research cohorts of its kind in the world. MVP was designed to help researchers understand how genes affect health and illness. Having a better knowledge of a person’s genetic makeup may help to prevent illness and improve treatment of disease.
The enrollment milestone is significant because as more participants enroll, researchers have a more representative sample of the entire veteran population to help improve health care for everyone. Enrollees in the program include veterans from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. MVP also has the largest representation of minorities of any genomic cohort in the U.S.
Research using MVP data is already underway with several studies, including efforts focused on understanding the genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, heart disease, suicide prevention and other topics. Several significant research findings have already been published in high-impact scientific journals. The knowledge gained from research can eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures for many common illnesses, especially those common among combat veterans, such as PTSD.
MVP will continue to grow its informatics infrastructure and expand its partner base, to include veterans beyond those enrolled in VA care. VA is also working on a collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make MVP enrollment available to DoD beneficiaries, including active-duty service members.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.